Morning Report: May 13, 2007

SCIRI dumps Iran for Sistani? Allahpundit at Hot Air: 'Huge news. To refresh: SCIRI is the name of one of Iraq’s biggest Shiite parties, short for the “Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.” It was formed in Iran in the early 1980s by Iraqi Khomeinists with the goal of replacing Saddam with Iranian-style clerical rule. Since the invasion, it’s presented itself as a peaceful, mainstream political party (successfully enough to earn its party leader, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, a trip to the White House in December) while maintaining a militia — the Badr Organization, a.k.a. Badr Brigades — that functions as Sadr’s only serious rival for Shiite paramilitary dominance. Having kept counsel with the mullahs through the years, they’re widely suspected of being Iran’s chief proxy in Iraq.' The news? There are signs that maybe - just maybe - SCIRI is distancing itself from Iran and casting its lot with Ayatollah Sistani. Now this may not be as big as Allahpundit thinks; it looks like the wording of the news item quoted at Hot Air has changed since Allahpundit's posting. But here's what we've got now: the AP item says that
The leader of Iraq's largest Shiite political party on Saturday called for a "security agreement" to be negotiated between Iraq and U.S.-led forces to outline the authorities of each side in a further indication of growing frustration over America's role in Iraq.

Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim did not give more details of the proposed pact. In the past he has repeatedly complained that the U.S. military's lead in the fight against Sunni insurgents hampered the work of Iraq's Shiite-dominated security forces, which he contended were better qualified to fight the insurgents given their knowledge of the terrain and language.

"We are working toward reaching a security agreement to define the authority of each side," al-Hakim told a news conference after a two-day meeting of his party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

Al-Hakim also announced the party's name will be changed to the "Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq" — dropping the word "revolution" to reflect the new political realities in the country.

The media bureau of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, formerly SCIRI, issued a statement late Saturday correcting what it described as “dubious remarks attributed to senior SCIRI officials” and “inaccurate analysis” made by media outlets, referring to reports that the party would distance itself from neighboring Iran. The statement said that SIIC wished to stress the independence of its political decision and that its new platform is not directed “against” anyone. SIIC would continue to reject the presence of any foreign terrorist groups in Iraq – a reference to the Iranian Mujahideen e-Khalq opposition group – and to respect the independence and sovereignty of neighboring countries. “The Iraqi people will never forget the noble positions of certain countries around the world on Iraqi issues, especially the Islamic Republic of Iran, which supported and provided refuge for hundreds of thousands of Iraqis during the tyrannical rule of the Saddamist regime,” the statement said. Several Western media organizations had reported Saturday that the changes in the powerful Shi’ite party’s platform would distance it from Iran and give it a more Iraqi “flavor,” a position that SIIC denied in this recent statement. SIIC’s statement had also made no mention that it would cease following the religious guidance of Iran’s Supreme Jurisprudent Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as its “source of emulation,” or replace it with that of Iraq’s top Sh’ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, as several media outlets had reported.

Al-Sumaria: 'Seniors of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq said the Council will introduce major changes to its program in a bid to consolidate ties with the Supreme Shiite Authority in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani. According to the new program, the Council will follow orientation from the Shiite Religious Institution in Iraq and mainly from Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani.'
Gulf Times:
One of Iraq’s most powerful Shia political parties dropped the word “revolution” from its name yesterday in an apparent attempt to distance itself from close ties with Iran. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) will henceforth be known as the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq.
Party leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, a top Shia cleric, announced the name change at a news conference called to confirm his re-election at the head of the party, which is part of Iraq’s ruling coalition. "Revolution means change. This is what we sought from the creation of the Council,” Hakim told reporters, explaining that the fall of former dictator Saddam Hussain had made the revolutionary tag obsolete. The Council participated in realising political changes in Iraq, the most important of which was regime change. So this word became unnecessary,” he said, flanked by Vice President Adel Abdel Mahdi, a SCIRI member.

