Chlorine Truck Bomb Kills 30, Wounds 100;
Rumayla Pipeline Near Basra Bombed;
Assault on Mahdi Army in Diwaniya
Alissa J. Rubin of the NYT reports that a chlorine truck bomb in Ramadi killed 30, including women and children, on Friday, and sent about 100 persons to the hospital with shrapnel wounds or breathing problems.
In the Shiite south, US and Iraqi troops conducted a campaign in Diwaniya against the Mahdi Army militia, which has fought several engagements against local police. The police in Diwaniya include many elements of the Badr Corps of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Badr is a rival of the Mahdi Army. It has been alleged that the Mahdi Army in Diwaniya was not under the control of young cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and was ignoring his orders in favor of local rogue leaders. Iraqslogger has more.
With reference to operation ‘Black Eagle’ in Diwaniya, AFP notes: “Bleichwehl said troops, facing scattered resistance, discovered a factory that produced “explosively formed penetrators” (EFPs), a particularly deadly type of explosive that can destroy a main battle tank and several weapons caches.”
All this time, the US Pentagon has been maintaining that EFPs had to be imported from Iran and could not be produced in Iraq. But voila, an Iraqi EFP factory. One of the key components, which is difficult to mill, is routinely used in oil field technology, and lots of Iraqis know how to make it.
Police found 11 bodies in Baghdad, and four in Tal Afar, according to Reuters, which reports a number of bombings and assassinations bombardments in Baghdad, Kirkuk and elsewhere. McClatchy reports an even great range of violent incidents on Friday, including several mortar attacks in Baghdad.
Among the most significant was an attack I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere: “5 p.m. yesterday (Thursday), the Rumayla oil pipeline 50 km west of Basra has been damaged by a bomb.”
A Rumayla oil pipeline was damaged by a bomb!? Rumayla to my knowledge hasn’t suffered much from pipeline sabotage. Oil has been smuggled from it, yes. Militias and tribes conduct turf wars over the smuggling rights. But just blowing it up? That would be counterproductive for smuggling. The action suggests that one of the competing smuggling mafias or militias has been successfully frozen out of the action. In that case, they lose nothing if they blow the pipeline up, and they harm their rivals.
The Rumayla fields have 500 wellheads and produce most of the 1.8 million barrels a day of petroleum that currently support the Iraqi economy. The northern Kirkuk fields most often cannot export at all, because the pipeline to Ceyhan in Turkey constantly gets blown up by Sunni Arab guerrillas. If the Rumayla pipelines start being routinely targeted by Shiite militiamen in the south, it might spell the end of the Iraqi government of Nuri al-Maliki. It is not as if the government takes in much revenue from taxes, or has any great prospect of doing so. This pipeline bombing has been little noticed, but it is very important if it signals the beginning of a series of such attacks.
In a canny move, the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Friday offered pensions to high-ranking military officers in the former Baath regime. A wise policy, though possibly too little too late. Much of the trouble in Iraq is being caused by these very officers, though it gets blamed on “al-Qaeda” in the Western press. If the Baath officers really could be mollified, it would have a big impact on whether Iraq can return to stability. Officers at the rank of major or below have the option of joining the new Iraqi army.