Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that four female suicide bombers killed or wounded 350 persons on Monday. Late reports give 61 as the number of those killed. Al-Hayat says the bombings reminded Iraqis of the bad old days when this level of destruction was a common, almost daily occurrence.
The bombing of an enormous crowd of thousands of Kurds in Kirkuk protesting the recent provincial election bill, which would have evenly divided political representation among Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs, was blamed by a prominent Kurdish figure on the Turkmen. Rumors flew that the crowd had been fired on from a Turkmen building, though police denied them. Then angry Kurds attacked Turkmen political party HQs throughout the city.
Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that the speaker of the Iraqi parliament, Mahmud al-Mashhadani, fainted in the middle of the parliamentary debate on the events in Kirkuk. He had fainted the day before, as well, but had insisted on leaving the hospital to come back to work. Sunni fundamentalist MP Khalaf al-Ulyan of the Iraqi Accord Front alleged that someone had poisoned al-Mashhadani after parliament passed the provincial elections bill (he was implying that Kurdish MPs were trying to murder their Sunni Arab colleagues on the floor of parliament. So much for “reconciliation.”)
The bombing in Kirkuk killed at least 23 and wounded 150.
Just logically speaking, it appears that these four bombings were planned out by elements of the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement, which has tighter command and control than is usually realized. Given this modus operandi on this day, it would be odd if the bombing in Kirkuk were done independently by Turkmen.
McClatchy presents a connected account of the bombings in Karrada, Baghdad and in Kirkuk. Vali Nasr is quoted, “People wrote the requiem for sectarian conflict and AQI too rapidly,” said Dr. Vali Nasr, of the Council on Foreign Relations. . .”In the absence of a final settlement, the country is always vulnerable to regression, and we still may end up back where we were.”
Guerrillas in Iraq set off three bombs one after another on Monday morning, targeting Shiite pilgrims on their way to the Shrine of Imam Musa al-Kadhim in Kadhimiya, north Baghdad, to commemorate his death. They killed at least 11 persons and wounded some 33. The bombings on this Shiite holy day are an unwelcome reminder that Sunni-Shiite sectarian tensions remain high in Baghdad and that Sunni Arab guerrillas are still attempting to provoke sectarian feuding as a way of destabilizing the situation. All this, despiteIraqi police attempts to forestall such attacks. On Sunday, Sunni Arab guerrillas shot down seven Shiite pilgrims as they passed through a Sunni area on their way to Kadhimiya, according to AP (though the report has been questioned). Imam Musa al-Kadhim is the 7th in the line of close relatives of the Prophet Muhammad who, Shiites, believe, were his rightful vicars.
The Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and its paramilitary, the Badr Organization, had split on the provisions regarding power sharing in Kirkuk in the bill that was vetoed. ISCI official Ammar al-Hakim said that compromise language in the original draft, on which the Kurds had signed off, had been altered at the last minute.
Al-Hakim also told al-Hayat, “Iraq needs to regulate its relations with the United States, as a state that has a special position regarding the presence of its forces in Iraq.” Apparently he means that it is a pressing matter to pass a Status of Forces Agreement.
In a remarkable convergence, two journalists come to similar conclusions today about the situation in Iraq. One, Ned Parker of the LA Times, is on the ground in Baghdad. The other, Bob Dreyfuss, writes from Washington, D.C.
“Despite the gains, the political horizon is clouded: Shiite Muslim parties are locked in dangerous rivalries across central and southern Iraq. Kurds and Arabs in the north compete for land with no resolution in sight. U.S.-backed Sunni Arab fighters who turned on the group Al Qaeda in Iraq could return to the insurgency if the government does not deliver jobs and a chance to join the political process. Bombings, assassinations and kidnappings still occur almost daily. And those out enjoying Baghdad’s night life feel safe only because they are staying inside their own districts in a city transformed into a patchwork of enclaves after years of sectarian violence.”
Parker, with the support of colleagues Saif Hameed, Saif Rasheed, Caesar Ahmed and Said Rifai and “a correspondent in Basra” (i.e. Basra is still too dangerous to do journalism in public), provides a tour of the situation in Sadr City, Mosul, Adhamiya and Basra. In each case he finds it improved but precarious.
Legendary difficulties beset journalists attempting to tell a nuanced story (“things are a bit better but not all that better and besides, they could deteriorate easily”), which is much harder than just parroting that “the surge worked.” Parker and his colleagues are to be congratulated for making this attempt to get beyond the political talking points.
Gunmen injured Abdul Hadi al Jaza’iri, an official in the Baghdad Operation Command, while he was driving his car in al Rasheed Street in south Baghdad at 2 p.m. Three civilians were injured when a Katyusha rocket slammed into al Jamia’a neighborhood in west Baghdad. Six stores were damaged by the explosion.
Wire services reported that seven Shiite pilgrims were killed in Mada’in town south of Baghdad while they were coming towards the holy shrine in Kadhemiyah neighborhood on Sunday morning. Officials in the Ministry of Interior and the local council of Mada’in told McClatchy Newspapers that the incident did not occur.
Two Iraqi soldiers, one of which was a captain, were killed in a roadside bomb which targeted an Iraq army patrol in Kirkuk north of Baghdad on Sunday morning.
A civilian was injured in a roadside bomb in al Hussein neighborhood in west Basra, south of Baghdad on Sunday morning.