More on this as it develops. Go down to the Commentary section of this post for a related, must-read article.

Belmont Club: Facts on the ground. The Belmont Club: 'Iraqis on the ground are increasingly doing well but Iraqis at the top are screwing up. One reason why diplomatic solutions sometimes fail is that higher levels of abstraction are achieved at the price of losing information in detail. This problem is solved in data-mining situations by allowing the user to "drill down" and rediscover the detail. But that presumes you have a drill. This loss of information is especially acute in countries where national systems do not have an adequate correspondence with actors on the ground. ...'

ODIE: Article 38 vs. politics. Or Does It Explode: 'Article 38 of Syria’s Constitution guarantees the right of every citizen to “freely and openly express his views in words, in writing, and through all other means of expression.” But try telling that to the Syrian judge who just sentenced human rights activist Dr. Kamal al-Labwani to 12 years in prison with hard labor.'

New Jersey imam: "Extremism has no place in Islam." Just in case you thought Little Green Footballs never posted stories like this one:
The suspects in an alleged plot to attack Fort Dix have been described by federal authorities as "radical Islamists," but the leader of the mosque where four of the men worshipped said yesterday Islam has no room for violent extremists.

During his Friday prayer service sermon, which he entitled "Islam: The Middle and Moderate Path," Islamic Center of South Jersey trustee Ismail Badat told about 150 worshippers that their religion "denounces terrorism."

"Islam teaches gentleness and softness in everything," Badat said from the lectern next to a large white-and-blue tile mosaic and between two minarets. "There are some Muslims who do not know Islam."

With reporters in the back of the room and police cars outside in case of reprisal, Badat acknowledged brothers Dritan, Shain and Eljvir Duka as well as Serdar Tatar worshipped at the center but said their alleged actions do not represent the mosque or its worshippers.

"We are all American -- Muslims are Americans," he said.

Suspected terrorist cell leader detained. MNF-Iraq: 'Coalition Forces detained three suspected secret cell terrorists Sunday morning, including an alleged senior leader in the organization, during operations in southeastern Baghdad. Coalition Forces raided several buildings and captured three suspected members of a secret cell terrorist network known for its use of explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, as well as facilitating the transport of weapons and EFPs from Iran to Iraq, and bringing militants from Iraq to Iran for terrorist training. One of the detainees is an alleged senior leader within the secret cell group known for personally coordinating and implementing the use of EFPs.'

SGIME on the Saudi family card. Sand Gets In My Eyes: 'Male guardians – dads, brothers, uncles, or husbands – usually carry so-called “Family cards” which allow them and anyone on the card to travel within Saudi Arabia and even outside the Kingdom/s borders. These cards are only carried by men. The rare woman who travels without a male guardian, is required to have various signed documents – perhaps even from her guardian’s employer! – attesting to the fact that they do, indeed, have the permission of their male guardian to be out and about. The family card probably seemed like a great idea when some guy – it obviously was a guy – came up with it. After all, it prevented a woman from traveling freely, thus assuring the male total control of her whereabouts. Not only could he force her to travel, he could prevent her from traveling, thus cutting off opportunities and experiences that might make her less submissive to him. (ok so I’m sure there will be those who say it was and is a “protective” device, but I’m not sure what it was supposedly protecting against – women contributing equally to society?)' Read the whole thing, and also see her previous post on the mercy of strangers.

Yes, you can get fired for being gay. Unless you live in a state with a nondiscrimination law, that is. GayPatriot: 'The fact of the matter is, unless your company has specific policies against discrimination due to sexual orientation, or you live in a state with a non-discrimination law, you can be legally fired for being gay at any company — religious or not. They might not tell you it is for being gay, but it can be done.'

