The bottom line is clear: Our vital interests in Afghanistan are limited and military victory is not the key to achieving them. On the contrary, waging a lengthy counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan may well do more to aid Taliban recruiting than to dismantle the group, help spread conflict further into Pakistan, unify radical groups that might otherwise be quarreling amongst themselves, threaten the long-term health of the U.S. economy, and prevent the U.S. government from turning its full attention to other pressing problems. -- Afghanistan Study Group

Monday, April 30, 2007

Security Incidents for 04/30/07


Photo: Hassan(L) and his brother Ali Mousa holding a family photo at their home in Basra in 2005. British Corporal Donald Payne, who had admitted abusing Iraqi civilians, including the boys' father Baha Mousa, was thrown out of the army and jailed for a year on Monday after being convicted as the country's first war criminal.(AFP/File/Essam al-Sudani)

Baghdad:

A Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers Soldier was killed when a combat patrol was attacked with small arms fire in an eastern section of Baghdad April 28.

The roadside bomb killed three Multi-National Division-Baghdad soldiers and wounded another while they were on a combat patrol Sunday in eastern Baghdad, the military said. An Iraqi interpreter also was killed in the attack.

In violence Monday, a suicide car bomber apparently targeting an Interior Ministry convoy struck an Iraqi checkpoint near a busy square in the predominantly Sunni area of Harthiyah in western Baghdad, killing four people and wounding 10, police said. The bomber detonated his payload, causing part of the road to buckle, as he emerged from an underpass and was heading toward the checkpoint being manned by Interior Ministry commandos. Those killed included two commandos and two civilians.

Three roadside bombs went off in and south of the capital on Monday morning, killing a civilian and wounding four others, a well-informed police source said. A roadside bomb detonated at about 8:00 a.m. (0400 GMT) in the commercial street of Bayaa neighborhood in southern Baghdad, killing a civilian and injuring two more, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

In separate incident, a roadside bomb went off in the Abu al- Tayyara Street in Baghdad's southern district of Doura, wounding two civilians, the source added.

Gunmen killed three street cleaners on Sunday in the Adhamiya district of northern Baghdad, police said.

Eight gunmen were killed in a U.S.-Iraqi operation in Baghdad on Sunday, the U.S. military said, in what some witnesses described as a clash with the Mehdi Army militia loyal to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The U.S. military said in a statement one Iraqi soldier was killed in the incident in the Shi'ite Kadhimiya district.

At least two people were killed and 15 wounded when a bus bomb exploded in a tunnel targeting a police check point, police said. The explosion badly damaged the tunnel, which is on a main artery in western Baghdad.

In Baghdad, a suicide bomber blew up a vehicle outside a police headquarters in a western district, killing five people and wounding 12, a security official said.

Elsewhere in the capital, a former brigadier general in Saddam Hussein's army was shot dead in the volatile Dura neighborhood

The bodies of another three people killed in a gunfight in the capital were brought to Al-Yarmuk hospital in west Baghdad, the hospital said

A series of explosions rocked central Baghdad Monday night and witnesses reported seeing smoke rising from the heavily fortified Green Zone. The U.S. military said it had no immediate information on the blasts. About a dozen blasts began about 10 p.m. and lasted about five minutes. Iraqi police said several mortar shells landed in the Green Zone,

A roadside bomb killed a person and wounded six others in eastern Baghdad, police said.

A car bomb killed one person and wounded six others when it exploded on a main street in southern Baghdad's Bayaa district, police said.

Mortar rounds killed one civilian and wounded six when they landed on a residential area of northern Baghdad's mainly Shi'ite district, police said.

Around 11 am, a roadside bomb exploded when an American convoy passed by in Yusifiya neighborhood ( south of Baghdad ) without knowing the casualties.

Around 3.30 p.m. A suicide car exploded in Hay Al-Ja'mia neighborhood near Mula Huaish mosque injuring 4 civilians.

Around 4:50 p.m. A parked car bomb exploded in Al Baia neighborhood (street 13) killing 2 civilians and injured 8.

Around 5 p.m. A mortar shell landed in Al Husseiniya neighborhood killing 2 residents.

Around 5 p.m. A mortar shell landed in Albu Etha area killing one and injuring 1.

Around 6 p.m. Gunmen killed and interior ministry officer LC Alaa Mahmoud Mohamed in Al Ghadeer neighborhood.

Around 7 p.m. A mortar shell landed in Abu Disheer neighborhood. 2 residents were killed and 5 were injured.

Around 9 p.m. A mortar shell landed in Al Baia neighborhood damaging one house at least and started a fire in the house.

Police found 27 corpses throughout Baghdad in the following neighborhoods: 2 in New Baghdad, 2 in Sileikh, 1 in Shaab, 2 in Binouk, 2 in Qahira, 2 in Sadr, 1 in Shalchia, 5 in Abu Ghreib, 2 in Doura, 2 in Amel, 2 in Jihad, 2 in Baia, 2 in Shuala (one of the two corpses belongs to an Egyptian citizen his name is Hamoudi Hashim)

Mortar bombs killed six people and wounded eight in the northern Shi'ite Baghdad neighbourhood of Hussainiya, police said

Diyala Prv:

A suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt blew himself up inside a funeral tent in a Shiite enclave in a volatile province north of Baghdad, killing at least 20 people and wounding 30, officials said. The attack occurred at 6:30 p.m. as a Shiite family was holding a funeral in Khalis, a flashpoint Shiite city in Diyala province, where U.S.-Iraqi forces have seen fierce fighting with Sunni and Shiite militants.

A suicide bomber wearing a vest packed with explosives killed 32 people when he blew himself up among mourners at a Shi'ite funeral in the town of Khalis, north of Baghdad. The attack took place inside a crowded mourning tent. More than 52 people had been wounded, police said.

Around 1.45 pm, two female students were killed in a car which was supposed to take them home coming from Diyala university to Al-Sadda neighborhood near Bald Rouz ( 45 km east of Baquba) when gunmen opened their fire against them.

Around 1.45 pm, two female students were killed in a car which was supposed to take them home coming from Diyala university to Al-Sadda neighborhood near Bald Rouz ( 45 km east of Baquba) when gunmen opened their fire against them.

Today morning a road side bomb exploded in central Baqouba injuring 7 civilians including 3 children.

Police found 2 corpses in Al Khalis city carries multiple shots.

Chairman of Diala provincial council on Monday survived unharmed an attempt on his life when a bomb exploded near his motorcade in central Baaquba, capital city of Diala province, 57 km northeast of Baghdad, a security source said.

