Turkish Muslim Party Wins Landslide
US Raids Umm al-Qura Mosque
Sistani said in Peril
In neighboring Turkey, the Islamically tinged AK Party won nearly 47% of the vote on Sunday, which will allow it, after a multiplier is applied, to rule with a comfortable margin without needing a coalition party. It has been suggested that the recent sabre rattling coming out of Turkey toward the Kurds in Iraq was a matter of posturing for the sake of garnering votes in the election. I suppose we are about to find out. One danger to Turkish stability, as the FT notes, is that if PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan grows too arrogant and rash as a result of his popular victory, he may respond so forcefully to the situation in Kurdistan that he accidentally produces an unnecesary crisis.
The US military raided the Umm al-Qura mosque complex in Baghdad, HQ of the Association of Muslim Scholars, and arrested 18 persons they accused of being in the guerrilla movement, including the son of the mosque’s preacher. The AMS condemned the raid, as did, outside Iraq, the Arab League.
US ambassador in Iraq Ryan Crocker is asking that all Iraqi US government employees be given immigrant visas to the United States up front, according to WaPo.
It seems fairly clear that the educated middle classes are fleeing Iraq in droves and that the US government now faces a shortage of qualified translators and other employees necessary to the US enterprise in that country.
This cable from the Baghdad embassy suggests that things are very, very bad.
The NYT profiles Muqtada al-Sadr and the way he has been able to pose both as an insider and an outsider to the government at once (i.e. he knows the same tricks as Karl Rove, Bush’s campaign adviser). This report suggests that the Sadr Movement is attracting southern Shiites in droves and is providing services to the poor. (Muqtada al-Sadr’s father used to do that, too). The only thing I disagree with is the assertion or implication that Muqtada al-Sadr launched an anti-US military insurgency, simultaneously with or in imitation of the Sunni Arab insurgents. Muqtada did form a militia, the Mahdi Army, in summer, 2003, but it was highly disciplined and he strictly forbade it to attack US troops. It did not. The fighting between the US military and Sadr’s military came only after then civil administrator Paul Bremer and Gen. Rick Sanchez suddenly announced that they intended to “kill or capture” Muqtada al-Sadr. Only then did his movement turn violent in any significant way, in self-defense.
Police in the Shiite holy city of Najaf are questioning the safety of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in the wake of the assassination of one of his aides in his compound, just yards away from the grand ayatollah. Radical Sunni groups have vowed several times on the internet to kill Sistani. His death might well throw Iraq into fatal turmoil.
Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon is advocating that Ninevah Province hold provincial elections and that then US forces be withdrawn from it, leaving security duties to Iraqi army and police. He maintains that the Iraqi security forces are already operating independently there for the most part. Hear, hear! Give that man a medal and do what he says. Foreign military forces have withdrawn from 6 of Iraq’s provinces (3 Kurdish– Dohuk, Sulaymaniyah, Irbil– and 3 Shiite–Dhi Qar, Maysan and Muthanna). Iraq has 18 provinces, so there are only 12 to go. Mosul, Najaf and Karbala are good candidates for the next 3. If the Shiite military and police cannot or will not defend security in Najaf and Karbala, they are not any good and never will be. Those provinces contain cities that mean a great deal to them.
McClatchy adds, “Around 12:30 p.m. A suicide truck bomb targeted a tribal leader house in Al Taji in Jurf Al Milah. 5 were killed and 12 were injured . . .”
Also, “Six men were killed (most of them are Kurds) and 4 other citizens were injured in the last 24 hours in Mosul is separated attacks. . .”
“Gunmen attacked three trucks carrying watermelon on the main road from Khanqeen to Buhruz. 6 men were killed in the attack.”