Everything’s coming up Persian

by Ted on August 10, 2005

This seems like an awfully big deal.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 9 – Armed men entered Baghdad’s municipal building during a blinding dust storm on Monday, deposed the city’s mayor and installed a member of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite militia.

The deposed mayor, Alaa al-Tamimi, who was not in his offices at the time, recounted the events in a telephone interview on Tuesday and called the move a municipal coup d’état. He added that he had gone into hiding for fear of his life.

“This is the new Iraq,” said Mr. Tamimi, a secular engineer with no party affiliation. “They use force to achieve their goal.”

The group that ousted him insisted that it had the authority to assume control of Iraq’s capital city and that Mr. Tamimi was in no danger. The man the group installed, Hussein al-Tahaan, is a member of the Badr Organization, the armed militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, known as Sciri.

The militia has been credited with keeping the peace in heavily Shiite areas in southern Iraq but also accused of abuses like forcing women to wear the veils demanded by conservative Shiite religious law.

“If we wanted to do something bad to him, we would have done that,” said Mazen A. Makkia, the elected city council chief who led the ouster on Monday and who had been in a lengthy and unresolved legal feud with Mr. Tamimi.

“We really want to establish the state of law for every citizen, and we did not threaten anyone,” Mr. Makkia said. “This is not a coup.”

As Justin Delbar notes, this militia is trained and funded by Iran. It seems that the coalition hasn’t had time to respond to this. However, through a spokesman, the Shiite Iraqi prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, announced that “the prime minister would not stand in the way of the move.” That’s very depressing. It should go without saying that the blossoming of the rule of law is incompatible with armed coups by Iranian-backed militias. I’m ignorant about so many things in Iraq, but I can’t see how coalition forces can let this stand. (Maybe Christopher Hitchens could suggest an appropriate bake sale for us liberals to support.)

On the same day, Iran broke the seals on an atomic processing facility. More on Iranian nuclear plans here and here.

UPDATE: More on Al-Tamimi. He was appointed by the Baghdad city council under Paul Bremer’s supervision. (He’s also a former engineer in Saddam’s nuclear weapons program who managed to escape the country in 1995.) Neil (in comments) notes that according to Wikipedia, he resigned on June 21st in response to charges of corruption, but apparently had not vacated yet. Apparently, the Shiite-dominated city council has been actively pressuring him to leave office since 2004.

UPDATE II: Picking on Hitchens isn’t the most important point here, but Steve at No More Mister Nice Blog points out:

This is the mayor Christopher Hitchens wrote about Monday in Slate.

Question: Why have several large American cities not already announced that they are going to become sister cities with Baghdad and help raise money and awareness to aid Dr. Tamimi?

Steve points out that Tempe, Philadelphia, Dallas, Tuscon, and Denver have established sister cities in Iraq since the war. He then notes:

It has been pointed out that, strictly speaking, Denver’s link to Baghdad isn’t a formal sister-city relationship. Whatever it is, though, it didn’t prevent this coup. Then again, neither did billions in federal tax dollars, 1,800 servicemembers’ lives, and semi-permanent occupation by 130,000 U.S. troops.



SamChevre 08.10.05 at 11:02 am

Does anyone know how Mr Tamimi was chosen mayor? What I’m wondering is if this is a coup (which it sounds like) or a case of the elected city council forcing out an unelected mayor. (I’d be much less worried in the second case.)


neil 08.10.05 at 11:15 am

Samchevre, Wikipedia has more information about al-Tamimi. He was elected mayor on April 18, 2004 by the interim government. However, he _resigned_ on June 21st in response to charges of corruption, but apparently had not vacated yet.


Kieran Healy 08.10.05 at 11:16 am

Shurely the fact that the former mayor is still alive is evidence of the steadying influence of the coalition forces.


Ted 08.10.05 at 11:20 am

Here’s a story about him. He was appointed by the Baghdad city council under Paul Bremer’s supervision. (He’s also a former engineer in Saddam’s nuclear weapons program who managed to escape in 1995.)


saurabh 08.10.05 at 11:21 am

Not that surprising that Jaafari would step out of the way, considering the movements he’s been making to bring Iraq closer to Iran. That being the major differentiating factor between Daawa and SCIRI, it would seem the two are making common cause.


SamChevre 08.10.05 at 12:19 pm

So it seems like what happened is this (thanks Ted for the quick response!).

An American-appointed mayor, who had not lived in Iraq for 8 years and was an ex-Baathist, opposed by the elected government, who had resigned due to corruption charges but not given up power, was forced out of office by the elected government and the closest thing in the area to an independent police force.