Kut:

Authorities found six corpses, two of them decapitated, in an area north of the southern city of Kut.

Yousifiyah:

He, meanwhile, reported a third roadside bombing targeting a U. S. patrol in the Yousifiyah town, some 25 km south of the capital, but failed to give the U.S. casualties as they immediately cordoned off the area. The U.S. military did not confirm the information from the town yet.

Gunmen killed two people, including an Iraqi contractor, when they carried out a drive-by shooting in the town of Yusufiya, just south of Baghdad, police said.

Suwayra:

The bodies of six people were retrieved from two rivers in Suwayra, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

Basra:

In the southern city of Basra, some five people were killed in an explosion Sunday. Iraqi police initially reported that it was a car bomb, but the British military said it appeared that the blast accidentally occurred while explosives and weapons were being moved.

Two British bases in Basra came under shelling attacks on Sunday night and Monday morning but no casualties were reported, a military spokeswoman said. "The British bases in the former presidential palaces and Basra International Airport came under attacks but these caused no casualties," Capt. Katie Brown, the spokeswoman for the Multi-National Force in southern Iraq, said in a statement received by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq

1 gunman was killed and other 4 gunmen were injured and one passing by civilian as they were attacking a military aircraft (according to eye witnesses) and the aircraft responded. The attack occurred in Al Hussein area western Basra.

Senior official of Sadr’s office captured in Basra by US army. Basra provincial council condemned the arrest.


Baiji:

An Iraqi police brigadier was kidnapped while returning home from work in the district of Baiji, said a source from the Sunni Salah al-Din province police.

Early this morning, a roadside bomb exploded when an American convoy passed near the check point of Biji refinery damaging one Humvee vehicle without knowing casualties.

Mosul:

In northern Iraq, a parked car bomb struck a police patrol in the Raas al-Jada, a mainly Sunni Arab area in the northern city of Mosul, killing one policeman and wounding two others, police Brig. Gen. Mohammed Idan al-Jubouri said. The attack occurred at 8 a.m.

about four hours after some 50 gunmen attacked a police station in the same area, prompting a firefight and clashes as police chased the gunmen through the narrow streets. Four of the gunmen were killed and two others detained, while one policeman was wounded, police said.

Police also cordoned off the area and blocked five bridges after four mortar rounds landed on the police command headquarters elsewhere in Mosul, causing no damages, said Brig. Saeed Ahmed al-Jubouri, the media director for the provincial police.

Two members of Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barazani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) were killed by gunmen in two separate incidents in the city of Mosul, KDP sources said.

Al Anbar Prv:

One Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West was killed April 29 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province.

A tanker laden with chlorine gas exploded near a restaurant west of the Iraqi city of Ramadi, killing up to six people and wounding 10, police and hospital sources said

A U.S. base on Monday came under a mortar attack in the western Iraqi city of Falluja, a police source said.

Thanks to whisker for the links above.



REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ


Death Toll Up To 68 After Blast in Shia Holy City

The blast in Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad, took place about 7pm on Saturday in a crowded area close to the shrines of Imam Abbas and Imam Hussein. The shrines were not damaged, police said. Police first thought the explosion was caused by a parked car bomb, but Ghalib al-Daami, a Karbala provincial council member, said it was a suicide bomber. Salim Kazim, the spokesman for Karbala health directorate, said the death toll had risen to 68 and 178 wounded. "The explosion was so powerful that it threw me up into the air," said Haidar Ismail, a patient at Imam Hussein Hospital. Saturday's attack was the second car bomb to strike the city's central area in two weeks. On 14 April, 47 people were killed and 224 were wounded in a car bombing.


Multiple Blasts Heard in Baghdad

Up to a dozen loud explosions have rocked central Baghdad as armed groups continued to target civilians and police in the country's capital. The sound of sirens coming from the Green Zone could be heard across the city after the blasts after nightfall on Monday, which sounded like mortar bombs or rockets. Smoke was seen rising from the government compound at the Green Zone which houses the US and British embassies as well as Iraqi government buildings.


VIDEO: Life in Iraq

Two Iraqi women risk their lives to document what is happening in their country, in particular what is happening to the civilians. This film is about 45 minutes long. One thing they show is the bombing of a hospital in Quam, how it was totally destroyed and how the local children promise to fight Americans forever. It shows them practicing medicine under very difficult situations. Quote: “This is destruction, not democracy.” Be sure to watch the end and what happened to an 8 year old Iraqi girl. Another quote: “The destruction caused by the occupation has shattered Iraqi’s lives in a way that is almost too much to bear. A dark future lies ahead. I believe it is a shame on the world that it did not stop this happening.”


“I Thought I Would Not Stand The Torture”

Saleh Nizar, a 58-year-old gardener, says he was tortured in an Iraqi prison after he was arrested and accused of participating in an attack in the capital, Baghdad. He was arrested on 15 October 2006 and set free on 5 April 2007 after he was helped by a senior Iraqi officer who said that Nizar was his gardener and that he was definitely innocent. As result of the torture he endured, one of his legs sustained serious injuries and doctors said it might require amputation. Nizar, who has a heart condition which he did not receive treatment for while in prison, now spends much of his time in hospitals and clinics trying to stay alive. "For the nearly six months that I was in prison I didn't have a day of peace. Either they were torturing me or shouting at me, using the ugliest words, accusing me of being a Saddam Hussein follower who deserved the same fate as his [death by hanging]. "The most common torture was the use of electric shocks and cigarettes to burn our skin. Other times they would beat us with pieces of wood or electrical wire. Some detainees were also raped by the officers in front of everyone. And if the victim tried to run away, they hit him with a piece of wood. The suffering I endured in prison was doubled because in addition to the pain that I had after each torture session, there was also the desperate screaming of the other prisoners.”


Trapped Between the Wall and the Militants

The concrete walls going up in certain Baghdad neighborhoods and other parts of the country will cost ten million dollars, in addition to the costs of transportation and installation, al-Hayat writes on Monday, citing an economist's estimate. Regardless of what happens in Adhamiya, the predominantly Sunni area of Eastern Bahgdad were the construction of a concrete wall has sparked much controversy, separation walls are planned to be installed in at least ten districts of Baghdad and in 40 other areas around the country, Iraqi officials said. Ominously, one interior ministry official said to al-Hayat that “building separation barriers will not end the series of violent acts in the capital.” The official added that the money coming from the Defense Ministry for the construction was enough to create and equip an advanced brigade of security forces. The source added that the majority of detachments of the Defense and Interior ministries lacked the most basic equipment, due to lack of funds. Meanwhile, residents of Adhamiya are watching the debate about the wall that isolates them from the rest of Baghdad with concern, as the completion of the concrete wall means the isolation of the district from the rest of the city, imprisoning Adhamiya in a “closed cocoon,” whereas undoing the wall means continuing the tragic conditions the neighborhood is experiencing, al-Hayat reported last week.


REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS


From Juan Cole’s Blog

Al-Hayat , writing in Arabic, alleges that on Sunday night, the elected Governing Council of Basra decided to fire provincial governor Muhammad Misbah al-Wa'ili, the leader in that region of the Islamic Virtue Party (Fadhila). The move came in the wake of a campaign waged by the rival Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq against him after the Virtue Party withdrew from the Shiite party coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance. Al-Hayat's sources maintained that British forces escorted al-Wa'ili to the airport, from which he left for parts unknown.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that a source close to nationalist Shiite cleric says that he has sent representatives to Arab countries "to lay the foundation for a Sunni-Shiite alliance." The source said, "Sadr commissioned Aws al-Khafaji and Ahmad al-Shaybani to make a tour of Arab, regional and Islamic states in order to unite Sunnis and Shiites." He added, "The tour will end in the next few days, and will include meetings with Sunni clergymen in the Islamic world, along with political and Islamic personalities in the regional and Arab environs-- to explain the dimensions of the suspicious efforts to provoke conflict between the sects."


VIDEO: An Iraqi Fighter Reflects on Saddam Hussein

This week, on the anniversary of President Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech, May 1st, 2003, we interview a member of the Iraqi resistance group, Islamic Army in Iraq. The Islamic Army of Iraq is considered a terrorist group by the United States and most members of the Iraqi government. Tareq Al-Hashemi however, while Vice President of Iraq, called them a resistance group. Some confusion about the exact nature and make-up of the Islamic Army exists because it was initially confused with Al-Qaeda. It has since been determined that they are two separate groups. That became especially clear early in April, 2007, as a war of words began on their opposing websites.


Hamas--Iraq: A new factor in the Iraqi resistance?

Apparent efforts by some parts of the domestic Iraqi resistance to negotiate with the Americans, coupled with the efforts by the Qaeda-related Islamic State of Iraq to monopolize the resistance (among other reasons to block any such negotiations), have led to a number of interesting developments, one lasting one being the formation, or re-formation, of something called "Hamas--Iraq," following the split-up of the Brigades of the 1920 Revolution. There is a lot of background available here on the birth of Hamas--Iraq and its ideology, the most important point being that according to its manifesto, this looks like a group that could be inclined to follow the kind of combined military-political strategy for which the original Palestinian Hamas is known. In theory this might give the Americans a counterparty to negotiate with. Marc Lynch (see the link above) emphasizes that their willingness to negotiate depends on a convincing withdrawal-commitment from the Americans. But there are other issues too.


REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ


Ex-Soldier Recalls Horrors of Abu Ghraib

Saturday marked the third anniversary of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. On Apr. 28, 2004 CBS broadcast the first graphic photos of torture inside of the U.S.-run prison in Iraq on its 60 Minutes II programme. "Americans did this to an Iraqi prisoner," news anchor Dan Rather said as a slideshow of disturbing torture photos flashed across the screen. "The man was told to stand on a box with his head covered, with wires attached to his hands. He was told if he fell off the box, he would be electrocuted." More photos followed. U.S. soldiers posed with naked Iraqi prisoners, including one with detainees stacked in a pyramid. In most of the photos, the soldiers were smiling. At the time, the Pentagon, represented by Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, said only a few "bad apples" engaged in torture. "What would I tell the people of Iraq?" he said. "This is wrong. This is reprehensible, but this is not representative of the 150,000 soldiers that are over here. I would say the same thing to the American people. Don't judge your Army based on the actions of a few." The soldiers in the photos were prosecuted and many received prison sentences, but no high-ranking officers or George W. Bush administration officials were put on trial. That didn't sit well with U.S. Army interrogator Tony Lagouranis. He came forward to say that torture was common practice in Iraq and that he had himself tortured prisoners while stationed in Mosul in 2004.


UK Soldier Jailed One Year for Iraq Prisoner Abuse

Britain's first convicted war criminal was sentenced to one year in jail on Monday for mistreating Iraqi prisoners in a case that exposed senior commanders to accusations they had authorised abuse. Corporal Donald Payne was also kicked out of the army, becoming the only British soldier punished in the case of Baha Musa, an Iraqi hotel receptionist who died after suffering 93 injuries from beatings while in British custody in 2003. His lawyer called him a "sacrificial lamb", punished for carrying out orders. Payne had entered his guilty plea to the war crime of abusing prisoners at the start of an eight-month trial that then failed to secure convictions against six others, including his unit commander, Lieutenant Colonel Jorge Mendonca. During the trial, witnesses testified that abuse of prisoners had been authorised by the British brigade headquarters in Iraq, which allowed detainees to be "conditioned" with harsh treatment such as stress positions. Britain has denied its commanders authorised such techniques, which it considers illegal. But the judge ruled Mendonca and his staff were not to blame because they believed their own commanders had approved the abuse.


Fight Yields ID Cards for Green Zone

Documents captured in recent fighting in Baghdad included two identity cards for access to the fortified Green Zone, which contains Iraqi government headquarters, and an ID card for access to the U.S. Embassy, the Pentagon says. The area where the documents were captured - just west of the Green Zone - has been a stronghold of Sunni extremists linked to al-Qaida, said Army Col. Steven Townsend, commander of 3rd Stryker Brigade that led the operation. Townsend, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon on Monday in a videoconference from Baghdad, did not mention the discovery of the identity cards. That information was provided separately by Pentagon officials after he spoke.


World Terror Up Nearly 30%

A State Department report on terrorism due out next week will show a nearly 30 percent increase in terrorist attacks worldwide in 2006, to more than 14,000, with almost all of the boost due to growing violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. officials said Friday.
The annual report's release comes amid a bitter feud between the White House and Congress over funding for U.S. troops in Iraq and a deadline favored by Democrats to begin a U.S. troop withdrawal. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her top aides earlier this week had considered postponing or downplaying the release of this year's edition of the terrorism report, officials in several agencies and on Capitol Hill said.


