53% of Americans Want US Out of Iraq Car bombs, 20 Bodies in Baghdad Despite Crackdown
The percentage of Americans in a Pew Research Center poll who want US troops out of Iraq surged by 5 percent in the past month to 53 percent.
In Suwayra, US and Iraqi forces targeted a Mahdi Army cell that Reuters calls “rogue.”
Police found 20 bodies in Baghdad on Thursday, and guerrillas set off at least 4 deadly car bombs at three separate sites.
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Muqtada al-Sadr and several leaders of his movement as well as commanders of his Mahdi Army are present in the southern marshlands of Iraq, a place in which dissidents in the former Baath regime used to hide out. The marshes have been re-flooded and are at 40% of their original area, and they do give good protection to anyone wishing to hide out. The Marsh Arab inhabitants of the swamps have largely become followers of Sadr, and so would protect him. They are in an area of Iraq that borders Iran and which serves as a smuggling route between the two countries, which may have given rise to the idea that Muqtada was on his way to Iran. He more likely is holed up in the marshes. This is the most plausible story I have seen yet on Muqtada’s disappearance.
Jalal Talabani’s account that Muqtada ordered his aides to Iran makes no sense at all given Muqtada’s longstanding problem with Iran’s authority in Shiism and his and his father’s position that Iraqis should stay in Iraq even if they are in danger.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports in Arabic that Iraqi security forces on Thursday morning closed off Saadoun St., which leads to Liberation Square in downtown Baghdad. They also put up barricades on the bridges that link al-Rusafa, east of the Tigris, with Karkh on the west of the river. At checkpoints coming into the city, soldiers are searching automobiles, checking the vehicle’s temperature, and checking drivers’ i.d.’s and bona fides. In a city that is constantly being blown up, you have to wonder why they didn’t start doing this years ago.
Near Karrada in al-Taharriyat, Iraqi troops searched storehouses, factories and homes looking for weapons.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat writes in Arabic that Adnan Dulaimi, a leader of the (Sunni religious) Iraqi Accord Front, warned the government with severity not to target Sunnis alone in its security sweep.
Ben Lando of UPI reports on the remarks of former Iraqi petroleum minister Issam al-Chalabi (no relation) at an oil conference in Houston:
‘ The global energy information firm Platts reports Iraq`s production in January dropped to an average 1.66 million barrels a day from nearly 1.9 million in December. Around 96 percent of Iraq`s budget comes from selling oil, and exports dropped to about 1.2 million barrels, Chalabi said . . .
‘They can`t increase; the only way is for production to go down,’ said Mohamed Zine, regional manager of the Middle East for energy analyst firm IHS.
‘There`s been no improvement, nothing,’ said Zine, whose views on the situation in Iraq are often less dramatic than Chalabi`s. ‘It`s getting worse.’ ‘
Before the war, Iraq was producing 2.6 mn barrels a day, with a capacity of 3. In January it could only do 1.6 mn barrels a day. There are widespread reports of rapid deterioration of facilities and fields being polluted with water. Lando adds:
‘ Iraq also pays billions of dollars annually to purchase oil products for transportation, heating and cooking, a change from before the war when Iraq sold such products, Chalabi said . . . Last year an oil ministry spokesman said smuggling is worth $700 million monthly that should go to federal coffers. ‘
The USG Open Source Center paraphrases the Iraqi press for Feb. 15:
‘ Al-Bayyinah al-Jadidah on 14 February carries on the front page a 200-word report citing special political sources saying that the Association of Muslim Scholars and the Iraqi Al-Tawafuq Front are suffering from dissidence and disputes.
Al-Bayyinah al-Jadidah on 14 February carries on the front page a 300-word editorial by Chief Editor Sattar Jabbar strongly criticizing the campaign against Nuri al-Maliki and Baqir Jabr al-Zubaydi led by Harith al-Dari and others. . .
Al-Bayyinah on 14 February carries on the front page a 180-word exclusive report citing Abd-al-Aziz al-Hakim [leader of the main bloc in the Iraqi Parliament, who visited the White House on Dec. 4] saying that the leaders of Iran, the UAE, and Bahrain are with Iraq in combating terrorism . . .
Al-Mu’tamar carries on the front page a 300-word report saying that the Public Committee for Supporting the Baghdad Security Plan led by Ahmad al-Chalabi held a meeting that was attended by tribal shaykhs and notables. . .
Al-Manarah on 13 February carries on page 2 a 130-word exclusive report citing Jabir Khalifah Jabir, member of the Oil and Gas Committee at parliament, saying that Iraq’s oil is being imported without using oil meters. . .’
Condi Rice lied for Bush when she said she could not remember a major 2003 peace offer from Iran. Flynt Leverett called her on it.
Also of interest is the following article:
‘ Defense Minister Denies Presence of Al-Sadr in Iran or Supplying Weapons to Iraq
Thursday, February 15, 2007 T16:31:05Z . . .
The Iranian defense minister has denied reports that (Iraqi Shiite cleric) Muqtada al-Sadr is in Iran. Speaking to an Aftab news correspondent, Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, having denied the presence of al-Sadr in Iran, added; You should ask this question from those who spread such rumors.
Asked for his response to American allegations that the Qods Corps in Iran is supplying Iraqi rebels with weapons, the defense minister said: Such statements are lies and false accusations. Why would we be supplying Iraqis with weapons when we ourselves are calling on America to leave the region so that security may be established? The insecurity (in Iraq) has a bad effect on our country.
Najjar said: Such actions and remarks by America are more like a puppet show.
The defense minister stressed: Iran does not supply Iraq with any weapons. ‘