Bombings, Shootings in Balad, Tikrit, Samarra, Mahmudiyah
Sunni Clerics Condemn Marginalization of their Community, Protest US
Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports a suicide attack on an Iraqi military checkpoint in Balad Saturday, which killed three Iraqi soldiers and wounded a third.
Guerrillas shot dead an Iraqi policemen from the rapid response team on a bridge in Samarra on Saturday.
Iraqi police undertook a sweep of Mahmudiyah and Latifiyah, south of Baghdad near Hilla. They killed 3 guerrillas, wounded 5, and captured 19.
A suicide bomber in Tikrit north of Baghdad detonated his payload late Friday afternoon in front of a US military base, killing 5 Iraqi soldiers and wounding 7. Another suicide bomber, in Baghdad, targeted a police patrol and wounded two Iraqi policemen seriously.
The Gulf Daily News also reports on the virtual desertion of a unit of the Iraqi military:
“Meanwhile, an Iraqi army unit has been disbanded after it refused to attend a US training course in Baghdad, former members of the unit said yesterday. The soldiers said they feared reprisals from locals if they were seen to have co-operated with the Americans.”
I wouldn’t say this incident is cause for optimism about “Iraqization” or the hope that Iraqi troops will take over security provision from Americans.
Rod Nordland of Newsweek draws the curtain back about how bad the living situation is in Iraq and what widespread and irreversible damage the Abu Ghraib scandal did to American standing among the Iraqi public. His recounting of all the things that are wrong (unreliable electricity and water, lack of security, etc., etc.) is all the more convincing because he admits he began by being a supporter of the war.
Parliamentarian Dr. Raja al-Khuzai, who served in the Interim Governing Council, is visiting India. Her remarks to an Indian reporter on the situation in Iraq are revealing of the conflicted feelings the new political elite in Iraq has about the current situation. They are delighted that Saddam is gone, but they mourn the lack of security and they complain that the US military never bothered to learn Iraqi culture and humiliates Iraqis every day. And she is relatively pro-American!
Hamza Hendawi of AP explores the implications of the transformation of the Sadrist movement of Muqtada al-Sadr into a social services and political organization. (Since the militia was just young Sadrist men with guns, it could be reestablished at any moment, it should be remembered).
Al-Hayat reports that Shaikh Iyad al-`Izzi, a member of the political office of the Iraqi Islamic Party, preached at the Abu Hanifah Mosque in Baghdad Friday against “Operation Lighting,” the sweep of Baghdad neighborhoods recently launched by the Defense and Interior ministries of the Iraqi government. Al-`Izzi said, “It is a lightning bolt that has fallen upon our children and our cities . . . They are arresting our youths on the basis of their (Sunni Arab ethnic) identity . . . There can be no national unity without the Sunnis . . . and no united Iraq if we are marginalized and made to vanish and driven away.” There was a demonstration at the mosque after Friday prayers by hundreds of Sunnis angry over the arrest by the US last Monday of Muhsin Abdul Hamid, the leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party, who has been generally cooperative with the Americans.
Shaikh Mahmud al-Sumaid`i said in his sermon at Umm al-Qura Mosque that “the decision-makers and the government” must halt “the humiliation of the people.” He warned, “If one sect is marginalized for the benefit of another, and the role of one sect is cancelled for the sake of another, the country will never see the light of stability..”
Shaikh Salah al-`Ubaidi of the Sadr Movement warned of the dangers of the country being partitioned as a result of “the escalation among the sectarian groups.”
Lt. Col. Mazhar al-Mawla criticized Operation Lightning from another point of view. He said that there was still poor coordination between the ministries of interior and defense. He also confirmed that no foreign Arab fighters had so far been arrested in the sweep of select Baghdad neighborhoods. He said the operation might be extended, since so far it has not produced the hoped-for results. He said the major successes have been finding and destroying some workshops in Doura and elsewhere used for the construction of car bombs. (Since any garage can function as such a workshop, this achievement is a fleeting one.)
The Washington Post reports that US and Iraqi forces stumbled upon a huge underground bunker in Anbar province that was being used as a headquarters and arms storage site by the guerrillas. The complex is said to be the size of 3 football fields. You wonder how many such bunkers the Baath had established around Iraq. No one should think that the capture of this one will put much of a dent in the guerrilla war. All the ordnance can be replaced fairly easily, and there are other places to hide.