Monday, March 12, 2007

Photo: A boy walks past a rocket shell stuck in a road after an attack in Baghdad March 13, 2007. The attack killed three people and wounded six others, police said. REUTERS/Namir Noor-Eldeen (IRAQ)
A roadside bomb hit a minibus carrying Industry Ministry employees in northern Baghdad, killing two workers and wounding six.
A total of 15 bodies with gunshot wounds were found on Monday in different districts of Baghdad, police said.
Insurgents blew up a roadside bomb on the Muhammad al-Qasim Highway Street in eastern Baghdad, killing a civilian and wounding two.
Gunmen attacked a police patrol near the Rubaie street in Zaiyounah
, killing three policemen and injuring another.
A Katyusha rocket landed on a commercial street of Karrada in central Baghdad, killing two people and wounding two others, police said.
Two civilians were killed and six others wounded when a Katyusha missile fell in central Baghdad on Tuesday, Iraqi police sources said.
A roadside bomb killed one person and wounded two people in northern Baghdad, police said.
A Hummer vehicle was destroyed when gunmen clashed with Iraqi and U.S. forces in the Sunni neighborhood of Raghiba Khatoon, northeast of Baghdad, an eyewitness said. "Fierce clashes erupted at 10:00 am today between unknown gunmen and a combined force of Iraqi and U.S. troops in Raghiba Khatoon neighborhood in northeast of Baghdad," an eyewitness told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq. He added "the clashes continued for a while and destroyed a Hummer vehicle." The eyewitness could not say whether the destroyed vehicle was Iraqi or American.
Bodies of two young men were found in the area of al-Waziriya, east of the capital Baghdad, on Tuesday morning. "A patrol of al-Aazamiya police found the bodies of two young men, which showed signs of having been shot," a source near al-Aazamiya police station told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq. Local residents said the two bodies were thrown out of a vehicle that then escaped to an unknown place.
Unidentified gunmen killed the Central Baghdad prosecutor, Iraqi police sources said. "Gunmen intercepted the vehicle of investigating judge Omar Abdul-Nabi, while he was heading to work on Tuesday morning, and opened fire at him in the central Baghdad neighborhood of al-Karrada," a security source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq.
Gunmen killed four worshippers and wounded a fifth person in a drive-by shooting attack on a Sunni Muslim mosque in southern Baghdad on Tuesday, police sources said. The gunmen attacked the worshippers as they left the small Sunni mosque in the mixed Risala neighbourhood in the Iraqi capital. Neither the motive behind the attack nor the identity of the assailants was clear but shootings motivated by sectarianism are common in the area.
In Suwayrah, 25 miles south of Baghdad, police dragged two bodies out of Tigris River, a morgue official said in Kut. The bodies showed signs of torture.
Police found the body of a man, with gunshot wounds and signs of torture
, in the southern city of Diwaniya, 180 km (110 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.
In Kut, gunmen killed an interpreter working for coalition troops.
The bodies of two people were retrieved from a small waterway near the city of Kut, police said. The victims had gunshot wounds in different parts of their bodies with signs of torture.
Gunmen killed the general director of mechanical industries company, in the town of Iskandariya, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.
"Unknown gunmen showered with bullets a civilian car with three persons from one family aboard when they were heading to their work in Tikrit University, in eastern Tikrit, killing two of them and kidnapping the third," the source said on condition of anonymity.
A roadside bomb detonated near an oil tanker in eastern Tikrit, killing its driver and destroying the tanker as well.
Police reported one policeman killed and three wounded when gunmen attacked a police checkpoint in the northern city of Kirkuk.
A roadside bomb killed four firefighters on Monday when it exploded near their vehicle in a town near Kirkuk, police said.
The US military also reported two "anti-Iraqi forces" killed by rockets fired from US helicopters while they were placing a roadside bomb in the northern city of Mosul. Three men were seen laying the bomb "and covering the tracks of the command wire by smoothing the dirt over top of it," a military statement said. "Coalition helicopters in position nearby immediately responded and engaged the emplacers with rocket fire." Two militants were killed and three wounded.
A total of 13 bodies with gunshot wounds were found during the last 48 hours in the northern city of Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki flew to the western city of Ramadi on Tuesday on his first visit to the heartland of the Sunni Arab insurgency fighting his U.S.- backed government.
