2 Us Troops Killed 42 Shiites

2 US Troops Killed;
42 Shiites Kidnapped;
Wedding Bombed in Baghdad;
Maliki orders US Troops out of Sadr City

Iraqi guerrillas killed two US GIs on Monday, bringing the one-month death toll for October to 103.

Sunni Arab guerrillas near Tikrit north of Baghdad set up checkpoints, stopped minivans, and asked the passengers if they were from Shiite villages such as Balad. When the answer was yes, they kidnapped 42 persons.

Patrick Cockburn suggests that such actions are not random violence, but rather are part of a Sunni Arab strategy of surrounding and cutting off Baghdad.

Cockburn is correct. The Sunni Arab guerilla movements have been attempting to cut off Baghdad for some time, and have at times successfully imposed a fuel blockade on it. So far the blockade has been stacctto and not very successful. But if they really could blockade the capital, they could deprive the Iraqi police and army of fuel for their vehicles, and then execute them. This step could only come, of course, once the US begins withdrawing. Once that process starts, the Shiites had better start negotiating with the Sunni guerrilla groups, or else it wouldn’t be long before the Green Zone fell.

Prime Minister Nur al-Maliki intervened on Tuesday to order that US troops dismantle the checkpoints that had blockaded the 3 million inhabitants of largely Shiite Sadr City for the past few days, interfering with shopkeepers’ customers and even getting to the hospital. The US military had been searching in Sadr City for a kidnapped US GI of Iraqi heritage, and in the end Maliki responded to popular complaints that the blockade was too much. Al-Zaman says that cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s call for a general strike in Sadr City on Tuesday [Ar.] had been largely successful, and that most shops were shuttered. WaPo says that Mahdi Army militiamen forcibly closed schools and enforced the closure of shops, helping ensure that the strike succeeded.

A general strike by Shiites may have forced al-Maliki to act, since they are his constituency. His order was issued after consultations with US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. Casey, though the NYT says it seems likely he had already decided on this course, since the meeting ended at 1 pm and the order was issued at 1:20. Casey’s acquiescence was key, however, since the US army and Marine corps do not actually take orders from al-Maliki.

The incident is a further sign of tension between the Bush administration and Maliki, who boasted last week that he is “not Washington’s man in Baghdad.” Malik also has demanded the authority to order the Iraqi Army into action without getting permission from the United States military.

Sadr City residents held rallies of celebration after the blockade was lifted.

The Sunni Arab vice president of Iraq, Tariq al-Hashimi, warned that the end of the blockade would also allow Shiite death squads that he claims were based in Sadr City to operate freely again. He claimed that there had been a lull in death squad operations when the Americans had Sadr City bottled up. In fact, lots of bodies have shown up in Baghdad in the past few days. Al-Hashimi has grown increasingly impatient with what he sees as foot dragging by the Maliki government in confronting the Shiite militias, and has even threatened to resign if nothing is done about them.

Al-Zaman is reporting on behind the scenes talks between Prime Minister al-Maliki and US National Security Council adviser Stephen Hadley. The “Times of Baghdad” says that Hadley pressed al-Maliki for a guarantee that Iraq will not be partitioned, apparently indicating the opposition of the Bush administration to the implementation of the law allowing for provincial confederacies, recently passed over Maliki’s objections by the Iraqi parliament. Bush and Cheney fear that a confederacy will lead to partition, which will lead to sectarian conflict and unleash a wave of violence that will draw in other Middle Eastern nations.

Sources close to the talks in the Iraqi government told al-Zaman that Hadley also asked for an explanation of the delay in the program of national reconciliation. The plan would have to include a share for each Iraqi in the country’s petroleum (the “Alaska plan”) and, al-Zaman alleges, amnesty for ex-Baathists, even those who have been fighting US troops and Iraqi soldiers.

Reuter reports political violence in Iraq on Tuesday, detailing 45 of the many more killings that must have occurred. Highlights:

‘ BAGHDAD – A car bomb ripped through a wedding procession in the northeastern district of Ur in Baghdad, killing 15 people, including four children . . . [Ur is largely Shiite.] . . .

BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol killed a policeman and wounded three others near the southern Doura district of Baghdad, an Interior Ministry source said.

NEAR SUWAYRA – The bodies of five gunmen were found in an orchard which was the scene of clashes between gunmen and the police several days ago near the town of Suwayra, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

SUWAYRA – The bodies of three people were recovered from the Tigris river in Suwayra, police said.

BAQUBA – The bodies of eight people were found, bound and gagged, in Baquba, police said. All the victims were shot in the head. . .’

AP argues that the violence between the Shiite Badr Corps and the Mahdi Army, both of them paramilitaries is destabilizing the Iraqi south. They point to the recent fighting in Amara, and quote residents as saying that because of the tribal character of the population, there will likely be a series of reprisal killings and feuding. The oil port of Basra has also seen militia on militia violence.

Children victims of Iraq violence are disturbing US medics there.

Interview with a co-author of the Lancet study that found over 420,000 excess civilian deaths in Iraq because of the war.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said in a talk at Indiana U. of Iraq, ““The country gradually deteriorates to civil war [and] the US presence is more and more a part of the problem and not the solution,” he said, adding that “Democratization may lead to a radical Shi’a government.”’ I think Barak’s remarks reflect a general anxiety among centrist and left of center Israelis on where this Iraq thing is going and what it will mean for Israel (almost certainly not good things). There is also an increasingly obvious split between the Israeli elite and the American Neoconservatives. The Neocon doctrine over here is that the Arab Shiites would be more likely sympathetic to Israel than the Sunnis and so their taking over Iraq is a good thing. As usual, this theory of theirs is only true in the 25th dimension in the Orbit of Xubaro.