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Your Daily Dose of Iraq

by Steven D Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 10:15:02 AM EST

(Also front paged at Booman Tribune)

Where to begin?  Politics or violence?  Violence or politics?  How about this story that combines a lot of both:

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A sister of Iraq's new Sunni Arab vice president was killed Thursday in a drive-by shooting in Baghdad, a day after the politician called for the Sunni-dominated insurgency to be crushed by force. [...]

Mayson Ahmed Bakir al-Hashimi, 60, whose brother, Tariq al-Hashimi, was appointed by parliament as vice president on Saturday, was killed by unidentified gunmen in a BMW sedan as she was leaving her home Thursday morning with her bodyguard in southwestern Baghdad, said police Capt. Jamel Hussein. The bodyguard, Saad Ali, also died in the shooting, Hussein said.

It was the second recent killing in Tariq al-Hashimi's immediate family. On April 13, his brother, Mahmoud al-Hashimi, was shot while driving in a mostly Shiite area of eastern Baghdad.

What's astonishing about this story is that this is the second family member of this prominent Iraqi politician to be killed in two weeks.  Think about that.  Imagine if Vice president Cheney's sister, Susan, had been shot and killed leaving her home just weeks after his brother Bob had been gunned down in Washington D.C.  Imagine the panic and sense of crisis that would ensue.  Then combine that with a security situation where rival gangs of armed men roamed the streets of our Nation's capitol, unchecked by any legitimate law enforcement authority, because the police were either outgunned, or infiltrated by members of these various gangs, who also had embedded themselves within the National Guard forces that had been brought in  assist the with the security situation in the Capitol.

You cannot divorce the political situation in Iraq from the violence.  They go hand in hand.  Then again, we don't have a population which has been bombed, shot, illegally detained, tortured, raped, starved and which lacks adequate water, medical treatment, waste disposal and electrical power.  Oh, and one other thing -- we aren't a nation occupied by a foreign power who refuses to leave even as their very presence fuels the continuing cycle of violence.

But I digress.  Follow me below the fold for the rest of the latest news from Iraq . . .

Meanwhile, out in the country, American forces are not the only targets of insurgent attacks, as evidenced by this story regarding Romanian and Italian troops stationed near Nasiriyah in southern Iraq:

A bomb blast rocked an Italian convoy at a base in southern Iraq on Thursday, killing three Italian soldiers and a Romanian, the Defense Ministry said.

The roadside bomb targeted a four-vehicle convoy on its way to relieve troops at an Iraqi police station in the city of Nasiriyah, the ministry said in a statement. One of the vehicles was destroyed, killing the four soldiers and seriously injuring at least one more passenger.

Something tells me that our Italian and Romanian coalition partners may decide to accelerate the withdrawal of their forces after this incident.  Most of these troops have been stationed in what were perceived to be relatively "safe" regions where Shi'a populations were predominate.  This attack senss the message that no area is safe anymore, Sunni or Shi'a.

Meanwhile, not saying we've managed to install a Shi'ite theocracy in power as a result of our invasion, but I do find it significant that this was one of the first official acts of newly appointed Prime Minister al-Maliki:

NAFAJ, Iraq - Iraq's Shi'ite Prime Minister-designate Nuri al Maliki, who is forming a government of national unity, on Thursday met with top cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of Iraq's most influential men.

Literally a day after he meets with the US Secretaries of State and Defense, Rice and Rumsfeld, who does the Prime Minister of Iraq visit to consult and discuss the critical issues facing his nation?  Why a Shi'ite religious leader who holds no official position in the government, who did not run for any office, and who claims he has no desire to directly participate in his country's politics.  Of course, this shouldn't surprise anyone, since Sistani has been a mover and a shaker behind the scenes in Iraq from before George Bush declared "Mission Accomplished."  From all reports he is the one authority to whom all of the political parties in the Shi'ite alliance pay homage.  Nonetheless, this visit reinforces the perception that Shi'ite rule in Iraq will also include a significant role for Shia religious leaders.  Not exactly the type of democracy Mr. Bush promoted in the US media as the goal of our policy in Iraq.

But getting back to that well publicized trip by Ms. Rice and Mr. Rumsfeld, we know how it's being spun in the US, but how exactly do the Iraqi's themselves feel about what it accomplished?  This article from the LA Times (via the online edition of the Boston Globe) attempts to answer that very question:

Surprise visit by Rice, Rumsfeld gets mixed reviews in Iraq

Some officials fear political process could be disrupted

. . . Iraqi officials said they, too, were surprised by the unannounced arrival of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, and some said they feared it could disrupt negotiations to form a new government and erode its legitimacy.

''We didn't invite them," said Kamal Saadi, a Shi'ite legislator close to newly named prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. [...]

Saadi said Iraqi leaders had not been notified in advance of the visit, which came just days after Iraqi politicians broke through a critical impasse on the naming of a prime minister.