> Some 700 American soldiers rolled into Baqouba on Tuesday, shifted out of Baghdad to help carry the security campaign against sectarian violence to a nearby volatile province where Sunni Arab insurgents fled ahead of the crackdown in the capital.
The fresh troops from the Army's 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment — equipped with Stryker armored vehicles — joined 3,500 U.S. and 20,000 Iraqi soldiers already in Diyala, where insurgents have stepped up attacks as violence appears to be ebbing in Baghdad.
U.S. commanders said they had been planning to fan out from Baghdad into communities around the capital, such as Baqouba 35 miles to the northeast, to go after insurgents and clandestine workshops that rig car bombs used in attacks in the capital.
> Iraq's Shiite prime minister traveled to the militant stronghold of Ramadi on Tuesday to reach out to Sunni leaders at a time when U.S. officials are increasingly optimistic about their chances of undermining Sunni tribal support for the insurgency.
Nouri al-Maliki, making his first trip to Anbar province as Iraq's leader, met with influential clan chiefs who have found themselves caught between militant groups and the U.S.-backed government — and sometimes doing business with both.
"I am not saying that the challenges are over or will soon be over," al-Maliki told the meeting in remarks broadcast by government television. He applauded Sunni tribes and clans that had "risen up and countered terrorism."
The meetings were held in a Saddam Hussein-era palace on a U.S. base on the western outskirts of Ramadi, and al-Maliki did not venture into the dangerous heart of the city, one of the most violent in the country.
Al-Maliki flew to Ramadi for the one-day visit in a Black Hawk helicopter with Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and strolled across the base surrounded by heavily armed bodyguards.
> The Iraqi Government has arrested a woman who alleged last month that she was raped by three Iraqi policemen, claims that provoked a spate of sectarian killing, two Iraqi officials told The Times.
Sabrine Janabi’s rape case has polarised Iraq’s Sunni and Shia communities at a moment when the country is already enmeshed in a low-level civil war. Shia officials have accused her of being a proxy for Sunni militants who want to sabotage a security plan for Baghdad, while Sunni politicians have pointed to her story as proof of the sectarian nature of Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Government.
Janabi shocked Iraq last month when she appeared on Al-Jazeera television and accused three policemen of detaining her and then raping her in their garrison.
> The International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM), the global union federation for oil workers, issued a call for "strong condemnation" by supporters of workers' rights of US-led military raids on union offices in Baghdad on February 23 and 25. During the raids, targeting the General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW), a member of the union’s security staff was arrested and office equipment was destroyed. On February 19, the Iraq Syndicate of Journalists was raided and computers and membership records were confiscated. The ICEM statement says that it "is calling on trade unions worldwide to directly protest this unprovoked attack on a trade union federation that stands for nation building and bettering the living conditions inside Iraq." The federation calls on "trade unions and others to write to Iraqi embassies in their home countries, as well as to send messages of solidarity to GFIW leaders that their efforts to build strong trade unions in Iraq will succeed and with it, fair and just reconstruction for all Iraqi people."
> More than a quarter of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have filed injury claims with the government, according to an internal Department of Veterans Affairs report. Of the nearly 690,000 veterans who served in those combat zones, more than 180,000 had filed claims by the end of last year, the report showed. That's more than a 50 percent increase over where claims stood near the end of 2005, when the number of claims from the war was 115,000, according to the VA.
> Although the announcement that Britain is withdrawing 1,600 troops from Iraq was labeled a success by US policy makers, officials at the British Foreign Office and Ministry of Defense are in talks to hire mercenaries to take the place of the troops, according to the Scotsman. Policy makers expect an increase in demand for mercenaries to fill the gaps of troops that are redeployed elsewhere. Mercenaries will also be in high demand for security services, highway patrolling, and the training of Iraqi soldiers. Britain has already spent an estimated $314 million on mercenaries. The US has spent much more, and it has been projected that there will be more contractors in Iraq than troops.
