Iraq: Fear and loathing in militia hell
asiatimes: The Arab League sent a 10-man delegation to Baghdad this past weekend to try to drum up support for a "national reconciliation" conference in Iraq - to be held after the referendum on the draft constitution Saturday. The welcoming committee included highway guerrillas armed to the teeth. Although no Arab League members were shot, two (Shi'ite) Interior Ministry commandos protecting them were killed and six wounded.
Ibrahim Jaafari's Shi'ite-Kurd government rejected the Arab League's intervention. President Jalal Talabani said it was "better than nothing", but it was too little, too late. For both Shi'ites and Kurds, what counts is that the Sunni-dominated Arab League did nothing to try to curb Saddam Hussein's worst excesses, and did nothing to help during the post-Saddam era.
This dialogue of the deaf offers the context in Baghdad ahead of the popular referendum on the draft constitution. Just to help the process along, a curfew and a four-day national holiday have been declared, starting on Thursday, in which all borders, airports and ports will officially be closed.
Sunnis can scuttle the constitution by recording two-thirds majorities in three of Iraq's 18 provinces. If the constitution is passed, elections will be held in December to elect a government. If it fails, the elections will install another interim administration to draft a new charter.
Meanwhile, the new Anglo-American occupation mantra is to blame Iran. First the Pentagon blamed Iran for shipping shaped charges to Sunni Arab guerrillas in northern Iraq - as if Tehran's Shi'ite leaders would ever be willing to give a helping hand to al-Qaeda in Iraq.
The accusation was completely absurd, but it was not altogether dropped. The British came up with a slight variation: Iran is shipping shaped charges to Shi'ite splinter groups in the southern city of Basra so they can attack British troops.
It also does not make sense. Tehran historically supports the Badr Brigades - the paramilitary wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, trained by Iran's Revolutionary Guards. The Badr Brigades don't see eye-to-eye with the Mahdi Army, Muqtada al Sadr's Shi'ite, Iraqi nationalist militia.
Basically, for the ghetto Arab Shi'ites of the Mahdi, the Badr are "Persians". So there's no point in Tehran arming Sadrists or splinter Sadrists. Just to remind anyone that economic benefit is what this is really all about, Jaafari made a point of stressing late last week that "Iraq will continue to expand its relations with Iran". This includes, on a practical level, 1,500 Iranian pilgrims a day now allowed to go to the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala (during Saddam's regime it used to be no more than 6,000 a month). This will generate billions of dollars of income to the Iraqi government. Read more