Thursday, February 23, 2006

Is the storm building?

Ominious new about events in Iraq as reported by the Times of London:

  •  At least 140 killed yesterday
  • In worst incident 47 killed by gunmen at roadblock. Bodies discovered in Nahrawan, on outskirts of Baghdad
  • At least 53 killed in Baghdad in 24 hours
  • At least 25 killed in Basra. Overnight 12 prisoners removed from Basra prison and 11 killed
  • Bomb aimed at Iraqi Army foot patrol kills 16 in Baquba, 40 miles northeast of Baghdad — 8 soldiers and 8 civilians
  • Also in Baquba, gunmen kill one at Sunni mosque
  • Bomb kills policeman, wounds four in Iskandariya, south of Baghdad
  • 7 US soldiers killed in northern Iraq
  • Convoy of Iraq’s Minister of Housing and Reconstruction stoned in Samarra
  • Journalist for al-Arabiya TV killed with two members of her crew in Samarra
  • Police and army leave cancelled
  • Curfew hours extended in Baghdad and major cities from 8pm-6am
  • Road to Abu Hanifa Mosque, most important Sunni mosque in Baghdad, closed by army
  • Several thousand in Basra demonstrate near governing council offices
  • About 1,000 demonstrate in Samawa, 170 miles south of Baghdad. Police guarding Sunni mosque in the town
  • Leading Sunni group, the Muslim Clerics Association, blames Shia leaders for fuelling tensions
  • Main Sunni bloc, the Iraqi Accordance Front, pulls out of talks to form a new government, blaming ruling Shia alliance for violence
  • President Talabani, a Kurd, meets Shia leaders

Here's something that sounds particularly worrisome, from a different article in the Times of London:

From Dora in southern Baghdad, to Sha’ab in the city’s north, teams of Shia killers had moved apparently unchallenged through the city, attacking Sunni mosques, rounding up and killing Sunni men, sometimes cheered on by soldiers at Iraqi army checkpoints.

The conduct of those soldiers should give pause to those in Britain and America who believe that the new Iraqi Army will be an impartial force capable of keeping order in the country so that coalition troops can withdraw.

Wednesday night’s murder spree showed them to be partisan at best, complicit at worse.

So is the situation in Iraq deteriorating?


If we look at the timeline and compare it to Iraq the Model's posts, these attacks happened on Wednesday. He claims things have calmed down and that a curfew is being imposed. The curfew is only now being reported on the MSM.

What we could be looking at is historical data coming in only now. The thing to watch is whether the trouble ramps up from here or whether the steps authorities have taken bring this under control.

Many of the incidents related by the Times of London stories are mirrored in Healing Iraq's post of February 22nd. For instance, he details the attacks on the Sunni mosques and describes militias prowling around outside his door, but on the 22nd.  On the 24th (recall Iraq is some hours ahead of US time. I am using ITM's post times as markers. His post of the 22nd was probably updated on the 23rd), he says:

Movement today was sparse. The government announced it a day off yesterday, while Sistani, the supreme religious Shi’ite authority, called for his followers to close their businesses for 7 days in mourning. Both he and Muqtada Al-Sadr have urged their followers to continue their ‘peaceful’ protests today, resulting in more retaliatory clashes and attacks against mosques in several areas of Baghdad. No one can really fathom the amount of damage since movement is very limited. We went out to buy supplies, food and fuel. Baghdadis tend to stockpile at any sign of a looming crisis.

There was not much to hear in our area, apart from the occasional thud and fire exchange, which are really usual everyday experiences for the last 3 years. There was no presence of security forces that I could witness. Friends from areas around Sadr city said pickups full of armed men in black were patrolling the streets, unchallenged by Iraqi security forces. Many people swear that the Interior ministry forces are explicitly siding with the Mahdi militiamen in their rampage of arson and plundering. Most of the mosques in Baghdad are now closed and surrounded by barbed wire.

Riverbend, an Iraqi woman blogger who is pretty much an anti-coalition, has this report from February 23.

No one went to work today as the streets were mostly closed. The situation isn’t good at all. I don’t think I remember things being this tense- everyone is just watching and waiting quietly. There’s so much talk of civil war and yet, with the people I know- Sunnis and Shia alike- I can hardly believe it is a possibility. Educated, sophisticated Iraqis are horrified with the idea of turning against each other, and even not-so-educated Iraqis seem very aware that this is a small part of a bigger, more ominous plan…

So that's a good-looking trend from 22nd to the 24th. The trouble seems to have run out of gas for the present, though it may pick up again. If anyone wants to help me play this timeline game to keep the situation board updated, please chime in.