Robert Dreyfuss , TomPaine: IRAQ: PULLED OUT OR PUSHED OUT
Two parliaments, half a world away from each other, struggled with calls to end the war in Iraq yesterday. In Washington, Democrats in the U.S. Congress ended weeks of squabbling to settle on the outlines of a legislative plan to end the war no later than August, 2008, and perhaps sooner. Meanwhile, in Baghdad, a new constellation of political parties is beginning to take shape in the Iraqi parliament, united around the idea of asking U.S. forces to leave Iraq as soon as possible. Tremendous obstacles stand in the way of pro-peace forces both in Congress and in Iraq’s parliament, but if I had to guess, I’d bet that the Iraqis will ask the United States to get out of Iraq long before Congress can force the issue. (…)
While Congress may be stymied, however, something important is happening in Iraq.
Few Americans pay attention to Iraqi politics, but over the past few days something has occurred that could change the course of the war. For the first time since the Iraqi election of 2005, a coalition of Sunni and Shiite Arab parties and leaders is starting to take shape, across the sectarian divide that has fueled the civil war. It began two days ago, with the announcement by the Fadhila (Islamic Virtue) party that it is leaving the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), to become an independent political party.
With 15 seats in the Iraqi parliament and with a significant grassroots base throughout the Shiite areas of southern Iraq, Fadhila is a nationalist party committed to the idea of a unitary Iraqi state. It is opposed to the breakup of Iraq into regions or statelets. And its leader, Nadim al-Jaberi, is explicitly opposed to sectarianism. He is committed to reaching out to Sunni parties and secular groups to find common ground, and a new political coalition. Most important, like most of the Sunni parties in Iraq, al-Jaberi and Fadhila support the rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.
Fadhila is currently negotiating with Sunni and secular parties—including the Sunni religious bloc, a quasi-Baathist Sunni nationalist party and the secular Iraq National List led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi—on the formation of a new Sunni-Shiite-secular bloc in Iraq that would have nearly 100 votes in the 270-member Iraqi parliament.
Not only that, but Fadhila is a “Sadrist” party, whose origins lie in loyalty to the powerful Sadr clerical family. Fadhila is not loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, the thirty-something mullah who leads the Mahdi Army. But there are enough ties between Fadhila and the Mahdi Army that perhaps Muqtada’s own bloc could be persuaded to join the emerging new coalition, too. (Late last year, Muqtada’s party pulled out of the Iraqi government, and according to Iraqi insiders Sadr is also talking to the same nationalist, Sunni and secular forces about the creation of a new “government of national salvation.”) Along with a handful of independent Shiite members of parliament, that would give the new coalition enough power in parliament to have a vote of no confidence in hapless U.S. ally Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, topple his government and then reconstitute a nationalist Iraqi government that could ask for the withdrawal of U.S. forces. Even part of the ruling Dawa party, Maliki’s own party, is said to favor the idea.
Yesterday, members of the Iraqi parliament representing all of those parties—Fadhila, Allawi’s bloc and the Sunni parties—held an unprecedented teleconference with a dozen members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, an event organized by Representative Jim McDermott (D.-Wash.). Fadhila’s Nadim al-Jaberi took part in the teleconference, and he minced no words. “Putting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops is a very important step in giving Iraqis confidence that the occupation will end,” he said. Jaberi also added that by quitting the UIA, Fadhila has permanently splintered the Shiite bloc. “We have opened a very wide door in redrawing the Iraqi political map,” he said, hinting that Muqtada al-Sadr’s party might walk through that door and join the new bloc.
Other Iraqi parliamentarians, including Saleh Mutlaq of the Iraqi National Dialogue Front, along with representatives of the Iraqi Accord Front (Sunni) and the Iraq National List, also took part in the teleconference with Jaberi. All called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, along with emergency efforts to reconstitute a new Iraqi government and to rebuild the Iraqi armed forces.
The emerging new Iraqi coalition is fragile, and it could easily fall apart or fall victim to intensified sectarian warfare. Many obstacles lie in its way, including the attitude of the Kurds, the opposition of the powerful Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and other factors—including, of course, the machinations of the United States and its ambassador in Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad. But it’s at least possible that by the summer a new government could start taking shape in Baghdad, one that could (among other things) assert its nationalist credentials by demanding a timetable for a U.S. pullout.
President Bush, of course, would do everything he could to prevent the emergence of such a new coalition in Iraq, including possibly the use of military force against its leaders. Unlike with Nancy Pelosi’s legislation, however, at least the White House can’t veto something that the Iraqi parliament passes.
read in full…
[shorter post today, no time for more -- zig]


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