The United Nations Security Council voted to get more involve in Iraq on Friday. The increase of staffers involved, however, is minuscule, and the vote is more important for its symbolism than for its likely effective impact. The staffers will have a special charge to help in promoting national reconciliation among Sunnis and Shiites. Some observers are cynically commenting that the Bush administration is trying to push the Iraq problem off onto the UN now that it has become so dire, though when he thought the Iraq Occupation would be a success, Bush tried desperatedly to sideline the UN.
Al-Hayat writing in Arabic reports that the top religious leaders in the Shiite holy city of Najaf have given their seminary students permission to leave the country in the wake of a wave of assassinations and death threats that have provoked consternation among security and religious officials alike. There appears to be a secret organization behind the killings and threats, which possesses a high degree of competence, that is stalking persons with a close connection to the top religious leaders, especially associates of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.
Hazim al-A`raji, an aide to Muqtada al-Sadr, said that police officers who had interrogated members of the millenarian Soldiers of Heaven cult had been targeted for assassination. But, he said, the situation was so murky that it was impossible to assign exact blame. The son of Grand Ayatollah Bashir Najafi (from Karachi, Pakistan) said that dozens of seminarians and aides had been sent to Syria or Lebanon after receiving death threats, and that the indiscriminate character of the threats had made it difficult to identify the perpetrator.
A Sadr spokesman in Najaf denied a US military allegation that Muqtada al-Sadr had departed to Iran and was not in control of the Mahdi Army. The spokesman said that Muqtada is present in Najaf. He was last seen in public on 25 May.
In al-Qurnah, north of Basra, the son of the sheikh of the Banu Malik tribe, Wissam al-Maliki, was cut down by assassins. This is the tribe from which PM Nuri al-Maliki derives.
Guerrillas deployed a car bomb in the northern oil city of Kirkuk on Friday, killing at least 11 persons and wounding 45.
Swopa on al-Maliki and Ahmadinejad: Your tax dollars at work.