Violence in Baqubah, Basra, Tal Afar, etc.
The Washington Post finally gives us a description of the guerrillas fighting in the Shiite Turkmen city of Tal Afar (pop. 250,000). They are said by the US military to be “a collection of Sunni Muslim extremists, Baath Party holdovers and foreign fighters, possibly Saudis.” I don’t believe the last part about Saudis. Iraqis tend to blame everything on “Wahhabis,” because there are no Iraqi Wahhabis and so such an explanation can preserve Iraqi unity and social peace in the face of provocations.
Moreover, it seems likely that these mainly Sunni Arab fighters have come into Turkmen Tal Afar from elsewhere in the north. It is possible that they are Arabs displaced from the Kurdish areas by the Peshmerga, who are taking advantage of the Turkmen’s relative weakness and benefitting from smuggling routes to nearby Syria.
The US military appears set to invade Tal Afar in hopes of wiping out the Sunni Arab guerrillas sometime during the next week. The guerrillas are at a disadvantage in that the local Turkmen Shiites are probably hostile to them, so they cannot expect local support. That is, the situation is more like Najaf and less like Fallujah. [As it happens, this analysis was wrong. Most Tal Afar Turkmen are Sunnis, and were high in the Baath Party or have turned fundamentalist, so the city is a good place for Salafi infiltration. 7/8/05]
As with Najaf, there is an interested outside party. In the case of Tal Afar, it is Turkey, which has strongly objected to the US bombardment of the city.
In Basra on Saturday, guerrillas detonated a car bomb near the US consulate, killing two Iraqis and wounding 3.
On Friday, a thousand protesters had marched against Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf.
In the eastern city of Baqubah, guerrillas sprayed an Iraqi National Guard officer, along with his son and driver, with gunfire on Saturday, killing them all. Near Baqubah, guerrillas took the family of an Iraqi National Guardsman hostage and set his house on fire. Col. Khalis Ali Hussein’ wife and three children are still missing.