I don’t like SCIRI; however, the above really doesn’t worry me–it looks much like what happened here during and after both Wars for Independence.


Brendan 08.10.05 at 1:29 pm

I don’t know why anyone is surprised. This is the face of the new, Shia leaning theocracy we helped to create. And this is apparently part of the plan. Remember: ‘things are working out very much as we predicted pre-invasion’, and ‘even (if) Iraq turns into something very like Iran, that’s still a win for the progressive side.’ (italics added).

I hope all progresives will now get behind the new Iranian lite state that is being created in our names. What, you want Bush to lose? You guys are so selfish .


BD 08.10.05 at 2:40 pm

What I don’t get is why the New York Times put this on A10 today, with a story about a Chinese takeout restaurant in Iraq on A1. And also, as I recall from reading it this morning, the article seemed to have no interviews with American officials there or here, as if this were all just a minor fracas in some distant country. Weird.


jet 08.10.05 at 2:40 pm

So cynical, so sad. And what would be wrong with Iran-lite? Would it be so bad to have a Democracy that included a religious stance? Not exactly the US Constitution, but surely having a religious multi-party democracy is preferable a dictator? Maybe you need to read up on cultures of the world as we can’t all be secular democracies (at least not in the 21st century), but there is a chance for us all to be democracies.

[This is not an endorsement of the war, merely a response to Brendan’s never ending stream of vitrol that all things Iranian are The Devil.]


abb1 08.10.05 at 3:37 pm

Obviously some kind of Shia resurgence was inevitable there, but how it would work out without the invasion we will never know, so at this point I’ll say it’s only fair to blame the Bushies for anything bad that happens from now on – for years and years. That’s what the infamous Pottery Barn Rule says.


Kevin Donoghue 08.10.05 at 3:59 pm

If Juan Cole is right the real story here is that the NYT or its sources are playing politics (again):

That SCIRI and the Badr Organization (this militia ran as a political party) won the election in Baghdad province gives them the right to name the mayor. Some US reports are portraying this as a coup by a “Shiite militia”, but the “coup” happened on Jan. 30 at the ballot box.

The fact that Hitchens was calling for support for a lame-duck mayor says something about the effort he puts into his research; not anything very surprising however.


Luc 08.10.05 at 4:15 pm

Is the NYT becoming cynical too?

The former mayor provides the good quotes:
“They use force to achieve their goal.”

“When I left in 1995, every day, it is years for me,” Mr. Tamimi said. “But now when I leave I don’t think I will be sorry. I leave because I cannot live in such conditions.”

And there’s 50 dead mentioned in between, and I doubt anyone reading that article will remember the who, why and where afterwards.

How better to describe it as “such conditions.”


neil 08.10.05 at 4:26 pm

I’m wondering what the point of the post is. Have CT joined the ranks of the more extreme neocons in consdering Iran the next big enemy?


Ben P 08.10.05 at 5:00 pm

The problem isn’t so much that SCIRI is theocratic or that they won an election for the mayoral office. (both of which are true).

The problem is that is just the way things are done, it seems. I.e. forcibly removing someone from office because he won’t leave. And that the mode of operation remains far from the kinds of standards one would describe as democratic. Democracy is not simply dropping a piece of paper in a box.


jane adams 08.10.05 at 5:35 pm

I think when people starting finding the fact that the deposed mayor wasn’t killed as a cause for celebration, we have problems, especially because he evidently wasn’t around when the militias (read defacto security forces) broke in.

Killing isn’t necessarily part of the tradition in third world power plays of this type, it’s a really bad sign when they are. And this guy had some juice, he evidently held on when the officially elected government didn’t want him. Possibly because of us, possibly because of inertia in the system which means channels just don’t work.

It is not a good sign when these mechanisms of secession start getting used. The slippery slope we are getting into here is next time, “only a couple of dozen were killed, Saddam would have killed hundreds” and then “only a couple of thousand were killed, Saddam killed hundreds of thousands” and “come on those guys were only tortured for a couple of hours before they were killed, Saddam used to put people in hell for years.”

And just remember no matter what happens it would have been worse if we hadn’t done what we done in the best of all possible worlds.

I think this “at least they didn’t kill him” guy and Hitchen’s had better start dealing with the treason developing in the heartland.


Even once trusted patriots who still allege they want success in the war (dirty traitors who refuse to have faith that this is the best of all possible wars!) are starting to use emotional arguments to encourage dissent on certain policies!

How can they doubt? Don’t they see we haven’t killed them?


Brendan 08.10.05 at 5:41 pm

Can I just say that this new found admiration for theocratic Islamic states from the Keyboard Kommandos is without doubt the most breathtaking feat of intellectual ju-jitsu I have ever seen in my life?

