US Air Strike on Thar Thar
British/Danish Raid on Militias in Basra
The US military had a firefight on Friday in Ishaqi in Thar Thar, then troops on the ground called in air strikes on two houses used by the guerrillas. Twenty Iraqis were killed, including two women, according to the US. Local Iraqi police insisted that the houses belonged to civilian families and that children had been killed. The US denied it. At least one AP photograph does appear to show the
corpse of a child.
Aljazeera actually carried the American account* of the incident by Captain Frank Pasqual, along with a report on local assertions that 7 children were killed. I don’t know if this coverage resulted from the US military trying harder with the Arabic press or from a change in policy at Aljazeera, which has usually tilted toward sympathy for what it calls the Sunni Arab resistance to occupation in Iraq, such that it seldom gave the American side.
Aljazeera says that local Iraqis in Ishaqi maintain that the US troops had entered the houses and killed people, then called down the air strikes to destroy the evidence.
The LA Times reports that 1,000 British and Danish troops conducted a raid on Friday in Basra on tribal/militia leaders involved in smuggling petroleum. Five houses were raided and weapons caches were found. One of the targets was said to be Sheikh Kadhim Abid Ali Batti, a chief of the Marsh Arab Karamisha (Garamsha) tribe, which is allied with the Mahdi Army of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. This was the largest military ooperation in the city since the 2003 invasion. The Sadr Movement vowed reprisal attacks.
Basra is the key export point for Iraqi petroleum, but has been plagued this year by militia and tribal violence. The militias and Marsh Arabs smuggle petroleum and fight turf wars with one another about it. It is not an exaggeration to say that unless security can be restored to Basra, and unless its militias and feuding clans can be brought under control, Iraq itself has a dim future.
Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani vehemently rejected the Iraq Study Group report on Friday. He especially took umbrage at the Baker-Hamilton positions that the referendum on the future of Kirkuk should be postponed, and that the Kurds should share the revenues from oil fields found in the future with the rest of Iraq.
Al-Hayat reports on Friday sermons in Iraq responding to the ISG report. Sunni cleric Shaikh Mahmud al-Sumaydaie of the Umm al-Qura Mosque in Baghdad said that thereby it is sought to solve the American crisis in Iraq but not to resolve the Iraq problem. He said that the problem is Iraqi on Iraqi, and the solution must be the same. He called on the government to do something about the mortar attacks on civilian (Sunni) neighborhoods in Baghdad.
In Najaf, Shaikh Sadr al-Din al-Qubanji of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq said that “the battle among Iraqis today is not sectarian but rather political.” He urged that the small groups who felt themselves harmed by the overthrow of the Baath Party, and who had bet on sectarian warfare, be crushed. If that is done, he said, Iraq will emerge successful from its travails. He said that the solution depended on Iraqi political will and could not come from outside. He called for “political justice for all the sects, such that it is impossible that the majority should dominate the minority, or the minority the majority.”
He rejected the ISG report’s call for changes in the Iraqi constitution, saying that Iraqis drafted it and 12 million out of 15 million voters voted for it.
He did, however, praise the ISG recommendations as “reasonable” and admitted that they are congruent with Iraqi realities.
In Karbala, Shiite cleric Sayyid Ahmad al-Safi, a representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, said that the complicated problems of Iraq could only be resolved by its people, and that no solution could come from the outslide. He complained that political competition like that in Iraq happens in most of the countries of the world, but other people don’t resort to killing and ethnic cleansing to achieve political goals. He called on the government to impose its sovereignty on the country.
In Najaf, one of the 4 Grand Ayatollahs spoke out. Muhammad Sa`id al-Hakim said that neighboring countries must forget the painful past for the sake of living together peacefully. In this way, peace and prosperity would encompass the region. He warned that “The problems will not remain confined within Iraq, but rather will produce a spark that will burn others.” He said that the parties to the fighting must accept current reality and must deal with it responsibly.
Sa`id al-Hakim said that there is a sect that forms a tiny minority, but which nevertheless has survived government attempts to wipe it out. If that is so, he said, what is the solution when the Shiites, who are a majority, have been the victims of persecution.
Reuters reports political violence in Iraq on Friday. Major incidents:
‘ BAGHDAD – Police said they found 18 bodies dumped in different areas of Baghdad, all with gunshot wounds and many with signs of torture . . .
BAGHDAD – Four people were killed and eight wounded in a mortar attack on the religiously mixed Naharwan neighbourhood in southeastern Baghdad . . .
BAGHDAD – One person was killed and three wounded when gunmen attacked a crowd in the religiously mixed area of Amil in southwestern Baghdad . . .
TAL AFAR – A car bomb targeting an Iraqi army checkpoint in the town of Tal Afar . . . killed three civilians and wounded 15 people . . .’
Out of 1000 employees at the US embassy in Baghdad, only 6 are fluent in Arabic and only 33 know the language at all. If Iraq really was the central front in the “war on terror,” and if the Bush administration really was fighting extremist “ideologies” (typically expressed in language and culture), then wouldn’t you expect US officials there to know the language? I don’t mean to take anything away from the foreign service professionals serving our country under dangerous circumstances. I just can’t imagine what their superiors are thinking.
*The Aljazeera web link originally provided was incorrect, but I did see Pasqual on Aljazeera talking about Ishaqi.