4 Multinational Force troops Killed
Turks Shell northern Iraq
Turkey intensively shelled Kurdish PKK positions inside Iraq, drawing a sharp rebuke from the Iraqi side. Turkey views the PKK as a terrorist organization, and blames it for a roadside bomb that recently killed several Turkish troops.
One of the heartening things about the current US team in Iraq is that they are straight shooters. US Ambassador in Baghdad Ryan Crocker was frank with the US senate about the lack of political progress toward reconciliation by the Iraqi government. Crocker told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “”If there is one word, I would use to sum up the atmosphere in Iraq on the streets, in the countryside, in the neighborhoods and at the national level that word would be ‘fear. . .'” Gen. David Petraeus was clear that the current force level in Iraq is unsustainable. (We may conclude that he is using the extra troops he now has to attempt to shape the environment [away from pervasive fear] in expectation of a substantial drawdown next year).
Although the death toll in Baghdad has fallen, the violence is such that political compromise among factions is still very difficult. And, Diyala, Kirkuk and other provinces still see potentially crippling violence that resonates in the rest of the country because it involves Sunni on Shiite or Sunni on Kurd, or vice versa. It is hard for me to gauge the supposed turnaround in al-Anbar Province, where some tribal forces have grouped against the small foreign Salafi Jihadi forces (“al-Qaeda in Iraq”). But my question is, are the Iraq Sunni Arabs of al-Anbar willing to accept and work with the al-Maliki government. I can’t see good evidence of that development, and therefore remain pessimistic. The decline of Salafi Jihadi bombings there is good, but beyond that there must active national integration if there is to be social peace. That, we don’t seem to see.
This item says that the Iraqi parliament is trying to abolish a decree of the Saddam Hussein government mandating the “Arabization” of other ethnic groups. It says that Sunni Arab vice president Tariq al-Hashimi opposes the revoking of the decree. The Kurds, who suffered from forced Arabization, insist on the repeal. I confess I do not understand the premises of this debate. Wouldn’t the Iraqi constitution have automatically rendered such Saddam-era decrees invalid? And, surely al-Hashimi could easily be over-ruled by a vote in parliament? And, why would a Sunni fundamentalist like al-Hashimi care so much about Arabization (a racial, nationalist concept)? But, whatever is going on here, it bodes ill for national reconciliation.
The “New Labour” Party of former PM Tony Blair appears actually to be just an acquiescence in government being a managing committee for the super-rich. Blair appears to have taken few important steps on Iraq and other such issues without consulting media mogul and far-right billionaire Rupert Murdoch. I would complain about him taking over the Wall Street Journal, but its editorial line is already so wacky that Mr. Murdoch’s may actually be an improvement.
17 bodies were found in Baghdad on Thursday, according to Reuters. 3 British airmen and 1 American soldier were killed. A bomb killed 2 at the Shiite shrine area of Baghdad, Kazimiya. And the police chief and five bodyguards of Iskandariya were killed.
For developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan, see our group blog, IC Global Affairs.