Guerrillas Kill 5 GIs
Security Alert over Saddam Sentence
Al-Aamiri killing Roils Shiite Politics
The US military announced that Iraqi guerrillas killed 5 GIs on Thursday in separate incidents. All but one attack clearly occurred in Sunni Arab areas. One was in the east of Baghdad, but since there are Sunni Arab districts between the Green Zone and Sadr City, it isn’t clear what the sectarian coloration of that area was.
There were unconfirmed reports of a US military helicopter going down near Baquba, as well.
As the death toll for US troops nears 3,000, Reuters says, it is provoking more and more vigils and anti-war protests out in the US heartland. In the past three months, the death toll has been running on average over 100 a month, which suggests that next year this time, it will be 4,000– and that is assuming that there is not a change for the worse or an outbreak of major combat.
Reuters reports that police found 42 bodies in Baghdad, and three more in Mosul. They mostly showed signs of torture and are evidence of the nocturnal sectarian civil war. In addition, there were major bombings in Baghdad, Mosul and Hawija. Reuters says of Baghdad:
‘ BAGHDAD – A car bomb exploded at a petrol station near the Shaab stadium in central Baghdad, killing 10 people and wounding 25, police said.
BAGHDAD – Two roadside bombs exploded in Bab al-Sharji in central Baghdad, killing seven people and wounding 35, Interior Ministry and police sources said. ‘
Reuters reports that Iraqi officials in Najaf are complaining that they were not consulted by the US military before the fatal raid on the home of Sahib al-Aamiri, Muqtada al-Sadr’s number 2 man in Najaf. The US maintains that the operation was spearheaded by a unit of the Iraqi 8th Division, which had 8 US troops embedded with it, and was directed by the Iraqi Department of Defense. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has opened an investigation.
The killing of al-Aamiri led to a further postponement of any session of the Iraqi parliament, where Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had hoped to convince Sadrist deputies to rejoin his coalition.
The judgment against Saddam Hussein has been published, and the Iraqi government has formally requested that the US turn Saddam over to it. These are signs of a fast track to his execution, which may come very soon.
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Iraq is going on a high state of alert for fear of unrest as a result of Saddam’s execution. All leave for Iraqi troops has been cancelled.
The London pan-Arab daily says that there is a split in the Iraqi government over how fast to move. One consideration is that the Sadr bloc in parliament has made Saddam’s execution a precondition for its rejoining the government.
There are unconfirmed reports that the US has released the two Iranian diplomats it was holding after a raid last week on a compound connected to Iraqi Shiite leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. Although the US military attempted to tie the Iranians to the importation of shaped charges of the sort use against US troops, its spokesmen never explained how that made any sense. Most roadside bombs are set by Sunni Arabs. The Shiite Iranians are not giving Sunni Arab guerrillas weapons. That would be crazy. They would be used against Iranian clients like al-Hakim (who has been targeted for assassination more than once, and whose brother was blown up by the Baathists in late August, 2003).
If the charge is that the Iranians were giving al-Hakim weapons, then it isn’t a very serious charge. Al-Hakim is the leader of the major coalition in parliament. Bush hosted al-Hakim in the White House recently, and al-Hakim has never been tied to attacks on US troops. In fact, he has called for them to stay in Iraq. The whole thing makes no sense, and the US military should explain why they think it does if they want us to believe it. Unfortunately, I have a sinking feeling that the US troops that arrested the Iranians wouldn’t be able to distinguish between Sunni guerrillas and Shiite militiamen.
The NYT reports on the problems of housing faced by Iraq’s 1.6 million internally displaced persons.
Hannah Allam of McClatchy (formerly Knight Ridder) goes back to Baghdad, and doesn’t find the changes encouraging. Her old sources are dead or ethnically cleansed, the shops she knew are shuttered, Shiite militias compete as authors of mayhem with the Sunni Arab guerrillas, fuel and electricity are in short supply, and it is now dangerous to so much as snap a photo.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat/ Reuters report that 108,000 Iraqis were forced from their homes in December.
Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government have reached an agreement on federal revenue-sharing, whereby Kurdistan will receive 17% of the national budget, most of it generated by sales of petroleum from the southern Rumayla oil field, in Shiite territory. This agreement, if it is real, is good news as far as it goes. Anything that gives the Kurds an incentive not to formally secede is good for stability in Iraq and in the region.
The bad news is that the Iraqi government was unable to increase oil production in 2006, and 2007 is unlikely to be better, according to UPI’s Ben Lando.
Presidential candidate John Edwards wants to get 50,000 US troops out of Iraq, the same number that Fred Kagan wants to put in.