Guerrilla Attack Kills 2,Wounds 22 Marines in Anbar
Sunni Mosques Bombed in Baqubah
US Marines appear to have fought a major engagement with a company of guerrillas in Anbar Province, which left 2 Marines dead and 22 wounded, two of those critically.
Guerrillas set off bombs in two Sunni mosques in Baqubah, northeast of Baghdad in Diyala province on Friday, killing 4 and wounding 8.
Diyala, population about 1.2 million, is a mixed Sunni-Shiite province with a bare Sunni Arab majority, and was the site of several Baath military installations. Old Baath military rat lines have been used to attack Shiites relentlessly in Diyala, including numerous attacks on the new police force, which has brought in a lot of Shiite recruits. Baqubah has a population of around 150,000. This bombing is likely a reprisal attack by Shiite militiamen from either the Badr Corps or the Mahdi Militia on Sunni Arabs, coming in response to the blowing up on Thursday of a small shrine to Imam Rida, the 8th divinely appointed leader of the Shiites who almost succeeded to the Abbasid caliphate in the medieval period.
The escalating sectarian violence, with tit for tat and serial mosque and shrine bombings, threatens to tip Iraq over into hot, large-scale civil war.
Gunmen kidnapped 11 employees of a building company on Thursday, and then killed them.
The death toll in Thursday’s ambush of a police convoy near Taji has risen to thirty policemen, most of them Shiites from Najaf.
Reuters details several other violent episodes around the country:
TAJI – Gunmen in cars killed three Iraqi contractors working for a U.S.-Iraqi military base in Taji . . .
NEAR DUJAIL – Police said they found the bodies of four men with multiple gunshot wounds after they were kidnapped by gunmen near Dujail, 90 km (55 miles) north of Baghdad . . .
HAWIJA – Five policemen were wounded when their patrol was struck by a roadside bomb in Hawija, 70 km (45 miles) southwest of Kirkuk, a joint U.S.-Iraqi military centre said.
NEAR BASRA – Two civilians were killed and eight people wounded, including four British soldiers, by a roadside bomb near Basra, 550 km (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad, a British military spokesman said. The Iraqis were killed as their car was passing a British patrol targeted by the bomb.
Those with strong stomachs may wish to see some photographs of the real situation in Iraq, photographs that American news outlets systematically refuse to print. Warning: they are often graphic. It should be noted that these sorts of scenes are shown on Arab satellite television all the time. For the past 3 years, American audiences have seen a sanitized Iraq, whereas the rest of the world has seen the real thing. When CNN interviewed Iraqi foreign minister Barham Salih recently, they showed him with a peaceful Baghdad backdrop. But in fact, Salih could not have so much as taken a stroll in West Baghdad without being immediately shot down dead.
The Shiite politicians of the United Iraqi Alliance say that they will attend the parliamentary session next week even if they have not achieved a deal on who will fill what government post.
Al-Zaman reports that its sources close to the Iraqi government say that all of the blocs in parliament have now been enmeshed in an open-ended political crisis in the wake of the failure of the United Iraqi Alliance to choose an alternative to Ibrahim Jaafari, and in the wake of the other parties’ failure to put forward a candidate acceptable to them.
A delegation from the (Shiite fundamentalist) United Iraqi Alliance led by Adil Abdul Mahdi arrived in Irbil for consultations with Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani.
Another delegation went to Najaf to consult with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who earlier this week announced that he would not intervene to favor one candidate from the Shiite bloc over another.
Sistani’s son, Muhammad Rida, went to the house of Muqtada al-Sadr to consult with him about the crisis.
The (Sunni fundamentalist) Iraqi Accord Front withdrew its candidate for president on Friday, but reserved the right to field him again later. The Kurds have had the presidency since Jan. 30, 2005, and recently the Sunni Arabs have begun considering challenging them for it.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports that hundreds of worshippers demonstrated Friday in Najaf after Friday prayers against the comments made last Saturday by Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, in which he alleged that most Arab Shiites are more loyal to Iran than to their own countries. Hundreds poured out of the Great Husayniyyah Fatimiyyah Mosque near the HQ of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, heading toward the old city, chanting slogans against Mubarak. They carried placards proclaiming the nationalist credentials of Iraqi Shiites, such as “Shiites are the Origin of Iraq,” and demanded that Mubarak apologize.
Meanwhile, in Karbala, Shaikh Ahmad al-Safi (the representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani), criticized Mubarak in a sermon, saying that the Egyptian president “Does not know who the Iraqi Shiites are.” He said, “It behooves the Egyptian president to review the history of Iraq and learn who the Shiites are. If he can’t find the sources, we ware prepared to provide them to him.”
Shaikh Safi also complained that the process of forming a government had taken too long, and that the ones responsible for the delay were the parties that won the December 15 elections.
Shaikh Hazim al-Araji, a follower of nationalist young Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, said at the mosque attached to the shrine of Imam Musa al-Kazim in Kahdimiyah (northeast Baghdad) that the political parties should form a government as quickly as possible. He said everyone had to stand shoulder to shoulder to combat the terrorism engulfing Iraq.
On the Sunni side, Shaikh Mahmud al-Isawi, the preacher at the mosque attached to the shrine of Abdul Qadir Gilani, said in his Friday sermon that he hoped God would make the end of George W. Bush like that of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon (who slipped into a permanent coma in January). He thundered, “The American forces and American officials, and at their head the great Satan George Bush, are the ones responsible for the killing and the displacement of people now occurring in Iraq.” He added, “The Occupation forces are killing Iraqis wholesale while Iraqi officials look on . . .”
Shaikh Mahmud Mahdi al-Sumaidaie, a member of the Association of Muslim Scholars, accused the Iraqi political leadership of working for their personal interests. He was sermonizing at the Umm al-Qura mosque in West Baghdad. He blamed the politicians for not having formed a government, and concluded that Iraqis would continue to be humailiated and abject as long as they continued to “oppose the religion of God.” (I.e. he condemned Iraqis for being too secular.)
The US military has spent only 40% of the money set aside for training Iraqi and AFghan troops.
The sectarian tensions in Iraq are spilling over onto Bahrain, according to Hassan Fattah. Bahrain is a navy base for the US in the Oil Gulf.
Graham Fuller, a long-time Middle East hand and former CIA analyst, questions whether the US can afford to break with its Shiite allies in Iraq. He points out that prominent Shiites have been important in keeping the south relatively stable. He is scathing on the naked US attempt to dictate to the United Iraqi Alliance who its candidate for prime minister must be.
US troops unlawfully shot a Reuters news crew to death last summer, according to an official inquiry.
The finding comes after officers from another unit were relieved of command over the alleged shooting of 15 unarmed civilians in Haditha last winter.