Shiite Children Targeted Najaf Clerics

Shiite Children Targeted
Najaf Clerics Warn of Civil War

Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times reports on the gruesome bombing in the poor Shiite “New Baghdad” district on Wednesday. US troops in the neighborhood attracted the interest of children. At first the soldiers tried to wave them away, but then gave in and handed out candy. Presumably Baath or fundamentalist intelligence already had the US convoy under surveillance, and they saw this moment as an ideal time to act. A bomb-laden SUV slammed into the scene, killing over 30 persons, mostly children, and at least one US soldier. It also left over 25 wounded. The dead were immediately taken to the Shiite holy city of Najaf for burial.

I heard a report on National Public Radio on Wednesday quoting one of the bereaved mothers as blaming the Americans for the childrens’ deaths (insofar as they were the occasion for the bombing).

Al-Hayat carries an article saying that the Shiite religious authorities in Najaf do not rule out the eruption of a civil war in Iraq if Sunni Arab guerrillas continue to target Shiites, including Shiite clergy. More than 25 clerical representatives of the Najaf grand ayatollahs have been killed. The representative of Grand Ayatollah Ishaq Fayyad especially complained about mass killings of Shiites in Latifiyah.

As for other events of the day, Daragahi adds:

“Elsewhere in the capital, gunmen killed a police officer and soldiers in the Bayaa neighborhood.

Police discovered the bodies of 13 Sunni Arab men who were reportedly arrested by police.

Clashes erupted between gunmen and police in the Amraa neighborhood, injuring three police officers and two civilians.

An off-duty police officer of the rapid intervention was shot dead in Baghdad’s Amariya neighborhood.

In Diala province northeast of Baghdad gunmen shot dead Col. Shaalan Abd Al-Jalel, commander of the elite rapid intervention force commando unit.”

Reuters also reports that “ISKANDARIYA – One policeman and one insurgent were killed when clashes erupted after gunmen attacked a police station in a town south of Baghdad, police said. Three policemen and two insurgents were injured in the attack which occurred in Iskandariya, a town in the ‘triangle of death’.”

Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari is planning a trip to Iran. The Iranian charge d’affaires in Baghdad says that a new chapter is dawning in Iran-Iraq relations. He predicts extensive cooperation in the technical and economic fields.

Jonathan Morgenstein, who served as Marine Corps civil affairs officer in Ramadi, shares observations from his months in Iraq. Excerpts:

“Iraqi troops will not be able to provide security for a long time, despite President Bush’s assertions. President Bush has argued that the Iraqi Security Forces will soon be capable of providing security for Iraq. However, his assertion that “Iraq has more than 160,000 security forces trained and equipped for a variety of missions,” is misleading. President Bush’s 160,000 includes Iraqi forces that: 1) have no uniforms or weapons; 2) don’t show up for work regularly; 3) have no more than three weeks of training; and 4) are actually working for or with the insurgents.”

On counter-insurgency, Morgenstein adds:

” To date our counterinsurgency efforts have focused on cordon and search operations: sweeping neighborhoods looking for weapons and fighters and then returning to our bases each night. When in the streets, we asked Iraqis to turn in insurgents and provide intelligence. At times we patrolled with the explicit goal of building relationships with local leaders as well as facilitating economic, political and social development. But reminiscent of Vietnam, each time we returned to base we lost the ground we had gained and had to repeat the same operations in the same areas, a few weeks later. In our absence those suspected of “collaborating” were punished, often turning up headless in the street with a note pinned to their chest as a warning to others. Consequently, Iraqis have been too terrified to work with us.”

I cannot understand why there has not been more writing and analysis like this from Iraq war vets.

Robert Pape explains again that suicide bombing is a nationalist response to the perceived military occupation of another country by a democratic state.

Milan Rai at Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now reminds us that a leaked British memo made it explicit that the British military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq was radicalizing young British Muslims. The London Times reported on it here, with links to the document.

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