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Catfish and Cod
Friday, October 24, 2003
 
Rumsfeld memo: a tragedy of spin.
(Link path: USA Today)

And lo, it came to pass that Rumsfeld, master of the war hosts, awoke one day and asked: "How are we doing?"

And his followers began to whisper, "Rumsfeld knows not how we are doing."

And his domestic enemies heard the whispers, and said, "Rumsfeld hath said before that all was well, and now asks how we are doing; lo, he must have lied to us, and have deceit in his heart."

And his detractors heard these words, and said, "Lo, Rumsfeld asks how we are doing; he doth plan further, and doth consider bolder moves."

And Rumsfeld's followers became wroth, and said, "Who whispered this amongst ourselves? Was it not wrong to tell of the thoughts of Rumsfeld? Doth it not inform our enemies?"

And others commented, and said, "No, the thoughts are well, but we should not speak of them, lest Rumsfeld fear to contemplate these matters further."

And more people spoke, and said, "These are good thoughts, and worthy to be thought upon."

And many others commented, whose links are not to be found here.

But lo, it came to pass that no one answered the questions of Rumsfeld, and understood how it was that we were doing. And so the defense of the land was diminished.

And your author wept, and said, "Is there no one who will give up their spin, and consider the actual question?"

UPDATE: but wait, there's more!
 
Citizen reporter.
(Link path: BuzzMachine)

Jeff Jarvis wants the perfecting reporting tool -- something that's a camera, a microphone, a web-enabled PDA with word processing and wireless connectivity, and a phone, all in one.

Such a thing is imminently possible; all the components have been invented, we just need a bright boy to put it all in one box, figure out the ergonomics and power requirements and manufacturing, and sell it. At first they'd be expensive toys for all the international reporters. But then economies of scale would kick in, and local newspapers would start buying them. Then the public would buy them, especially if they start competing with camera cellphones.

This could be a paradigm shift in the way David Brin talks about in The Transparent Society. Brin points out that cameras are becoming so cheap and easy to manufacture that they will soon be everywhere, and discusses the resultant social effects. He argues that since "the cameras are coming" anyway, we'd better make sure they aren't controlled by any large organization (including the government and corporations) that could use the power of an all-seeing eye to establish a tyranny. Thus, he advocates a world where everyone can access all the public cameras.

But there's more. Even with many competing powers that be, even with free camera control, if commentary and eyewitnessing remain reserved to a controlled elite ("The Fourth Estate"), there can still be effective blockage of ideas in society. Jarvis' all-in-one do-it-yourself report-o-blogging machine would solve that problem, by throwing open both reporting and punditry -- news and analysis -- to the masses. Democracy would then be possible on a mass participatory scale never before seen.

Cool, huh?
 
Socialists hate democracy, love al-Sadr.
(Link path: Socialist Worker)

Want to see something disgusting? Check this out.

Buried in the anti-U.S., anti-capitalist, anti-everyone-except-socialist propaganda is this graf:

...while the Iraqi resistance--fueled by suffering and economic misery at the hands of the U.S. occupiers--will continue to gather momentum. "When the people of California were unhappy with their authorities, they threw them out and elected Schwarzenegger," Salah Erebat, a lawyer who supports the resistance, told the Wall Street Journal. "So why is it that Americans can do it, and we in Sadr City cannot?"


Because the Americans did it in an election. They had a petition, a campaign, and a organized vote, with checks and balances and transparency and sealed boxes and debates and peaceful rallies.

Sadr City's elected (and interim) neighborhood council was ousted by armed thugs of al-Sadr, a theocrat who doesn't give a hoot about human rights or socialist rhetoric. His unelected neighborhood council then held the offices for twelve days -- holding up city services in the meantime -- until Iraqi police and US troops forced them out and reinstated the original council.

Yet this bunch accuses the coalition of a "glaring double standard" by not holding Schwarzenegger's election equal to violent power grabs by a cleric with minority support even in his own constituency. What logic can drive such bizarre characterizations?

Oh yes. "The United States is the root of all evil; any attack against the U.S. power structure is therefore inherently good." You can justify pretty much any atrocity with that line.
 
