Iraq: April 21, 2003

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The Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, the American organization that will run Iraq until Iraqi administrators can be appointed, has arrived in Baghdad. The Office is led by retired American general Jay Garner, who had, in the 1990s, restored services in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. He has brought 19 staff with him, but that will grow to 450 in the next week or so. Electrical power began returning to large parts of Baghdad overnight.

Iraq is settling down, although there's going to be more violence as Shia religious leaders, many of them just returned from exile in Iran, try to outdo each other in being anti-American. The exiled Shia clerics were sheltered by Iranian clerics, who run a country where it is illegal to even suggest that diplomatic relations be restored with the United States. While most Iraqi Shias are not as anti-American as these Shia clerics, after you get hit with anti-American sermons week after week, and lots of anti-American demonstrations, your judgment gets clouded. Add to the mix Hezbollah fighters, who believe the suicide attack is perfectly legitimate tactic. After all, these guys are on a mission from God. American intelligence units have turned their attention to Iran and discovered, not unexpectedly, that Iran's religious conservatives (which control police and the army, but only 20 percent of the legislature) are moving agents, guns and money into Iraq. This situation could turn ugly real fast, mainly because the Iranian religious conservatives have a hard time controlling their more radical members. Decades of preaching about America, the "Great Satan" creates a certain mind set. Now American troops are occupying the holiest cities of Shia Islam (Najaf and Karbala.) 

The U.S. is rounding up about one a day of the fifty or so most wanted members of the Saddam government. Rewards are being offered, and paid, for Iraqis to turn these guys over. Many are apparently still in Iraq, hiding as best they can.

 

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