COMMENTARY


OPINION: A Sea of Flags Represent A Sea of Sadness

Last week something eye-catching sprouted on the lawn of the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship on Pendleton Road in Clemson. From a car window, whizzing past at 30 miles per hour, it looked like a flock of small white birds, or maybe a bag of confetti scattered across the grass. Not something you normally see in front of a church. So I parked my truck and got out to have a closer look. Dozens of tiny flags on metal stems were stuck into the grass, in a random pattern. A few flags, in front, were baby blue but all the others were white. In front of them was a sign affixed to a wooden stake, also stuck in the grass. “Each flag represents more than 100 deaths,” the sign stated in capital letters, stark black. Another, smaller sign stood next to it. That one announced that the blue flags represented United States troops, the white ones Iraqi civilian casualties. Farther back was one last sign, much taller than the others, standing stiffly like a general amid his troops. “With these flags we sadly commemorate Iraqi war deaths,” it said.

I squatted to look at one of the blue flags near my feet. It had a black outline of a dove, with an olive branch in its mouth. In the corner was a tiny stars-and-stripes emblem. Small letters whispered the message: “This is a remembrance of US military casualties in Iraq. May they rest in Peace. May their country find Peace.” I counted the blue flags. There were 25. Twenty-five times 100 American soldiers.

Then I looked out over the sea of white flags. There were so many, I couldn’t count them. They stretched across the grass to the other side of the church parking lot. Each one was encased in a plastic sleeve, still dotted with water droplets from an overnight rain. They carried the same dove, the same “Rest in Peace” message. A chilly wind stirred the flags, making them flutter slightly, like origami paper cranes about to take flight. War statistics are always brain-numbing. The week before last, 700 Iraqis were killed by roadside bombs and other violence. The total of U.S. troops killed in Iraq now tops 3,000. We read the numbers, but so often they’re just that — numbers.

Slowly I walked the length of the lawn, trying to let it sink in how many tens of thousands of dead people these flags represented. One hundred per flag. All of them civilians. Children. Grandparents. Newlyweds. Elders. Newborns. Next to the display, on a rain-slickened road, cars sped by in both directions. People on their way to work, school, errands. Living their lives. One flag had collapsed into the wet grass. I picked it up and pushed it back into the damp ground. As if that could make a difference.


Quote of the day: “The destruction caused by the occupation has shattered Iraqi’s lives in a way that is almost too much to bear. A dark future lies ahead. I believe it is a shame on the world that it did not stop this happening.” – from video made by Iraqi women, link above

Hometown Baghdad - "My Best Friend Zaid"

Editor's note

Yesterday, in linking (favorably) to an article by Thomas E. Ricks, I described him as a former "cheerleader" for the Iraq war. Mr. Ricks has objected to this characterization. After some research and reflection, I agree that the remark was overly flippant and unfair to him. Before reviewing the relevant facts, let me say that in recent years, Mr. Ricks has been one of the most important critical voices on the actual conduct of the war. He has made a notable contribution to public understanding and we have often linked to his work.

As for the period roughly from 2003 through 2004, my personal opinion is that his record was mixed. For example, this piece, written on April 6, 2003, draws attention to risks and difficulties ahead at a time when the prevailing mood was one of unalloyed triumphalism, but it does so in a very mild tone, giving the possible time frame remaining for the war as "one week to one year." This piece, written in February of 2003, describes special forces operations in Iraq prior to the invasion (implying pretty strongly that it was indeed going to happen). He concludes with "[B]y radically reducing the combat zone, the war plan promises to substantially lessen the disruption on the Iraqi population. That in turn would ease humanitarian problems."

More creditworthy, in my view, is this piece, written with colleague Rick Atkinson and published March 16, 2003, which clearly and presciently describes some of the risks of the adventure. (Though its timing may be criticized.)

The firmest basis for my comment, in my view, is this, written April 21 2003, in which he sees Donald Rumsfeld bestriding the narrow world like a Colossus. "He has triumphed in a military success in Iraq that featured an audacious war plan he helped to shape. He also looms large outside the Pentagon, injecting himself far more into intelligence matters than his predecessors and playing an unusually large role in shaping Bush administration foreign policy. He even has turned around a sour relationship with Congress.
He now is in position to reshape the U.S. military along the lines he has talked about since taking office, "transforming" it into a more agile and precise force built not around firepower but around information, and willing to take risks to succeed." And it goes on in that vein.

In this, published on April 18, he uncritically channels Rumsfeld's complaints about the media not covering all the good news from Iraq and concludes with "But another retired Army four-star general, George Joulwan, said he thought Rumsfeld and Myers had a point. "I think they made a wise decision, taking prudent risks," he said. At any rate, he added, "We need to get beyond this."

Finally, I refer to Brad DeLong's post-mortem on Ricks's early coverage of the war. DeLong writes, "But go back to clips, and you discover that Tom Ricks was writing "he said, she said" articles in the first six months of 2004. Witness this one, with none of the context necessary to show his readers that Wolfowitz is a fool living in an ideological fantasy land: [article excerpt follows] Tom Ricks could have done any of a huge number of things to tell the Washington Post's readers that Wolfowitz was--as Ricks knew he was--either lying through his teeth or the most deluded man north of the Picketwire. .. Why, Tom, why? Why in the name of the Holy One couldn't you have told us what you knew was going on back in 2003 or 2004? What did you think you were doing? Why keep your real views of Wolfowitz and Bremer and Odierno and company secret, so that they show up two and a half years late and many, many brave men and women's lives short?"

So, not exactly a cheerleader. Again, that was a flip remark for which I apologize. But still, often less skeptical and forthright than we could have hoped for. I hope that Mr. Ricks will accept this as a sincere attempt to view his work in that era in a balanced way -- certainly he was no Judith Miller. This was a dark time indeed for U.S. journalism, and there are very few prominent reporters who can claim an unblemished record. I acknowledge his important and praiseworthy work since then.

I have offered Mr. Ricks the opportunity to respond to this post, and if he decides to do so, I will be happy to post whatever he says exactly as he writes it. We all know how important it is for reporters to look back on that period and consider what they got right and what they got wrong. I'm sure it isn't easy.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

New of the Day for Sunday, April 29, 2007

Morgue workers look at the bodies lying on the ground outside a morgue in Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad April 29, 2007. About 10 bodies with gunshot wounds were found in a village near Baquba, police said. REUTERS/Helmiy al-Azawi (IRAQ) Note: This is yet another of those incidents that is reported only in a photo caption. It seems odd that Reuters publishes this photo, but does not include the incident in its report for the day. -- C


Baghdad

U.S. fires artillery barrage at southern Baghdad. According to a statement from a military spokesman, "Eighteen rounds of artillery were fired from Forward Operating Base Falcon," but the U.S. has not identified the target. According to the AP, "The size and the pattern of the explosions, which began after 9 a.m. and lasted for at least 15 minutes, suggested they were directed at Sunni militant neighborhoods along the city's southern rim. Such blasts have been heard in the evenings but are rare at that time of day."

