Minister of Industry Almost Killed
US Tilting to Sunni Arabs?
Assassinations in Kirkuk, a near-death of the minister of industry (and actual deaths of his bodyguards), the death of a GI and wounding of another in a roadside bombing, were among the violent incidents in Iraq on Thursday. Guerrillas also attacked a convoy of oil tankers, in their continued quest to starve Baghdad of energy, and they killed two clerics in the capital.
Iraq the Model: Iraqi journalists face jail time for writing critically about their society. This NYT piece implies that a Kurdish dissident journalist has been released after having been sentenced to 30 years for criticizing Kurdish warlord Massoud Barzani; as I understand it, he is to be retried.
Reuters reports that some Iraqi Shiites and other observers believe that the Bush administration is shifting away from its earlier alliance with the Iraqi Shiites, preferring the Iraqi Sunni Arabs. The rationale is said to be a dawning realization in Washington that the Iraqi Shiites would not react positively to a US attack on Iran. Given the increasing focus on Iran’s nuclear energy program by Bush, his allies in the Iraqi South are becoming increasing liabilities, given their own warm relations with Tehran.
Al-Hayat [Ar.] reports that the military adviser to Jalal Talabani reported that there had been contacts with the Iraqi guerrillas for the purpose of increasing Iraqi security in all regions of Iraq. The newspaper alleged that Iraqi clans of Anbar Province for the second day continued a campaign against foreign fighters styling themselves al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, capturing 270 of them. The clans around Ramadi are also said to have helped the Iraqi army capture 200 “terrorists.” (See Gilbert Achcar’s translation from yesterday, below). The article says that the clan leaders have also been talking to Sunni clerics, preparing the way for talks between the Iraqi government, the US led coalition, and guerrilla leaders as early as next week.
[Cole: I think Talabani’s office is vastly exaggerating these developments, and don’t trust al-Hayat’s editorial line on these alleged conflicts within the guerrilla movement. Their articles on it read to me as though they are attempting to convince themselves, and perhaps the guerrillas, of this story. On the other hand, the story that the US military will meet next week with guerrilla leaders is entirely plausible. Such contacts are not new, and the question is whether they will produce anything of value.]
Gen. Casey has admitted that the US army is stretched in Iraq.
Further pipeline sabotage and bad weather at Basra will keep Iraqi exports to only about 1 million barrels a day for at least the next month.
A new report says that the US will not be able to use the $18 bn voted by Congress to complete water, sanitation and electricy projects related to rebuilding Iraq. Reuters says, “Only 49 of 136 planned water- and sanitation-related projects will be completed and only about 300 of 425 planned electricity-related projects.” The article blames Saddam for having run down Iraq but does not mention the role of stringent US-backed international sanctions in degrading Iraqi society in the 1990s.