Iraq Violence Kills at Least 24, Wounds over 100
Sistani Criticizes Election Plans
The guerrilla war and American military assertiveness together wrought havoc in several areas of Iraq once again on Wednesday.
In downtown Baghdad, guerrillas used a car bomb to strike at persons in a retail district who were waiting to sign up for service in the Iraqi National Guard. The huge explosion killed 6 individuals and wounded 54.
There were also clashes at Haifa Street, a stronghold of the Iraqi branch of the radical Monotheism and Holy War movement. The number of resulting casualties is unknown as I write.
A US strike on Abu Ghurab west of Baghdad a week ago may have killed a leader of Monotheism and Holy War, Abu Anas al-Shami, a Jordanian Muslim radical and author.
In east Baghdad, according to Naim al-Qaabi, spokesman for the Sadr movement, a US push into that part of the capital resulted in clashes that left 15 dead and 52 wounded.
Some 40 guerrillas fought US forces near Samarra on Wednesday. The US forces called in an air strike on a house, killing 2 Iraqis and wounding 2. Although a supposed ceasefire had recently been called by city leaders of Samarra, allowing US troops back into the city, it seems clear that Samarran guerrillas are still operating in the area and that the situation remains dicey.
Guerrillas used a roadside bomb to attack US troops near Tikrit, killing 1 US soldier.
Three American crew members of a Black Hawk helicopter were wounded when it crashed soon after take-off on Wednesday near Nasiriyah. The cause of the crash was not announced, but US helicopters frequently take rocket-propelled grenade fire in Iraq.
On Monday and Tuesday, US Marines and Iraqi national guards raided offices of the Muqtada al-Sadr movement near the shrine of Ali, arresting several officials close to the radical young cleric. The American-appointed governor, Adnan al-Zurfi, maintained that they had found weapons caches in the sweep.
The action appears to contravene the terms of the cease-fire earlier reached with the Sadrists, and the raid was condemned by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Sistani deeply dislikes the Mahdi Army, but he no doubt feels that if the various parties cannot trust that a settlement under his auspices can be trusted, it will weaken his authority to help settle future disputes.
Dexter Filkins of the New York Times reports that Sistani is increasingly worried about the form of the elections scheduled for January. The current plan to have nation-wide pre-selected party lists will unfairly favor the expatriate political parties, he fears, and he is threatening to withdraw his support from the process.
I personally would be shocked and amazed if elections are actually held in January. If they are, it would not be surprising if the expatriate parties managed to set things up so as to dominate them. They are the ones who have been organizing abroad for the past twenty years and have experience in politicking. But if a lot of local Iraqis feel disenfranchised by the results, then the elections won’t produce a stable government. Moreover, Sistani’s approval would be key to such a government’s hopes for success.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon is burning up money and ammunition so fast in Iraq that it has prematurely had to dip into a $25 billion emergency fund: “If the additional money were not available this month, armed services either would have to cut other programs to shift money to the war or face the prospect of new troops going to battle without sufficient body armor, armored Humvees and other protective gear.” The war is costing about $1 billion a week.