Easter’s Ending

March 26, 2008

Just at dawn on Christianity’s most-holy day, rockets and mortor rounds slammed into Baghdad’s Green Zone. Time for the biggest blunder in history to begin its horrific draw down.

The attack seemed to spark violent incidents all across Iraq, like a disjointed, ragged shock wave, although at first view might appear un-related: A suicide bomber at a police station in Mosul, leaving at least 17 dead; a couple of gunmen at a Baghdad bus stop, shooting a bunch of people, killing six or seven; a dozen bodies found south of the city; fierce Shiite on Shiite fighting in Basra, stoked by Sunni insurgents with Iraqi security forces trying to regain overall control; and so it went.
Maybe the daily carnage produced by more-than-five years of fighting had made the horror of Iraq routine — Easter Sunday’s barrage festered a curveball of difference.

Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al Sadr has been one of our favorite Iraqi peoples here at Compatible Creatures. Muqtada looks like Jack Black’s alter ego. In and out of the news since day one, he and his Mahdi militia carry a significant load in Iraq’s power balance.
Although Shia like Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Muqtada has a history of problems with authority. 

In 2004, the US and the Mahdi army fought to a tactical draw, but last year after operations by US and Iraq security forces in and around Sadr City in south Baghdad almost touched off a war, Muqtada declared a six-month ceasefire, which expired a few days ago. He briefly reinstated it, though, this time the plan didn’t catch.
A major reason some aspects of Iraq violence has downturned the past few months has been Mutqtada’s desire for quiet –coupled also with the horrific fact the initial, intense slaughter between Shiite and Sunni to clean neighborhoods had slowly exhausted itself. 
Muqtada’s draw-down allowed the view of seemingly less violence, and thusly, Decider George’s famous “surge” has been a critical success. Just ask Jackboot John McCain.

BAGHDAD — A cease-fire critical to the improved security situation in Iraq appeared to unravel Monday when a militia loyal to radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al Sadr began shutting down neighborhoods in west Baghdad and issuing demands of the central government.
Simultaneously, in the strategic southern port city of Basra, where Sadr’s Mahdi militia is in control, the Iraqi government launched a crackdown in the face of warnings by Sadr’s followers that they’ll fight government forces if any Sadrists are detained. By 1 a.m. Arab satellite news channels reported clashes between the Mahdi Army and police in Basra.
As Shiite violence rises, U.S. troop deaths also appear to be rising in places such as Baghdad, where the American military is thinning out its presence as part of its drawdown of five brigades.
Attacks against civilians in the capital are rising, according to statistics compiled by McClatchy. Next week, the U.S. will finish pulling out the second of five surge brigades. As part of the drawdown, the military has moved battalions out of Baghdad toward more violent areas such as the northern city of Mosul and Iraq’s northeastern Diyala province.
As the troop presence has shifted, so has the violence. For the first time since January, a majority of U.S. troops were killed in Baghdad, not in outlying northern provinces. Indeed, the U.S. military reached the death of its 4,000th soldier in Iraq on Sunday, when four U.S. soldiers were killed in southern Baghdad.
So far, this month, 27 soldiers have been killed in Iraq. Of those, 16, or 59 percent, died in Baghdad. In January, 25 percent of U.S. deaths happened in Baghdad, or 10 of 40.
Civilian casualties in Baghdad are also on the rise, according to a McClatchy count. After a record low through November, when at least 76 people were killed and 306 were injured, the deaths began to rise. In December, it crept up to 88 people killed, in January 100 and in February 172. As of March 24, at least 149 people were killed and 448 were injured.

McClatchy Newspapers, (3/24/08)

And also from all over two days later:

Clashing occurred in the Baghdad suburb of Sadr City as well, but no casualty figures were released until today. At least 14 were killed there and another 140 were wounded over the last two days. This poor section of the capital is named for al-Sadr’s father, but was formerly known as Saddam City.
In Baghdad itself, shelling killed five people and wounded 21 others in the Karrada district. In Risala, four people were killed and 12 more were wounded during mortar attacks. Battles involving the Mahdi Army left two dead in Shabb and one in Kadhimiya. Also, three US citizens were injured during a mortar attack on the Green Zone; at least one Iraqi civilian was killed and one other was wounded as well. Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces killed two suspects and arrested 64 others during routine operations.

antiwar.com, Roundup, (3/26/08)

 Not to worry, folks, it’s only going to get worse.

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