A source with recent experience in Iraq says that in reading the London Times story it is important to bear in mind the difference between the IA (Iraqi Army) and the IP (Iraqi Police). The source says the IA is a more disciplined force and the Times may not have been able to tell the difference between the IA and the IP.


Blogger desert rat said...

As long as the troops did not participate, there is hope.
It depends on the Leadership within the ISF.
If there are Americans in each Iraqi Unit that can rally the Forces, or if the Iraqis can do it themselves there still may be time.

If the Iraqi Army breaks down, the Government won't stand, or even form. The whole endevour rests on the ISF. As it always has.

2/23/2006 05:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to believe that most of the damage and killing was done in the initial reactionary hours after the bombing became known throughout the country. So far, the numbers do not indicate a widening breakdown. It appears that the spontaneous reaction was violent but short-lived and that order, such as it is, is being restored.

But maybe I'm guilty of wishful thinking.

2/23/2006 05:23:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Robert Kaplan had some interesting comments about Civil War, hopefully will be at Radioblogger:
He cautioned about losing perspective, citing small loss of life in comparison with other real civil wars.
...but he's in Honolulu:
Don't know what he would say about these events.
Continues to report great progress by small units in Africa and elsewhere.
No doubt will be all over the News this evening.

2/23/2006 05:23:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

The Times of London exerpt has given a partial answer to the question I just posed on the previous thread, reproduced here for your enjoyment:

"In aristides' terms, these reactions seem aptly either the bold 'stay the course' or the reckless 'cut and run/change the course'."


What IS the course? Is it a course as in a circuit, as in a thing that has no end? What are we staying FOR, to the seemingly endless tune of 130,000 troops per annum?

Enquiring minds want to know.

2/23/2006 05:39:00 PM  
Blogger Arthur Dent said...


When the storm comes it will not be so obvious.

2/23/2006 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

This might seem a bit cold, but I wonder if some blood letting was in order to put the intransigent Sunni’s in check and to let the Shiia’s get uncork some of their latent frustration. This, of course could really spin out of control, but it seems to me just as likely to lead to a national reconciliation. In other words, it is possible that something of this order was necessary to break the cycle of violence. A mini civil war that ends with a stronger national identity in the end. I surmised on the previous thread that perhaps the blow-back from this incident would lead to a greater national unity, and, if so, it would lead conspiracy theorists in the Jihad to believe that it was all a Zionist plot.

That may sound a might Pollyanna-ish, but the laws of unexpected consequences makes such things possible. Nonetheless, stick a fork in it, were done.

2/23/2006 05:50:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

An Exposition on the Absence of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq:

A member of a password-protected al-Qaeda-affiliated forum recently posted a discussion of considerable length concerning the absence of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi from a leadership position within the Mujahideen Shura Council, an umbrella group for seven insurgency groups in Iraq, including al-Qaeda in Iraq, in which he was formerly the Emir.

The author believes that regardless of the language, there is a lack of understanding between the West and those who embrace jihad. He states: “They do not believe that martyrdom for the sake of Allah is the best they can ever wish.

Further, the author believes that the Council and bin Laden’s truce with America are two legs of an “equilateral triangle” that will cause the fall of America, and the third, final leg is “coming with the help of Allah.” He concludes: “After that the Muslims will have victory in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine.”

An Exposition

2/23/2006 05:53:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

"The thing to watch is whether the trouble ramps up from here or whether the steps authorities have taken bring this under control."

In the midst of the moslem meltdown, control isn't a shelf-stable product.

2/23/2006 06:00:00 PM  
Blogger Ticker said...


If only it would stop building if one didn't look. Khomeini from 1980; al-Qaeda from '94; the Muslim brotherhood, the Nasserites from the 1950s. The Moros from God knows when. Iran and Iraq killed half a million between them in a war nobody noticed. Clinton took Arafat to the White House; they gave him a Nobel Peace Prize; tried running away in Somalia. No soap there either. We're already on Plan B. What's to try next?

2/23/2006 06:10:00 PM  
Blogger Teresita said...

