[Marxism] A turn against the Shi'ites?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Aug 8 07:43:07 MDT 2007


NY Times, August 8, 2007
U.S. Says Bomb Suppled by Iran Kills Troops in Iraq
By MICHAEL R. GORDON

BAGHDAD, Aug. 7 — Attacks on American-led forces using a lethal type of 
roadside bomb said to be supplied by Iran reached a new high in July, 
according to the American military.

The devices, known as explosively formed penetrators, were used to carry 
out 99 attacks last month and accounted for a third of the combat deaths 
suffered by the American-led forces, according to American military 
officials.

“July was an all-time high,” Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the No. 2 
commander in Iraq, said in an interview, referring to strikes with such 
devices.

Such bombs, which fire a semi-molten copper slug that can penetrate the 
armor on a Humvee and are among the deadliest weapons used against 
American forces, are used almost exclusively by Shiite militants. 
American intelligence officials have presented evidence that the weapons 
come from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran, although Tehran 
has repeatedly denied providing lethal assistance to Iraqi groups.

In recent weeks, the American military has focused on mounting 
operations in sanctuaries used by Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a Sunni group 
that is predominately made up of Iraqis but has foreign leadership. But, 
as the information provided by General Odierno shows, Shiite militias 
remain a major long-term worry.

In focusing on Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the American goal is to reduce 
the number of car bombings and spectacular suicide attacks that have 
aggravated sectarian tensions, encouraged Shiite retaliation and 
undermined efforts at political reconciliation.

While the group is seen by the American military as the most serious 
near-term threat, there are other signs that Shiite militias remain 
active. According to General Odierno, the day-to-day commander of 
American troops in Iraq, Shiite militants carried out 73 percent of the 
attacks that killed or wounded American troops in Baghdad in July.

Though explosively formed penetrators account for a small fraction of 
roadside bomb attacks in Iraq, they cause a disproportionately large 
number of casualties.

Of the 69 members of the American-led forces killed in action in July, 
the lowest toll in months, 23 died as a result of attacks with the 
devices, according to data supplied by General Odierno’s command. Of the 
614 allied troops who were wounded that month, 89 were hit in penetrator 
attacks.

Penetrator attacks have been a worry for years. In 2005, the United 
States sent a private diplomatic protest to Tehran complaining that its 
Revolutionary Guards and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah had been training 
Iraqi Shiite insurgents in Iran and providing them with bomb-making 
equipment.

American intelligence says that its report of Iranian involvement is 
based on a technical analysis of exploded and captured devices, 
interrogations of Shiite militants, the interdiction of trucks near 
Iran’s border with Iraq and parallels between the use of the weapons in 
Iran and in southern Lebanon by Hezbollah.

Some critics of Bush administration policy, saying there is no proof 
that the top echelons of Iran’s government are involved, accuse the 
White House of exaggerating the role of Iran and Syria to divert 
attention from its own mistakes.

According to American military data, penetrator attacks accounted for 18 
percent of combat deaths of Americans and allied troops in Iraq in the 
last quarter of 2006. The number of such attacks declined in January, 
and some American officials thought at that time that this might be a 
response to their efforts to publicly highlight the allegations of an 
Iranian role.

But in recent months such attacks have risen steadily.

The July figure is roughly double the number for January. The total for 
July is also 50 percent higher than in April, when there were 65 
penetrator attacks, according to American military officials.

Many of the penetrators faced by American forces are difficult to 
counter. Because they fire from the side of the road, the militants do 
not need to dig a hole to plant them, making them well suited for urban 
use. Because they are set off by a passive infrared sensor, they cannot 
be thwarted by electronic jamming.

General Odierno said Iran was increasing its support to Shiite militants 
in Iraq to step up the military pressure on the United States at a time 
when the Congress is debating whether to withdraw American troops.

“I think it is because the Iranians are surging support to the special 
groups,” he said, referring to the American name for Iranian-backed 
cells here. “Over the last three to four months, it has picked up in 
terms of equipment, training and dollars.”

“I think they want to influence the decision potentially coming up in 
September,” he added.

General Odierno said Iranians had also provided Shiite groups with 
107-millimeter rockets and the launchers for firing them, as well as 
122-millimeter mortars.

American forces, he said, recently thwarted an attack at a military base 
used by forces from the Third Infantry Division. Fifty launchers 
equipped with rockets were discovered within range of the facility and 
struck by allied aircraft. Serial numbers taken from the rocket 
launchers, he said, indicated that they were made in Iran.

Iranian and American diplomats held talks in Baghdad on Monday on 
security in Iraq. Ryan C. Crocker, the American envoy in Iraq who led 
the discussions for the United States, said there had been “an 
escalation, not a de-escalation” of Iran’s support for militias in Iraq 
since an earlier May meeting.

The Iranians, Mr. Crocker added, maintained their position that they had 
“absolutely nothing to do with” the attacks.

===

NY Times, U.S.: Raids Kills 32 in Baghdad

By KIM GAMEL
The Associated Press
Wednesday, August 8, 2007; 8:32 AM

BAGHDAD -- U.S.-led forces swooped into the Shiite militia stronghold of 
Sadr City on Wednesday, killing 32 suspected militants and detaining 12 
others in fighting and an airstrike targeting alleged smuggling networks 
from Iran.

Iraqi police and witnesses said nine civilians were killed in the 
attack, which occurred hours before Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki 
arrived in Tehran for his second visit in less than a year.

Iraq, which like Iran is majority Shiite, has managed a difficult 
balancing act between Tehran and Washington since the U.S.-led invasion 
in 2003, trying to maintain good relations with its powerful neighbor 
while not angering the Americans.

