2 US Troops Killed
Sistani Sits this one Out
Basra Governor: British troops Destabilizing the South
Two more US troops were killed in Iraq on Saturday. So was a city council member for Hawija. There has been a largely unnoticed but serious attrition rate among Iraqi provincial and municipal officials, as the guerrillas target them.
Basra governor Muhammad al-Wa’ili has accused the British troops there of destabilizing the province with their arrest of local officials, policemen and militiamen. The British arrested, among others, Odai Awad, the director of Basra’s state electricity company. The workers are threatening to strike unless the British release him. Although the BBC and other Western news organizations say that those arrested are largely followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, I am not sure this is true. They do appear to belong to the Sadr Movement, but it has splintered, especially in Basra, and it is hard to know to which faction those arrested belong. Shaikh Ahmad al-Fartusi, one of the detainees is a local Basra leader who seems to have broken with Muqtada.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiar Zebari says that if the new constitution is rejected, it will be “catastrophic” for Iraq. I agree that it would be very bad, but I think he is probably exaggerating in order to convince the Kurds (he is a Kurd) to come out to vote in Saturday’s referendum in large numbers. Actually, if the constitution is rejected, there will still be parliamentary elections on Dec. 15; the interim constitution would remain the law of the land; and the new parliament would have to take up the constitution again. The terrible thing about this scenario is that the Shiite majority will feel very, very cheated. They feel that since they won the Jan. 30 elections, they have a right to the constitution they want, and there is a danger of them becoming disillusioned altogether with democracy if the will of the majority is thwarted on this issue. Sunni Arabs can defeat the constitution if they can muster a 2/3s vote against it in Anbar, Salah al-Din and Ninevah Provinces. Al-Sharq al-Awsat had a story that everything is ready for the voting in Salah al-Din, by which it meant that voters are registered, polling boths have been set up, etc. All this relative efficiency might allow the Sunni Arabs to reject the constitution more decisively in that province.
The political process is at best unconnected to the guerrilla war in Iraq, US government analysts are now saying. And at worst, the political process, including constitution-making, could be pushing Sunni Arabs who had been on the fence off of it and into the arms of the guerrillas. Long-time readers of Informed Comment will know that I have been saying this for some time.
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shiites, has strictly told his own representatives in the cities and provinces of Iraq not to run for parliament. He will also decline to endorse any particular political party or coalition. Sistani’s theory of religion-state relations requires that the grand ayatollahs not intervene directly in day to day politcs, but rather confine their concern to influencing the “order of society.” Now that Iraq has a parliamentary government dominated by Shiites, Sistani is satisfied with the order of society and therefore is drawing back from his earlier leading role in promoting a Shiite coalition party (which won the Jan. 30 elections). Sistani is also disappointed with the do-nothing record of the United Iraqi Alliance.
My guess is that nevertheless, the Dec. 15 elections will be dominated by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which controls 9 of Iraq’s 18 provinces. This provincial control may well allow them to dominate the parliamentary delegations from those provinces (the Dec. 15 elections will be be district-based or rather province-based). Think Chicago ward politics (SCIRI has proven itself adept at them, though it could well fail to control the levers in a national election.) Ibrahim Jaafari and his Dawa Party may well be punished by voters for the government’s inability to get much done.
Hmmm. Posting pictures of civilians killed in the Iraq War is a form of obscenity, according to the Polk County, Floriday, sheriff’s office.
What I want to know is why killing them in the first place doesn’t produce at the very least similar charges of obscenity. [It is worse. Kind readers wrote to say I read the article too quickly; the case being brought is an ordinary obscenity case, and the war photos do not apparently even enter into it!]