Amara Explodes in Violence Again
US Raids Sadrist Offices in Diwaniyah, Hillah
2 GIs were announced killed on Monday and one has disappeared, presumably kidnapped. The US military has launched an intensive manhunt for him.
The Mahdi Army militia engaged in a military operation in Amara, killing 4 policemen (presumably actually members of the rival Badr Corps militia that was trained in Iran). They also attacked a police station with bombs and mortar shells, causing extensive damage to it. Al-Hayat reports that [Ar.] the renewed violence was set off when the body of the brother (named Husain al-Bahadili) of a major Mahdi Army leader was found. It was headless and showed signs of torture. He had earlier been detained or kidnapped by the police (which has been infiltrated by the rival Badr Corps militia). By the way, Bahadili is a Marsh Arab name, which suggests that there is an ethnic dimension to the fighting. The Maadan or Marsh Arabs are viewed by many Arab Iraqis as a lower caste and looked down on, rather as Gypsies are viewed in say Hungary. Many Marsh Arabs have become followers of nationalist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who poses as a champion of the poor.
Authorities again imposed a curfew in the city. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki condemned the militia violence in Amara and said his army should confront it, but he has not appeared to do anything practical about it. AP maintains that the Iraqi soldiers in the area set up some road blocks but did not interfere with the Mahdi Army’s killing spree.
Al-Hayat also said that the Sadr Movement complained that US and Iraqi forces had raided the home of a Mahdi Army commander in the southern Shiite city of Diwaniyah. In Hillah, US soldiers raided the home of a Sadrist leader and that of a deputy of radical Shiite cleric Sheikh Mahmud Sarkhi al-Hasani.
Al-Hayat says that the Iraqi Army 4th Division in Mahmudiyah raided the offices of the Iraqi Islamic Party. The IIP is part of the Iraqi Accord Front, a fundamentalist bloc with 44 seats in the federal Iraqi parliament. The IIP issued a statement asking that the 4th Division be transfered out of Mahmudiyah because it was pursuing a sectarian and partisan policy. (I.e. these Sunni fundamentalists were saying that the army is functioning to support the Shiites). Mu’ayyad Fadil al-Amiri, the governor of Mahmoudiyah, rejected the charges and said that the raid on the IIP had discovered explosive stores at their HQ. Mahmudiya is a mixed Sunni-Shiite area where Saddam Hussain had given Shiite land to transplanted Sunnis. Shiite families displaced to the slummy parts of Hilla and elsewhere in the South have been coming back up to reclaim their property, producing a great deal of sectarian violence in this area.
Robert Reid of AP asks the good question of whether Iraq’s electoral and parliamentary system has made the country’s political crisis worse than it need have been. In a country with a clear ethnic majority like Iraq, the minorities are in danger of being forever outvoted. This prospect of always being defeated in parliament is one of the things that led Indian Muslims such as Muhammad Ali Jinnah to support a Muslim-majority region, and ultimately, Pakistan. Addendum: I had meant to go on to say that something like a Connecticut compromise would have been desirable, right off the bat, with, say, a two-chamber legislature, one house of which over-represented the Sunni Arabs and worked by consensus so that it was not easy to just run roughshod over them– on analogy from the US Senate, which operates to protect Wyoming and Rhode Island from California and New York.
This article on Iranian strategy toward the Iraq situation by Dr. Mustafa al-Alani of the Security and Terrorism Programme at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai makes some suggestive points. I disagree with him on two things. First, I don’t believe Najaf and Qom are close. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani does not like the Iranian regime and told someone I know, “Even if I have to be wiped out, I will not allow the experience of Iran to be repeated in Iraq.” He was referring to Khomeinism. Second, I don’t believe Iran wants Iraq to fragment. It is as afraid as Turkey of an independent Kurdistan. But the piece is worth reading and gives an idea of what Gulf Arab intellectuals are thinking about this problem.
Patrick J. McDonnell of the Los Angeles Times reports on how, during the past year, Iraq has gone from bad to worse– “Night of the Living Dead” worse.
Ma’ad Fayyad reports on the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement, which insists that neither the US nor the al-Maliki government are offering anything toward negotiations that would make it worth their while to lay down their arms and talk.
Josh Marshall suggests to Bush a strategic retreat as the best policy in Iraq.
Susie Madrak relays an AP story pointing out that if the Dems take back Congress, they’ll likely put a stop to the plot to destroy net neutrality. Those who like being able to get this blog to come up on their browser in less than 5 minutes should just keep that in mind when they go to the polls.