*“BAGHDAD (Reuters) – One U.S. soldier was killed and five were wounded when an assailant fired a rocket-propelled grenade at them in the restive Iraqi town of Falluja on Thursday, the U.S. military said. It said the wounded soldiers, from the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, had been driven to a local military medical facility.”. Falluja is a little town of 30,000 west of Baghdad, where the population is Sunni and had been either pro-Saddam or Sunni fundamentalist. The local Sunni Friday prayers leader routinely attacks the US. The LA Times also reports that nasty rumors about American plans for Iraq abound in places like Falluja. The US does a bit of broadcasting of real news, but most people still don’t have electricity, or if they have it, it is only on for a couple of hours a day, so they can’t receive the broadcasts! An extra 1500 US troops were deployed at Falluja and An Nahiya on Wednesday.
*Iraq is facing a mammoth public health crisis if the Ministry of Health is not quickly reconstitued, says CARE International. The main threat is that continued lack of access by most Iraqis to clean water (because the US knocked out a lot of the electricity used for water processing plants) will produce an epidemic of diarrhea. In a country like Iraq, diarrhea is deadly and kills lots of people, especially babies and children. (It produces dehydration, which is what really does the killing). CARE noted that 125,000 babies have been born in Iraq since the war began, and none of them got a tuberculosis shot, e.g.. The LA Times is also reporting that there are large numbers of street children in Iraq, many of them orphans whose parents were killed in or fled from the war. Many orphanages were looted and cannot care for the many new charges. The US is doing little for them, and they are often afraid of the troops. The Shiite religious leaders in places like East Baghdad are, however, taking care of them, and providing other social services. This “service gap” could become extremely important in subsequent Iraqi politics.
*The NYT is reporting that Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani will go to Najaf to consult with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani and Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim about ways of pressuring the US to transition quickly to an Iraqi interim government. A Shiite-Kurdish consensus on this issue would be important. If Sistani takes a stand, it will be the first substantive intervention by him in politics.