by Juan Cole
On Thursday US military spokesmen announced that Iraqi guerrillas had killed another US GI, bringing the troop death toll over 3500.
A British soldier was also killed, and three wounded, by a roadside bomb in Basra, bringing the death toll for UK troops to 150 and prompting impassioned calls for a withdrawal of British troops from southern Iraq.
There were major car bombings in Sadr City, Rabia (Syrian border) and Ramadi that left dozens wounded and killed. Shiite militiamen attacked Sunni mosques in the Bayaa district of Baghdad, Sunni sources said.
John Edwards disputed the notion that the US is safer since 9/11. He pointed out that Iraq has become a recruiting ground for a new generation of anti-American terrorists and that the US is less able to depend on some allies in the past because of the way Bush has alienated him. The press is saying that this is a shot across the bow of Hilary Clinton, who said in Sunday's debate that we are safer than before 9/11 but not yet safe enough.
Edwards also shot back at Mayor Rudi Giuliani on the issue of the propaganda uses to which Bush has put September 11 and 'the war on terror', which Edwards calls a 'bumper sticker.' He accused Giuliani of wanting to be a George W. Bush clone and predicted that it was a losing strategy.
A majority of Americans rejects the idea that the Iraq War, at least, has made us safer. 51% say it has not. Some 44% think it has, amazingly enough. I suspect this is just Dems and Independents versus Republicans. Anyway, I don't think Senator Clinton was saying the Iraq War has made us safer (that isn't my implication); she was probably thinking of the increased FBI/CIA coopeeration, etc.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Thursday that the US goal in Iraq should not be a Korea-style 50,000-man military presence for 50 years. He said the US should turn security quickly over to Iraqis and withdraw to other bases in the region (presumably Kuwait and Qatar). His understanding that the people of Iraq and of the Arab world just won't put up with such a big, long-term US military presence is praiseworthy. In fact, correct me if I am wrong but this is one of the few references any leading presidential candidate from either party has made to the aspirations and feelings of the people of Iraq and of the region! (I know Denis Kucinich and maybe Ron Paul have done so. I was dismayed on Sunday night, however, when Senator Clinton tried to blame the Iraqis for the current quagmire. If someone invaded the US, dissolved the US army, fired all the capable government bureaucrats, instituted ethnic quota hiring, rounded up thousands of people and tortured them, etc., the people of the US might not respond calmly, either.) Romney's critics complain, however, that he still hasn't said when exactly the US presence would be wound down. If it isn't 50 years, is it 20? 10?
The New, Improved Tomdispatch.com weighs in on "How permanent are those bases?. Congrats to Tom Engelhardt on the site redesign.
Republican Senators Sam Brownback and Gordon Smith signed on Thursday to Shiite cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim's plans for a Shiite regional confederacy in southern Iraq, along with a Sunni Arab regional confederacy that the Sunni Arabs all reject to a man. Why these Republicans want to deliver southern Iraq and its oil to a Shiite confederacy that will inevitably be an Iranian sphere of influence is not entirely clear. This plan will not, by the way, stop the fighting or bombings. It is rejected not only by virtually all Sunni Arabs but also by the Sadr Movement among the Shiites, as well as the Islamic Virtue Party of Basra. Nor does the US actually have any mechanism for implementing it, since the decision would be that of the Iraqi parliament (I doubt it could pass there).
But the Bush administration doesn't want this soft partition of Iraq, so the defection to the al-Hakim plan is a further sign of insubordination in the ranks. Most commentators won't notice, but it is Bush's Iraq War that so weakened his influence with Republic senators and representatives that he was unable to get his immigration reform law passed.
The Republican candidates are way behind the Dems in internet popularity so far. Imagine losing a race because you did not have enough Facebook friends.
Young Shiite nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr gave an interview on Iraqi state television Thursday in which he condemned the al-Maliki government that his group helped to bring to power as "neglectful" and "sectarian," and said Iraq's current problems derive from the US. He also proposed a political coalition of Iraqi opponents of the Salafi Jihadis or violent Sunni revivalists, who declare Shiites and secularists "non-Muslims" (such excommunication is called Takfir). An anti-takfiri alliance of Iraqi Shiites and moderate Sunnis and secularists might be politically important. He also pledged never to negotiate directly with the US, and rejected Iranian influence in Iraq. He also warned Arab states that they had better help Iraq, or its instability would spread to them.
