Sunni VP Boycotts Swearing-In Ceremony
8 US Troops Wounded at Qaim and Ramadi, Dozens of Iraqis Killed
Iraq’s government was sworn in on Tuesday. But the key ministries of Defense (which will go to a Sunni Arab) and Petroleum (which will go to a Shiite) are still unfilled, as are several others promised to the Sunni Arabs. Vice President Ghazi al-Yawir boycotted the swearing in ceremony, a sign that the Sunni Arabs are not amused.
AP quoted Sunni parliamentarian Mishaan Juburi as saying ‘ “If al-Yawer attended the ceremony, it would have been the end of him politically,” said Mishaan al-Jubouri, head of a disgruntled Sunni coalition that had hoped for more seats in Cabinet. “I entered the hall and went out again on purpose, just to show them that I am not agreeing with what is happening.” ‘
I don’t know whether it is more alarming that the interim petroleum minister is Ahmad Chalabi (who has, to say the least, not shown himself good at accounting for large sums of money) or that there is still talk of giving the post to a member of the Fadila Party, a faction loyal to the memory of the puritan militant Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr. The sort of patronage that would be available to Fadila Party members from control of the Petroleum Ministry would help the party grow in influence. It already controls the provincial council of the southern port city of Basra (pop. 1.3 million).
Chalabi is angling to get the job for Dr. Ibrahim Bahrululum, who served in the position during the first year of post-Saddam Iraq. [Bahr means sea, and ulum means “branches of knowledge,” so his name means “sea of knowledge.” You can’t break it up and call him “Ulum.” It is like calling John Mellancamp “Mr. Camp.”] Reuters worries that the lack of a permanent petroleum minister harms the oil sector in Iraq, which is already beset by extensive sabotage. Iraq has only been able to export about 1.8 million barrels a day, down from a pre-war average of 2.8 million per day. The major problem has been pipeline sabotage, which suggests to me that filling the position of minister wouldn’t make that much difference if he can’t provide security.
Near the Syrian border at Qaim, US troops fought guerrillas in a firefight that left 9 guerrillas dead, 6 US troops wounded, along with an Iraqi girl. Later US bombing killed a further 3 guerrillas. AP says that at Ramadi on Tuesday, “insurgents attacked a checkpoint, touching off a gun battle that killed 12 militants, the U.S. military said. One Iraqi soldier and a civilian died in the fighting and two soldiers were wounded. Two U.S. Marines were also slightly injured and five militants were captured. In Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, unidentified gunmen killed three Iraqi policemen in three separate attacks, police said.” In Western Baghdad, guerrillas detonated a car bomb, killing 2 Iraqis and wounding 2 others.
Al-Hayat says that on Tuesday, in addition, 4 bombs targeted police and army patrols in Baghdad and to its north. Ash Sharq al-Awsat says at least 6 persons were wounded in these incidents, including some police. Al-Hayat adds that 2 suicide bombers in Mosul blew up themselves, killed a child, and wounded 15 persons when they set off an explosion at a US military checkpoint. Ash-Sharq al-Awsat says that unknown gunmen assassinated Ahmad Sabih al-Wais, the director of accounts in the Ministry of Water, as he headed to work. In Tikrit, an Iraqi soldier was wounded by a roadside bomb. In Baiji, the night before yesterday, guerrillas killed two policemen with a roadside bomb. Another bomb in Balad killed one Iraqi serviceman and wounded another. At Dulu’iyah, guerrillas staged a mortar attack on a joint US/Iraqi military base. A translator was wounded and a fuel truck was set ablaze. Iraqi police in Mahawil discovered 4 corpses too decomposed to identify.
57 percent of Americans polled late last week say that the Iraq War was not worth it. Only 41 percent said it was worthwhile. This is the most dramatic public disavowal of President Bush’s military policies ever. Many of the respondents were answering the question in the wake of Bush’s press conference, in which he maintained that things were going just hunky dory in Iraq, something the headlines did not support.
The US military in Iraq accidentally released specific figures for the number of bomb attacks in Baghdad . It said that there are about 20 per day. The total number of attacks throughout the country is estimated as about 50 to 60 per day. AP notes that the guerrillas keep inventing new ways to set off bombs effectively so as to harm US troops, despite the US military’s attempt to foil the attacks.
The Washington Post suggests that some of the improvised bombing techniques used by Iraqi insurgents come from a 1965 US Army manual that was translated into Arabic and issued to the Iraqi army by Saddam’s government.
Al-Hayat reports that Saddam’s attorney is charging that there is a Shiite plan, plotted out in Iran, to killed the dictator in his cell. He stressed that the US is responsible for Saddam’s security.