Wave of Violence in Iraq Kills 62; March sees Spike in Violence; Is Fallon Fall Guy for McCain?

AP reports that political violence left 42 dead across Iraq on Tuesday, including the bombing of a bus near Nasiriya in the south. Actually, McClatchy reports 62 dead if you count the 20 bodies found in a mass grave near Samarra.

The wave of violence (see McClatchy below) came a day after guerrillas killed 8 US troops in one day, the highest toll since last September.

AP says that its statistics show that an average of 26 persons a day were killed in Iraq in political violence in February. In the first half of March, the average has been 39 killed each day. AP’s count is low, but if we are comparing trend lines over the past year, that does not matter. The point is that the graph is up.

These numbers were up from an average of 20 a day in January, which was a low mark in recent times. In spring of 2007, an average of 65 people were being killed daily.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates denied Tuesday that the abrupt resignation of Admiral William Fallon as CENTCOM commander indicates an imminent war against Iran. I think Gates’s denial is credible. There is no sign of an American war on Iran, which would involve key positioning of warships, materiel and troops. There is no congressional mandate for such a thing, despite the non-binding Kyl-Lieberman resolution in the senate. A provocation is not out of the question, but it would be a risky move in an election year and could easily backfire on the Republican Party (ask Aznar in Spain).

My guess is that the real reason for moving Fallon out is not Iran but Iraq, and that he is being made to step down for the same reason that Donald Rumsfeld was. He does not agree with the long-term troop escalation or ‘surge’ in Iraq. He doesn’t believe that counter-insurgency will work in Iraq in the medium term. And as an admiral, he has his eye on potential trouble spots such as Taiwan and North Korea, and is frustrated that the hands of the US are tied as long as it is bogged down in the Iraq quagmire.

Having such a big dissenter as CENTCOM commander is inconvenient for the Republican Party at a time when John McCain is admitting that if he fails to convince the American people that the surge is succeeding, he will lose the presidency. That is, Fallon may have run afoul not of Cheney on Iran but McCain on Iraq. This may be Bush’s first favor to the Republican nominee, who after all had a career as a naval officer himself.

Speaking of McCain, my column on the ways he is becoming a Bush clone is now available in Salon.com: “John McCain runs for George Bush’s third term: Based on his policies and the company he keeps, this year’s Republican presidential candidate sounds a lot like the guy who ran in 2000 and 2004. “

McClatchy reports details of political violence in Iraq on Tuesday:

‘ Baghdad

Around 4:30 a.m. gunmen attacked the juveniles’ prison in Tobchi neighborhood in west Baghdad injuring three policemen, three prisoners and releasing five prisoners.

An Iraqi soldier was injured in an IED explosion that targeted his convoy in Mansour neighborhood in west Baghdad on Tuesday morning.

Around 8:05 a.m. an IED exploded on airport road in west Baghdad. No casualties were reported.

A member of the local council of Yousifiyah town was killed and eight other members were injured when an IED exploded inside the building of Yousifiyah town local council south of Baghdad around 1:00 p.m.

Police found five unidentified bodies in Baghdad . . .

Kirkuk

A policeman was injured when an IED exploded that targeted a police patrol in al Askari neighborhood in downtown Kirkuk city on Tuesday morning.

Three policemen were wounded in an IED explosion that targeted emergency police patrol in al Tis’een neighborhood in downtown Kirkuk city Monday evening.

A policeman was injured when an IED exploded on Kirkuk- Riyadh Street on Monday evening.

The head of Sahwa [Awakening] council of Abbasi district Odeh Khalaf Zidan was injured when an IED exploded targeting his convoy west of Kirkuk city.

Nineveh

The assistant of Mosul University Dr. Mowaffaq Yahya survived an assassination attempt when gunmen using machineguns attacked him in al Hadba’a neighborhood downtown Mosul city on Tuesday morning.

Iraqi police said a US patrol killed one insurgent and injured another militant while they were trying to plant an IED in al Ektisadyeen neighborhood in downtown Mosul city on Tuesday afternoon.

Clashes broke out between Iraqi police and insurgents in al Mithaq neighborhood in east Mosul on Tuesday afternoon. Four insurgents were killed, two civilians were injured and four Iraqi policemen were killed.

Nasiriyah

At least 14 civilians were killed and 18 others were injured when an IED exploded, targeting their bus near al Battha military base on Nasiriyah . . .

Salahuddin

Five people were killed including three members of awakening council (Sahwa) and eight others were injured including three policemen when a suicide car bomb attacked a joint check point of police and awakening members in Thulo’iyah town south of Tikrit on Tuesday afternoon.

Police found a mass grave yard containing the corpses of 20 people including three children and some women . . . in al Jlam area 13 miles east of Samara city on Tuesday morning. . .

Wasit

Clashes broke out between the security forces and members of Mahdi army in many neighborhoods of Kut city south of Baghdad, Wasit province security operations room said. The source said that 8 people were killed in the clashes . . . ‘

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