Wave of Assassinations, Bombings
Oil Exports Halted
Here’s the headline of The Times of Baghdad [al-Zaman] for Monday, October 24, 2005: Wave of Assassinations in Tikrit, Baqubah, Ramadi, and Mahawil; Oil Exports Halted from Basra & Ceyhan; Kidnapping of Director of Resources at Southern Petroleum Co.; A Sudanese Detonates a Car Bomb Near an American Patrol at Kirkuk.
Guerrillas detonated bombs in Baghdad, Kirkuk and Tikrit, killing some 20 Iraqis and wounding even more, along with five US GIs.
Veteran reporter Hamza Hendawi notes that the guerrilla war shows no sign of abating.
The guerrilla forces in Iraq are sharing information on building roadside bombs with one another, and are becoming increasingly sophisticated. In particular, they are now using pressure-sensitive triggers instead of having to detonate the bombs remotely. You wonder how long it will be before all this expertise is used against the US homeland.
Many of the more than 15,000 US military personnel wounded in Iraq have grievous injuries.
Iraq Body Count, Reuters says, estimates that 38 Iraqis die in violence every day. Over thirty-five years, that would amount to nearly 500,000 dead. In fact, it is estimated that the Baath party killed 300,000 Iraqis, so the current rate seems to be greater than the Baath rate. (The number of civilians killed by the Baath is probably in fact exaggerated. Only a few thousand bodies have been recovered from mass graves so far.)
A poll of Iraqis commissioned for the British military came up with the following findings:
‘• Forty-five per cent of Iraqis believe attacks against British and American troops are justified – rising to 65 per cent in the British-controlled Maysan province;
• 82 per cent are “strongly opposed” to the presence of coalition troops;
• less than one per cent of the population believes coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security;
• 67 per cent of Iraqis feel less secure because of the occupation;
• 43 per cent of Iraqis believe conditions for peace and stability have worsened;
• 72 per cent do not have confidence in the multi-national forces. ‘
The Telegraph also earlier reported that a British plan to draw down its forces in southern Iraq has had to be shelved because of continued poor security. But the Iraqis are saying they’ll take their chances with poor security.
The way the Telegraph reports the poll makes me wonder if it is really nationwide. Maysan is dominated by Marsh Arabs who tend to support Muqtada al-Sadr, so it is not urprising that 65 percent of them want coalition troops out now. But even greater numbers of Sunni Arabs want them out immediately, so why mention Maysan as having an unusually large number of anti-coalition residents?
As I noted in a BBC interview on Sunday, A USA Today poll in April, 2004, came up with similar findings. Then, 57 percent of Iraqis wanted coalition troops out immediately, and about half said that there were circumstances in which it was legitimate to attack US troops. Attitudes now are more negative, but the attitudes revealed in the British Ministry of Defense poll have been there for some time on about the same orders of magnitude.
US troops continue to face a special challenge in Ramadi and other cities of Anbar province.
The petroleum exports occurred in part because of sabotage, in part because of weather. Unknown persons kidnapped Khidir Fathullah, the director of resources at the Southern Oil Company in Basra from in front of his home when he set out for work.
Oil exports from Ceyhan in Turkey via pipelines from Kirkuk were halted because of 4 explosions at the oil fields at Kirkuk. (In a recent 60 Minutes interview, Vice Premier and notorious liar Ahmad Chalabi claimed to have perfected a new guard system for the pipelines that had stopped the sabotage.) The bombs that went off on Sunday will probably stop northern exports for a month.
Dust storms and high winds, producing choppy water in the Oil Gulf, have also stopped the loading of petroleum onto ships at Basra since Friday. Iraq has only been able to produce 1.8 million barrels a day this year, down from the past few.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa gained the approval of Kurdish leaders Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani (current Iraqi president) for the conference of national reconciliation he plans to host in Cairo. The Iraqi Kurds had earlier been annoyed with the Arab League, but Moussa praised their role in building a new Iraq.
I saw a spokesman for the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq today on Aljazeera saying that SCIRI favors the conference, as well, but had been critical of Moussa for not having held it long before now. (The subtext here is that Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, SCIRI leader, has long been outraged by the generally pro-Saddam sentiments in the Arab League, and its failure to condemn the massacres of Shiites. Modern Arab nationalism is inflected as “Sunni” in the same way that American nationalism tends to be inflected as “white.”)
Al-Zaman/ AFP: The recent kidnapping and killing of an attorney involved in the defense of a Saddam associate has provoked a strike on Wednesday by the attorneys in Baghdad. Some are also calling for a boycott of the trial of Saddam by trial lawyers until the killers of Saadoun al-Janabi are apprehended. The man killed was from the Janabi clan, and the clan leader alleged on Sunday that the murder was committed by the Badr Corps, the Iran-trained paramilitary of the fundamentalist Shiite SCIRI party. Such charges are explosive at a time of constant Sunni-Shiite violence, and are harbingers of the kind of raw emotions and perhaps violence that are likely to be stirred up by the trial of Saddam.
Al-Hayat [Arabic] is reporting that Iraqi political parties are scrambling to put together joint lists again. It says that the fundamentalist Shiite Dawa Party has decided to run again with the fundamentalist Shiite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The Fadilah (Virtue) Party may join that list, as well. But SCIRI is trying to attract some secular and Sunni candidates so as to combat the impression that its United Iraqi Alliance is a Shiite cat’s paw of Iran. Al-Hayat says that the Kurdistan Alliance is exploring a coalition with religious Sunni parties. Several groups are negotiating to join the secular list of Iyad Allawi. For a while it seemed that the Iraqi Islamic Party (mildly fundamentalist Sunnis) might join Allawi, but it has decided to run alone. One subtext of the article is that both the Kurds and Allawi are trying to find ways to attract votes from the vast number of voters who used to support the secular Arab nationalist Baath Party.
A British colonel and battalion commander is resigning and leaving Iraq in protest at the failure of the Coalition governments to provide properly armored vehicles to his troops. One was killed by a roadside bomb last week.