17 US Troops Killed in Iraq:
Baghdad Fuel Blockade and Possibility of “All Out Civil War;”
US Troops Storm Sunni Mosque
A US military Blackhawk helicopter went down near Tal Afar in nothern Iraq, killing all 12 persons aboard.
The question is whether they were shot down. The US assaulted the city of Tal Afar in August, emptying the city, leveling neighborhoods with air strikes, and sending in Kurdish and Shiite troops after Sunni Turkmen, their political rivals. A lot of Sunni Turkmen had been Baath Party members and supported the Saddam regime, and enough had serious military experience that they would know how to get hold of a shoulder-fired missile and how to use it (typically they use SA-7s, but on occasion the guerrillas have managed to get more sophisticated SA-14s.) At least one other Blackhawk was shot down this way.
Iraqi guerrillas killed five Marines on Saturday and Sunday with small arms fire and roadside bombs. Guerillas in Fallujah killed three of them.
Sunday morning at 3 am Iraq time, US troops stormed the influential Umm al-Qura mosque in Baghdad, which is affiliated with the hard line Sunni group, the Association of Muslim Scholars. Reuters says that US troops defaced some parts of the mosque, drawing crosses on cupboards.
The AMS is widely suspected of having links to the Sunni guerrilla movement.
But Muslims are touchy about having foreign troops stomping around their mosques painting Christian symbols on things, and this incident won’t calm things down in Iraq.
This comment from Baghdad came in and was posted, but I think it is worth moving up here and repeating:
“I am an American currently working in Baghdad for a news organization. I’ve been here numerous times over the past 15 years.
The current security situation here has gotten much worse since the elections. We had a security briefing yesterday right after a fellow journalist was abducted. Besides the usual reminders to keep a low profile and going over our own unique security measures and procedures as to what to do in any given scenario we were told that there’s a high probability of all out civil war.
Iraq has been in a low level civil war since the end of 2003 that has been increasing in intensity ever since, but now our security team is telling us that should all-out war break out most, if not all of us, may have to be evacuated to safety in a nearby country. Instead of the scores of Iraqis dying each day as do now, thousands a day could perish. Most Sunnis have given up hope of getting adequate representation in the new Iraqi government and radical elements in the Shiite parties want to exact revenge on the Sunni for supporting Saddam over the years. Shiite death squads roam the city at night (in police and army uniform no less) dragging all the male members of a Sunni family out into the street and executing them in front of their women folk. Sunni insurgents (not in uniform) do the same to Shiite families in areas claimed as theirs.
The Sunni insurgents, it seems, are now determined to bring the new government to its knees by cutting off fuel supplies to Baghdad. The city’s supply of gasoline nearly dried up last week and local authorities literally shut the city down by banning all privately owned vehicles from the streets. They claimed it was to help hunt down the kidnappers of the Interior Minister’s sister but the real reason seems to be to reduce the demand for gas until supplies could be replenished. Electricity in most Baghdad neighborhoods has now been further reduced to as low as 1 hour per day. The black market rate for fuel for generators has doubled again and in many areas even that has run out. At this rate the city will go dark by the end of the month. Iraqi troops are reluctant to escort fuel trucks into Baghdad and American troops have their hands full escorting their own convoys.
Most US casualties are a result of trying to protect US military supplies. You can forget about the US military escorting civilian fuel convoys. So it all comes down to the Iraq army’s ability to get fuel into Baghdad and I don’t have much confidence they will succeed.”