Assassinations of High Officials; 36 Killed, Wounded in Baghdad; Iraqiya Rebuffs al-Maliki

Signs that things weren’t that calm in Baghdad on Wednesday: Guerrillas assassinated Colonel Abdul Kareem Muhsin, the director of the protection department in the ministry of transportation, in East Baghdad.

An attempted assassination by car bomb of an Iraqi court judge who has his seat in Abu Ghraib left him severely wounded.

Then “Four civilians were injured in a bomb explosion in Beirut intersection in east Baghdad around 8:00 a.m.”; and “Three civilians were killed and nine others wounded in a parked car bomb near Sa’a restaurant in Mansour neighborhood in west Baghdad around 3:00 p.m.”; and “Four civilians were wounded in a parked car bomb in Harthiyah, part of Mansour neighborhood in west Baghdad around 3:00 p.m.”

Police found five bodies in the streets of the capital.

In al-Obeid near Sadr City,, militiamen hit a US convoy with a roadside bomb, prompting US retaliation, which left 11 militiamen dead.

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, on Wednesday regretted the attack earlier this week in Kadhimiya on Iranian embassy personnel in Iraq. He said that such an attack is an assault on “the new Iraq.” The Iraqi ambassador in Tehran visited the wounded and expressed his hopes for more cooperation between the two countries. Gee, they don’t sound to me as though they are worried about Iranian influence in Iraq.

At the same time, Iraqi army troops moved into the southern edges of Sadr City. They did so by agreement with Mahdi Army militiamen, who faded away and promised not to maintain heavy weaponry. In return, the al-Maliki government gave representations that US troops would not come into the slum. Apparently Bush hasn’t actually won hearts and minds. It is not envisaged that the troops will go beyond the southern corner. This geography suggests that the main goal of the operation is to keep the Green Zone from being subjected to mortar fire from nearby Sadr City, as was happening in March. I wonder how many of the troops being sent in are actually drawn from the Mahdi Army, from which al-Maliki recruited a lot of soldiers in 2006.

The US military is saying that violent attacks are down 85 percent in Mosul. But this conflict is a guerrilla war, so wouldn’t you expect guerrilla forces melt away when conventional ones confront them? Al-Maliki’s “campaign” in Mosul appears to have involved not one major battle with the enemy. So the guerrillas are lying low for the moment. So what? Can al-Maliki keep his conventional forces in Mosul at that strength for a long time? Can they actually win a battle if they have to fight one? When will the guerrillas begin striking again?

And, how significant is it that al-Maliki just hired 5,000 former Baath troops, putting them back into the army? Are things quieter in Mosul because the guerrillas are now being paid off?
If so, all well and good; but then it isn’t exactly a measure of military prowess on al-Maliki’s part.

The other thing you wonder about is whether $130 a barrel petroleum has finally given al-Maliki the financial superiority over his enemies to begin bribing them and the rest of the population. That is after all the way it is done in oil states. But, last I knew, al-Maliki was declining to spend what must be increasingly impressive reserves.

Apparently the provincial elections scheduled for October have had to be postponed to November because the Iraqi parliament hasn’t been able to get it together to pass an elections law. If Bush was hoping to give McCain a bounce with the good news story of these provincial elections, he can probably forget about it. The upside? At least the papers won’t be reporting that Muqtada al-Sadr took over most of the provinces in the Shiite South.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that negotiations are ongoing between the (Sunni fundamentalist) Iraqi Accord Front and the government of Nuri al-Maliki about their coming back into the government. The negotiations are said to be not far from success, though the cabinet suggestions of one of the three components of the IAF, that of Khalaf al-`Ulyan, have been rejected by al-Maliki and his Da`wa (Islamic Mission) Party.

Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that, in contrast, the Iraqiya List has refused another invitation to come back into the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, according to MP Usama al-Nujayfi. He said that the party, which has 19 seats in parliament (and includes former interim PM Iyad Allawi) does not consider the overtures serious. Instead, The Iraqiya List is exploring a coalition with a set of opposition parties, including Fadhila (the Islamic Virtue Party), the Sadr Movement, Khalaf al-`Ulyan’s Dialogue Council, and the Arab Dialogue Front of Salih Mutlak.

Those talks have been going on forever, and it is a little difficult to imagine such a coalition of secular, Sunni fundamentalist and Shiite fundamentalist parties lasting for more than a day or so even if they managed to strike an agreement.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the Iraqi government wants to conduct a census in Iraq, preferably before the November provincial elections. It argues that the security situation would now permit it, and that it would increase the legitimacy and transparency of the provincial elections.

One problem is that it is not clear that the security situation really would allow a proper census. And, those 4 million displaced persons will be a challenge to count. Another problem is that the census requires enabling legislation, and the parliament isn’t exactly quick on the draw.

McClatchy reports political violence in Iraq beyond Baghdad for Wednesday:

‘ Diyala

Gunmen attacked a checkpoint in Sheikh Baba district, part of jalawla northeast of Baquba city killing four Kurdish security members known as (Asayish). The Asayish forces attacked al Shawathib area in the same district and arrested 15 young men. Two hours later, the bodies of two of the 15 young men were found while no information provided about the others.

An Iraqi army force raided al Gobba area northeast of Baquba. The force arrested three suspects and found a weapon cache in a mosque of Qaida supporters.

Iraqi army found two mass grave yards in al Abbara area south of Baquba city. The first grave included three corpses while the second grave included seven corpses.

Nineveh

Gunmen kidnapped 12 members of the rapid respond near al Ba’aj village southwest of Mosul city on Monday night killing eleven of them and injuring the last soldier in his leg.

Anbar

A member of Sahwa was killed and three others were injured in a suicide attack done by a suicide woman wearing an explosive vest. The woman attacked one of the headquarters of Sahwa councils in the center of Rutba city 280 miles west of Baghdad on Wednesday morning. ‘

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