Not to belittle the terrible losses of the US Civil War, but there was a lot of upside to it: Sweeping away a slave-based economy, transforming the US from a banana republic to a great power, forging a lot of squabbling little states into an actual nation. For three years we've seen headlines about how Iraq is "edging toward civil war"...why not let it happen and see what shakes out? By analogy, forests were around a long time before we came along with our idea of putting out every spot fire as soon as we saw it, which only caused a lot of kindling to accumilate and make the need for fire control more and more desperate every year.

2/23/2006 06:39:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Put yourself in the position of a Sunni tribal leader. Whether you've participated in the insurgency or not you have to know there is a limit to Shia patience and that pushing them over the line will have a bad result. They are the majority and there is a whole lot of payback that could come back on you.

Where is the upside for the Sunnis? Even dozens of large weapons caches would be quickly consumed in an all out. The American presence rules out any meaningful help or resupply from Syria or KSA.

Friday is payoff day. If things don't blow up by Saturday there will be no civil war. AQ will be the loser.

2/23/2006 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

War or Retreat
Those are the options

2/23/2006 06:45:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Mr Roggio says this
" ... The Shiites are devastated by the destruction of the Golden Mosque and the Sunnis are horrified at the retaliation attacks. ... "

The Sunnis do not expect to lose to the Shia. Americans perhaps, Shia, never.

The fact that the Shia have finally struck back, "Horrified"
the Sunni. That is telling to the entire situation.

If the Army holds, the Government will be fine.

2/23/2006 06:50:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

This is what the neutral, law-upholding military is for - cf. Turkey in the early 90s rolling out the tanks when Islamism threatened. If the ISF performs well now - even excepting some tribal/sectarian winkwink in some places - we will have much to be reassured about. I'm betting the US advisors and embeds have had just such an occurence in mind for some time - after all, it isn't the first time something like civil war threatened. Iraq has been keeping itself above water pretty well so far, all things considered. Let's wait for a while, and hope the right parties are putting the right pressure where it counts. Hopefully all these joint operations over the past couple years (or year) has created an esprit de corps and relationship with the US individuals the ISF knows that this will be a moment in which the native Iraqis can show their mettle.

In another sense, since I'm being hopeful, a certain amount of militia-spazzing could, once quelled, provide a great opportunity to reduce the militias' armaments, or to have some disband, and so on. The Iraqi Army's going to need some crisis (or -es) to demonstrate their authority in the new Iraq.

2/23/2006 06:57:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

"We're already on Plan B."

Wretchard, what was Plan B's objective?

2/23/2006 07:02:00 PM  
Blogger Teresita said...

The destruction of this shrine seems horrifying now but so was the tape of the Daniel Pearl execution at the time. Repetition has a numbing effect. One problem Islam has is a lot of high-value sacred targets which are fragile and not even mobile. Blowing up mosques could soon become more common than sawing off the heads of women on video tape, or lighting off IEDs under passing convoys, and get exported out of Iraq to Afghanistan or Palestine like all the other innovative techniques of Holy War we've seen recently. There are some eschatological scenarios that have been in a holding pattern while that pesky Dome of the Rock sits there intact atop the Temple Mount.

2/23/2006 07:09:00 PM  
Blogger jimbo said...

How did al-Qaeda get into one of the holiest Shia shrines? After several years of terror attacks in Iraq, shouldn't there have been more than a hand full of rent-a-cops protecting this site?

Is anybody considering the possibility of an "inside job" by Sadr and/or Iran?

Although one cannot underestimate the irrationality of al-Qaeda, it seems Sadr/Iran have much more to gain from civil war than the Sunni fascists.

2/23/2006 07:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2/23/2006 07:20:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Sunni leaders also boycotted a reconciliation meeting with Shiites and Kurds called by President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd.

After the meeting, Talabani told reporters that the participants agreed the best way to respond to Wednesday's attack was to form a unity government "whose top job should be getting the security situation under control and fighting terrorism."
Amazingly disappointingly repetitive. They could've at least stayed at the meeting and vented bitchery rather than walk out.

Funny comment the other day, something to the effect of "and the Kurds may seced north and look down on that deranged Arab country to the south."


I wonder if the Kurds show up at these meetings and just end up glancing at each other with looks that say "Jesus, why do we even come to these things anymore?"

2/23/2006 07:24:00 PM  
Blogger Teresita said...

