6 US Troops Killed, 8 Injured or Sickened
Chlorine Poison Gas attacks Kill 8, Sicken 350
Thousands Protest War on 4th Anniversary
6 US troops were announced killed on Saturday. Guerrillas killed 4 with a roadside bomb in west Baghdad, wounding one other and then shooting and injuring a sixth.
Another 6 US troops were sickened in chlorine poisonous gas attacks launched by guerrillas in western Iraq late on Friday. The three chlorine truck bombs, detonated near Falluja and Ramadi less than an hour apart, killed 8 Iraqis and sickened an estimated 350 persons, including 27 children.
Baghdad police found 19 bodies in the street on Saturday.
Militiamen blew up a Sunni mosque in Dora, once a mixed district from which most Shiites have been expelled. There were several other bombings and mortar attacks in Baghdad and elsewhere in the country. In the southern Shiite city of Hilla, guerrillas deployed a roadside bomb to kill one and wound 5 in an attack on the Scorpion Brigade of the special police commandos of the Ministry of the Interior. (This force is dominated by the Badr Corps paramilitary of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq [SCIRI], trained originally in Iran.) Al-Hayat blamed the Mahdi Army for the attack, suggesting an ongoing rivalry between the Sadrists and local police, most of which are infiltrated by Badr.
Thousands protested the Iraq War in Washington DC and other cities on Saturday, kicking off rallies expected to last through Tuesday, the fourth anniversary of the beginning of the war.
Thousands of followers of Muqtada al-Sadr demonstrated on Friday against the new security plan, and one of his lieutenants read out a message calling for non-cooperation with the United States. This was not, as some reports suggest, a call to arms. Muqtada knows that his Mahdi Army cannot fight the US military in a conventional, head-on way. He has only called for such almost suicidal missions when he felt that his own life and the survival of his movement were put in danger by US officials determined to kill him, as in April-May, 2004. Muqtada has ordered his militiamen not to violently confront the US, as WaPo pointed out. Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports in Arabic that Muqtada said in his statement that the people of Sadr City (Shiite East Baghdad) should decline to cooperate with the US because its forces “are trying to besmirch its reputation by upholding false allegations and rumors that there are negotiations and cooperation between you and them.” He added, “I am sure that you consider them your enemies . . . for the enemy of God is inevitably your enemy.” It sounds to me as though Muqtada is embarrassed about the degree of cooperation recently between his movement and the US, and he wants at least publicly to distance himself from the US and the security plan, without having to do more than issue a communique.
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Thamir Abd al-Amir, a member of parliament representing the Sadr Movement, threatened Saturday to bring down the al-Maliki government [i.e. by withdrawing from his parliamentary coalition] if the pressures continued to implement plans to build a US base in largely Shiite Sadr City.
Al-Maliki’s coalition has already witnessed the formal withdrawal of the Islamic Virtue Party (or Fadhila: 15 seats of 275), which also controls Basra. Al-Maliki’s government is tottering. AP reported this week that Prime Minister al-Maliki fears he will be unseated this summer via American pressure if the Iraqi parliament does not by then pass the new oil bill into law. Just a hint to US authorities: having a tottering government or the undemocratic installation of a foreign-backed one is unhelpful to any serious security plan.
Al-Hayat also says that Ammar al-Hakim, the son of Shiite clerical leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of SCIRI, called on Saturday for limitations on the prerogatives of American forces in Iraq, to forestall violations of Iraq’s sovereignty. He said at a gathering in Najaf, “We have to have a security agreement specifying the powers of every unit . . . foreign forces must not enjoy absolute prerogatives, since that would detract from our sovereignty.” He also called for “the speedy release of all detainees against whom there is no evidence of wrongdoing, since leaving thousands imprisoned is unacceptable.”
Karbala News.net reports from Radio Sawa that the “Islamic State of Iraq” now controls much of Diyala Province, and that families that reject the fundamentalist Sunni movement have been forced to flee.