Another Shrine hit, with 6 Dead
Mubarak Warns on Civil War, US Withdrawal
Reuters reports that guerrillas hit yet another Shiite shrine on Saturday this one at Musayyib, killing 6 and wounding 21 (-Al-Sharq al-Awsat). Guerrillas ambushed police in Baquba, wounding 4, along with 4 civilians. In a separate attack in that city, they managed to kill a Lt. Col. in the new Iraqi military. There were several attacks in and around Kirkuk, leaving a number of police and others wounded. Four bodies of Iraqi military men were found in Riyad south of Kirkuk; they had been captured in Tikrit earlier. Another 7 bodies were found in Karbala.
In Basra, gunmen fired on workers leaving a mill, killing 2 and wounding 3.
Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the clerical leader of the Shiite fundamentalist United Iraqi Alliance, warned Shiites on Saturday not to turn to reprisal killings against Sunni Arabs for the atrocities guerrillas are visiting on Shiites.
‘ Despite the violence, U.S. officials have discounted talk of civil war. However, a senior Iraqi official said Saturday that an “undeclared civil war” had already been raging for more than a year. “Is there a civil war? Yes, there is an undeclared civil war that has been there for a year or more,” Maj. Gen. Hussein Kamal told The Associated Press. “All these bodies that are discovered in Baghdad, the slaughter of pilgrims heading to holy sites, the explosions, the destruction, the attacks against the mosques are all part of this.” Kamal said the country would still be spared from all-out sectarian war “if a strong government is formed, if the security forces are given wide powers and if they are able to defeat the terrorists.”
The only reason it is even controversial that Iraq is in civil war is because the Bush administration spinmeisters are resisting the term, for PR purposes. Why doesn’t the US press just ignore them when they start saying ridiculous things like that?
And now you have this big food fight between Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleeza Rice over her admission that the US has made a thousand tactical errors in Iraq. The US has made tens of thousands of tactical errors in Iraq. Rice was underestimating the problem. And, the US has made large numbers of strategic ones, too. Both Rice and Rumsfeld are responsible for the strategic ones. In a system with any accountability, their government would lose a vote of no confidence at this point and they would be history. Rice’s attempt to maintain that there were lots of little errors (Rumsfeld’s and the troops) but that the over-all strategy was sound (i.e. her’s and Bush’s) is absurd. A sound strategy will usually survive some tactical errors. A bad strategy is doomed even if the tactics are gotten right.
The leaking of an internal, realistic assessment of how bad things are in Iraq, generated by the US government, has sent Bush administration officials scurrying to put the best face on it. As I have pointed out several times, the problems are not in three provinces, they are in seven. And, they are among the more populous provinces in the country, including Baghdad, which has 6 million or almost a fourth of the country. And they are very serious problems and getting worse.
I argue at the New York Daily News that the US should stop trying to pretend that Muqtada al-Sadr and his movement don’t exist, and stop trying to cut them out of the political deal, and should engaged them politically. You can’t have stability in Iraq if one of the major forces is sidelined.
Muqtada denied Saturday [Ar.] that the Mahdi Army is a militia. He said it was an “army based on belief.”
President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt said on Saturday that Iraq is already in an ethnic civil war; that the problem with the country is that it is too diverse ethnically; that the current crisis was caused by Saddam not having ruled more justly; that the United States must not leave, or all hell will break loose; and that Arab Shiites a secretly more loyal to Iran than to their own countries. The degree of ignorance and prejudice revealed by the last phrase is mind boggling, but it is a very common sentiment in the Sunni Arab world. Nor is it a good sign, since the Shiites are becoming empowered in the eastern Arab world, and the Sunnis are going to have to get used to it.
As for Mubarak’s caution against a US withdrawal, it strikes me as self-serving. If the US withdraws, regional leaders may have to step up.