Bombings of Churches
Bush and Blair Plotted to Ignore Security Council
Who woulda thunk it? Bush and Blair plotted to go to war against Iraq even if the UN Security Council declined to authorize it. The Scotsman summarizes findings of Phillipe Sands: “Prof Sands’ book, entitled Lawless World, claims that president Bush had earlier displayed open contempt for the UN during the summit, made wild threats against Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein and displayed astounding ignorance of the likely post-war problems.” Now Bush will come out on television Tuesday night and lie about the situation in Iraq to his gullible followers.
Guerrillas set off car bombs outside churches in Baghdad and Kirkuk on Sunday, and also targeted a Vatican office. The 8 bombs killed 3 and wounded 17. Many of Iraq’s originally 750,000 Christians have already fled, mainly to Syria or Detroit, and some observers fear the community will dwindle to virtually nothing if these attacks continue. Although Iraq’s Christians are among the oldest such communities in the world, and are indigenous, radical Muslim guerrillas often code them as “foreign” or allied to the largely Christian American occupiers. There was also other guerrilla violence in Iraq on Sunday, which left altogether at least 25 dead.
Some 1500 Shiites demonstrated in the southern port city of Basra (pop. 1.3 mn.) against the British authorities. They were upset about British arrests of policemen that London believes were connected to puritan militias that sometimes acted as death squads. The elected governor of Basra province last Friday threatened to cease cooperating with the British over the arrests.
Al-Zaman reports that [Ar.] Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani and Shiite leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim began their deliberations, in a meeting characterized by much formal protocol, on Sunday evening. The negotiations, to be continued on Monday, are expected to take weeks to conclude.
Hadi al-Amiri, secretary general of the paramilitary [Shiite fundamentalist] Badr Corps, announced that “The United Iraqi Alliance considers [its possession of] the ministry of the interior a red line that cannot be crossed.” [The Iraqi Interior is like the US FBI.] He told al-Zaman that the UIA “Gives the utmost importance to security in Iraq. Prominent personalities in the UIA had been victims during the extinct regime of the former security apparatus. For this reason, we cannot consider stepping down from the ministry of the interior.”
Amiri revealed that he had been visited by Sunni Arab secular leader Salih al-Mutlak in connection with discussions on forming the new government, but said that he did not know if al-Mutlak had asked the UIA to join them in a national unity government.
Young Shiite nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s bloc in parliament will give him increased clout in the new government, the CSM points out. Amatzia Baram points out that he will push for puritanism and anti-Americanism, and will also reach out to fundamentalist Sunni Arabs.
Iraq’s oil ministry is again leaderless and in turmoil, at a time when the industry can afford neither. Despite engineering feats accomplished by American teams, the Iraqi petroleum industry is a mess.
Number of US military personnel just forced to serve extended duty: 50,000.
Number by which junior enlisted soldiers have declined in the US military since 2001: 19,000.
New cap on interest rate on government student loans, which Republicans are raising in order to pay for the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina: 6.9%.
The US military’s practice of taking suspected guerrilla leaders’ wives hostage will backfire, according to expert observers.
The complexities of Iraq are underlined by the increasingly flourishing condition of the holy Shiite city of Najaf south of Baghdad, which is fairly secure and peaceful. Its pharmacies have medicines, it has 20 hours of electricity a day, and US troops withdrew last September to a base well away from the city, reducing the chance of provocations. Plans are going forward for an airport. Some 3 million pilgrims a year are already coming, mostly from Iran but also from Lebanon, Kuwait, Pakistan and elsewhere, to visit the shrine of Imam Ali. The combination of resources from Iran and from the wealthy merchants and shopkeepers of the city, the calming influence of Grand Ayatollah Sistani, who resides there, the loyalty of the tribal levies to Sistani, the induction of members of the Badr Corps paramilitary into the provincial police and government military, and the defeat of the radical Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr in August 2004 by the joint efforts of Sistani, the other grand ayatollahs and the US Marines, have all contributed to this current flourishing situation. Ironically, Najaf’s success is a rebuke to Paul Bremer, who once cancelled an election there because he feared Iranian influence in the city. In the end, Iran wins this one.
Here’s hoping Bob Woodruff and Doug Vogt pull through. We talk about people getting blown up every day in Iraq, but when it is someone you feel you know and admire through television, it is personal.