Sunday, February 04, 2007

Last Throes

The news from Iraq is very bad:

BAGHDAD (AP) — Stunned Iraqis loaded coffins onto minivans and picked through the rubble of buildings Sunday after a suicide truck bomber obliterated a Baghdad market in a mainly Shiite area, killing at least 132 people in the deadliest single strike by a suicide bomber since the war started.

The explosion Saturday was fifth major bombing in less than a month targeting predominantly Shiite districts in Baghdad and the southern Shiite city of Hillah. It also was the worst in the capital since a series of car bombs and mortars killed at least 215 people in the Shiite district of Sadr City on Nov. 23.


The bombing came just days before American and Iraqi forces were expected to start an all-out assault on Sunni and Shiite gunmen and bombers in the capital.


Suspicion fell on Sunni insurgents — al-Qaeda in Iraq and allied groups in particular. The militant bombers are believed to have stepped up their campaign against Shiites in the final days before the joint U.S.-Iraqi crackdown in Baghdad. Many saw the operation as a last-chance effort to clamp off violence that has turned the capital into a sectarian battleground.


Suspected Sunni attackers have appeared emboldened in recent weeks after radical anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, under pressure from fellow Shiites who dominate the government, ordered the thousands of gunmen in his Mahdi Army militia to avoid American attacks in the coming assault.


The U.S. military reported the deaths of five more soldiers — four in fighting and one of an apparent heart attack. All died Friday.

Iraqi authorities said that 145 people were killed or were found dead Saturday, including those killed in the market bombing. Of the total, 19 were found dumped in the capital, most of the bodies showing signs of torture.

A mess - notice that the preznut's surge plan has actually led to an increase in violence so far in Baghdad as Sunni insurgents feel "emboldened" to increase attacks on Shiites after Sadr ordered his Shiite Mahdi Army to stand down during the U.S. troop surge.

I'm sure once the additional American troops show up in the capital, the Sunni insurgent violence will decrease again, but I seriously doubt the additional hostility and hatred that has been stoked among Shiites Mahdi Army types will - which means even more violence in the long run.

UPDATE: Mike at Crest thinks the increased Sunni insurgent violence in the lead-up to the American troop surge is a deliberate strategy to put the standing down Mahdi Army and Moqtada al-Sadr in a "political bind":

The Maliki government is trying to construct this new security operation in such a way as to leave the Mahdi Army intact while degrading his/their Sunni factional opponents. In the interim, Sadr and Mahdi have agreed to "go quiet," leaving them with a substantially lower presence on the street.

The key to this is that Sadr/Mahdi have risen to prominence specifically because they are perceived as offering protection for the Shia civilians against their Sunni attackers.

By conducting these horrific attacks, one of them in Sadr City itself, the Sunnis have placed Sadr/Mahdi in a major political bind.

Do they lose their main cause of support by not returning to the streets?

Or do they return to the streets to protect their people increasing the probability of conflict with the US and greatly complicating Maliki's one sided implementation of the security plan?

Terrorism is a "tipping point" strategy. It is intended to force an alteration of decisions or policy through the use of horror. That's its sole use.

The violence in Iraq, at least that conducted by the large groups, is not random. It is conducted to achieve specific purposes, and in this case, the goal appears to be to complicate Maliki's plan to use the US to fight the Sunnis for him.

Mike's theory sounds a lot more accurate than the administration's line that "The insurgents are in their last throes and trying to get their last licks in before the American troop surge brings them some Bush-style justice."

Unfortunately Bush and Cheney are calling the shots, not Mike from Crest. Frankly, I think Mike would do a much better job.

Whipping Up A Frenzy

Foreigners Face Saudi Lashing for Party


RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (Feb. 4) - A Saudi Arabian judge sentenced 20 foreigners to receive lashes and spend several months in prison after convicting them of attending a party where alcohol was served and men and women danced, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The defendants were among 433 foreigners, including some 240 women, arrested by the kingdom's religious police for attending the party in Jiddah, the state-guided newspaper Okaz said. It did not identify the foreigners, give their nationalities or say when the party took place.

Judge Saud al-Boushi sentenced the 20 to prison terms of three to four months and ordered them to receive an unspecified number of lashes, the newspaper said. They have the right to appeal, it added.

The prosecutor general charged the 20 with "drinking, arranging for impudent party, mixed dancing and shooting a video for the party," Okaz said.

The paper said the rest of those arrested were awaiting trial.

Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of Islam under which it bans alcohol and meetings between unrelated men and women.

The religious police, a force resented by many Saudis for interfering in personal lives, enjoys wide powers. Its officers roam malls, markets, universities and other public places looking for such infractions as unrelated men and women mingling, men skipping Islam's five daily prayers and women with strands of hair showing from under their veil.

In May, the Interior Ministry restricted the powers of the religious police to just arresting suspects, because the police sometimes had held people incommunicado and insisted on taking part in ensuing investigations.
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