30 Dead in Baqubah Battles
Shiites Seek to Keep Interior
A battle between 100 guerrillas and Iraqi army forces in Baqubah (northeast of Baghdad) on Thursday left 30 persons dead, with casualties on both sides. Local Iraqi forces spoke of a guerrilla force as big as 500! It is unusual for guerrillas to field such a comparatively large force. Local Iraqis also said that US forces came in to aid them when called on. You have a sense that if the US troops weren’t around to be called on, Baqubah would pretty quickly fall to the guerrillas altogether. I suspect the guerrillas were mostly Iraqi, not foreign jihadis.
Guerrillas also killed 3 Italian troops and a Romanian, putting pressure on the new Italian PM to accelerate the withdrawal of Italian troops from Iraq.
Historian Alfred McCoy considers Abu Ghraib and torture as official US policy at the Amnesty International site.
The direct cost of the Iraq War is now $320 billion and rapidly climbing. Some economists think it will reach $1 trillion, i.e. a million million.
Senator Russ Feingold will introduce a bill calling for US troops to be out of Iraq by the end of this year. They should be gotten out sooner if possible.
The Middle East Policy Forum has a discussion up of whether there is a responsible exit from the Iraq quagmire.
Turkey is deploying its military on the Iraqi border, to face down what Ankara sees as the threat of thousands of radical PKK Kurdish separatists taking refuge over the border in Iraq. It is also trying to snuff out renewed PKK activism in eastern Anatolia itself.
AP points out that the formation of a government in spring of 2005 did not spell an end to violence in Iraq. There is no reason to expect that Maliki’s cabinet will halt it, either, though this suggestion is continually made by various officials of both the US and Iraqi governments. The guerrilla movement doesn’t want the new government there, and its formation will simply be an incentive to attack more.
KarbalaNews.net reports that Prime Minister-designate Nouri (“Jawad”) al-Maliki said in an Iraqi television interview that the key ministries of defense and interior will probably go to independents not affiliated with any specific political party. The major blocs themselves support this step. The minister might be from one of the broad blocs, but should not have a record as a specific partisan, and should be unconnected to any militia group. It should be pointed out that the minister of defense in the outgoing government was an independent, Saadoun Dulaimi– a Sunni Arab intellectual. But Interior was dominated by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the minister allowed members of its Badr Corps militia to be recruited into the special police commando units of the ministry.
Al-Maliki said that his predecessor, Ibrahim Jaafari, had suffered from often having ministers who represented their party or ethnicity rather than the interests of the ministry. Ministries in the past three years have been governed on a spoils system, such that the party in control packed them with employees from that party. Al-Maliki said that he would not tolerate the use of a ministry as spoils for a particular party and will fire any minister that tries it.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat of London on the other hand says that Kurdish MP Fuad Masoum revealed that the ministry of the interior had been offered by al-Maliki to the Kurds in return for their giving up the foreign ministry. He said that the Kurds, however, declined, viewing Interior (sort of like the US Dept. of Homeland Security plus FBI) as a headache they did not want. He said the Kurds feared being accused of recruiting into the special police commandos members of the peshmerga militia. He also said that Interior is a mess, such that if the Kurds came in and reformed it, they would meet substantial resistance, but if they did not, they would be roundly criticized. He said they would have nothing to do with it. He said that the United Iraqi Alliance (Shiite religious parties) refused to relinquish the ministry of petroleum.
MP Rida Jawad Taqi, of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, told the paper that SCIRI might retain the ministry of the interior if the Iraqi Accord Front (fundamentalist Sunni) managed to get the ministry of defense, as an offset. He admitted that the ministers of defense and interior would have to be approved by all the major political blocs, as well as by the Americans.
Al-Hayat reports that 93 relatives of prominent Sunni politicians cooperating with the new political order have been assassinated during the past year. The sister of Iraqi Islamic Party leader Tariq al-Hashimi is only the most recent. Of course, relatives of politicians from other ethnic groups have also been killed in some numbers. The Sunnis are darkly hinting that the killing of their relatives is supported by a “regional power” (Iran) that has an interest in spreading ethnic unrest in Iraq. This charge is frankly ridiculous. Sunni Arab member of the Association of Muslim Scholars, Isam al-Rawi, accused al-Qaeda and Baath remnants of being behind the killings of Sunni Arab politicians and their families as punishment for coooperating with the new regime. He said some deaths were the work of rival non-Sunni militias. Al-Rawi is an honest man, far more honest than those who go all the way to Tehran to find a scapegoat. Most Sunni Arab politicians have reverted to depending heavily on kin members as bodyguards, since they trust them.