Arab League Convoy Attacked
Last Minute Negotiations on Constitution
Guerrilla violence killed 18 persons in Iraq on Monday, including one US GI. Protesters in Ramadi said they had not yet seen the offical text of the constitution and think the government is conspiring to keep it from them, according to the Washington Post. Many in Baghdad also say they have not seen it.
US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad continues to dicker with the big politicians seeking final alterations in the constitution before it is voted on Saturday October 15, in hopes of making a breakthrough that would mollify the Sunni Arabs. The latter, however, according to al-Hayat, are most concerned by provisions allowing the southern Shiite provinces to establish confederacies that would have a special claim on petroleum resources (thus cutting Sunni Arabs out of their fair share, since they currently have none in their area). There is no prospect of this provision being changed, so Khalilzad’s negotiations will probably not have a big effect on the referendum. The fact of the talks, however, does discourage many voters, according to Ellen Knickmeyer of the WaPo. They are convinced that if the text can be changed so near the vote, when so few have even seen the original text, it means that the big politicians will do as they please without regard to the country’s charter. That is, Khalilzad’s last-minute negotiations may be doing more harm than good.
Iraq issued indictments against 27 officials of the government of Iyad Allawi, charging them with over $1 billion worth of fraud. The accused include the Minister of Defense, Hazem Shaalan, and 4 other cabinet ministers. Most of these former officials, installed by old-time CIA asset Iyad Allawi when he was shoe-horned in as prime minister by the US and the UN in late June 2004, have fled the country.
Al-Hayat: The delegation to Iraq of the Arab League was attacked on Monday by guerrillas, leaving 3 persons (some say bodyguards) dead and 4 others wounded. The delegates themselves escaped largely unharmed.
The Arab League has had a difficult relationship with post-Saddam Iraq. Most of its member states are majority-Sunni and opposed the US war against Iraq. They had not distinguished themselves by championing the rights of oppresses Shiites and Kurds under Saddam, and most of them do not seem thrilled with the rise of a Shiite-dominated Iraq. There was even a question at one point about whether it would be a good idea to send a respected Shiite cleric like Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum (Bahrululoum) to an Arab League meeting, with some fearing that to have a Shiite cleric there representing Iraq would be a scandal for the others. On the other hand, if anyone can negotiate with the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement, it is the Arab League.
This delegation is being greeted with a certain amount of suspicion and reserve in many quarters. Muqtada al-Sadr demanded that the delegates denounce Saddam Hussein and his pre-2003 campaigns against the Shiites, as well as the anti-Shiite attacks masterminded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the radical Muslim fundamentalist, according to al-Sharq al-Awsat. President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, expressed skepticism about the delegation’s desire to meet with the Sunni Arab leadership, pointing out that it is extremely fragmented. Some of the Sunni Arab guerrillas clearly do not even want the Arab League in Iraq, since the convoy was fired on in West Baghdad near Umm al-Qura Mosque, a Sunni Arab stronghold. (It had been going to the mosque for an evening meal to break the fast with the Association of Muslim Scholars.) The delegation, according to al-Hayat, was forced to deny rumors that Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa would seek a meeting with Saddam Hussein during his forthcoming trip to the country.
New polls show that 59 percent of Americans now want US troops out of Iraq, even if that country is not entirely stable. That is up from 54 percent just last month.