How do we improve Iraqi security?
(Link path: Healing Iraq)

Zayed talks some more about the new Iraqi Police. They seem to be the most popular thing the coalition has acheived so far -- the exact opposite of the Ba'athist thugs. More important than the physical reconstruction that everyone's been talking about lately is the reconstruction of institutions. Even if everything's rebuilt perfectly, with spit and polish and everything, it'll all fall apart again unless the Iraqi people have the institutions set up that they need to run their own affairs. After the terror and horror of the last few years, basic concepts like civil society, the rule of law, human rights, and so forth have to be reintroduced, and everyone -- government, society, individuals -- has to believe in them. The new Iraqi Police are a HUGE step in re-establishing not only the rule of law, but the confidence of the people in their government. If the Iraqi Police remain the professional organization they have become under Iraqi self-rule, then the country will be far more stable.

But why aren't we putting more boots on the ground, Zayed wonders? If the IP are doing such a good job, why not more? It's a good question. I'm no military expert, but I can think of a few reasons off the top of my head:

1) They need more backup. The effectiveness of the Iraqi Police is due in no small part to the coalition backup they receive. They themselves are lightly armed, but if things get ugly they can whistle and Americans or Poles or British will be there in five minutes with heavy firepower. There is probably a minimum ratio of policemen to soldiers that needs to be maintained for that edge to remain, and the coalition feels it needs more soldiers in order to hold their end up.

2) Those troops shouldn't be Turkish. In the face of unified Iraqi opposition, Turkey is rethinking its idea of sending troops to aid the coalition. They probably wouldn't be much help anyway. We wanted Turkish troops for the invasion originally; the Turkish vote was an echo of that, a belated reassurance to Washington that Turkey is still a U.S. ally. Diplomats also found the Turkish vote useful in order to put further pressure on the Syrian regime, which is now surrounded by U.S. allies (Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Israel -- Lebanon is a Syrian satellite).

Turkey, of course, ruled Iraq during the Ottoman Empire, and all Iraqis came to resent Turkish suzerainity during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Kurds, being on the Turkish border as they are, have much more recent memories of Turkish atrocities. And everyone hates the fact that the Turks built dams above the Iraqi border on the Tigris and Euphrates, becoming co-conspirators in Saddam's efforts to use the water supply as a political and genocidal weapon.

3) But then why not recall parts of the Iraqi Army, as some Governing Council members have suggested? Again, this is not as easy as it sounds. While efforts are being made, the new recruits must be background-checked to ensure that the security forces are not infiltrated by old Ba'athist elements or new al-Qaeda creeps. On top of this, most of the facilities were heavily damaged or destroyed in the looting in April. We desperately need to throw those facilities back together so that they can be effectively used. (This argument applies more to the army facilities than the police facilities -- we don't have to feed and clothe the police, just pay and train them and issue uniforms and equipment.) This is the same argument that Zayed applies to the jails.

Finally, Zayed wants the death penalty back. Not a bad idea, but can you imagine the PR disaster that would ensue if Americans started executing Iraqis? I agree that it would help the crime problem, but it must be IRAQIS that reinstitute the death penalty, not Americans. And the Iraqi Police will insist on the execution of hardened criminals, cop-killers especially, as soon as they are able to do so. The worst capital crime in the world is not rape, or murder, or even genocide -- it's cop-killing. Kill a cop and policemen everywhere will never stop until you are dead.
 
Al-Sadr's making trouble: IV.
(Link path: Taipei Times, The Guardian)

The coalition wants al-Sadr gone. Apart from the mess he's caused in the last few weeks, he's also suspected of assassinating several rivals in the Hawza power structure in Najaf. The coalition thinks they can pin the lynching/assassination of Abdel Majid al-Khoei on al-Sadr; that's what they'll use to grab him. Many still think al-Sadr was also behind the assassination of SCIRI's Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim (not the current one, but his brother), but I don't.

There were demonstrations in support of al-Sadr's forces in Karbala on Wednesday, but they remained peaceful. al-Sadr apparently has made a strategic decision not to push his luck at this time. Unfortunately, some damage still remains. Relations between the coalition and the residents of Sadr City are tenser now, as MSNBC reports.

