More Charges Against al-Sadr

Sadr’s been accused of stealing from mosques.

Click the map to see an overview of Iraq’s violence
Interesting. Yesterday “I speculated”: that maybe al-Sadr was looking to control the treasury of Imam Ali’s shrine in Najaf. I based that on an October incident involving Sadr’s followers in Karbala.
Well, it turns out that the Coalition has filed additional charges against Moqtada al-Sadr involving … robbing a mosque!

Yesterday, a coalition official revealed that two other charges had been lodged against al-Sadr — one in connection with stealing from mosque collection boxes and the other regarding a pregnant woman believed to have been killed by al-Sadr bodyguards.

Now, I didn’t know the Coalition was going to charge al-Sadr with boosting collection plates. My sources were reporters and people in Karbala. Perhaps it’s true, perhaps it’s not. (I think if it is true, it’s astonishingly stupid of al-Sadr.) If it’s not true, then the charge might be an attempt by the Coalition to try to defuse al-Sadr’s support among poor Shi’a, as Charles suggested in a comment.

CNN: al-Sadr forces take Najaf

CNN reports that the holy city of Najaf has fallen to Muqtada al-Sadr’s forces. (Sorry for the multiple updates today. Lot going on.)

From CNN:

Supporters of maverick Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr controlled government, religious and security buildings in the holy city of Najaf early Tuesday evening, according to a coalition source in southern Iraq.
The source said al-Sadr’s followers controlled the governor’s office, police stations and the Imam Ali mosque, one of Shia Muslim’s holiest shrines.
Iraqi police were negotiating to regain their stations, the source said.
The source also said al-Sadr was busing followers into Najaf from Sadr City in Baghdad and that many members of his outlawed militia, Mehdi’s Army, were from surrounding provinces.

But don’t worry, be happy:

Despite the rising death toll, Paul Bremer, the top U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq, said “there is no question we have control over the country.”
“I know if you just report on those few places, it does look chaotic,” Bremer said on CNN’s “American Morning.” “But if you travel around the country, what you find is a bustling economy, people opening businesses right and left, unemployment has dropped.
“The story of the house that doesn’t burn down is not much of a story in the news,” he said. “The story of the house that does burn down is news.”

Lord. Hey, Mr. Bremer, you’ve been in-country for a while now, so you should know that when Baghdad, Fallujah, Basra, Amarah, Nasiriyah and now Najaf are seeing heavy fighting, you should know that _that’s most of the country._
(There has been underreported fighting and assassination attempts in Mosul, and Tikrit is probably locked down tight by the American military.)
Iraq is heavily urbanized, with the west and south of the country largely uninhabited. Almost 77 percent of the population lives in those cities. So when Bremer refers to those “few places” he’s actually talking about the majority of the Iraqi population (with the exception of the Kurdish area.)
But more important, where the hell is Sistani? He’s being awfully quiet after an earlier announcement calling for calm, but saying al-Sadr’s grievances were “legitimate.”
There is some suspicion that al-Sadr is working for the Iranians. His _marji’ya_ — religious advisors — are based in Qom, Iran, and I’ve heard from Iraqis that he’s getting instruction from them. Speculation is that he’s deliberately trying to open up a second front, as that would suit Tehran just fine. Having America bogged down just as Iran is making concessions — maybe — on nuclear programs could be the working plan. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence.
Or maybe al-Sadr is just greedy. Back in October, he tried a similar tactic in Karbala by taking eight hostages in the al-Mukhaiyam mosque. People in Karbala thought al-Sadr’s militants were really after the money in the mosques left by worshippers. At the time, he failed, but this time, he has control of Imam Ali’s mosque, one of the holiest shrines in Shi’a Islam — and one that is considerably richer. The amount of wealth in the mosque is unknown, but it would be considerable.
If he does attempt to take the mosque’s wealth, he will cause a split among the Iraqi Shi’a between his followers and Sistani’s. And if the Americans go into the mosque to get him, they will unite _all_ the world’s Shi’a against them.
One interesting aspect of all of this is al-Sadr’s tactics. If he leaves Najaf after a short period, he’s probably “taking coup.” Taking coup was a Native American tactic in warfare that involved touching the enemy with a blunt stick but not killing him. It was the equivalent of saying, “I could have snuffed you … But I didn’t.” Sadr may be doing the same thing by coming into a city, taking it over for a day or so and then leaving it. He gets all the PR benefits of taking over a city, but doesn’t actually have to expend resources on dealing with it. If he leaves Najaf like he did Kufa, this may be what he’s doing.
But regardless of his tactics, he is fated to be a prisoner or a martyr. Either way makes this is a no-win game now. Nothing I see coming looks good.

