35 Killed in Clashes, Guerrilla Attacks on Monday
Al-Zaman reports that 2 members of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a leading Shiite political party, were killed in Latifiyah. The circumstances were not reported, but that area of Iraq has seen repeated Sunni-Shiite violence.
Reuters reports security incidents in Iraq for Monday:
In Khalis, near Baquba to the northeast of Baghdad, guerrillas attacked an Iraqi army checkpoint, killing 9 Iraqi soldiers. When a crowd gathered and more soldiers came, they blew up a car bomb, killing another soldier and 3 civilians.
In Tel Afar in the Sunni Turkmen north, US forces engaged guerrillas on Sunday and Monday. In shelling of the town center, 5 civilians died and 18 were wounded. The US military said it killed 14 guerrillas.
On Sunday, 2 Marines had been killed by guerrilla mortar shells while conducting operations.
In a horrific development, nine men who took a colleague to hospital in Amiriyah, West Baghdad, with gunshot wounds were arrested on suspicion of involvement with the guerrilla movement. The Iraqi security forces put them in a closed metal container all day Sunday, in the burning heat, and by nightfall most of them were dead. It is not clear that they weren’t more or less innocent bystanders. The Sunni Endowment Board charged that they had been tortured and killed by government Shiite gendarmes (-al-Hayat).
This incident is eerily reminiscent of Palestinian author Ghassan Kanafani’s “Men in the Sun,”. There, too, men die in a metal container (an empty truck container) in Iraq. But these were Palestinians kicked out of their country by the Israelis in 1948, trying to get across Iraq to the Kuwait. The novelette is well translated and available at Amazon.com.
Muqtada al-Sadr’s Shiite nationalist group has begun a drive to collect a million signatures on a petition that US troops should withdraw from Iraq. AFP says they already have 400,000 signatures. (If they circulate the petition in the Sunni Arab areas they could easily get several million signatures, but I presume this petition is for Shiites). AFP adds:
‘ In the radicals’ Baghdad stronghold of Sadr City, Zayer Lafta refused a pen, insisting on applying his bloodied thumb to the petition sheet. “I will sign with my blood, because the country is awash with blood,” the 44-year-old said. “The departure of the occupiers will only benefit the country. Every day they are here the closer Iraq gets to its demise.” ‘
It should not be thought that only radical Shiites of the Sadrist variety are eager to have foreign troops out. Virtually all Arab Iraqis want them out on a short timetable. It is only the new political elite that wants them to stick around for a while, aware that they might well all be assassinated otherwise. The Jaafari government asked the UN to extend the timetable for foreign troop presence in Iraq without even broaching the issue in the elected parliament!
Leila Fadel of Knight Ridder reports on what rising Sunni-Shiite hatred in Iraq means for the country’s many mixed marriages. Her report is chilling in the frank acknowledgment by her interviewees of support for sectarian bloodletting.
Al-Zaman and al-Hayat say that pressure is building in the Iraq parliament to hurry up the trial of Saddam Hussein.
Al-Hayat says that the parliamentary committee charged with writing a constitution by August 15 is increasingly split. The Sunni Arabs on it are saying they fear a loose federalism will lead to a partition of the country into statelets. The Kurds reply that the Sunni objections are “illegitimate.” The dispute concerns the first sentence in the constitution, a draft of which defines Iraq as “federal.” Over the weekend, a Shiite representative of Grand Ayatollah Sistani called for Iraq to be formally termed “the Islamic Republic of Iraq” in the Constitution. Sunni Arabs are also insisting that Iraq be termed “an indivisible part of the Arab nation,” whereas the Kurds object that Iraq is a multicultural society. A special subcommittee has been formed to try to iron out these fundamentali differences.
The Grand Imam of al-Azhar Seminary, Shaikh Muhammad Sayyid al-Tantawi–a preeminent Sunni religious and legal authority– called the bombings in Iraq “the worst form of corruption in the land.” The latter phrase is from the Quran. He called for Arab intervention to stop the country sliding into civil war.
Assistant Secretary of State Robert Zoellick is talking good sense when he says that a political settlement must be part of the solution to the Iraqi guerrilla insurgency. This statement is, I take it, a recognition of the need to negotiate with the guerrilla leaders. The problem is that many of them are Baathists, and that the sectarian parties in control of the new Iraqi government just seem unlikely to be willing to try to bring them in from the cold. Ahmad Chalabi famously complained that bringing them into the government would be like having had Nazis in the post-war German government. But both in post-war Japan and Germany, former supporters of the ancien regime were key in many ways to reconstruction. As I have said, a political settlement has to begin with a formal amnesty for all Baath Party members who cannot be proved to have done anything criminal. And an amnesty for those guerrilla leaders now willing to come in from the cold would also be necessary (and has been talked about by PM Jaafari, unlike the more general amnesty).
The courts will allow a lawsuit to go forward by two whisteblowers against their former company, which they allege cheated US taxpayers of millions of reconstruction dollars in Iraq.