Shiite Fighters Kill 70 Sunnis in Tal Afar
Saudi King Abdullah Condemns Illegitimate US Occupation of Iraq
Kim Gamel of AP reports that Shiite militants and some Shiite policemen went on a rampage in the northern Turkmen city of Tal Afar on Wednesday, killing 70 Sunnis indiscriminately, injuring another 30, and kidnapping 40 others. The Shiites were taking revenge for a Sunni truck bombing of Shiites on Tuesday that killed 80 persons and wounded 185. According to what I was told by a knowledgeable US resident of the city a couple of years ago, Tal Afar is 80 percent Turkmen, and the Sunnis are a slight majority there. Gamel says that the Shiites are the majority.
Guerrillas have been firing rockets at will into the Green Zone, the supposedly safe district of downtown Baghdad where the US embassy and Iraqi government offices are located. Reuters reports that on Wednesday they killed a US soldier in the Green Zone that way, and wounded another. On Tuesday they had killed a US contractor in the zone. Also on Tuesday, guerrillas had killed a US Marine in al-Anbar province. Folks, when guerrillas can kill a US soldier inside the Green Zone, Baghdad is just not safe.
Guerrillas in Fallujah attacked Iraqi and American troops with a chlorine gas truck, wounding 7 US GIs and 8 Iraqi troops. There were scattered bombings and killings in the rest of the country.
Saudi King Abdullah said on Wednesday at the opening of the Arab League meetings, ““In beloved Iraq, blood is shed among our brothers while there is an illegitimate foreign occupation and a hateful sectarianism that is threatening to develop into a civil war . . .”
King Abdullah followed up on these harsh criticisms of the US by cancelling his planned appearance at a White House dinner in April. The Saudi royal family is fit to be tied that Bush gave Iraq away to fundamentalist Shiite parties that have close ties to Iran.
Although the Saudi statement is remarkable for its brutal frankness and coldness toward the United States, its real significance is its slam of the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Abdullah has not only said that the US presence is an illegal occupation, he has said that the al-Maliki government is nothing more than Shiite sectarian hegemony. The Saudis are known for their behind the scenes diplomacy and their public discretion. King Abdullah is hopping mad, to talk this way. It augurs ill for US-Saudi relations. Abdullah is also angry that Bush is letting the Palestine issue fester and that he pushed for open Palestinian elections but then cut off the Hamas government once it was elected. Abdullah thinks Bush is pursuing irrational policies, the effect of which is to destabilize the Middle East. He is so angry that he sounds a bit like Iraqi Sunni fundamentalist leader Harith al-Dhari, who is connected in some shadowy way with the Sunni guerrillas fighting the US. (See the interview, below).
Iran is offering to settle the issue of its capture of 15 British sailors and Marines in what it maintains were Iranian waters, if only the British will admit they were in the wrong.