“Worse than a Crime”

More Americans and Iraqis dead as violence continues in Iraq. Meanwhile, the president refuses to back off June 30 because it’s the only thing the White House can control.

The situation in Iraq has deteriorated so far in the last two days that I frankly don’t know where to begin. But seven more troops have been killed since Monday morning:

American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 6, 2004 — Four Marines with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force were killed April 5 as a result of enemy action while conducting security and stabilization operations in Iraq’s Anbar province, a Combined Joint Task Force 7 news release reported today.

No further information on this incident was available.

Three Task Force 1st Armored Division soldiers were killed during separate attacks April 5 and today in Baghdad’s Kadhimiya district, according to another release.

The first soldier died of wounds received during an attack that took place at about 11 a.m. April 5. The soldier was traveling with a southbound convoy when it was attacked with small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire.

A second soldier died at about 9:30 p.m. April 5 when an RPG struck his vehicle during a firefight in the same area. An RPG attack at 12:30 a.m. today killed a third soldier, who was in a Bradley fighting vehicle.
The names of the Marines and soldiers are being withheld until their families are notified.

I’m on deadline again and can’t really give a complete rundown of the news, but check out Juan Cole, Billmon and Josh Marshall for some excellent roundups.

But If I can take a moment to be frank: I cannot begin to explain how angry I am at how Iraq has been handled. Arrogance, heads-in-the-sandness and a complete lack of understanding of the culture, people and history of the country has been the hallmark of Washington’s policy toward Iraq. The original plan called for 30,000 troops in August as happy natives bought Coca-Cola and waved little American flags. Such arrogance. Now the Pentagon is mulling extra troops. “There’s no history of ethnic violence in Iraq,” we were told by Iraqi exiles and Paul Wolfowitz. Well, maybe that’s because the Iraqis have been ruled by an iron fist for a long, long time. Tom Friedman once noted that by removing Saddam, we would find out if Iraq was the way it was because of Saddam or if Saddam was the way he was because of Iraq. I think we can now say it’s the latter. Saddam was brutal and — yes — evil, but when pro-American Iraqi bloggers say Iraqis “deserve” Saddam, that’s a sign that the ballgame is almost over.

I have to admit that until now I have never longed for the days of Saddam, but now I’m not so sure. If we need a person like Saddam to keep those rabid dogs at bay then be it. Put Saddam back in power and after he fills a couple hundred more mass graves with those criminals they can start wailing and crying again for liberation. What a laugh we will have then. Then they can shove their filthy Hawza and marji’iya up somewhere else. I am so dissapointed in Iraqis and I hate myself for thinking this way. We are not worth your trouble, take back your billions of dollars and give us Saddam again. We truly ‘deserve’ leaders like Saddam.

Iraqis were glad to be rid of Saddam, make no mistake. But they had and still have a very complicated stew of feelings as to the way it happened. But if even that glimmer of goodwill and gratitude is fading, what else is there? If they’re no longer even glad for that, then why the hell is the United States there?

And why this desperate clinging to June 30? It smacks of a security blanket, of a childish administration so at a loss as to what to do that the only thing left is to cling to the one thing it has control over: the date when sovereignty will be returned. But returned to … who? The IGC is reviled on the street. The interim constitution is rejected by most Shi’a. The Kurds just want to retreat to their mountains and the Sunnis are scared to death of everyone.

And it’s not like the U.S. is going anywhere. Large bases in al-Taji and elsewhere indicate that the U.S. is planning on a long stay. The Pentagon will still have control over the $18 billion “gift” to Iraq from the people of the United States — except the Iraqis don’t actually get the money or or have a say in how it’s spent. The country’s armed forces will still answer to the U.S. military. A reporter buddy who was in Iraq in December and January said — and I agree — that the CPA has spent a lot of time convincing a lot of Iraqis — educated and uneducated alike — that on July 1, the Americans will be gone. When Iraqis wake up and the Americans are still there, that will be a rude awakening for everybody.

