Fear Stalks Iraq as “Truce” Ends
US Diplomat in Baghdad Implicated in Israel Spy Scandal
Al-Hayat: The one-day total for deaths related to the guerrilla war in Wednesday ended up being about 55, with dozens injured (probably over a hundred). Iraqis perceived the massive bombings as the end of a “truce” of the past few days, when bombings in the capital had become rarer. The deputy minister of Interior for Intelligence Affairs, Hussein Ali Kamal, confessed that the abilities of the ministry were still “inadequate,” which allowed the return of the bombings.
[The second highest ranking US diplomat in Iraq, David Satterfield, has been implicated in the AIPAC spy case. Satterfield is not known for being lock step with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. But I minded two things about this article in the NYT. First, the two persons it quotes on Satterfield, Indyk and Ross, both have a long association with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which was set up by AIPAC as a think tank to promote Israeli interests in Washington. No critic of AIPAC is quoted in the article; none. Second, the article does not stop and consider how Iraqis are going to feel about this news. I mean, he is the deputy chief of mission, as I understand the description given by the NYT. If he did leak classified information to an Israeli lobby from the US Government, wouldn’t Iraqis be worried he was leaking to the Israelis from Baghdad? I mean, the US is always complaining that they are afraid anything they share with the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government goes straight to Iran. I don’t know if Satterfield is guilty of anything, but an article about this issue should at least have involved one interview with an independent Iraqi politician about the meaning of it for the latter’s country.]
Out in the provinces, there was further mayhem. Guerrillas ambushed 6 Iraqi soldiers near Hawija in the north, killing them all. Another 5 police were killed in Tikrit.
Al-Hayat: The Association of Muslim Scholars announced that one of its members was killed by a gun shot in the region of Khan Bani Saad, 30 miles north of Baghdad. The US military said 5 of its troops had died since Tuesday.
AP reported that guerrillas detonated a car bomb in downtown Fallujah, killing 3 persons, including 2 children.
The paper suggested that US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers’ visit to Baghdad was part of an American campaign to pressure Iraqi politicians into finishing the constitution.
The governor of Karbala Province, the site of a Shiite shrine that attracts many pilgrims from Iran, complained Wednesday that some Iranians were peddling drugs and performing services for political forces locally. (That some Iranians in Karbala are gangsters is far more plausible than recent phony Bush administration charges that the Shiite Iranians are helping the Sunni insurgents in the north-central part of the country!) Aqil al-Khuzai called on Iranian pilgrims to obey security laws and to refrain from importing drugs or becoming involved in local politics. (Iraq is expecting tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of Iranian pilgrims in coming years, so controlling them is going to be anything but easy. There are enormous pressures from Najaf and Karbala elites, however, to promote the pilgrim trade, which could be worth half a billion dollars a year in the near to medium term).
Al-Zaman/AFP/Reuters: Iraqi government spokesman Laith Kubba said of Wednesday’s horrific bombings in central Baghdad, which left over 40 dead and twice as many injured, “Those who commit these crimes are the same ones who specialized in mass murder during the era of the tyrant Saddam.” He added, “They have a plan that is composed of two stages. The first is to spread terror and grief serially, in order to break the will of the Iraqi people. The second is to attempt to overthrow the government through spreading chaos in the land.”
[Kubba is in part correct and in part in error, and he left out something big. Some of those behind the campaign of car bombings and other acts of terror are the old Baathist power elite (especially military intelligence, elements of the officer corps, and the secret police or mukhabarat). But some of them are Sunni jihadis who would not have been allowed to operate in Baghdad by Saddam. And others were relatively apolitical in the Saddam era but have been galvanized by a conviction that their country is suffering foreign occupation (Anglo-American at least, and perhaps Iranian as well). So it isn’t correct to say that the perpetrators are exactly the same group as put all those Shiites and Kurds in mass graves, though there is certainly an overlap. Note how different Kubba’s discourse is from that of the Bush administration, which almost never talks about anything but “al-Qaeda” in Iraq. Here we have a high-level Iraqi spokesman, and all he sees in the insurgency are Baathists.