Here's the best story out there right now on how the situation is in Karbala. The militias (al-Sistani's and al-Sadr's alike) are no longer guarding the Imam Hussein shrine or any of the city's major mosques. An agreement between the Hawza and the sheikhs of Karbala has resulted in an official, nonpartisan police force. The agreement stipulates that mosques will not be used as ammo dumps or shelters for partisans. Hopefully, this will take control of mosques off the political chessboard. Many stories have reported that al-Sadr sought not only the propaganda value of holding the mosques of Najaf and Karbala, but also the steady revenue stream provided by donations from pilgrims to the holy sites.

My guess is that the coalition won't grab for al-Sadr now. He's a firebrand, arrogant and aggressive. As long as he doesn't do anything else foolish, they'll let him be, so as to prevent his movement from heterodyning. But as soon as he makes another move -- or if they get good intelligence that he's planning another move -- they'll get that warrant signed pronto, and then grab him.

Other episodes: I. II. III. IV. V. VI.
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
 
Al-Sadr's making trouble: III.
(Link path: CNN)

The CPA and the US military, it seems, have decided on their action. A series of raids in the early morning hours of Tuesday (Oct 21 for those of you keeping score) have grabbed up 21 members of al-Mahdi, probably those involved in the altercation at al-Hassani's place last Thursday (Oct 16). The CNN reporter points out the obvious, that al-Sadr himself is not among them (of course not! al-Sadr's in Najaf, not Karbala!) but is silent on whether al-Hassani is in custody. (If he is, expect squawking later today from all sides -- but given the reports of his flight earlier in the week, I doubt it.) The AP says 32 were detained, including five at the home of Khalid al-Kazemi. It also points out that mucho ammo was seized in the operation.

The raids apparently took place close to the shrine, as it opened late for prayers on Tuesday morning. Al-Bawaba's report suggests that, in fact, at least some of those rounded up were the gang that's been stuck in al-Mukhaiyam mosque since Oct 10. In contrast, the onerous 9 pm to 6 am curfew was suddenly lifted at 4:30 am Tuesday morning, a sign that the US forces think that the Karbala situation is defused.

Wisely, the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps took the lead and made the actual arrest, with both Polish and US troops acting as backup. This is good three ways: (1) making sure the Iraqis have the experience to fix things themselves and aren't dependent on us; (2) in propaganda terms, it looks good that Iraqis are fixing things themselves (because it is good); and (3) if the al-Mahdi kill any of them, they're killing Iraqis and not infidel occupiers. Killing Iraqis makes it more difficult to explain how they are valiant martyrs for Islam and Iraq later on.

As our main man Salam Pax said, "Iraqi police kick major ass. Much respect."

The purpose of this raid is likewise threefold: (1) To improve Karbala security; (2) to arrest and try whoever was responsible for killing a U. S. Lt. Col., and (3) to convince al-Sistani and the Shi'ite population at large that America is working to maintain law and order, without provoking them into taking further measures or increasing their rhetoric against the occupation.

I hope it works.

Other episodes: I. II. III. IV. V. VI.
 
Self-defense: a good alibi but a poor legal strategy.
(Link path: Washington Post)

What is it about Islamic militants that makes them desperately want to act as their own counsel in court?

It can't be in hopes of winning their defense. Anyone even remotely famliar with the law system of any modern country realizes that having a lawyer, even one with rudimentary skills, beats speaking on your own behalf hands down. The rules governing the conduct of a trial are just too complicated for anyone to learn on the spur of the moment. (We can discuss whether or not this is a positive development another time.)

So what's going on? It could be their personality type. The sort of person who is so completely convinced of their righteousness that they are willing to kill would also be the person who feels they have enough righteousness to be a superlative lawyer. "The Lord shall place his words in my mouth", and all that. John Lee Mohummad does seem to share that kind of attitude with Zacharias Moussaoui, another aggressive Islamic partisan who has chosen to reject counsel in his U.S. criminal trial.

