21 Killed around Baghdad
Jaafari denies Allegations against Iran
Guerrilla violence killed 21 persons, including a US soldier, around Baghdad on Thursday.
Reuters reports the following violence outside Baghdad:
‘ KIRKUK – Gunmen shot dead five Oil Ministry security guards and wounded another three as they were driving to the northern city of Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad. Lieutenant Jawaad Abdullah said they were shot in the town of Uthaim, south of Kirkuk.
MOSUL – Gunmen killed Salem Ayoub Sillo, a local prison chief, and his driver in the northern Noor district of Mosul, a police source said.
FALLUJA – Police said a suicide car bomb detonated against a U.S. convoy in central Falluja on Wednesday evening, destroying one Humvee . . .
RAMADI – One U.S. Humvee was struck by a roadside bomb south of Ramadi, 110 km (68 miles) west of Baghdad, a police source said . . .
RAMADI – The U.S. military said in a statement that it had killed “six Al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists” and detained at least 110 suspects since operation “River Gate” began on Oct. 4 in the western cities of Haditha, Haqlaniyah and Barwana. ‘
UPI reports doubts arising in the US officer corps in Iraq about whether the military can in good faith ask its soldiers to die for a conflict that is becoming increasingly politicized in Washington. They complain that everything that happens in Iraq is viewed through the prism of whether it is good or bad for George W. Bush. (I agree that this is the rhetorical game in the US, and also that it is stupid. Bush won’t be in office in 2008, but Iraq will still be there, and whether it is in flames will matter to the fate of the United States long after the Bush era is a dim memory.)
A Daily Kos diarist with military experience comments on the US destruction of 7 bridges over the Euphrates, saying, ‘Why is this a big deal? Because we are actually destroying infrastructure in a country we occupy. We are saying that the military value of the bridges to the insurgancy is greater than the value to us in either a military or economic/social way. This can be compared to the use of chemicals to destroy the jungle in Vietnam. Not because it caused cancer but because it was the long term destruction of some portion of the country. ‘
I would just add that the US military has been destroying infrastructure in the Sunni Arab areas for some time. They damaged 2/3s of the buildings in Fallujah last November and December, knocking out electricity, sewage, etc., as well. One officer told me, “we destroyed that city, but we’ll rebuild it.” They also appear to have flattened entire neighborhoods in Tal Afar more recently. This destruction was just as significant as taking out the bridges, and was the same sort of action. It also does signal that the US military is forced to resort to scorched earth policies, to deny the enemy infrastructure because it is too weak to deny it via conventional warfare.
Then there is Iran. First the US Department of Defense floated an attempt to accuse Iran of supplying shaped charges to Sunni Arab guerrillas in northern Iraq. The idea of the ayatollahs helping radical Salafi Abu Musab Zarqawi to blow up fellow Shiites was so absurd that the US dropped the whole thing for a while. Now the Blair government has retooled the charges slightly more plausibly, claiming that the Iranians were sending shaped charges to radical Sadrist splinter groups in Basra for use against British troops. But Iran has long backed the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and its Badr Corps paramilitary, which was trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. The Sadrists have clashed several times with SCIRI, most recently in Najaf. And, Sadrists are ghetto Arab Shiites who openly distrust Persian influence in their affairs. So why would the Iranian government arm the enemies of its proteges, and persons who, moreover, routinely badmouth Iran and work against its influence in Iraq. The whole thing makes no sense.
On Thursday Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, the elected head of the Iraqi executive who is the putative ally of Blair and Bush, strongly denied Blair’s charges against the Iranians. He pointed out that the two countries were developing a very constructive relationship, in which Iran was proving most helpful. He said, according the the BBC Persian site [courtesy a kind reader:] “some people want to harm the friendly relations beween Iran and Iraq, but not only will Iraq not allow them to do so, but it will continue to expand its relations with Iran.”
I’d say Blair has been cut off at the knees in this latest propaganda effort against Iran. My friends with military experience tell me that shaped charges are not so esoteric that Iraqis would have to get them from Lebanon’s Hizbullah via Iran, and that, indeed, there were probably lots of shaped charges in Iraqi arms depots, which have been extensively looted.
Meanwhile, in the real world, Iran has opened its borders for the pilgrim trade to Iraq. Up to 1500 Iranians per day will be allowed to visit the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. When that quota begins being reached, it will translate into over half a million Iranian pilgrims in Iraq per year, and be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, probably billions. Najaf and Karbala are eager to get it going. Good luck to Mr. Blair in controlling from London half a million Iranians traipsing through Iraq every year.
Although this AP article has a title saying that the UN is distributing copies of the new constitution in Iraq, in the body of the article what we actually learn is that
‘ Some 5 million copies arrived in Iraq on Monday, but distribution does not appear to have started in the north and south, where the constitution is expected to pass by a wide margin. In Basra and Hillah, major Shiite towns in the south, no copies have been passed out, nor in Nineveh — a mixed northern province of Sunnis and Kurds that could be crucial to the constitution’s passage or rejection. Kurdish-language copies had not yet reached many Kurdish areas. Parts of Baghdad were expected to start seeing their copies in the coming days. ‘
Parts of Baghdad? It is October 7, and the referendum is in 8 days, and parts of the capital haven’t gotten the text yet? And, this article makes it clear that a lot of Sunni Arabs in Baghdad districts like Dora are not even picking it up for fear it is a death warrant. See Andrew Arato’s comments on the constitution, below.
Warren Strobel of Knight Ridder looks at the ways that the US government is pressuring Iraq’s neighbors to support the referendum on the constitution. From a regional point of view, this constitution threatens to partition Iraq and to create powerful Kurdish and Shiite rump states that could redraw the map of the Middle East if they attract supporters across national borders. Nobody in the region likes this idea except Iran, which is more enthusiastic for the constitution and the referendum than even Washington.