9 US Troops Killed;
60 Killed, 170 Wounded in Karbala;
Over 60 Bodies Found;
Sadr Admonishes Bush
Iraqi guerrillas killed 9 US GIs on Friday and Saturday. Five of them died in active fighting in al-Anbar Province, which doesn’t actually seem to have been turned around yet, unlike what is alleged in some quarters. A truck bomb attack had killed 10 Iraqis in the city of Hit on Friday.
Guerrillas blew up a market near the shrine of Abu al-Fadl Abbas in the holy city of Karbala on Saturday, killing a reported 80 persons and wounding 170. [Figures from Aljazeera early Sunday morning.] The sacred character of Karbala makes this sort of attack especially likely to provoke Shiite-Sunni tensions and violence. Wire services report:
‘ Television images showed a man running down a smoke-filled street holding a lifeless baby above his head. Smoke was rising off the baby. Ambulances had rushed to the blast scene in Kerbala, 100 km southwest of Baghdad. ‘
Reuters reports on political violence in Iraq on Saturday, revealing that “the war of the corpses” is heating up around the country. Some 17 bodies were found in the streets of Baghdad, victims of sectarian death squads. In the mixed city of Baqubah, 60 miles northeast of the capital, police found 27 bodies. In the northern Sunni Arab city of Mosul, police found 16 bodies. Other important attacks:
BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb hit an Iraqi army patrol, wounding two soldiers in al-Qahira district in northern Baghdad, police said. . .
BAGHDAD – Three mortar rounds landed in al-Resala district in southwestern Baghdad killing three civilians and wounding 10 others, including two children, police said.
BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb killed one civilian and wounded three others in Kadhimiya district in northwestern Baghdad, police said. . .
BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb targeting a group of day labourers killed one and wounded eight in the Zaafaraniya district in southern Baghdad, police said.
BAGHDAD – Gunmen killed five civilians and wounded one when they opened fire on their vehicle in Bayaa district in southwestern Baghdad. . .
Young Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called on Bush to acquiesce in the desire of the Iraqi people that the US set a timetable for withdrawal of its troops from Iraq.
In Islamic lore the Mahdi or promised one will return at the end of time to restore the world to justice. He will be opposed by an evil one-eyed figure, the Dajjal, which is usually translated the “anti-Christ” by analogy with apocalyptic Christian beliefs. Muqtada called Bush the Dajjal.
Muqtada’s letter about Bush was read out in parliament by Liqa’ Al-Yasin, female MP from the Sadrist bloc. The Shiite cleric called Bush “a great evil,” adding, “Bush ignores all the calls asking for withdrawal or for the setting of a timetable for withdrawal, despite the demonstrations that the Iraqi people staged in Najaf and in every spot around the globe.”
Muqtada addressed Bush, claiming that the UN had asked for a US withdrawal (not true). He denied that a US withdrawal would throw Iraq into greater chaos:
“What chaos can be greater from what we face in Iraq, in which blood runs every moment, without let-up . . ?” He asked if Bush had just traded Saddam’s dictatorship for one of Shiite-hating Sunnis (nawasib) and excommunicators (takfiris). He asked what had become of Bush’s debaathification, since he was now asking that Baathists be reinstated in the government. He taunted Bush for having announced an intention to disarm Iraq, complaining that Bush had filled “our beloved Iraq” with weapons. He asked, “How have you fought sectarianism, when you are reinforcing it by building walls and instituting partitions on a sectarian, political basis– not on a national, Iraqi, Arab or Islamic basis.
Referring to the Democratic Party’s dissent from Bush’s policies in Iraq, Muqtada asked, “Do you want us to follow your mistakes and your plan, when you have yourselves turned against it? . . . What kind of democracy is this that you desire? Thousands go out to vote, then you go back to national reconciliation with Baathists and terrorists?
Addressing Bush, he said, “While you once predicted that your picture would hang in Iraqis’ homes, now it is under their feet . . . You have destroyed the reputation of the West among Easterners generally.” He accused Bush of having US troops put their feet on the necks of Iraqis, and desecrating the Qur’an.
He accused Bush of turning Iraq into an arena of contention. He said, “Bush, you wanted to make America more secure, but you have set it ablaze . . .”
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, speaking to a US congressional delegation, rejected US pressure and said that Washington’s interference in domestic Iraqi political affairs was a “red line,” the crossing of which he could not accept. The main issue that seems to have exercised him is US pressure on his government to change the “de-Baathification” process and to rehabilitate former Baathists (most of them Sunni Arabs) as public persons who can hold high government posts.
The LA Times reports on how security is deteriorating in Basra under the pressure of political and militia rivalries, leading to an increase in attacks on British troops.
Retired Lt. Gen. William Odom called on Bush to sign the bill specifying a US troop withdrawal from Iraq. Money quote:
‘ “The challenge we face today is not how to win in Iraq; it is how to recover from a strategic mistake: invading Iraq in the first place,” he said.
“The president has let [the Iraq war] proceed on automatic pilot, making no corrections in the face of accumulating evidence that his strategy is failing and cannot be rescued. He lets the United States fly further and further into trouble, squandering its influence, money and blood, facilitating the gains of our enemies.” ‘
Hmmm. I don’t think Odom can be accused by the Republicans of being unpatriotic. He’s not just some civilian politician. He isn’t even a Democrat. He’s a man of substantial military and intelligence experience. Certainly his credentials to speak on the impact of the war on the US military are impeccable.
In a video posted to the internet, an important al-Qaeda leader complained that the Shiites are not joining in the fight against the US but on the contrary are fighting al-Qaeda alongside the US. An anti-Shiite program is common among radical Salafis in Iraq, but had earlier been questioned by al-Qaeda leaders in the east.
Iraq’s deputy prime minister, Barham Salih, will visit Iran in May.