Seven Iraqi soldiers were wounded in a roadside bomb that targeted a convoy of the Iraqi army in Baladroz, east of Baquba around 11 a.m. Two Government guards protecting oil ministry facilities were killed in a bombing that targeted them as they road their bicycles to work. The explosion occurred in the town of Buhruz, south of Baquba city on Sunday morning.
A policeman and two children were injured when insurgents attacked Abo Khamees police station south of Baquba city around 12:30 p.m. The insurgents also blew up two houses during the attack, police said.
Anbar Two IEDs exploded inside the house of Zaki Obid, a member of the local council of Fallujah in Anbar province. The first IED exploded in the garden of Obid’s house in al Thobbat neighborhood in downtown Fallujah city caused no casualties.
The second IED was attached to Obid’s car. Two of Obid’s guards were killed and two others wounded. Zaki Obid and his son were injured seriously and they were moved to one of Baghdad’s hospitals.
Two Iraqi soldiers including an officer were killed and three other soldiers were injured when a joint force of the Iraqi army and the US army clashed with insurgents in the Makhmour district southeast of Mosul city. The joint force raided al Jdaida village in the district after getting information about insurgents in the area. . .’
Kabul Pajhwok Afghan News says that Afghan National Police and ISAF (NATO) units surrounded the guerrillas, calling in air strikes and helicopter gunships. When guerrillas ran into a building to take cover, helicopters destroyed it with missiles. The fighting went on into the early hours of Sunday. A “small number” of ANP officers were killed.
There is a discrepancy here with Jang, which said that it was the Afghan army, not ANP, that riposted, and said that Afghan aircraft were flown in the counter-attack.
This incident was a sign of bad guerrilla tactics on the part of the Pushtun guerrillas. You can’t launch conventional attacks and try to take and hold territory when your enemy is extremely powerful and controls the air. On the other hand, it is not a good sign that the Afghan police in the area could not fight off 100 guys by themselves.
The attack on Spera comes just a week after guerrillas took Arjistan, 150 mi. south of the capital of Kabul, from which US & NATO & Afghan forces dislodged them on Wednesday.
There was also a suicide bombing at Khost.
This news underlines Barack Obama’s comments on Sunday, in AP’s words: “In his first public appearance since returning to the United States, Barack Obama says Afghanistan’s weak government and rampant drug trafficking are hampering efforts to fight al-Qaida terrorists who often take refuge in neighboring Pakistan.”
On Saturday, Edak tribesmen blocked the Bannu-Miranshah road in FATA, protesting the lack of flour. The American public should be alarmed to hear that like 15 percent of Pakistanis blame the US for their wheat shortage.
Meanwhile, The Pakistani government took back on Sunday an announcement made Saturday that Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistani military intelligence, had been put under the control of the civilian ministry of the interior. A clarification today said that the feared ISI, which is accused of using the neo-Taliban against Afghanistan, remains under the authority of the prime minister. That restatement might imply in turn that it remains under the control of the military, who supposedly report to the PM but actually dictate military policy to him.
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that a controversy is raging in the Iraqi parliament about the veto exercised by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani against a bill passed last week enabling elections in the fall. MP and former court judge Wael Abd al-Latif of the State Party charged that the veto was “unconstitutional.” He said that when a bill is vetoed, it has to go back to parliament for another vote, and needs a 3/5s majority to overturn the veto. Abd al-Latif also pointed to the constitution’s requirement that the presidential council act through consensus. In this case, Talabani and Adel Abdul Mahdi vetoed the bill while their colleague, the other vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, was out of town! He should have been consulted about appointing a proxy to vote for him but was not.
A member of the Sunni fundamentalist Iraqi Accord Front, Khalaf al-Ulyan, called for Talabani to be removed from the presidency, on the grounds that his veto derived from ethnic solidarity rather than from a concern to act on behalf of the entire Iraqi nation. On Saturday, Talabani consulted with Massoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Regional Government, on the crisis. The bill had contained a provision apportioning power in Kirkuk province equally among Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds, while Kurds claim to be the majority there.
Al -Zaman reports in Arabic that female member of parliament on the Sadrist list, Maha al-Duri, charged that the Kurdistan Alliance and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq have a secret alliance whereby they outmaneuver other parties in their quest to impose a very loose form of federalism on Iraq. The Sadrists want a strong central government and the end of US military surveillance in Iraq.
‘ Our success in Afghanistan is going to be deeply dependent not just on getting more troops there, which we need, but also some sustained high-level engagement with Pakistan—something that I discussed before but I think is significantly more urgent than even I had imagined. Basically there doesn’t appear to be any pressure at all being placed on Al Qaeda, on these training camps, these safe havens, in the FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas].’
Although there have been cease-fires between the Pakistani military and FATA militants at certain points and with regard to some groups (and as part of political negotiations), the Pakistani military took on tribal forces in Khyber recently and it is not fair to say that nothing is being done. Hundreds of Pakistani troops have died fighting the tribes and al-Qaeda in recent years. In his Berlin speech Obama also talked about terror training camps “in Karachi.” None existed to my knowledge. Karachi is a stronghold of the secular MQM. There is lots to criticize about the Pakistani government, but this level of animus and misinformation is odd and you have to wonder where it is coming from.
Pakistani Taliban are attacking Shiites. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has called on Pakistani Shiites to rally to the support of their brethren in Parachinar, who say that they have been interfering with Taliban infiltration of neighboring Afghanistan.
Remember how the US Pentagon kept claiming that Shiite Iran was helping the Taliban? Fairy tales for children courtesy Cheney.