Thousands of Sadrists Protest Arrests;
Sinjar Bombings Worst Ever
Patrick Cockburn correctly put the bombings in Sinjar province in the context of the upcoming referendum on whether the oil-rich Kirkuk province will accede to the Kurdistan Regional government. That is, a territorial struggle is going on in the north among ethnic groups that is likely to worsen later this year.
Cockburn also provides this priceless bit of anti-spin:
' The US military has suggested the bombers are operating more ruthlessly in northern Iraq because they can no longer operate in Baghdad because of the success of the American "surge". In reality, the number of car bombings in Baghdad in July was 5 per cent higher than last December and civilian casualties in explosions have increased by about the same percentage. '
At a time when all the US media and government spokesmen are telling us that bombings have been reduced, Cockburn crunched the numbers to show that the number of bombings is actually a bit higher in July than six months earlier, and so is the death toll.
The death toll from the horrific car bombings of two Yazidi villages outside Mosul in northern Iraq may rise to 500, which would make them by far the deadliest terror attacks since the US invaded the country. Bodies are still being pulled out of the rubble, and many seriously wounded in the attacks have now died. Some wounded were arriving in Baghdad hospitals by Thursday morning.
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that thousands of Sadrists demonstrated in Iraqi cities on Wednesday to protest a recent wave of arrests of Sadrist leaders. The Sadr Movement is led by young Shiite nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. There have been numerous attacks on Najaf police and on persons, such as translators, seen as collaborators with the Multinational Forces. The chief suspects in these attacks have been members of the Mahdi Army paramilitary of the Sadr Movement. These suspicions have produced widespread arrests of Sadr Movement leaders in Najaf and elsewhere, provoking Wednesday's protests. Al-Hayat's informants in Najaf feared that this heavy-handed approach to the problem, with Mahdi Army commanders just being rounded up in some numbers, is likely to provoke rather than alleviate intra-Shiite faction fighting.
At our Global Affairs group blog, an interview that suggests the Chinese may broker a deal with the Taliban for the release of the remaining South Korean hostages in Afghanistan.
At the Napoleon in Egypt blog, "Bonaparte puts the Sunni Clerics in Charge of Egypt."
The governor of Tal Afar told the BBC the current toll of 250 dead and 350 injured was expected to rise sharply.
Poor families in the Yazidi community hit by the bombings often crowd as many as 30 people in one home, he said.
The bombing of two Yazidi villages near Mosul was one of the worst attacks in more than four years of war in Iraq.
It already surpasses the killing of just over 200 people in car bombings and mortar fire in Baghdad's Shia stronghold of Sadr City last November.
The BBC's Mike Wooldridge, in Baghdad, says other local officials have also indicated the death toll could quickly rise.
In the latest violence, a bomb attack in a central square in the capital was reported to have killed four people.
The US military blamed al-Qaeda for the Yazidi bombings, saying it fitted the profile of "spectacular" strikes expected by al-Qaeda during the ongoing US "surge" operation.