Breaking News: 16 Italians, 8 Iraqis dead in Nasiriyah Police Station Attack
On Wednesday guerrillas launched a well-coordinated bombing attack against an Italian military police compound in Nasiriyah, a city in the largely Shiite south. First, a lead truck crashed through the entrance, then another car followed through and was detonated, according to a British military official. The attack was a suicide bombing, and some analysts felt that the technique pointed to al-Qaeda. Secular groups such as the Tamil Tigers, however, have used suicide bombings as a technique, and the modus operandi itself does not tell us who did it.
The press as of Wednesday afternoon is reporting 16 Italians (including several carabinieri or gendarmes) and 8 Iraqis dead. Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi has rejected calls by his opposition to withdraw the 2300 Italian troops from Iraq. Many observers, however, believe that such incidents may make US allies like Italy less willing to renew their commitment when their term ends in the spring.
The Telegraph reported that ‘Cesare Salvi, a Left-wing democrat senator, warned that “fresh unnecessary deaths must be avoided”. “Italy must change its line,” he said. “This confirms the Italian government’s tragic error in supporting a war desired by Bush against the will of the vast majority of Italians.”‘
It also may well be that allies on the fence about sending troops or more troops, such as Japan and South Korea, will be dissuaded by such attacks. Sending military contingents to Iraq is often highly unpopular with the local publics. Japan has already announced, in the wake of the attack, that it will delay sending its Self Defense Forces troops to Iraq.
In a recent op-ed, former CIA field officer Milt Bearden, who helped drive the Soviets from Afghanistan, explained the strategy being pursued by the Iraqi guerrillas. He points out that one of the classic aims of such insurgencies is to deprive the occupier of allies, and that this tactic is working in Iraq. The UN and most of the major NGOs have withdrawn. One wonders if the Italians and Ukrainians, both of whom have now taken hits, will stay beyond March or so.
Guerrillas have attacked fair numbers of police stations, and even managed to bomb and damage a US military police HQ in the North late last summer.