Idiotmaster, after hundreds of years obviously there was an emergent tradition between Sunnis and Shi'ites not to attack each other's mosques (otherwise there would be no mosques standing in Iraq), so everyone's guard was down, and Zarq had everyone fooled by only attacking the occupying Great Satan for years. This was his last throw of the dice. If he doesn't get his civil war after this, no number of police recruiting station bombings will do the trick.

2/23/2006 07:28:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Well, they could hit the Imam Ali Mosque, and that, unfortunately, might be the most savvy and powerful pretext for Iranian intervention, at least in the sense of taking some opportunity to assert its right to more directly influence its own neighbor - or maybe an opportunity to test an atomb bomb? Who knows? These people are expert at making themselves the victim and then exploiting that position well beyond its actual worth - the chicken/egg of their being so ridiculously easily "insulted." Very clever.

2/23/2006 07:32:00 PM  
Blogger chuck said...

Oops, posted this on the wrong thread.

One of the things I find curious about this attack is the *lack* of destruction. It seems to me not as great as it could have been: the charges were carefully placed and they blew off the dome. The dome was only finished in 1907 and will probably not be that hard to replace. If one *really* wanted to desecrate the place, blowing up the tombs would have been the way to go.

2/23/2006 07:32:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Such passive-aggressive bastards.

2/23/2006 07:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This looked like the "A" Team:


2/23/2006 07:37:00 PM  
Blogger fred said...

"How did al-Qaeda get into one of the holiest Shia shrines? After several years of terror attacks in Iraq, shouldn't there have been more than a hand full of rent-a-cops protecting this site?" the idiot master

Check the previous thread on this subject. Plenty of repartee about the possibility that Iran is behind this. It's perfectly rational and Iran stands to gain the most from a nasty brawl in Iraq. However, I think we will get to the bottom of it, if time allows.

The Iranians have a LONG record of successfully pulling off the "plausible deniability" capers for twenty seven years. I certainly hope that when it comes for that government that payback is going to be a b***h.

2/23/2006 07:45:00 PM  
Blogger trangbang68 said...

You want some powerful Eyewitness account of situation on the ground in last year's crisis,read"No True Glory"
by Bing West of the fighting in Fallujah and Ramadi.It is one of the two best battlefield accounts I've ever read(alongside "Ripcord" by Keith william Nolan of the last major american fight in Viet Nam).
If you can read the West book and not want to kiss the next Marine you see you ought to be deported.
His portrayal of the gunmen is of a small cadre of Jihadis and an endless pool of mindless cannon fodder whose motto could be"Have AK will get busy"
One zeroed in Marine sniper plugged 30 knuckleheads in a few hours.
West paints a painful picture of wonderful Marine units ready to finish the job and constant hesitation on the part of their civilian masters.
I guess its what Desert Rat and others have been saying;fight to win or bail out.

2/23/2006 07:57:00 PM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

"...when it comes for that government that payback is going to be a b***h."

The smug, nasty, arrogant nihilist creeps, hanging children on their whims, trying to wipe other peoples off the map, the dirty nazi bastards, I hope you're right Fred.

2/23/2006 08:25:00 PM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

They need another Marathon, Salamis, Guagamela, Issus.

2/23/2006 08:28:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

Here's one for you Wretchard,

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has invoked emergency rule after security forces say they foiled a coup attempt.

Arroyo Declares Emergency Rule

2/23/2006 09:04:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Was that the first Falujah affair where Marines had them wrapped up in a corner and then got pulled off, or sometime later?

2/23/2006 09:43:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Someone's trying to engineer a Tet.

2/23/2006 10:48:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Has to be Iran. I wonder if the Iraqis in Dawa are in collusion with this.

Or maybe it was jihadis.

2/23/2006 10:49:00 PM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

It's Iran--whether it's Iran or not. Proximate vs Underlying.

2/23/2006 10:51:00 PM  
Blogger Spatchcock said...


First time talking here, but I have been reading quite a while.

Something has occurred to me, but it may be a red herring. The Shia believe that the twelfth Imam, hidden by Allah since 874 AD, will return in the Golden Mosque. The Iranian president is especially keen on this sort of thinking.

So my question is: is there any link?

2/24/2006 01:02:00 AM  
Blogger jimbo said...

I don't want to push the Sadr/Iran thesis too hard because who the heck really knows what goes on over there. And, teresita, your cultural explanation for the lack of real security at the site is certainly plausible.


