33 Dead in Civil War
7 US Troops Killed over Weekend
Basra in Chaos as Tribes Feud
On Monday, scattered bombings and shootings left at least 33 persons dead by my count. Dozens more died over the weekend in fighting between guerrillas and US troops. Al-Zaman says that security has collapsed in Basra, with fighting between tribesmen and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Reuters reports that on Monday:
MOSUL: Guerrillas detonated a bomb in the northern city, killing one policeman and wounding 2 others.
RAMADI: Heavy fighting between local guerrillas and US troops left 8 dead and 9 wounded.
BALAD RUZ – Guerrillas shot down 4 primary school teachers in Diyala Province an hour’s drive from Baquba.
WAJIHIYA: Guerrillas east of Baghdad fired a mortar shell that landed on a civilian home, killing a seven-year-old girl and wounding 7 members of her family.
BAGHDAD: Five members of a family in the capital were shot dead.
MAHAWEEL: Guerrillas detonated a bomb that wounded 3 policemen and left a civilian bystander dead.
KARBALA: A policeman who had earlier been abducted showed up dead in the Shiite shrine city on Monday. (Two ex-Baathists were also assassinated.)
AMARA: A mortar attack on a British base wounded one soldier seriously in the leg and inflicted minor injuries on three others.
BASRA: Tribesmen of the Marsh Arab Karamisha [Gramsha] tribe killed 11 policemen in and around Basra. They may have been taking revenge for the killing of one of their clan chiefs by persons dressed as special police commandos, a unit heavily infiltrated by the Badr Corps of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
Al-Zaman/ AFP report that the security situation in Basra has collapsed in the wake of the killing by persons dressed as Iraqi policemen of Shaikh Hasan Jarih al-Karamishi, the head of the al-Karamisha tribe in Basra. Firefights subsquently broke out in several districts of the city at a time of political vacuum in the central government. Majid al-Sari, adviser to the Minister of Defense, said that individuals from this tribe came out into the streets of the city heavily armed and killed 11 policemen in the course of an attack on a police station in the Dair quarter to the south of the city. They also burned down two buildings used as party headquarters in the Intisar district of the Dair quarter by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
(In the time of Saddam, the Marsh Arab tribes–who typically had dwelled in the marshes of the south as fishermen and smugglers, were most often forbidden from entering urban Basra, but this prohibition has broken down).
Al-Sari said that for the last month, Basra has been afflicted by a mass of assassinations, equalling one each hour of the day. (That would be 24 a day, and 720 for the month). Sources in the city allege that the police are helpless to intervene, and indeed refuse to go out to the crime scene to attempt to capture the assassins, since they would take fire from tribesmen supporting the assassins, who belong to their tribe.
Two organizations, Rebels of the Uprising and the Revenge of God (Tha’r Allah, a branch of the Badr Corps) staged demonstrations Sunday and Monday against Governor Muhammad Misbah al-Wa’ili in protest against the collapse of security in the city.
Al-Zaman’s sources told it that Basra is in chaos and dominated by militias and lawless gangs. Automobiles with darkened windows cruise the streets, armed militiamen within, who impose their law on the city. These sources blamed Kuwait and Iran for the situation, alleging that their intelligence services are funding and arming the Iraqi militias for their own purposes. Tribal firefights between the Marsh Arab Al-Bait Sa’idah tribe and the Bani Mansur are common– as is fighting between Bani Ammar and Al-`Ashur. The sources say that Basra is without authority save that of the militiamen. The major political parties are unable to dampen down the violence because they are so divided against one another.
Basra is boiling these days and tempers run hot, with highs of 106 degrees Fahrenheit (41 C.). It gets no electricity for most of the day, especially in the al-Hayaniyah and Abu al-Khasib districts, where there are demonstrations every evening against the lack of services.
President Jalal Talabani is so alarmed by the situation that he and his vice-presidents, Adil Abdul Mahdi (SCIRI) and Tariq al-Hashimi (Sunni religious) have opened a hotline to government security forces in Basra. Al-Sari requested that the central government withdraw the security file from the local authorities and turn it over to the new Iraqi army.
The governor of Basra, al-Wa’ili, is trying to fire the police chief. He complains that the Basra police have not undertaken a single investigation of the hundreds of recent assassinations. He further charges that some in the Iraqi border patrol and the army have suspicious ties to the assassins. Al-Wa’ili also charges that two clerical representatives of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani are involved in the collapse of security. [This charge is not plausible, and may reflect al-Wa’ili’s allegiance to Ayatollah Muhammad Ya`qubi, the spiritual leader of the Fadila Party, a rival of Sistani.)
For those with the stomach to see what the aftermath of Iraq’s daily violence actually looks like, Afterdowningstreet.org has posted dozens of never-before-seen photographs of the violence. Those of us who have seen war know that it involves blood. This one has not for the most part, if one were to judge by US television and the US print press, an editorial decision that I find cowardly and inexcusable. Warning: One of the photos is reproduced below.
Over the weekend, the US military fought engagements against Sunni Arab guerrillas in the area south of Baghdad, killing 41 suspected insurgents. On Sunday during the fighting, a guerrilla shot down a US helicopter. Guerrillas also killed other GIs over the weekend, bringing the US death toll for the last 3 days to 7.
The US military admits that the guerrilla fighters in the area south of Baghdad are “bold and getting bolder” in their attacks on Iraqi and US forces.
Sunni Arab religious leaders of the Association of Muslim Scholars rejected the US characterization of the fighting south of Baghdad, saying that many civilians had fled their homes at the US advance and had been killed. The US military maintained that the dead were guerrillas.
President Jalal Talabani shot down a suggestion that Prime Minister-designate form most of a cabinet but leave Defense and Interior for later. Talabani has a keen interest in who has these two security-related posts, since the Kurds want to keep the central government in Baghdad weak and toothless. If he let al-Maliki become prime minister before filling these cabinet positions, he would lose his leverage over who is appointed to them down the road.
Sunni vice president Tariq al-Hashimi yielded to pressure from Iyad Allawi, who insists that Defense be filled by a Sunni Arab from his list. The religious Sunni Arab party had wanted the position for itself. The unspoken objection there was that the religious Sunni Arab politicians are suspected of having links with the guerrillas fighting the insurgency, and no one thinks it is a good idea to give them the ministry of defense. On the other hand, the Allawi list has ex-Baathists who might pack Defense with other ex-Baathists, which would not please the Shiites or Kurds.
Some in the British press are openly saying that Basra is lost and that Prime Minister Tony Blair’s assurances show he is living in an alternative dimension. Whether it is true or not, saying it shows some spunk that is mostly lacking over here.
Warning: What follows is a graphic image: