Visiting Iraq's parliament
Went to the Iraqi parliament today. The parliament meets in a dim, grim convention center in the Green Zone where Saddam once held pro forma government meetings. It used to be possible to shmooze with members in the cafeteria, until a bomb went off there over a year and a half ago, killing a member.
Since then security has been tight and an elaborate, uncomputerized system of permits and bodychecks is required to get in. Kurdish pesh merga troops guard the place - everyone seems to think Kurds are the most professional, even though other Iraqi factions get annoyed at what they claim is Kurdish overreach on territory in the north of Iraq.
Today the debate was over whether to kick out the speaker, who is a hot-tempered rabble rouser, and over how to regularize the presence of other foreign troops who aren't covered by the status of forces agreement signed between Iraq and the United States. But I went to talk with some of the most interesting members, like Shaikh Humam Humoudi. He's a turbaned cleric, and member of the Shiite party, the Islamic Supreme Council for Iraq. He also helped draft Iraq's constitution, is a gold mine of information on Shiite politics, and where Iraq's political relationship with America is likely to go in the future, and has a son in Pittsburgh.