*5 more US troops were killed over the past weekend in Iraq, bringing the July total to 27. On Sunday, a guerrilla launched a grenade attack on 3 US soldiers guarding a children’s hospital in Baquba, killing them. Another US military man was ambushed by a sniper south of Baghdad. Baquba is the capital of Diyala, an ethnically mixed region in the east near Iran. There has been trouble between US troops and the Badr Corps there, and one hopes this grenade attack is not a sign of increased Shiite militancy toward the US. The attacker(s) could well have been Sunni.
*One man was killed and nine people were wounded by US Marines on Sunday at Karbala, a Shiite shrine city and the site of the mausoleum of Imam Husayn (martyred grandson of the Prophet Muhammad). The incident began on Saturday, when crowds gathered to protest a rumor that US troops were encroaching on the Shrine. The Marines at some point fired tear gas at the crowd, and a cannister hit the shrine. The demonstration on Sunday was held to protest this perceived affront to the shrine. It, too, turned violent. The Marines tried firing into the air, but ultimately shot into the crowd. This news is very, very bad. It may be that the rumor of the encroachments was planted by the Sadr Movement, which is trying to whip up opposition to the US among Shiites. The technique of provoking a violent demonstration that results in deaths, and then having that death be the occasion for another demonstration the next day or the next week, with its own potential for casualties, was used in 1978 by Shiite opponents of the Shah in Iran. Ultimately the demonstrations got so big they turned into a revolution. While it is early days for such a movement against the Bremer administration, the US is certainly vulnerable to this technique. And, all Shiites throughout Iraq and throughout Lebanon, Iran, Bahran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc., are going to be deeply angered at the US when they hear of the deaths of nine protesters in front of the shine of Imam Husayn. This particular set of incidents may or may not build toward a movement, but they are windows into the worst case scenario that could face a US military force in Iraq that was widely perceived to have overstayed its welcome.
*The tribal leaders of Hilla, Najaf and al-Diwaniya, according to al-Zaman, have asked Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to issue a fatwa forbidding the carrying of arms in the shrine of Imam Husayn and in the shrine of Imam Ali. This call is a criticism of Muqtada al-Sadr, whose often armed followers have been jockeying for control of the two shrines.
Muqtada denounced Sistani and the other major ayatollahs in Najaf in his sermon on Friday for declining to call for an end to what he calls the US occupation of Iraq, and for maintaining political neutrality. The Friday Prayer leaders at the al-Ahmadi and al-Muhammadiya mosques, and that of al-Kazimiya (a suburb of Baghdad) rejected Muqtada’s call for opposition on the grounds that it is a duty to preserve the lives of the believers.