7 US Soldiers Killed; Public Blames Iraq War for Economic Woes

5 US soldiers were killed by roadside bombs on Friday, 4 northwest of Baghdad and one in Kirkuk Province. Note that both these regions are Sunni Arab, and that it makes no sense that Shiite Iran gave explosively formed projectiles to Sunni Arab guerrillas in these areas, since they could also be deployed against Shiite troops and paramilitaries that Iran supports.

It was announced on Friday that on Tuesday, Iraqi guerrillas killed two US soldiers with an improvised bomb in Diyala Province. A third soldier was wounded.

Over two-thirds of Americans think that getting out of Iraq will help the US economy a great deal (48%) or at least somewhat (20%).

Myself, I think that is the death knell of the Iraq War and spells very bad news for John McCain. McCain’s argument is that if Iraq can be pacified, such that troops are not being killed, then there is no intrinsic objection to the US keeping bases there. But first of all, his premise is not evident, and the news of the troop deaths this week argues against complacency on that score. Besides, the public is noting an objection even in the case of no troop deaths, which is the extra expense.

If the war really is going to cost $2 trillion, they can think of other ways they’d like to spend that money, including on unemployment checks for themselves since they are afraid they are about to be fired because of the recession. Hearteningly, even after decades of Republican propaganda about the miraculous properties of “tax cuts” (mainly on their own rich selves), more Americans still think a good way to get out of the recession is for the government to spend more money on health care, education and housing than think it can all be fixed with a tax cut.

Only 28 percent think that anything Bush does is going to help them avoid economic bad times.

Since McCain is trying out for the role of Son of Bush, that is also bad news for him.

Angelina Jolie in Baghdad as a UN special envoy is lobbying for something to be done for the over 2 million internally displaced persons in Iraq. If you count the externally displaced in Syria and Jordan, it is more like 4 million.

It is the US Congress that should be funding such aid on a large scale, since it voted to let Bush invade the country in the first place. Can’t Moveon.org or someone take this campaign up? I can’t imagine the government of Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki doing anything effective about it.

Manuel Miranda has lambasted the US embassy in Baghdad for being mired in red tape and being unable to implement Bush’s policies. I would find this charge more plausible if there were any evidence that Bush has any policies other than muddling through. I’d love to know the backstory here, since some of what Miranda says sounds plausible, but given how he starts out I am very suspicious of his motives. Has he seen the writing on the wall for America in Iraq and is he setting up the State Department to take the fall rather than the Republican Party?

‘ Miranda listed several examples of what he regards as failures, ranging from “a near complete lack” of coordination with other agencies and the Iraqi government, withholding information, blaming Iraqis for all shortcomings, providing bad advice on legislative matters and wasting millions in taxpayers’ money. Among them was the repeated pushing of Iraqis to accept a flawed law governing the distribution of oil revenue, which he said would have been rejected as untenable by “any experienced international lawyer.” ‘

For more on Miranda as a serial GOP leaker, see Veracifier.

Russia seems set to write off all but about $1 billion of Iraq’s $13 bn. debt to Moscow. This step is a loss leader, and in return Russian oil firms are going to do very well in new bids let over the next few years. The Russians had commitments from Saddam to develop the West Qurna fields, and that is still a possibility. After all, there is a lot more than $12 bn. to be made in the Iraq hydrocarbon fields. China forgave $8 bn. in loans last summer and already the Iraqis are saying that it would make sense for China to develop the al-Ahdab fields.

Talks with Western oil majors, including Exxon-Mobil and Chevron on technical service agreements are set to resume in March. Hat tip to the invaluable Iraq Oil Report.

Sunni Arab members of pro-American Awakening Councils in Diyala Province have gone on strike to protest the actions of the Shiite police chief. They say he is running anti-Sunni death squads and they can’t work with him. Diyala is 60% Sunni Arab, but in the January 2005 provincial elections, the Shiite Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq won because the Sunnis boycotted the polls. This incident is an example of why provincial elections desperately need to be held if a chance for social peace is to be realized.

McClatchy reports political violence for Friday:

Bahgdad

Head of Sahwa in 14th of Ramadhan neighbourhood, Mshahda, 15 km to the north of Baghdad City was assassinated by gunmen at around 05:00 pm last night. 2 of his security detail were injured.

A mortar shell hit an orchard in Doura at 04:00 pm. No casualties were reported.

3 bodies were found in Baghdad by Iraqi Police today. 1 in Slaikh, 1 in Palestine St and 1 in Mansour.

Diyala

Clashes between Concerned Local Citizens groups, specifically 1920 Revolution Brigades and Iraqi Police in Tahrir neighbourhood, central Baquba and the town of Buhruz to the south of Baquba, no casualties were reported. The security forces have, however, imposed a curfew in both Baquba and Buhruz until further notice.

Anbar

Clashes between Anbar Police and gunmen in Andulus neighbourhood, east Fellujah resulted in the death of 1 gunman and the arrest of another and the injury of 1 policeman.

Basra

Gunmen kidnapped 4 civilians from al-Sakhra Church, Manawi Basha neighbourhood, central Basra, yesterday evening, said eye witnesses. The 4 Christians are activists in missionary work with the Norwegian Churches Organization who work out of al-Sakhra church, confirms Churches in Southern Iraq official. Basra Police deny any knowledge of the incident.’

Reuters adds:

‘ BAQUBA – Gunmen in police uniform stormed a house and killed five people including a woman and then blew up the house on Thursday in central Baquba, police said.

NEAR BAQUBA – Police found a grave containing eight bodies including three females just north of Baquba, police said.

BASRA – The body of the imam of a Sunni mosque was found on Thursday in a morgue in central Basra, 550 km (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad, the Muslim Scholars Association said in a statement.

HAWIJA – A bomb in a parked car wounded two policemen in Hawija, 70 km (45 miles) southwest of Kirkuk, police said.

MOSUL – Gunmen killed a university student in a bus terminal in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, on Thursday, police said.

BAGHDAD – U.S. forces arrested “a special groups leader” — part of a group that has splintered from Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army militia — and three others just south of Baghdad on Thursday, the U.S. military said. ‘

Check out Barnett Rubin’s important recent blog entries on Afghanistan and the narcotics problem.

At the Napoleon’s Egypt Blog, newly posted letters from Gen. Berthier on the invasion of Syria and the siege of Acre.

Check out recent essays at Tomdispatch.com, always worth reading.

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