Guerrillas Target Police all over Iraq
with 13 Car Bombs on New Year’s Day
Over 2 Dozen Casualties
Al-Sharq al-Awsat [Ar.]: Baghdad rang in the New Year with a sting of 8 coordinated car bombs that left at least 24 persons injured. A further five car bombs were detonated in Kirkuk, Tikrit and Miqdadiyah. Other violence killed at least 13. Wire services did not report any fatalities in the 8 Baghdad car bombings,, but al-Sharq al-Awsat says that it was told by Iraqi security sources that at least 10 persons were killed. The bombs targeted police patrols in the districts of Baghdad al-Jadidah, al-Mashtal, Adhamiyah, Karradah, and Baladiyyat. A police source told SA that the first bomb went off in Karrada, and that most of the victims were Iraqi police, with great damaged done to cars and buildings in the vicinity. Subsequent explosins followed in the other districts. At least two car bombs were discovered and disarmed before they could go off. One hit a popular restaurant and wounded at least six.
AFP reports other violence:
“The day’s worst bloodshed came in eastern Baghdad, where police said gunmen killed five people at a butcher shop and a bomb killed two police officers at a gas station. Two more Iraqis were slain and five wounded by gunfire at a Sunni mosque in southern Baghdad, while a Shiite sheik was fatally shot at a market in the same part of the city. In the northern city of Mosul, about a dozen gunmen attacked a police checkpoint, killing a bystander and wounding three policemen, police said.”
The extensive attacks on the Iraqi police at the beginning of the year are intended by the guerrillas to make the police timid. If you think about it, the Iraqi police are probably the last best hope for any effective counter-insurgency. They know Arabic, they know the families and the neighborhoods, they probably have an idea when something fishy is going on. The guerrillas know that they absolutely must neutralize the police and make them afraid to cooperate with the Americans or to come aggressively after the guerrillas themselves.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat says that an ongoing electricity crisis has left the Baghdad capital in complete darkness for many hours a day. A protest against a tripling of gasoline prices turned violent in Kirkuk, with police killing 4 protesters (they accused the demonstrators of having turned to arson).
A major refinery went back online, but a pipeline was bombed early Sunday.
Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari,leader of the Shiite Dawa Party,met Sunday with Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani in an attempt to hammer out a coalition government, according to Aljazeera [Ar.]. Jaafari said later at a joint news conference that the two had agreed in principle on the desirability of a government of national unity. Jaafari said that he wished to exclude no one in principle, but the question is what parties would get which ministries, and nothing could be decided until the final election returnes were announced.
Jaafari’s statement that no one had been excluded appears to be a demurral from the Muqtada al-Sadr position that Iyad Allawi’s list cannot serve in the national unity government. Reidar Vissar argues that the Sadrists are very important within the United Iraqi Alliance this time around (a tip of the hat to Helena Cobban at JustWorldNews– and thanks for her generous sentiments, which are reciprocated.) I’m not sure, though, that he is right about SCIRI being weaker. The list ran 30 Sadrists, 30 SCIRI candidates, and 30 from both branches of the Dawa Party, among others. Since these big parties would have been top loaded on the lists, and since the coalition probably got around 130 seats, then all three parties should be seated in rough parity. Vissar finds that more Sadrists were returned in the deep south. But my guess is that SCIRI candidates were top loaded in places like Najaf, Karbala and Baghdad.
Barzani also announced that he would meet Monday with a delegation from the Sunni fundamentalist National Accord Front. Adnan Dulaimi and Tariq Hashimi of the NAF arrived in Irbil Sunday. Dulaimi is now saying that he will not boycott parliament if he cannot get the outcome altered (he maintains that the elections were crooked), but would rather work to change the constitution (he opposes loose federalism).
The NYT says that the Lincoln Group, with a big Pentagon propaganda contract in Iraq, paid a few Sunni clerics to give pro-American sermons. This tactic is not a new thing, and the British used to do this sort of thing in their empire (which had a lot of Muslim subjects) all the time. The problem is that Muslims do have pretty good bullshit detectors, and they decry “American Islam.” All the Lincoln project did was to make it harder for genuine Sunni reformers to get a hearing; if they don’t adopt a hard line, they will be assumed to be on the take.