This Reuters article admits that a big Turkish incursion into northern Iraq would be a major headache for the United States. The tenor of the analysts consulted (why do they not call any universities, only Washington think tanks?) is, however, that a big such incursion is unlikely (unless there is a substantial provocation from the PKK). The problem with this overly optimistic point of view is that the 5,000 PKK fighters given asylum in Iraqi Kurdistan are already a huge provocation for the generals in Turkey. And, they don't seem to remember that the PKK recently set off a big bomb in Ankara, the Turkish capital, that injured 60 people and killed 6. If some group based in Cuba had done that to Washington DC, I don't think the Washington power elite would exercise any restraint in the reply. Why do they expect the Turkish Pashas to be more mature than they are?
Police found 32 bodies in Baghdad on Thursday, according to Reuters; bodies were found in the northern city of Mosul, 2 bodies in Mahmudiya, and 5 in Falluja. 4 bodies were found in Kut, a Port Authority official and his sons. Other major incidents:
' BAGHDAD - At least five people were killed and 15 wounded when a car bomb exploded near a restaurant in the Shi'ite Sadr City district of Baghdad, police said. . .
SAMARRA - Five people, including a policeman, were killed and nine wounded in different incidents around Samarra, 100 km (62 miles) north of Baghdad . . .
NEAR RAMADI - At least six people were wounded, including one policeman, in an attempted attack by a suicide truck bomber on a police checkpoint near Ramadi, west of Baghdad, police said. Police opened fire and blew up the truck before it reached its target . . .
MOSUL - A suicide truck bomber killed nine people and wounded 22, including five British civilian contractors, in an attack on the police headquarters in Rabea, a town near the Syrian border, police said. . .
MOSUL - A female journalist working with the independent Aswat al-Iraq news agency in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul was killed by gunmen, the agency said. . . '
McClatchy adds, "Around 5 pm, two car bombs exploded in Abu Ghraib ( west of Baghdad) targeting an army check point killing five ( three of them are soldiers )and injuring 12 ( 6 of them are soldiers) while the rest are civilians." And, there was this: " Wednesday evening , a roadside bomb exploded in the downtown of Kirkuk city near the fire brigade department targeting a police patrol killing one policeman and injuring three others."
In an "Oh, no!" moment, I thought I was done with the mayhem when I saw this at WaPo:
' Gunmen also shot three professors from Islamic University in Baghdad, killing two and wounding one, and killed the head of the Education Ministry's department of research and development as he drove to work, police said. "It is part of the campaign to attack every positive thing in Iraq," said an Education Ministry spokesman, Basil al-Khatib, who blamed the attacks on extremists who oppose modernity and want to drive "all elite and educated people from Iraq." He complained that the national government "is not acting" to prevent further attacks against teachers, "it only talks." '
Then there was this: ' The U.S. military also reported a major airstrike and ground attack Tuesday that killed 19 insurgents sheltered in a house near Baqubah, about 25 miles northeast of the capital . . .' Which made me think back to this.
Salafi Jihadis are stepping up their attacks on Iraqi Christians.
Juan Cole blogs at Informed Comment
by Juan Cole Tony Blair is taking 1600 troops out of Basra in the next few months and will aim to be down to only 3,000 or so (from 7,100 now)...
by Juan Cole US troops arrested Ammar al-Hakim, the son of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, on his return from Iran. There are conflicting reports on...
by Juan Cole Sunni Arab guerrillas attempted on Monday to assassinate Iraq's Shiite vice president, Adil Abdul Mahdi, 59, as he visited a the ...
by Juan Cole Al-Hayat reports that Iyad Allawi, a secular ex-Baathist Shiite who leads the Iraqi National List (25 seats in parliament), visited...
by Juan Cole Guerrillas detonated a huge car bomb at the old book market at al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad, killing at least 38 persons and...
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