Bush uses Sudan, Iran Assets in Iraq US GIs Killed, Trapped in Bridge Rubble;
Al-Mashhadani Dismissed as Speaker;
Clashes, Demonstrations in Sadr City
Remember all that Bush administration bluster against Sudan? Turns out that the CIA is using Sudanese spies against the Iraqi guerrillas. Bush sees no enemies among the oil states, only opportunities to be exploited. Most Americans don’t realize that Bush has also de facto deployed Iran-trained Badr Corps fighters against the Sunni Arabs in Iraq, as well. So Iran and Sudan are the great bogeymen in Bush rhetoric, but the pillars of his Iraq policy in reality.
That is why Senator Joe Lieberman’s call for aggressive air strikes on Iran are unlikely to eventuate. Bush needs Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council in order to avoid immediate and complete defeat in Iraq, and SIIC is very, very close to Iran. Lieberman doesn’t seem to understand, by the way, that Iraqi Shiites would mind the US bombing their coreligionists and would probably massacre the entire British garrison in Basra as well as interdict US fuel convoys to the north from Kuwait and Basra. His irresponsible warmongering would get a lot of US troops killed for no good reason. One only hopes he isn’t talking this way primarily for the purposes of Israeli PM Ehud Olmert’s rightwing government; he just met with Olmert and: “The two also discussed U.S. policy toward Iraq and the West’s capabilities for dealing with the Iranian threat.” If Lieberman and Olmert want to start another war, they should please do it themselves and leave American servicemen out of it.
Controversial speaker of the Iraqi parliament Mahmud al-Mashhadani (a Sunni Arab) has been ousted from his post by the combined opposition of Shiite, Kurdish and some Sunni Arab MPs. He has scuffled more than once with other MPs and was accused of using his bodyguards to abuse a Shiite representative from the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC). This Arabic report maintains that last week, special police commandos of the Interior Ministry had kidnapped some of al-Mashhadani’s bodyguards. The police commandos are mainly Badr Corps, the paramilitary of SIIC. But Ibrahim Jaafari is alleged to have brought some Mahdi Army elements in, as well, late in his tenure. These are loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr. PM Nuri al-Maliki has been conducting personal negotiations with the Mahdi Army to get al-Mashhadani’s bodyguards released. So the speaker’s bullying of the SIIC MP is rooted in resentment over the kidnapping, and isn’t just a sign of him being bad-tempered. You get the sense that a session of the Iraqi parliament is sort of like Tony Soprano’s family reunion.
I warned of this scenario in a piece for Salon last August.
Three US troops were announced killed on Sunday. Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports in Arabic that over 100 persons were killed or found dead in bombings, shootings and other violence in Iraq on Sunday.
The Iranian and Turkish militaries are coordinating artillery shelling of PKK Kurdish refuges along their borders with Iraqi Kurdistan. The two governments accuse the PKK (leftist Kurdish Workers Party) and its Iran branch, PEJAK, of blowing up things in their territory. Both Turkey and Iran have substantial Kurdish populations of their own, and they fear separatist sentiments among them lest they be dismembered. Iraqi Kurdistan has given safe harbor to some 5000 PKK guerrillas. Turkish authorities accused the PKK of a recent major bombing in the Turkish capital, Ankara. The US is said to be dismayed by this Turkish-Iranian cooperation. But Bush set the stage for it.
Shiite nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr condemned the Turkish shelling of Iraqi Kurdistan on Sunday and threatened retaliation if it continues. Al-Sadr had angered Kurds on Saturday with his call for a postponement of the referendum on oil-rich Kirkuk being added to Kurdistan. He is now attempting to take the edge off by championing them against Turkey. This talk is mostly posturing, since Muqtada does not have forces in the north that could do anything to the Turks. (He has followers among the Iraqi Shiite Turkmen minority, but they are pro-Turkish).
Sawt al-Iraq reports in Arabic that Muqtada also met late Sunday with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. The two discussed a wide range of political and religious issues. The meeting was said to be intended by Sistani to “reassure” al-Sadr with regard to Sistani. The two have in the past sometimes had bad relations. I’d say that Sistani- al-Sadr cooperation would be just about Bush’s worst nightmare in Iraq.
A guerrilla suicide bomber took out a bridge 6 miles from Mahmudiya (half an hour south of Baghdad) on Sunday. There was a US military checkpoint on the bridge that appears to have been hit, killing soldiers and pinning some under rubble:
‘ Soon the outpost sergeant in charge was organizing a search for his missing men, Smith said. The Armor Group team climbed up with first-aid kits, stretchers and other aid. With the Army’s quick reaction force, they struggled to lift concrete shards off the men, pinned along the slope of what was once a roadway . . . Then a shout went up, “Morphine! Morphine!” and a black T-shirt-clad Briton administered painkiller to the freed man. “Another poor fellow looked crushed beneath a concrete slab,” said Campbell of Armor Group. During the rescue, U.S. armored vehicles opened up with suppressing fire, possibly having spotted movement in the surrounding countryside, flat and baking in 100-degree-plus temperatures. ‘
No word, as I write, about the number of casualties. Apparently the bomb took out one lane of a two-lane bridge and the remaining lane has now been opened. It appears to be the way civilians got from Babil province and points south up to Baghdad and vice versa.
According to AP via The Age, a guerrilla using a fuel truck as a bomb blew up the police HQ in Al-Bu Ajil, a town near the city of Tikrit, destroying a building with 40 persons in it and more gathered around it. Early reports put the death toll at 15, with 50 wounded. It is said that some officers trapped in the rubble were calling for help with their cell phones. Unfortunately it appears that the death toll is likely to rise. Tikrit, north of Baghdad, is near the birthplace of Saddam Hussein.
Reuters reports other political violence on Sunday.
Among the major incidents reported by AP (link above) were firefights between US troops and local guerrillas in Shiite Sadr City or East Baghdad that left 5 Iraqis dead and 15 wounded. A big crowd appears to have gathered to protest, and US helicopters dropped warning flares on the demonstrators.
McClatchy reports that 15 bodies were found in the streets of Baghdad on Sunday, likely victims of sectarian death squads. A rash of bombings of gas stations hit Baghdad, leaving several persons dead or wounded.
Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Richardson said Sunday that he would pull all US troops out of Iraq and not leave any in the country. His rival, Senator Hilary Clinton, has talked about the desirability of stationing US troops in Iraqi Kurdistan for some time to come. (! See first para. above).