There are two problems wrong with this view (well actually three: i do actually have a problem with an ‘Iranian state lite’ and I’m sure the gays and women in Iraq do too).

1: The various ethnic minorities in Iraq, such as the Sunnis, the Turkmen and last and absolutely not least, the Kurds, will never stand for it, and

2: The Americans will never stand for it either.

Don’t take the current insurgency too seriously guys. It’s true that the Sunnis and the Americans are currently killing each other, but remember this is a lover’s tiff. They were best of mates in the 80s. Moreover, the Sunnis (and probably elements of Al-Qaeda) are still friends (or at least they have enemies in common ie. the Shias) with Saudi, still the key American ally in the region (far more so than Israel).

So maybe in ten years time, things will have changed and we will watch the Sunnis and Kurds, backed by the Americans, attack the Shias. Stranger things have happened.

Then of course the Sunnis will attack the Kurds who will attack the Turkmen, and Turkey will attack the Sunnis, and the Iranians will attack the Turkmen and then the Syrians will attack….. (continue until all parties are dead).


Brendan 08.11.05 at 3:58 am

In case anyone thinks I’m making all this up:

‘ An Iraqi Shi’ite leader said on Thursday Shi’ites should have their own federal region taking in all of the Shi’ite areas in oil-rich southern Iraq….”We have to persist in forming one region in the south or else we will regret it. What have we got from the central government except death?” he said.’


jet 08.11.05 at 8:26 am

Brendan, you crack me up. “Best of mates” in the 80’s? Oh and very clever replacing the “C’s” with “K’s”. If anyone was “Best of mates” with Iraq in the 80’s it was the US’s arch-nemesis the Soviet Union (most of Iraq’s arsenal and funnily enough, most of Iran’s). Then followed by France (weapons and helicopter gunships, major PR [Was there ever a dictator that France didn’t love?]) and then Germany (minor weapons). Then perhaps you could place the US (minor PR and satellite info). Of course this is only if you are measuring support and aid given to Iraq as history shows. If you are using some other measure like perhaps numbers given to you by Zoltar, warlord of Mars, please correct me.

And I see you are reduced to bashing Bush because he can’t magically make Muslims tolerant of alternative lifestyles and accepting of women’s rights. You are right, since Bush hasn’t been able to squash opposition to liberal Western ideals and only made a little progress, like ensuring that women can vote and hold office, he’s ipso facto wrong about the whole thing. Brilliant.


Brendan 08.11.05 at 9:36 am

the fact that you believe that the United States is interested in, or has ever, in any respect, even attempted to alter the ‘Muslim world’s’ attitudes to gays or women displays how little you understand of geopolitics.

a source which should be right wing enough for you.

Where to begin? How about, women?

‘In April 2002, as Crown Prince Abdallah of Saudi Arabia, the country’s effective ruler, was about to travel across Texas to visit President George W. Bush, an advance group talked to the airport manager in Waco (the airport serving the President’s ranch in Crawford) “and told him they did not want any females on the ramp and also said there should not be any females talking to the airplane.”[2] The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) at Waco complied with this request and passed it to three other FAA stations on the crown prince’s route, which also complied. Then, when queried about this matter, both the FAA and the State Department joined the Saudi foreign minister in flat-out denying that there ever was a Saudi request for male-only controllers.’

Or religious freedom?

‘In Saudi Arabia, the U.S. government submits to restrictions on Christian practices that it would find totally unacceptable anywhere else in the world-starting with the U.S. president’s not celebrating Thanksgiving in the Kingdom, as mentioned above. The hundreds of thousands of American troops in Saudi Arabia in December 1990 were not permitted to hold formal Christmas services at their bases on Saudi soil; all that was allowed to them were “C-word morale services” held in places where they would be invisible to the outside world, such as tents and mess halls. The goal was for no Saudi to be made to suffer the knowledge that Christians were at prayer.[8]’

Or Jews? Everyone knows that the Americans love Jews, yeah? What with all that support of Israel? Sure they do.

‘ In several instances over many years, agencies of the U.S. government have excluded Jewish Americans from positions in Saudi Arabia….Congressional hearings in 1975 exposed the fact that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its subcontractors excluded Jewish (and black) personnel from projects in Saudi Arabia….’

In contrast, and before you start warbling on about how we ‘have to do it’: ‘In contrast-and this is a rich subject in its own right-the State Department and other agencies bend over backwards for the Kingdom, for example, going to great lengths to keep secret the specifics of its investments in the United States. And when Saudi nationals living in the United States get in trouble with the law (common charges include various forms of rowdiness, sexual harassment and keeping slaves), they are often granted diplomatic immunity to avoid prosecution, then whisked out of the country. For example, a former U.S. ambassador to Riyadh was dispatched by his Saudi bosses to Miami in April 1982 to keep a Saudi prince from being jailed for altercating with the police by winning him retroactive diplomatic immunity.’

