Because I'm almost out of here, I'll just mash these together, but they're all important, and would all merit a post of their own.
• So the ruling party in Pakistan chose Benazir Bhutto's widow, Asif Ali Zardari, to be their President. Of course, when Bhutto was Prime Minister, she and Zardari bilked the country for millions upon millions. Zardari doesn't want to reinstate Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the head of the Supreme Court, because Chaudhry might then arrest him. So this is cutting a wedge through the fragile coalition. The former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, wants to slash the Presidential power before Zardari accedes to the position. Sharif's Muslim League also wants Chaudhry back on the bench. Pakistan is a mess, and a mess we can't afford right now.
• While George Bush finally came around on a withdrawal timeline, he's still not all the way where Muqtada al-Sadr needs him to be:
The debate over a deal that would chart the future of U.S. troops in Iraq has reignited the rhetoric coming from Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr, who denounced the plan Friday for not setting a firm date for American withdrawal [...]
Iraq's government spokesman, Ali Dabbagh, reiterated Friday that any departure of U.S. troops was "subject to Iraqi national security" and that the dates were hypothetical. The final departure date "will be jointly set" by Iraq and the United States, he said, downplaying suggestions that the draft was the final deal.
At the weekly prayer service in Sadr's Baghdad stronghold of Sadr City, chants of "No to the agreement!" rang out through loudspeakers positioned along the street. Worshipers responded with applause and repeated the chant as the service ended and people drifted away [...]
At prayer services across the country, Sadrist preachers said any deal struck with the Americans was a blow to Iraq's sovereignty. In Sadr City, listeners agreed.
"Everyone is talking about how it will really serve the interests of the Americans, not the Iraqis," said Mohammed Fadim, whose well-stocked grocery store overlooks the wide avenue where worshipers knelt side by side in prayer. "Everyone knows the U.S. administration. Once they occupy a country, if they want to make an agreement to stay, 80% of the terms will fulfill their interests."
This is bad news. Sadr leads a cultural movement regardless of who holds the guns, and Maliki was pushed to a timeline in the first place because of pressure from the Sadrists. If Sadr turns against a deal pushed by the Parliament, Maliki's team will be crushed in the provincial elections. Just the act of getting this ratified (Maliki is going through the Parliament) could rip the country to shreds. Not good.
• In a neglected corner of the "war on terror," Somalia is going to crap.
Islamic militants said Saturday they had seized control of Somalia's third largest city after three days of fighting that left about 70 people dead and saw thousands flee Kismayo.
The Islamic courts movement, which controlled the capital, Mogadishu, and much of the south for six months in 2006, said it wrested control of the southern port city of Kismayo from clan militias.
The ICU never really stopped fighting, as the US paid little or no attention, despite the fact that Somalia, with almost no real government and extreme poverty, is a hotbed for extremism. This goes down as another failure of Bush-era foreign policy.
• Russia is leaving Georgia. Mostly leaving. Georgia is apparently disputing the checkpoints Russia has set up in Georgian territory. It's a bit dodgy, but to characterize it as the greatest crisis since the Cold War is king of nuts.
Labels: Asif Ali Zardari, George W. Bush, Iraq, Islamists, Muqtada al-Sadr, Nawaz Sharif, Nouri al-Maliki, Pakistan, Republic of Georgia, Russia, Shiites, Somalia, status of forces agreement, withdrawal