85 Shiites Dead At Balad In

85 Shiites Dead at Balad in Carbombings
5 US Troops Killed at Ramadi

Friday morning, al-Jazeerah is reporting at least 10 dead and more wounded in a market in the Shiite city of Hilla south of Baghdad, as a result of a car bombing. This incident probably involved Sunni Arab guerrillas from the mixed Babil province targeting Shiites.

Three car bombs in the city of Balad, just north of Baghdad in the Sunni Arab heartland, killed at least 85 on Thursday and wounded 115 persons. The bombs targetted districts with a concentration of Shiite Muslims. Balad is near the Shiite city of Dujjail, the prospective site for the trial of Saddam Hussein.

Anthony Loyd, reporting from Baghdad for the London Times, argues that a sectarian war is already underway in Iraq. The attacks in Balad certainly seem to be part of this phenomenon.

In addition, guerrilla violence elsewhere killed 5 American GIs and 12 Iraqis.

US military forces raided the homes of two Sunni Arab politicians who had been willing to advise the interim government, infuriating them.

Patrick Cockburn reports that at a meeting in Baghdad of nearly 1,000 former Iraqi army officers and an adviser to the Iraqi president, the officers expressed disgust at the lack of security, clean water, electricity and other essentials in Iraq, which they said lacked any sign of a government.

CBS News reports that:

“a roadside bomb killed five American soldiers Wednesday during combat in the western town of Ramadi, the military said. It was the deadliest single attack on U.S. troops since a roadside bomb killed 14 Marines near Haditha in western Iraq on Aug. 3. The five dead Americans were assigned to the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force and were hit Wednesday while “conducting combat operations” in the insurgent hotbed, a statement by the Marines said. The deaths brought to 13 the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq in the past four days. According to an Associated Press count, 1,934 U.S. troops have died since the war started in 2003.”

The bomb blast in Najaf on Wednesday evening turns out probably to be a case of the bomb-makers actually blowing themselves up. But then Muqtada al-Sadr’s movement had said that the house that was blown up belonged to one of Muqtada’s bodyguards. Were they mistaken or is the Mahdi Army busy making bombs for a future showdown with the rival Shiite Badr Corps?

Al-Sharq al-Awsat: Jawad al-Maliki, a parliamentarian and member of the Dawa Party, complained bitterly on Thursday that Iraqi diplomatic missions abroad were plagued with corruption and still staffed by supporters of Saddam Hussein.

Speaking of corruption, the Ministry of Electricity was a hotbed of corruption under former minister Ayham al-Samarrai, according to his successor, who claims that “hundreds of millions of dollars” have gone missing. Samarrai has recently represented himself as being the target for death squads from the new government, but maybe he is just a target for auditors.

The Sunni Arabs are still agitating for changes in Iraq’s constitution at this late date. It has already been reported out of committee to parliament and sent to the UN for printing, though nobody outside government seems to have seen it. It cannot be changed now. It ought to be, of course. As Fred Kaplan recognizes, the constitution is a guarantee of long-term guerrilla violence in Iraq, since it cuts the Sunni Arabs out of a fair share of the country’s resources. On the other hand, since it is backed by the Kurdistan Alliance and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the two biggest and most influenntial political blocs in the country, it is likely to pass. It is also not clear that its rejection would lead to peace, either, since the Kurds and Shiites would be perhaps fatally disillusioned with the democratic process if all their work and aspirations were now torpedoed.

Fallujah does not sound to me as though it is really subdued, from this Slate article (it is a series, and worth following).

South Korea on Thursday thanked Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for advising Seoul not to send combat troops to Iraq. What? Pakistan in summer of 2003 was close to sending troops itself, but insisted they be under a United Nations command, which was unacceptable to Bush, so the deal fell through. So now it turns out Musharraf was warning other American allies not to get centrally involved, as well. Washington will be furious, but I fear that they haven’t got a leg to stand on. Whichever way you look at it, Musharraf was perfectly correct.

Evan Lehmann writes,

“Retired Army Lt. Gen. William Odom, a Vietnam veteran, said the invasion of Iraq alienated America’s Middle East allies, making it harder to prosecute a war against terrorists. The U.S. should withdraw from Iraq, he said, and reposition its military forces along the Afghan-Pakistani border to capture Osama bin Laden and crush al Qaeda cells. “The invasion of Iraq I believe will turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history,” said Odom, now a scholar with the Hudson Institute.”

With the Hudson Institute? That is Neocon Central. Now they’re supporting Odom to say this?

But his evaluation is correct. The greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history.

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