18 Dead in Baquba Battle;
Rice Urges Iraq to be more like Vietnam (???!!)
AP says that Secretary of State Condi Rice asserted Saturday that Iraqis only have a future if they stay within a single state. She pointed to Vietnam’s success in reforming its economy and making up with the United States and held it out as a model to Iraq.
Rice surely knows that the way in which Vietnam achieved national unity was . . . for the radical forces to drive out the Americans, overthrow pro-American elements, and conquer the whole country. They only went in for this capitalism thing fairly recently. Rice, a Ph.D. and former Provost of Stanford University, shouldn’t be saying silly things like that Iraq should emulate Vietnam. I guess if you hang around with W. long enough, you catch whatever it is that he has.
Speaking of which, UK PM Tony Blair admitted to David Frost on Aljazeera’s English channel that Iraq has been a disaster:
‘ Mr Blair was challenged by Sir David over the violence in Iraq, saying it had “so far been pretty much of a disaster”.
The prime minister replied: “It has, but you see what I say to people is why is it difficult in Iraq? ” ‘
His office now says he was just acknowledging the question. Sure.
AP reports that US and Iraqi Army forces fought Sunni Arab guerrillas for many hours in the streets of Baquba on Saturday. Rocket propelled grenades and light arms fire caromed through the city, leaving 18 persons dead and 19 wounded. It was unclear how many of the casualties were guerrillas.
The long-violent mixed Sunni-Shiite city of Baquba in equally mixed Diyala province has been the scene of continued sectarian warfare that has worsened in recent weeks.
US troops also searched two sections the Shiite slum of Sadr City (East Baghdad) for the hostages taken last Tuesday from the ministry of higher education building.
Reuters reports that the Ministry claims that 66 hostages are still unaccounted for. Several released hostages say they had been tortured, and had seen other captives killed.
Big car bombs wounded scores in Tikrit and Mosul, Reuters reports, among other political violence in Iraq, including the discovery of 20 bodies in Baghdad and more bodies elsewhere. Wire services were able to identify 53 persons killed out of the many more that must have been.
Guerrillas assassinated a Shiite politican and his wife on Saturday. Ali al-Adhadh had been a high official in the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the neo-Baathist guerrilla group, the Army of Islam, has threatened to continue in attempts to hit the Iraqi government.
Al-Hayat also says that the arrest warrant issued for Sunni cleric Harith al-Dhari, now in Amman, continued to stir controversy. Al-Dhari, a leader of the Association of Muslim Scholars, stands accused of stirring sectarian passions. The Sunni fundamentalist Iraqi Accord Front demanded that the warrant be withdrawn. The National Iraqi List of Iyad Allawi also criticized it. Mahmud al-Mashhadani, speaker of the Iraqi parliament, expressed his anger and disgust with the warrant.
On the other hand, Abdul Sattar Abu Rishah, a prominent member of the Tribal Grouping of al-Anbar, said he was suing al-Dhari for calling his organization “a pack of thieves and highway robbers.”