What about the M.O.? Since when does al-Qaeda tie up guards and wire a building with explosives? For a job of this size they usually send one or more truck bombs - maybe preceeded by fighters/suicide bombers to take out any guards at the outer perimeter.

What if an insurgent target were taken out by a truck bomb? It could have been done by us, but one would have expected us to use an air delivered smart bomb.

2/24/2006 04:53:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

The link is 1) big Shia pop., 2) Shia Islamists (Sadr/Dawa) evidently running the show, politically, 3) Iran/US conflict, 4) sooner or later Iran and Iraq will be left together anyway, 5) Ambassador Khalilzad's "sectarianism will not be supported" (provides a talking point, as Talabani used yesterday)...

But it's completely inconclusive, it's just: who would try to start this? Destroying a revered mosque, and so closely tied to the Shia, just seems inherently suspicious to me. It's the obvious move and it hasn't been tried why?

Maybe it's just a last ditch effort to prevent a government forming. I think they're selecting the cabinet soon, right? But it's a good shot. We'll see where it lands. What I want to know is there any plausible way the Iraqi thing is connected to the Philipines thing.

2/24/2006 05:54:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

You can take Buddy out of the Bayou,
But you can't take the Bayou out of Buddy.
Will someone PLEASE get him to stop singing:
"Sittin by the Docks in Dubai."

2/24/2006 06:02:00 AM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

It didn't take a crystal ball, Doug--just a history book--and a map.

2/24/2006 06:13:00 AM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

I'd like to see Tommy Franks run for national office, too--so I listen when he speaks. An honest guy without a load of entangling alliances, with the needed set of experiences--command, human nature, organizational power, vision--and smart as a whip, with character that shines through all. I don't even know which party he belongs to--and don't care.

2/24/2006 06:19:00 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

State Dept. spokesman Adam Ereli yesterday said that there hadn't been a lot of incidents of violence and, on the contrary, "you can see an affirmation that the approach we've been taking has worked." Who's Ereli being coached by? Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf? (more...)

2/24/2006 07:23:00 AM  
Blogger the African sky said...

Whatever happened to PeterUK? I always enjoyed reading his comments.

2/24/2006 07:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"We're already on Plan B. What's to try next?"

Maybe our ancestors knew what they were doing when they broke up the Muslim tribes across different countries and put ruthless kings and dictators in charge of them. We've been jimmying the lock on Pandora's Box, and we're going to regret it when we finally pry it open.

What to try next? Imperialism. We're accused of it anyway, we might as well do it for real, for our own survival.

2/24/2006 08:10:00 AM  
Blogger Red River said...

Looks like it will be a unifying event.

2/24/2006 08:14:00 AM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

African Sky, Peter UK, Mr. Uk of Great Britain, can be found @ "Flares".

2/24/2006 09:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is wonderful! Just surround the Sunni trianle and let the Shia and Kurds go in and KILL ALL THE DIRTY BASTARDS!

They've been abusing the rest of Iraq for 500 years and they certainly deserve it.

Why not? It would save a lot of US Ammunition - let them KILL THEM ALL!

2/24/2006 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2/24/2006 09:56:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2/24/2006 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

take 4
Larsen 6:13 AM,
You off your meds again?
When I wrote:
"Sittin by the Docks of Dubai."
I thought you'd give me the artist.
Hillary Clinton:

The Zenaphobic Princess ;-)

2/24/2006 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

Doug, Otis Redding, said I, reddening.

Thot you were referring to Port issue.

2/24/2006 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Wine Scooby Dooby,
Drinkin Wine,
Port, Port.

2/24/2006 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I do have an issue with Port.

2/24/2006 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger Wanda said...

Healing Iraq has an update - looks like things have gotten a bit worse in the last few hours, as night has come on:

"Fierce streetfighting at my doorstep for the last 3 hours. Rumor in the neighbourhood is that men in black are trying to enter the area. Some armed kids defending the local mosque three blocks away are splattering bullets at everything that moves, and someone in the street was shouting for people to prepare for defending themselves.

There's supposed to be a curfew, but it doesn't look like it. My net connection is erratic, so I'll try to update again if possible. The news from other areas in Baghdad are horrible. I don't think it's being reported anywhere.

My father and uncle are agitatedly walking back and forth in the hallway, asking me what we should do if the mob or Interior ministry forces try to attack us in our homes? I have no answer for them."

2/24/2006 02:38:00 PM  

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