Thursday, August 19, 2004

An exercise in reading the news: yesterday, just after I posted a blog entry which said that our current options in Najaf are "a truce that will be taken as a defeat, or an utterly Pyrrhic victory"). And then marveled as the mediating delegation from the Iraqi National Congress was widely reported, in Western media, to have found a third option, in which Muqtada would disband his militia and abandon the shrines.

Well, I don't mind seeing good news from Iraq. Really, I don't. I'd have been thrilled. But I've learned over the past few months that what with the fog of war, you have to wait a bit before reacting to any news from that part of the world. At least long enough, that is, for Juan Cole to scan the Arab media for those little details that Western reports may miss:

Although Muqtada agreed Wednesday to disarm his militia and leave the shrine if US troops would withdraw from the city first, few expect this siege to end well or easily. The [American] wire services do not appear to have caught on that Muqtada is demanding the withdrawal of US troops as a necessary precondition, but that is what is being reported by al-Jazeerah.

This is, at best, a truce that would be taken as a defeat.

Meanwhile, the latest headlines at Western news sites, as I write, are back to the threats from Allawi's interior ministry of military strikes within hours.

Cole actually spends most of that blog entry reporting on what Muqtada wants, which seems to be a deep mystery to the Western press even though he's explained it repeatedly... and goes on in the blog entry afterwards to report a few details of the Iraqi National Congress meeting which may not get a whole lot of attention from the Western press.


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