36 Dead in Baghdad Bombing; 23,000 Civilians Killed in 07;

After having celebrated New Year’s Eve in style for the first time since 2002, Baghdad awoke on the first of the year to bad news. In a signature tactic of the Salafi Jihadis in Iraq, a suicide bomber detonated his payload at a Shiite commemoration for the departed in Zayouna, a mixed neighborhood of east Baghdad, killing 36 and wounding dozens. The first chapter of the Qur’an was being recited for Nabil Hussein Jasim, a retired Lt. Colonel, who had himself been killed in a suicide bombing at Tayaran Square on Dec. 28, which had killed 14 persons. Killing people and then bombing their funerals or commemoration ceremonies has been a frequently used method of terror for Sunni Arab guerrillas. After all, what a terrorist wants is a crowd that is distracted where a stranger would not stand out. Funerals fit the bill, and it is easy to arrange for there to be a funeral, they just whack someone. Killing a retired officer has the bonus for the terrorist that other officers and police officials will probably attend his funeral, where they can be bombed. (That happened here.) The bombing underlined the truth of the warnings recently issued by Gen. David Petraeus that the path to social peace in Iraq would be long, hard and uneven. You kind of wish that the more rightwing sections of the American press had his realism.

The Iraq Body Count reports:

‘ Another 22,586–24,159 civilian deaths have been recorded in 2007 through Iraq Body Count’s extensive monitoring of media and official reports. . . These figures . . . show beyond any doubt that civil security in Iraq remains in a parlous state. Figures for the most recent months indicate that violence in Iraq has returned to the monthly levels IBC was recording in 2005, a year which was itself (until 2006) the worst since the invasion . . .

Reuters gives us a cautionary tale about one of those “Awakening Councils” among the Sunni Arabs, which even the Sadr Movement is afraid will turn into ethnic militias as the Americans leave:

‘BUHRIZ – Police arrested Thamir al-Akkash, a member of neighbourhood patrols in Diyala province, after they discovered he was still helping al Qaeda militants, Diyala police chief Major-General Ghanim al-Qureyshi said. Akkash was arrested in the town of Buhriz, 60 km (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad.’

So how many of the other 70,000 still have ties to the Salafi Jihadis?

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that in Dur, the US arrested Baathists connected to Izzat Ibrahim Duri a former high official in the Saddam Hussein regime who now heads the main Baathist cell. Baathists throughout the Sunni Arab regions commemorated the death of Saddam Hussein on Monday.

Sawt al-Iraq reports in Arabic that a threatened strike by the Teachers Union has been averted for the moment. The union suspended strike calls after receiving assurances from the Iraqi government that it would study their demands, which include higher salaries.