Friday, July 3, 2009

Saddam on Iran and More on the Helmand River Valley

First, some news from Iraq. The FBI recently released transcripts of its interrogations of Saddam Hussein, in which he detailed his fears of the Iranians and cited them as his reason for maintaining that he had WMD when he actually did not. The Arabic daily Asharq Alawsat has taken up the story as its leader, with a large picture of Saddam shaking his finger during his trial and the headline "Saddam Hussein: The Iranians Do Not Understand Anything Except Breaking their Heads." AAwsat has run several lead stories jabbing at Iran lately, perhaps showing many Arab leaders' apprehensions about what recent events will ultimately mean for stability in the region.

Following up on my last post, the Wikipedia page has interesting information on Lashkar Gah. The name is Persian for "seat of the army" owing to its long history as a military encampment, predating the Arab invasion I blogged about last. It was also the focus of a major U.S. aid project well prior to the Soviet invasion. I wonder if any of this is remembered there today:

The modern city of Lashkar Gah was built as a headquarters for American engineers working on the Helmand Valley Authority (HVA) irrigation project in the 1950s, modeled after the Tennessee Valley Authority TVA in the US. Lashkar Gah was built using American designs, with broad tree-lined streets and brick houses with no walls separating them from the street. In the wake of the Soviet invasion and the long Afghan civil war, the trees mostly came down and walls went up.
The massive Helmand irrigation project in the 1940s-1970s created one of the most extensive farming zones in southern Afghanistan, opening up many thousands of hectares of desert to human cultivation and habitation. The project focused on three large canals: the Boghra, Shamalan, and Darweshan. Responsibility for maintaining the canals was given to the Helmand Arghandab Valley Authority (HAVA), a semi-independent government agency whose authority (in its heyday) rivaled that of the provincial governors.

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