Guerrillas Shoot Down US Helicopter
Bombings in Baghdad
Bush Presses Blair for More Troops
Guerrillas using a shoulder-held missile launcher, probably an SA-16, shot down a US Apache helicopter Monday north of Baghdad, killing both servicemen aboard. AP reports, ‘ “Witness Mohammed Naji told Associated Press Television News he saw two helicopters flying toward Mishahda when “a rocket hit one of them and destroyed it completely in the air” . . . Heavy gunfire was heard at the time of the crash and shots also were heard afterward, the AP reporter said. ‘ If this is the future of the guerrilla war, US casualties will rise dramatically.
In another attack on Monday, guerrillas detonated a massive bomb aiming at a US military convoy in Baghdad during the early evening, but missed. It went off between the al-Bida’a Cinema and the Sunni al-Samarra’i Mosque, killing at least four Iraqi by-standers and wounding 16 others. AP says people were shopping in the New Baghdad area “before the curfew.” There’s a night-time curfew in Baghdad?
Elsewhere in the capital, guerrillas targeted a police patrol in the northern Azamiyah neighborhood (largely Sunni), but appear to have missed, killing two innocent by-standers.
Wire services report, “Seven Iraqis were also wounded when a rocket slammed into a restaurant in the centre of the capital as attacks continued in Baghdad despite a security clampdown. The seven, three waiters and four customers, were wounded when a rocket exploded in Al-Yassir restaurant near a busy taxi and bus terminal off the capital’s central Museum square.”
Former interim prime minister Iyad Allawi admitted in Cairo recently that Syria is not actively backing the jihadi infiltrators coming into Iraq across the Syrian border. Allawi will have been in a position to see the intelligence on this matter when he was in office, so this is a crucial admission. It contradicts the charges bandied about by members of the Bush administration and the Neoconservatives in the US.
A Two-Front War
Tony Blair and the British military are caught between Iraq and a hard place. The Bush administration is putting enormous pressure on the British to send more troops to Afghanistan, where the Taliban are regrouping and launching an Iraq-style guerrilla war. So the British began making noises about reducing the number of their troops in southern Iraq (around 10,000) and shifting them to Afghanistan.
But no. Bush recently told Blair that Iraq is on the brink of disaster, and that the British need to send more troops to that country, in addition to sending new units to fight the Taliban.
‘ Tony Blair was warned that war-torn Iraq remains on the brink of disaster – more than two years after the removal of Saddam Hussein – during his summit with President Bush in Washington earlier this month. Scotland on Sunday revealed last month that Blair is preparing to rush thousands more British troops to Afghanistan in a bid to stop the country sliding towards civil war, amid warnings the coalition faces a “complete strategic failure” in the effort to rebuild the nation. ‘
If the Pushtuns turn against the Karzai government in large numbers, rallying around neo-Taliban, the country could fall back into war. This danger was always the hidden cost of Bush going on to Iraq before stabilizing Afghanistan.
I don’t think the British public will put up with being dragged into a two-front hot war, and you wonder whether the Blair government might fall over such a development.
The mystery to me is why the Americans think they need more British troops in southern Iraq. Most of that area has fallen into the hands of religious Shiite militias anyway, and I doubt the British get out of their barracks all that much. When they do, they appear to be angering a lot of the Shiites, as in Maysan, the provincial government of which yesterday launched a non-cooperation campaign against the British. Do the Americans want to move the British up to the hot zone in the Sunni heartland? Is the South more unstable than it looks on the outside (e.g. is the Mahdi Army reconstituting itself down there?)
Ironically, even as the Afghanistan venture appears on the verge of collapse, Dick Cheney instanced it in his Wolf Blitzer interview on Sunday as evidence of the undue pessimism of his critics and a reason to be optimistic about Iraq.
About three quarters of Americans believe that the guerrilla movement in Iraq is either maintaining its strength or growing in strength. Only 1/4 agree with Dick Cheney that it is weakening.
The Egyptian cleric kidnapped by the US Centeral Intelligence Organization from Milan in February of 2003 was involved in Ansar al-Islam, the terrorist group, and was preparing false passports and aiding in other ways the transport of radical volunteers to go to Iraq, where the group had a base in the north. An Italian magistrate has issued arrest warrants for the CIA personnel involved. It is not entirely clear why the US couldn’t get the Berlusconi government to move against the cleric itself.
I’m posting this a little early because am traveling on Tuesday, but will try to post more late afternoon.