3 More US Troops Killed
Violence in Iraq at ‘All Time High’
The deaths of three more US troops at the hands of Sunni Arab guerrillas were announced on Monday.
Iraq violence is at an all-time high since the US “turned over sovereignty” to an Iraqi government June 28, 2004. USA Today writes, “The Pentagon says injuries and deaths among U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq rose 32% during the period from mid-August to mid-October over the previous three months. Both the average number of attacks each week and the average number of people killed or wounded in those attacks were at their highest levels since the United States handed over power to the Iraqi government in June 2004.”
What the report does not say is that this period coincides with a major US military operation, “Together Forward” intended to restore security in the capital, involving sweeps of Sunni Arab and some Shiite neighborhoods. That is to say, the operation not only did not make things better, things got worse during it. The military beefed up the US troop contingent in Baghdad significantly for the operation, including moving 3,700 troops down from Mosul. It is this sort of thing that convinces me that an extra 20,000 troops for Iraq is not going to make a difference.
The American public doesn’t need any convincing. Only 11 percent believe it is a good idea to send more troops to Iraq.
Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani says that Iraq will let bids to develop 60 oil fields to foreign companies.
Reuters reports political violence in Iraq on Monday. Among the more important items:
‘ * BAGHDAD – Police found 44 bodies in various parts of Baghdad over the past 24 hours, an Interior Ministry source said. . .
BAGHDAD – A car bomb at the entrance of a wholesale vegetable market killed five people and wounded 19 in the southern Saidiya district of Baghdad, police said. A car bomb at a wholesale vegetable market in southern Doura district wounded seven people, police said. . . .
BAGHDAD – Gunmen killed a woman and wounded two when they attacked a group of female staff at the Ministry of Education in Amil district in southwestern Baghdad, police said. . .
BAGHDAD – Gunmen who kidnapped about 30 people at a Red Crescent office in Baghdad on Sunday have freed
17 hostages, Mazen Abdullah, secretary general of the Iraqi Red Crescent, said on Monday. The group suspended operations in Baghdad. . .
MOSUL – Gunmen killed Khaireddine al-Dabagh, a member of the city council in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. . .
SAMARRA – Gunmen kidnapped police Captain Nihad Khalid, head of emergency police in Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad, after storming his house, police said. A curfew was imposed afterwards in the city. . . ‘
There have been battles between US forces and local guerrillas in Ramadi and Tikrit in the past week, which were generally not reported at the time.
The NYT says that the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement’s tactic of cutting Baghdad off from electricity and fuel is working.
Aiham Samaraie, former electricity minister accused of massive embezzlement, escaped from jail in Iraq on Monday.
Jonathan Steele points out that it is unfair to blame Iraqis for the chaos unleashed by the Anglo-American invasion.
Saudi accusations that Iran has created a Shiite state within a state in Iraq are not plausible. If fair numbers of Iranian Revolutionary Guards were active in Iraq, they would be being captured by the US and Britain, which have 10,000 or so prisoners at any one time. As I understand it, the number of Iranians in custody is minimal. Also, Iraqi Shiites are often Iraqi and Arab nationalists, and won’t put up with Iranian dominance as opposed to Iranian friendship. The Sadrists are now the major political orientation in the Shiite South, according to my sources, and the Sadrist tradition is hostile to Iranian dominance.
Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that Shaikh Abdul Aziz, the guide of the Islamic Movement in Kurdistan is in Tehran for consultations. He asked his Iranian hosts to intervene with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to have him issue a legal ruling or fatwa condemning sectarian violence against Sunni Arabs in Baghdad. The shaikh reported that the Iranians asked him to help them open channels of communication with the hardline Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars and other Sunni groups, so as to foster a dialogue between them and Iran. Asked what his position was on this Iranian request, he replied that he and his group are unconvinced of its sincerity as along as Iran is funding Shiite death squads against the Sunni Arabs.
Newsweek misleadingly reports ‘a booming economy’ in Iraq. Iraq’s is a war economy, and some sectors have benefitted from the end of the old regime and of international sanctions. So there is construction, sure. And a lot of used cars and consumer goods have been imported (that is not actually necessarily a good thing). People talk on cell phones. But no new factories have been founded. There is no evidence of increased productivity. Inflation is up to 53 percent. The professional middle class is fleeing in droves, so that soon there won’t be any physicians left. Electricity and fuel are scarce. Unemployment is probably 50 to 60 percent. Saying that this economy is “flourishing” (outside Kurdistan) is like saying that the US economy was “flourishing” during the Great Depression of the 1930s. There was construction going on then, too, quite a lot of it. Iraq’s economy is different insofar as it functions in the midst of a civil war. War economies create pockets of wealth and activity. When a fourth to a half of your workers are unemployed, no one cares.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports in Arabic that middle class Iraqis are quitting their jobs, selling their houses and furniture, and lining up at travel agents to get tickets out of the “inferno of violence” that is Iraq. It tells the story of an Iraqi government employee who paid $100 for a tourist visa to Egypt, where he hopes eventually to get a work permit and to acquire Egyptian nationality. He has given up on Iraq altogether. Hundreds of Iraqis fly to Cairo every week. Thousands leave the country for Jordan and Syria every month.
British Conservative Party leader David Cameron is making more sense on Iraq and the Middle East than I’ve heard in a long time. He admits that the Iraq situation has become such a mess that it endangers Britain’s security. He admits that it is fomenting terrorism against the UK. He admits that Britain should be less obsequious toward Bush. And he urges a new diplomatic push where Britain engages with and listens to the countries of the region in formulating policy. From *our* supposed conservatives we get idiotic and un-conservative ideas like “controlled chaos” and “surges”. Cameron still hasn’t come out against the war per se, but his comments are canny. He is clearly someone to watch.
King Abdullah II of Jordan looks at Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq and fears that ‘we could be facing 3 civil wars’.
Tensions are running high in eastern Turkey where the Kurds predominate, given renewed militancy by the Kurdish Workers Party, PKK. The PKK is being given safe haven by Iraqi Kurds, and if Iraq breaks up it could throw the whole region into war.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan warned that a break-up of Iraq “would increase the level of civil war.”
This petition started by prominent leftists demands an immediate US military withdrawal from Iraq.
Larisa Alexandrova has started AtLargely.com, a web site for investigative journalism.