*Guerrillas in Basra bombed a British military ambulance and killed on British soldier, wounding two others. This incident is the first guerrilla attack of this sort on the British, and it is unusual in having occurred in the Shiite south. It comes after last weekend’s angry demonstrations against British failures to provide electricity and gasoline, some of which were provoked by Sadrists (radical Shiites). The arrival of guerrilla tactics in the south could signal a turning point, changing the political game significantly in the South.
*Radical Shiite clerics of the Sadr Movement called Thursday for US troops to withdraw altogether from largely Shiite East Baghdad. On Wednesday, a US helicopter crew appears to have attempted to remove a Shiite banner from a telecom tower, provoking a demonstration of 3,000. US troops maintain they took fired, including a rocket propelled grenade, from the crowd, and in reply fired into the crowd. They wounded civilians and further enraged the Sadrists.
Drew Brown of Knight Rider confirms that the banner was that of the messianic figure, the Imam Mahdi, and symbolized the “Imam Mahdi Army” that Muqtada al-Sadr has formed. Brown says that Sadrist Sheikh Qais al-Khazali said, “They (U.S. soldiers) are losing their popularity here, and they are losing the support of the Shiite people.” He also reports the words of Sheikh Abbas al-Zubaidi, 30, another Sadrist clergyman: “Are the Americans so stupid that they didn’t know the importance of this flag to us? This is a huge insult for every Shiite.” The US military authorities apologized abjectly for the incident and did promise to reduce patrols in East Baghdad, and to avoid such incidents in the future. It is too soon to tell if this will be enough. The potential for riots in East Baghdad of the sort that have occurred in Basra is clearly present. See http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/news/special_packages/iraq/6532935.htm
*The leading Shiite clerics of Najaf, including Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, have firmly rejected the call for them to wage jihad against the Americans that was allegedly issued by deposed dictator Saddam Hussein. The general feeling seems to have been that if Saddam did issue the call, he has a lot of goddamn nerve after the brutal persecution to which he subjected the Shiite community. He killed them in their thousands.
*A must-read article is that of Faleh A. Jabar, an Iraqi sociologist based in the UK, on who is behind the guerrilla attacks on US troops. He sees four distinct groups, all of them operating mainly in Anbar and Diyala provinces. See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3148223.stm.
*Michael Jansen makes many sharp observations on the “occupation” being “in shambles” in his article today in the Jordan times. See:
*I’m writing this blog by candle light on my laptop. We in Ann Arbor got hit along with 50 million others with the electricity black out. The telephone land lines are working, though, and the laptop battery was charged, so I was able to get online. I also have a little Sony transistor radio with FM, MW and shortwave capability, and have kept up with news that way. It is amazing how plugged in I managed to remain even with no electricity. It strikes me as undesirable that Ann Arbor’s electricity should be hostage to freak accidents in Niagra Falls, New York; this unfortunately may give terrorists ideas. Apparently deregulation is part of the problem here, too.