Major Bridge in Kurdistan Destroyed
Guerrillas Kill 4 US Troops
On Saturday morning, guerrillas blew up a major bridge linking the northern cities of Kirkuk and Irbil. Irbil is the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan and the seat of power for Massoud Barzani, who wants to annex the ethnically mixed oil city of Kirkuk to Kurdistan (which is a regional confederacy inside Iraq). The Turkmen and Sunni Arabs of Kirkuk don’t want to be annexed to Kurdistan, and the Sunni Arab guerrillas have their eye on Kirkuk’s petroleum as a future resource. Blowing up this bridge was a major strike against Kurdistan.
If Turkey does launch an attack on PKK guerrillas in northern Iraq, whom it accuses of terrorist acts in eastern Turkey, it could devastate the Kurdistan economy– one of the few bright spots in Iraq. As the previous item made clear, there are signs of trouble at the fringes of that region already.
Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, clerical Shiite leader of the largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament (the fundamentalist United Iraqi Alliance), has returned to Najaf in Iraq after initial chemotherapy in Tehran.
Reuters reports civil war violence in Iraq for Friday. Major incidents:
‘* BAGHDAD – One U.S. soldier was killed by small arms fire in Baghdad on Friday, the U.S. military said. . .
* BAGHDAD – One U.S. soldier was killed and one wounded when their patrol was attacked with small arms fire in Baghdad on Wednesday, the U.S. military said. . .
BAGHDAD – Ten people were killed and 30 wounded when mortar rounds landed on a residential area in Um al-Maalif, a Shi’ite district of southwestern Baghdad, police said. . .
* BAGHDAD – Fifteen bodies were found in various parts of Baghdad in the past 24 hours, police said. . .
KIRKUK – A suicide truck bomber in Uweidla village near Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, killed five people and wounded 25, police said.
BAQUBA – Six decomposing bodies were found dumped together in the Tahreer district of Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. . .
FALLUJA – Six suspected insurgents were killed during U.S.-Iraqi raids targeting al Qaeda in Falluja, 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad, on Thursday, the U.S. military said. Another suspected insurgent linked to al Qaeda was detained during a follow-up raid on Friday. . .
There were Sunni on Sunni clashes in the Amiriya district of Baghdad between Salafis and others, with US troops intervening agains the Salafis. Such reports are murky and I am suspicious of the whole “Iraqi Sunnis rallying against al-Qaeda” trope. There are always such internal struggles in any guerrilla war, and we say them big time in Afghanistan. They don’t necessarily lead to stability and don’t necessarily translate into Sunni support for the Shiite al-Maliki government. Sunni guerrillas internally divided and busy with each other is a temporary tactical advantage for al-Maliki and the US, but it is unclear if it has any long term implications.
More at McClatchy.
Former British army commander Sir Michael Rose argues that since “we can’t win” in Iraq, and since the British military presence in Basra is actually exacerbating the conflict, multinational forces should gradually withdraw.
Rice is complaining that the Spanish decision to withdraw from Iraq in spring of 2004 was made hastily and did not provide the US and its other allies with time to prepare for it. But as Spain’s then defense minister told the story, the US Coalition Provisional Authority had demanded that the Spanish troops in Najaf (I think there were only 1200) try to “kill or capture” Muqtada al-Sadr. The Spanish officer corps had a much better grasp at that time of Muqtada’s significance and the likelihood that any such attempt would throw all of south Iraq into turmoil. And they looked around Najaf province and imagined a million enraged Shiites. I think the Spanish military and defense ministry decided that the US was using them as a fall guy and said ‘no thank you’ by pulling out. When the US itself went after Muqtada and his aides . . . It threw south Iraq into turmoil for 2 months and there as very hard fighting by the US military. The Spanish might well have been massacred if their small force had attempted the same thing. So Rice should give it a rest.
Those drawings of the new US embassy in Baghdad that showed up on the Web?. Major security breach? Or embarrassing elephantiasis?
Immanuel Wallerstein on Bush’s plan for Iraq (partial disengagement and long-term bases) and Muqtada’s plan for Iraq (an Iraq nationalist alliance gradually to push the US altogether out). The only quibble I have with this lucid piece is that Muqtada has no intention of making up with Baathists. Ex-Baathists like Salih Mutlak, maybe.