That last post I wrote on Saturday, before the Shiites went on a rampage pulling Sunnis out of cars in the al-Jihad neighborhood of Baghdad and making the streets flow with blood. On Monday, PM Nuri al-Maliki called for Iraqis to "unite as brothers" but his words seem to be falling on deaf ears and he hasn't said much since. The killing goes on and what's most worrying -- well there's a whole lot most worrying -- is that right after the Shiites started rounding up Sunnis on Sunday, supposedly in retaliation for a bombing at a Shiite mosque, the Sunnis came right back with bombing another Shiite mosque. Where as before these types of tit-for-tat attacks came over a period of days, now they're coming in real-time, sort of like a real war.
Typically, as all hell was breaking loose on Sunday, Muqtada al-Sadr called for calm; which means it was his Mahdi Army doing the killing. Whenever, he comes out and calls for calm you know it's him, just like after the Feb 22 mosque bombing in Samarra. While he was sounding all reasonable, his militiamen were roaming around Sunni neighborhoods in official police vehicles, shooting up Sunni mosques and gunning down anyone who moved.
In this most recent violence, the police just stood by and watched, as usual, and US forces were no where to be seen; they only moved in hours later to survey the smoldering ruins and the burning bodies. I don't think US commanders are quite ready to confront the Madhi Army, which is what they'd have to do if they want to get a handle of this situation. I'm assuming, of course, that at this point we really have the fire power to deal with Sadr's fighters. Since we tangled with them back in 2004, where we fought them to a standstill, they've bulked up quite a bit.
Their numbers are now estimated to be at about 140,000 fighters and they've got some heavy duty firepower of their own, thanks to us. While we've been busy declaring this the "year of the police" they've been busy infiltrating the interior ministries, helping themselves all the weapons and fancy new uniforms we've been providing, and on top of that, al-Sadr's party in the parliament controls the Heath and Transportation ministries. If you were wondering where all these fake police check points and phony arrests are coming from, look no further than the Madhi army. They have access to all the police cars they want.
TheWaPo reported today that a reporter in the al-Jihad neighborhood was with a man who called 130, the police emergency number to report the Shiites arriving to kill everyone:
"The Mahdi Army has attacked Amiriyah," he told the Interior Ministry dispatcher. 'The Mahdi Army are not terrorists like you,' said the dispatcher at the ministry, which is controlled by a Shiite party and operates closely with militias. 'They are people doing their duty. And how could you know that they are the Mahdi Army? Is it written on their foreheads?' He hung up the phone." [Geez, and I thought being put on hold when I called 911 in DC was a problem!]
Meanwhile, Rummy has made another "surprise" visit to Iraq, just in time to watch his most famous blunder blow in his face. In the past three days deaths from sectarian fighting has reached over 100 in Iraq. Yesterday, two suicide bombers blew themselves up right in front of a three busy entrances of the Green Zone and then a third bomb went off a little later accounting for 15 deaths all tolled.
The Mujahadeen Shura Council claimed responsibility for the first two and the Islamic Army for the third, in retaliation they say for the rape and killing of an Iraqi family by US soldiers in Mahmudiya, according to the NYT. On Monday, the WaPo reported that the Mujahadeen Shura Council also claimed responsibility for the killing, torture and mutilation of three US troops as punishment for the same killings. Something tells me we haven't heard the last of the exploits of Pfc. Steven Green and his band of merry marauders.
I hear in the press that the Iraqis don't seem to be getting too worked up about the attack by Green and Co.. I suppose that might be a good thing, but when you consider the average Iraqi already suspects that our troops are doing this sort of thing all the time, it isn't exactly a good sign that they're not more upset. Although, the Iraqi civilians on the street might be too preoccupied with avoiding getting, kidnapped, blown up or shot to really be caring about yet another American atrocity these days, the Iraqi government is certainly taking note.
Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, the Iraqi National Security Advisor, told Newsweek that Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17 would have to be renegotiated with the US forces. This is one of the poison pills L. Paul Bremer stuck the Iraqis with as he got out of Dodge that makes US troops immune from prosecution by Iraqi courts for crimes they commit in country. "There is no way we accept CPA Order 17 anymore," Rubaie said. "We cannot go on having these unfortunate incidents repeated, and we have to work on stopping them from happening again."
The Iraqis are of the mind that the US doesn't exactly go out of their way to punish soldiers and that CPA Order 17 makes some troops feel that they can get away with anything. One Iraqi official referred to past trials of soldiers involved in the Abu Ghraib scandal as "theater." So, all in all, I'd say, Rummy probably had a very interesting time talking with his Iraqi "partners."