31 Percent Increase in Iraq Poverty
60 Percent Unemployment
30 Bodies Found in Baghdad
Sabrina Tavernise reports that US troops were called in by the police at Balad north of Baghdad to help quell a raft of death squad attacks by Shiite militiamen on Sunni Arab inhabitants. On Monday evening, mortar shells slammed into buildings in downtown Balad, a largely Shiite city north of Baghdad. Despite the new security measures, another 6 Sunni Arabs were killed Tuesday morning. And on Monday night, a dozen cars were waylaid and the passengers and drivers kidnapped.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat says [Ar.] that the US arrested a prominent member of the Sadr movement on Tuesday, Mazin al-Sa’idi of the Karkh office and five others, provoking protests and threats from the nationalist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The Sadrists say they will demonstrate until he is released.
The Interior Ministry fired 3,000 men on Tuesday on suspicion that they had been involved in the extra-judicial killings that have plagued Iraq.
The Sadr Movement of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Communist Party of Iraq both defended the freedom of the press on Tuesday in the face of threats by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq to close al-Zaman newspaper and the al-Iraqiyah television channel.
Back up here. Did I just say that the Communist Party of Iraq and Muqtada al-Sadr supported freedom of the press? What is wrong with this picture?
I think the CPI means it. Al-Sadr’s followers have themselves often intimidated persons who spoke out in public, so that I think is just posturing.
The Cabinet of Saudi Arabia has come out against the plan to create a Shiite provincial confederacy in South Iraq. The law permitting its establishment and specifying the mechanisms was passed last week by a simple majority, with all the MPs voting for it being Shiites and Kurds. ArabNews.com reports:
‘ “The Kingdom will stand with all patriotic forces that work for Iraq’s unity,” said the Cabinet in a statement issued after the weekly meeting chaired . . . King Abdullah at Al-Safa Palace in Makkah on Monday night.
“The Cabinet hopes that the leaders of Iraq and its wise men and Islamic scholars would uphold their duty of standing against attempts to partition the country under whatever guise,” the statement said. ‘
I think we may take this statement as the thinking of King Abdullah on the matter. It is important that Saudi Arabia is weighing in on the desirability of Iraqi unity.
Presumably, the agenda of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq is in part influenced by Iran. So it would be desirable that there be trilateral Saudi, Iranian and Iraqi talks on this matter. Saudi Arabia has enormous influence with Iraqi Sunnis and if it exercises that influence vigorously, it could be an important part of the solution to the crisis. The Kingdom has a vested interest in calming the situation down, since any escalation would likely spill over onto Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia will host a conference of Iraqi Sunni and Shiite clerics on Thursday.
Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq [Ar.] is still promoting neighborhood-based security committees. He says that there is a big regional conspiracy against “the Iraqi people” (i.e. against Abdul Aziz al-Hakim).
Insecurity and violence are badly hurting the Iraqi economy, with a 35% increase in poverty since the US invasion of 2003! Here are the main points in this Reuters article:
* 5.6 million Iraqis living below the poverty line. (At a population of 27 million, this is about 21% or 1/5 of the inhabitants!)
*40 percent of this number “is living in absolute and desperate deteriorated conditions.” This is 2.2 million persons in the direst poverty, and 8.4 percent of the country’s population– nearly 1 in 10!
*”this level of poverty is a 35 percent increase over the level before 2003. . .”
*”Local officials and NGOs put the unemployment rate countrywide to be more than 60 percent.” (The Brookings Institution recently put it at 30 percent and said that the rate has been declining. What world do they live in.)
*”the price of basic necessities in Iraq has skyrocketed over the past year.”
* “A report by NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI) suggests a 70 percent rate of inflation from July 2005 to July 2006.”
*”When prices are increasing and people do not get more money, poverty is also increasing,” said Cedric Turlan, information officer for the NCCI.
The Iraq War at Home
Lance Cpl. Joshua Bleill, 29, of Greenfield, Indiana, lost both legs in a roadside bomb explosion that killed two of his fellow servicemen. His unit had only been deployed in Iraq for a few weeks. Over 20,000 US soldiers have been wounded in Iraq, about 4,000 of them very seriously, like Cpl. Bleill.
Reuters reports political violence in Iraq’s unconventional civil war. It lists about 20 persons dead and dozens wounded in bombings and shootings.
AP gives a separate and mostly different list than Reuters of the dead and wounded, mentioning attacks in Balad-Ruz, Fallujah and elsewhere.
Then AFP reports at least 10 assassinations in the southern port city of Basra, which the other wire services didn’t manage to find out about.
The NYT reports that 30 bodies were found in the capital on Tuesday. I’d say that is a good 60 known deaths, though there will have been at least 250 others that went unreported.