Three Iraqis were killed and eight wounded when roadside bomb detonated in the Zaafaraniyah neighbourhood southern Baghdad, police sources said. This is probably the same incident reported by AP, but AP says there were two bombs.

Yet another journalist targeted: Gunmen seriously wounded Amal al-Moudares, one of Iraq's best known radio and television journalists, in an attack near her home in Baghdad, police said.

Three civilians shot dead in Adhamiya.

At least seven Katyusha rockets landed near a Sunni mosque in Adhamiya, killing two guards and wounding seven others on Saturday, police said. (Doesn't seem like the wall would have been much help. - C)

Reuters also reports claims by U.S. and Iraqi forces:

  • U.S. troops captured 72 suspected insurgents and seized nitric acid and other bomb-making materials in overnight raids on al Qaeda in the north and west of Baghdad, the U.S. military said on Sunday.
  • Iraqi army killed two insurgents and arrested 112 others during the last 24 hours in different parts of Iraq, the Defence Ministry said.


According to Aswat al-Iraq, the Baghdad Operations Command claims 138 arrests.

Kut

A roadside bomb exploded near the house of Jawad Magtouf, a Sadr Movement representative in Kut's city council, on Saturday, police said. He was not hurt but his 12 year-old son was killed and nine family members were wounded.

Three Iraqi policemen were killed and four others wounded in clashes with unidentified gunmen in northeastern Kut, a police official in Wassit province said on Sunday.

Samarra

Authorities in northern Iraq imposed an indefinite curfew in the Sunni stronghold of Samarra after leaflets signed by rival insurgent groups threatened policemen if they did not quit their jobs and promised to target any oil company that wants to explore in the area. The warnings to the policemen were signed by al-Qaida in Iraq and threatened to destroy their houses if they didn't comply.

Gunmen set fire to 15 fuel trucks and kidnapped their drivers on a main road near the city of Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

Dalouiya

A U.S. armored vehicle was destroyed by a roadside bomb in the district of al-Dalouiya, Salah ad-Din province, local police said.

Mosul

One civilian was killed and another wounded when gunmen shelled the villages of Jadou and al-Abtah in the district of Talafar, in Mosul, on Saturday night and Sunday morning, security sources said.

Haditha

An unidentified number of people were killed and wounded and a U.S. Hummer vehicle was destroyed by a bike bomb on Sunday in central Haditha, local residents said.

Other News of the Day

However, in a blow to regional diplomatic efforts, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has refused to meet with Maliki prior to the conference. Excerpt from WaPo's Robin Wright's report:

The Bush administration has invested significantly in the Egypt meeting, which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will attend. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said in a television interview last Thursday that the United States holds a "lot of hope" that the conference will serve as a catalyst for garnering regional and international support for solving Iraq's problems.

David Satterfield, the State Department's coordinator for Iraq, has been in the region for two weeks trying to broker behind-the-scenes agreements in the run-up to the summit. A debt-relief accord for Iraq is expected to be signed on the first day, and discussions among Iraq's neighbors are scheduled for the second day.

The official reason for the Saudi decision, Iraqi officials said, is that the king's schedule is full. But sources involved in the negotiations say the king is increasingly unhappy that Maliki is not doing more on reconciliation, despite pressure from the Arab world, the United States and other nations.

Saudi Arabia, ruled by a Sunni royal family, is concerned about the growing influence of Shiite-ruled Iran. The kingdom, guardian of Islam's holiest sites and birthplace of one of its most conservative ideologies, has been playing a more prominent role in regional affairs, so its snub is likely to resonate throughout the Middle East, Arab sources say.

Since taking office a year ago, Maliki's government has made repeated promises about reaching out to Iraq' s Sunni minority, addressing controversial laws and reconciling politically to end escalating sectarian tensions. But Sunni governments charge that nothing has been done. Arab diplomats said on Saturday that they had hoped that Maliki would come to the conference with a list of steps already taken, but that instead he will offer only more promises.

snip

The Saudi decision follows Abdullah's statement at an Arab League summit a month ago that the U.S. presence in Iraq is an "illegitimate occupation."


Maliki says that Iranian Foreign Minister will attend the Sharm al-Sheikh conference on Iraq, scheduled for May 3, but Iran has not confirmed this. In fact, WaPo's Robin Wright (see link above), reports "The Saudi snub comes amid indications from Iranian officials that Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki might not attend the summit -- which could undermine U.S. hopes of a potential meeting between Rice and her Iranian counterpart." Along with the growing tension between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan, there appears to be growing tension between the Saudis and Iran over the sectarian divide in Iraq. In other words, as we approach Mission Accomplished day on Tuesday, fears about ways in which the destabilization of Iraq could expand into regional conflict are continuing to grow. --C

Department of "So what else is new?" Iraq reconstruction projects are failures. (I seem to remember reading this story every few months -- C) Excerpt:

By JAMES GLANZ. The New York Times. April 29, 2007

In a troubling sign for the American-financed rebuilding program in Iraq, inspectors for a federal oversight agency have found that in a sampling of eight projects that the United States had declared successes, seven were no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting and expensive equipment that lay idle.

The United States has previously admitted, sometimes under pressure from federal inspectors, that some of its reconstruction projects have been abandoned, delayed or poorly constructed. But this is the first time inspectors have found that projects officially declared a success — in some cases, as little as six months before the latest inspections — were no longer working properly.

The inspections ranged geographically from northern to southern Iraq and covered projects as varied as a maternity hospital, barracks for an Iraqi special forces unit and a power station for Baghdad International Airport.

At the airport, crucially important for the functioning of the country, inspectors found that while $11.8 million had been spent on new electrical generators, $8.6 million worth were no longer functioning.

At the maternity hospital, a rehabilitation project in the northern city of Erbil, an expensive incinerator for medical waste was padlocked — Iraqis at the hospital could not find the key when inspectors asked to see the equipment — and partly as a result, medical waste including syringes, used bandages and empty drug vials were clogging the sewage system and probably contaminating the water system.

snip

Exactly who is to blame for the poor record on sustainment for the first sample of eight projects was not laid out in the report, but the American reconstruction program has been repeatedly criticized for not including in its rebuilding budget enough of the costs for spare parts, training, stronger construction and other elements that would enable projects continue to function once they have been built.


Leader of Iraq Accordance Front threatens to withdraw from government. Excerpt:

An Iraqi Sunni lawmaker urged his party Sunday to withdraw from the Shiite-led government if it fails to better protect citizens from sectarian bloodshed.