Iraqi authorities, meanwhile, clamped a three-day driving ban on the 
capital and erected new checkpoints as thousands of Shiite pilgrims 
began their annual trek toward a mosque in northern Baghdad to mark the 
anniversary of the death of one of Shiite Islam's key saints.

The military said the raid targeted fighters from breakaway factions of 
radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army who smuggle arms from 
Iran and facilitate the travel of Iraqi militants to Iran for training.

"The individuals detained and the terrorists killed during the raid are 
believed to be members of a cell of a special groups terrorist network 
known for facilitating the transport of weapons and explosively formed 
penetrators, or EFPs, from Iran to Iraq, as well as bringing militants 
from Iraq into Iran for terrorist training," the military said.

The statement said the main suspect in the raid was a liaison between 
Iraqi fighters and Iran's elite Quds Force, which is accused of arming 
and training the militants. Tehran has denied allegations that it is 
supporting the violence in Iraq.

The military account of the raid said U.S. and Iraqi ground forces came 
under sporadic small-arms fire as they targeted a group of buildings in 
Sadr City, the sprawling Shiite district in eastern Baghdad. The raiders 
killed two armed men believed to be lookouts, then detained 12 rogue 
militia fighters, the military said.

Attack helicopters and warplanes then struck after spotting a vehicle 
and a large group of armed men on foot who were trying to attack the 
ground forces. An estimated 30 militants were killed in the air attack, 
according to the statement.

The statement was issued after Iraqi police and witnesses in Sadr City 
said a bombardment by U.S. helicopters and armored vehicles killed nine 
civilians, including two women, and wounded six others. The police 
officer and witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they 
feared reprisals, also said 12 people were detained.

Men and young boys wept over wooden coffins covered with blankets before 
they were placed atop vehicles, while women shrouded in black blamed the 
Americans for attacking civilians.

It was one of the largest in a series of strikes against rogue Shiite 
militias, which U.S. commanders have said are responsible for an 
increasing number of attacks against American forces.

Al-Sadr agreed to pull his Mahdi Army fighters off the streets as a 
U.S.-Iraqi security crackdown began Feb. 14 in Baghdad and surrounding 
regions, but disaffected members of the Mahdi Army have broken away from 
al-Sadr control. Dissident members of the militia said they went to Iran 
for training and armaments and returned to Iraq to join the fight 
against U.S. and Iraqi troops.

Iraqi forces intensified security in the capital ahead of a major Shiite 
holiday.

On Thursday, more than 1 million Shiite faithful _ flogging themselves 
with iron chains and slicing their foreheads with swords _ are expected 
to march toward the shrine of Imam al-Kadhim in Baghdad's Shiite 
Kazimiyah neighborhood. The ritual of grief banned under Saddam Hussein, 
and some Iraqi officials say up to 4 million may show up.

First-aid tents stocked with coolers of bottled water or offering food, 
dates, yogurt and tea lined the streets as authorities scrambled to 
prevent a catastrophe from marring the ceremonies honoring Imam Moussa 
ibn Jaafar al-Kadhim, one of 12 principal Shiite saints who died in the 
year 799.

Sunni insurgents often target such religious gatherings. In 2005, the 
march was hit by tragedy when thousands of Shiite pilgrims, panicked by 
rumors of a suicide bomber, broke into a stampede on a bridge. About 
1,000 people died.

The top U.S. ground commander in the area, Task Force Justice leader Lt. 
Col. Steve Miska, said hundreds of additional Iraqi security forces had 
been deployed in Kazimiyah, but that American troops would stay away 
from the shrine out of religious sensitivity.

"There's paranoia surrounding this shrine. If anything happened here, 
it'd make the Golden Dome look like a precursor," Miska said, referring 
to the al-Qaida bombing of Samarra's Askariya shrine, which destroyed 
the mosque's golden dome and set off a wave of sectarian bloodletting.

Baghdad residents awoke to find themselves facing a vehicle ban earlier 
than expected.

Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, the Iraqi military spokesman, announced a 
curfew banning all cars, trucks, motorcycles and carts from moving on 
city streets that had been slated to begin at 10 p.m. Wednesday would 
begin 5 a.m. instead. It was to last until 5 a.m. Saturday.

Pilgrims wearing traditional white frocks and women shrouded in black 
and waving green Shiite flags walked from all points of the capital 
toward the golden-domed mosque where al-Kadhim is believed to be buried 
in the northern neighborhood of Kazimiyah. Many men wore wet towels on 
their heads for relief from the heat.

Iraqi military vehicles played religious songs on loudspeakers. Security 
forces frisked men and searched women's bags while offering them water.

Talib Madhloom, a retired 53-year-old teacher who was making his way 
east to the shrine, said it was important to honor al-Kadhim despite the 
heat and security concerns.

"We get bravery, courage and patience from the martyrdom of Imam Moussa 
al-Kadim," he said. "He was poisoned to death while he was unjustifiably 
imprisoned for 14 years and he was named for his self control over his 
anger."

An 11-year-old girl walking in central Baghdad held the hands of her two 
younger brothers as they walked to an Iraqi Red Crescent tent seeking 
water. "We came early in the morning from Rashid area. We are so tired," 
she said.

Um Mohammed, 50, crossed into Baghdad from the volatile Diyala province 
to the north.

"All Diyala people came on foot after conducting dawn prayers this 
morning. The road was packed with walking people from Diyala," she said. 
"I came with my daughters and daughters-in-law. I could not walk as fast 
as they did, so I told them to go ahead of me. My knees could not hold 
me anymore, so I had to sit dawn every now and then."

By morning, some 1,500 pilgrims had already passed through one of 
several checkpoints into the area, according to an Iraqi police 
lieutenant who identified himself only as Fadil because of security 
concerns.

___

Associated Press writers Sinan Salaheddin, Lauren Frayer and Bushra Juhi 
in Baghdad contributed to this report.




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