Monday, March 13, 2006

The lagging presidency

It is a little disturbing that it takes President Bush several weeks to comeptently (at least in public) address a problem. The latest "oh yeah" speech:
Having Iraqi forces in the lead has been critical to preventing violence from spinning out of control. For example, on the day of the Samarra bombing, the Iraqi national police responded to an armed demonstration in an area immediately adjacent to Sadr City -- where an angry Shia crowd had surrounded the Sunni Al Quds Mosque. The Iraqi Brigade Commander placed his troops -- who were largely Shia -- between the crowd and the mosque, and talked to the crowd using megaphones, and calling for calm and urging them to disperse. After a two-hour standoff, the crowd eventually left without incident -- and the national police remained in position overnight to guard the Mosque until the threat was over. The fact that Iraqis were in the lead and negotiating with their own countrymen helped diffuse a potential confrontation -- and prevented an escalation of violence.

In another Baghdad neighborhood, a similar situation unfolded: a group of armed militia members had gone in and occupied the Al Nida Mosque. An Iraqi Army brigade quickly arrived on the scene -- and the Brigade Commander negotiated with the group and secured their peaceful departure. Once again, because Iraqi forces spoke their language and understood the culture, they were able to convince the Iraqi militia to leave peacefully.

Not all Iraqi units performed as well as others -- and there were some reports of Iraqi units in Eastern Baghdad allowing militia members to pass through checkpoints. But American commanders are closely watching the situation, and they report these incidents appear to be the exception, not the rule. In the weeks since the bombing, the Iraqi security forces turned in a strong performance. From the outset, Iraqi forces understood that if they failed to stand for national unity, the country would slip into anarchy. And so they have stood their ground, and defended their democracy, and brought their nation through one of its most difficult moments since liberation.
In other Iraq news...

Radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr has appealed for calm among Iraqi Shias following bomb attacks in Baghdad which killed about 50 people on Sunday.
Mr Sadr said Iraq was now in a state of civil war, but he said he would order his Mehdi army militia not to respond.

The bombings destroyed street markets in the slum district of Sadr City which is a stronghold of Sadr supporters.

He said US-led forces were responsible for letting the attacks happen but the government should maintain security.
The New York Times:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 13 — Shiite vigilantes seized four men suspected of terrorist attacks, interrogated them, beat them, executed them and left their bodies hanging from lampposts in a Shiite slum today, according to witnesses and government officials.

The graphic display of street justice was the first response to a coordinated attack on Sunday evening that killed more than 50 civilians in a Shiite market, and it seemed to only add to the seeping sense of lawlessness.
Monsters and Critics:
Iraqi Interior Minister Bajan Bakr Solagh made fun of security firm staff abducted last week in Baghdad in remarks Sunday, saying they had allowed themselves to be led off like sheep, 'even though they work for a security company and have state-of-the-art weapons available at the firm's site'.

Only 22 bodyguards were abducted contrary to media reports that said 50 hostages were taken hostage during the raid on the headquarters of the Iraqi company, Al-Rawafid, Solagh said.

So far, there has been no trace of the bodyguards who were abducted by men wearing interior ministry uniforms.

The ministry had earlier denied any involvment in the abduction. Solagh said Sunday that several so-called 'security companies' had had their licenses withdrawn after it emerged that they were not in fact security companies, but 'involved in terrorism.'

A brother of the owner of Al-Rawafid said government officials had told him the bodyguards were in a detention centre in Baghdad and were being interrogated presently, the daily al-Sharq al-Awsat quoted him as saying.


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