Diwaniyah Ceasefire in Doubt
Spike in Death toll Continues, with over 50 dead
Dan Murphy of the CSM writes about the increasing fragmentation of Iraqi politics and militias at the local level. He argues that Muqtada al-Sadr and even the powerful Kurdish warlords are losing control to local militant groups that take the law in their own hands. His comparison of the PKK (Kurdish Workers’ Party) in Kurdistan, which blows up things in Turkey, to the extremist Sadrists in Diwaniyah and Karbala who are beyond Muqtada al-Sadr’s control strikes me as extremely perceptive.
A roadside bomb in the market of Shurjah in Baghdad killed 25 and wounded 25 others. In Hilla to the southwest of the capital, a bicycle bomb killed 12 and wounded 38 at a recruitment station. Altogether at least 50 were killed and 100 wounded, though that is a substantial undercount. Al-Hayat puts the death toll on Wednesday at 80.
Defense Minister Abdul Qadir Jasim Muhammad al-`Ubaidi visited Diwaniyah Wednesday, the scene of fighting between militias, and between a militia and local Iraqi tribal troops. He abruptly denounced the cease-fire that had been negotiated by the elected governor of Qadisiyah province with Muqtada al-Sadr, who roundly condemned the Mahdi Army militiamen that engaged in the firefight. Al-Hayat reports that the rural tribal youth that make up the Iraqi army in Diwaniyah are in the mood for revenge and want to start back up the fighting with the Mahdi Army. For its part, the Sadr Movement in Najaf complained that the governor of Qadisiyah Province had already broken the cease fire agreement, with government troops moving into Sadrist neighborhoods “as though they were Occupation forces,” and firing indiscriminately, killing several persons. At the same time, an aide to Muqtada said the young nationalist cleric commanded his followers to stop fighting and to put away their weapons, and to avoid appearing armed in the streets, lest they give a pretext to forces that would like to move against the Sadr Movement and its leadership.
My guess? Prime Minister Maliki will try to rein in Gen. al-`Ubaidi and try to preserve the shakey the cease fire. The Diwaniyah crisis was settled in the Najaf way, with talking it out and face saved for everyone. The Defense Minister wants to settle it in the old Baathi way, with the non-government side crushed. This would be all very well if the government were a) actually strong enough to pull it off and b) not a composite that includes the Sadr Movement!
Al-Zaman says that an assistant secretary (Mudirah `Ammah) in the Ministry of Justice was assassinated on Wednesday.
Al-Zaman/ DPA allege that Marines on patrol in parts of West Baghdad where Sunni Arabs from al-Anbar province have taken refuge used megaphones to tell them that the US troops were leaving Iraq soon. In Ramadi to the west, Sunni Arab guerrillas clashed with US troops.
With Bush and Blair’s Iraq War, much of the lying was done through silence or silencing others. In spring of 2004 the [oops of course should have been Australian] foreign minister Alexander Downer suppressed a message from a weapons inspector saying point blank that there was no WMD in Iraq. He was briefed by the scientist. And then a month later the foreign minister said at a news conference that the hunt for WMD was a work in progress and he could draw no conclusions. Over on this side of the Pacific, not only did Rummy, Bush and Cheney stonewall us on the empty well, but Pete Hoekstra and Rick Santorum are still effectively lying about it. People in a democracy get the representatives they deserve.