4 US Troops Killed
Najafi: Beware US-Baath Alliance
Guerrillas killed four more US troops in Iraq on Wednesday, using small arms fire. This brings the 3-day total since Monday to 13, which is highly unusual. Since Saturday, 21 US troops have been killed.
The Guardian reports that Iraq’s education system in large swathes of the country is in danger of collapse. In many universities, sectarian militias have established themselves. Professors have been assassinated and large numbers have been forced to flee abroad. Women have been ordered to veil. Often classes are missing large numbers of students because it is time-consuming or dangerous to travel from home to the university, because of checkpoints. Classes are often nevertheless too crowded because of the small number of teachers left. Similar problems plague the K-12 schools.
The Associated Press reports that the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior has decommissioned a police brigade in Baghdad, of 600 men. The unit was so slow to respond to kidnappings and militia activity in its northwestern district that it generated suspicion that it had links to Shiite death squads.
Al-Hayat reports that this was the 8th Brigade, and that its members have been transferred to military bases for retraining in techniques of countering militias and sectarian violence. Gen. Mahdi Sabih, the commander in charge of security forces, denied that the leader of the brigade, Col. Najm al-`Iqabi, had been involved in death squad operations or in supporting them, as the Americans charged. He said that arresting the man had been a “political strategem.”
Al-Hayat reports that Grand Ayatollah Bashir al-Najafi, a Pakistani whom many consider the number 2 Shiite clerical leader after Sistani, warned that “American favoritism with regard to the political balance in Iraq will lead to a sectarian, regional downward spiral.”
The statement distributed by his office said, “The Shiite religious leadership continues to emphasize that it will stand against the attempt of anyone to sideline the will of the Iraqi people, and against all attempts to restore the epoch of darkness of the infidel Baath regime.”
He demanded that “decision-making and the administration of Iraq be free of any taint of foreign interference.” He said that above all they should escape from advice given by the Occupation troops. He called on the Iraq government to stop the “Fascist Baath” and the “Occupation” form thwarting the will of the Iraqi people.
This is probably a reference to an increasing perception among Shiites that US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad (himself of Sunni Pushtun heritage) tilts to the Sunni Arabs in Iraq. Iraqi Shiites call him “Abu Omar,” a reference to the 2nd Sunni Caliph, whom Shiites generally don’t much care for. Here Najafi is associating him with the Baathists. That could also be asa result of the impression that the US helped shoehorn into power Jawad al-Bulani as minister of the Interior. Shiites claim that al-Bulani, a secular Shiite, has been bring Baathists back into Interior. On the question of whether Iraq should have an intelligence service, al-Najafi said that it should, and that it should be modern and founded on the basis of protecting the society and ensuring the security of the people.
Needless to say, it is extremely worrying that the number 2 man in the Shiite clerical hierarchy now views the United States as an ally of a Baath resurgence!
The Shiite Pious Endowments Board announced that “terrorist attacks” have targetted dozens of religious edifices belonging to this branch of Islam, and led to the deaths of 1800 Shiites. The Board asked that clerics issue fatwas forbidding Muslims of various rites from killing one another over religion.
The district of “Camp Sara” in south Baghdad, where a Christian majority lives, witnessed a string of bombings, one of which targetted the convoy of the minister of industry. He was not actually in the convoy, but 3 of his close associates were killed. In the bombings and other incidents around the country, 21 Iraqis were killed and 89 wounded, including 15 policemen.
Al-Hayat also says that joint US and Iraqi military operation in Diyala Province, supported by some local tribesmen, resulted in the killing of 11 armed “Arabs,” among them 9 Syrians, plus a Saudi and a Yemeni. An Iraqi spokesman said that previous raids had uncovered large munitions stockpiles in the province, and that this and other operations had forestalled the declaration of an “Islamic Emirate” in Diyala originally planned for the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast around October 23 or 24.
A suicide bomber detonated his payload next to the HQ of the Iraqi Army in Ramadi, wounding dozens.