IRAQ: ‘Soldiers of Heaven’ Scare Wagged the Dog?

When the governor of Najaf called on U.S. air support for an Iraqi Army attack on a heavily fortified compound, the target was originally described as an al Qaeda-affiliated Sunni group — and then later a Shia doomsday cult — that sought to massacre Shia imams and pilgrims during a religious festival. But the Institute for War & Peace Reporting now cites “security officials” who claim no attack on imams and pilgrims was planned, and quotes Najaf’s deputy governor as stating that regional Shia leaders simply wanted to eliminate a rival militant Shia sect. “Shia rivalry sparked battle of Zarqa”
Institute for War & Peace Reporting, February 15, 2007
“Rebel Muslims longed for doomsday / ‘Heaven’s Army’ battled near Najaf with high-tech arms”
Los Angeles Times, January 30, 2007

The Loyal Opposition in Iraq, Lebanon

A new organization of 500 Sunni scholars and clerics have vowed to stand with Iraqi officials and Shiites to “close the gaps and divisions among the Sunni authorities,” according to United Press International. The move puts them in potential conflict with the Sunni Islamic Scholars Association, Iraq’s highest Sunni authority and a dedicated opponent of the government and the political process. In Lebanon, a tax to privatize key industries and secure new loans for debt relief drew opposition from a coalition of Hizbollah, Christian, Druze, Sunni and leftist partisans. They say the tax will harm already-impoverished Lebanese, and neglects development and agricultural needs. Sources:

“New religious Sunni group declared in Iraq”
United Press International, January 19, 2007
“Lebanon’s new battleground”
Al-Ahram Weekly (Egypt), January 18-24, 2007
“Donors promise generosity in Paris despite turmoil in Beirut”
The Daily Star (Lebanon), January 25, 2006


A Peace Plan’s Ambition
A “blueprint” for stability in Iraq, proposed by former defense minister Ali Allawi, would replace American troops with an international security force, negotiate security treaties, and establish a “Middle Eastern Confederation of States” to bolster civil society and establish a collective supreme court. The Independent, which published Allawi’s original proposal, reports that the plan also calls for a decentralized Iraqi government divided into regions, and a World Bank-funded reconstruction council. Sources:
“The Iraqi proposals”
Independent (U.K), January 5, 2007
“From all corners, support grows for Iraq peace plan”
Independent (U.K), January 6, 2007

FOCUS: Women in Iraq

By Jodi Wynn, intern
As democracy takes a step in Iraq, traditional gender roles and the strong ties between religion and government are major obstacles for women. According to a recent report by Amnesty International, women are more confined and limited since the U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003. Although the report acknowledged that women faced institutionalized violence prior to Saddam’s fall, it also noted that since the occupation they wear headscarves more often, and avoid school and work due to fears of fundamentalist reprisals. The report also raised concerns of gender-based intimidation and sexual threats by U.S. soldiers, including against female political detainees. Washington said it would review the findings.

A Cold War Legacy of Persian Gulf Conflict: Central Command assures “unimpeded flow of oil”

By Jennifer Huang | World Power III: Geopolitics

Ground troops in the desert and aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf, Kurdish alliances and leafleting campaigns, oil field protection and one slippery despot: War in Iraq is a strategic and logistical behemoth. Legions of American soldiers have shipped out to the Persian Gulf region from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. An estimated 250,000 troops are in place — add another 40,000 from Britain and Australia and the number approaches 300,000. The modern military needs a small battalion just to orchestrate its own bureaucracy. That battalion is the Central Command, headed by General Tommy Franks.