24 Dead, Dozens Wounded
Sunnis Charge Ethnic Cleansing
Dulaimi Pledges end to Mosque Invasions
AP reports that guerrillas killed at least 24 persons in Iraq on Monday, and wounded dozens. In addition, more corpses were discovered. Alexandra Zavis writes, “Underscoring the threat, two car bombs exploded within minutes at a mostly Shiite Baghdad market, killing at least nine soldiers and a civilian . . . The second blast targeted soldiers who rushed to help the victims of the first explosion.”
Al-Zaman/AFP report that two students from the Engineering School were killed and 11 wounded when a mortar shell fell on the School’s building in the Bab al-Muazzam quarter of Baghdad, according to Col. Adnan Abdul Rahmand, a spokesman for the Iraqi Interior Minister. Three Iraqis working for Kuwaiti television were killed in south Baghdad. They were returning from having filmed in Karbala (presumably the anti-Kuwaiti demonstration there on Sunday) and were ambused on their way back near Mahmudiyah. Two separate attacks in Baqubah left 4 killed and 4 wounded.
Al-Zaman/ AFP: On Monday, 14 corpses were found in Baghdad, among them 8 in the Shaab quarter, and 6 in the Kisra and Atash quarters.
The hardline Sunni fundamentalist Association of Muslim Scholars alleged that two Sunni Arab survivors of the mass killings are saying that they were kidnapped from a mosque by Iraqi security forces. (I think they were implying that these forces were Shiites).
Defense Minister Saadoun Dulaimi rejected the charges but announced a new pledge that Iraqi forces would not enter mosques or the grounds of universities. Al-Zaman says that he forbade the Iraqi army from assaulting Sunni mosques, Shiite Husainiyahs, or Christian churches. Such attacks on places of worship and arrests of clerics, he said, “contravene the principles of our pure religion and our civilizational values and the principles of humanity, upon the foundations of which it is hoped that the new democratic Iraq will be built.” He noted that henceforth the term “national guards” would be dropped, and all forces would be referred to as “the Iraqi Army.”
This announcement is the first time that the newly elected Iraqi government has interfered in the area of battle tactics. The US military has routinely raided mosques where it was suspected guerrillas were hiding out or stockpiling weaponry (and often these suspicions turned out to be justified). US freedom of movement in Iraq is likely to be increasingly constrained by the elected government, and there seems little the US could do about it in the short term. This result is a natural development of Sistani’s successful campaign to have free, one-person, one-vote elections in Iraq, which produced a government not firmly under the US thumb. Unless Iyad Allawi can make a comeback in the next elections, the US military in Iraq is likely increasingly to serve at the pleasure of the Iraqi government.
Al-Zaman/AFP continue: In an attempt to respond quickly to the atmosphere of sectarian crisis, Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari conveyed a message from Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, after he had met with him in Najaf yesterday. In the meeting, Sistani called for the preservation of brotherhood between Sunnis and Shiites, and expressed his eagerness that Sunni Arabs participate fully in the drafting of a constitution. The dramatic background to the Prime Minister’s speech was the kidnapping and killing of 46 Sunni Iraqis who lived in Shiite regions in recent days.
On Monday, new evidence surfaced in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities that Shiite and Sunni rivals had conducted assassination campaigns against one another.
Shaikh Abd al-Salam al-Kubaisi of the Association of Muslim Scholars asserted that forces from the Ministry of the Interior assassinated 14 Sunni Arabs. He told the Deutsche Press Agentur that 14 bodies belong to Sunnis who lived in the Shaab quarter. They disappeared, he claimed, after forces of the Wolf Brigades arrested them in the Sunni mosques where they were praying. None of those arrested was carrying arms, he insisted. He also said that early in the morning, Monday, the Wolf Brigade forces of Interior staged a raid on the home of Shaikh Hamid Mukhlaf al-Dulaimi, the Friday prayers leader of the al-Arqam Mosque in the Shaab quarter of Baghdad, and killed him as he lay sleeping on the roof of his house. (Middle Easterners often sleep on the flat roofs of their homes in the hot summer months). He said the same forces had arrested Shaikh Hasan al-Nu`aimi, a member of the AMS and a Friday prayers leader at the Shahid Yusuf Mosque in the Shaab quarter. He maintained that these attacks and arrests were deliberate and aimed at driving Sunni Arabs from the Shaab quarter.
Muqtada al-Sadr reemerged to call upon both Sunnis and Shiites to practice self-control. In his first public appearance in a year, he said at a press conference in Najaf that he condemned all attacks on civilians, whether committed by the Occupation forces or by others.
AP quotes him as saying, “I demand several things, including punishing Saddam and calling on the Iraqi government, religious movements and political factions to work hard to kick out the occupier.”
Muhammad Abdullah, acting Industry Minister said Monday that Iraq would pursue plans to “partially” privatize state-owned industries. It goes without saying that privatization requires more security than now exists in Iraq, and this plan is unlikely to proceed any time soon. Also, wanting to privatize inefficient and bloated state-owned industries is not the same as doing it. The government is typically reluctant to part with the money-makers, and the entrepreneurs are not interested in buying the dinosaurs. Privatization in Egypt and Turkey has proceeded very slowly, and in Iraq it will be worse. Moreover, the US occupation has brought to the fore nationalistic feelings, and if major industries are sold to foreign corporations, there could well be a popular backlash.