5 US Troops Killed in Sunni Arab Areas
US Raids Office of SCIRI Leader Saghir
The US military is reporting the deaths of 6 US troops in Iraq. Four were killed by a roadside bomb in Sunni-majority Diyala Province where the US has been fighting Sunni Arab guerrillas. Another was killed “north of Baghdad” (i.e. Sunni territory). The sixth was a non-combat death. Despite the brouhaha about alleged Iranian support to Shiite militias, The five KIAs were all killed by Sunni Arabs who are hostile to Iran. This situation is the typical one in Iraq. So why isn’t Bush talking about Sunni Arab insurgents instead of about Iran? (See Gareth Porter on this issue— he shows that the recent US briefing demonstrated the opposite of what it was going for; also Best Guess.)
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Iraqi soldiers set up big concrete barriers around the city as part of the new security arrangements on Wednesday, causing traffic backups.
The same source says that US troops invaded the offices of Jalal al-Din Saghir, a cleric who preaches at the Buratha Mosque in northern Baghdad, and confiscated his private papers. Saghir said he believed that the Americans suspected him of being linked to Iran.
(This raid is further proof that the US is not worried about Iranian aid to the Mahdi Army, with which it has clashed, but rather to the Badr Corps, its putative ally. The Badr Corps paramilitary belongs to the Supreme Council for Islamic REvolution in Iraq, of which Saghir is a leader.)
Borzou Daragahi of the LA Times reports that Sadrist member of parliament Fattah Shaikh says he saw Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf four days ago. The US military had reported that the Shiite nationalist cleric had left for Iran last month.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports in Arabic that a number of the leaders of the Sadr Movement and its paramilitary, the Mahdi Army, have relocated to Iran. Some say they are on pilgrimage to the shrine of the 8th Imam in Mashhad, eastern Iran. Others are in the Iranian seminary city of Qom or in Tehran. They appear to be lying low in this way during the security crackdown of the al-Maliki government and the US military, now underway. An eyewitness named al-Khafaji said that Mahdi Army militiamen abruptly vanished from the city squares of Najaf recently.
A source in the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior told SA that the US military has given the Ministry lists of Mahdi Army commanders considered to be guilty of murder or crimes of ethnic cleansing. Getting them off the streets is considered key to the new security plan. The names include both Sunnis and Shiites.
(But note that the Ministry of the Interior was for a long time under the control of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and still has a big contingent from that party, so essentially the US is helping SCIRI remove its rivals among the Sadrists and Sunni Arabs.)
A British military transport plane appears to have been damaged by an explosive as it was landing in Maysan province. Its crew had to be rescued and the plane was destroyed. Maysan is a stronghold of the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr.
Iraqis are using Google Earth to plot routes to work that avoid neighborhoods of the opposite sect of Islam, while guerrillas are using it to find their targets.
France broke up a ring of Sunni fundamentalist recruiters for volunteers to fight US forces in Iraq. Two of the French citizens were detained in Syria by the secular Baath Party. So, France and Syria just helped save the lives of US troops. If the US far right ever finds out about this, it should give them a huge ice cream headache.
Austrian rifles sold to Iran are showing up in the hands of Iraqi snipers. Iran is notorious for its black market arms smuggling (in which Ronald Reagan and Ollie North once got involved). I guess now Bush will have no option but to go to war with Austria. I hate to tell Arnie, this, but Washington has been known to intern foreign nationals in California of countries against whom we are at war . . .
Reuters reports political violence in Iraq on Wednesday:
*Police found 5 bullet-ridden bodies in the street.
*Guerrillas deployed a car bomb to kill 4 and wound 10 near a hospital in the Christian Camp Sara district.
*Guerrillas in Bayaa used a car bomb to kill 2 and wound 7.
*Guerrillas fired mortar rounds at northern Rashidiya (north Baghdad), killing one and wounding 16.
*Guerrillas trying to hit a police patrol killed 1 and wounded 3 in al-Sulaikh, northern Baghdad.
*Guerrillas fought Iraqi army troops in the Yarmouk district, leaving 3 troops wounded. Also in Yarmouk, guerrillas deployed a roadside bomb, killing 1 civilian.
In Arab-Jubur, the US military used air strikes to kill 15 Iraqis it said were insurgents.
In Ramadi, a suicide car bomber killed 5 and wounded 20 when he detonated his payload at the entrance to a police station. They killed the head of the station.
In the northern city of Mosul, guerrillas used a car bomb to kill 3 and wound 20.
Militiamen killed a policeman in the southern Shiite city of Samawa, causing local authorities to impose a curfew.
McClatchy gives some more details, including that one target of the mortar strikes in Baghdad was a Shiite mosque.
KarbalaNews .net reports in Arabic that Ayatollah Muhammad Ya`qubi, the spiritual leader of the Fadila or Virtue Party, called in Najaf for Iraqis to use the occasion of the one-year anniversary of the blowing up of the Askariya Shrine in Samarra to come together to demonstrate their unity as Iraqis. He spoke against sectarian violence.
Congressman John Murtha will partner with MoveOn.org to in broadcasting a message opposing Bush’s escalation of the US troop presence in Iraq.
Cable television 24 hours “news” channels in the US thought the death of Anna Nicole Smith more important than Iraq or other world news last week, devoting 15 percent of their air time to the story.