Iraqi authorities said Saturday that they have a videotape of the shootings in Nisur Square last Sunday by Blackwater security guards, which shows that they fired without provocation. The company has maintained that its personnel were responding to incoming fire. There is now talk in Baghdad of trying the guards, though a decree by US viceroy Paul Bremer may hold the US nationals harmless.
Meanwhile, charges surfaced that Blackwater employees had shipped weapons to Iraq without proper paperwork, which could be interpreted as a form of arms smuggling. The company denies the charges.
Meanwhile, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani wrote a letter to Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker demanding that Iranian national Mahmoud Farhadi
Farhad Aghaie be released. The US military detained him in Sulaimaniya, alleging that he is actually an Iranian intelligence officer. Talabani seems confused as to whether he is president of Iraq or a representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government, since he complained that the US raid injured the sovereignty of the KRG. Uh, I don’t think provincial administrations have sovereignty. And, shouldn’t Talabani be representing the interests in sovereignty of all the provinces?
Plus, Mam Jalal, if you are a president and have to plead with a foreign general to release your own guest from prison, you don’t have any sovereignty left and haven’t had for some time. You’ve been colonized.
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that former prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari visited Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Najaf on Saturday. Jaafari was expected to meet with representatives of the Sadr Movement later that day. Al-Hayat says that two main interpretations of the visit have been put forward. One is that Jaafari is attempting to repair the rifts in the United Iraqi Alliance, the ruling Shiite fundamentalist bloc created by Sistani in the fall of 2004. In that case he was getting Sistani’s blessing for the effort and seeking his intercession with Muqtada al-Sadr, who has withdrawn his bloc from the coalition.
The second interpretation is that Jaafari is attempting to make a new bloc in parliament that would include the Sadrists, and which would undermine Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. In that case he was seeking Sistani’s blessing for the effort or at least ensuring that the grand ayatollah was not dead set against it.
Al-Hayat also reports on the worsening security situation in the south. It reports one member of the federal parliament as complaining about a wave of assassinations in Basra. Some 100 persons were cut down just in the past week, he alleged, including two aides to Sistani. He demanded the resignation of the Basra police chief and threatened a vote of no confidence against the minister of the interior if nothing was done to stem the killings.
Sawt al-Iraq in Arabic says that not just one but several parliamentarians are called for the resignation of Minister of the Interior Jawad al-Bulani because of the downward security spiral in the south.
The head of the parliamentary committee on security, Hadi al-Amiri, agreed about the worsening situation but said that the security forces were doing the best they could. Al-Amiri is head of the Badr Organization paramilitary, attached to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), and many police and other security men in Basra were drawn from Badr. So, ironically, the head of the parliamentary security committee is also the leader of one of Iraq’s best-trained Shiite militias.
Brazil is giving asylum to the Palestinian refugees whose families were expelled from their homes by the Israelis in 1948 and who had taken refuge in Iraq, but now have been forced out of Iraq, as well. (Argentina will take some, too). The Palestinians are the eternal Boat People. It would have been better for them to be able to go home than to a Portuguese speaking country half way around the world. But, well, Rio is rather better than three years in a tent in the desert, and at last they are no longer stateless. But on what will they live? It would be nice to send them some charity. If anybody knows how, please post in comments. (Brazilian Red Cross e.g.?)
At the Global Affairs group blog, Gershon Shafir reads the tea leaves on the possibility of a Hamas truce with Israel.
UN Human Rights chief Louise Arbour has expressed alarm about recent Israeli statements on depriving Gaza of humanitarian infrastructure.
At the Napoleon’s Egypt Blog , the naked truth about Mamluk theft of French officers’ uniforms.