35 Killed in Bombings, 73 Wounded; Petraeus Leaves Iraq Better than He Found It

In Baladruz, in Diyala Province east of Baghdad, a female suicide bomber attacked a homecoming party for an Iraqi soldier just released from nearly a year of detention in a US prison in Iraq. The bombing killed 22 persons and wounded 33. The returning prisoner, Ahmad Shukri al-Tamimi, appears to have been a Shiite who was accused of fighting for Iran-backed militias. Likely he was killed by a Sunni group such as the Islamic State of Iraq or the 1920 Revolution Brigades. The bombing killed a number of high-ranking police officers in Baladruz,who were at the party. A lot of police in Diyala are Shiite because the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim won the provincial elections there in January, 2005. Diyala is though to actually have a Sunni majority.

In Baghdad, guerrillas set off 2 bombs near the passport office, killing 13 people and wounding 40, about half of them police.

Gen. David Petraeus is leaving Iraq, refusing to engage in glib talk of victory, and providing the best rationale for deploying politics to end the war I’ve heard:

‘ In a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Sunday, Petraeus said experience in Iraq shows it will take political and economic progress as well as military action to tackle increased violence in Afghanistan. “You don’t kill or capture your way out of an industrial strength insurgency,” he said.’

I hope the next president is listening.

Petraeus has great virtues as a commander, the chief of which in my view is that he genuinely cares about people. He really, really wanted to stop shoppers in bazaars from being blown to bits, and by God if he didn’t in fact cut down on that sort of thing. He is too smart to think the ‘surge’ did it all, and knows that the situation is still fragile. Another of his virtues is that he understands the need to deal with people where they are. He did not try to ignore or crush the Sunnis and the Sadrists. He dealt with them. A lot of supporters of the Da`wa Party and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, both fundamentalist Shiite parties, are annoyed with him for striking those deals, because they are convinced that they can crush their enemies. And as long as the new Iraqi government has that attitude, the peace is fragile indeed.

Of course, he’s a general so you also have to expect him to act like one, i.e to kill the enemy. We won’t know for some time all the on-the-ground policies he deployed, and of course Bob Woodward intimated that he presided over a Phoenix Project-like dirty war of assassination of Sunni insurgents. My own guess is that even if such a tactic was pursued, it was the politicking that made the real difference.

Aljazeera English reports on the transition:

Iraq’s vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni, warned Monday that the current policy of the Iraqi govenment of arresting members of the Awakening Councils for past crimes risks pushing them back into the arms of the Sunni fundamentalist radicals.

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