Talk of Foreign Troop Withdrawals as Bombs strike Kirkuk, Tal Afar
Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari said on Tuesday that some Iraqi cities were secure enough so that US and Coalition troops could withdraw from them soon. He defended, however, a US military presence in the short term, and opposed a precise timetable for US withdrawal.
Al-Hayat says that its sources say the US will begin withdrawing troops at the end of 2005 from provinces where the Iraqi military and security forces can keep the peace. The withdrawal is dependent on the Iraqis being able to finalize a constitution an adopt it through a national referendum, however.
The same source says that two Sunni members of the parliamentary committee for drafting the constitution have received death threats.
In Jalowla near the Iranian border, terrorists detonated a bomb at a Sunni mosque, killing two persons and wounding 16. There have been several bombings of Shiite mosques by Sunni guerrillas, and this action may have been payback. It may also be a further sign that there is an unconventional sectarian civil war in Iraq.
In Kirkuk, a suicide bomber killed 3 persons and wounded 15. The victims were civilians, but the bomber had apparently been trying to strike a US military convoy, which had just passed through.
In west Baghdad, guerrillas invaded the offices of a construction company and killed 4 persons, wounding one. The head of the company was killed, along with a human rights worker. In central Baghdad, guerrillas shot Col. Amr Mozer, an Interior Ministry official. A US soldier died in Baghdad of wounds he received earlier in the week from a roadside bomb.
In Musayyib south of the capital, police found the headless body of a man. In this area of Iraq, Sunni-Shiite killings have been common.
In Tel Afar, a roadside bomb killed an Iraqi man and wouned four women and children.
In Basra, a thousand protesters fought riot police in front of the governor’s mansion, and four were injured when the scene turned ugly. The governor had banned automobiles with the steering wheel on the right side (British style), requiring that cars be left-hand-drive. Iraqis have imported tens of thousands of used cars since the fall of Saddam, and one suspects that there is a certain amount of smuggling. Was the law passed by the governor getting in the way of profits?
The Christian Science Monitor reports on the gradual Talabanization of Basra by militant Shiite militias. There has also been a murder wave in the past three months, with over 300 persons killed a month. Some have been Sunnis or Sunni clerics. The article quotes, ‘ “No alcohol, no music CDs, woman forced to wear hijab, people murdered in the streets – this is not the city I remember,” says Samir, an editor of one of Basra’s largest newspapers. ‘
Iraq has backed off plans to have Iran train some of its military forces. One can only imagine that the pressure from Washington was enormous.