The NYT article also reveals that Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute did some for-pay consulting with Lincoln on this project. But when Rubin was earlier interviewed by the NYT about Lincoln, he said nice things about Lincoln and did not reveal that he had a working business relationship with them. Rubin served in Douglas Feith’s and Bill Luti’s “Office of Special Plans” at the Pentagon, the Great Fantasy Workshop in the Sky that manufactured much of the bogus “intelligence” that got us into the Iraq mess. (I’ve never seen Rubin quote an Arabic source, and wonder if he even knows the language; he is a Persianist by training). Rubin has on more than one occasion attempted to smear me, accusing me of having a conspiratorial mindset because I’ve tried to unravel the shenannigans of Rubin and his buddies. Well, apparently it would take one to keep up with this squirrel of the militaristic Right. Laura Rozen, who has also been smeared by Rubin, has a little fun with him at her blog.
Question: Why does the New York Times call the American Enterprise Institute for comment on something like the Lincoln Group? Or on Iraq at all? Does anyone besides Harold Rhode (and he’s not even on staff!) over there even speak a word of Arabic?
The Washington Post reports that the $18 billion voted by the US Congress for Iraqi reconstruction is mostly committed or spent, with large amounts diverted to security, prisons and trials. The administration does not intend to ask for any more. I’d say this is a good bellwether of administration intentions. If the US were staying in Iraq in a big way, and still hoping to make a significant place for the multinationals there, it would have to bite the bullet and continue to try to do reconstruction. If the Bush administration is throwing in the towel, then whether Iraqis have enough electricity really isn’t its problem any more.
The political and propaganda effectiveness of the guerrilla movement is demonstrated in the article. Apparently, the US has been deprived of any credit for any of its good works in Iraq (70% of Iraqis don’t even know about them), and has been deprived of the good will that might have come from getting the services functioning and the oil flowing freely.
There is an error in the WaPo article, which quotes Iraqi oil production as 2 billion barrels a day a day. That should be 2 million, and will no doubt be corrected on the web. But that still isn’t right. They weren’t able to do more than an average of 1.8 million in 2005, last I knew, and in December it was less. 200,000 barrels of petroleum a day is significant enough so that it can’t just be rounded up.
Simon Jenkins also thinks it is all over but the shouting. He is a veteran reporter and has his eyes open, and his pessimism is well earned. The only demurral I would enter is that the US military is not actually bottled up on those 100 bases in the way that he implies– they are out in Baghdad, Ramadi and Mosul, etc. and come back into places they have left, like Najaf, when called by local security forces. But he is right anyway that they don’t continuously control much actual territory in the Sunni Arab provinces (and certainly not after sundown).
The LA Times has more on Iraq’s mess of an economy. It is a fine, nuanced article.
US air raids in Iraq have gone from 25 a month last summer to 125 in November and perhaps 150 in December. Air strikes are fairly useless as tools of counter-insurgency, and the innocent civilians they kill probably create new guerrillas from among their relatives, so this change seems an ominous sort of flailing about as the US prepares to withdraw the troops it put in before the elections.
More items from al-Sharq al-Awsat: The people of Basra are upset about the conditions for prisoners in British jails. Complaints of relatives have impelled the provincial governing council to begin setting up a meeting of tribal sheikhs and Muslim clergy to discuss what can be done.
The Shiite Pious Endowments Board condemned the murder of a family of 9 Shiites, including women and children, near Latifiyah south of Baghdad late last week, as a form of ethnic cleansing. The family appears to have been warned to leave their neighborhood by Sunni Arab guerrillas. The incident has produced rage throughout the Shiite south.
I linked earlier in this column to Helena Cobban, who has a nice post up about IC, for which many thanks. I am a big admirer of Helena’s work and that of her husband, political scientist Bill Quandt, and their friendship means a great deal to me.