Amit R. Paley of the Post pens a profile and analysis of Moqtada al-Sadr and what exactly the 34-year-old cleric is up to. In short, he's trying to grow up -- fast -- and become a Shi'ite and nationalist icon like his late father, Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr. For the past year, he's been studying in Iran under a politically connected ayatollah who runs that country's judicial system, a possibly worrying sign because al-Sadr subscribes to the theory of wilayat al-faqih, or "Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists." (This puts him in theological opposition to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who never liked the doctrine and who subscribes to a more "quietest" approach to clerical involvement in the affairs of state.) The details of the story are good. Al-Sadr is still a practical jokester, recently sending anonymous text messages to an aide threatening to kill him. He later admitted it was a joke. Hi-lar-ious. Much of the story is old -- and well-known -- history to those who have been following Iraq, but it's good to have these kinds of stories every now and then to remind people. The best part is buried near the end: his latest religious studies in Iran, which strikes some as politically perilous. Iran? For an Iraqi nationalist? Really? Actually, it's more complicated than that. The teacher is a native of Najaf, the Shi'ite holy city, and he's a highly regarded disciple of Mohammad Bakr al-Sadr, a strong opposition leader to Saddam. Also, Sadr's on a fast track to being able to issue fatwas and other religious edicts, probably attaining the rank of mushtahid next year. Clerics in Najaf, who have a famous rivalry with Qom, are so far dismissive of Sadr's scholarship.
Richard A. Oppel Jr. of the Times reports that two American soldiers were killed over the Memorial Day weekend, and a suicide bomber struck an Awakening militia, killing two police officer and three militia guards dead. This despite the drop of insurgent attacks to their lowest levels since March 2004.
The Times's Stephen Farrell reports that Soccer's world governing body suspended Iraq's national soccer association on Monday, leaving the multi-ethnic team fearing they won't get to compete in the 2010 World Cup. It's tied up in politics in Baghdad that have resulted in the disbanding of the Iraqi Olympic Committee by the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. This is why the Iraqi Football Association has been suspended by FIFA. The team has four more matches to play to qualify for the World Cup. This is all a tremendous disappointment and source of anger for everyday Iraqis, who took great pride to see their come-from-behind team win the 2007 Asian Cup.
Jeff Zeleny and Michael Falcone report that Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama, the likely Republican and Democratic nominees for president, respectively, had two very different messages on Iraq on Memorial Day. McCain: I will never waver in my support of the war, even if everyone else does. Obama: Bring 'em home! As Memorial Day is the traditional opening to the fall campaign, we can now see what the arguments between the two men will be like.
Rick Hampson of USA Today has a feature profile on the town of Clovis, Calif., which has had eight of its sons killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Its population is 92,000 and its school district is 36,000 students, but Hampson makes the town out to be a small town where everyone knows everyone else. All of the boys who died knew one another, being close in years in the local high school.
Martha T. Moore of USA Today reports that twice as many Iraq veterans are running for Congress this year as in 2006, and Republican candidates outnumber Democrats.
IN OTHER COVERAGE
Wall Street Journal
Douglas J. Feith, under secretary of defense for policy from July 2001 until August 2005 and "stupidest f**king guy on the planet" (in the words of Gen. Tommy Franks) has an op-ed in today's Journal. He laments that President George W. Bush changed his rhetoric to democracy-promotion in the months after the invasion when it became clear there were no WMD to be found. Now, Feith was the guy in charge of stove-piping bad intel to the White House that allowed them to make the WMD charge in the first place. "I had hoped the president would explain why sending American troops to Iraq had helped defend our security, but he did not." And neither does Feith. For him to now -- at this date -- continue to insist that Iraq was a national security threat to the U.S. instead of a nuisance is, well, pretty f**king stupid.
The Post editorial board complains that Republicans are being irresponsible in not asking the country to pay for the Iraq war with higher taxes. They're specifically aiming at the opposition to the slight surtax on the wealthy to pay for expanded GI Bill benefits.
Christian Science Monitor
No Iraq coverage today.