Bombing of Yazidis; Summit Fizzles

Local officials in the two villages of of Al-Qataniyah and Al-Adnaniyah in northern Iraq (not far from Mosul) maintained Wednesday morning that 4 car bombs had killed over 200 persons and wounded a similar number. Police were expecting the death toll to rise, since many bodies are in buildings collapsed by the conflagrations. The US military said there were 5 car bombs, and gave a much lower estimate of 60 killed. On this sort of thing, I’d trust the Iraqi figures; they know when their own friends and relatives are missing.

The operation resembled the horrific bombing of the Shiite Turkmen of Armili on July 2. Note that first Shiite Turkmen were targeted and now Kurdish Yazidis. They have in common not being Sunni Arabs. My suspicion is that these bombings are not just an attempt to spread fear and intimidation, but are actually part of a struggle for control of territory. The Sunni Arab guerrillas face powerful challenges from Kurds and Shiites with regard to the future of provinces such as Ninevah, Diyala and Kirkuk. A lot of Kurdish police and troops have been deployed in Mosul not far from Tuesday’s bombings, and they are seen as among the deadliest enemies by the Sunni Arab guerrillas. Sooner or later, my guess is that the Sunni Arabs will wage a major war with the Kurds over the oil fields of Kirkuk.

The situation in Iraq is so horrific that merely bad news is drowned out by the truly awful. Thus, on Tuesday, guerrillas bombed a major bridge connecting Taji and Baghdad with the north, throwing several cars into the river and killing some 10 persons. I.e., this is a Minneapolis-scale event. But it will barely get mentioned given the massive bombings of the Yazidis.

10 US troops have been killed in the past two days, including 5 who died in a helicopter crash Tuesday. Ten. That’s worth a headline all by itself.

Likewise this story about “US raid on Shi’ite slum sparks anger on streets”. It is suspicious that the US military claims never to kill civilians in Sadr City, while the Shiites are always having funeral processions for children.

The Deputy Oil Minister and several of his aides were kidnapped at gun point by 50 men in the uniform of the Iraqi security forces on Tuesday. This incident speaks volumes about the lack of security in Baghdad still, since the deputy oil minister should have had the resources to protect himself. Iraqi sources are claiming that it was an act of criminality (i.e. they are holding him for ransom), but I am skeptical of that claim. I have no counter-evidence, it just does not sound right to me. It is more likely that this operation was a matter of sectarian rivalry or revenge, possibly between Iraqi government ministries.

The reconciliation summit called by President Jalal Talabani appears to have fizzled. According to al-Zaman, the meeting just turned into luncheon with cold cuts, and no serious work was accomplished. The leaders had decided to keep the Sadrists and the Islamic Virtue (Fadhila) Party away, since they are usually unyielding. Sunni VP Tariq al-Hashimi, declined to attend the break-out session. The Sunni Arab figures attending declined to talk politics.

McClatchy is contradicting Pentagon claims that bombings and civilian casualties are down:

U.S. officials say the number of civilian casualties in the capital is down 50 percent. But U.S. officials declined to provide specific numbers, and statistics gathered by McClatchy Newspapers don’t support the claim. The number of car bombings in July actually was 5 percent higher than the number recorded last December, according to the McClatchy statistics, and the number of civilians killed in explosions is about the same.”

You will hear the Pentagon claim about less violence (!) repeated ad nauseam on all the cable television news channels and in the major print media. You won’t hear anyone say that McClatchy’s figures dispute the claim. For more on how the surge is being spun and key indicators of rising violence are being misstated or misinterpreted, see my last Salon column.

An international labor federation has backed Iraq’s oil union and condemned Petroleum Minister Hussein Shahristani for attempting to sideline it using Baath-era laws.

Tom Englehardt considers the troop escalation in Iraq and the echoes of Vietnam in contemporary political rhetoric.

At our Global Affairs Group Blog don’t miss Barnett Rubin’s “WSJ vs. NYT: is the Afghan glass half empty or half full?”