Rice Apologizes to al-Maliki for Blackwater Shootings Was Abu Rishah a Fake?

McClatchy reports from Baghdad that Iraqi eyewitnesses maintain that Blackwater security guards fired at civilians without provocation on Sunday, in contrast to the company’s own story about the incident. Probably they were firing at a car that neglected to stop when told to, or neglected to stop fast enough. Since such vehicles might be driven by suicide bombers, American military and civilian security forces have often opened fire on innocent Iraqis who just did not hear or did not understand the command to halt their vehicles, or who panicked and sped up. The offending car in this instance had a family of three in it, including a toddler who ended up being melted to his mother’s body in the resulting conflagration.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Condi Rice personally apologized to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for the killing of 10 Iraqis by Blackwater guards and promised that steps would be taken to ensure the tragedy was not repeated. The Iraqis are from all accounts absolutely furious about the Blackwater cowboys running around their country armed and dangerous and acting with impunity. The State Department, which employs Blackwater, is highly embarrassed and has ordered State Dept. personnel in Iraq not to circulate for the time being. Debate is raging over whether Iraq has the right to try the apparently trigger-happy civilian security men of Blackwater.

Al-Hayat also says that a US officer in Salahuddin, Col. Barry DiRosa, admitted that the US was paying the salaries (but not the weapons costs) of the tribal irregulars recruited to fight “Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia.” The paper says he admitted in a telephone interview that “Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia” as it operated in Salahuddin Province is mainly an Iraqi organization, not primarily made up of foreign fighters.

Greg Palast argues that Sattar Abu Rishah, the leader of the Al-Anbar Salvation Council who was assassinated last week, was a ‘phony sheikh’ who had no real tribe behind him and is opposed by the very powerful and very real sheikh of the Dulaim tribe. He points to video reportage produced by Rick Rowley and David Enders and carried by Aljazeera English, which includes interviews with Iraqis who doubt Abu Rishah’s bona fides. The videos had earlier been blogged by Marc Lynch, who had been following Abu Rishah and had blown the whistle on him as having an unsavory past.

My own feeling is that Palast is generally on to something but is exaggerating a bit. The al-Anbar Salvation Council does have representation on it from the Dulaim tribe, and weekly attacks in al-Anbar have fallen from 400 in summer of 2006 to 100 this summer, according to the US military. Al-Anbar is hardly quiet, and it is easy to exaggerate the changes (more especially since at least one major city, Fallujah, has had a private vehicle ban since late May, an artificial policy that cannot continue much longer). But to say that the Al-Anbar Salvation Council is a complete fake and no tribal leaders are cooperating with the US, if that is what Palast is saying, would be to go too far in the other direction.

Another 50,000 persons were displaced in Iraq since July bringing the total to 2.25 million. I don’t think the optimism about the ‘surge’ ‘working’ included this data.

McClatchy reports attacks in Iraq on Tuesday:

‘ Baghdad

– Around 7 a.m. a road side bomb targeted police patrol in Zafaraniyah. One civilian was killed and 2 policemen were injured.

– Around 8 a.m. a bomb inside a bus exploded in Zayuna. Two civilians were killed and 5 were injured.

– Around 9 a.m. Two parked car bomb exploded in parking yard not far away from Baghdad morgue. 5 people were killed and 20 were injured.

– Around 1 p.m. a parked car bomb targeted civilians in Ur neighborhood near Al Firdous mosque. 8 civilians were killed and 15 others were injured.

– Police found 9 dead bodies throughout Baghdad . . .’

Another attack was launched on an aide of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Basra, but the aide, Imad Abdul Karim, escaped injury.

At the Global Affairs Group Blog, Barnett Rubin comments on Afghan reactions to recent saber-rattling by Tehran against ‘US interests” in Iraq and Afghanistan if Washington attacks Iran.

At the Napoleon’s Egypt blog, Sucy writes to Joseph Bonaparte of France’s new conquest, Egypt: ‘There is much to be hoped for from this country; but then this hope is of the nature of those which a length of time alone can realize. ‘ It is always the way in colonial conquest, that the military maintains there is hope but it just needs more time . . .

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