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Iraq | International

Samarra Fallout. Surge not Working
by juan cole (reposted)
Wednesday Jun 13th, 2007 11:15 PM
From a Thursday, June 14th, 2007 entry on Informed Comment, Juan Cole's blog

Samarra Fallout
Surge not Working

The Sadr Bloc in parliament [Sawt al- Iraq in Arabic] is threatening to suspend their participation in legislation in protest against the failure to rebuild and protect the Shiite Askariya shrine in Samarra. Often the Iraqi parliament, many of whose members live abroad, cannot get a quorum without the Sadrists (32 seats), who are more likely to be in Baghdad for votes. The Sadrists are blaming "the hidden hand of the Occupation" for the bombing (i.e. it is Bush's fault.)

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani called for "self-discipline" and "refusal to target innocents in reprisal" for the blowing up of the shrine's minarets on Wednesday, according to the same report.

There appear to have been Sunni-Shiite clashes at mosques in the southern port city of Basra after Wednesday morning's bombing of the Askariya Shrine in Samarra. Some Sunni mosques were attacked elsewhere but a curfew in the northern cities probably forestalled some of that sort of retaliatory violence.

There was also a big labor demonstration in Basra on Wednesday by former workers at defunct Iraqi state-owned factories (petrochemicals, steel, etc.) who want the Iraqi government to revive these industries [in Arabic via Sawt al-Iraq]. The Bush administration shut down the state-owned factories as part of its plan to destroy Arab socialism, and appears to have believed that the magic hand of the market would miraculously start back up Iraqi industries. The bankruptcy of American laissez faire as a development tool is pretty obvious in the economic catastrophe that Bush visited on Iraq. This big labor demonstration will not be reported in the American press, which generally is pitched to be about and for people who make at least $80,000 a year.

Bahrain Shiites demonstrated in Manama against the further attack on the Askariya Shrine in Samarra. Buying into the widespread conspiracy theories in the region, many blamed the US, and chanted "Death to America." Sunni-ruled Bahrain hosts the most important US naval base in the Gulf. Two-thirds of Bahrainis are Shiites, and they feel disenfranchised by the Sunni monarchy and often resent the base.

An Iranian embassy official in Baghdad admitted that the Samarra attack was probably the work of the Iraqi Baath Party. Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad had blamed the US, while the US fingered "al-Qaeda." The Baathists are the best candidate. Samarra is a Sunni Arab city with a strong Baath cell, and the Baathists are secularists who have a history of being willing to shell religious edifices for political reasons (e.g. attacks on Najaf in spring 1991). My readers who like conspiracy theorists should pay attention to this story; an Iranian observer in Baghdad would likely have some intelligence on this matter. In the first Sawt al-Iraq story cited above, Iraqi Sunni vice president Tariq al-Hashimi also implicitly blamed the Baathists.

One in six US-trained Iraqi policemen are killed or vanish . Makes it hard to recruit police and even harder to recruit police who will actively patrol neighborhoods. This is one problem with the US surge strategy, which is that it depends heavily on getting Iraqi security forces to do neighborhood policing in Baghdad. A high-risk activity.

Violence has surged in Iraq since the beginning of the new security plan according to a Congressional study. There was initially, in February and March, a decrease in sectarian death squad killings (i.e. bodies in the street in cities like Baghdad), but those have mostly gone back up. The significant decrease of attacks in al-Anbar province, which appears to have to do with the chieftains of the Dulaim and other major tribes turning on the Salafi Jihadis formerly active there was offset by increased violence in Diyala and Ninevah Provinces. More suicide bombings are now taking place daily in Iraq as a whole than before the 'surge.' The population of Baghdad Province, about 1/4 of the country, is especially favorable toward militias as a tool of neighborhood self-protection, not an attitude shared by Iraqis in most of the rest of the country.

The report finds that about a third of Iraqis are now in favor of partition of the country. But that statistic is useless if we are not told more about the sample. Some 20% of Iraqis are Kurds, and almost all of them want to secede. If it is a weighted sample with strong Kurdish participation, then it would suggest that few Arab Iraqis favor partition, which is what my guess would be.

One caveat is that studies like this often focus on major attacks, especially bombings, which had some degree of success. But the Lancet study of 1800 households found that 86% of violent deaths come from people just being shot down, and that this sort of violence is common throughout the country, not just in select provinces. Not all of it is political in character (there are Mafia turf wars, tribal feuds, etc., which go along with having a failed state such as that in Iraq). About a third of violent deaths came from US military activities. Since the US has begun bombing Iraqi cities again as part of the 'surge,' deaths from aerial strikes have certainly risen, but these probably are not even counted in the Congressional study. Some 500 Iraqis are probably being killed a day in such daily violence, a fraction of the deaths reported by US wire services, though most of these deaths are not specifically "insurgent-" or "politically" derived.

Reuters reports major political violence for Wednesday. Three US troops were announced killed. Other major incidents:


' BAGHDAD - Four civilians were killed and 10 wounded when several mortar rounds hit residential areas in south and southwestern districts of Baghdad, police said. . .

RAMADI - Four Iraqi policemen were killed and 11 officers wounded by a suicide car bomber targeting their checkpoint outside Ramadi, 110 km (68 miles) west of Baghdad. . .

KHAN BANI SAAD - One person was killed and eight wounded on Tuesday when a truck laden with chlorine exploded near an Iraqi army base in the town of Khan Bani Saad [Diyala], about 30 km (20 miles) northeast of Baghdad, police said. . .

MANDILI - A bomb targeting the police chief of the town of Mandili killed three of his bodyguards and wounded five other people, including the police chief, police said. Mandili is in Dilyala Province, near the Iranian border. . .

KIRKUK - A bridge southwest of Kirkuk connecting this northern city with Tikrit was blown up overnight in a roadside bomb attack, police said. . .

Labels: Iraq

posted by Juan @ 6/14/2007 06:29:00 AM