Guerrillas Shoot down Helicopter, Killing 11 (6 Americans)
AP reports that guerrillas shot down a helicopter carrying civilian security guards on Thursday. A jihadi website claimed that the guerrillas executed the one survivor of the crash, a Bulgarian. There are thousands of civilian security guards in Iraq of various nationalities. If the Iraqi guerrillas are now able to import more sophisticated shoulder-fired missile launchers, like SA-14s, they could become extremely deadly to US military helicopters, as well. (I don’t know what weapon they used to down this helicopter.)
On Thursday, a roadside bomb exploded on the highway leading to Baghdad’s airport, severely damaging three SUVs carrying civilians. Police Capt Hamid Ali said two foreigners were killed and three were wounded . . . In Ramadi, a roadside bomb wounded one soldier in a U.S. convoy. Another American soldier fired his machine gun at a suspected Iraqi ambush site, killing a female Iraqi civilian, U.S. officials said in a statement. Soldiers found an electronic device near the woman that may have been used to trigger the explosion, the statement said.
Ash-Sharq al-Awsat reports a string of further violent incidents not covered by most Western news services, mainly involving Iraqi police or civilians, in Mahawil, Baiji and elsewhere.
The newly elected politicians of Iraq failed again on Thursday to form a government, over 2 1/2 months after the January 30 election. Part of the problem is that the Shiite majority is only offering Iyad Allawi’s list, al-Iraqiya, 2 cabinet posts, when Allawi wants 4. Likewise there appear to be difficulties in getting the Sunni Arabs aboard. The wire service report just linked to quotes an anonymous well-connected source in Baghdad as saying “There was also continued disagreement over what ministries the Sunnis should get. The question really is whether the Shiites want to create a government of national unity, or just a Shiite-Kurd government . . .” Some Iraqis maintain that the political gridlock is contributing to a worsening of the security situation.
With the Senate passage of another emergency appropriation of $81 billion, the cost of the Iraq War and aftermath now approaches $300 billion. (It is already $300 billion if we throw in Afghanistan, on which relatively little has been spent in comparison to Iraq).
The Christian Science Monitor’s Jill Carroll, courageously reporting from Salman Pak, examines the continued and worsening problem of kidnapping for ransom in Iraq.
Resistance to seeing Australian troops come in to attempt to provide security in Samawah, al-Muthanna Province, continues to be expressed by local Iraqi officials. Samawah police chief Brig. Karim al-Zayadi is quoted by the Herald Sun as saying ‘ “My people need electricity and running water, not more security.” ‘ The article ends,
Brig. Kareem warned that one of the most testing challenges for the Australians would be the complex and often-violent rivalries between local tribal groups. There were 12 main tribes, each of which could have up to six clan groups.
Everyone should please read this paragraph several times and think about what it means for US troops fighting these clans in the Sunni Arab heartland.
USA Today reports that Iraqis face shortages in clean drinking water, a problem it has been difficult to address because security needs have drained off funds for fixing it.
Iraq’s oil industry is plagued by corruption and smuggling from within, in addition to the problems of sabotage carried out by guerrillas.
The BBC attempts to clear up the mystery of the bodies found in the Tigris River near al-Suwayra, and their connection, if any, to the charges that guerrillas took Shiites captive in Madaen. It appears that President Jalal Talabani may have been incorrect to link these bodies to that incident. But the story by now has become a rollercoaster, and I am an agnostic until someone nails it down. (Everyone should remember that journalists trying to get to the bottom of the story are risking their lives because of the poor security in the country, and that it shouldn’t be any surprise that events in Iraq are murky). My own suspicion is that the jihadis want to provoke Sunni-Shiite violence, and that spreading rumors of a big kidnapping of Shiites is almost as useful for their purpose as actually committing it (and a lot less dangerous for them). That is, the story may be a black psy-ops operation of Baathist military intelligence. But the story could still turn out to have something to it.
Anthony Cordesman thinks the US military is stuck in Iraq for a while.
Tidbits from the Iraqi press from the BBC World Monitor:
‘ Al-Mu’tamar [Baghdad, daily newspaper in Arabic published by the Iraqi National Congress] 20 April: [MP] Mudar Shawkat suspends his National Assembly membership, demands departure of multinational forces as condition for return; US soldier insults National Assembly member, grabs his throat, ties his hands with cuffs; consensus on summoning US ambassador to offer formal apology …’
‘Al-Shahid [Baghdad, weekly independent newspaper in Arabic] 20 April: Conspiracy against Al-Ja’fari; Arab political parties try to prevent Al-Ja’fari from forming new government; Rumsfeld conveyed four US messages to Al-Ja’fari … Where did [former parliament Speaker] Sa’dun Hammadi disappear? … Allawi demands deputy PM post, defence portfolio, three other ministries to agree on joining new government …’