Khalaf al-Ilyan, one of the three leaders of the Iraqi Accordance Front, said his party should set a timetable for the government to end mass killings and "stop threatening lawmakers" from his party.

Al-Ilyan's announcement came less than a week ahead of a conference on Iraq in which Arab countries are expected to demand that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government do more to reach out to disgruntled Sunni Arabs before they pledge substantial aid to the country.

Iraq's neighbors, including Iran, along with Egypt, Bahrain and representatives from the five U.N. Security Council members have agreed to attend the conference, which will be held in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheik on Thursday and Friday.

"I call on the Accordance Front, its leaders, Cabinet ministers and lawmakers, to rise to their responsibilities and to clearly state their position on the deteriorating situation in Iraq," al-Ilyan told reporters in Amman. The Accordance Front holds five Cabinet posts and 44 seats in the Iraqi Parliament.

He urged them to "threaten to completely pull out of the government, unless our legitimate demands are met within a specific period of time to protect our citizens." He declined to specify the timeframe.


Claims of Responsibility: The Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group of Sunni militants that includes al-Qaeda in Iraq, claimed responsibility for a suicide truck bombing Friday in the western city of Hit, saying it was targeting the police chief. The attack killed nine Iraqi security forces and six civilians, although police chief Hamid Ibrahim al-Numrawi and his family were unharmed.

• In a statement posted on a militant web site, al-Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for a suicide car bomb Thursday that killed 10 Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint in Khalis, a longtime flashpoint city 50 miles northeast of Baghdad.

Rice appears to rule out any compromise with Congress over Iraq funding, says "President [sic] Bush will not support a war spending bill that punishes the Iraqi government for failing to meet benchmarks for progress."

In-Depth Reporting, Commentary and Analysis

WaPo's Thomas Ricks (a former war cheerleader, now disillusioned) rounds up various experts to make the case that the U.S. faces huge risks from failure of the Iraq adventure. (However, it's unclear whether this is intended as an argument for "prevailing," a la John McCain, or an admission that the cause, whatever it may have been, is lost. I fear this is how the debate will continue to be framed. -- C) Excerpt:

"In terms of the consequences of failure, the stakes are much bigger than Vietnam," said former defense secretary William S. Cohen. "The geopolitical consequences are . . . potentially global in scope."

About 17 times as many U.S. troops died in the Vietnam War -- the longest war in U.S. history -- as have been lost in Iraq, the nation's third-longest war. Also, despite widespread public dissatisfaction with the Iraq war, the debate over it has not convulsed American society to the extent seen during the Vietnam conflict. However, Vietnam does not have oil and is not in the middle of a region crucial to the global economy and festering with terrorism, experts say, leading many of them to conclude that the long-term effects of the Iraq war will be worse for the United States.

"It makes Vietnam look like a cakewalk," said retired Air Force Gen. Charles F. Wald, a veteran of the Vietnam War. The domino theory that nations across Southeast Asia would go communist was not fulfilled, he noted, but with Iraq, "worst-case scenarios are the most likely thing to happen."

Iraq is worse than Vietnam "in so many ways," agreed Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr., a retired Army officer and author of one of the most respected studies of the U.S. military's failure in Vietnam. "We knew what we were getting into in Vietnam. We didn't here."

Also, President Richard M. Nixon used diplomacy with China and the Soviet Union to exploit the split between them and so minimize the fallout of Vietnam. By contrast, Krepinevich said, the Bush administration has "magnified" the problems of Iraq by neglecting public diplomacy in the Muslim world and by not developing an energy policy to reduce the significance of Middle Eastern oil.


Sahar writes that the men in her family were unable to attend the funeral of a slain relative, because it was in a Shiite neighborhood. However, the women decide to attend.

Would it interest anyone to know that another member of our extended family has perished?

Or has death in Iraq become old, boring news?

He was killed on his doorstep, in full view of his wife and three daughters.

Our men couldn’t attend the funeral, because the deceased was Shiite, and the ceremony was held in his brother’s home in a Shiite neighbourhood.

My mother, my cousin and I decided that we would do our best to attend the women’s ceremony.

They (the family of the diseased) asked for the car’s registration no, its make and colour, and the number of women expected in it. They said we were to reach the former Central Market building (now a great heap of rubble) and stop to await our escort, without which we would not be able to enter the neighbourhood at all – we would be shot, or worse – abducted.

We drove slowly to the meeting place, kept the car running, and waited.

Some minutes (ages) later a car stopped in front of us.

One of the brothers, with him his daughter (20) stepped out of the car and approached us.

He greeted us gravely, and told his daughter to ride with us. He told us that this was insurance given by him, that we were “safe”, his daughter was to ride with us.

snip

A whole living district quite, quite empty.

Hundreds of homes, quite, quite empty.

Shops shuttered, schools hollow, and windswept courts, where the laughter of children used to fill the air.

And the dust, a deep layer of dust, perhaps the most telling sign that these homes were homes no longer…

We paid our respects, wept together with any who came in to show their sorrow.

But in our hearts we knew – we were weeping for ourselves and for our sorry existence bereft of our loved ones.


Note: Sahar's blog accepts comments. You may offer your condolences if you wish.

Quote of the Day

The challenge we face today is not how to win in Iraq; it is how to recover from a strategic mistake: invading Iraq in the first place. The war could never have served American interests. But it has served Iran’s interest by revenging Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran in the 1980s and enhancing Iran’s influence within Iraq. It has also served al Qaeda’s interests, providing a much better training ground than did Afghanistan, allowing it to build its ranks far above the levels and competence that otherwise would have been possible.

We cannot ‘win’ a war that serves our enemies interests and not our own. Thus continuing to pursue the illusion of victory in Iraq makes no sense. We can now see that it never did. A wise commander in this situation normally revises his objectives and changes his strategy, not just marginally, but radically. Nothing less today will limit the death and destruction that the invasion of Iraq has unleashed. No effective new strategy can be devised for the United States until it begins withdrawing its forces from Iraq. Only that step will break the paralysis that now confronts us.


Lt. Gen. William E. Odom, US Army, ret.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Security Incidents for 04/28/07

Photo: Smoke rises as residents recover victims at the scene of a suicide car bomb attack in Kerbala April 28, 2007. A suicide car bomber killed 57 people and wounded nearly 160 near one of Iraq's most revered Shi'ite Muslim shrines in the city of Kerbala on Saturday, in an attack likely to inflame sectarian tensions. (Stringer/Reuters)

Baghdad:

Insurgents killed four employees from the Iraqi Red Crescent. Four Iraqi humanitarian workers were killed and three others wounded when gunmen ambushed their minibus in the capital's mixed Sunni-Shiite district of Zafaraniyah, the official said. No other details were immediately available on the attack, he said.

