Senate Republicans Defeat Iraq Withdrawal Timetable;
5 US Troops Killed
5 US GIs were announced killed on Thursday. Militiamen or guerrillas killed 4 with a bomb as they were returning from Sadr City (Shiite East Baghdad). Another had been killed on Wednesday by Sunni Arab guerrillas in al-Anbar Province.
Police found 20 bodies in the streets of Baghdad. Rahim Darraji, the Sadrist mayor of a district of Sadr City, was attacked and wounded. He had been an advocate of Shiite cooperation with the present security plan. Another bombing, in Karrada, killed at least 8 persons; it was apparently targeting Sabir al-Issawi, head of the Baghdad city council, and was probably the work of Sunni Arab guerrillas.
Guerrillas detonated a bomb at a checkpoint in Iskandariya just south of Baghdad, killing 4 and wounding 24. McClatchy reports on killings in Diyala Province, including the killing of 5 policemen in the city of Kanaan.
An Iraqi poll of Baghdad residents done in February shows that only 34 percent approve of the job Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is doing. Only 32 percent say that their neighborhoods are secure. Only 3 percent said security had improved in the previous three months, and only 10 percent had any hope it would in the coming months. 26 percent believe that sectarian militias make them safer, down a bit from September. A US military spokesman admitted that these poll numbers are “bad.”
Senate Republicans defeated a bid by Democrats to legislate a withdrawal deadline for US troops in Iraq, of August, 2008. One Republican voted with the Democrats, while two Democrats and Joe Lieberman voted with the Republicans. If the American public really wants US troops out of Iraq, as they keep telling the pollsters, then obviously they will have to turn out some more Republicans from high office, in the Senate and the White House, in 2008.
A Pentagon report finally admits that some aspects of a civil war are present in Iraq. This US News and World Report article goes on to say that inflation is running 50 percent, that Baghdad residents are only getting 6 hours of electricity a day, that unemployment may be as high as 60 percent, that only 16 percent say that their income meets their basic needs, and that 9,000 Iraqis are fleeing the country each month. I wouldn’t place too much importance on the decline in the number of “attacks.” The Lancet study found that only 13 percent of violent deaths in Iraq are from bombings. Most of those killed are just shot, and I don’t think shootings of individuals are counted under the rubric of “attacks.”
Anthony Cordesman has concluded that the US is unlikely to achieve its stated goals in Iraq and that as time goes on, Iraqi domestic political actors and considerations will be more important for the outcome than US policy.
Hannah Allam of McClatchy on what a trip to Baghdad tells you about the situation of the country.
Sawt al-Iraq reports in Arabic that some residents of Nasiriya staged a demonstration Thursday, demanding that those who fill government jobs, including police, be scrutinized as to whether they hold higher degrees, and if so, the latter should be privileged, they said.