The reason the US does this is twofold. First oil. Since FDR made the US personally responsible for the safety of the Saudi royal family (NOT the country, the political system), the US has instituionally, and through thick and thin propped up and supported one of the most brutal and anti-semitic (as well as terrorist supporting) regions in the world. This is NOT a case (to make thing crystal clear) of the Saudis being the puppet masters and the Americans the innocent dupes. This is cold hearted clear eyed realpolitik. The Americans need the oil to support the lifestyle they have decided they ought to become accustomed to and if some yids can’t get into the country who cares? (Nixon’s tapes, incidentally, demonstrates that use of anti-semitic epiphets was in common use at the highest reaches of American politics as late as the 70s, so the use of the racist term above seems appropriate).

Details are in Michael Klare’s seminal “Blood and Oil” if you want more details. This is not to mention the role of the British Empire in bringing the Saudi regime to power in the first place. Further details are als on Bob Baer’s probably equally seminal ‘Sleeping with the Devil’. Unfortunately I am not able to comment as this book has effectively been banned in the UK, as most books that reveal how the West made Saudi (and, therefore, are directly responsible for most Wahabbi inspired islamic terrorism) are.

I might point out for the millionth time that Bush is desperate to AVOID democracy in Saudi Arabia because as, as Baer once pointed out, if Saudi had free elections they would immediately vote in Osama Bin Laden, NOT because they ‘hate our freedoms’ or anything like that but because Osama (unlike Bush) has had the nerve to stand up to the disgusting anti-semitic kleptocracy that Bush loves (as he demonstrated with his hand holding antics. Would he hold hands with Tony Blair?).

Try this review for starters.


I am getting increasingly tired by the vicious attacks on Saudi pro-democracy leaders, the whining that Americans are not to blame, the desperate urgings that iraq is ‘all going according to plan’, the whole putrid fantasy world that the extreme right has conjured up in the Middle East. Eventually democracy will come to the Middle East, and when it does, the ordinary citizens of that region will tell the US and Britain to shove their smug little generalisations up our asses. Then they will kick us out of our nasty little client states: Jordan, UAE, Saudi, Pakistan, Egypt, and install proper democracy, against the wishes of Blair and Bush, who have done their utmost to strangle Arab democracy in the cradle.


Brendan 08.11.05 at 9:38 am

Sorry I should have made clear that many of the anti-semitic rules and regulations used by the US were NOT asked for by the Saudis but were instead instituted by the US on their own, simply to propitiate the Saudis. The Pipes article makes this clear.


jet 08.11.05 at 12:48 pm

It appears we both have extremely strong feelings on a subject we are in total argeement on. We just disagree on the details of how to resolve it.


jet 08.11.05 at 1:07 pm

If I had been elected Lord God Emporer in 2001, I would have invaded Afghanistan similiarly to Bush, but pulled completely out of the ME leaving Iraq and Iran for France Germany and Russia to play with.

Currently the US spends about 800 Billion per year on energy. I would have started a program of conservation to help offset my 400 billion per year investment in alternative energy coupled with my fast tracking nuclear waste disposal and new plant openings. And once it appeared the US would survive the transition (oil embargo), I’d support any group in the ME who wanted to make their country qualify for the Millinium project.

Hardly feasible, but one can dream.


Phil Bailey 08.11.05 at 2:20 pm

Jet –

what’s this nonsense about U.S. support for Saddam in the 80’s consisting of “minor PR and satellite info”? Don’t the sales of anthrax, botulinum, West Nile Fever and E-coli count? Is it just too embarassing to mention that one U.S. response to Halabja was to approve transfer of human chromosomes to the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission mere weeks after the atrocity? Or is it that you haven’t read Senator Riegle’s report and just don’t know what you are talking about?


jet 08.11.05 at 3:08 pm

Would those be the same medical samples that the US sent to just about every other country with a medical research organization? If you think any of your mentioned transfers have anything of military value you’re a bit misinformed.
Although I do recall that one of the responses to Halabja was US sanctions and an official severing of military ties (which had for all intents and purposes ended when the Iran-Iraq war turned chemical).

If you can point to anything of military value that the US provided besides satellite photos I’m all for it. Otherwise you’re sounding a bit paranoid.

And human chromosomes? HUMAN CHROMOSOMES? What, is there a shortage of human chromosomes in Iraq? What exactly are you implying? ;)

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