Sunnis Demonstrate in Baghdad
As Bombings Kill 28, wound 46, with 3 US Soldiers Dead
1 Million Iraqis say “US Out”!
Maher al-Thanoon of Reuters reports that one thousand Sunni Arabs staged a demonstration outside the Green Zone (barricaded government offices) against the elected Iraqi government, which is dominated by Shiites in coalition with Kurds. They accused the Jaafari government of using torture and death squads on a sectarian basis against their community, which they called “the new Iraq of fire and steel.” Al-Thanoon says, “Simulating torture, they dressed up as soldiers and used drills, wooden clubs and electric wires to act out what they said were the techniques used by government forces against them.”
The Muqtada al-Sadr followers say they have collected the signatures of one million Iraqis asking that US and other Coalition troops leave the country immediately. In his sermon at an East Baghdad mosque, Shaikh Abdul Zahra al-Suwaidi told the congregation, “We obtained the Iraqi signatures demanding the withdrawal of the occupation troops as asked for by Sayyed Moqtada Sadr . . . The goal of this petition is to show the world the rejection by Iraqis of foreigners in Iraq . . .”
Then on Friday evening in south Baghdad, guerrillas cut down Faisal al-Khaz’ali, a major leader of an important Shiite clan.
An individual suicide bomber walked up to an Iraqi army recruitment center in the northern town of Rabi`a, an hour’s drive from Mosul near the Syrian border, and detonated his payload. He killed 25 persons and wounded 35. Rabi`a is one of those border towns into which the US alleges volunteer jihadis slip from Syria (though they also slip in from Jordan and Saudi Arabia but the Washington crew never say anything about that, and US journalists never call them on it). It wasn’t clear, in any case, whether the bomber was an Iraqi (there isn’t much difference among the Sunni clans on either side of that border; some belong to the same over-all tribes).
*Baghdad: A few hours after the bombing in Rabi`a, guerrillas attacked a police patrol with a car bomb but missed and killed two civilians.
*Mosul: Some eyewitnesses said that guerrillas in Iraq’s third-largest city targeted a US convoy with a car bomb but missed and killed a child and wounded 11 civilians. Another report said that the target was not a US patrol but rather a man selling alcohol from a cart.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat says that altogether 4 Iraqis were killed and five wounded in separate attacks to the north of Baghdad, including Balad and Samarra, on Friday. Another roadside bomb killed a truck driver 30 km north of the capital.
In Samarra an Iraqi soldier was wounded and another injured by a roadside bomb.
In Baquba guerrillas attempted to assassinate the police commissioner for Diyala province, but failed, leaving two policemen wounded (one of them of high rank).
‘CYKLA – Two U.S. soldiers were killed on Thursday when their unit came under attack by small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades in Cykla, about 200 km (120 miles) west of Baghdad, a U.S. military statement said.
* BAGHDAD – One U.S. soldier died on Thursday when the vehicle he was driving was involved in a single-vehicle accident off base in central Baghdad around 11:30 p.m.’
Kyodo News reports, regarding the southern Shiite city of Samawah, pop. 124,000, the capital of oil-rich al-Muthanna Province:
“Two explosions took place at a job training center for women in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah Friday morning, but no one was injured, local police said. The Japanese government provided sewing machines and computers through the United Nations Development Program to the facility, operated by a local women’s group. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces have been involved in reconstruction activities in the city.”
There have been a number of demonstrations in Samawa during the past week. Last Sunday, the Sadrists there demonstrated against the lack of electricity. There was also a bombing of a jewelry shop belonging to the Iraqi head of an Iraqi-Japanese frienship association.
On last Monday, they demonstrated again, mentioning the high price of ice and the lack of potable water, according to AP: “Hundreds of Iraqis burned a Japanese flag Tuesday and called for Tokyo to remove its troops from the country in a protest that seemed motivated by the poor state of water and electricity supplies here more than two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The peaceful protest in this city 240 kilometers (150 miles) south of Baghdad appeared to have been organized by followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.” They burned the Japanese flag.
Note that the Japanese contingent in Samawah is helping with local health and community development projects, so the demonstration seems particularly misplaced. Ironically, the Japanese contingent is suffering from the spillover of anti-American sentiment.
Al-Hayat reports that sectarian wrangling continues concerning key clauses of the draft constitution. Kurdish Minister of Planning said that you cannot have democracy if shariah or Islamic canon law is imposed on the constitution, which would create Taliban-like morals police in parts of Iraq.
Sunni Arab leader of the National Dialogue Council, Salih al-Mutallik, said that the Sunnis cannot “accept that Iranians will be Iraqi citizens.” A disputed article in the constitution recognizes Iranian-Iraqis or Persians as an Iraqi minority alongside groups such as Turkmen and Yazidis. Iraqis of Iranian heritage are numerous in the Shiite south, and many such families have been in Iraq for centuries. They have family names such as Qazwini, Shirazi, Astarabadi, etc. (cities in Iran). They were targeted for deportation by Saddam (along with many Iraqi Arab Shiites wrongly categorized as “Iranians”), and the purpose of the article is to redress that injustice and forestall any repeat of it. Sunni Arabs on the other hand are afraid of being overwhelmed by Iranian Shiite immigrants, which would further weaken their position.
A draft given Associated Press says that it will be forbidden to pass laws that contravene the ordinances of Islam. It also specifies that provinces will keep no more than 10 percent of the receipts for petroleum exports from their territory, with the central government getting 90 percent. The Kurds had early demanded about 1/4 of petroleum income from Kirkuk, and the Shiite governor of Basra in the deep south has recently agitated for a similar deal for the southern provinces with regard to the Rumaila oil field, in al-Muthanna province near Kuwait.
A Kurdish member of the constitution drafting committee, Mundhir al-Fadl, said that the coming Tuesday is the deadline for certifying that the constitution will be finished and presented to parliament for a vote by Aug. 15, and he doubted the deadline could be met. Apparently there is still a dispute about whether Kurdish will be co-equal to Arabic as one of the two official languages of the country, as the Kurds demand.
Al-Mutallik of the Sunni National Dialogue Council was even more pessimistic, saying that the constitution can’t be finished by next Tuesday, and probably cannot be finished even if the parliament takes another 6 months. Nor, he insisted, would the Sunnis accept simply being run over roughshod and having the constitution voted in even if they (a minority on the committee) object. He said Sunnis object to the Shiite plan to mention the Najaf Grand Ayatollahs as sources of authority in the constitution. “The other groups don’t have a grand ayatollah,” he said.
Tod Robberson reports from Basra on the increasing restrictions on personal liberties there, deriving from the pressure of Shiite militias.
There were a number of demonstrations in Umm Qasr this past week against the border barrier that Kuwait is building. Kuwait has deployed police at its border in response.