The bottom line is clear: Our vital interests in Afghanistan are limited and military victory is not the key to achieving them. On the contrary, waging a lengthy counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan may well do more to aid Taliban recruiting than to dismantle the group, help spread conflict further into Pakistan, unify radical groups that might otherwise be quarreling amongst themselves, threaten the long-term health of the U.S. economy, and prevent the U.S. government from turning its full attention to other pressing problems. -- Afghanistan Study Group

Sunday, January 6, 2008

News of the Day forSunday, January 6, 2008

Iraqi Army soldiers respond moments after a suicide attack on a celebration marking Iraqi Army day in the Karradah neighborhood of central Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Jan. 6, 2008. Two Iraqi army soldiers threw themselves atop a suicide bomber, but the attacker was able to detonate an explosives vest, killing the two soldiers and another nine people attending a gathering commemorating Iraq's Army Day, the U.S. military and police said. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

Note: I originally chose one of the less gruesome photos from this incident, but then I changed my mind. We don't really appreciate what it is like for people who witness these attacks, because the media won't show us the reality. I think that as hard as it is to look, we have an obligation. -- C


Reported Security Incidents

Baghdad

Suicide bomb attack on Iraq Army Day celebration kills four police officers, three Iraqi soldiers and four civilians, according to a police witness. As usual, the U.S. downplays the death toll, claiming only four people were killed. According to witnesses, two Iraqi soldiers attempted to tackle the bomber, and may have saved lives by absorbing much of the blast with their bodies. Other reports give varying death tolls. AFP says nine were killed, but also gives a total of 17 wounded.

AP reports several other violent incidents in Baghdad:

  • In eastern Baghdad a parked car bomb exploded and four mortars landed near a bus terminal, killing one civilian, police said.
  • In northeastern Baghdad, a parked car bomb exploded outside a popular restaurant, killing one policeman and two civilians, police said. AFP gives the death toll from this incident as four, and gives further details from an eye witness report.
  • Earlier Sunday, a Shiite tribal sheik who was trying to set up a U.S.-backed armed group to combat militias was shot to death in Shaab, one of Baghdad's most dangerous neighborhoods and a center for outlaw Shiite fighters, a police officer said on condition of anonymity. The attack was confirmed by a resident of the neighborhood who asked not to be named saying he feared reprisal.


Series of IEDs detonate at the Al-Nahda vehicle market in central Baghdad, killing one, injuring four.

Twelve bodies found dumped in various parts of Baghdad.

Roadside bomb injures seven people traveling in a minibus in Doura.

Diyala Province (location not further specified)

A Multi-National Division – North Soldier died from injuries sustained from an improvised explosive device detonation near his vehicle while conducting operations in Diyala Province, Jan. 5.

Muqdadiya

Four human heads were found on Saturday, police and hospital officials said. AP says there were five heads. Whatever.

Falluja

Five rockets strike U.S. base at al-Mazraa, 3 km east of Falluja, according to Iraqi witnesses. No information is forthcoming as yet from the U.S. military about this incident.

Mosul

Car bomb near a Chaldean church causes no casualties.

Tahwilah village (near Khalis, Diyala Province)

Militants storm the house of Sheik Dhari Wahab al-Mandeel, leader of the Obeid clan, and kidnap him and 13 members of his family. Local police say he was planning to form an "Awakening Council." Mandeel's son and daughter-in-law were critically wounded in the incident.

Other News of the Day

The Muslim Scholars Association claims that the Iraq soldier who attacked U.S. forces on Dec. 26 did so because they were beating a pregnant woman. (And remember, you read it here first - we reported on this claim two days before the incident was reported at all in the U.S. corporate media. The Muslim Scholars Association is a leading Sunni resistance organization. Regardless of whether this is true, it's important to know that the claim has been widely reported in Arabic language media in Iraq and many people may believe it. I also note that the name of the Iraqi soldier, Qaisar Saadi al-Jubory, is consistent with the name given in the earlier reports and has not been reported in the West, as far as I know. -- C)

In the southern Iraqi city of Nassiriya, police rescue a kidnapped girl and arrest her captors. (This was not a politically motivated crime, which is why I placed it here, but I thought it was worth noting because it reminds us that the problem of kidnapping for ransom continues to plague Iraq. This is a stable, homogeneously Shiite area, Thi Qar province, that we never hear about. -- C)

War of words between the Shiite-led government and Sunni "Awakening Councils" continues. (I note that reports in the U.S. media the past couple of days are all about how conciliatory the government has been toward the councils. This report from VoI gives a very different spin. Note the absurdity of the claim that the councils have been "infiltrated" by Baathist elements. Of course any Sunni Arab organization will include many ex-Baathists. -- C.) Excerpt:

Riyadh, Jan 6, (VOI) – Leaders of Baghdad's awakening councils expressed their surprise at the Iraqi prime minister's recent statements about Baathist elements and al-Qaeda insurgents infiltrating their councils.