The White House is “playing poker and has been bluffing for a long time with a pair of twos,” my reporter friend said.

And speaking of Americans, millions are so angry at the waste of lives, money, prestige. So very angry at the incompetence on the part of America’s leaders in the foreign policy sphere. How can anyone look at facts — real facts — and not see that what passes for “moral clarity” and “steely resolve” and “resolute leadership” is actually stubbornness, incuriosity and dangerous isolation from contrary views. Yeah, I’m talking to you, Mr. President. Your act doesn’t fool me. Your self-puffery doesn’t hide your lack of imagination and your disastrous policy choices made because you’re easily swayed by powerful viziers. Your lack of engagement has killed 624 Americans as of this writing, 59 British troops and 44 other members of your coalition. God knows how many Iraqis have died. Your generals don’t bother to keep track.

You should never be forgiven for these death — you should be held accountable. Come November, I hope that you will be, because your Iraq policy and, frankly, your entire administration is what Talleyrand said of Napoleon’s 1804 execution of the Duc d’Enghien: “It is worse than a crime; it is a mistake.”

Chaos among the Shi’a

Sunday was very bad. Death and destruction across Iraq. I’m starting to question the wisdom of all of this…

Sunday was bad. Very bad.
Across Iraq, Coalition troops clashed with supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr, the “firebrand” cleric who — until now — has denounced the Coalition and its occupation, but has refrained from calling for an uprising. Sunday, that restraint ended.
“There is no use for demonstrations, as your enemy loves to terrify and suppress opinions, and despises peoples,” he said in a statement.
“I ask you not to resort to demonstrations because they have become a losing card and we should seek other ways,” he said. “Terrorize your enemy, as we cannot remain silent over its violations.”
The uprising started with protests called because of the shuttering of _al-Hawza_, an al-Sadr newspaper, last week and the arrest of Mustafa al Yacoubi on Saturday on charges he murdered a senior Shiite cleric who returned to Iraq after the American-led invasion.

At nightfall today, the Sadr City neighborhood shook with explosions and tank and machine gun fire. Black smoke choked the sky. The streets were lined with armed militiamen, dressed in all black. American tanks surrounded the area. Attack helicopters thundered overhead.
“The occupation is over!” people on the streets yelled. “We are now controlled by Sadr. The Americans should stay out.”

Up to 8 U.S. troops were killed in Baghdad in clashes with Sadr’s supporters in Sadr City, the sprawling Shi’ite slum, and other hotbeds of Shi’a support in eastern Baghdad. The Americans called out the tanks. Sadr’s militia has taken the city of Kufa and police stations in Baghdad, Najaf and possibly elsewhere. Between 8 and 14 protesters were killed by Spanish and Salvadoran troops in Najaf. An Italian officer was wounded in Nasiriyah. British troops also came under attack in Amarah, although it was unclear if there were any casualties on among either the British or Iraqis.
Two U.S. Marines were killed in the al Anbar province in separate clashes.
The CPA issued the following press releases:

CJTF-7 Public Affairs
914 360 5082/5089
DNVT 302-550-2522/23
Date: April 4, 2004
CAMP GOLF, Iraq — A large number of men, many dressed in black, have attacked a Coalition base with small-arms fire today in An Najaf. Coalition forces, including U.S. Air Force fighter jets and U.S. Army gunship helicopters, are responding to the attack. A number of Coalition soldiers on the ground have been wounded. There is no word on their condition.


Baghdad, Iraq, April 4, 2004 — Mustafa Al-Yaqubi was detained on April 3, 2004 in connection with the April 2003 murder of Ayatollah Sayyed Abdul Majeed al-Khoei — one of Iraq’s leading advocates for human rights.
An Iraqi judge issued a warrant for Mr. Yaqubi’s arrest as a result of an Iraqi criminal investigation and indictment. He was taken into custody at his home in An Najaf.
The unlawful action of which Mr. Yaqubi has been accused endangers the safety and security of the citizens of Iraq. His apprehension reinforces the principles that those who engage in murder and violence against the citizens of Iraq will be found and tried in a court of law, criminals will face justice and no one is above the law.

