Morning Report: January 22, 2007

Muqtada loses a protector, Iraq makes a request of its neighbors, an accessory to a killing confesses, and Afghan women go into business. Also, some thoughts on politics and identity.

Maliki won't protect Sadr's Mahdi Army. MSNBC: 'Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki decided to drop his protection of the feared Shiite militia of a radical anti-American cleric after U.S. intelligence reports convinced him the armed group was deeply infiltrated by death squads whose actions were isolating him both in the Arab world and among moderate political forces at home, two government officials said on Sunday. ... In a desperate bid to fend off a feared all-out American offensive, the cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, last Friday ordered the 30 lawmakers and six Cabinet ministers under his control to end their nearly two-month boycott. They were back at their jobs Sunday. Al-Sadr had already ordered his militia fighters not to show weapons in public or at least when U.S. or Iraqi forces might see them. They have not, however, ceded control of the formerly mixed neighborhoods they have captured, killing Sunnis or forcing them to abandon their homes and businesses.' Read the full article at the link. Debka: 'Moqtada Sadr ends boycott of Iraqi government and parliament in move to avert Iraqi-US crackdown on his Mehdi Army militia in Baghdad. He has also warned the Palestinians living in Iraq, most of them Sunni Muslims, they will be killed unless they leave the country immediately. The Sadrist parliamentary bloc of 30 and its six ministers ended their two-month boycott Sunday, Jan. 21, clearing the way for Shiite PM Nouri al-Maliki to muster majority support for the planned US-Iraqi security crackdown in Baghdad. This was one of several steps taken by Sadr to save his Mehdi Army militia, the largest Shiite private army, and their strongholds in Baghdad’s Sadr City from being targeted as the source of much of the sectarian violence besetting the capital.' (MSNBC, Debka)

Iraqi government asks Turkey, Iran to stop interference. Yedioth: 'The Iraqi government on Monday said it had banned activities by opposition Iranian and anti-Turkish Kurdish groups and said it rejected conferences that had been hosted by Turkey that were viewed as interfering in Iraq’s domestic affairs. Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh was referring to a meeting last week in Turkey on the future of the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, where there is ethnic tension between Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, or ethnic Turks. In October, Iraqi Sunni Arab leaders strongly criticized the Shiite-led government during an Islamic conference held in Turkey.' (YNet)

Miltiant confesses to incitement in Hrant Dink killing. International Herald Tribune:
A nationalist militant convicted in a 2004 bomb attack at a McDonald's restaurant has confessed to inciting last week's slaying of an ethnic Armenian journalist, police said Monday.

Yasin Hayal told police officers he provided a gun and money to the teenager who is suspected of carrying out Friday's shooting, a newspaper reported, citing police records.

The teenager, Ogun Samast, was also arrested over the weekend along with several other people and has confessed to fatally shooting the journalist, according to a chief prosecutor.

The Hurriyet newspaper reported that during police questioning, Hayal told investigators: "I gave him the gun and the money. Ogun fulfilled his duty and saved the honor of Turkey."

Full article at the link. As to whether the main motive of the killing was religious or nationalistic, Morning Report will post any relevant information that comes to light. Previous report here. (IHT)

Afghan women go into business. The Muslim Woman: 'Afghan women are getting into business, an arena long dominated by men. Kamila Kabuli is rocking the streets of Mazar-i-Sharif by selling cosmetics products. The provincial women’s department was instrumental in setting up stall for Kabuli. It has set up two more stalls that sell handicrafts and clothes. Also, it plans to open another 20 and rent them out to women in pursuing weeks. Their action has experienced some opposition since native women are exploding the stereotypical myth by entering into business. ...' Read the rest at the link. (TMW)

Iraqi ambassador: Troop surge necessary. Jerusalem Post: 'aghdad's ambassador to Washington said that President George W. Bush's plan to increase US troop levels in Iraq would give his country time to reform its own security forces. Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie, speaking on CNN on Sunday, warned of the consequences of a US withdrawal of troops.' He added that a troop withdrawal would create a vacuum which would only benefit the terrorists. (JPost)

