Ten days after President George Bush clasped his hand as a symbol of America's hopes in Iraq, the man who led the US-supported revolt of Sunni sheikhs against al-Qa'ida in Iraq was assassinated.
Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha and two of his bodyguards were killed either by a roadside bomb or by explosives placed in his car by a guard, near to his home in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, the Iraqi province held up by the American political and military leadership as a model for the rest of Iraq.
His killing is a serious blow to President Bush and the US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, who have both portrayed the US success in Anbar, once the heart of the Sunni rebellion against US forces, as a sign that victory was attainable across Iraq.
On Monday General Petraeus told the US Congress that Anbar province was "a model of what happens when local leaders and citizens decide to oppose al-Qa'ida and reject its Taliban-like ideology".
But yesterday's assassination underlines that Iraqis in Anbar and elsewhere who closely ally themselves with the US are in danger of being killed. "It shows al-Qa'ida in Iraq remains a very dangerous and barbaric enemy," General Petraeus said in reaction to the killing. But Abu Risha might equally have been killed by the many non al-Qa'ida insurgent groups in Anbar who saw him as betraying them.
The above is from Patrick Cockburn's "An assassination that blows apart Bush's hopes of pacifying Iraq" (Independent of London). If you missed it, earlier this week Cockburn reported on the bragging David Petraeus had done about wanting to become president. (Of the United States, not Iraq.) And Kim Sengupta (Independent of London) reports on some reactions in Anbar:
But messages were being posted on international jihadist websites exulting at the end of "the traitor and apostate". One called him "one of the biggest pigs of the Crusaders".
The killing took place on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, and on the eve of the first anniversary of the founding of the Anbar Salvation Council, a tribal alliance led by the sheikh, which had been battling al-Qa'ida fighters in the western province with some success. Last night Anbar was under a state of emergency with the routes to Jordan and Syria closed down and US reinforcement on standby to be airlifted to the area.
The attack on the sheikh was followed by a car bombing in Baghdad, the first in the Iraqi capital for more than a week, killing four people and injuring 12 others, leading to fears of an escalation of violence during Ramadan, which has become the norm in Iraq.
Reuters notes a house guard "of a senior army officer in central Hilla" was shot dead (another injured), a woman was shot dead in Hawija with her daughter in injured in the attack and, in Balad, the corpses "of a police officer and a local judge" were discovered. In addition, Reuters reports a truck bombing in Baijia where "at least seven" police officers are dead though one official says the death toll is ten police officers.
And remember, on PBS' NOW with David Brancaccio: this week (Friday's on most PBS stations), the program expands to an hour for a special look at the Third Infantry's First Brigade which is on it's third deployment to Iraq. A preview is posted at YouTube. The earlier broadcast of interviewing the Third Infantry's First Brigade can be found here. And NOW is offering an online exclusive of interviews with members of the Third Infantry and their spouses.
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