Iraq: bomb blast greets new government

This sort of thing has become so common in Iraq that it rarely makes headlines any more. But this one inconveniently happened just as a break has been announced in the deadlock over forming a new government. This obvious escalation contradicts Bush’s facile claim that the US “strategy is working.” On the contrary, the war is spreading. From Bloomberg, May 9:

At least 17 civilians, including women and children, were killed late today by a suicide truck bombing in Tal Afar, a northwestern Iraqi city, according to President Jalal Talabani’s Kurdish political party.

At least 35 others, most of whom were women and children, were wounded after a white pickup truck carrying flour exploded about 8:30 p.m. in the city’s marketplace, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan said on its Arabic-language Web site. The perpetrators have not been identified.

The violence came in a city that President George W. Bush has cited as an example of progress in fighting rebels in Iraq.

Bush in March said his confidence in his Iraq strategy stemmed from the success that U.S. and Iraqi personnel have had in Tal Afar, a city of about 290,000 people. The city was a staging ground for insurgents until the U.S. began an offensive in September that stabilized the city “block by block,” and allowed people to resume their daily lives, Bush said.

“It took time to understand and adjust to the brutality of the enemy in Iraq,” Bush told the City Club of Cleveland on March 20. “Yet the strategy is working.”

Bush’s job approval rating fell to a record low of 31 percent in a USA Today/Gallup poll released yesterday. The survey, carried out May 5-7, offered no details on which issues hurt Bush the most. Other public opinion polls show that dissatisfaction over the war in Iraq, along with concern about rising gasoline and health care costs, have sapped Bush’s popularity.

One U.S. soldier was killed and another was wounded in Tal Afar on May 7 as they helped Iraqi security forces clear a building from which gunmen were firing at civilians and Iraqi and coalition troops, the U.S. military said in a statement.

On April 12, a car bomb in Tal Afar killed three Iraqi civilians and wounded seven, the Kurdish Web site reported at the time.

Note that the heroic Iraqi “resistance” are blowing up civilians at markets, not US occupation troops or collaborationist politicians—a reality to which followers of Ramsey Clark (referenced below) are blithely oblivious. (They can be just as dense as Bush.) This piece of official optimism from VOA, with the gruelling violence a mere afterthought:

Iraq’s Prime Minister-designate, Nouri al-Maliki, says he expects to present a new government to parliament in the coming days. The latest political negotiations come against a backdrop of new violence, with at least 17 people killed Tuesday in a car bomb explosion in the northwestern city of Tal Afar.

Mr. Al-Maliki said Tuesday that the major hurdles to forming a new government have been overcome, and he expects the new Cabinet would be finalized this week, possibly as soon as Wednesday or Thursday.

He says political leaders from the country’s main Shi’ite, Kurdish and Sunni Arab blocs have completed nominations for the main posts, and that just a few ministries remain to be decided. He did not name any candidates, saying he would announce the entire Cabinet together.

However, it appears no agreement has been reached yet on who would head two of the most important ministries, oil and defense. Both ministries are crucial to bringing stability and economic recovery to Iraq.

Under a constitutional deadline, Mr. al-Maliki has until May 22 to present a Cabinet to parliament.

Meanwhile, the violence continues. Police in the northern town of Tal Afar say a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-filled vehicle at a market Tuesday evening killing and wounding dozens of people.

In Baghdad, and in several other central Iraqi towns, police found the bodies of at least a dozen Iraqis, including a 10-year-old boy and three decapitated Iraqi soldiers. U.S. military officials announced the death of an American soldier who they say was killed Monday in Baghdad.

In other developments, Ramsey Clark, the former U.S. Attorney General who is one of Saddam Hussein’s defense attorneys, told reporters in Washington that the make up of the Iraqi Special Tribunal guarantees that Saddam and his co-defendants cannot get a fair trial.

“All the judges are Kurds, or if they are Arabs they are Shia,” he noted. “The defendants, with an exception or two, are all Sunni. It is a sectarian persecution if you will.”

Clark says the trial has contributed to sectarian violence, and that executing Saddam and other former Sunni Arab leaders would only lead to more sectarian troubles.

Also note that while the US apparently succeeded in getting Ibrahim al-Jaafari to step down as prime minister, his replacement Nouri al-Maliki is from the same Shi’ite fundamentalist fac tion, the Dawa Party. As we noted in June 2004:

The Dawa group was founded by Muhammed Baqir al-Sadr, a legendary Shi’ite dissident executed by Saddam in 1980 (and a relative of Moqtada al-Sadr). It initially opposed the US invasion, but has also since been cooperating with the occupation and Governing Council.

For more on the family relation between the Dawa Party and Moktada al-Sadr, see WW4 REPORT #94. We also recently noted that the rival radical Shi’ite factions are showing signs of uniting—against the US. This has been increasingly obvious since these factions came together for the parliamentary elections in December.

In other words, the US is not effectively losing control even of the official government in Iraq to radical Shi’ites—which is why war on Iran is increasingly inevitable.

See our last posts on Iraq and the trial of Saddam Hussein.