Al-Hakim in US for Cancer Treatment
Sistani Aide: US not Serious on Terror
Militia Rule in Basra
Robin Wright reports that Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), is in the US for treatment for lung cancer. Apparently arranging for al-Hakim to see US military physicians was part of what Dick Cheney was doing in Iraq recently. Al-Hakim is the last major leader in his family in his generation. He says that Saddam killed 64 of his relatives. His older brother Muhammad Baqir, a more dynamic figure, was assassinated by a huge truck bomb at Najaf on Aug. 29, 2003. Although al-Hakim’s elder son, Ammar, is eloquent and has been helping his father, it is not clear that he is old enough or experienced enough to head SIIC effectively. Despite his closeness to Iran, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim has been a major ally of Bush in Iraq and in December he called for US troops to remain in the country.
Abdul Mahdi al-Karbala’i, the preacher who represents Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, said Thursday that the United States is not serious [Ar.] about fighting terrorism in Iraq. Al-Karbala’i’s sermons are held to reflect the thinking of Sistani.
AFP reports that “Five US soldiers were killed and 10 more were wounded in three separate attacks in and around Baghdad, the US military said on Friday.” Reuters rounds up violence on Thursday. So does McClatchy, more extensively, reporting that 25 bodies were found in Baghdad on Thursday. Some 15 bodies turned up in Baquba to the northeast.
Sawt al-Iraq reports in Arabic that the inflation rate there has reached 70% and rising. As a result, the state payscale for employees is increasingly inadequeate, and government workers are protesting their shrinking purchasing power. The government is the largest employer in Iraq, where the unemployment rate is estimated to be as high as 60 percent.
That the American invasion of Iraq liberated Iraqi women has been a constant talking point of the Bush administration. To anyone who actually knows the score, the claim provokes as many tears as guffaws. Nadje al-Ali of Exeter University explains the actual history here and looks at the deterioration in women’s lives under American rule. Her book, Iraqi Women: Untold Stories is just out in paperback.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports in Arabic that Basra is still without a governor, given the political split on the governing council. It says violence spiked during the past month, though the past week as been calmer with regard to street battles. The action has shifted to assassinations. In one set of killings, 9 government figures were mown down. The city remains “heaven for oil smugglers.”
Ghaith Abdul Ahad, writing in the Guardian, is convincing on the dominance of Basra by Shiite militias. I don’t think his evidence for his allegation that Iran is deeply influential is nearly as good. Like many Iraqis, he tends to code all Shiite Iraqis as pawns of Iran. In fact, I don’t think the Fadhila Party, or most of the Sadrists, or most of the tribal militias, much care for Iran. A lot of Basrawis don’t have good memories of the Iran-Iraq War. Some more extreme Sadrists even burned the Iranian consulate at Basra. The most important ally of Iran is the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, to which he devotes little space.
But militia rule, that sounds about right.
Nearly 1,000 civilian contractors have now been killed in Iraq. The Iraq War has been an enormous boondoggle for elements of the private sector, but when civilians go to war, they get killed just as the soldiers do.
Peter Moore at Salon.com on the Coalition Provisional Authority documents that his 8 year old son recovered through Windows’ “track changes” function. They show that the CPA really didn’t have a clue when it came to understanding the Sunni Arab guerrilla war.
a career State Department official at an embassy abroad who spoke out about the large number of political appointees among US ambassadors, was abruptly transferred to Iraq. He had complained that inexperienced political appointees are constantly making gaffes that the professional diplomats had to run around trying to fix. The ambassador under whom he was serving in Helsinki was herself such a political appointee. He has now retired from the foreign service.