Or maybe it's for the publicity. Speaking in your own defense is rare in the United States, so it's a novelty. Choosing that route gives you just that much more media coverage, and ensures that you control what the press hears. Without a counselor interceding on your behalf, you can spin the facts according to your own personal convinctions. The jury will directly hear your side of the story, but just as importantly, so will the media. Again, Moussaoui doesn't hesitate to use his motions and oral arguments as propaganda tools in his ongoing campaign to discredit the Federal criminal court system.

Or maybe they just don't trust the lawyers. In this day and age, it's true that lawyers are often a frowned-upon segment of society. (There are exceptions. The prosecution submits the case of Erin Brockovich-Ellis, heroic paralegal, as People's Exhibit One.) But for people like Mohummad and Moussaoui, their court-appointed lawyers could feel like set-up men to them. In places less scrupulous about justice than our own, counsel for the defence could conceivably be talked into sabotaging their case for later reward. But in the United States, the only excuse for distrusting your lawyer's intentions is good old-fashioned paranoia. But hey, when you're on trial and the death penalty is a potential sentence, wouldn't you be paranoid too?
Monday, October 20, 2003
 
Al-Sadr's making trouble: II.
(Link path: Healing Iraq)

Wow, what a difference a day makes. Twenty-fours go by and I get linked as the go-to guy for "an interesting and very accurate timeline for all Al-Sadr related trouble in Iraq since September 29." Amazing what three hours of obsessive Google News reading will get you these days, isn't it?

Zayed has corrected my interpretations of who is leading whom, and gives some kickass insight into the inner workings of Shi'a politics. I defer to his superior knowledge. And my list of players in the post below has been changed to reflect his critiques.

All I wanted to do was get a comprehensive description of what was going on in Iraq. The problem with the Feiler Faster news cycle is that lingering stories get split up into short 24-hour-or-less newsbytes that don't show the linkages between events. From the stories you see on U.S. media, you'd think each of these incidents was an isolated event. The Washington Post connected some of the dots (about one quarter of the points in my timeline are from their story on Page A24 of yesterday's paper), but no one else seems to have really tried. This is not due to ideological bias; FOX News is as shallow in its own way as CBS. It has to do with the way the US news is managed right now.

What emerged is this creepy situation, with three threads of major incidents: Karbala, Sadr City, and southwest Baghdad near the Ali Bayaa mosque. At all three spots, al-Sadr keeps the pressure up continuously. As soon as one situation is resolved, his people immediately start another incident. (He seems to have enough followers in Najaf to try there as well, but doesn't dare do so with al-Sistani and the rest of the Hawza right on his doorstep.) I don't know whether this is because his yahoos are such morons that they can't help but make fools of themselves in front of their enemies, or that it's a deliberate incitement campaign masterminded by "Muqty" and his Iranian puppetmasters. But whatever it is, it stinks.

By himself, al-Sadr can't do anything. His only real source of influence is his last name. Ayatollah Mohammad Sadek al-Sadr was a real power in Shi'a, but "Muqty" is not his father by a long shot. He's a chump, and an idiot too. But as Lenin noted long ago, there are plenty of "useful idiots" out there. al-Sadr's real power is to spur the rest of Shi'a Iraq to move. And that's what may be happening. Al-Sistani has blamed the central government for letting al-Sadr get away with his tricks. He's calling for restrictions on illegal arms possession (which he'll probably get) and rapid elections for constitutional convention delegates (a much less likely proposition).

Here's a eyewitness account of the Karbala shootout at the home of al-Hassani on October 16. Seems like the US forces tried very hard to resolve the situation. Lieutenant Colonels don't show up on the front line of a battle in today's Army unless they are trying to negotiate a settlement. And here's something else that hasn't been mentioned in press reports: although neither al-Sadr nor al-Hassani are in custody, 40 other al-Mahdi were grabbed and 17 of them are still being held.

And here's the word on the Karbala street on al-Hassani:

''This man is a criminal. He bought all his followers. He recruited my best friend who died in a gunbattle in a prison. Hassani went around preaching Islam while he drank alcohol,'' Rashid Kathim said.
''He had about 400 armed men. They created so many problems for us. After the incident (Thursday's shootout) his men screamed Allahu Akbar (God is great) and they asked us to protect them from the Americans. We all said no.''


