The killing of two US soldiers and the wounding of 5 more in a mortar attack were reported on Saturday.
Sawt al-Iraq reports in Arabic that Abdul Aziz al-Hakim (leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq) returned to Baghdad from chemotherapy in Iran and was welcomed by a big crowd of admirers at his home in south Baghdad after Eid prayers.
His son, Ammar al-Hakim, who has been acting head of ISCI in his father’s absence, preached a sermon in which he pledged to work against enduring US bases in Iraq. (On December 4, 2006, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim stood next to Bush in the Rose Garden and asked for US troops to remain in Iraq, so this pronouncement seems to be the beginnings of a reversal). Al-Hakim also argued for forging ahead with a Shiite provincial confederation in the south. He argued for a complete return of sovereignty to Iraq, according to AFP.
You have to wonder whether the recent Iran-brokered pact between al-Hakim and Muqtada al-Sadr, plus the new ISCI / Sistani consensus on reining in the US military and ultimately pushing it out altogether are a sign of new Iranian and Iraqi Shiite strategizing about the future. It also seems to me that the constant US drumbeat against Iran may have alarmed the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, which is an Iranian client and which needs Iranian money and support to maintain its political position in Iraq. Iran is therefore working to position ISCI as anti-Occupation over the medium to long run, and as responsible and orderly (thus the pact with Sadr.)
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the nearing of the date for Parliament to vote on the holding of provincial elections has provoked rivalries and tensions in the 9 southern provinces that are mostly Shiite. Seven of the nine (which include Baghdad) are dominated by the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), and therefore its political enemies are attempting to discredit its candidates. One tactic has been to bring into question the educational attainments of leading ISCI politicians. For instance, it is being charged by his enemies that Salim al-Muslimawi, the governor of Babil province just south of Baghdad, only has a fifth grade education but claimed he graduated from some Iranian institute that (on investigation) has no record of his having ever been there. Al-Muslimawi is from the Badr Organization, the paramilitary of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. His political opponents went to Iran, where he had lived for 15 years, to investigate his supposed education there. (It is ironic that the US government is currently waging a campaign against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, but is turning southern Iraq over to groups like the Badr Corps, which was trained by . . . the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.) The Bureau of Public Probity in Najaf announced that it was demanding from all members of that province’s provincial council proof that their educational diplomas were real.
I have trouble taking diplomagate seriously (unless the electoral commission really can use it to disqualify candidates). But it would be exciting if in fact provincial elections were scheduled in the near future, since many provinces have unrepresentative governments– a situation that retards any peace process.