US troops targeting a Sunni Arab guerrilla appear instead to have killed an Iraqi family of 8 in a town 70 mi. north of Baghdad on Friday. Three women were among the dead. AFP reports of Tikrit, ‘Large crowds protested against the US raid after the main weekly Muslim prayers in the city, capital of Salaheddin Province. “America is the enemy of God,” protesters chanted.’
The incident is important because it raises two questions pertinent to the now-stalled negotiations between the al-Maliki government and the Bush administration over the rules governing US military actions in Iraq. The townspeople are demanding that in future the US coordinate better with Iraqi forces. Al-Maliki wants US troops always to clear operations with the Iraqis.
Some in the town are demanding that the US troops responsible for the civilian deaths be put on trial. Al-Maliki is demanding that US troops who commit crimes in Iraq be tried in Iraqi courts. In short, this incident will strengthen al-Maliki’s resolve to stick to his guns on these negotiating points.
A cleric in Basra loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, Shaikh Uday Ali Abbas al-Ajrish has been assassinated. The Sadrists in Basra were defeated by the rival Badr Corps with the help of the Iraqi military last spring. Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the Sadrists in Basra are accusing the police in that city of torturing Mahdi Army fighters captured during that operation. Provincial authorities deny the charges.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports in Arabic that the governor of Basra, Misbah al-Wa’ili of the Islamic Virtue Party says that shootings and kidnappings have returned to Basra. He also complained that foreign countries (he means Iran) are spying on Basra, and have even targeted him. He wants to go the UK route and put surveillance cameras everywhere.
The web site of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has been hacked and defaced by a UAE based group declaring that they are “Wahhabis.” (There are very few Wahhabis in the United Arab Emirates– it is a Saudi and Qatari thing). There have been sharp exchanges between Sunni and Shiite clerics in recent months, with a Saudi cleric launching a polemic and more recently Shaikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who has a perch on Aljazeera, has also attacked Shiism as a ‘heresy’ ‘invading’ Sunni societies.