A car bomber attacked a convoy he thought was conveying the Iraqi labor minister, Mahmoud al Radhi on Thursday, killing 13 persons and wounding 24, according to McClatchy. Al Radhi is a member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, headed by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a fundamentalist Shiite party close to the ayatollahs in Tehran. Four months ago a similar attempt was made on the life of the minister of electricity, Karim Wahid, an independent member of the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance. Earlier this month Sadrist member of parliament Salih al-`Ukayli was killed by a roadside bomb in Sadr City.
The most likely suspect in a bombing like that is a Sunni Arab guerrilla cell, either Baathist or fundamentalist vigilante. The bombing shows that while the monthly death totals for civilians have fallen, Iraq is still a very violent place.
In Mosul, there has been further violence against Christians; thousands of Christians have fled the city to nearby Christian villages as a result of attacks on them in this northern, largely Sunni Arab metropolis of 1.7 million.
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the Sadr Movement in Parliament has begun a boycott of proceedings to protest the draft security agreement negotiated by the government of PM Nuri al-Maliki. Al-Hayat also chronicles the failure of the visit to Iran of Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani, who was seeking to reassure his Iranian colleagues about the status of forces agreement. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Speaker of the House Ali Larijani, and Expediency Council head Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani all denounced the proposed agreement as a humiliation for Iraq and an infringement against it sovereignty. Larijani compared it to the agreement between the Shah of Iran and the US over troops and bases in Iran, which restricted GIs from being tried in Iranian courts. Resentments over immunity for US troops in Iran was one impetus for the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
WaPo visits Sadr City and finds a) that the Mahdi Army is still mosty in charge there and b) they are increasingly angry with the government and can barely prevent locals from attacking government forces. The only thing wrong with this perceptive (and courageous) piece is that it does not mention the ethnic cleansing of the Sunnis of West Baghdad as a major factor in the decline of civilian deaths.
Despite decreased monthly deaths, Iraqis are haunted by fear and distrust, making it difficult for shopkeepers to flourish, according to Tina Susman.
Iraqi forces took over security duties in the southern, Shiite province of Hilla. The northern reaches of this province had been Sunni Arab, but it may be that they, like so many Sunni Arabs in Baghdad, have been ethnically cleansed.
Sociologist Michael Schwartz surveys the wreckage that is Iraq. Shwartz is author of “War without End: The Iraq War in Context, just out.
The Iraq Oil Report paint just as dismal a picture.
A lot of Iraqi children have been out of school so long that it will be difficult for them to re-enter the educational system. They are a growing Lost Generation.
On the political front, US commanders are hopeful that provincial elections in Iraq will bring to power more popular, representative, and capable provincial officials, hastening the ability of the US military to withdraw from al-Anbar province.
Ahem. I said in April, 2007:
‘ Talks require a negotiating partner. The first step in Iraq must therefore be holding provincial elections. In the first and only such elections, held in January 2005, the Sunni Arab parties declined to participate. Provincial governments in Sunni-majority provinces are thus uniformly unrepresentative, and sometimes in the hands of fundamentalist Shiites, as in Diyala. A newly elected provincial Sunni Arab political class could stand in for the guerrilla groups in talks, just as Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, did in Northern Ireland.’
Iraq’s irrigation systems are in a dreadful state of disrepair, and it has been hit with a severe drought: “Ministry figures provided to Reuters on Thursday showed that Iraq expects to import 2.8 million tonnes of wheat in 2008/09, up 40 percent from the previous year. Wheat production is expected to drop 27 percent to 1.6 million tonnes.”