Meanwhile, the British in Amara have co-opted the local upstart and have the situation temporarily well in hand. Wonder how they did that?

And finally, Zayed worries:

It's at times like these that I start worrying and get pessimistic about the future of freedom in this country. I see many people reject it, because 'its an American and zionist plot to spread immorality and degradation in our virtous society'. Then they give me all the holy crap. The problem with their logic is that they are not even holy themselves. I don't want to believe in their scriptures. I don't want to be forced to fast in Ramadan. I want to be able to freely criticize them without being burnt at a stake. I want to be able to buy my vodka without having to look left and right. I want to be able to walk with my girlfriend in the street while holding hands together without people glaring at me. Is this TOO MUCH to ask? Do I have to immigrate and leave my country for wanting to do all that?


No, Zayed. No one should have to leave their home to be who they are. And no one's home should be dominated by sanctimonious hypocrites.

There was a fellow once who was very critical of sanctimonious hypocrites. I think he was from Nazareth...

Other episodes: I. II. III. IV. V. VI.
Sunday, October 19, 2003
 
Al-Sadr's making trouble.
(Link path: BuzzMachine, Healing Iraq)

UPDATE: Welcome to visitors from Healing Iraq! We're glad you're here. This story continues in further postings above: II. III.
IV. V. VI.

First, announcing a new Iraqi blog, discovered by Jeff Jarvis. I've talked about the importance of reading Iraqi blogs before. This one looks to be the best yet.

Zayed (for that is the new blogger's name) is concerned about Muqtada al-Sadr, Iran's intended puppet dictator, and the support he gets in Sadr City. (Nice how that works out, isn't it?) He points out that Sadr City is a problem, and one reason we haven't crushed Sadr: we don't want a Shi'ite revolt on our hands.

What is troubling us is that Al-Sadr regards himself as a 'legitimate' leader of the Iraqi people. He keeps blabbering daily that he is more legitimate than the Governing Council, and that the Americans should leave Iraq immediately so he can have his way. He announced a few days ago a 'shadow government' without disclosing its members names, with himself as head of it. He said that the government would include ministries that were not included in the Governing Council's cabinet such as Defence, Information, and Religous Affairs ministries.


In other words, al-Sadr is making a move for power. Since al-Sadr takes orders from Iran, it is clear that Iran is making a move to destabilize Iraq, evict the Americans, raise the Shi'ites in revolt, and install a puppet dictator in Iraq.

Now, troops are now being posted at the entrances to Sadr City, and surrounding Sayyid Mahmoud al-Hassani's house in Karbala. Other members of al-Sadr's "Mahdi Army" have been holed up in al-Mukhaiyam mosque for days by the Iraqi police (with American advice, but not active participation). Al-Sadr himself has desisted from actually establishing his 'government' due to "lack of demonstrations of public support". It appears therefore that, even by al-Sadr's own admission, he has little support for an insurrection against American occupation. This puts the lie to Riverbend's fears to the contrary.

Since the media's stories are rather confused, the sequence of events should be made clear.

THE PLAYERS:

For the Governing Council:

Hoshyar Zebari, foreign minister.

Sheik Saed Hussain al Shiami, religious affairs minister.

For the Najaf Hawza, the supreme Iraqi Shi'ite religious authority in Najaf:

Grand Ayatollah Ali Taki al-Sistani, leader (Najaf)

For the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the mainstream Shi'ite religious party:

Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, leader (Najaf)

Abdel-Mahdi Salami, deputy (Karbala)

Sheik Mohammed Abu Jaafar al-Assadi, negotiator (Karbala)

Adel Abdul Mahdi, Governing Council representative (Baghdad)

For the Imam al-Mahdi Army, the al-Sadr faction:

Muqtada al-Sadr, leader (Kufa, outside Najaf)

Abbas al-Robai, senior aide (Baghdad?)

Sheik Mahmoud al-Hassani, deputy (Karbala)

Sheikh Abu Zahrar, spokesman (Karbala)

Sheik Moayed Khazraji, deputy (southwest Baghdad)

Sheik Qais al-Khazali, deputy (Sadr City, Baghdad)

BAGHDAD, 10 pm, Sep 29: An Iraqi policeman on patrol, backed up by US forces, enters the Sadr-loyal Ali Bayaa mosque, Sadr City, to arrest a man with a rifle. The Iraqi policeman knocks off the turban of a cleric, causing insult.

