US Airstrike Kills 15 Children, Women, Men;
Mosul Rocked by Death Squad, Roadside Bomb Killings;
Shiite UIA Rejects Arming Sunni Arabs
The United States military has bombed Iraqi cities quite a lot. But few reporters have asked the question raised by Hannah Allam and Jenan Hussein about who exactly is being killed in such raids. On Saturday, the US said its airstrike killed 6 militants. Iraqi Shiites maintain that two families were killed and that the corpses of 15 parents and children have been pulled out of the rubble in the al-Husseiniya district of northern Baghdad. Associated Press television news showed the bodies of women and children in the rubble. Apparently the US pilots were trying, at least, to kill Mahdi Army militiamen.
Radio Sawa reports that the United Iraqi Alliance bloc in parliament met and rejected the new US policy of arming Sunni Arab groups to fight “al-Qaeda” in Iraq. The UIA, the leading bloc in parliament, is a coalition of Shiite fundamentalist parties. They insisted that arms be only in the hands of state forces.
“Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia” has alienated a lot of Sunni Arab Iraqis, and appears to have assassinated [the nephew of Harith al-Dhari, who bored the same name of his uncle] a leader of the 1920 Revolution Brigades. [The uncle, a leader of the Association of Muslim Scholars, is in hiding in Amman, Jordan]. The Guardian reported recently that 7 Iraqi Sunni guerrilla groups are forming a political party and have turned against “al-Qaeda” (mainly foreign fighters adhering to the Salafi Jihadi ideology). (For the main guerrilla groups See this background piece.
The Shiite parliamentarians are alarmed at the US military’s plan to arm Sunni Arab guerrillas to fight “al-Qaeda.” Unlike clueless US pundits such as Charles Krauthammer, these UIA MPs know that being against “al-Qaeda” does not mean being for the al-Maliki government. The Sunni Arabs willing to fight the foreign volunteers are just as anti-Shiite and anti-government as ever, and, armed, will pose new problems for the al-Maliki government as the US draws down its troops over the next couple of years.
Another UIA parliamentarian, Abbas al-Bayati, announced Saturday that the negotiations over the petroleum bill now being considered in the Iraqi legislature are too complicated to be concluded before the August recess, so it will be put aside until September. Were parliament to follow through on this plan, it would guarantee that US Ambassador Ryan Crocker would have no good political news to report in his key September testimony before Congress.
Alarmed, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki issued a plea to parliament to cancel or much shorten its planned one-month recess after he met on Saturday with Crocker. Prime ministers who have to plea and wheedle their own parliament aren’t worth much.
Sawt al-Iraq reports in Arabic that Shaikh Abdullah Falak, a clerical official in charge of collecting religious taxes for Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistan, was found shot to death in his office in in the Shiite holy city of Najaf late Friday. Usually Sistani’s offices are heavily guarded, so the killing is unusual. There is no word on the perpetrator, but Sistani has lots of enemies and so would anyone who collected and distributed large amounts of money on his behalf.
Tim Phelps of Newsday interviews academic Iraq experts and finds that they generally agree that a precipitate US military withdrawal will throw Iraq into catastrophic violence with bad effects for Iraqis and for the world. I am the dissenter among them in this article, but I agree that the risks are substantial if the withdrawal is not done right. I completely disagree, however, with the scenario where “al-Qaeda” takes over anything in Iraq. If by this is meant the few hundred Sunni Arab volunteers of a Salafi Jihadi persuasion, the Iraqis would slit their throats and the country’s neighbors would help.
Meanwhile, it looks to me as though security is worsening considerably in Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, in the north. See below.
McClatchy reports major civil war violence on Saturday. Excerpts::
‘ [Mosul, a northern city of 1.5 million]: 6 policemen were killed and 2 others wounded in an IED explosion targeted their patrol in Wadi Al Hajar neighborhood west Mosul city early morning. . .
[Mosul]: 11 anonymous bodies including 4 bodies of women had been found early morning today in Noor neighborhood and Bakir neighborhood east Mosul city . . .
[Baghdad]: 5 were killed and 8 others wounded in an IED explosion targeted a bus in Baladiyat east Baghdad around 12,00.am. . .
– 17 anonymous bodies had been found in Baghdad today. . .
Diyala: A medical source in Baquba public hospital said that 8 civilians including 2 children and 3 women had been injured when mortar shells hit Buhruz town south Baquba around 10,30 am. . .
Kirkuk [Province]: 2 policemen were killed near Al Kuba village west of Kirkuk today morning. The police sources said that a police patrol found a body of a man near the main road and when two policemen tried to carry the body, it exploded killing them both. . . ‘