Friday, January 07, 2011

Moqtada's return

Press TV states, "Iran's relations with Iraq entered a new stage with the Iranian caretaker Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi's trip to the latter and warm official and popular reception of the official. Because the unequaled acknowledgment of the visit signals that the ties have reached a heartwarming point." Of course, for most observers, it's Moqtada al-Sadr's Wednesday return to Iraq that really puts that message across. Aaron C. Davis (Washington Post) reports, "Lawmakers across Iraq's political and ethnic spectrums waited Thursday for word from anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, saying his first address after returning from nearly four years of self-imposed exile in Iran would likely say a lot about his intended approach to Iraq's fragile new government." The speech is supposed to be delivered Saturday. Anthony Shadid (New York Times) attempts to take on al-Sadr's statement released yesterday and fails miserably. It's a scolding. It's not lively, it's not 'fresh,' and it's not 1991 so "Or, translated more loosely, this is not yesterday's movement" is neither interesting nor accurate. What that note calls for, if more than a sentence is spent on it, is a discussion of cult of personalities and their abilities to use negative reinforcement or not. It doesn't need half-baked, day-old Thomas Friedman-isms and that, honestly, cheapens journalism when it runs in a news article. A column? We could all shrug over the embarrassing attempts at humorous and trendy. When it surfaces as the third paragraph of your news article, that's going to why people still see more flash than substance in your body of work.

Contrast that with observations from Mohamad Bazzi (Al Arabiya):

Now, Mr al Sadr has returned home to play a central part in Iraqi politics and to oversee his movement's transition from a militia force to a powerful political group with 40 seats in Parliament. But his ascendance threatens to stoke sectarian tensions in Iraq: his followers were responsible for some of the worst atrocities against Sunnis during the country's recent civil war. Mr al Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army, unleashed death squads that assassinated Sunnis and drove them out of Shiite neighbourhoods.
It is not clear if Mr al Sadr has decided to return permanently to Iraq, or whether he intends to go back to Iran to resume his religious studies. In either case, his arrival on the Iraqi scene is carefully timed and intended to ensure that Mr al Maliki follows through on the promises he made to win the support of Mr al Sadr's parliamentary bloc.

Absent from the some of the coverage is the arrest warrant. For obvious reasons, Hayder al-Khoei (Guardian) doesn't forget the warrant:

However, there was another thorny issue behind his absence: Sadr is still wanted by the Iraqi judiciary for his alleged involvement in my father's murder eight years ago.
The arrest warrant for Sadr stands to this day as Iraqi judge Raed al-Juhi signed it in April 2004. Juhi is the investigative judge who presided over the first hearing of the Dujail massacre that eventually led to Saddam Hussein's execution in December 2006.
The fact that Sadr was not arrested upon his arrival this week says a lot about Iraq's new government and its claimed dedication to integrity.

The following community sites updated last night:

Tuesday's snapshot included a critique of Peter Maas' bad article in The New Yorker. We'll close with this from Justin Raimondo's critique at

As for whose idea it was to bring down the statue, Maass traces it to a lowly sergeant who, out of the blue, came up with the bright idea all by his lonesome, but there are several holes in Maass’s story.

To begin with, long shots of the square show the area around the statue completely blocked off by US tanks, and yet, according to Maass’s own account, “a handful of Iraqis had slipped into the square” – at precisely the moment the sergeant asked permission to take the statue down.

Who were these Iraqis? Reading Maass, one would simply assume they were random residents of Baghdad, curiosity seekers out on a lark, but a look at these photos disabuses us of this notion. They were members of the Iraqi National Congress – those now-infamousheroes in error” – who had played a key role in the “weapons of mass destruction” deception and were being groomed by the neocons to take power in post-Saddam Iraq. Along with their leader, the wanted embezzler and suspected Iranian agent Ahmed Chalabi, 700 INC “fighters” were flown into Nasiriyah by the Pentagon a few days before, and were whisked to Baghdad, where they arrived just in time for their Big Media Moment.

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