October 22, 2003

Iraq Watch An interesting and

Iraq Watch

An interesting and nuanced piece from the WaPo on the current mood in a literary quarter of Baghdad.

"After a summer when tempers ran as high as the temperatures, a fragile sense of normalcy has returned to Mutanabi Street, a narrow stretch of bookstores and shops in old Baghdad that serves as the capital's intellectual entrepot. Frustration and the anger it brought have subsided, with the return of electricity and the tangible gains of the occupation in returning police to the streets.

But the debate in shops like Hayawi's is seldom over the success or failure of the six-month occupation, even less over support or opposition to U.S. forces. Rather it is more nuanced, with sentiments as intricate as the turquoise tiles that adorn the old city's minarets. The conversations drive to the essence of the country that is being shaped -- whether occupiers can understand those they occupy, how violence will interrupt their lives, what role new forces unleashed will play."

Read the whole thing.

Meanwhile, some gloomier news on the Afghan front. Check out this Kandahar dispatch via TNR (subscription required):

A snippet:

"In fact, the Taliban isn't just regrouping--it's recruiting a whole new generation. Several months ago, Omar, who is reportedly hiding in Afghanistan, contacted trusted aides. He asked them to start recruiting Pakistani madrassa students in the southern province of Baluchistan in order to begin a more intensive guerrilla war. "Mullah Dadullah [one of Omar's aides] was sent to Pakistan because he is ... widely respected ... by many Pashtun youths," says a Taliban insider. In the last few months, the insider says, Dadullah has visited dozens of religious schools in Pakistan, asking boys to join his jihad against the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan. Those who volunteer are provided information about how to proceed to Afghanistan and whom to contact in the resistance once they arrive.

Omar and his lieutenants have also taken steps to insulate their activities from Pakistani police loyal to President Pervez Musharraf's mission of erasing religious radicalism. According to sources, Omar's lieutenants meet students but rarely interact with the principals of the madrassas or other local religious leaders. "Mullah Omar believes that most of these leaders are cowards or have been bought by U.S. dollars and so cannot be trusted," says one of Omar's associates."

Posted by Gregory at October 22, 2003 12:22 PM

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