Maliki Declares State of Emergency in Basra
42 Bodies Found, Guerrilla Bombings Kill and Maim in Baghdad, Mosul
US Troops Accidentally Shoot Pregnant Mother
Reuters reports the following major violence in the Iraqi Civil War, along with many more smaller attacks in which only one or two persons died or were injured:
In Mosul in the north, guerrillas detonated a car bomb that wounded 20 persons, including 5 policemen. Later reports say that the five policemen died of their wounds.
North of Baghdad, the Mayor of Muqdadiyah, his brother and cousin were assassinated in a guerrilla bomb attack.
US troops shot to death two women civilians. One of the two was a pregnant mother trying to get to the hospital. They did not slow down, or at least not sufficiently, on approaching a checkpoint in al-Mutasim near Samarra. Iraqis were outraged at the news, coming as it does on revelations about a Marine unit that is alleged to have murdered 24 Iraqi civilians in cold blood last November.
And in the capital,
‘ *BAGHDAD – A mortar attack in the southern outskirts of Baghdad killed nine people and wounded 17 . . .
BAGHDAD – Four civilians were killed during clashes that erupted between insurgents and policemen in northern Baghdad, a source in the Ministry of Interior said. Seven people, including policemen, were wounded.
HAWIHJA – Six civilians were seriously wounded on Tuesday when three mortar rounds landed in a crowded market in the town of Hawija, 70 km (40 miles) southwest of Kirkuk . . .
In addition, 42 bodies were found around the capital, bound and executed Mafia-style, in faith-based revenge killings.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki visited the southern oil port of Basra on Wednesday and declared a month-long state of emergency. Iraq’s second-largest city and the key to its remaining petroleum revenues has been roiled by violence between party militias, by Shiite on Sunni violence, and by tribal feuds among Marsh Arabs and between them and the militias. The Basra city administration is largely controlled by the Fadhila or Virtue Party, an offshoot of the movement founded by Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, but one that does not recognize Sadiq’s son Muqtada as his legitimate successor. Virtue has been at odds with the ruling Dawa Party and the Supreme Council, and was not given, as it wanted, the post of petroleum minister. In turn, it has declared a work slow-down in the petroleum industry in the city, a significant proportion of which it controls. Governor Muhammad al-Wa’ili has attempted to fire his police chief and the local Iraqi army commander and has feuded with clerical representatives of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.
Al-Zaman / Reuters say [Ar.] Maliki took security affairs away from the governor and gave them to General Abdul Latif al-Thu`ban of the 10th Division.
Al-Hayat reports that al-Wa’ili [Ar.] the governor of Basra from the Virtue party, blamed the Suprem Council, the local representatives of the chief Shiite religious authorities (i.e. Sistani), and ‘outside agitators” who came in to support gangs engaged in smuggling. (The outsiders are presumably being accused of being Iranians, though from his diction he thinks they are crminals, not agents of the state.) The head of the governing council excused local government inability to restore order by pointing to its lack of money for security forces.
President Jalal Talabani has suggested that the federal government could just remove some local officials from power. For all Basra’s problems, this approach would be extremely unfortunate. Al-Wa’ili and his supporters won the local elections in Basra on Jan. 30, 2005, gaining 21 seats to the 20 of the Supreme Council. For the federal government to remove an elected, sitting governor is a slippery slope. Does it beomce a precedent? This kind of high-handedness in India under Indira Gandhi seems to me to have helped produced massive turmoil in Kashmir and Panjab, and it did not help things in Maharashtra or elsewhere that she intrigued to get out a non-Congress governor and get a Congress one in. It would be like allowing Bush to fire Governor Granholm in Michigan because security is so bad in Detroit. This kind of thing can lead to a one-party state.
Two ironies here: The Kurds would take up arms at the very mention of the possibility that Maliki might dismiss any officials in Kurdistan. And, from a Virtue Party point of view, Maliki’s tough rhetoric just sounds like Dawa and the Supreme Council are trying to win by federal intervention what they lost at the ballot box, and marginalize an elected party.
Anyway, I don’t find it plausible that Maliki can restore order to Basra any time soon, and if he intervenes with too heavy a hand (he spoke of an “iron fist”), he could easily make things much worse (e.g. pushing the Virtue Party into becoming a guerrilla resistance.)
Al-Zaman/ AFP say that the Debaathification Committee has asked the Malik government to dismiss three or four of the ministers it just appointed, on the ground that they had been too high in the Baath party in the old regime. Typically such debaathification targets Sunni Arabs or secular Shiites. Al-Maliki has been big on debaathification, so we will see if he gives in on this. If he does, I should think it will cause a parliamentary crisis, with him losing the support of yet another party or two.