70 Killed In Orgy Of Bombings

70 Killed in Orgy of Bombings, Kidnappings
Shiites Consult Sistani on Iran/Mahdi Army Strategy
Ankara Conference on Kirkuk: Kurds disinvited

So there is no sign yet that the guerrillas and militiamen in Iraq are lying low in fear of a new US offensive. They set off numerous bombs all over the capital, targeted Kurds in Mosul, and bombed other cities, massacred dozens, assassinated people, fought firefights with government forces, etc. etc.

McClatchy and the Reuters wire service report political violence in Iraq on Monday. Some of the incidents:

* Police found 30 bodies in Baghdad on Monday. These are victims of sectarian violence and often show signs of torture.

*In Baghdad, guerrillas set off roadside bombs in Rustamiya, Karrada, Khadraa, Jadiriya, Nidhal and Saidiya, killing at least 9 persons, including several policemen, and wounding many others.

*In Baghdad, guerrillas captured 5 mechanics in al-Jadida and are probably holding them for ransom. Assailants also kidnapped Professor Abdul Karim al-Janabi from a technical university in downtown Baghdad.

*11 bodies were brought to the morgue or found by police in Baquba. Baquba also saw clashes between Sunni Arab guerrillas and Shiite Iraqi troops, which left 6 dead. Baquba has a Sunni majority but a Shiite government.

*Guerrillas in Mosul set off a huge car bomb at the HQ of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, killing 5 and wounding 28 persons. Mosul is a largely Sunni Arab city. It is coveted by Kurdistan nationalists, and the Arabs are said to have forced 70,000 Kurds to flee the city. Arabs and Kurds are also contending over the nearby oil city of Kirkuk.

*In Kirkuk, guerrillas set off a car bomb near the HQ of the Turkmen Front Party, killing 2 persons and wounding 5. Militants also detonated a car bomb near the house of the owner of an automobile dealership, wounding 11 persons.

The Bush administration put pressure on the Shiite leadership of Iraq to 1) cut itself off from Iranian influence and 2) disarm and marginalize the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr. Shiite leaders have been going to Najaf to consult with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in hopes of settling these issues before US troops do it for them.

If Bush’s consultations with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Jordan and with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim in Washington in recent weeks had those two goals as their center, imagine how disappointed Bush must have been to learn that subsequently Iranian intelligence operatives were visiting the compound of al-Hakim and advising him on the cabinet reshuffle sought by al-Maliki.

And, it is likely that al-Maliki will tip the Mahdi Army to lay low rather than disbanding and disarming it. It is among his few pillars of power. There is no evidence that Grand Ayatollah Sistani can persuade the Sadrists to disarm. The hard line Sadrists complain that Sistani is “the silent religious authority” whereas Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr (d. 1999) had been the “speaking religious authority.” Al-Sadr had organized the Shiites of Sadr City, East Baghdad (pop. 3 million) in the mid to late 1990s, establishing widespread cells under Saddam’s nose. The idea that the US can waltz into this densely populated slum with its folk traditions and turn people away from Sadrism and its paramilitary component (the Mahdi Army) just strikes me as extremely unlikely. Al-Sadr’s son Muqtada now leads his movement.

On another contentious front, the Global Strategy Institute is holding a conference in Ankara, Turkey, on the future of Kirkuk. Invited were the small Turkmen parties, the Sunni fundamentalist Iraqi Accord Front, the Shiite Fadhila or Virtue Party, members of the Kurdistan Provincial Council, etc. Conspicuously absent were the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which al-Zaman reports in Arabic was a deliberate snub! These Kurdish parties desire to annex Kirkuk province to the Kurdistan Regional Government, a provincial confederacy that now comprises Irbil, Dohuk and Sulaimaniya. Because Kirkuk is a petroleum area, and because the Turkmen and Arabs of this province desperately do not want to become citizens of Kurdistan, this plan is controversial. A referendum is scheduled for late 2007 on the future of Kirkuk, which the Kurds can probably win because they have flooded into the province and are probably now a slight majority.

The Turkmen, Sunni Arab and Shiite speakers at the conference reject the referendum and the annexation of Kirkuk to Kurdistan. Because the Turkish government sees itself as a protector of the Iraqi Turkmen, who are linguistically and culturally close to the Turks, the fate of Kirkuk and of its Turkmen are vitally important to Ankara. As if there weren’t enough wars in Iraq, this confrontation over Kirkuk could turn into yet another.

Comments at the conference:

Salih Mutlak, Sunni secularist National Dialogue Front: The referendum on Kirkuk should be nation-wide, not just in one province.

Karim al-Ya’qubi (Shiite) of the Virtue Party: conflict in Kirkuk could spill over into the rest of the country.

Khalid Uthman (Sunni fundamentalist) of the Iraqi Islamic Party urged that the opinions of all of Kirkuk’s major groups, and of its neighbors, be taken into account.

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