Iraq: January 19, 2004


A raid in Baghdad by US forces resulted in a gun battle that led to the death of two Yemenis and one Saudi. Tips from Iraqis are leading to more arrests and gun fights with armed non-Iraqis. The ones that are taken alive profess sympathy for, if not membership in, al Qaeda. What these men are willing to die for is the idea that Arabs are not responsible for all the problems of Arabs, but outsiders, particularly Americans are. 

Powerful Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani continues to demand national elections now. He is apparently doing this, despite the obvious impossibility of organizing such elections before July 1st, because such a demand proved immensely popular when first made months ago. Initially, Sistani made the demand in an effort to keep up with the "can you top this" game going on among Shia clerics as they sought to demonstrate their leadership potential to Iraqi Shias. Many Iraqis have a real problem with the widespread belief that the US has magical powers and can make anything happen. Sistani has organized large demonstrations in support of his demand, and threatens to back violent opposition to the caucus method the coalition proposes for selecting the first Iraqi legislature. The US insists on having the Iraqi government in power by July 1st, and apparently Sistani will be dealt with  via the negotiations that have been going on for some time. Sistani does not want to be blamed for delaying the transfer of power to Iraqis this Summer.


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