Massive Bomb Kills 22, Wounds 60 at Hillah
US Blockades Mahdi Army
New Turkish Government may Decline Military Option
A suicide car bombing of a market in the southern Shiite city of Hillah killed at least 22 persons and wounded 60 on Tuesday morning. The northern reaches of Babil province are heavily Sunni Arab, and these have been waging a dirty war against Shiites. Most of their violence has concentrated on cities such as Iskandariya, but sometimes they have managed to hit as far south into Shiite territory as Hillah. This attack demonstrates that the Sunni Arab guerrillas continue to have the resources to hit Shiites, even in their own southern strongholds.
Also near Hillah, Sawt al-Iraq reports in Arabic that the US military took into custody the local Badr Corps commander. This Shiite paramilitary, a subsidiary of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, was trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps but has generally avoided conflict with the US forces. The reason for the raid was not reported.
Meanwhile, near Baghdad, US forces are blockading the Shiite Husseiniya district, in an attempt to crack down on Shiite Mahdi Army militiamen there. This article implies that so many civilians died after a US bombing of a paramilitary position this weekend because the guerrillas had stored explosives there and the secondary explosions took out surrounding houses.
A US push all at once against Mahdi Army, Badr Corps and the Sunni Arab insurgency could overstretch American forces and cause even more turmoil.
This article from the Independent underscores the new complications for Turkey’s government of any cross-border raids into Iraq. It notes that 100 of the ruling AKP party’s MPs are of Kurdish origin. In addition 24 Kurdish independents won seats. PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan may need their support to elect his choice of president.
I think the article errs in seeing the military as the main proponent of a hard line stance against the Kurdish Worker Party guerrillas (PKK) who have safe harbor on the Iraqi side of the border and have been attacking Turkish police and soldiers in Anatolia. The AKP politicians have spoken just as vehemently of a strike into Iraqi Kurdistan under certain conditions. And, their Kurdish-heritage MPs may have grudges against the PKK, which was known for hitting Kurds as well as Turkish authorities during its dirty war of the 1980s and 1990s.
Still, the article may be right that the outcome of the parliamentary elections and the new prominence of Kurdish representatives has reduced the likelihood of a hot war on the Iraqi border.
McClatchy reports that 24 bodies were found in Baghdad on Monday, and bombings killed another two dozen persons in the capital.
In news I hadn’t seen elsewhere, McClatchy says that 6 Kurdish troops were recently killed in Mosul. You wonder about the ethnic composition of the Iraqi army in that city.
Sawt al-Iraq writes in Arabic about the disappointing harvest in Dhi Qar Province this summer. The article blames the salinization of the soil and of the Euphrates itself. Peasants seem not to have had sufficient incentives to expand the amount of land cultivated. There were also problems with access to silos. Also, a number of key agricultural development projects have not been implemented. The article is not explicit about whether security is part of the problem. I cannot understand the problem of salinization of soil. In Egypt this has happened in the Delta because of the flow of the Nile slowing (as a result of the Aswan Dam), and the Mediterranean coming in as a result. But the Euphrates has not been dammed except at its headwaters in Turkey. Some observers think there will be water wars in the Middle East during the coming century. Anyway, I hope the shortfall in the harvest does not mean that Iraqis will have difficulty getting food. The four horsemen of the apocalypse seem to be stomping around the place.