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From Juan Cole, an update on the sectarian civil war in Iraq (thanks, George!). See also the PS at the bottom of the post: It's great to hear the feds "fired" Halliburton but it's not likely corruption will end any time soon--too many military procurers in the Executive and Legislative branches enjoying cocktail weenies with contractors. We're going to suffer when the real bill comes due.
At Muqdadiyah, a mixed Sunni-Shiite town north of Baghdad, guerrillas came to a bus station, separated out 24 or more Shiites from the other passengers, and took them to a nearby village where they killed most of them (al-Zaman says they murdered 22). The massacre is a continuation of the tit for tat "identity killings" that began last Sunday when Shiite militiamen massacred Sunnis in al-Jihad district of Baghdad. This tactic has brought the low-intensity civil war in Iraq to the boiling point.
In a rare outbreak of brutal candor, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki revealed on Wednesday that the daily violence in West Baghdad has not been random, but rather derives from a concerted plan by the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement to take over West Baghdad politically. He insisted that their advance in Karkh district had been repulsed, whereby they were attempting to move north.
My guess is that a key objective of the guerrillas is to surround and besiege the Kadhimiyah district of north-central Baghdad, which lies to the west across the river from Adhamiyah, a Sunni Arab stronghold. Kadhimiyah is the site of a very major Shiite shrine, that of Imam Musa al-Kazim,the seventh Imam or divinely-guided dynast of the House of the Prophet. The middle-class Shiites there are more or less behind enemy lines and isolated from the lower-class Shiites of East Baghdad (Sadr City). The guerrillas already have demonstrated that they can plunge Iraq into the fires of Hades by blowing up a shrine. I am sure that everyone in authority in Baghdad knows all this, but I don't have any confidence that Kadhimiyah is properly protected. It has been the site of many horrific bombings.
Eyewitnesses to the massacre at the al-Jihad District are now saying that the Shiite militamen who undertook the killings had with them long lists of ex-Baathists who had held office under the old regime but had been purged by the Debaathification Committee. The Debaathification Committee has been dominated by Ahmad Chalabi, and much of the documentation for its work was turned over to Chalabi by Donald Rumsfeld's Department of Defense. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki also played a central role in the Debaathification Committee. How have these lists leaked to local militias[?]
Al-Zaman/ DPA say that Sunni Arabs in the West Baghdad districts of Amiriyah, Khadra, Jihad, Ghazaliyah, Sayyidiyah and Al-Dura (Dora) have formed emergency neighborhood patrols for fear that Shiite militias from nearby Shiite-dominated districts to the east will make further raids into their areas. Muezzins or callers to prayer in the Sunni mosques of the Khadra district used amplifiers to call for volunteers, and dozens of young men responded by taking up arms. They especially hastened to do so after armed militiamen attacked the Muluki Mosque in al-Amiriyah District near Karkh late on Wednesday. They set up concrete blocks as barriers barring entry to the Khadra District. As soon as the callers to prayer broadcast the attack on the Muluki Mosque, shopkeepers and merchants in the commercial district closed their establishments.
This narrative of innocent Sunni Arabs policing their neighborhoods from predatory Shiite attacks on mosques obscures those other processes that PM al-Maliki described, whereby the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement is trying to take over these districts politically and extend its sway to Karkh. In a civil war, disentangling offense and defense is no easy task.
About all those health centers supposedly built in Iraq with our $20 bn. in US tax money. Not so much.