University Bombing Casts Doubt On

University Bombing Casts Doubt on Security Plan
Muqtada Calls on Iraqi Army to Act without US Help

A suicide bomber with a bomb belt got into the lobby of the School of Administration and Economy of Mustansiriya University in Baghdad and managed to set it off despite being spotted at the last minute by university security guards. The blast killed 41 and wounded a similar number according to late reports, with body parts everywhere and big pools of blood in the foyer as students were shredded by the high explosives.

The Arabic press generally saw the bombing as a significant setback to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s security plan. It certainly was a psychological blow to it. And the adaptability of the guerrillas, who moved from car bombs to less easily detected but also powerful suicide bomb belts, is pretty frightening. Car bombs at least you could search for at checkpoints. Belt bombs, I can’t imagine how you could stop that if you had people in the city determined to set them off and willing to kill themselves.

There were several other bombings in Baghdad on Sunday, as well, bringing the death toll in the capital from explosions to around 60, according to the Arabic daily al-Hayat.

A representative of Muqtada al-Sadr read a statement by him, according to BBC Arabic, that said: “I say to the Iraqi security forces, and in particular the army and the police: You can protect Iraq and its people by virtue of your faith and sacrifices, your patience and solidarity and sincerity toward the peole. But you cannot do it via help from the airplanes and tanks of the occupier.” He added, “I am confident, like all persecuted Iraqis, that no security plan can succeed or produce any good by depending on the Occupation.” Al-Wasat gives a further passage: “Stay away from them and God will keep you away from mischief and harm . . . Make your plan Iraqi and independent, not sectarian or dictatorial, so that you will be victorious. Stay away from oppression and harming others, so that others will have no case against you. Let your reputation be that of being Iraqi . . .”

Some are misinterpreting these remarks to say that Muqtada has turned against the security plan. In fact, he is strongly supporting it, he just wants it to be a national plan and a national victory, and wants Iraqi troops to be able to do without American air and other support.

The BBC story says that many Iraqi Shiites in Baghdad would have felt safer in their neighborhoods if they were still being patrolled by the Mahdi Army. But the al-Maliki government, which they see as subservient to the Americans, has pressured Muqtada to get the Mahdi Army off the streets. But in its absence there have been massive bombings of Shiite markets, which the Baghdad Shiites are therefore blaming on the US.

The al-Maliki government may in any case be collapsing. alleges in Arabic that fair numbers of cabinet ministers and parliamentarians have fled abroad, going AWOL with no permission. It says that a couple of weeks ago a web site published a list of 360 names of Iraqi officials that the US military is determined to detain, without any permission from the Iraqi government. The list contained both Sunni and Shiite names, and those listed are accused either of administrative corruption or of ties to death squads. Many of those who went abroad were on the list. Personally, I can’t understand on what grounds US troops can arrest elected Iraqi officials. Force majeure? In any case, you can’t run a government if dozens of its officials are living in Amman and Jordan (the problem of absenteeism actually has been a longstanding one.)

Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that neighborhood leaders of Adhamiya in Baghdad, a Sunni neighborhood, complained bitterly to the government that Sunday’s sweep by (largely Shiite and Kurdish) Iraqi security forces had resulted in the arbitrary arrest of large numbers of Sunni Arabs against whom there was no evidence of wrongdoing. They demanded their release. It was said that some apartment buildings were virtually emptied of their men.

Sawt al-Iraq reports in Arabic that a delegation of tribal sheikhs from Falluja was in Damascus Sunday to meet with Syrian Vice President Faruq al-Sharaa. They gave out a statement in which they said that they did not accept the legitimacy of the new security plan of the government of Nuri al-Maliki. They said they were unconvinced that it was based on the principle of national reconciliation, and they complained that the al-Maliki government was based on ethnic quotas, which they rejected. The delegation leader said that the security plan had failed and had in fact been dead on arrival.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is being treated in hospital in Jordan.

The Iraqi government, the supposed ally of the US in the Gulf region, now says that Iran has ceased giving any aid to Shiite militias in Iraq. It is a fiendishly clever way of blunting the campaign by some in the US government to blame Iran for the difficulties they face in Iraq. Now whenever anyone charges Iran with that crime, it can be thrown in their faces that the Iraqi government says it has stopped.

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