Some 30 Killed in Iraq Violence
[Updated early Weds. Morning]
A guerrilla strapped on a bomb belt and blew up a police recruiting station in west Baghdad Tuesday, killing at least 21 persons [a late report in al-Hayat put the death toll at 30].
In a separate incident, 3 policemen were killed in a firefight in the dangerous Baghdad district of Ghazaliyah.
Guerrillas attacked the head of the Nation Party, and a candidate in the recent elections, Mithal Alusi and his family. They sprayed their car with machine gun fire, killing Alusi’s two sons. He escaped physical harm. This incident is important because, among other things, it points to a looming danger for elected parliamentarians. They can’t remain anonymous while serving in parliament, and the guerrillas will target all 275 for assassination.
Ex-Baathist Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan announced Tuesday that 18 members of the Lebanese Hizbullah had been arrested in Iraq on charges of terrorism. He said Iraq’s biggest problem was with Iranian infiltrators but that the Syrian issue could be handled through negotiation. I don’t know who exactly Shaalan represents, but I have concluded the man is a mole for someone. Nothing he says makes sense or tracks with reality. He is always shooting his mouth off and then being repudiated by his supposed boss, Iyad Allawi, but Allawi doesn’t fire him. The terrorism in Iraq is being carried out by Baathists with a very small number of foreign fighters from the Salafi trend in Sunni Islam. The Lebanese Hizbullah is fanatic Shiites, and they are not allied with Baathists and Salafis, I guarantee you. There isn’t any Shiite terrorism right now. So what exactly were the operations that Hizbullah planned to carry out? In the past, Iranian pilgrims and other innocents have been caught up in dragoons, and most likely these were just Lebanese Shiite pilgrims. Hizbullah is disciplined enough not to step on Sistani’s toes in this way. Shaalan should enjoy his grandstanding and Iran-bashing while he can– I’d be very surprised if he is still in office a month from now.
The US military is estimating the number of guerrilla fighters in Iraq at 13,000 to 17,000. It admits that most of these are Baathists.
I don’t think this way of categorizing the resistance is useful. It seems obvious to me that the number of guerrillas fluctuates a great deal. There wasn’t so much going on in Mosul before the disastrous Fallujah campaign, then the city experienced very significant guerrilla activity. I suspect that ex-Baath soldiers who had been fence-sitters joined up because of Fallujah and agreed to carry out operations on a weekend or at night, then went back to being unmarked civilians.
An earlier Iraqi estimate put the number at 40,000 fighters and 200,000 supporters. I personally suspect that estimate is closer to the truth. Except that I think the difference between a fighter and a supporter is fluid. Iraq has large numbers of battle-hardened veterans from the 8 years of the Iran-Iraq War and from the Gulf War. The Baath remnants can pick them back up when the Americans anger them and put them to work in guerrilla operations. The Baath remnants also know where the 250,000 tons of missing munitions are, and can supply these to downstream cells.
So I fear I think the US military is just being highly optimistic with these figures. The evidence from the recent Zogby poll is that 52 percent of Sunni Arabs say that attacking US personnel and facilities is justified. I’d say that comes to over 2.5 million supporters, and those are the ones who will openly admit it to a pollster.
Al-HayatAdnan Pachachi called Tuesday for a conference of national reconciliation, a call supported by radical young Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Pachachi said he would reject any article in the permanent constitution to be crafted by the new parliament that injured the rights of Sunnis. He said he supported a separation of religion and state. The problem for Pachachi is that he has no leverage. His party won’t have many seats in parliament, and therefore he can be ignored. One might argue that the Sunni Arab guerrilla war is an incentive to compromise with him. But they are trying to kill Pachachi, so I’m not sure dealing with him is a really great incentive.
The same newspaper reports that Abdul Salam al-Kubaisi, a prominent leader of the Association of Muslim Scholars, claimed on Tuesday that the Americans would never have agreed to one-person, one-vote elections so soon if it had not been for the pressure put on the US by the Sunni Arabs. He thus takes credit for the fact that Iraqi is holding elections at all. That allegation strikes me as unlikely.
He also said that anti-America forces were talking behind the scenes, and that he is in touch with the Sadr Movement, e.g.