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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

On A Roll

The drama continues in Iraq, with further moves made toward consolidating power on the part of the current, ever more doubtfully "interim" government. The move against Chalabi may just be the beginning of a political cleansing, removing both active and dormant threats to the totality of Allawi's power. One dictator for another. Perhaps Alawi, too, will win 98% of the votes when the free and soveriegn Iraq holds its elections.

The BBC is reporting that the Iraqi National Congress, Chalabi's group, to whom a great deal of credit should go for the snowing of American intelligence, is being forced from its offices in Iraq, but the story is more than that.

The interim Iraqi government has ordered the party of former exile and anti-Saddam Hussein activist Ahmed Chalabi to leave its Baghdad HQ.

The Iraqi National Congress was given 24 hours to vacate its offices, which used to house the intelligence services.

A government spokesman said more orders would follow against parties that had seized state property.

The INC said the order was part of a continuing conspiracy against it.

A host of other Iraqi parties occupy buildings and property that housed security and government offices before the fall of Saddam Hussein.

The story goes on to rehash the known elements of the Chalabi arrest warrants and subsequent denials, but what struck me was the point made that more of such orders would soon follow. The parties currently occupying former Baath Party buildings will be evicted. In a sense, the legitimacy of these other parties is in dispute here. Displacing the parties physically is but the first step.

There is so much activity going on in Iraq now, so much movement in play, just under the surface, by the Allawi government, it's hard to keep track. One thing we should not forget though is that it all comes at a time when the attention paid by American media to Iraq has waned considerably and Al Jazeera, often openly hostile to the US, has been ejected from the country. And it should be understood that Allaw has no force of his own. What will follow on "his order" will be a show of primarily US force, on the ground and in the skies.

Today saw pounding American airstrikes against Mahdi Army fighters in Najaf, and it seems a massive offensive is about to begin. The American millitary is saying as much, amplified and broadcast. The AP reportmakes this sound as though it's some sort of psy-ops component of the battle, but I'd be inclined to see it as a sincere warning.

U.S. forces adopted a new tactic Tuesday in their sixth day of battles in this city south of the capital, sending patrols armed with loudspeakers into the streets to demand that militants loyal to a radical cleric drop their arms and leave Najaf immediately or face death.

The call, broadcast in Arabic from American vehicles, added a psychological component to the U.S. offensive. It came as U.S. helicopter gunships pummeled a multistoried building 400 yards from the gold-domed Imam Ali Shrine with rockets, missiles and 30 mm cannons -- one of the closest strikes yet to what is one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam.

I think what we're about to, as it turns out, not see will make the battle for Fallujah (which ended with control over the city being ceded from the Americans to a former-Baathist run security team) look like a relative skirmish. And as we saw yesterday, the American commanders on the ground have basically assumed the opinion that the Imam Ali Shrine is no longer protected under the Geneva Conventions (not that that our track record with the Conventions has been stellar thus far in Iraq). I do think the gloves are coming off. More to come.

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