Talabani, Hakim Reject Int’l Conference
9 GIs Killed
The US military announced that Sunni Arab guerrillas have killed 9 GIs in Baghdad and al-Anbar over the weekend.
AP also reports that President Jalal Talabani, Foreign Minister Barham Salih, and leader of the United Iraqi Alliance Abdul Aziz al-Hakim have all rejected United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s call for an international conference on Iraq. Talabani said, “We are an independent and a sovereign nation and it is we who decide the fate of the nation . . .”
If Talabani can decide the fate of Iraq, he should please go ahead and do it. It looks pretty out of control to the rest of us, and we don’t think he’s in a position to turn down Annan’s offer of help. In fact there is something sinister about the top Kurdish and Shiite leaders rejecting an international conference that might help stop the Night of the Living Dead. Basically, they seem to be saying that they’ve come out on top and are happy with the status quo, and aren’t interested in compromise or negotiation.
Consider the first item in today’s entry. It is the lives of those 9 American GI’s that give Talabani and al-Hakim the option of rejecting the international conference.
‘ BBC: Is it civil war?
Kofi Annan: I think, given the level of violence, the level of killing and bitterness and the way that forces are arranged against each other. A few years ago, when we had the strife in Lebanon and other places, we called that a civil war. This is much worse. ‘
Annan is right, of course. Historians think that between 80,000 and 100,000 Lebanese were killed in the Civil War of 1975-1989, 20,000 of them during Israel’s 1982 invasion. The death toll in Iraq since March, 2003, has likely been at least 420,000. Even the recent figure announced by the Ministry of Health in Iraq, of 150,000 Iraqis killed by Sunni Arab guerrillas or “insurgents,” is larger than that for Lebanon (and it does not count those killed by the US military and by the Shiite militias).
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that secular Sunni politician Salih Mutlak, leader of the National Dialogue Front (11 seats in parliament) supports Annan’s proposal for an international conference. Al-Zaman reports that Mutlak has formed a new coalition in parliament that will include the Shiite Sadr Movement. It will stand for the unity of Iraq and a withdrawal of US troops. It excludes the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Da`wa Party, the two mainstays of the current government. The bloc will be announced in the coming days. Gunmen had attempted to assassinate Mutlak on Saturday.
Reuters reports political violence in Iraq on Sunday. Major attacks include:
‘ MOSUL – Six bodies were found in and around Mosul . . . All had gunshot wounds.
MOSUL – A suicide car bomb exploded near a police patrol in Mosul, killing two and wounding four . . .
BAGHDAD – A mortar round landed on a secondary school, wounding 10 students in Bab al-Muadham district in north-central Baghdad . . .
NEAR KIRKUK – A suicide bomber blew up a car near the convoy of a senior police officer, killing three of his guards and wounding two others near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, police said. The police officer was wounded in the incident. . . ‘
There were also significant battles in Baquba and Ramadi between US forces and Sunni Arab guerrillas.
Iraq’s reconstituted Baath Party, led by Izzat Ibrahim Duri from the Mosul area, is rejecting pressure from Arab states to negotiate with the Americans. The Baath is probably a majority of the effective resistance in Sunni Arab Iraq. The foreign jihadis or “al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia,” are a relatively minor part of it all, though they can be destructive. That is, the refusal of the Baathis to talk is bad news indeed.
Hamza Hendawi of AP reports on the way that Baghdad’s neighborhoods are de facto being ethnically cleansed. Shiites are leaving majority-Sunni districts like Dora in droves. The Tigris, which runs through the capital, is becoming the de facto Sunni-Shiite border. (One big problem is that Shiite Kadhimiya and Sunni Adhamiya are on the wrong sides of the river and so are being left high and dry.)
My NPR interview on Sunni and Shiite Islam in history and in Iraq can be listened to at the Weekend Edition site.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports in Arabic that Iraq has become a major smuggling route for drugs coming from Afghanistan and elsewhere in Asia. They go from there to the Gulf and thence to Europe. Iraqi officials say that they lack the capability of blocking the smuggling or controlling their borders. Being a smuggling route can be a hazard to a population. Pakistan ended up with over a million heroin addicts after it became a favored such route.