3 GIs killed, 53 Bodies found
Sunnis, Sadr Boycott ‘Reconciliation’ Conference
Police found 53 bodies in the streets of Baghdad on Saturday, some of them in the tense Sunni Arab district of Ghazaliya. A bombing in Kirkuk killed an Iraqi officer and wounded some soldiers. Other political violence on Saturday:
‘ BAQUBA – Clashes between Iraqi soldiers and insurgents killed two civilians, including a woman, and wounded five in Baquba’s Ameen neighbourhood, police said . . . Gunmen killed two policemen when they attacked a checkpoint they were manning near a cemetery in Baquba on Friday night . . . Police in Baquba sent the bodies of 10 unidentified people, including a woman, to the city’s morgue on Friday . . . Gunmen assassinated tribal sheikh Sattar al-Khadran, the leader of the Bayati tribe in Zuhra village, along with a companion just north of Baquba . . .’
The long-awaited “reconciliation conference” was finally held in the Green Zone on Saturday, with 200 Iraqis of various persuasions present. But the Sunni guerrillas were not represented, and even most Sunni Arab parties were not there. Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the Baathist guerrilla leaders, who were not invited, are saying that al-Maliki has gone back on his earlier promises to them. Al-Hayat says that the Association of Muslim Scholars (hardline Sunnis), the Congress of the Iraqi People of Adnan Dulaimi (fundamentalist Sunnis), and Salih Mutlak’s Dialogue Front (ex-Baath secularists) all boycotted. Moreover, opposition figures living abroad, who had been invited, mostly declined to come. And Muqtada al-Sadr, the young Shiite clerical leader, turned down an invitation. So it doesn’t sound to me as though this conference will amount to anything.
The Baathists were miffed and said that the conference “does not concern them.” Guerrilla leader Abu Wisam al-Jash’ami told al-Hayat that he thought he had an agreement with al-Maliki, that the PM would ask parliament to debate the question of debaathification. Instead, al-Maliki foreclosed the debate by just asking parliament to consider abolishing the debaathification law. (Most Sunni Arabs had a connection to the Baath Party, which has been used by triumphant Shiites and Kurds to throw them out of government and military service.)
Al-Hayat also says that Secretary of State Condi Rice has sent envoys to the major Arab countries informing them that Washington will not talk with Syria about Iraq (with the quid pro quo that Damascus gets a free hand in Lebanon), and will not talk to Iran (with the quid pro quo that they get a pass on the nuclear research program).
Neith Bush nor Maliki knows what any successful diplomat knows, which is that you have to talk to your enemies if you are to succeed. Well, you could theoretically crush them, but that isn’t what is happening. In fact, I think crushing them is impossible short of use of WMD. Even Bush won’t do that.
People around Bush are said to have severe questions about Maliki, but don’t see a viable alternative. What they tend to mean by such questions is that they want him to turn on his political base, the Sadr Movement, and crush the Mahdi Army. It is not clear that he could do that with the Shiite 5th Division if he wanted to– they might defect rather than fight fellow Shiites. And, they don’t have much in the way of armored vehicles or high tech fire power. But given that the Sadrists elected him, why would he want to do that in the first place? When they say there are no plausible alternatives, it means they’ve decided that Vice President Adil Abdul Mahdi of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, al-Maliki’s main rival, is for some reason (his closeness to Iran?) unacceptable.
Solomon Moore of the LA Times describes how the Iraqi school system has been caught in the crossfire in Iraq’s increasingly vicious civil war.
Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily report on the violence, rape, and abduction to which women are exposed. The article also has some interesting comments by women members of parliament (85 of 275 are women) about how their voices go unheard inside and outside of the legislature.
Michael Moss of the NYT examines the deficiencies in the Iraqi court system, which appear to be manifold.
Laura Bush wants the ‘good news’ from Iraq to be reported, especially about the “schools opening.” Actually, Laura, the schools in Iraq were open every day until March 19, 2003. Iraqis at one point had 95 percent literacy, before the US/UN sanctions of the 1990s. They didn’t need the Bush administration to open schools for them, they needed the Americans to stop strangling them on the pretext that Saddam hadn’t destroyed his WMD, which the professionals knew he had.
The US military has a new manual on counter-insurgency, which sounds like the opposite of most of what we’ve been doing. Why didn’t they have one of those left over from ‘Nam? Why keep having to reinvent the wheel?