At least 80 Dead, with Students Slaughtered
No Security Chiefs
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki failed again on Sunday to appoint ministers of the interior and defense, two key security posts at a time of increased violence. The Supreme Council (hard line Shiites) is still trying to hold onto the ministry of interior (domestic policing), which is one way it ensures the primacy in police and other forces of members of its Badr Corps militia. Other Iraqi forces,and the Americans, do not want the post to go to SCIRI again.
Violence again shook Iraq on Sunday, as its civil war grinds on. At a small town a couple hours northeast of Baghdad, guerrillas pulled students off a bus and killed 24. Some reports say that the guerrillas let 4 Sunni students go. Some names, such as Omar, are give-aways that one is Sunni, but it is more likely that the story is fishy.
In Basra, Shiite police surrounded a Sunni mosque and killed 18 men within (according to al-Zaman). The police, who suffered two dead in the incident, appear to have suspected that the mosque was being used as a guerrilla base. The Sunni Pious Endowments board, in contrast, accused the Basra police of attacking the mosque and killing innocents within while they were praying.
The Association of Muslim Scholars (hard line Sunni) accused the US of planning a military attack on Ramadi of a scorched earth sort.
Al-Zaman says that 20 bodies were discovered by police in Baghdad on Sunday, likely victims of faith-based reprisals.
If we count up all the deaths mentioned by Reuters, including that of a GI in Anbar, they come to 62. Figure in the 5 extra bodies in Baghdad that al-Zaman reports, and the 6 policemen killed by a bomb in Mosul, reported by the same source, and raise the Basra Sunni mosque death toll to 20 as al-Zaman reports it, and I count 80 dead or announced dead on Sunday. Even to a US media as jaded by now about this violence as our own, that should stand out as an exceptional day. But it won’t. The totals of deaths are being reported in the 20s as far as I can see. Even just the Reuters accounts would take you to 62.
Al-Zaman/ AFP say that hundreds of protesters came out Sunday in the southern Shiite city of Samawah, demanding the removal of Muthanna governor Muhammad Ali al-Hassani, whom they blamed for the lack of fuel, drinking water, electricity and services. The demonstration was fired on by police, and in the riot 18 persons were wounded, 12 of them policemen. They had been throwing stones and bottles at government buildings. When they were fired on, they grew enraged and tried to invade some of those government buildings. At the Water Utilities building, they broke out windows and set the frame afire. On Saturday, the governor had used local television to broadcast a strict prohibition against any demonstrations. Shops are closed in the city and flames are rising from some points. Iraqi security forces have closed off some streets.
Borzou Daragahi of the LA Times gets the story on the Shiite militias of Basra. They both contribute to law and order of a sort and also constrain civil liberties. Their most pathological manifestation is the death squads that having been hitting Sunnis and secularists (and, apparently, Marsh Arabs and other militias).
Criminal gangs and guerrillas both use pipeline sabotage as an aid to petroleum smuggling, which finances more guerrilla actions and more criminality . . . What the drug trade was to insurgencies in Viet Nam and Afghanistan, petroleum is to the Iraq War. Only, the CIA appears to have encouraged and benefitted from the former, whereas the latter both hurts the US economy and enables disorder in a country the US is trying to control.
The Iraqi government says that 180,000 Iraqis have been displaced by faith-based ethnic cleansing since mid-February. That would be a civil war all on its own.