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Baghdad Mayor Forcibly Ousted By Shiites

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This NY Times article about Baghdad’s mayor isn’t exactly clear on whether this was legal or not, but the fact that the mayor Paul Bremer installed had to be forcibly removed from office signals to me that there’s some pretty heinous problems going on in Iraqi’s political infrastructure.

So what happened?

The deposed mayor, Alaa al-Tamimi, who was not in his offices at the time, recounted the events in a telephone interview on Tuesday and called the move a municipal coup d’état. He added that he had gone into hiding for fear of his life.

“This is the new Iraq,” said Mr. Tamimi, a secular engineer with no party affiliation. “They use force to achieve their goal.”

The group that ousted him insisted that it had the authority to assume control of Iraq’s capital city and that Mr. Tamimi was in no danger. The man the group installed, Hussein al-Tahaan, is a member of the Badr Organization, the armed militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, known as Sciri.

They said that Tamimi was in no danger, but why did they bring upwards of 50 armed men to push ONE man out of his office. One thing’s for sure, with that many people at Hussein al-Tahaan’s back, they certainly weren’t interested in diplomacy.

And yet, they insist.

“If we wanted to do something bad to him, we would have done that,” said Mazen A. Makkia, the elected city council chief who led the ouster on Monday and who had been in a lengthy and unresolved legal feud with Mr. Tamimi.

“We really want to establish the state of law for every citizen, and we did not threaten anyone,” Mr. Makkia said. “This is not a coup.”

“If we wanted to do something bad to him, we would have done that.” Wow, sounds like a good group of guys. And here’s where the story gets even trickier.

Baghdad is the only city in Iraq that is its own province, and the city council had previously appointed Mr. Tahaan as governor of Baghdad province, with some responsibilities parallel to Mr. Tamimi’s. But the mayor’s office was clearly the more powerful office, a fact that proved to be a painful thorn in the side of Mr. Makkia, who believed that the council, which he controls, should hold sway in Baghdad.

Mr. Makkia provided a phone number for Mr. Tahaan, but the phone did not appear to be turned on. A spokesman for the American Embassy in Baghdad said that he was aware of the developments but that he had no immediate comment.

No American response about this situation yet. I hope we hear something soon.

And last, but not least, this is what Baghdad’s “former” mayor, somebody who was installed by our own government, has to say about the state of Iraq:

Mr. Tamimi, the ousted mayor, said he believed that Shiite political parties had forced the takeover in Baghdad in order to position themselves for the elections once a constitution is agreed upon.

For his part, he said, he had lost the sense of enthusiasm that had brought him back to Iraq after nearly a decade in exile.

“When I left in 1995, every day, it is years for me,” Mr. Tamimi said. “But now when I leave I don’t think I will be sorry. I leave because I cannot live in such conditions.”

I’m more than willing to admit that a lot of good things are happening in Iraq and that democracy is going to take time, but does anybody think that this is a case of sour grapes or a man who is genuinely fed up with the poor conditions and political thuggery that many Iraqis find themselves faced with? Obviously, I believe it’s the latter and we need to start being honest about this situation, and not cover-up the bad stuff that’s going on with calls for “good news!”

Because like it or not, the “bad” news has the strongest effect on what type of democracy Iraq will end up with, and I’m starting to think that it might not be so “good.”