There isn’t much to say but the number alone merits a post. Four different neighborhoods, including Sadr City, and all within a short period of time in vintage AQ style. The biggest attack was in the Shiite market at Sadriyah, where a car bomb killed 122 people; among the victims were construction workers rebuilding the market from the last time it was hit back in February. All in all, it’s the highest death toll since the start of the surge. Iraqi blogger Hammorabi surveys the scene and pronounces the new security plan a failure.
None of Maliki’s measures is as unpopular among Sadr’s supporters as this security offensive. Why, they ask, does our government join forces with the Americans to attack our own militia, the Mahdi Army, instead of putting an end to the terrorist attacks by the Sunni al-Qaida? This sentiment, shared by all Shiites, is especially prevalent among Sadr’s supporters, which points to a second, more powerful motive: Sadr himself put Maliki in power a year ago, his Mahdi Army serving essentially as a paramilitary wing for Maliki, a politician without a militia of his own.
Zeyad’s got his ear to the ground and reports rumors of death squads returning to the streets in Baghdad and elsewhere, with 67 bodies having officially been found on the streets of the capital in the past three days and possibly many more unofficially. That doesn’t mean the Mahdi Army’s responsible; in fact, word is that some of the victims are Sunnis targeted by AQ for their perceived collaboration with the government.
Meanwhile, some weirdness: until now the storyline has been that it’s the Sunnis who are split (between pro- and anti-AQ factions) and the Shiites who are, roughly speaking, united. Today, however, the news is that AQ is acting contrite towards the other Sunni insurgent groups and the Sadrists are starting to square off with SCIRI’s militia, the Badr Brigades:
But beyond the political jostling, analysts say, the ultimate fate of the Maliki government may depend on the outcome of the fight for power unfolding on the ground. “There is a real war going on between Shiites in Basra, Diwaniyah, Karbala, and Najaf, and it’s a mess,” says Jabar.
He says Sadr’s move Monday, as well as recent demonstrations, was simply a reaction to moves to dismantle his military capabilities, an effort being pursued cautiously by US forces, with the backing of Sadr’s nemesis Hakim, who controls his own paramilitary group, the Badr Brigades.
In fact, several sources confirm now that a national police unit loyal to Badr was drafted from the city of Hilla into the deadly battles in Diwaniyah earlier this month between elements of Sadr’s Mahdi Army and US and Iraqi forces.
I’ll leave you with a little good news. It’s something.
Update: Oh lord. Was it an inside job or is he just scapegoating someone?
An Iraqi army brigade commander was arrested Wednesday night after a string of bombings that killed more than 180 people around Baghdad, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s office announced.
A statement from al-Maliki’s office said the officer was removed because of “the weakness of security measures put in place to protect civilians in Sadriya,” the central Baghdad marketplace where more than 120 people died in a single bombing.
Update: Gen. Petraeus will be in D.C. next week to brief the Senate on the surge so the DoD offered to have him brief the House, too. No thanks, said Pelosi — an unusual response given how deeply interested the Democrats claim to be in the state of progress in Iraq, but maybe not so unusual considering his popularity and the fact that the left can’t/won’t attack a uniform at a hearing they way they can/will a cabinet member.
After Boehner attacked her, she relented. Petraeus will brief both chambers next week.