Arabkurdish Sunnishiite Violence

Arab/Kurdish, Sunni/Shiite Violence Flares, Killing Dozens

The violence in Iraq on Saturday, which killed at least 40 and wounded many more, was particularly worrying because it was again characterized by a strong element of ethnic warfare.

In Mosul, a car bomber pulled alongside a bus bringing in Kurdish militiamen or peshmerga, who guard the offices of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (led by Jalal Talabani), and detonated his payload. The huge blast killed 17 of the Kurds and wounded more than 40. I saw an interview with a Mosul resident on al-Jazeerah, who was asked why peshmerga are being used to police part of the city. He admitted that the police had collapsed. (The 4000-strong Mosul police force virtually disappeared from the streets when, during the Fallujah operation, guerrillas launched a brief take-over of the city). (-al-Hayat)

Ten bodies were found in Mosul on Saturday, nine of them belonging to Iraqi national guardsmen killed as “collaborators” by the guerrillas. In the Turkmen north, in Talafar, 4 beheaded bodies of national guardsmen were found, and in Sinjar west of Mosul, five bullet-riddled bodies turned up. Nearly sixty such executions of national guardsmen have been discovered in the past 10 days.

In Baiji, the body of Tamadur Shakir al-Sudani was found. She had been shot seven times. She had served on the provincial governing council of Salahuddin province and had been kidnapped last Thursday.

Mosul city (pop. 1.2 mn.) has an Arab majority, but there are important minorities of Kurds, Turkmen and Christians. Mosul province has historically been dominated by Kurds. The US has never deployed enough troops in and around Mosul to establish security there, and the city saw massive looting by Kurdish tribesmen and other groups after the fall of Saddam. (The 2000 US troops in the north were deployed instead to Kirkuk to guard the oil fields there, in spring, 2003). The Arabs in the city had a strong commitment to the Baath Party, and Mosul university students demonstrated in favor of Saddam last winter. The fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood was long strong in Mosul, as well. In 1959, a failed Arab nationalist coup was launched from Mosul, but was put down by the colonels’ regime, with the help of Kurdish tribesmen.

Ten other Iraqis were killed in separate incidents in the north, including 3 who worked for the Americans.

Two American troops were killed on Saturday. Late Friday, two US soldiers were killed and 5 wounded by a bomb near the Jordanian border, after which the Jordan-Iraqi border was closed.

The Salahiyah Police Station in Baghdad was hit by a car bomb, which killed 3 policemen and wounded 40.

Anthony Shadid of the Washington Post reports that clashes also broke out in Latifiyah south of Baghdad between Sunni Arab guerrillas and the Shiite Fury Brigade, a group formed in Basra in the south to protect Shiite pilgrims traveling from the north to the Shiite holy cities, whom the Ansar al-Sunna or Helpers of the Sunnis, have been attacking and robbing. Shadid notes that this is the first set-piece battle between Shiite and Sunni militiamen since the fall of Saddam. (There have been urban disturbances, as between Kadhimiyah and Adhamiyah after the capture of Saddam).

Al-Hayat interviewed Ammar al-Hakim, an official of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq privy to the negotiations by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani toward creating a united Shiite list. He said that the list would be announced shortly. He said SCIRI had no dispute with Muqtada al-Sadr and that the only reason its head, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, had not met with Sadr was because the latter had difficulty moving around for security reasons. He said it was very important that Sadr join the group list. But he said that if some groups were not in Sistani’s list, it would not be a sign of disapproval from Sistani but rather the result of their own choices.

Mariam Fam of the Associated Press knows better than Max Boot what the Fallujans now think of the Americans, because she has actually talked to the Fallujans. They don’t seem to be very happy to have been liberated. They even seem to be muttering about perpetual jihad. Fam’s report comes to conclusions similar to those of Shadid, also an Arabic-speaking reporter on the scene in Iraq.

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