a) guerrillas in Iraq are able to keep the number of attacks at about 60 a day and
b) that the proportion of fighters that is foreign jihadis has increased somewhat in the past few months.
(The proportion seems to have been about 5 percent through last fall). The CIA is worried that the jihadis are getting training in Iraq that will allow them to contribute to destabilizing the Middle East and might impel them to attack the United States, as the veterans of the Reagan Afghanistan Jihad did.
By the way, if there are 60 attacks a day, why do I only read about 7 or 8 of them?
A different kind of violence, social violence, broke out on Sunday. About 50 building guards demonstrated outside the ministry of Science and Technology, protesting that they had not been paid their salaries in full. Bodyguards for the minister, Rashad Mandan Omar, shot into the crowd and killed one.
Generally, I'd say you want to avoid killing the people who guard your building if you are a cabinet minister in Iraq (many ministers have had assassination attempts on their lives). In fact, I'd say if you made sure anyone was paid, it should be the guards outside your building. (Does this mean the Iraqi government is broke, having been badly hurt by oil pipeline sabotage?)
This incident shows how horrible and jumpy the atmosphere is in Iraq.
Guerrillas killed 16 persons in Iraq on Sunday, including three members of the Badr Corps in a drive-by shooting at Baquba. The Badr Corps is the paramilitary of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a Shiite party that is one of two big winners in the recent parliamentary elections. Badr itself ran on the United Iraqi Alliance slate as a political party, the Badr Organization.
Since SCIRI won the recent elections, it has been talking about integrating Badr into the Iraqi police and military, and about purging the police, army and secret police of Baath sympathizers and ex-Baathists. The US may be getting used to cooperating with Badr (early on they tried to close it down but failed), since it clearly is going to be a factor in the new Iraq. My guess is that Badr is providing some of the good intelligence that has allowed a number of successful operations against Sunni guerrillas, and that this assassination was payback.
There was also significant violence in Basra in the far south, and in Tel Afar in the Turkmen north, Dhuluiyyah and Balad, mostly attacks by guerrillas on police and Iraqi military.
There seems little likelihood of a government being formed before the beginning of April. Two sticking points in the negotiations are the role of Islam in the new government and who gets the ministry of petroleum. The Kurds want it, as a way of getting hold of the city of Kirkuk, which they covet. The Shiites want it, because they have the huge Rumaila oil field in the south. In fact, there have been several demonstrations in Basra recently by the Rumaila oil rig workers demanding that the post go to a Shiite from the deep south. The director of the South Oil Co., which is theoretically government-owned, appears to just be doing as he pleases down in Basra without much consulting the "government" in Baghdad.
CBC reports that, "Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, who heads the Alliance, recently told an Iraqi TV station that "we will continue to work according to the directions and the advice of the religious authority," a transcript shows."
CBC adds, "Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of the Shias and organizer of the Alliance, told a UN official on Sunday that he was not going to become involved in politics – except in crises."
So Abdul Aziz will be consulting Sistani regularly, but Sistani will only directly intervene if he feels a crisi has developed. As I have mentioned before, this role for Sistani sounds somewhat like that of a king in a contemporary Western constitutional monarchy.
Anthony Shadid of the Washington Post profiles SCIRI preacher Jalal al-Din Saghir of the Baratha Mosque in Baghdad. Shadid finds him full of a rhetoric of excess, a black and white view of the world, and a Shiite triumphalism that scares the Sunnis.
It was Saghir's election to parliament, as part of the United Iraqi Alliance slate, that Americans got all happy and excited about last January 30.
Richard Ingram on the current role of the British Army in the south of Iraq::
"According to Ms Philp, the town of Basra is today controlled by fanatical religious militias which disapprove of things like picnics. So what has happened to the British army which, we thought, was in charge? When one of the students appealed for help at the British military base he was told to 'go to the Iraqi authorities'. From this account, it appears that our army is confined to barracks waiting to be told what to do by a government that doesn't exist. That probably suits Mr Blair, as the last thing he wants is more British casualties hitting the headlines. But one wonders what the army thinks about it. "
©informed consent/juan cole