Massive Campaign of Violence Kills 68, Wounds Dozens;
Bush Says Guerrillas Marginalized
A horrific day unfolded in Iraq on Wednesday, with a massive bomb at a funeral, a daring raid that destroyed fuel tankers, and deadly bombings and shootings all over the center-north of the country, even reaching into the south.
President Bush’s and Vice President Cheney’s recent pronouncements do not seem to me to fit very well with the Iraqi reality they say they are describing.
“Those who want to stop the progress of freedom are becoming more and more marginalized.” –Bush 1/04/06.
Al-Zaman/ AFP/ Reuters [Ar.]: In Miqdadiyah (60 mi. N.E. of the capital), a guerrilla wearing a suicide bomb belt detonated it at a the funeral of a relative of an official from the Shiite fundamentalist Dawa Party. (Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari is from Dawa, a component of the victorious United Iraqi Alliance). He killed 37 mourners and wounded 84. Iraqi police sealed off the city in hopes of capturing the group behind the attack.
‘ NEAR BAGHDAD – Gunmen ambushed a convoy of 60 fuel tankers on a road just north of Baghdad, destroying 20 and killing a driver and three members of the convoy’s security team, police and oil officials said. A group called the Islamic Army in Iraq claimed the attack without giving details. The Oil Ministry gave a different account, saying only one tanker was destroyed, by a roadside bomb.’
(Al-Hayat says that the guerrillas had planned out a sophisticated rocket attack on the convoy, and that they destroyed three tankers completely and inflicted substantial damage on 20 others. The convoy had been intended by the government to help alleviate the gasoline crisis in the capital. An internet posting claiming to be from the guerrillas said they had hit it because it was part of the “Occupation.”)
“”In January 2006, the mission is to continue to hand over more and more territory and more and more responsibility to Iraqi forces . . . – Bush“
Al-Zaman / AFP [Ar.]: Police wounded 11 protesters in the southern city of Nasiriyah on Wednesday, firing live ammunition into a civilian crowd. Hhundreds of unemployed young men mounted a demonstration downtown, protesting the lack of work and the unfulfilled promises of local officials before the Dec. 15 elections to increase slots for recruits into the Iraq army. The officials, from the (Shiite) United Iraqi Alliance, the chief party in parliament, were trying to get reelected. The poor in Iraq are desperate in part because of the recent tripling of the price of fuel (at the insistence of the International Monetary Fund). Nasiriyah is among the poorest provinces in Iraq. No large-scale reconstruction projects were sited there, just a few programs to improve services that generated employment only for a few hundred men. In the past two weeks the price of transportation has doubled, and food and consumer goods have become more expensive. Government-subsidized food supplies have dwindled in quantity and quality, and Iraqis are complaining. When the unemployed men showed up Wednesday demanding the promised jobs, an official came out and said there were none. The crowd turned ugly and began throwing rocks at the governor’s headquarters and at the security forces, and the police began firing over their heads. When they did not disperse, the police fired live ammunition into the civilian crowd, wounding 11. Three policemen were injured in the melee.
Al-Zaman: In Baqubah, a roadside bomb targetting an army convoy wounded an Iraqi soldier and a civilian
A car bomb in Kadhimiyah, northeast Baghdad, killed 5 and wounded 15, including both police and civilians. It was placed so as to hurt police at the Najda station.
‘BAGHDAD – Two police commandos were killed and nine others wounded when mortar rounds landed on their checkpoint in western Baghdad, a hospital source said . . .
[The Arab press says that the casualties derived from a running street battle between the Lightning Brigade of police commandos and guerrillas, not from just a mortar attack.]
LATIFIYA – An Iraqi soldier was killed and two wounded when a bomb went off near their patrol in Latifiya, in an area dubbed the “Triangle of Death” south of Baghdad, an army source said . . .
ISKANDARIYA – Two Iraqi policemen were wounded on Tuesday when a makeshift bomb went off near their patrol in Iskandariya, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.
BAGHDAD – At least eight people were killed and 12 wounded in a car bomb attack in southern Baghdad, police and hospital sources said. The car was parked close to a busy commercial market in the Doura district, they said . . .
[Al-Hayat says that the bombing was targetting police commandos operating near the market.]
MAHAWIL – The bodies of two people, bound, gagged and shot dead, were found in Mahawil, about 75 km west of Baghdad, police said . . .
[Al-Hayat says that these two were Iraqi soldiers.]
“As we see more of these Iraqi forces in the lead, we will be able to continue with our stated strategy that says as Iraqi forces stand up, we will stand down.”- Bush
Al-Zaman reports that the police chief of Baghdad, Abdul Razzaq al-Samarra’i, has been removed from office while on pilgrimage to Mecca. Mu’in al-Kadhemi, the elected governor of Baghdad province, accused the police force in the capital of being incompetent and of neglecting their security responsibilities.
“As the Iraqi army gains strength and experience, and as the political process advances, we’ll be able to decrease troop levels without losing our capacity to defeat the terrorists.” – Cheney 1/2/05.
Al-Hayat reports that [Ar.] the reason the Rejection Front of Sunni and secular parties is agitating to change the results of the elections is that they are hoping to gain at least 6 seats, so as jointly to hold at least one more than 1/3 of the seats in parliament. If they can gain 93 seats, and can maintain their unity, they could prevent the election of a president and so hold up the formation of a government unless the other parties gave them what they wanted. It is in other words an attempt to put themselves in a position to blackmail the Shiites and the Kurds. What they probably want is a Sunni Arab or secular vice president who can be relied on to veto legislation mainly benefitting the religious Shiites or the Kurds. (Each member of the three-person presidential council will have a veto for the next 4 years.) The whole political process in Iraq could grind to a halt under these circumstances. Who knows if a government could ever be formed? Or if it would ever be able to accomplish anything, with each sectarian or ethnic president vetoing anything his group did not like?
Al-Zaman reports that police in Baghdad are stepping up attempts to locate the kidnapped sister of the Minister of the Interior (sort of like the US FBI chief).
Guerrillas in the Baghdad neighborhood of Amiriyah assassinated Rahim Ali al-Sudani, the general director in the Petroleum Ministry, on Wednesday. His son was also killed in the attack.
‘BAGHDAD – Two guards of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of one of Iraq’s most powerful Shi’ite political parties, were shot dead on Tuesday while attending a funeral in southern Baghdad, police said.’
“There’ll still be violence,” Mr. Bush said, “and there’ll still be some who believe that they can affect the political outcome of Iraq through violent means. … We’re going to stay on the offense against these — ‘we’ being coalition forces as well as the Iraqi forces.”
KERBALA – At least three people were wounded when a car bomb exploded in the Shi’ite holy city of Kerbala, police said. The target of the attack was unclear. . .
KIRKUK – Two civilians were killed and two others wounded when a bomb exploded targeting a U.S. patrol, police said . . . “
And “Coalition” and Iraqi forces don’t seem to have been able to do anything about it, despite Bush’s pledge. In fact, that bombing in Kirkuk is said to have destroyed a humvee, which suggests there may have been US military casualties not yet announced.