"Maybe Rumsfeld's visit can be justified," because of American troop presence, "but I can't see a clear reason behind Rice's visit," he said. "The crisis is over and negotiations are taking place." [...]

Some Iraqi politicians thought the visit could backfire during sensitive negotiations. Similar suggestions were raised in the past weeks about the statements and actions of American Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and about the visit earlier this month by Rice and her British counterpart, Jack Straw.

"It would be more appropriate if they would leave us alone," said Mahmoud Othman, a senior Kurdish legislator. "Let us solve our problems by ourselves."

"Enough is enough," agreed Sheik Mahmoud al-Sudani, a politician affiliated with radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. "Rice's trip to Iraq at this critical time is just another desperate move by the Americans to try to impose themselves on our new government. But they have lost their influence."

Guess that whole sovereignty thing is going to their heads.  They're actually telling George Bush to just butt out.  Not to worry, though.  I'm sure he'll never hear about this from Condi and the Donald.  Why spoil his day with any bad news, right?

By the way, here's some more news I bet doesn't cross the President's desk today (from the WaPo story I first linked above):

The clashes northeast of Baghdad occurred when insurgents attacked four Iraqi police checkpoints in Baqouba, a Sunni-Shiite city 35 miles northeast of the capital, police and residents said. U.S. forces have been gradually turning over security responsibilities to Iraqis.

In Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, U.S. forces exchanged fire with insurgents who attacked with small arms and shoulder-fired rockets from a former train station and a nearby building.

Lt. Col. Ronald Clark, commander of the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, said a U.S. jet fired two laser-guided missiles at the buildings and U.S. forces returned fire with mortars and rockets, killing eight of the attackers.

In a separate incident, one Iraqi soldier was killed during a firefight with insurgents in a nearby Ramadi neighborhood, army officers said.

A roadside bomb in Baghdad hit an Iraqi army patrol, killing a soldier, police said.

The bodies of 16 Iraqis who had been kidnapped and tortured were found Thursday in Baghdad and other cities, police said.

At least 134 Iraqis have been killed in insurgency- or sectarian-related violence since al-Maliki was tapped as prime minister Saturday and asked to form a new government.

134 Iraqis dead from violence since Saturday?  A mere pittance to pay for the onrushing tide of Freedom and Democracy in Iraq.  Besides, as we all know, the US doesn't do body counts.  Officially, that is.

And just in case you thought that the chaos in Iraq only involved the Iraqi people, let me leave you with these two troubling stories, the first involving Iran:

According to pro-PKK websites, the Iranian armed forces launched a major attack on PKK positions in the areas of Haci Umran ve Berdesor near the border with north Iraq.

The latest attack, in which mortars and Katyusha rockets were said to have been used, took place on the night of 24-25 April. No information was given as to the numbers of PKK members killed or wounded in the attack.

Last week, Iranian security forces killed 10 members of Pejak, which is affiliated with the PKK terror organization, in a major anti-terror operation.

Iranian forces are conducting large scale operations near the Turkish and Iraqi borders after the PKK terrorists wintering in northern Iraq began to infiltrate the border with Turkey and Iran.

In last week's clashes 10 PKK terrorists were killed while 6 Iranian security forces lost their lives. Several PKK terrorists were injured in the clashes.

and the second, our good friend and NATO ally in the region, Turkey:

Disturbed by the Turkish Armed Forces' troop deployment to the border to prevention terrorist infiltration, Iraq issued a diplomatic note asking Turkey "to stop hot pursuit."

Iraq Ambassador to Ankara Umran Sabah delivered the note to Turkey's Foreign Ministry yesterday.

Turkey's Ambassador to Bagdat (Baghdad) Unal Cevikoz was also given a note on Tuesday.

Rejecting the allegation of a "hot pursuit", Turkey told that "the terror network the PKK (Kurdish Workers' Party) had recently increased its activities and obtained weapons from Iraq.

"There are infiltrations, and we are protecting our border. We are taking the necessary measures in this regard. Do not allow the terror network use your territory. Fight against the terrorists who will only terrorize you in the future. Take the necessary measures there," responded Turkey.

The uneasiness that Turkey experiences was also communicated to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who paid a surprise visit to the Iraqi capital, Bagdat (Baghdad), after her contacts in Ankara. Rice reportedly conveyed this message to the Iraqi authorities that she met with yesterday.

Good thing the Kurds are our friends, too.  I'm sure that our influence with them will help us sort this all out and make everybody happy again.  Right?


The sad thing is, I have noticed myself skim through the bits that report the number of people killed in Iraq, not really taking in any of the information. When this realization hit me (it first happened today in the library, while I was reading a newspaper, and again - while reading this diary), I was sickened by it. Have to remind myself that those are human beings dying.

And I also wonder, how well-informed is usually the president of a state? For me, the understanding is that you have to keep the head of the executive fully updated at all times on all important matters, but, I guess, it doesn't work that way in reality.

A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government -- Edward Abbey

by serik berik (serik[dot]berik on Gmail) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 08:32:46 PM EST

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