Kufa Fighting Flares; Bombs in Baghdad
Fighting flared again Sunday and Monday between Mahdi Army militiamen and US troops, who are apparently trying to reconquer the police stations in the city. Fierce fighting continued late Monday. 2 US troops and dozens of Mahdi Army fighters are dead. CNN reports that local US military commanders insist that Muqtada either disavow the Kufa fighters for breaking the ceasefire, or he will be held accountable for the attacks on US troops (no mention of gradual US military encroachment on key points in the city).
Taking the police stations as “anchors” of the Shiite urban communities was a widespread tactic of the Mahdi Army when the insurgency broke out in early April. One US counter-strategy, little reported on in a systematic way, has been gradually to take back these anchor points. The problem for the US is that the real power centers of the Mahdi Army are the slum tenements where the armed youth live and organize, and which are impenetrable to the US military (and they were relatively impenetrable to Saddam’s secret police, too.)
The drum of violence beat on: a big bomb also went off near the Green Zone; two US troops were killed in separate incidents; British civilian contractors were ambushed Sunday; and a woman and her child were killed by a mortar round on Sunday in Mosul.
Bill Safire in his New York Times column today begins with a litany of unreported good news. One item is that attacks on US troops were half in May what they had been in April. This sort of statistic is profoundly dishonest. In April, the US launched assualts on both Fallujah and the Shiite south with specific goals in mind. In both cases, the US military failed for political reasons and had to back off. May saw instead negotiation and background military maneuver, including increased dependence on local proxy fighters. Of course the attacks on US troops were many fewer in May. But that datum is useless in a vacuum. April had seen the greatest violence since the end of the war in April of 2003. Safire’s way of putting makes it seem as though there were a linear, secular improvement of the security situation. There is no such thing (see above), and it is a form of lying to imply that there is.
The Financial Times reported last week that Iraqi petroleum exports were down by 1 million barrels a day in May, much more than initially estimated. Bombings at a facility in the south and of the Kirkuk line in the north have been devastating. The bombings wiped out the entire OPEC increase in production quotas and are part of a new phenomenon in which insecurity is driving prices higher through speculation. (About $10 a barrel of the current $40 a barrel price is estimated to be owing to speculation). The Khobar terrorist incident in Saudi Arabia on Sunday will likewise probably drive prices higher.