23 Dead, 100 wounded in Ramadi Blast; Election Law still in Doubt

Liz Sly reports from Baghdad on the three bombings that shook Ramadi, capital of al-Anbar Province, to its core on Sunday and left at least 26 dead and a hundred wounded. The first two bombings occurred outside the Governor’s mansion where delegates from the Shiite-dominated government of PM Nuri al-Maliki were meeting with Sunni tribal leaders of the Awakening Council, which had turned against Sunni Muslim radicals and cooperated with US forces. Al-Zaman writing in Arabic says that the second bomb was timed to go off just as rescue workers arrived to deal with the victims of the first one, though another official said there were only 7 minutes between the blasts. A suicide bomber hit the hospital, perhaps timing his attack with the arrival of victims of the first two, though al-Zaman says that he initially tried to bring a truck bomb close to the hospital and was stopped by alert guards. He then came to the hospital wearing a suicide belt bomb and killed two persons when he detonated his payload.

According to al-Sharq al-Awsat, Ali al-Hatim, the paramount tribal leader or sheikh of the Dulaim tribe traded accusations with Gen. Tariq al-Asal, the head of al-Anbar’s police force, over who was responsible for the lax security that allowed the bombings. Sheikh Hatim accused Gen. al-Asal of bearing responsibility for the bombings, and demanded his resignation. He said he has been buttering up PM al-Maliki by joining the Awakening Council to the central government, but that the cost of this policy was borne by ordinary residents of al-Anbar. Gen. al-Asal in turn accused al-Anbar’s tribal leaders of maintaining secret ties to militants and to Syria, and blamed the bombings on Sheikh Hatim. Al-Zaman maintains that violence is back in the Sunni Arab areas, and that the lessened death toll of 2007-2008 has now been reversed by and that deaths are back up in Sunni Iraq.

Meanwhile, in the northern Sunni Arab center of Mosul (pop. 1.8 mn.), Iraqi security forces have recently made dozens of arrests, according to al-Hayah [Life]. Those taken into custody include many shopkeepers, and Sunni Arabs are accusing the government of taking a shotgun approach, arbitrarily rounding up people on the bsis of profiling, etc. A demonstration was mounted against the arrests.

As Liz Sly points out, the renewed violence comes on the backdrop of wrangling over Iraq’s upcoming elections. In fact, presumably al-Maliki was trying to get Sunni Arabs to join in his command. There are so many US troops in Iraq (130,000 or so) because it is thought they will be needed to close down the country for the elections. But parliament has still not passed an electoral law. It is thus unknown whether Iraqis will vote for individual candidates or for a whole party list. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani is lobbying for an open system.

As Sly says, the US withdrawal timetable is premised upon there being elections in January, which may or may not happen. Or may or may not go smoothly.

The US media and public have taken their eyes off this ball. But if Iraq’s elections don’t go well, there could still be a lot of violence ahead.

End/ (Not Continued)

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5 Responses

  1. Dear Professor Cole

    As Sly says, the US withdrawal timetable is premised upon there being elections in January, which may or may not happen. Or may or may not go smoothly.

    The US media and public have taken their eyes off this ball. But if Iraq's elections don't go well, there could still be a lot of violence ahead.

    This report from a loose cannon in Tel Aviv may add an extra element of uncertainty to the timing of the elections.

    Armageddon for Christmas anyone?

    If Sbigniew Bzezinski's suggestion the US aircraft shoot the Israelis down isn't to be implemented pehaps we will find out if there really is a kill switch in the avionics on the F-16s.

    Still at least the Turks might deny an attack wave access to their airspace.

    Admirable Backbone

  2. Remind me – were there bombings in Iraq prior to the US invasion and occupation? hmmmmmmm And, I am sure Bush/Cheney and their neo-con pals don't miss a wink of sleep over it.

  3. The Al Zaman article says the hospital attack was a car bomb, not an explosives vest.

    We see far too many reports of suicide bombings that are described as such without evidence. A car bombing – even with the driver still at the wheel – is not necessarily a suicide attack. Unless the means of detonation are reachable by the driver – and that's stated in the report – we should not assume that it's a suicide attack.

  4. ref : “As Liz Sly says, the US withdrawal timetable is premised upon there being elections in January… NYTimes, The scale of the withdrawal from IRAQ is staggering : “Commanders said they would closely watch the January elections for what they say about the reliability of Iraq’s security forces and the direction the country is heading. But for the planners of the withdrawal, there is no time left to wait and see. "You can’t wait for some big ‘Aha!’ moment," said Brig. General Heidi Brown, a deputy commander overseeing the withdrawal. "That does not give you flexibility. That just puts you in a box." Stars and Stripes : “With more than two years left in the slow, regimented ending to a chaotic war, new rules placing tens of thousands of U.S. combat troops under virtual house arrest on their bases mean the American military increasingly finds itself a symbolic force in Iraq… Generally forbidden to patrol, the troops fill their days with training, maintaining equipment and packing up unneeded material for shipment out of Iraq. Iraqi security forces still have the option to conduct joint patrols with Americans or to request their help, but it almost never happens. American troops are almost invisible in Iraqi cities, moving in the dead of night, and then only with Iraqi permission. U.S. Army Colonel Timothy Reese, chief of the Baghdad Operations Command Advisory Team : “Our combat operations are currently the victim of circular logic. We conduct operations to kill or capture violent extremists of all types to protect the Iraqi people and support the [Iraqi government]. The violent extremists attack us because we are still here conducting military operations.”

    Oh, by all means, Mr. President ~ let's let Generals Petraeus and McChrystal duplicate their IRAQ legacy of Bush/Cheney era circular "counter-insurgency" logic and humiliating, end-game effort to withdraw an emasculated, base-restricted force of fobbits in AFGHANISTAN! The Generals took our once-proud, crack assault troops and reduced them to the rôles of ‘Military Police’ ~ with big red, white & blue targets painted on all their backs and on every vehicle ~ and for added insult to this hideous drip, drip of KIA and WIA injury the Generals then commanded our troops to act as ‘Drill Sergeants’ to train a folly army comprised of semi-literate, unreliable if not untrustworthy "self-occupation force" peasants to be their replacements! As the counter-occupation guerrilla forces Over There say: “Yes, the Americans have the watches — but we have the time.

  5. Eurofrank exaggerates a bit. We've had any number of announcements that Israel is about to attack Iran. That may be the case, but it will not be announced in advance, and the reasons for the US to say no are still as valid as they were.

    Eurofrank's link is to yet another Sunday Times article by Uzi Mahnaimi, well-known transmitter of semi-fictional stories from Israeli official sources.

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