Coalition authorities issued a statement that the reports of hundreds of civilian casualties were “incorrect.”
“Any notion that the Spanish fired on the protesters in the middle of a peaceful demonstration would not be consistent with what we saw on the ground,” a senior military official said.
Earlier in the day, Coalition Administrator L. Paul Bremer III said that Iraqis had gained the freedom to demonstrate but “those freedoms must be exercised peacefully,” according to a CPA statement. “This morning a group of people in Najaf crossed the line and they have moved to violence. This will not be tolerated. This will not be tolerated by the coalition, this will not be tolerated by the Iraqi people, and this will not be tolerated by the Iraqi security forces.”
[UPDATE 4:38 A.M., EDT Sadr is now “an outlaw,” according to Bremer.
“We have a difficult security situation. We have a group under Moqtada al-Sadr that has basically placed itself outside the legal authorities, the coalition and Iraqi officials,” said Bremer. “”Effectively he is attempting to establish his authority in the place of the legitimate authority. We will not tolerate this. We will reassert the law and order which the Iraqi people expect.”
Bremer was addressing the second meeting of the Ministerial Committee for National Security (MCNS) Monday morning. The MCNS facilitates and coordinates national security policy among the Ministries and agencies of the Iraqi government with responsibility for national security.]
This is a dramatic turn for the worse. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has called for calm, but blames the violence on the Coalition troops.

An aide to Ayatollah Sistani said he considered the militiamen’s cause to be “legitimate” and condemned the “acts waged by the coalition forces.” But he added: “The ayatollah has called on the demonstrators to remain calm, to keep a cool head and allow the problem to be resolved through negotiation.”

Sistani is trying to stay on the fence. He doesn’t want to distance himself from a popular cause, but neither does he want to become an outlaw himself. I’m working on getting the text of any statement he releases. It should be noted that Sadr is a rival of Sistani’s for leadership within the Shi’a community, and whether Sadr’s followers will listen to Sistani is an open question. So today’s violence also should be seen as part of a power struggle within the Shi’ite community.
Juan Cole, in his excellent coverage of the violence, notes that estimates of Sadr’s popularity ranges from 30 percent to 50 percent of the Shi’ite population of Iraq. As he worries:

So far, about 60% of clashes with Coalition troops had occurred in the Sunni heartland of Iraq. But the violent clashes in Najaf, Baghdad, Amara and Nasiriyah may signal the beginning of a second phase, in which the US faces a two-front war, against both Sunni radicals in the center-north and Shiite militias in the South. The clashes come at a pivotal moment, since on Friday April 9, the Shiite festival of Araba’in will take place, coinciding this year with the anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Have no doubt: This is one of the worst days for the Americans since the war started, despite its rosy statements. Today’s violence spread far beyond the Sunni heartland in the middle of the country, with Sadr forces marching in Kirkuk and the aforementioned clashes in Amarah, north of Basra. If a majority of the Shi’a have lost patience and decided to open a new front against the Coalition, prepare for a complete ceasing of reconstruction efforts and a lot more Coalition deaths.
This affects me directly. One one level, my best friend is walking into this, from Kuwait — straight through territory that once might have been considered if not friendly then at least not actively hostile. I’m not so sure of that now. Secondly, my plans are going through a rapid evolution. My initial plans, once I return in mid-May, were to base myself in Baghdad and work from there. With the recent surge in violence that has led to a number of foreign reporter friends of mine bugging out for fear of assassination, I’m rethinking my home base. Fallujah and now a possible Shi’ite uprising has caused me to consider new means of entry into the country. (Syria and Turkey are shut tight and Iran takes forever to get visas.)
The bottom line is that as a freelancer — and a very independent one at that, with a limited budget based on donations and my own savings — I can’t afford the armored cars and bodyguards that other freelancers on contract with the big media organizations can. That means I have to both make a call for “more donations”: and choose a safer area of the country. Donations now will go almost completely to security arrangements, including an Interceptor vest and short-term protection.
I’m thinking of the Kurdish area to start with — again. (I’m not going to get into details of my plans on a public blog. Call me paranoid, but I don’t want anyone I don’t know in Iraq knowing my precise arrival and travel plans.) I am still planning on going, but I’ll be honest — if it gets too hot, I’m not going in. I want to see for myself, and for all of you, what’s going on, but I’m not willing to get killed or maimed to do it.
This week is a wakeup call for everyone planning on going over there. It is orders of magnitude more dangerous than during the initial fighting, I think. For everyone.
UPDATE 5:13 A.M., EDT As Billmon notes, the revolt has spread to Basra:

Shia militiamen have occupied the governor’s house in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, the day after clashes around the country left at least 34 people dead, including nine allied soldiers.
About 1,000 supporters of the firebrand cleric Muqtader al-Sadr were inside and around the house of the governor, demanding the release of an aide to Sadr arrested by US forces.

