Civil War Violence Kills 100 Abizaid

Civil War Violence Kills 100;
Abizaid Meets Maliki;
Olmert Thinks Iraq is Stable

Guerrillas attempted to assassinate Iraqi Vice President Adil Abdul Mahdi on Monday, but only succeeded in killing two of his bodyguards. The gunmen attacked the vice presidential convoy. Abdul Mahdi was narrowly defeated for the position of prime minister last spring, and is a prominent member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). That group has taken a controversial position in advocating the establishment of a single Shiite superprovince in the south of the country.

UK PM Tony Blair’s speech on Monday, which had been bruited as a change of course in foreign policy, struck me as just a ‘stay the course’ standard bromide. He blamed Iran for instability in Iraq, whereas most of that comes from the anti-Iranian Sunni Arabs. He blamed Iran for supporting Lebanon, even though he had done nothing to stop the brutal Israeli bombing of south Beirut. He just gave the standard Bush speech, which even Bush may not be giving long. As for Israel and Palestine, he is right that it is the core issue. But it is pitiful for him to keep saying that as the situation drops into the 13th level of hell for the Palestinians, and to fail to do anything practical about it.

US General John Abizaid met Monday with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, pressing him for a practical plan on deploying the new Iraqi army against the guerrilla movement, and cautioning him to disband the Mahdi Army militia and give proof of progress on that score. Al-Maliki has said repeatedly that he disagrees with the Americans that the Mahdi Army is the main problem in Iraq, and wants to focus on fighting the Sunni Arab guerrillas. (Al-Maliki has a point. I’d say that the Sunni Arab fighters are responsible for the vast majority of attacks in Iraq).

Haaretz is outraged and a little amused that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert came to Washington and said this to Bush about Iraq:

‘ “We in the Middle East have followed the American policy in Iraq for a long time, and we are very much impressed and encouraged by the stability which the great operation of America in Iraq brought to the Middle East. We pray and hope that this policy will be fully successful so that this stability which was created for all the moderate countries in the Middle East will continue.” ‘

There is no mystery here. Olmert has already proved that he does not understand asymmetrical warfare or the Arab world, and that he has a mystical faith in tanks. Saddam had a tank army, of which the Israeli military was always mysteriously afraid, and it is gone. Iraq has 78 tanks, last I knew. If you equate a big tank army in the hands of an enemy of Israel as “instability,” then now you have “stability.”

It seems to me in contrast that Hamas is picking up Ramadi and Falluja as hinterland support, and Hizbullah now has the opportunity for backing from the ruling Iraqi Shiite parties of Da’wa, SCIRI, and the Sadr Movement, which in turn have the prospect of getting rich off Iraqi petroleum. But if Olmert and Bush understood these sorts of things, they wouldn’t have adopted such disastrous policies.

Olmert’s predecessor was trying openly to goad the United States into a war with Iran. Most of the time you can’t listen to Israeli hawks about Middle East policy. They are like carpenters with a hammer to whom every problem looks like a nail. Every political issue looks to them like a good little war would solve it. They don’t seem to be able to notice that nearly 60 years of such war-at-the-drop-of-a-hat has not gotten them anywhere in the region and if anything, as Bashar al-Asad said last summer, every generation of Arabs hates them more. The hawks don’t fear the hatred of the masses because they only understand tanks, not asymmetrical or geopolitical struggles. And that is where we came in.

The NYT says Muqtada al-Sadr has become more of a political insider but is thereby losing control over his militia.

Speaking of which, the US military raided some homes and offices of Muqtada’s followers in Shula, Baghdad, on Monday. In recent weeks such actions have drawn howls of outrage from PM al-Maliki, but let’s see if they coordinated this one with him.

Reuters reports civil war violence in Iraq on Monday, identifying 100 or so of the fatalities that day. Excerpts:

‘BAGHDAD – A blast that police said was caused by a suicide bomber killed 11 and wounded 18 on a minibus in north Baghdad.

BAGHDAD – Two U.S. soldiers were killed and two wounded in a bomb attack in Baghdad . . .

BAGHDAD – Police recovered 46 bodies around Baghdad in 24 hours to Monday evening, an Interior Ministry source said. Most had been tortured and were apparent victims of sectarian death squads. . .

BAGHDAD – U.S. forces killed at least five people and wounded 15 in a raid on the Shi’ite enclave of Shula in mainly Sunni west Baghdad . . .

BAGHDAD – Five employees of the state-owned North Oil Company, one of them a women, were ambushed and killed in the northern outskirts of Baghdad as they drove into the capital . . .

BAGHDAD – Gunmen stormed a petrol station on Sunday and seized 18 men, the Conference of Iraqi People party, one of three Sunni parties forming the Iraqi Accordance Front, said. They killed four and released the others, the source added. . .

YUSUFIYA – Police found the bodies of five people between the towns of Yusufiya, 15 km (9 miles) south of Baghdad, and Mahmudiya, police said. Two had been beheaded, the others shot.

So a Danish intelligence agent concludes before the Iraq War of 2003 that there is no good evidence Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. That puts the lie to Bush’s constantly reiterated allegation that “everyone” agreed with him at the time about that. Then two Danish journalists tell the rest of us about this report, which was apparently suppressed by the rightwing Danish government, which is hand in hand with Bush. Thus, Bush can say that no other intelligence agencies disputed his story on Iraq WMD because we aren’t allowed by his friends to find out about the dissents. So what happens then? Bush is reelected. And the Danish journalists now face jail time. I like Copenhagen a lot, but if these journalists go to jail I think progressives should get up some sort of economic boycott on Denmark. Isn’t that the government that told the Muslims it can’t interfere in even blasphemous freedom of speech?

Note to Henry Waxman: subcontractors for the US military appear to be making their truck drivers cross from Kuwait into Iraq without proper papers, to deliver things to Coalition bases. Surely there is a US law against recklessly endangering your employees?

The Iraqi judicial system, behind the scenes, is getting rebuilt. If the government could ever restore the streets to order, maybe the new judges could accomplish something.

Richard Haas of CFR doesn’t think the Iraq War is winnable.