Five employees of Red Crescent were killed on Saturday morning in a neighborhood in southern Baghdad, a well-informed police source said. The employees of Red Crescent was traveling in a car in Baiyaa neighborhood in southern Baghdad while they were attacked by unknown gunmen in two cars, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity, adding five employees are killed and another one is injured.

Also in Zafaraniyah, a group of rubbish collectors was hit by a roadside bomb, which killed one and wounded eight others, the official said.

In nearby Saydiyah, another mixed district, unidentified gunmen shot dead five civilians and wounded one more, he added.

In a similar incident, another group of gunmen shot at a commuter bus in Sayidiya district, southern Baghdad, killing at least five civilians.

In Al-Risala district, also located in southern Baghdad, a series of mortar rounds slammed into a residential area killing three people and wounding 10 others, including women and children, the official said.

Three Iraqi children were killed by mortar shells in western Baghdad

In the northern Shiite neighborhood of Khadimiyah a civilian was killed and three others injured when a homemade bomb blew up in a public market, a police source said.

Three mortar rounds landed in al-Resala district in southwestern Baghdad killing three civilians and wounding 10 others, including two children, police said.

A roadside bomb hit an Iraqi army patrol, wounding two soldiers in al-Qahira district in northern Baghdad, police said

Baghdad - An American convoy was targeted by an IED explosion on the airport street west Baghdad at 8:30 a.m. The U.S. troops closed the area; no casualties reported yet.

Baghdad - Two civilians were injured in an IED explosion near Al Neda’a mosque in Wazirirah neighborhood in east Baghdad at 2:00 p.m.

Baghdad - Two civilians were injured in a parked car bomb explosion in Shoala in west Baghdad at 4:30 p.m.

Baghdad - Three civilians were wounded when an IED exploded near Al Shurta tunnel in southwest Baghdad at 5:30 p.m.

Baghdad - 17 unidentified bodies were found in Baghdad today. 16 were found in Karkh, in the western part of Baghdad, in the following neighborhoods: six bodies in Al Amil, two bodies in Saidiyah, two bodies in Hurriyah, two bodies in Bayaa, two bodies in Doura, one body in Mahmoudiyah, one body in Washshash. One body was found in Sadr City in the eastern part of Baghdad.

Diyala Prv:

At least three gunmen were killed and eight policemen were wounded in clashes that erupted on Saturday between Iraqi police forces and unknown gunmen in central Iraq, a police source said. "Armed clashes broke out this morning between police forces and unknown gunmen during a security crackdown in northern Baaquba, Diala province," the source, who asked not to be named, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq

A total of 27 bodies were found in different parts of the religiously mixed and volatile Iraqi city of Baquba on Saturday, police said. They said 15 bodies, handcuffed and with gunshot wounds to the head, were discovered in a field. Another 12 were found in other parts of the city

A suicide car bomber targeting a military checkpoint killed one soldier and wounded three others in Khalis, a town 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

Muqdadiyah - A security source with the Muqdadiyah police said that a police patrol had found an anonymous body on the outskirts of town Friday evening. The body had many gunshots, the source said.

Muqdadiyah - A security source in Muqdadiyah said a civilian was injured in the Wajihiyah section of Muqdadiyah early Saturday morning. The source added that another policeman was injured in clashes that took place in Khaleel Basha area in north Baquba early Saturday.

Baquba - A source with the Baquba police said American forces killed a driver in downtown Baquba Friday evening. No more details were revealed.

Abbara - Police patrols of Abbara area, 10 kilometers north of Baquba, said they found the bodies of four farmers who were kidnapped Thursday.


Karbala:

A parked car exploded Saturday near one of Shiite Islam's holiest shrines in the city of Karbala as people were headed to the area for evening prayers, killing 55 people and wounding dozens, officials said. The explosion took place in a crowded commercial area near the Imam Hussein shrine in Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad, officials said. At least 55 people were killed and 70 wounded, said Salim Kazim, the head of the Karbala health department.


Diwaniya:

At least one civilian was killed and two more were wounded as U.S. and Iraqi forces clashed over night with gunmen in Diwaniya, 180 km south of Baghdad, a police source said on Saturday. "U.S. and Iraqi forces raided al-Wahdah neighborhood, northern Diwaniya, over night and clashed with unknown gunmen there," the source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq

Meanwhile, the source said "an explosive charge went off in the neighborhood while troops were conducting a search campaign in the area." "The troops fired back in the direction of the blast while U.S. choppers flew over the city," the source said. He added "U.S. and Iraqi forces cordoned off the area after the blast and launched a search campaign which lasted until early Saturday."

Mahaweel:

A body with bullet wounds to the head was found in Mahaweel, 75 km (50 miles) south of Baghdad, police said

Narawan:

A roadside bomb killed one person and wounded another in Nahrawan, 30 km (20 miles) south of Baghdad, on Friday, police said.

Mahmudiya:

A handcuffed and blindfolded corpse was found dumped on the outskirts of Mahmudiya on Friday, police said.

Dhuluiya:

Gunmen killed one police officer and wounded two in an attack on a police patrol in Dhuluiya, a town 70 km (45 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

Baiji:

Gunmen abducted an oil facility security official and his driver in Baiji, 180 km (112 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

Huwaija:

A policeman was killed and two others wounded in an attack by gunmen in the village of al-Huwaija, Salah al-Din province, an Iraqi police source said. "Men armed with machine-guns attacked a civilian vehicle that was boarding three policemen heading to work on Saturday, killing First Lieutenant Mohammed Saadoun and severely injuring two others," the source, who asked not to be named, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq

Hawija - According to Hawija town police sources, gunmen kidnapped three individuals, including a member of the Hawija judiciary committee.


Mosul:

Sixteen bodies were found in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, in the past 24 hours, police said

Unknown gunmen killed four members of a family and wounded two more after they stormed the family's house in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, a police source said on Saturday. "An armed group stormed a house in al-Hadbaa neighborhood in northern Mosul late on Friday and opened fire at the family members," police Colonel Jumaa al-Juburi told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq

Gunmen killed a former senior intelligence officer in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

Khalis - A suicide car bomber aiming to strike a military checkpoint killed one Iraqi soldier and wounded three others.


Tikrit - Police sources said that an Iraqi police officer was killed by gunmen in Dholoiyah district south of Tikrit early Saturday.