Fallujah action imminent

Retaliation against the killings on Wednesday in Fallujah seems imminent.

It may be happening as I write this, but retaliation for “Wednesday ambush in Fallujah”:, which left four private employees of Blakwater dead, burned and mutilated, appears to be imminent.

On the outskirts of the city last night, battalions from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force geared for a battle, setting up checkpoints and camps in preparation for their eventual return to the hostile city. As they braced against one of the season’s first blistering sandstorms, several Marines said they were rearing to avenge Wednesday’s killings.
“I’ve got a lot of hate inside me, but I try to put that aside,” said Sgt. Eric Nordwig, 29, of Riverside, Calif., a veteran of the battle to topple Saddam Hussein. “We just sit and take it and be mortared.” The time has come to “clean up the town,” he said.

Fallujahis lived an “uneasy calm” today, and the city’s clerics denounced the horrific mutilations of Wednesday (but not the killings.)
“Islam does not condone the mutilation of the bodies of the dead,” Sheik Fawzi Nameq said, according to the Associated Press. “Why do you want to bring destruction to our city? Why do you want to bring humiliation to the faithful? My brothers, wisdom is required here.”
Some Iraqis were distressed over what happened, with Samir Shakir Mahmoud, a Sunni businessman from Western Iraq saying: “It represented the worst in savage behavior … neither Islamic, nor Arab, nor related to any of the values of this region… It does not represent me and it does not represent Iraq. It represents the worst that the previous regime created in Iraq.”
He’s right. In my travels in Iraq, I never encountered that level of hate. “Even in Tikrit”:, before the Marines had it fully secured, the Arab fighters we met never threatened us. Yes, I was heatedly warned us against bringing any Kurds into their city, but after a fiery denunciation of Jalal Talabani, the general-secretary of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan — and now a member of the Iraqi Governing Council — the man I was speaking with, Adil Ahmed, shook my hand warmly and welcomed me to Tikrit. He knew I was an American, but that didn’t matter. Hospitality was his watchword, even in war.
Fallujah is a different story, and it’s about to get worse. I detect a bit of war-porn going on from the right, I think. Many of the posters on the and Little Green Footballs have a sweaty-palmed, heavy breathing aspect to their calls for blood, almost as if they can’t _wait_ for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force to turn Fallujah into a parking lot. Bam! Show ’em who’s boss! Pow! Hama time! But remember: Where they make a wasteland, they call it peace. (Tacitus).

Worst. Timing. Ever.

Optimists Club founded in Baghdad. And it’s not a joke.

