8 US GIs Killed
US Bombs Sadr City
The US military announced the killing of 8 US GIs on Saturday. The Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, visited al-Anbar Province in the company of US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus, to highlight the increased security in the province since Sunni Arab tribal chieftains begain allying against extremist Salafis. Gen. Petraeus, always a straight shooter, underlined that al-Anbar is still “not paradise.” [And right he is. Falluja is very dangerous and there is violence all over the province, and the Sunni Arab tribal sheikhs say that they are getting the radical Salafis out of the way so as to get a clearer shot at the al-Maliki government.)
The problems the US faces in standing up the Iraqi army are underlined by the arrest of Gen. Shakir Halil al-Kaabi, the commander of the 5th Division in Diyala Province. He is charged with being careless of prisoners from the Shiite militias, or of actively collaborating with them.
The US military raided Sadr City on Saturday and arrested a Mahdi Army commander whom they accused of being involved with smuggling weapons from Iran. The arrest provoked clashes, and the army called in air strikes on JAM positions, killing 5 persons. Bombing a city you militarily occupy is probably illegal in international law.
Reuters reports that police found about 20 bodies in Baghdad on Saturday. Other major civil war violence:
‘ BAGHDAD – At least five people were killed and 37 were wounded when a car bomb and several mortar rounds exploded in a crowded market of Baghdad’s Shi’ite Bayaa district, police said. . .
DIWANIYA – Gunmen killed three off-duty Iraqi soldiers in the southern Iraqi city of Diwaniya on Friday, police said. . .
KUT – Iraqi and Polish forces killed four Mehdi Army militiamen and detained 20 others in the small town of Jihad, 80 km (50 miles) west of Kut, police said. . .
Also, a car bomber blew up an Iraqi army checkpoint in Ghazaliya, Baghdad, killing 2 soldiers and injuring 11 others.
Guerrillas sprayed a police checkpoint in al-Ria, southwestern Baghdad, with machine gun fire, killing 3 policemen and wounding 6.
The National Iraqi List had its party conference the past few days in Amman. Led by former appointed prime minister, Iyad Allawi, this list has 25 seats in parliament and most of its members are secular middle class Shiites, though it has some Sunni Arabs, as well. The list had been attempting to put together a new parliamentary bloc grouping the Islamic Virtue Party (Fadhila: Shiite fundamentalist), the Iraqi Accord Front (Sunni fundamentalist), and the National Dialogue Front (Sunni secular). Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the effort has been postponed because Iraqi National List members objected to joining forces with Adnan Dulaimi, Mishaan Juburi, and Salih Mutlak, three Sunni Arab leaders. Judge Abdul Latif al-Waili is quoted as saying that the list has not yet decided whether to leave the national unity government of PM Nuri al-Maliki.
The National Iraqi List’s failure so far to form a new coalition is good news for al-Maliki, who has looked increasingly vulnerable to being unseated in a vote of no confidence. The Iraqi constitution specifies that the largest bloc in parliament is asked first to form a government by the president. A coalition of Allawi’s list with Virtue and the Sunnis would have had 98 members, more than the United Iraqi Alliance could claim if the Sadr Movement (32 members) declined to support al-Maliki (the movement has already pulled out of the national unity government). As it is, the National Iraqi list apparently has little hope of getting along with the Sunni Arabs. And, the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance is attempting to entice the Virtue Party back in, having unseated it in Basra Province just to show that there are disadvantages to bucking the big coalition.