BAGHDAD, Sep 30: The Iraqi policeman attempts to apologize for the inadvertent insult and is rebuffed.

BAGHDAD, Oct 2: Sheik Moayed Khazraji, the imam of Ali Bayaa mosque, demands the policeman for an Islamic court trial on pain of bloodshed. Protests are made over the arrest attempt on Sep 29, causing stones to be thrown.

BAGHDAD, Oct 3: Khazraji, in his Friday sermon, condemns alcohol merchants. Within hours, four local alcohol merchants are murdered.

BAGHDAD, Oct 5: In an ambush, Khazraji is arrested by Iraqi police and US forces. He is held at the maximum-security Abu Gharib prison and charged with multiple counts of "communicating a threat", murder (of the alcohol merchants), kidnapping, and conspiracy to harbor terrorists.

BAGHDAD, Oct ?: A protest is organized to protest Khazraji's imprisonment outside Ali Bayaa mosque. 12 Americans are wounded by a grenade thrown from the crowd.

SADR CITY, BAGHDAD, Oct 7: al-Sadr forces oust the local council of Sadr City and establish themselves as a new, Sadr-loyal local council. Reconstruction efforts cease, as do all cooperative efforts with the Governing Council.

BAGHDAD, Oct 8: Approximately 1,000 Sadr-loyal forces demonstrate for a cleric's release. He was arrested by Iraqi police after weapons and ammo were discovered in his mosque.

SADR CITY, BAGHDAD, Oct 9: A suicide bomber attacks a police station in Sadr City. Nine Iraqis (three policemen, six civilians) are killed and 27 are injured.

SADR CITY, BAGHDAD, Oct 9: American forces claim an ambush by unspecified enemy forces (Sadr's, but the US refuses to admit it) causes 2 American deaths and four American injuries. Mahdi forces claim the Americans provoked the fight by searching their headquarters.

NAJAF, Oct 10: At Friday prayers in the mosque at Kufa, al-Sadr declared his own government in Iraq. The announcement is carried live on al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya.

KARBALA, Oct 10: In response to al-Sadr's call, Mahdi representatives attempt to take control of Karbala. According to Salami, Madhi forces kidnap Maisam al-Karbalai, a representative of the Karbala city council, after he impounds an al-Mahdi bus on suspicion of theft. Negotiations for al-Karbalai's release are undertaken by Sheik Mohammed Abu Jaafar al-Assadi.

SADR CITY, BAGHDAD, Oct 10: Sheikh Abdel-Hadi al-Daraji delivers the sermon in Sadr City, calling for Americans to stay out of Sadr City.

KARBALA, Oct 11: Two Iraqis are wounded in a grenade attack outside the city.

BAGHDAD, Oct 11: The Baghdad Ciy Council and the Iraqi Governing Council condemn Sadr's announcement. Iyad Allawi stated that he didn't think Sadr was serious, and SCIRI representative Adel Abdul Mahdi made it clear that SCIRI supported the Governing Council.

BAGHDAD, morning, Oct 12: Two car bombs, one at the Baghdad hotel, one at a Baghdad roadside, are detonated in an attempt to assassinate two members of the Governing Council government -- Council member Moffowak al Rubaie and religious affairs minister Sheik Saed Hussain al Shiami. Both escape with only minor wounds, although six other Iraqis are killed and 36 wounded. Coalition officials blame al-Sadr for the attacks.

KARBALA, evening, Oct 13: Talks break down over al-Karbalai's release. Al-Sadr forces are said to attempt a takeover of the Imam Hussein shrine. A "peaceful" protest prompts gunfire from the Sadr-loyal mosque; protesters return fire. (One suspects that trouble was anticipated.)

KARBALA, midnight local time, Oct 14: Sheik al-Assadi wins the release of al-Karbalai.