Wow, talk about ironic and macabre timing…:
April 1, 2004

Optimists Club Organizes Baghdad Chapter

Optimists International can now claim Baghdad, Iraq as the home of its most recently organized chapter. Founded in 1919 with chapters in 28 countries, Optimists is a service organization best known for “bringing out the best in kids.” The new chapter held its organizational meeting at the former palace of Saddam Hussein, now the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) Headquarters in Baghdad. A group of 28 civilian CPA staff and Iraqi nationals attended.
The meeting began with folk music entertainment from Pearse Marshner, who has been in Iraq for a year supporting the Coalition effort. Ben Krause then described plans to promote an essay contest for local high school seniors in the Baghdad metropolitan area. The theme of this year’s essay contest will be “What a Free Iraq Means to Me.” Any Iraqi high school student will be eligible to participate. The date for the contest has not been finalized.
“We are very excited about working with all the schools here in Baghdad, and to see how the students express themselves for the essay contest,” Kraus said. “We expect dozens of entries from each school, and those respective schools will determine the winning essay for that school.”
All those winning essays will then be submitted to a group of international judges, who would then choose the overall 2004 winner.
Krause added: “There is great incentive for students to work hard on their essay, which will be judged in English and in Arabic. The plan is to award a $500 or $1000 educational scholarship to the overall winner. Or, it may be a travel voucher to visit the United States in the future.”
The Optimist Club is but one of several civic organizations sprouting up throughout Baghdad. Several Iraqis who attended today’s meeting showed great interest in expanding the new Optimist chapter into downtown Baghdad where such civic institutions are greatly needed.
The program continued with special guest Dr. John M. Russell, a professor of Art and Archaeology at Boston College, author of two books on Iraqi archaeology, and who wrote his doctoral thesis and conducted archaeological excavation work in Iraq several years ago. He narrated a very informative power-point presentation about the current conditions of Iraq’s Baghdad Museums and National Library, as well as the ongoing rehabilitation of Iraqi artifacts and art treasures that were recently looted and/or sustained environmental damage over the years due to neglect or lack of resources.
Ross lamented that the Baghdad Museum and National Library had been ill-maintained for many years, beginning long before and after the Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Said Ross: “Roofs were leaking, allowing high levels of moisture and humidity into the museum space. The museums have not had proper air conditioning or been properly maintained. We found antiquated air-conditioning systems that were completely broken, providing none of the environmental protection required by ancient artifacts.”
During the program, it was revealed by Dr. Ross that one particularly unfortunate case of looter vandalism resulted in serious damage to the “Warka” vase, circa 3000 B.C. Ross considers the Warka vase to be the most valuable Iraqi artifact in the world. Although it was severely damaged, the pieces are all intact. It will take months to reconstruct and repair.
Dr. Ross informed the group that a very positive update was currently transpiring: Nineteen Iraqi museum specialists had recently been flown to Washington, D.C. to participate in a seven week-long course in modern museum operations. In addition, Ross hopes that the Baghdad museum will reopen in July and have some exhibitions ready to show school children in the Fall, but that decision will be made by Iraqi curators.
Several of the Iraqi cultural leaders in attendance expressed optimism that they will be able to form a new chapter in the downtown Baghdad later in the year.
Optimist Clubs (“”: have been “Bringing out the best in kids” since 1919. It is a community service based organization committed to creating a more optimistic future for young people through innovative programs. Optimist International boasts 114,000 individual members who belong to 3,500 autonomous clubs. Optimists conduct 65,000 service projects each year, serving six million young people. Optimists also spend $78 million on their communities annually.

Now, I thought this might have been a spoof considering the date, so I wrote the CPA contact back, asking, in effect, “You gotta be joking.”
HIs reply:

Mr. Allbritton:
I assure you that Optimists International is alive and well and has indeed established a beachhead in Baghdad, Iraq. I attended the meeting myself, and there are about 25 of us who intend to work hand in hand with the Iraqis to continue the great Optimist tradition of helping young people.
Thank you for your interest.
– Mike Hardiman, Press Officer, Baghdad Central
Coalition Provisional Authority

The email headers all match previous releases I’ve received from the CPA, so I’m forced to conclude this is genuine. I just have to shake my head at the tin ear of the CPA on putting this out the day after “Fallujah”:

Wolfowitz in Baghdad

Wolfie as ambassador to Iraq? Has the White House lost its collective mind?

Jesus Tap Dancing Christ, are the Bushies insane? Juan Cole is reporting a rumor, which I saw mentioned in today’s Times, that Paul Wolfowitz, deputy Secretary of Defense, is up for the next ambassador to Iraq.
Granted, Wolfie is only one of several names being discussed, with the others including retired Gen. George A. Joulwan, a former NATO commander; Robert Blackwill, a former ambassador to India who now directs Iraq policy at the White House; and two veteran diplomats, Thomas R. Pickering and Frank G. Wisner.
But Wolfowitz? I mean, _come on._ He’s a Likudnik as Prof. Cole snarks, which would do little to ease suspicions among the Iraqis that this whole adventure was to grab Iraq’s oil and make the Middle East safe for Ariel Sharon‘s Israel.
Kevin Drum immediately had two thoughts, namely:

I gotta side with Prof. Cole and Drum on this one. It’s an insane, silly idea and can only be one of those crazy Washington rumors that roll around sometimes. But damn!