4 US Troops Killed
Election Violence in Najaf, Mosul
Guerrillas killed four GIs in separate incidents, some with small arms fire. A suicide bomber targeted an Iraqi army unit in Balad and killed one soldier and wounded 11 others.
Aljazeera on early Sunday morning was reporting 6 US troops dead, but the wire services were still saying 4.
I have been noticing reports of deaths by small arms fire more frequently of late, and am wondering if they indicate increased capacity among the guerrillas. After all, it cannot be easy to get close enough to a US patrol or checkpoint with machine guns to open fire effectively.
Al-Zaman/ AFP: Minister of Defense Saadoun Dulaimi* attempted but failed to dismiss 13 Kurdish officers from the new Iraqi army, including the Army chief of staff, Babakr Zibari. Although himself a Sunni Arab, Dulaimi was acting on behalf of the ruling United Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite coalition that dominates parliament. The Kurdish leadership beat off what some are calling an attempted coup. They threatened to pull out of the current government and to refuse further alliances with the UIA if Dulaim’s plan went through. It did not.
The move was an attempted blow by the Shiite coalition against the Kurdistan coalition.
Iran will open a consulate on Sunday in the Shiite holy city of Karbala.
The nine southern Shiite provinces are developing a joint security plan, and thinking of making Najaf their regional HQ.
The NYT reports on big money, death and dirty tricks in the Iraqi political campaign.
An assassination attempt by roadside bomb in Najaf against the former governor of that province, Adnan Zurfi, failed on Saturday but left 3 of his bodyguards wounded. Zurfi is running for parliament. Meanwhile, mortar shells slammed into the party HQ of Iyad Allawi in Najaf, as well.
In other election violence, two members of the Iraqi Islamic Party putting up campaign posters in Mosul were killed.
Steven Spiegel argues in the LA Times that the Iraq War has boomeranged and made the US significantly less safe.
The Washington Post draws back the curtain on the disputes inside the Bush administration about the wisdom of having adhered to the strict timetable laid out initially by US civil administrator Paul Bremer.
The milestones were:
The January 30, 2005 parliamentary elections
The August 15 deadline for completing the constitution
The October 15 deadline for a national referendum on the constitution, and
The Dec. 15 deadline for yet another parliamentary election
The article neglects to mention a key factor in holding the Jan. 30 elections on time, which was that they had been demanded by no later than that date by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. He would not have accepted a delay, and would have brought the Shiites out into the street to protest if one were attempted. Bush could not afford to alienate Sistani at a time when the Sunni Arabs were already in revolt. The WaPo article is written as though Bush would have had the luxury of postponing those elections. He did not.
Of course, the elections were dogged by the non-participation of the Sunni Arabs, and since Sistani had insisted that an elected body craft the constitution, this task was given to a legislature that virtually lacked a Sunni Arab voice. All this alienation flowed from the way the Jan. 30 elections were conducted. But there were other ways of ensuring a Sunni Arab representation in parliament, including a one-time temporary quota. Or, a separate constituent assembly could have been elected on a provincial basis to write the constitution. But I don’t think it was realistic to delay the date of those first elections.
In my view, though, it was crazy to attempt to write a permanent constitution in only a couple of months, and the Aug. 15 deadline should have been extended for 6 months. As it was, the drafting process became very messy toward the end; people barely knew which language they were voting for in the referendum; and the Sunni Arabs rejected the constitution almost to a person. It was a very bad outcome, and if Iraq breaks up we will almost certainly trace the break-up to the rush to get the constitution drafted and the way in which the Kurds and Shiites stacked it with goodies for themselves at the expense of the Sunni Arabs.
Personally, I don’t see any signs at all that this political process has had an impact on the Sunni Arab guerrilla war. And in the Shiite provinces, it has so far ensconced the Shiite religious parties and their paramilitaries (leading to a certain amount of torture and assassination by the security agencies, which are infiltrated by militiamen.)
The US personnel in Iraq have occasionally sent me these rosy predictions all along the way. In February of 2004 I got a long message that maintained that Muqtada al-Sadr’s movement was dissipating and that the US was about to put $18 billion of reconstruction money into Iraq, which would jump-start the economy, draw off dissidents, and make the place peaceful and flourishing. Two months later the entire South and Baghdad were in flames as Muqtada’s Mahdi Army fought the Coalition military for two solid months. The security situation has never allowed the reconstruction aid to be invested in a way that would lead to development and away from guerrilla war. And virtually everything this seasoned US observer on the ground in provincial Iraq had predicted to me turned out to be a pipe dream. The pipe dreams spring eternal, but they are mirages. In the near to medium term, those Americans who rush through the desert sands in the torrid miasma of the Iraqi midday sun, seeking to throw themselves into the shimmering lakes of peace and prosperity just over the horizon, will be found later at the foot of a dune, lips cracked and skin blackened, their eyeballs the food of scorpions and lizards.