Iraq Swindled of Millions by US Firms
Instability Spills over onto Lebanon’s Nasrullah
Guerrilla violence killed 11 in Iraq on Saturday, including a British soldier in Basra. Guerrillas set off two car bombs in Baghdad, one that targeted police in a Shiite area. In a separate incident, a US soldier was killed in a bombing near Fallujah.
The War against the Shiite bakers in Iraq goes on unabated.
The London Times predicts a second war of liberation for Baghdad. Apparently the US military despairs of getting out of Iraq if the new Iraqi government cannot at least control the capital. They are therefore planning to have the new Iraqi military try to do effective counter-insurgency, clearing and holding Baghdad neighborhoods now infested with guerrillas.
The guerrillas in Iraq are nasty pieces of work, and I really wish they could be defeated by the forces of the elected Iraqi government. These are people that blow up children buying ice cream cones, or that bomb a wedding and then come back later and bomb the consequent funeral. But I just very much doubt that they can be defeated this way. Too many Sunni Iraqis support them by now, and hate the US and its Iraqi allies. And, the new Iraqi military is too listless and sectarianized to make something like this work over the long term.
Farah Stockman reports in the Boston Globe that US companies swindled the Iraqi government out of hundreds of millions of dollars. Then Paul Bremer’s Coalition Provisional Authority blithely granted them amnesty just before it was dissolved. ‘ ”In effect, it makes Iraq into a ‘free-fraud zone,’ ” said Alan Grayson, a Virginia attorney who is suing . . . ‘ Well, I’m just glad that the Bush administration was able to teach those hopelessly corrupt Middle Easterners the high standards of the American way of doing business. CPA apparently stood for “The Crooks are the Police Around here.”
The US is just handing out weaponry and munitions to Iraqi police with no oversight and no accounting, according to a US government memo that the Chicago Tribune has gotten hold of. There are worries about the US inadvertently arming death squads, in contravention of the Leahy amendment. Well, we all remember what Dick Cheney said to Patrick Leahy.
Hamza Hendawi of AP has a perceptive piece on the recent attempted assassination of Shaikh Hasan Nasrullah, a clerical leader of the Shiite fundamentalist Hizbullah (Hezbollah) Party in Lebanon. He says there is some evidence that it was a plot by Salafi Jihadis, who belong to a militant revivalist stream of Sunni Islam, and who were seeking to avenge the deaths of Sunni Iraqis at the hands of Shiite mobs in recent disturbances in Iraq. As Hamza notes, this motivation suggests in a most worrisome way that Iraq’s instability is beginning to spill over into the rest of the region. Hizbullah is now in the Lebanese government, but has had frictions with Druze, Christians and pro-Hariri Sunni Muslims because it continues to defend Syria. The other forces blame Syria for the assassination of former Sunni prime minister, Rafiq al-Hariri.
Borzou Daragahi of the LA Times presents an interesting analysis of the flurry of activity by the major Shiite clergymen of Najaf to end the political deadlock. They are afraid, he says, that if the (Shiite religious) United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) does not resolve the crisis itself, a “national unity government” will be imposed from above by fiat, perhaps led by secular ex-Baathist Iyad Allawi. They also want to forestall a process whereby the Shiite prime minister is chosen essentially by the Sunnis in parliament, because of a split within the Shiite bloc.
A spokesman for the UIA, MP Rida Jawad Taqi, came out early Sunday morning to say that the problems would be resolved within 24 hours. Al-Sharq al-Awsat explains that there will be pre-arranged candidates for president, prime minister and speaker of the house, who are broadly acceptable. But there have been many such breathless statements and promises. We’ll see.
There are increasing signs that Ibrahim Jaafari, to whom the Kurds and Sunni Arabs and Americans object, will step aside for another candidate from his Dawa Party (a key component of the UIA coalition). My suspicion is that the Sunnis were trying to ensure that the prime minister would be from the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), another UIA component, in hopes that SCIRI would then give up the Ministry of the Interior. That ministry has been accused of allowing elements of the paramilitary, Iran-trained Badr Corps to infiltrate its special police commando units, and then to carry out death squad attacks on Sunni Arabs suspected of links to the guerrilla movement.
Daragani also has an excellent follow-up piece on the mystery of the attack on the Mustafa Husayniyah last month. Unfortunately, the whole episode seems still shrouded in mystery. My own best guess is that there was some sort of Sunni-Shiite struggle within the Iraqi special forces, into which the US got caught up.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak attempted to dampen the controversy over his charge that Arab Shiites are more loyal to Iran than to their own governments, saying that he only wanted to warn against the danger of a break-up of Iraq.