KARBALA, 9 AM, Oct 14: Iraqi police bring fighting at the Sadr-loyal mosque to an end. Between one and ten people are killed, over twenty wounded. Sadr forces remain trapped in al-Mukhaiyam mosque. Eight people are taken hostage.

NAJAF, Oct 14: Al-Sadr claims that no incident occurred in Karbala. He also announces, "Any Shiite who cooperates with occupation forces is not a Shiite." However, to prevent being personally attacked by American forces, he insists that his "revolution" be peaceful, and calls for mass demonstration in support of his government to this end.

KARBALA, evening, Oct 14: A significant Iraqi police presence is noted near the Imam Hussein mosque, urging peace and quiet. A nighttime curfew is established.

BAGHDAD, Oct 15: Sheikh Abbas, a Sadr-loyal official in Sadr City, claims a deal that the Americans will not enter Sadr City.

NAJAF, Oct 15: al-Sadr blames recent clashes on "a band of ignorant people who are lackeys of the West and occupation," in other words, Sistani's group and the Iraqi police.

KARBALA, Oct 16: The situation at al-Mukhaiyam is resolved; the hostages are released.

SADR CITY, BAGHDAD, Oct 16: US forces oust the Sadr-loyal local council and arrest 12 members. The original local council is restored. An American military presence remains to ensure the Sistani-loyal council's position at the local council's office. Captain Basim Mahmoud, police spokesman, say they will be released if Sadr imams admit their takeover was improper. He adds that Sadr's forces may police Sadr City, but must first attend the police academy.

BAGHDAD, Oct 16: Abbas al-Robai, aide to al-Sadr, warns against any attempt to arrest al-Sadr, but states that granting more power to the Governing Council and expanding its representation might cause al-Sadr to back down. Al-Robai claims that al-Sadr's goal is an Islamic democracy, not an Islamic theocracy. He also expresses regret for the violence, saying it was a mistake and that it cost al-Sadr support.

KARBALA, midday, Oct 16: Rallies and couter-rallies by Sadr- and Sistani-loyal forces at the Imam Hussein mosque. Discussions are heated but peaceful.

KARBALA, evening, Oct 16: A report of a curfew violation causes US forces to find Mahdi gunmen violating curfew outside the home of Sheik Mahmoud al-Hassani. According to an accompanying Iraqi policeman, US forces order the men inside; the gunmen open fire instead. Three US soldiers are killed and seven injured; two Iraqi policemen are killed. Mahdi losses are eight killed and eighteen wounded. Reports suggest that two of the US deaths are due to an ambush by Sadr-loyal forces at 11:30 PM (i.e., several hours after the incident at al-Hassani's home) near al-Abbas mosque.

KARBALA, Oct 17: Sporadic fire between Sadr, Sistani, US, and Poilsh forces continues into the morning hours.

NAJAF, Oct 17: At Friday prayers, al-Sadr decides to try his revolutionary government again, declaring that he will seek UN recognition. However, in the same speech, he declares that he will relinquish his claims to governance if Bremer's veto power over the Governing Council is revoked and if more parties are admitted to the council.

SADR CITY, BAGHDAD, Oct 17: Anti-occupation rallies by Sadr-loyal Shi'ites, estimated at 6,000.
DAURA, BAGHDAD, Oct 17: Anti-occupation rallies by Sadr-loyal Shi'ites.
BASRA, Oct 17: Anti-occupation rallies by Sadr-loyal Shi'ites.

BAGHDAD, Oct 17: Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari states that Mahdi will be disarmed by force if necessary.

KARBALA, Oct 18: Sheik Abdul Mahdi, Sistani-loyal administrator at Imam Hussein mosque, advises against arresting al-Hassani, saying it will only give him more supporters. He claims Hassani has left Karbala. Mahdi supports a Polish ring of checkpoints designed to stem the arms trade into the city but advises against the 9 pm curfew, calling it onerous.

(Please don't ask me to source all this; it's from about fifty sources on Google News.)

Of course, support for al-Sadr could rise drastically if we directly kill a large number of Shi'ites, especially civilians. I hope and pray tonight (Boston time) that our men and women in Iraq make the correct decisions and avoid the incident that our enemies are hoping we will cause.