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The Writing On The Wall Does Not Look Good In Iraq

An US soldier walks past a concrete block bearing the graffiti that reads "Long life to Moqtada al-Sadr" during a routine patrol at a predominantly Sunni Al-Dura neighborhood, southwest of Baghdad. Photo courtesy of AFP.
By Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Jul 21, 2006
The writing is on the wall in Iraq. U.S. policymakers and the new Iraqi government got that grim news this week. First, yet another suicide bomber in Iraq killed scores of people. This time, 59 people died in the provincial town of Kufa, a Shiite stronghold, in an attack Tuesday in a crowded market. The bomber lured day laborers to his mined minivan by offering them work.

The blast was one of the bloodiest attacks of the year. Only the day before, almost as many people were killed in a similar attack.

Both bombings were strategically significant as well as tactically devastating. For they displayed the continuing, and even escalating, capabilities of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq to inflict ever greater casualties in attacks against crowded civilian targets even in the heart of previously secure Shiite areas.

The attacks were like pouring petroleum on the rapidly escalating majority Shiite militia insurgency in Iraq. So far it has not challenged U.S. forces directly, but that could rapidly change. Already, the Shiite irregular forces have been wreaking havoc on Sunni civilians around the country, and especially in the capital Baghdad.

A new United Nations report released this week painted a grim, forthright picture of the state of anarchy and chaos into which Iraq has already fallen. The Human Rights report issued by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, UNAMI, covered the two months of May and June.

During that period, "A total of 5,818 civilians were reportedly killed and at least 5,762 wounded," the report said. If that figure should be maintained over the next year, almost 30,000 people would be killed in Iraq in a single year, even if the situation there does not deteriorate further.

The report also noted that in the first six months of this year, 14,338 people had been killed in Iraq. It also noted a steadily rising trend of victims killed in Iraq's strife month by month. As we have repeatedly noted in these columns, the violence metastasized across Iraq when the Shiite militias began reacting on a much greater scale against the Sunni minority community after the al-Askariya, or Golden Mosque, in Samara was bombed on Feb. 22.

"Killings, kidnappings and torture remain widespread," the UN report said.

Further, "the reported number of civilian casualties continues on an upward trend." And, "the overwhelming number of casualties were reported in Baghdad."

This conclusion alone is of striking significance. In past national insurgencies and civil wars, if a national government could not maintain or regain effective control of its own capital, it was doomed. The current situation in Iraq is therefore far worse than it was in South Vietnam after the 1968 Tet Offensive of the Viet Cong was crushed by U.S. forces and by the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, or than the last years of the Algerian War of Independence, from 1959 through 1962, after the French Army regained control of the capital of the country from the FLN in the ferocious Battle of Algiers.

The new Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is currently a helpless and ineffectual figurehead more in its own capital than anywhere else. Real power throughout the Shiite majority regions of Iraq is held by the Shiite militias. And the longer the Israeli military drive against the Shiite Hezbollah, or Party of God, in Southern Lebanon continues, the greater is the danger that the Shiite militias in Iraq will turn on U.S. forces in their country as Israel's protector and one great ally.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Wednesday denounced the Israeli attacks on Lebanon, marking a sharp break with U.S. President Georgh W. Bush.

"The Israeli attacks and air strikes are completely destroying Lebanon's infrastructure," Maliki said at a news conference inside Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, which is about as far as his writ runs -- thanks only to the U.S. armed forces -- in his own capital.

"I condemn these aggressions and call on the Arab League foreign ministers' meeting in Cairo to take quick action to stop these aggressions. We call on the world to take quick stands to stop the Israeli aggression," Maliki said.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, obviously embarrassed by Maliki's statement, did not respond to it.

And on Sunday, Iraq's new 275-member parliament issued a statement calling the Israeli strikes an act of "criminal aggression."

Baghdad is not far from the ruins of ancient Babylon -- proudly restored by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. And it was there that the Biblical Book of Daniel reported the story of the miraculous "Writing on the Wall" that warned ancient Babylonian King Belshazzar of his coming doom. It was a message reminiscent of the disastrous failure of U.S. policies in Iraq over the past three years: "Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting."

Source: United Press International

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Casualties Creep Up In Iraq
Washington (UPI) Jul 21, 2006
The grim paradox we noted in previous Iraq Benchmarks column continues. The rate at which U.S. troops are being killed in Iraq remain relatively low.

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