2 US Pilots Wounded; Strike on Fallujah
Mortar Strike in Basra
US jets dropped 500-pound bombs on Fallujah again on Monday, targetting an alleged safe house of the al-Tawhid terrorist network. The Iraqi caretaker government announced that it had supported the move. A dozen or more persons were killed, according to local Iraqi observers.
Guerrillas in the southern port city of Basra fired mortar rounds at the local government headquarters, but missed and hit local houses instead, killing one Iraqi civilian and wounding four others. Largely Shiite Basra has been quieter than some other parts of Iraq, but has witnessed some spectacular bombings and violence from time to time.
Near the Shiite holy city of Karbala, guerrillas detonated a roadside bomb as a US troop convoy passed. They missed the US troops, but the latter returned fire. Apparently they mistakenly killed two Iraqi civilians and wounded four others.
Guerrillas fired on a US military medical helicopter above Fallujah, wounding the pilot and the co-pilot, who were nevertheless able to land safely.
In the northern Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah, local Kurdish police killed two men driving a car loaded with explosives, foiling an attempted suicide bombing in the city.
AP reports that Muqtada al-Sadr’s spokesman clarified his recent militant statements. Mahmud al-Sudani said that Muqtada is still committed to a truce and would only work against the caretaker government non-violently. Muqtada has in the past offered to distinguish between the Allawi government and the US troops, offer to support Allawi if he would set a timetable for a US withdrawal. His recent sabre-rattling appears to have primarily been aimed at shoring up his base of support, which vehemently opposes the US presence in Iraq. The Allawi government had considered offering an amnesty to Sadr and his lieutenants, but postponed it Monday until it could clarify whether Muqtada is still committed to violence. Sudani said he wasn’t.
Knight Ridder’s Tom Lasseter has done a fine report on the way in which the guerrilla insurgency has continued to boil along during the past week, making the “turn-over of sovereignty” an irrelevancy to US troops on the ground. Attacks are back up to the 35 a day range, and informed military observers don’t expect an improvement soon.
Al-Hayat says that Syrian sources are categorically denying a New York Times report that Saddam Hussein’s cousins from the al-Majid clan are directing the insurgency from Syria and Europe. Likewise, the Jordanians say they have no such information. The cousins named also denied the charges to al-Sharq al-Awsat. The Syrians are speculating that the story is a plant by US and Israeli intelligence aimed at preventing good relations from developing between the Allawi government and Damascus. Actually, it seems to me indisputable that the al-Majid clan is involved in the insurgency, it is just that it doesn’t need to be abroad to do so. And as the Jehl article acknowledges, the insurgency comes from circles well beyond Saddam loyalists.
US observers keep expressing puzzlement as to why the killing of hundreds or thousands of insurgents has not had an impact in repressing the guerrillas. They don’t seem to get it that Iraqi clans still matter and that when they kill an Iraqi, they anger the man’s brothers, uncles, and first and second cousins, some of whom step forward to take his place. In the US a lot of people don’t even know their cousins and certainly would not sacrifice their lives to avenge one. Iraq is not like that. So, it isn’t really even a matter of ideologies, necessarily. The US military has incurred enough clan feuds to keep the insurgencies going. And, of course, Iraqi and Arab nationalisms are powerful enough that people hate seeing Western troops in their country. The line between being angry about it and being angry enough to pick up a gun is a thin one.
Meanwhile, PM Allawi reaffirmed Monday that Iraq did not want troops from direct neighbors like Jordan, and the Jordanians themselves alo seemed to back off their earlier offer, saying it would not be appropriate.