The important thing he left out is that the plan actually has three parts. First the guerrillas force the Americans and British out. Then they destabilize Iraq. Then they make a coup and kill the elected government, along with Sistani and anyone else who gets in their way. Since the guerrillas have so many former military officers and veterans in their ranks, and since they know where thousands of tons of hidden munitions are buried, they believe they still have an edge over the ragtag Shiite militias such as Badr Corps and Mahdi Army. I personally think they would need tanks and helicopter gunships actually to prevail; but maybe they think they can buy some on the world market. The Lebanese militias brought in tanks in the late 1970s. You can’t make authentic WW II movies any more because the Sherman tanks left behind in Europe by the US military, which used to be deployed in the films of the 1950s and 1960s, were sold to the third world by arms merchants. People like Michael Ledeen’s friend Manuchehr Ghorbanifar, by the way, are in the biz, as are some Israelis, and some of what the arms merchants spring for the black market ends up in very, very unsavory hands.
The Independent reported that the Baghdad morgue received 1100 bodies in July, the highest number in the history of modern Iraq. My understanding is that the families often just quickly bury loved ones killed by bombings, and do not necessarily send them to the morgue (devout Muslims do not embalm, and most often prefer to bury on the day of death.). The paper also noted that this number of Iraqi dead in one month is 2/3s the number of all US troops killed since Bush launched the war.
President Jalal Talabani delegated to one of his vice presidents, Adil Abdul Mahdi, the signing of death sentences against captured terrorists and criminals. Talabani, an old-time socialist, opposes the death penalty. Many idealistic Iraqis had vowed after the fall of Saddam that Iraq would not have a death penalty, as a rebuke of the age of genocide. But the constant violence has forced politicians to talk tough, and at least sometimes to act tough.
‘ However, the largest Sunni group, the Iraqi Islamic Party, issued a blistering attack on the drafting committee, accusing it of bias and incompetence. The party, which has members on the committee, said major differences remain on the same issues that blocked a deal last week.
They included federalism, the role of the Shiite clergy and the distribution of Iraq’s vast oil wealth. The Sunni party also insisted that the new constitution affirm the country’s Arab and Islamic identity and demanded that Islam be declared a main source in legislation – a measure opposed by Kurds and women’s activists.
“The battle of the constitution is not over yet,” the Sunni party said. “Our people should be awake and cautious and the popular will should arise to put pressure for a free Iraqi national draft constitution that preserves the sovereignty and unity of its people.” ‘
The Iraqi Islamic Party has roots in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and has a long history in Mosul. Controversially, it has generally cooperated with the US since the fall of Saddam. It sat out the Jan. 30 elections to protest the Fallujah campaign of last November, but as I remember it may have a representative in parliament anyway. It was apportioned 3 delegates on the 71-member constitution drafting committee. It captured the provincial council of Anbar Province (but that does not mean much since only 2 percent of the electorate voted on Jan. 30). It is dedicated to implementing Islamic law for Sunnis, and on that issue it is allied with religious Shiites against secular Sunnis, including the Kurds.
The party statement said, “We have reservations about a number of articles in the constitution in their current form or even in principle, and we announced our reservations to all the parties.” It added, “We will continue to criticize these articles and to demand that they be amended, whether before the present National Assembly or through the pressure of the masses, or even via the future National Assembly.” (The next assembly will have far more Sunni Arabs in it if they come out to vote this time).
He complained that many delegates were writing the constitution to support narrow ethnic or sectarian interests, warning that this way of proceeding could prove a disaster, especially when the timetable for completion is so short.
He said that the Sunni Arabs were worried about establishing Iraq as a federal state, but also about the Arab and Islamic identity of the country, the role of the Shiite religious leadership in Najaf, the law on personal status, the rights of women, and so forth.” (The rights of women?)
The Sunnis Arabs, he said, are reconciled to a special status for the three northern Kurdish provinces (i.e. the status quo) but oppose further provincial confederations.
Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the Shiite cleric who leads the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, has proposed a confederation of 9 southern Shiite-majority provinces, with a status similar to that of Kurdistan.
The thing I take away from today’s NYT article on the US military rebuilding of the police force in Mosul is that if the US leaves next year, I wouldn’t want to have to call 911 in Mosul. The last police force the US stood up in Mosul, all 4000 of them, resigned en masse last November to protest the US assault on Fallujah, after which the city (which had been relatively calm) fell into a chaos typical of the Sunni Arab regions. It is now better, and a new police force is being trained. But the comments of the Iraqi army (mostly Shiites and Kurds) in Mosul that they don’t trust the Sunni Jubur tribal elements in the Mosul police suggests a harrowing possible scenario– civil war between the army and police in the city on ethnic grounds. I suspect the US military invited the NYT to town to show off the new police, but the resulting article did not reassure me, at least.