Mahmudiyah project boosts economy. MNF-Iraq: 'Mahmudiyah’s mayor wants to chart a new course and believes a signature project for his community would be welcome news. Mayor Muayid Fadil Hussein Habib is viewing several possibilities including a Vocational Technical College, a soccer stadium, and a vegetable and fruit processing factory. “My hope is that we can convince Iraqi and American officials to invest here in a facility that will have a meaningful impact for decades to come,” Muayid said. “These projects would employ local people not only in the construction phase, but would benefit our area and help the local economy as a lasting legacy,” he noted. He was also hopeful that a facility like a Vocational Technical College would encourage other small industries to open in his community, such as a new cement plant or metal fabrication shop.' The mayor requested that local contractors be utilized in the ongoing work of repairing the community’s water treatment plant, rebuilding Mahmudiyah’s Market, school renovations, a new primary healthcare center, and electrical distribution upgrades. (MNFI)

Iraqi-led operation captures 36 suspects. CENTCOM: 'Iraqi Army Soldiers, Iraqi Police and Marines completed Operation Arbead II in Fallujah Jan. 18. The operation to detain members of a murder and intimidation cell within the Mualimeen, Ardaloos and Risalah-Jubayl Districts was led by Iraqi forces with support from the Marines of Regimental Combat Team 5. During the operation, Soldiers of the 1st Iraqi Army Division’s 2nd Brigade, members of the Fallujah Police Department and Marines from RCT-5 detained 36 individuals suspected of coordinating insurgent attacks against Iraqi Security Forces or Coalition Forces. Five of the detainees have been positively identified as persons of special interest according to intelligence reports. “This operation was a necessity in order to eliminate a threat to the Iraqi citizens of these districts,” said Lt. Col. Daniel T. Thoele, Military Transition Team advisor to 2nd Brigade. “The combined operation was a success and it demonstrates that Iraqi Security Forces are eager in continuing these operations to ensure that their communities are safe and secure.”' (CENTCOM)

Commentary. The Belmont Club ponders the implications of Senator Joe Lieberman's victory in the 2006 general election.
The first pundit, Peter Brown of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute writing in Real Clear Politics, thinks it augurs well for John McCain. Brown thinks Lieberman gambled that Democratic voters were further to the center than its party leadership -- and won. He conjectures that Republican voters are further to the Left than party activists, and that therefore an anti-party but pro-war candidate like John McCain will cross the finish line first, whatever his party may think of him. But Reliapundit thinks Brown is focusing too much on the "maverick" part of the equation. It is the "liberal" component that is important, and in that respect, Rudy Giuliani may have the advantage.

Wretchard goes on to comment on growing public dissatisfaction with both parties.

It hardly needs to be repeated that that the traditonal labels of "liberal" and "conservative" no longer mean what they once did, and perhaps mean very little in today's political world. I think we like to keep them because they make us feel comfortable. Is there something in human nature that creates a need in most people to say, "I am this, and not that"?

Another Orthodox Jew - not a senator but a rabbi - recently spoke in Portland on the subject of identity. I wrote about Rabbi Steven Greenberg's appearance here and here. Greenberg focused on the importance of not only accepting, but celebrating human difference: the gay activist and the social conservative, the religious traditionalist and the secularist, woman and man.

Greenberg began by asking his (predominantly lesbian and gay) audience to consider the ways in which lesbians and gay men are different from one another - which is obviously a subset or special case of the differences between women and men. The point of the exercise was to build a mutual respect based on recognition of difference, rather than on (possibly superficial) political commonalities. Greenberg also called on the gay world to move away from an identity based on victimhood.

I thought the exercise - and Greenberg's points - were an excellent step in the right direction. Where I think he fell short, or could have gone to the next logical step, I'll save for another post. Here I want to emphasize that identity categories are always going to exist, and they're always going to have boundaries that are not precisely defined. That is, we can neither do away with group identities, nor expect them to truthfully describe every individual.

As a Talmudist, Rabbi Greenberg understands the centrality of dialectic to our evolving understanding of reality. How this dialectic will play out in the highly dysfunctional world of American party politics remains to be seen.