6 US Soldiers Wounded, 22 Iraqis Killed in Holy City Fighting
More fighting in Karbala and Najaf over Thursday night to Friday morning, according to Reuters:
” At least four Iraqis were killed and 13 wounded in overnight fighting in Kerbala, Saleh Hasnawi, director of the main hospital, told Reuters. Fighting died down after dawn. “ US troops and equipment operated just half a mile from the tomb of Imam Husayn, among the holiest in the Shiite world.
There was also a firefight in Najaf:
“In nearby Najaf, heavy machinegun fire and the sound of rocket-propelled grenades broke out around 8:40 a.m. (12:40 a.m. EDT) after a relatively quiet night. The clash was concentrated around a main square about two miles from Najaf’s main mosque and shrine district. ”
Al-Hayat reported that three Iraqis were killed in the heavy fighting in Najaf near the Imam Ali shrine, and 7 wounded.
In Najaf, the police revealed that Mahdi Army militiamen had attacked the main police station Wednesday night, had taken the deputy police chief captive briefly, and had emptied a weapons storehouse of its contents.
Al-Hayat reported the total Iraqi death toll Thursday-Friday as 22, with six US troops wounded. A wide swathe of buildings in Karbala had been destroyed even before fighting began again. The streets of the city were empty on Friday, when they normally bustle with the faithful going to mosque.
On Thursday, Muqtada al-Sadr accused the Americans of putting obstacles in the way of attempts to arrive at a peaceful solution of th crisis in the two cities. He said in a newspaper interview, according to al-Hayat, “ We always seek peace, but the American forces disrupt these efforts to resolve the crisis. I am ready to do anything the highest [Shiite] religious leadership asks of me to find appropriate solutions and to avoid shedding pure Iraqi blood . . .
“The resistance of the Iraqi people to the occupation forces is a legitimate right. It is a decisive response to the crushing of demonstrators with tanks, besieging holy cities, the torture of Iraqis, and the violation of all human values and principles with regard to this ancient people, which has a long history and a civilization that is deeply rooted in the past.”
A reader drew my attention to a Washington Post article reporting on a newly released poll about Muqtada:
” In the poll, which was taken just before the April uprising of the militia led by radical Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr, a large proportion of Iraqis from the central and southern parts of the country said they backed him, with 45 percent of those in Baghdad saying they support him, and 67 percent in Basra. Those numbers are striking because the U.S. military and the occupation authority have declared Sadr a public enemy whom they want to kill or capture.
I am surprised by the high numbers in Basra, where I think the rival al-Fudala branch of Sadrism is more important. The level of support for Muqtada has almost certainly increased greatly since late March when the poll was done.
My own view is that Muqtada has now won politically and morally. He keeps throwing Abu Ghuraib in the faces of the Americans. He had his men take refuge in Najaf and Karbala because he knew only two outcomes were possible. Either the Americans would back off and cease trying to destroy him, out of fear of fighting in the holy cities and alienating the Shiites. Or they would come in after Muqtada and his militia, in which case the Americans would probably turn the Shiites in general against themselves. The latter is now happening.
The Americans will be left with a handful of ambitious collaborators at the top, but the masses won’t be with them. And in Iraq, unlike the US, the masses matter. The US political elite is used to being able to discount American urban ghettos as politically a cipher. What they don’t realize is that in third world countries the urban poor are a key political actor and resource, and wise rulers go out of their way not to anger them.