8 US Servicemen Killed Over Weekend
The NYT reports that guerrillas killed 8 US servicemen in separate incidents over the weekend. On Sunday, bombings in Samarra and Khalidiya killed 3 US servicemen. In Haditha on Saturday, guerrillas attacked and captured a hospital, killing 3 US Marines and a sailor when the US attempted to take it back.
What is going on in Sunni Iraqi cities, which might account for this violence (which is typically reported curtly and in a shadowy fashion by the US military and American press)? Al-Zaman has a report today (it gives joint credit to Reuters and AFP) that might shed some light on it. Al-Zaman says Ramadi and some of the towns around it were gripped by a civil rebellion on the part of virtually all the townspeople on Saturday and Sunday. It comes in response to the Friday prayers sermons in the city’s mosques and appeals by the city’s clergy, who called for a strike to protest against the US encirclement of the city and against what they called random arrests, which have resulted in the imprisonment of many young men of Ramadi. Everyday life has ground to a standstill. The streets are empty of passers-by, shops are shuttered, and bazaars are closed. Schools, universities and government offices are likewise closed. The US military has addressed the population with loudspeakers mounted on cars, calling on them to end the civil strike and to refuse to obey the armed militias in their midst.
The council of Sunni clergy in the city spread around a pamphlet that complained that ever since the US occupied the city, virtue and honor no longer had any value. The practices of the illegal Occupation were aimed at achieving its illegitimate aims, from daily killings to attacks and round-ups to the imprisonment of free persons in a forest of jails. The latest outrage was the encirclement of the city, cutting it off and isolating it from its environment through barricades, such that all have been grievously harmed. It called on townspeople to protest these practices with a two-day strike over the weekend
If the Al-Zaman report is at all accurate, it suggests that the counter-insurgency campaign in Ramadi to date is a political failure, whatever its tactical successes.
[Someone just told me that the US military thinks Zarqaw is in Ramadi, accounting for the encirclement and isolation of the city and the arrest campaign inside.]
The Washington Post says that US military commanders are putting more emphasis now on combating the foreign jihadis. Seems to me like they should begin with making friends of Ramadi and Mosul, instead.
AP reports that in addition,
“Four Iraqis were killed in two roadside bombings and gunfire in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, the U.S. military said. One insurgent was also killed and another wounded in a clash with a U.S.-Iraqi patrol . . . Gunmen shot and killed Zoba Yass, a senior official in Iraq’s Transportation Ministry, and his driver in southern Baghdad, police and transportation officials said.”
Al-Zaman says that in Baiji, a car bomb that targetted the US base killed two Iraqi troops and wounded four civilians, including a child. Five mortar shells struck a joint US/ Iraqi base in Dawr north of Baghdad, killing one Iraqi and wounding another. In Dulu’iyah, likewise, mortar shells fell on a joint US/Iraqi military site at the airport, wounding an Iraqi soldier.
The US military announced the killing of 6 guerrillas and 54 others near Qaim in the vicinity of the Syrian border.
Al-Zaman says that Baghdad University has reopened after the sectarian riots and demonstrations there last week. Notably, al-Zaman is reticent is saying what exactly they were about (a Shiite student was killed for celebrating Jaafari’s installment as prime minister, causing reprisals for the murder by angry Shiites). Some things are too hot for print, apparently.
Some ministers of the outgoing Allawi government are fleeing Iraq in anticipation that they will be investigated. Charges of irregularities swirled around former defense minister Hazem Shaalan in particular.
PM Ibrahim Jaafari presented several Sunni Arab ministers to parliament Sunday. Less than half of the parliamentarians bothered to show up. The man nominated at Human Rights Minister, Hashim Shibli, declined the post on the grounds that he is a generic democrat and does not want an appointment as a token Sunni as part of a “sectarian quota.” He said he wasn’t consulted before he was nominated.
Edmund Sanders of the LA Times gives us a fascinating glimpse of the film scene in contemporary Iraq.