Monday, November 27, 2006

Baghdad collapses in violence; US troops keep out of sight

Yesterday, Sunday November 26, was really the day. Please read what Baghdad bloggers at Healing Iraq report was going on around them, and what was on the message boards from other Baghdad neighborhoods. Al-Quds al-Arabi reports on mortar attacks on residential areas; on bodies piling up at the morgue with people unable to come for them on account of the curfew that continued until 6:00 am today (Monday); on expectations for further escalation once this is lifted. Reuters, for its part, quotes "experts" from all over to the effect the situation is completely out of control and the state has collapsed.

US troops kept mostly out of sight, says the Al-Quds al-Arabi report, or limited themselves to observing the events. (US army said three of its soldiers were killed in Baghdad, but gave no details).

There appear to be no further plans for any measures at the Green Zone political-coalitions level to try and stem the violence, al-Quds al-Arabi added.

Aswat al-Iraq, an independent news agency, says schools, universities and government offices opened on Monday morning, and attendance by students and government officials was "moderate". The agency said traffic was moving on the streets and there was a degree of congestion. There were still no newspapers available on the street, since the curfew had continued through Sunday evening. The online editions of Azzaman, Al-Mada and New Sabah weren't updated through Sunday.

Meanwhile, in America, the NYT goes dark on Baghdad, following its brilliant analytical pieces of the last few days. Washington Post leads its web edition this morning with this: "How the President can beat the Mid-term Blues".

By 8:30 PM Baghdad time on Monday, the Iraqi newspaper Al-Mada had posted its Tuesday edition on its website, assuring readers that "life returned to normal yesterday Monday, after several days of curfew imposed on account of destructive attacks across many districts of the capital, not the least of them Sadr City, where there were 400 victims, including the martyred and the injured. Eyewitnesses said traffic in Baghdad (on Monday) was limited, and there were rumors among the citizens of a new curfew, which forced the government to issue an announcement denying [any new curfew] at noon yesterday".

Al-Mada added that President Talabani talked about recent meetings among political groups to work toward fending off any threat of fitna, and "to renew the commitment to work within the unified national government of Prime Minister Maliki".

The latter comment was in response to renewed calls for the Sunni parties to withdraw from the government. One such appeal was the subject of the lead editorial in the Monday edition of the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi.

The Al-Quds al-Arabi editorialist said the original decision by the Sunni parties to join in the political process had been "mistaken and catastrophic", because it had lent an appearance of legitimacy to the "sectarian government" of Maliki, who has monopolized decision-making and encouraged its militias in the direction of sectarian killings and the formation of death squads. The writer says while the Sunni parties criticized Zarqawi and others and were still condemned, nothing was ever done or said about the sectarian killings on the other side.

The Al-Quds editorialist added that primary responsibility for the situation rests with the occupying force, which on Sunday "took the position of bystander", but the Maliki government shares equally the responsibility. He said Iraq needs to be freed not only from the occupation, but from "those who came to government on the backs of the tanks, and set the bad example of killings and destruction..." (Worth noting that "those who came with the tanks", meaning with the American invasion in 2003, would include SCIRI and the Badr organization, but wouldn't include Moqtada al-Sadr).