Sunday, March 26, 2006

"...thrust U.S. troops into their bloodiest conflict with Shi'ites in two years"

U.S. troops mounted two raids against Iraqi Shi'ite forces in Baghdad on Sunday, killing up to 20 gunmen in an assault around a radical mosque and arresting over 40 Interior Ministry personnel guarding a secret prison.

The incidents prompted angry accusations against U.S. forces by powerful politicians from Iraq's Shi'ite majority.

Details were sketchy but the two operations looked like U.S. strikes against sectarian Shi'ite militias of the kind the U.S. ambassador said on Saturday must be brought to heel if Iraq is to form a unity government and halt a slide towards civil war.

It comes as Washington has increased pressure on the ruling Shi'ite Islamist political bloc to bring minority Sunnis into government -- it is even planning landmark talks with hostile Shi'ite Iran to try to break the impasse -- and thrust U.S. troops into their bloodiest conflict with Shi'ites in two years.

Hmm. "...brought to heel..." Here's the link.
Great turn of a phrase there. Some of the allies are getting out of hand, it seems.
Further down in the story we find...

Senior aides to Sadr accused U.S. troops of shooting dead more than 20 unarmed worshippers at the Mustafa mosque after tying them up. The mosque's faithful follow Sadr but the aides denied they were Mehdi Army gunmen.

"The American forces went into Mustafa mosque at prayers and killed more than 20 worshippers," Hazim al-Araji said.

"They tied them up and shot them."

Another Sadr associate, Transport Minister Salem al-Maliki, said: "There was a dirty invasion by the U.S. forces.

"This was part of an escalation programme to drag Sadr's group into another battle or to obstruct the political process."

Earlier, in an unusual admission, Interior Ministry officials said a police major accused of taking part in death squad killings had been arrested in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad.

Arkan al-Bawi is the brother of the provincial police chief.

In an indication of the scale of the violence, Iraqi forces said they could not identify 30 bodies found on the main street of a village near Baquba on Sunday. Most had been beheaded.

Remember that Sadr is our putative ally now. It was his aides, not he, who made the accusation that US troops were acting up. I notice, too, they are not called "coalition" forces.
"Death squad killings" were reported...police chief's brother implicated...bodies with heads missing...
This is not a good thing. Not good at all.
This is also not a big surprise. Such eventual complications were pointed out last year when there was a realignment of...of what? Military objectives? Diplomacy? Foreign policy? Muddling?

I did a post last year that can now be revisited with new insights.
The CFR had a fairly unsettling report that proves now to have been on target.

There is a growing chorus of complaints from Sunni Arab leaders that the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) has been infiltrated by Shiite militias that engage in torture, kidnappings, and, in some cases, deaths squads against Sunnis. Though Iraq’s leadership downplays these outbreaks of violence, experts say there is widespread evidence that an increasing number of members of the Mahdi Army, led by the hot-headed Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and Badr Organization are joining the ranks of Iraq’s military and engaging in paramilitary-style policing methods.
These militias have put the U.S. government in a difficult bind: On one hand, experts say, these groups are effective in fighting the Sunni-led insurgency. Last year, the U.S. military fought alongside militia groups in counterinsurgency operations in Mosul and Samarra. On the other hand, these groups are fueling sectarian tensions and infiltrating the military, which raises doubts as to where these soldiers’ allegiance lies.

But U.S. officials seem unworried by the spread of militias. “They are increasingly an Iraqi problem, not a U.S.problem,” says a senior Defense Department official who preferred not to be named. Though Iraqi militias were technically banned by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in June 2004, the U.S. military is “encouraging existing militias into the security services—that is true,” says the Defense Department official. “We continue to examine their loyalties but also are trying to build loyalty [to the Iraqi state].”

U.S. officials were not worried. Iraqi problem, you know.
"...examining loyalites..." I bet.

If I may be so bold as to quote myself...

Clearly we cannot discern among the many groups that make up the Iraqi population. I don't know how many there are, but there are a lot more than three. This is a very poor taxonomy to decide whether or not we are supposed to be killing people. And outsourcing the job to thugs is not the best way to create good public relations.

We are not on the side of many angels in Iraq. Our intentions may be good, but our connections are badly out of synch with our ideals. The Badr Brigade and its wicked offspring-- our official allies, incidentally -- do not make the US look any better in the eyes of everyday people there.

Monday update: Richard Boudreaux, Los Angeles Times, in Seattle Times

The incident is politically explosive because the mosque is a stronghold of followers of the radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Iranian-backed movement has a powerful bloc in parliament and a large sectarian militia.

Sunday's clash was the most serious between that militia and U.S. forces since al-Sadr led two anti-American uprisings in 2004.

In increasingly insistent language, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has been pressing Iraq's leaders to disband such militias, which he blames for much of the sectarian killing that has spiraled since the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite shrine in the mostly Sunni Arab city of Samarra.

Dozens of people are found dead each day in a shadowy campaign of executions.

More to read at the link, if you have the stomach.

(That part about disbanding militias interests me. If that can be accomplished in Iraq, getting a handle on gangs in U.S. cities should be a snap. Oh, I forgot. I don't think Iraq has a Second Amendment yet. Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Sunday also brought more violence. In addition to the 30 bodies discovered by the highway, police said 13 corpses were found in other parts of the country and 10 other Iraqis were killed. They included a 13-year-old boy hit by a bomb blast as he walked to school in the southern city of Basra.

Arkan Bawi, a police major accused of heading a death squad in Baqouba, was summoned to Interior Ministry headquarters in Baghdad and placed under arrest. It was unclear what prompted the rare instance of an official investigation into such charges.

Meanwhile, U.S. troops investigating alleged abuse of prisoners by the Interior Ministry raided a detention facility but left after determining 17 Sudanese there were being held legally, an Iraqi official said.

End of story.
Excuse me...Sudanese? Seventeen of them? In Iraq? Held legally?
That looks like a story to me.
But the investigators left? Or so the Iraqi official said.
Hello out there....
Anybody listening???

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