More on the Rights of Women

Riverbend weighs in on the changes to Iraqi civil law regarding marriage and family.

Riverbend over at _Baghdad Burning_ has more on the proposed changes to Iraqi civil law regarding marriage and family, which I “touched on”: yesterday. Because she’s an Iraqi woman in Baghdad, she’s got a pretty persuasive voice. Check it out.
Also, the _Financial Times_ does a nice job with this story on the subject, calling the proposed law a “sop” to the clerics. Now it seems obvious why it happened.

Opponents, mainly Iraqi women’s groups, say the measure is a sop to Islamic clerics, who are holding up agreement on the national political process.
Hamid Kifa’i, Governing Council spokesman, denied the text, which was approved with no announcement, was part of a political deal with clerics. “It is not a concession to fundamentalists, we don’t have fundamentalists in Iraq,” he said.

I’m not going to argue over who is or isn’t a fundamentalist, but when someone says “this is not a political deal,” it usually means it is. There are a number of conservative clerics in Iraq who would like to see the secular civil code replaced with laws more in keeping with Islamic law, _shari’a._ One of them is Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the most senior Shi’a leader in Iraq. He’s been adamant in opposing the U.S. plans for the hand-over of sovereignty on June 30, and since November has been in sensitive negotiations with the Iraqi Governing Council over how the new Government of Iraq (GoI) will be selected.
Sistani wants direct elections to a national assembly that will form a transitional government. The Coalition Provisional Authority wants provincial caucuses. The reason for the impasse is that Shi’ites make up approximately 60 percent of the population of Iraq and direct elections would put them in the catbird seat. The CPA wants the provencial caucuses, because it says a national election is practical in so short a time. (But it _really_ doesn’t want direct elections because it fears the influence of Iran on a Shi’ite dominated Iraq.) On Jan. 19, the representatives from the CPA will meet with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in an attempt to get him to intercede with Sistani and persuade the cleric to go with the CPA plan.
Bubbling under the surface is the threat of unrest in the Shi’ite dominated south. In a peaceful march, tens of thousands of Shi’ites marched in Basra, chanting “No, no to America! Yes, yes to Sistani!” The message should be clear: The south is mostly pacified because Sistani and his allies wish it. They could equally wish it otherwise.
So that’s the background, and by now it should be obvious why the the IGC proposed changing the marriage and family laws. With the Shi’ites on board, the CPA plan for provincial caucuses can move forward and the U.S. troops can move out — whether there’s a burgeoning democracy or a theocracy in Iraq. The IGC and the CPA are selling out the Iraqi women in exchange for Sistani’s support.
Talk about faith-based policy making.

Saddam Warned Against Jihadists

A senior Washington official reveals that Saddam warned his followers against joining cause with Islamists and jihadists. It seems the White House’s war with the CIA is still going strong. And that’s a good thing.

A document found with Saddam Hussein in his “spider hole” warned his followers against allying themselves with foreign fighters and jihadists, cautioning that their agenda didn’t mesh well with the Ba’athists’.

The document appears to be a directive, written after he lost power, from Mr. Hussein to leaders of the Iraqi resistance, counseling caution against getting too close to Islamic jihadists and other foreign Arabs coming into occupied Iraq, according to American officials.

Officials said Mr. Hussein apparently believed that the foreign Arabs, eager for a holy war against the West, had a different agenda from the Baathists, who were eager for their own return to power in Baghdad. As a result, he wanted his supporters to be careful about becoming close allies with the jihadists, officials familiar with the document said.
A new, classified intelligence report circulating within the United States government describes the document and its contents, according to administration officials who asked not to be identified. The officials said they had no evidence that the document found with Mr. Hussein was a fabrication.

This is the second blow to the White House’s charge that Iraq and al Qaeda had found common cause against the United States, either before the war or after it. The CIA earlier had said that interrogation of top al Qaeda figures in custody revealed that Osama bin Laden had rejected plans to ally with Iraq.
But what’s really interesting is that this leak sounds like it came from the CIA, which is still furious over _L’Affair Plame,_ the outing of Valerie Plame, Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s wife and an undercover operative working on WMD, by the White House. To wit:

As President Bush sought to build a case for war with Iraq, one of the most hotly debated issues was whether Mr. Hussein was in league with Mr. bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Senior officials at the Pentagon who were certain that the evidence of connections between Iraq and Al Qaeda were strong and compelling found themselves at war with analysts at the C.I.A. who believed that the evidence showed some contacts between Baghdad and the terrorist organization, but not an operational alliance.
At the Pentagon, several officials believed that Iraq and Al Qaeda had found common ground in their hatred of the United States, while at the C.I.A., many analysts believed that Mr. bin Laden saw Mr. Hussein as one of the corrupt secular Arab leaders who should be toppled.

So now we have former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill’s charges that Iraq was target No. 1 from the earliest days of this administration, the War College’s report blasting Operation Iraqi Freedom as a distraction at best and now a leak — likely from the CIA — that Saddam specifically avoided alliances with Islamists.
All of these keep adding up to one, or possibly two conclusions: That President George W. Bush either a) willfully lied (I refuse to use the anodyne term, “misreprepresented”) about Iraq and the threat it posed, or b) the intelligence the White House received was about as bad as it could be. In the latter case, the incompetence is criminal. In the case of the former, the president is.
I believe there are still a few patriots in the CIA hoping to reign in Bush so the harm his minions at the Department of Defense have done won’t be repeated in another term and another war. Some will say what these leakers are doing is treasonous. I say to stay silent is treason. To stand by and do nothing while intelligence is manipulated and plans are drawn up against who knows what other countries — Syria is looking nervously over its shoulder at the “Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003”: — would be to betray their oaths to the Constitution and to the agency they serve.
There will be more revelations, possibly more damaging. In April, former National Security Council member Richard Clarke’s book, Against All Enemies: Inside the White House’s War on Terror — What Really Happened hits the shelves.
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