69 Killed in Separate Outbreaks of Violence
All hell broke loose in Iraq on Sunday, but I’m darned if I can figure out most of what happened or why. It seems possible that the US committed two major military blunders that will worsen its relationship with Iraqi political forces.
So they found 30 decapitated bodies near Buhriz, an old Baath stronghold in Diyala northeast of Baghdad. Those killed were a mix of Shiites and Sunnis.
Then a mortar shell landed near the house in Najaf of Muqtada al-Sadr, the nationalist Shiite cleric whose followers are already upset with Sunnis over the blowing up of the Askariyah Shrine in Samarra. There were casualties, but Muqtada wasn’t harmed. Everyone just dodged a bullet along with Muqtada, since if the mortar had killed him, Iraq would have been thrown into even greater chaos.
As it is, Muqtada implied that the US was responsible. He called on his followers, according to al-Hayat, to “exercise self-restraint and to remain calm, so as to foil the plots of the Occupation authorities to provoke armed conflict, and rather to practice political resistance in order to expel the foreigners from Iraq.”
Then the US and Iraqi forces say they raided a terror cell in Adhamiyah. Adhamiyah is a Sunni district of Baghdad and is still Baath territory.
But somehow the joint US-Iraqi force ended up north, at the Shiite Shaab district. They say that they took fire from Mahdi Army militiamen. But there aren’t any such Mahdi Army men in Adhamiyah. I have a sinking feeling that instead of raiding a Sunni Arab building in Adhamiyah, they got disoriented and attacked a Shiite religious center in nearby Shaab instead. Iraqi television angrily showed twenty unarmed corpses on the floor of the religious center, denouncing the US for killing innocent worshippers. The US military is now saying it did not enter any mosques and that anyone killed was killed by Iraqi special ops.
The Mustafa Husayniyah, however, is not a mosque and may not have been distinguishable as a religious edifice to non-Shiites. Shiites mourn their martyred Imams, the descendants of the Prophet, in centers called Husayniyahs after the Imam Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. As for the killing being done by Iraqi troops, if it was a joint mission, then the US forces are going to take some of the blame.
At least one of the dead was a member of the Dawa Party, the party headed by Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari. Official Iraqi television coverage was also uncharacteristically anti-American.
Since the US has been trying to unseat Jaafari, in concert with the Kurds and Sunni Arabs, he responded to the attack testily.
The incident has yet again postponed negotiations on the formation of a new government, since the Iraqi Shiites are universally extremely angry over it. Member of parliament and aide ot Prime Minister Jaafari, Jawad al-Maliki, demanded a full investigation of “this crime,” according to al-Hayat.
If the US/Iraq force actually did accidentally hit a Shiite Husayniyah instead of a Sunni Arab terrorist cell, it was a horrible mistake.
Then US forces raided a secret prison of the Ministry of the Interior.
They captured 17 Sudanese inmates. After an investigation, the US finally acknowledged that the assault had made a mistake. The 17 Sudanese really were guerrillas or in any case legitimately held.
In other words, the jail raid was based on poor information and false premises. It is possible that our troops also messed up indirectly.
Al-Hayat reports that Hazim al-Araji, a Sadrist leader of nearby Kadhimiyah, said [Ar.]: “American forces attacked the Mustafa Husayniyah, which belongs to the Sadr Movement, and killed approximately 20 persons inside it . . . An American force surrounded the Mustafa Husayniyah in the Ur district and opened fire on more than 20 persons, killing them.”
Jalal Talabani, president of Iraq, and other high politicians have succeeded in putting on hold direct US-Iran talks on Iraq. The Iraqi politicians complained about two foreign countries discussing Iraq with no Iraqi government representative present. But the problem is that there is no Iraqi government, since the haggling elected politicians haven’t formed one. So, upshot: US-Iran talks are postponed until after there is a new Iraqi government.
Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the Iraqi Shiite cleric who heads the largest bloc in the elected parliament, denied Sunday that Iran is directly intervening in Iraq. He said that no proof has ever been presented of these allegations. It doesn’t help Condi Rice to make her case when a close US ally like al-Hakim directly contradicts her.
Some 20% of Iraqis are living below the poverty line and their access to food has declined in the past 3 years, according to the Iraqi government.