Commentary. There couldn't be a better time to take another look at this excellent article on Iraqi militant groups by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross. Here's an excerpt:
IN 2004 AND 2005, BAATHIST AND SUNNI nationalist insurgent groups comprised the bulk of the resistance movement in Iraq. These groups weren't necessarily waging a sectarian war, nor did they espouse a particularly radical religious creed. By late 2005, a number of secular and nationalist groups had decided to join the political process--which is traditionally how insurgencies are ended. Some Sunni insurgent groups even provided voters with protection against AQI during the December 2005 constitutional referendum. Alarmed, Zarqawi ordered the February 22, 2006, bombing of the Askariya mosque in Samarra. Askariya's importance to the Shia community was underscored by Iraqi vice president Adel Abdul Mahdi, who likened the mosque attack to 9/11.

This single bombing dramatically reshaped the entire insurgency. Shia reprisals were swift, devastating, and largely indiscriminate. These mass sectarian killings shattered the Baathist and nationalist insurgent factions. For rank-and-file Sunni insurgents, witnessing bloody attacks orchestrated by Shias made al Qaeda's sectarian arguments seem sensible for the first time. Today, the violence caused by the remaining nationalist groups is negligible compared to that caused by AQI: intelligence sources confirm that AQI and its ideological compatriot Ansar al-Sunnah are responsible for the vast majority of violence on the Sunni side. The most significant nationalist faction is the Islamic Army of Iraq--although even that ex-Baathist group now purports to have embraced a radical Islamic ideology.

Now here's a look at the Shi'a side of the house:
ANOTHER IMPORTANT SHIA MILITANT FACTION is the Badr Organization of Reconstruction and Development, originally known as the Badr Brigade. The Badr Organization was initially formed in 1983 as the military wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), an Iranian-backed group that opposed Saddam Hussein's government. The Badr Organization fought as a conventional light infantry unit against Iraq in the war between Iran and Iraq in the 1980s.

Shortly after Saddam Hussein's government was toppled, SCIRI chairman Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim was killed in a bombing in Najaf. This was devastating to SCIRI's leadership, and precipitated the split between SCIRI and the Badr Organization: today the two are entirely separate entities. Both SCIRI and the Badr Organization participate in Iraq's parliament, and the Badr Organization is part of the United Iraqi Alliance faction.

Today the Badr Organization is believed to have between 10,000 and 20,000 members. At times it was a force for stability, fighting against some Sunni insurgent factions and also the Mahdi Army. The problem is that the Badr Organization augmented sectarian violence. It was accused of brutality against Sunnis even prior to the Askariya bombing. For example, a secret prison uncovered at Badr's headquarters in 2005 reportedly housed over 150 inmates, "many of them malnourished and showing signs of torture; most of them were Sunni Arabs." But the Askariya bombing was the real catalyst for the Badr Organization's increased violence; thereafter the group took part in organized campaigns targeting Sunnis.

Today, Badr is having an identity crisis: according to a senior U.S. military intelligence officer, it is trying to determine whether to align with the Iranian regime or to be accountable to nobody.

Go to the link to read the rest; better yet, for an article this important, I recomment printing it, because you can sometimes get more out of an article when it's printed on paper.

Meanwhile, here's what Omar at Iraq the Model wrote last Friday:
The efforts to reach a final agreement will be faced by many obstacles. Some of those are coming or will come from parties that simply want to get a better deal for themselves and their public bases while other obstacles will come from parties that simply do not want to see any compromise take place even if that meant the disintegration of the country and the failure of the democratic project.

As an example of the first category we have influential people like Ayatollah Sistani who told the delegates sent by Maliki two days ago that he was against making hasty legislations. Sistani isn't against stability or peaceful coexistence with Sunni Arabs or Kurds but emotions and history make him and others around him wary from rushing toward accepting former Baathists among them.

Sadr and his movement are the biggest example of the second category; they are not interested in nation-building and will keep opposing every sincere effort in this direction, thus their attempt to undermine Maliki's efforts and Bush's new strategy.

Also related: Counterterrorism Blog has an interview with bu Adam al-Maqdisi, a Palestinian national fighting with Al-Qaida’s “Islamic State of Iraq.”