Iranian Border Closure Roils Kurdistan; Is Weapons Baiting a War Crime?

Sunni Arab guerrillas blew up an internal pipeline bringing petroleum from Baiji to the refinery at Doura in Baghdad. It is the second such act of sabotage in the past week.

A frightening spread of cholera and cholera-like symptoms up and down Iraq is now being reported, with cases in Basra in the deep south and also in the north. The outbreak is rooted in the breakdown of water purification plants and possibly in an interdiction of chlorine trucks by the US military, for fear the guerrillas will take them over and use them for truck bombings (it has happened). But at some point the US military will have to choose between the risk of chlorine truck bombs and the deaths or illness of thousands of Iraqis.

The bombing at the mosque in Baquba has ended up taking 26 lives, including that of the city’s police chief, and wounding 50. Baquba has a Sunni Arab majority but is being ruled by the Shiite Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI).

The Iranian closure of the border with Iraqi Kurdistan has stranded whole lines of trucks on the Iranian side and raised the prospect of Iraqi Kurds being forced to buy more expensive goods from Turkey and Syria. Iran closed the border in part to protest the US military’s kidnapping of an Ianian merchant and accused operative of the Revolutionary Guards.

The Washington Post’s revelation of a ‘baiting’ operation by US snipers raises the possibility that it may have involved war crimes, according to Raw Story. The snipers put out material that could be used to make weapons, and then killed anyone who tried to pick it up. The problem is that Iraqis are extremely poor and you couldn’t know why they were picking it up (most of the country’s scrap metal is being sold off to China). Raw Story writes, ‘The baiting program should be rigorously examined, says Eugene Fidell, the president of the National Institute of Military Justice, because it raises frightening possibilities. “In a country that is awash in armaments and magazines and implements of war,” he said, “if every time somebody picked up something that was potentially useful as a weapon, you might as well ask every Iraqi to walk around with a target on his back.” ‘

John Fout looks at the likely impact of loose federalism (soft partition) in Iraq on the oil industry and foreign contracts.

The Iraq parliament is crafting laws regulating foreign security firms in that country. There are tens of thousands of private contractors supporting the US military there. Parliament hasn’t been able to pass a petroleum bill or to make and strides toward national reconciliation, but it has been galvanized by Blackwater’s recent killing of 11 Iraqis.

AP argues that the prosperity in Iraqi Kurdistan is built on shaky foundations, especially with regard to banking and finance.

Reuters reports that

‘ Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman said State Department officials had told the Oversight and Government Reform Committee he chairs they could not provide details of corruption in Iraq’s government unless the information was treated as a “state secret” and not revealed to the public. “You are wrong to interfere with the committee’s inquiry,” Waxman said in a letter to Rice. “The State Department’s position on this matter is ludicrous,” added Waxman, a vocal opponent of the Bush administration’s Iraq policies. ‘

So obviously they wouldn’t want to classify the extent of corruption in Iraq unless it was bad news for the Bush administration.

The SF Chronicle suggests that even if the Dems win the White House in 08, the US military will be in Iraq for some time to come.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband conceded Tuesday that British involvement in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars had alienated millions of Muslims:

‘ He admitted that British foreign policy had alienated millions of Muslims. Speaking of a recent visit to Pakistan, he said: “I met young, educated, articulate people in their 20s and 30s who told me millions of Muslims around the world think we’re not seeking to empower them, but to dominate them. So we have to stop and think. “The lesson is that it is not good enough to have good intentions. To assert shared values is not enough, We must embody them in shared institutions.” He gave the example of Turkish membership of the EU, saying Europe must not be seen as a closed Christian club. ‘

If Tony “Lapdog” Blair were still PM, Cheney would just order him to fire Miliband for such frank and rational statements.

Reuters reports civil war violence on Tuesday; major attacks:

‘DIYALA – A U.S. soldier was killed in Diyala province when an explosion hit his vehicle, U.S. forces said.

BAGHDAD – Two car bombs killed six people and wounded 20 in the Zayouna district of eastern Baghdad, police and hospital sources said. . .

BAGHDAD – Twelve bodies were found in different parts of Baghdad on Monday, police said.

BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb killed one person and wounded four in eastern Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb near a police station wounded seven people, including a policeman, in the Karrada district of central Baghdad, police said. . .

MOSUL – A suicide bomber wearing an explosives belt blew himself up near a police colonel, wounding the officer and nine others in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. . .

FALLUJA – A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol killed one policeman and wounded another in Falluja, 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad, police said. . .

BASRA – A suicide car bomb killed three people in an attack targeting a police station in the southern Shi’ite city of Basra, police and a health official said. Up to 20 people were wounded. Basra lies 550 km (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad. . .

KIRKUK – A roadside bomb wounded two people in southern Kirkuk, police said.

HAWIJA – Hussein Ali Saleh, head of Hawija City Council, was wounded when a suicide car bomber targeted his convoy on a road near the town of Hawija, 70 km (40 miles) southwest of the city of Kirkuk, police said. Two of his guards were wounded.’

The rash of bombings in Basra may force British troops back into the city.

At the Global Affairs group blog, Manan Ahmed on the “Bhutto complex.’

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