Over 30 Bodies Found
USA Today/ AP report that on Sunday, more than 30 bodies were found in three separate sites. The bodies of thirteen men were found in a shallow grave near the Shiite slum of Sadr City. Another eleven were found at a farm at Huqul, a town 25 miles south of Baghdad. In Ramadi, a center of the Sunni Arab resistance to US presence, 10 Iraqi soldiers were discovered dead.
The LA Times plays up the sectarian angle to the murders much more than does USA Today:
‘ “If the marjaiyah will give us one sign, we will exterminate the Sunnis from Hilla to Mosul,” said Muayad Kadhim Abady, a driver from the hardscrabble southern village of Ghamas, home to 19 fishermen slain in the Sunni Arab city of Haditha earlier this month. No one is sure how long Sistani can hold back the Shiite masses from exacting wholesale retribution — a process that many Sunni Arabs fear has already begun. Newly emboldened police commando squads, whom Sunni leaders depict as Shiite avengers, have raided Sunni mosques and arrested Sunni religious leaders . . . “The definition of civil war is when the Shiites on the ground start to hit back,” said Hussein Shahristani, a top Sistani deputy and deputy speaker of the National Assembly. “People are hurt very deeply and feel they should be allowed to defend themselves. Of course they feel they are capable of defending themselves. There is hardly an Iraqi household without weapons of all sorts.” ‘
But USA Today quotes Iraqi army Brig. Hussein Muhsen al-Fariji giving a different explanation, focusing on the Sunni nationalist guerrillas: “The criminals want to spread panic among the people and give the impression that the new government must be changed.” (That is, the guerrillas are ex-Baathists aiming ultimately to make a coup, and they are destabilizing the country because they think the public will be so hungry for law and order that they will accept the coup when it eventually comes.)
Thanassis Cambanis of the Boston Globe absolutely nails it:
‘ Sadiq al-Mossawi — a secular politician not tied to the Ba’athists who tried unsuccessfully to persuade resistance groups to band together under a restored monarchy — said that Ba’athists who are committed to the old party ideology now dominate the insurgency. Ba’athists have money they sequestered before Hussein fled and can draw on legions of former intelligence and military officers with tactical expertise, as well as immense weapons caches . . . Five US Embassy officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have expressed doubt that any single political group such as the former Ba’athists has widespread influence over an insurgency they describe as fractious. But the Iraqi politicians and officials who have met with Ba’athists and have seen captured documents said that such a view misses the mark. These people say that although the Ba’athists aren’t united, they share fundamental political goals and beliefs and have decades of experience working together, despite internal disputes. Rival branches of the Ba’ath Party have met to elect clandestine command structures. The political group met in Baqubah in June 2004, according to Mossawi. A more militant, pro-Syrian group met in October 2004 in the Syrian town of Hasaka, according to a Kurdish official who cited informant reports. Thataccount was confirmed by a senior US official . . . Fighters and documents captured in Fallujah last November showed that Ba’athists and former officers with Hussein’s intelligence agency, the Mukhabarat, ran many insurgent cells . . . ‘
Give that man a prize. This is what is really going on in Iraq. The neo-Baath is setting things up for a comeback and the Third Coup. That is why the recent operation at Qaim and Ubaidi will have very little effect on the guerrilla war. The foreign jihadis are just being used as the equivalent of canon fodder (see the report on the Saudi volunteers, below.)
By the way, Baathists can be suicide bombers, too. The technique of suicide bombing was pioneered by the secular, Marxist Tamil Tigers, who used it to assassinate Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. It just is not true that one has to be religious to use it. Secular people give their lives for causes dear to them all the time. Hell, the entire Soviet Army was full of atheists and they died in large numbers in World War II.
USA Today adds,
“A suicide attacker detonated his car near a convoy carrying Diyala provincial Gov. Raed Rashid Hamid al-Mullah Jawad, al-Nuami said. No one was killed in the initial explosion, he said. Minutes later, as police rushed to the blast scene, a second suicide attacker detonated a bomb belt, killing three policemen and two civilians and wounding 28 people, al-Nuami said.”
Al-Zaman reports many more explosions and assassinations, including a bombing in Mosul, which are not covered by the Western wire services.
Patrick Cockburn reports that “Iraq is a bloody no-man’s land,” and that only the paucity of reporters on the ground allows the Bush administration to maintain anything different.
Scott Peterson of the Christian Science Monitor reports on the maneuvering around the Iraqi constitution. A drafting committee of 55 parliamentarians has been appointed, with only 2 Sunni Arabs among them. Women and Sunnis are both worried about curtailment of their rights. Nancy Youssef of Knight Ridder argues that if Humam Hamudi of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq is appointed chairman of the drafting committee, it will signal that the proponents of political Islam intend to shape the document so as to support their program.
Al-Zaman reports that the Bush administration is terrified that the new Iraqi government is sliding toward a narrowly ethnic program (i.e. Shiite religious dominance), and implies that it was one reason for US Secretary of State Condi Rice’s sudden visit to Irbil and Baghdad. She urge PM Ibrahim Jaafari to work harder to incorporate Sunni Arabs into the constitution-drafting process. She also gave such powerful assurances to Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani in Irbil, according to al-Zaman, that the US supports a loose federalism in Iraq that the province was said to be experiencing an “unprecedented sense of comfort” with the political process.
Mark Danner has an analysis of the secret British memo revealing that Bush fixed the Iraq intelligence. It will be published in the New York Review of Books but is appearing early on the Web at Tomdispatch.com.