Kirkuk:

Policemen managed to free a kidnapped female student and arrest the kidnappers in the city of Kirkuk, a security official said

An Iraqi army soldier was wounded when an explosive charge went off near the city of Kirkuk, a security official said

Al Anbar Prv:

U.S. forces used fighter jets to destroy a truck bomb discovered in Anbar province. The truck loaded with explosives was found early Friday near Fallujah, a city in Anbar province when Marines were tipped off about it by a suspected insurgent they detained during a routine combat operation in the area, the military said. Loaded with eight large barrels of an unidentified liquid, the truck contained hidden detonation wire and explosives, the statement said. After cordoning off the area and evacuating nearby citizens, the Marines called in U.S. fighter jets that destroyed the truck, causing an explosion large enough to damage some nearby buildings, the military said. No civilian or coalition injuries were reported.

A U.S. base in the district of al-Saqlawiya, northern Falluja, came under an attack with mortar shells but no casualties or injuries were reported, an eyewitness said.


Thanks to whisker for the links above.

UPDATE:

Three Task Force Marne Soldiers were killed and one was wounded when their patrol was struck by a roadside bomb southeast of Baghdad today

A Task Force Marne Soldier was killed and two were wounded when their patrol was struck by a roadside bomb south of Baghdad April 28.

Three Soldiers and two Marines assigned to Multi National Force-West were killed April 27 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province.


REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

VIDEO: Liberation

What do Iraqis think about the American occupation?


Terrorism Report Will Show 29% Rise in Attacks

A State Department report on terrorism due out next week will show a nearly 30 percent increase in terrorist attacks worldwide in 2006 to more than 14,000, almost all of the boost due to growing violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. officials said Friday. A half-dozen U.S. officials with knowledge of the report's contents or the debate surrounding it agreed to discuss those topics on the condition they not be identified because of the extreme political sensitivities surrounding the war and the report. Based on data compiled by the U.S. intelligence community's National Counterterrorism Center, the report says there were 14,338 terrorist attacks last year, up 29 percent from 11,111 attacks in 2005. Forty-five percent of the attacks were in Iraq. Worldwide, there were about 5,800 terrorist attacks that resulted in at least one fatality, also up from 2005. The figures for Iraq and elsewhere are limited to attacks on noncombatants and don't include strikes against U.S. troops.


Basra Factions Gear Up For Fight

Rival factions in the southern city of Basra have mobilized their armed militias for what many residents expect to be a ferocious fight over control of the provincial council. Residents are hoarding essentials with sporadic clashes between the factions intensifying in the past three days in which various weapons were used. As armed groups fortify positions in major streets and amid heavily populated areas the occupying British troops charged with security have so far shown little concern. The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has not move a finger to contain the spiral of violence in the city which could easily spread to other areas. The Basra Islamic Front, an umbrella for five Islamist groups, is reported to have deployed nearly 7,000 armed men in the city in a bid to force current governor Mohammed al-Waili to quit. Waili belongs to the rival Fadhila faction whose armed men are guarding the governor’s headquarters in the city and vowing to fight off the attackers. Basra is the capital of the predominantly Muslim Shiite province of the same name. There are fears that the growing tension may adversely affect the country’s oil output. Basra oil fields are crucial to the country’s exports with output form the northern oil fields of Kirkuk shrinking. The Fadhila party of governor Waili is reported to be in control of Iraq’s Southern Oil Company which administers the province’s oil output. Fadhila supporters hold key positions in the industry and analysts say the current feud is more over control of oil than the provincial council.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Bush Devastated Iraq – Sadr

Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr said U.S. President George W. Bush destroyed Iraq and accused him of disregarding international calls to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. "Bush, the leader of evil, is obstinately ignoring calls to exit Iraq or even initiate a timetable for withdrawal as demanded by the Democrats," Sadr said in a message to Bush read out by Liqaa Al Yassin, a member of parliament loyal to Sadr. The U.S. House of Representatives had approved on Thursday a bill linking a budget to finance U.S. troops in Iraq to the drawing up of a timetable for pullout, beginning next October. Sadr discredited statements that the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq would cause chaos. "What chaos will happen if the U.S. army withdrew from our lands. We are already in a chaotic Iraq where blood is shed every few moments and explosions and car bombs are never ending," Sadr said in his statement. The young Shiite cleric added that the policies pursued by the U.S. administration in Iraq after the fall of the former regime in April 2003 were the main reason behind the chaos Iraq is going through at the moment.


Showdown in Basra: The Federalism Angle

Azzaman, in its London edition (but apparently not in its Baghdad edition) says this:

Meanwhile, in the field, the religious parties in Basra have rallied their militias in preparation for a final showdown over the governorship of the municipality, while residents, frightened, have have been laying in stores of necessities since the violence started spreading three days ago, involving light and medium weapons and mortar. And meanwhile the Iraqi government, which is led by Nuri al-Maliki, continues to adhere to its policy of silence on this issue, demonstrating yet again its inability to stop this expected outbreak of violence in Iraq's third-largest municipality, source of fully one-third of Iraq's crude oil, which is now threatened with stoppage in the event of an outbreak of violence between these militias.

The reporter quotes a government source who said the main opposing militia forces are those of the Fadhila party on the one side (the party of the current governor), and those of a group led by SCIRI and the Badr orgainzation on the other.

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

US Not To Assess Progress In Iraq Until September

The United States will reportedly wait till September to make its first formal assessment of whether a US troop "surge" now under way in Iraq is producing results. In interviews over the past week, the officials made clear that the White House is gradually scaling back its expectations for the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the report said. The timelines they are now discussing suggest that the White House may maintain the increased numbers of American troops in Iraq well into next year, the paper said. That prospect would entail a dramatically longer commitment of frontline troops, patrolling the most dangerous neighborhoods of Baghdad, than the one envisioned in legislation that passed the House and Senate this week, The Times said.


Democrats' Timetable Allows U.S. War in Sunni Region to Go On

The language on a timetable for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq voted out of the House-Senate conference committee this week contains large loopholes that would apparently allow U.S. troops to continue carrying out military operations in Iraq's Sunni heartland indefinitely. The plan, coming from the Democratic majority in Congress, makes an exemption from a 180-day timetable for completion of "redeployment" of U.S. troops from Iraq to allow "targeted special actions limited in duration and scope to killing or capturing members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations of global reach." The al-Qaeda exemption, along with a second exemption allowing U.S. forces to re-enter Iraq to protect those remaining behind to train and equip Iraqi security forces and to protect other U.S. military forces, appears to approve the presence in Iraq of tens of thousands of U.S. occupation troops for many years to come.