Green Zone Takes Rocket Fire
New Offer of Jobs to Baathists
Guerrillas fired a rocket into the Green Zone on Monday, shaking the US Embassy and Iraqi government offices but causing no casualties.
Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, has weighed in with Tehran to release 15 British sailors and Marines captured in what the Iranians claim were their territorial waters. Zebari says that they British were in Iraq at the request of the Iraqi government and in accordance with UNSC resolutions, and were operating in Iraqi waters.
Former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray called for the immediate release of the British sailors, but admitted that the Iranians had a legal case for objecting to their activities. They were in disputed waters and checking for smuggled automobiles. Murray can’t figure out how automobile smuggling in the Persian Gulf is any of the business of the British navy. He says it would be different if they had been checking on arms smuggling.
(Murray in a more recent posting points out that the
BBC reported that British scientists concluded that the Lancet report of last fall finding 600,000 excess violent deaths in Iraq since the Bush/Blair invasion was based on ‘best practice.’ The Blair government denounced the study when it appeared and seems to have buried the scientists’ report, which it requested.)
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani will put forward new legislation offering an amnesty program for Baath officials. If they come in from the cold within 3 months, they can be restored to high office. The Debaathification Commission, headed by corrupt financier Ahmad Chalabi and on which Nuri al-Maliki played the role of hardliner earlier on, had excluded such figures from a role in public life. The problem is that the mere announcement of a three-month amnesty is highly unlikely to bring in from the cold the people who are now heading the Sunni Arab guerrilla movements. And, at a time when security is so bad that the vice premier is blown up with the connivance of his own security guards (and tribesmen), it can’t be a pleasant prospect to be a Baathist branded as collaborator. AP suggests that the real motive for the measure is twofold. First, its announcement may take some pressure off the Iraqi government at this week’s Arab League summit, where, as Iraqslogger notes, a draft proposal is said to urge abolition of the ‘Debaathification Commission’ and disbanding of Shiite militias. Second, rehabilitating the Baathists and being nicer to the Sunni Arabs is the platform on which former appointed Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has been campaigning to form a new political bloc– a campaign that has been met with some favor in neighboring Sunni Arab states and Egypt.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert put his foot in his mouth by saying that US troops should stay in Iraq, otherwise the resulting chaos might cause the Hashemite monarchy of Jordan to fall. Jordan has a peace treaty with Israel and puts up with Israeli colonization of the West Bank even while condemning it– i.e. Jordan functions as a de facto ally of Israel. Olmert sees its potential loss as a threat to Israeli security. The Jordanians are hopping mad about Olmert’s comments. They see their regime as perfectly stable, whereas they wonder how long Olmert’s government can last, with only 2% of Israelis expressing trust in him in polls. And, the Jordanians believe that the real threat to regional security is Israel’s steadfast refusal to grant the Palestinians their own state within recognized and viable borders.
What the Jordanians are not saying, but is worth saying, is that if chaos in Iraq was a threat to the stability of Israel’s neighbors and therefore to Israel itself, it was foolish for Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert to act as cheerleaders for an Iraq War back in 2002 and early 2003. War has unpredictable consequences. Olmert is wrong about the fragility of the Hashemite monarchy, but is right– too late!– that the violence in Iraq may well rebound against Israel.
Sunni Arab politicians meeting in Amman, Jordan are critical of the draft Iraqi petroleum law that has been presented to parliament by the Iraqi cabinet. The Monday Morning (Beirut) article contains these quotes:
‘ Faleh al-Khayat, a former head of planning at the Oil Ministry, warned that “major foreign oil firms are greedy and will covet Iraq’s oil wealth” if the bill is adopted. “If Iraq’s giant oilfields are developed, they would yield 80 percent of Iraq’s proven reserves estimated at 115 billion barrels”, he argued.
MP Saleh Mutlak of Iraq’s National Dialogue Front echoed him: “We have no need of foreign companies. We’re experienced enough to reap the fruit of our wealth”. Mutlak also said he feared the bill may not live up to government hopes that it will unify Iraq. “We don’t want a new law that will further divide us. We need a law that will unite the Iraqi people”. . . Motlak said Parliament in Baghdad should not ratify the bill “until we reach the appropriate climate for investments in Iraq”.
MP Ali Mashhadani agreed. “Our oil wealth is black gold that must be kept underground until security conditions are appropriate to take advantage of it. It has been entrusted to our safekeeping by the people we represent”. According to Mashhadani “Iraq has sold 125 billion dollars’ worth of oil since the start of the US-led occupation.” The Iraqi people have not benefited from this revenue and “are eating garbage”, Mashhadani said, suggesting that income from oil sales be given to the people in the form of state-subsidized “monthly ration cards” . . .
Reuters reports political violence in Iraq on Monday, including guerrillas’ use of a roadside bomb in Zaafaraniya, Baghdad, to kill one policeman and wound 3 others. The report also says, ‘A curfew was imposed in the town of Iskandariya 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad after clashes erupted between gunmen and security forces, police said. Mortars also landed in a central residential district, killing two and wounding four. ‘ In central Baghdad, a bombing killed 2 and wounded 5.
Sean Penn at an antiwar rally in San Francisco:
“Let’s make this crystal clear: We do support our troops, but not the exploitation of them and their families. The money that’s spent on this war would be better spent on building levees in New Orleans and health care in Africa and care for our veterans. Iraq is not our toilet. It’s a country of human beings whose lives that were once oppressed by Saddam are now in ‘Dante’s Inferno.’ ”
Tom Engelhardt on how Americans are not actively protesting a war that opinion polls show them to widely oppose.