*Guerrillas lightly wounded two US soldiers with near Baquba on Saturday when they set off a roadside bomb made of four 155 mm artillery shells, ambushing a patrol of Abrams tanks, armored personnel carriers and Humvees, according to D’Arcy Doran of AP. The shrapnel wounded two of our guys (according to al-Sharq al-Awsat; early wire service reports just said one). They then opened fire with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. The police chief of Mosul was wounded in an ambush on Saturday, as well (al-Hayat says 4 others around him were killed, though other reports say just that two were wounded). I’d say that is pretty bad news, when the pro-American police chief of a major city like Mosul is not safe.
*And, to top it all off, saboteurs blew up the oil pipeline to Turkey, which had just started working a few days ago. The US and US-appointed administration of Iraq desperately needs the income from such petroleum exports to rebuild the country. It will takes days or even weeks to repair the pipeline, and pipelines are so vulnerable that I can’t see how you could stop saboteurs from just blowing it up again later.
*US troops have suspended patrols in East Baghdad, according to a US military source reported by al-Sharq al-Awsat, who asked not to be identified. The decision comes after troops fired into a Sadrist crowd on Weds., who were protesting US defilement of the banner of the Muslim Messiah, the Mahdi. Sadrist clerics warned the US troops not to come into “Sadr City” after that. I think this is the right decision, but it underscores how weak the US position is. Some ten percent of Iraqis live in Sadr City, and if the US has been effectively excluded from it by some angry demonstrations, it makes one wonder whether with a concerted effort they couldn’t be effectively excluded from all large urban areas.
*A US military spokesman confirmed the arrest last Monday of Baathist Shiite cleric Said Ali al-Karim al-Madani, of Baquba, known as “the prophet,” by US Marines. He could be charged with inciting violence and funding attacks on coalition troops, as well as weapons possession. A member of the Baath party who received pay-offs from Saddam, he had issued a fatwa last April calling for jihad or holy war against US troops. He is also said to have offerec about $30,000 as a bounty to anyone who killed a US officer in Iraq. (Most Shiites in Iraq hated Saddam because he brutalized them, but there were Shiite collaborators with the regime).
*The People’s Gulf Congress, a Shiite activist group based in Kuwait, has warned against Israeli businesses playing any role in Iraqi reconstruction. It said that Iraq dealings with Israel could cause it to be boycotted by the Arab League. – al-Sharq al-Awsat
*As usual, Anthony Shadid’s reporting on the situation in Iraq is among the very best. His WP article today discusses the possibility that Sunni fundamentalist Ahmad Kubeisi has funneled millions of dollars to Muqtada al-Sadr. It has been evident for some time that Kubeisi and Muqtada have some sort of tactical alliance, with Kubeisi busing in Sunni fundamentalists from Falluja and Ramadi to Kufa for Muqtada’s Friday sermons. Sunni-Shiite cooperation for anti-imperial purposes has a long history in Iraq. It should also be remembered that the Shiite al-Da`wa party was allegedly 10% Sunni in its membership back in the 1960s and 1970s. Shadid also reveals that a third of the seats on the Basra city council are held by Sadrists, something I hadn’t seen elsewhere. Sadrists supported the recent anti-British riots there. He says that the US and the senior ayatollahs are both convinced something needs to be done about Muqtada, but neither wants to move on him openly. I think the US in particular should be very cautious about Muqtada; arresting him would potentially cause the East Baghdad slums to explode with demonstrations, and possibly Basra as well. See http://msnbc.com/news/953433.asp?cp1=1.