New "Saddam" Tape:

Al Jazeera seems to have the run on Saddam tapes, doesn't it? Here's today's, in which "Saddam" calls for a Shi'ite jihad against the Coalition forces.

Fat chance, "Saddam." A Shi'ite jihad is certainly possible in the long run, if the Coalition doesn't handle Iraq with cultural respect. However, the evidence is that we're doing so: consider our adoption of the Iraqi wergeld custom (subscription required: the Financial Times charmingly refers to it as "blood money," rather missing the point of the wergeld, which is called diaya in Arabic), or the rough and ready use of "Cajun Arabic" by the US Marine provincial governor of Wasit province, Lt. Col. David Couvillon. We've got serious trouble in the Sunni areas which were loyal to Saddam: but in the Shi'ite areas, all will be quiet at least until they are sure Saddam is dead and can never return.

After that, who knows? The figure to watch as the anti-Coalition, anti-Governing Council Shi'ite leader is al-Sadr. Yet he seems not to be looking for more trouble than he can handle: calling for a grand army of Shi'ites, for example, but then asserting that it will be an army without arms.

Saddam, if he were the one behind these messages, would of course know that. What to make of this show of support for a Shi'ite leader, then? One possible thought: it's an attempt to discredit that fellow, perhaps by Saddam, but equally possibly by anyone else with an interest and a line to al Jazeera.

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