"The government fears the infiltration of awakening councils by members of the dissolved Baath Party, which, at one time, was the only party in Iraq and represented 95% of the population," the international al-Hayat newspaper quoted the leader of the military wing of al-Taaji Awakening Council, Saeed Aziz Salman, as saying.
"Most of our council members, totaling 520 fighters, belong to the Baath Party," Salman indicated, adding, "It has now become clear why the Ministry of Interior had refused to merge awakening council members into it."

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said during an interview published on Saturday by the international al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper that his government supports the tribal councils and their role in restoring order to many Iraqi provinces, voicing his fears about the infiltration of these councils by outside elements.

According to the leader of Fursan al-Rafideen Awakening Council, Saad al-Oreibi, only 20% of the councils' fighters will be merged into the Iraqi ministries of defense and interior, including 100 elements from Fursan al-Rafideen council. "The government questions the patriotism of council members and provides unconvincing pretexts for its refusal to merge them into the ministries. It has officially stated that the councils are penetrated by Baathist elements and al-Qaeda organization, which is not true because we have demonstrated our keenness to purge our areas of al-Qaeda and other armed groups," al-Oreibi indicated.


Commentary and Analysis

Jonathan Michael (sorry professor) Schwarz notes that the reason violence has decreased in Anbar province is because the U.S. is perpetrating less of it. Indeed. Or, to put it another way, well duhh.:

Quiescence and pacification are simply not the same thing, and this is definitely a case of quiescence. In fact, the reduction in violence we are witnessing is really a result of the U.S. discontinuing its vicious raids into insurgent territory, which have been -- from the beginning of the war -- the largest source of violence and civilian casualties in Iraq. These raids, which consist of home invasions in search of suspected insurgents, trigger brutal arrests and assaults by American soldiers who are worried about resistance, gun fights when families resist the intrusions into their homes, and road side bombs set to deter and distract the invasions. Whenever Iraqis fight back against these raids, there is the risk of sustained gun battles that, in turn, produce U.S. artillery and air assaults that, in turn, annihilate buildings and even whole blocks.

The "surge" has reduced this violence, but not because the Iraqis have stopped resisting raids or supporting the insurgency. Violence has decreased in many Anbar towns and Baghdad neighborhoods because the U.S. has agreed to discontinue these raids; that is, the U.S. would no longer seek to capture or kill the Sunni insurgents they have been fighting for four years. In exchange the insurgents agree to police their own neighborhoods (which they had been doing all along, in defiance of the U.S.), and also suppress jihadist car bombs.

The result is that the U.S. troops now stay outside of previously insurgent communities, or march through without invading any houses or attacking any buildings.

So, ironically, this new success has not pacified these communities, but rather acknowledged the insurgents' sovereignty over the communities, and even provided them with pay and equipment to sustain and extend their control over the communities.


Dahr Jamail on the current legitimacy of the occupation:

The end of 2007 produced a telltale indication of what the New Year seems likely to bring to Iraq. "We the Iraqi members of Parliament signing below demand a timetable for withdrawal of the occupation forces [MNF] from our beloved Iraq," 144 members of the 275-member Parliament, a clear majority, wrote in a declaration April 2007.

Despite this, the George W Bush administration and the Iraqi government led by US-installed Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki pushed a resolution through the UN Security Council to extend by another year the legal cover for foreign troops to operate in Iraq.

The move on December 18 violated both the Iraqi constitution and the resolution passed earlier this year by the Iraqi Parliament.

Many Iraqi lawmakers say that any renewal of the UN mandate not ratified by Parliament is illegal. The move almost guarantees an increase in violence and a deepening of sectarian tensions.

"Bypassing the Iraqi Parliament and continuing to undermine the Iraqi political process will push more Iraqis to choose armed resistance instead of political non-violent resistance," Raed Jarrar, Iraq consultant at the Public Policy Office of the American Friends Service Committee in Washington, an independent peace group, told Inter Press Service.

"The US role in supporting the unpopular and unelected Iraqi cabinet will increase violence and undermine Iraqis' plans to achieve national reconciliation," Jarar said. "The best way to support reconciliation in Iraq is to stop supporting a minority of Iraqi separatists against the majority of Iraqi nationalists."

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