Gunmen ambushed a convoy on Thursday that was carrying the mayor of the sprawling Shiite area known as Sadr City, seriously wounding him and complicating American efforts to rein in a powerful Shiite militia there. The attack killed Lt. Col. Muhammad Motashar, the director of the Sadr City police station.
The mayor, Rahim al-Daraji, has led negotiations with the Americans over what to do about the militia, the Mahdi Army, which has rebelled twice against the Iraqi government and the American military.
He has lobbied the Americans to finance reconstruction projects that would bring jobs to his impoverished neighborhood, an approach American commanders say could help disarm the largely unemployed men in the Mahdi Army.
Mr. Daraji is a soft-spoken sheik whose office has been a regular stop for American military officers in Sadr City.
Early this month, American and Iraqi forces moved into Sadr City and have been trying to establish two garrisons there. Throughout Baghdad, American forces plan to operate out of 100 neighborhood garrisons in the next month as part of the new offensive to secure the city, the American commander in charge of Baghdad said Thursday.
The above is from Edward Wong and Damien Cave's "Attack on Sadr City Mayor Hinders Antimilitia Effort" in this morning's New York Times. And with more on the attack, Sadr City and al-Sadr, Martha notes Sudarsan Raghavan's "For U.S. and Sadr, Wary Cooperation" (Washington Post):
It is a tenuous cooperation that could collapse at any moment. U.S. troops walk a thin line between peace and war in Sadr City, a sprawling jumble of narrow streets, tan buildings and crowded markets. Each day tests the tolerance of Sadr and his fighters, who are widely believed to operate death squads. U.S. commanders concede that their troops may face isolated attacks.
"They are an occupation force. We refuse their presence totally," said Mohammad Abu Haider, a Mahdi Army commander who has battled Americans. "Their ultimate goal is to destroy the Sadr trend."
On Thursday, gunmen ambushed the convoy of Sadr City's mayor, Rahim al-Darraji, seriously wounding him and killing two of his bodyguards. Darraji, a Sadr appointee, has been negotiating with U.S. and Iraqi government officials over the role of U.S. troops in the security clampdown.
A few hours earlier, at a luncheon with Western journalists, Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr., the U.S. commander in charge of Baghdad, spoke about Darraji.
"We're in Sadr City, working closely with the mayor and it's been completely permissive. It's a collaboration," he said.
Publicly, Sadr has criticized the U.S. presence inside his stronghold. He is a fierce nationalist who has long demanded a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, and his authority derives in large part from his opposition to the occupation. But privately, he has ordered his militiamen to lie low no matter how much they are provoked by U.S. forces, according to interviews with Sadr representatives and fighters.
Vince wanted to note that there will be actions in Canada to note the four year mark of the illegal war and he highlights "Anti-war rally is tomorrow" (Brampton Guardian):
The Brampton Coalition for Peace and Justice (BCPJ) is co-organizing an anti-war rally tomorrow in Mississauga.
The rally, organized by the BCPJ and the Mississauga Coalition for Peace and Justice, will be held from 10 a.m. to noon at Hurontario and Dundas streets in the small square on the northeast corner (Revolution Square). Other groups such as the Barrie Peace Coalition and CUPE will join them. Community activists will speak at the rally, which will be followed by a short march. Slogans for the rally include: Troops Out of Iraq and Afghanistan, War Resisters Welcome Here, No Canada-U.S. Military Partnership, No to Islamophobia and Racism and Free Palestine
Saturday is the fourth anniversary of the US/UK invasion of Iraq, and anti-war activists will mark the day across Canada, led by the Canadian Peace Alliance.
Following the morning rally, bus transportation to Toronto will be provided to join a protest at the US consulate in Toronto, which starts at 1 p.m.
So that's a rally tomorrow, events from yesterday and with one of the should-be-big topics of today, Mike's father highlights Bryan Bender's "General seeks another brigade in Iraq" (Boston Globe):
The top US commander in Iraq has requested another Army brigade, in addition to five already on the way, as part of the controversial "surge" of American troops designed to clamp down on sectarian violence and insurgent groups, senior Pentagon officials said yesterday.
The appeal -- not yet made public -- by General David Petraeus for a combat aviation unit would involve between 2,500 and 3,000 more soldiers and dozens of transport helicopters and powerful gunships, said the Pentagon sources. That would bring the planned expansion of US forces to close to 30,000 troops.
News of the additional deployment comes about a week after President Bush announced that about 4,700 support troops will join the initial 21,500 he ordered in January. They are in addition to the estimated 130,000 troops already in Iraq.
"This is the next shoe to drop," said one senior Pentagon official closely involved in the war planning, who requested anonymity because of prohibitions against publicly discussing internal deliberations. "But you cannot put five combat brigades in there and not have more aviation guys, military police, and intelligence units."
The additional troops designated for the strategy are expected to be in Baghdad and western Anbar Province by May.
But even supporters of the stepped-up US commitment in Iraq criticized the Bush administration yesterday, saying it should have been more straightforward about how many troops the strategy might require.
So the escalation numbers continue to go up and there's shock/suprise that Bully Boy wasn't honest about the numbers from the beginning? Where have the shocked/surprised been for the last six years? The numbers have gone from a little over 20,000 to nearly 30,000. (And, for the record, most outlets report the number of nearly 140,000 for US troops in Iraq, not 130,000. AFP and Reuters were again using the nearly 140,000 in stories yesterday.) The American people said no to the escalation. The people's representatives, Congress, refused to hear, refused to back them up. (As a body, some individuals in Congress did speak out.) Consider it part of the usual White House marketing but also a test by the administration to see if this big talking Congress intended to actually do anything? (The answer appears to be, with regards to the illegal war, "no.")
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