Two reports from Iraq
The key messages from Iraq the Model are:
- the level of violence was not as bad as made out to be in the press, at least according to the government briefers.
- the curfew continues.
- neighborhoods are setting up checkpoints to screen outsiders
He has this interesting observation:
Sadr ... holds two meetings with Sunni leaders; one on the clerical level with the Association of Muslim Scholars and the other on the political level with the Accord Front. A couple of joint press releases were made after the meetings in which the two parties made calls for unity among Iraqis and condemned all kinds of attacks on mosques and civilians. In both cases the US and Iraqi authorities were blamed for the escalating situation. Ironically, these are the very two factions believed responsible for the greatest deal of the violence in the past few days!
Healing Iraq's also reports the government assertion that reports of sectarian violence while real, were exaggerated, but in a more skeptical tone. He remains skeptical of the Interior Ministry's neutrality, suspecting them of siding with the Shi'ites. This bit coincides with Iraq the Model: "Things are now quiet in the Sunni towns of Zubair and Abu Al-Khasib, south of Basrah. Sadr's followers continue to demonstrate, but in general, things appear to have calmed down there."
We also get a glimpse of what American forces have been doing:
Clashes between Interior ministry forces and insurgents at Khan Dhari, Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad. According to the Defence minister, the force was providing protection for a funeral procession of the slain Al-Arabiya TV, Atwar Bahjat, heading to the Karkh cemetary. They came under fire and roadside bomb attacks near Harith Al-Dhari's residence at Khan Dhari, resulting in a firefight. The Association of Muslim Scholar's website, and Muthanna Al-Dhari's statements on Al-Jazeera TV, say the residents returned fire after they were mocked and assaulted by the Interior ministry force which arrived in 20 vehicles early in the morning, before the funeral procession. American forces in the area seem to have intervened, and later freed 2 of Dhari's cousins taken as prisoners by the Interior ministry forces.
(As far as I can recall Atwar Bahjat was a celebrity Sunni news correspondent who was killed, possibly by Shi'ite militias in the first hours after the Golden Mosque attack. The US forces are depicted as watching, intervening at least on this occasion.)
Moqtada al-Sadr seems to be trying to cover up his apparent involvement in the earlier. Healing Iraq reports this strange statement from the Mahdi in which their spokesmen say that the killers of the past few days have been too handsome to be them.
The Iraqi Rabita website reports an interview with a Mahdi militia leader today, quoted as saying: "Strange things are happening these days. It's true that our guys often act as a bunch of spiteful, criminal thieves going on sprees of sabotage, murder and plundering. But the people who were running the act were clean young men, elegantly dressed, in modern vehicles, carrying the latest weapons, unlike our guys who are usually unkempt ruffians. No one knows were they are now."
Here are pictures from Healing Iraq's site which illustrate the point.
Pajamas Media has a link to a podcast interview of Omar at Iraq the Model describing the situation in Baghdad.
I'm guessing that Healing Iraq got his pictures from one of the websites he mentions as sources. His information about Sadr's backpedaling seems to square with Iraq the Model's ironic observation that Sadr is now churning out press releases denouncing violence which he is suspected of avidly participating in. And I'll grant that the uniforms worn by the militiamen shown above look like they came straight out of a box.
Sadr's about-face suggests he wants to distance himself from a failed enterprise. He is not, definitely not the kind of guy to go down with the Titanic after letting the women and children into the lifeboats. This suggests the civil war crisis has been beaten down for now. However, if those uniforms are new and Sad'r and the al-Qaeda (mentioned elsewhere in Healing Iraq's post) were practically ready to exploit the civil unrest from the start, then one might speculate whether the Golden Mosque attack was not part of a larger plot to spark up a civil war in Iraq. That's speculation but an interesting thought to hold in mind as more evidence comes to hand. Once again, input from the readers if they have any info (remember to quote the URL or type of source) would be much appreciated.