Friday, March 28, 2008

Basra assaulted now bombed

The British military admitted Thursday that some of its troops breached the human rights of an Iraqi man who died in custody and of eight other detained Iraqis.
The Ministry of Defense said it expects to negotiate compensation for the survivors of the dead man, Baha Mousa, and with the eight former detainees.
The nine were taken into custody as suspected insurgents, then were held in stress positions and deprived of sleep for about two days in extreme heat at a British army barracks near the southern Iraqi city of Basra in September 2003, prosecutors told a British military court.
Mousa, a 26-year-old hotel receptionist, died from asphyxia after soldiers restrained him following an escape attempt.

The above is from Robert Barr's "UK Admits Mistreating Iraqi Detainees" (AP). Turning to Basra, the New York Times does run Joao Silva's photo on the front page and while it's still a strong photograph, turning a wideshot into a close up doesn't really convey the same scope the original photo did. It's run on the front page with James Glanz and Steve Lee Myers' "Assault By Iraq On Shiite Forces Stalls In Basra" which notes the death toll to be at least 100 with 500 more injured and this:

An Iraqi employee of The New York Times, driving on the main road between Basra and Nasiriya, observed numerous civilian cars with coffins strapped to the roofs, apparently heading to Shiite cemetaries to the north.

The article also lists Baquba, Amara, Kirkuk, Kut and Hillar among the other cities where violence is ongoing thought to be in response to Nouri's assault. That would be the assault that was supposed to provide Nouri al-Maliki with a new image, it's not happening.

Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) underscores how al-Maliki has yet against set himself against the people of Iraq in his referring to those associated with al-Sadr was "criminal gangs". Leila Fadel (McClatchy) quotes Nouri insisting, "The government does not negotiate with a gang; the government does not sign understanding memorandums with outlaws." Not only has the assault increased al-Sadr's power, it's weakened al-Maliki's. This morning, James Glanz (New York Times) reported, "American officials have presented the Iraqi Army's attempts to secure the port city as an example of its ability to carry out a major operation against the insurgency on its own. A failure there would be a serious embarrassment for the Iraqi government and for the army, as well as for American forces eager to demonstrate that the Iraqi units they have trained can fight effectively on their own."

That was yesterday and, as Diana Ross once sang, "Every day is a new day." Today, Italy's AGI reports that
Nouri al-Maliki, puppet of the occupation, has now extended his 'deadline' (April 8th now and not Saturday) and Al Jazeera notes that he declared, "All those who have heavy and intermediate weapons are to deliver them to security sites and they will be rewarded financially."

A bit of a come down for the p.r. stunt that was supposed to shore up his weakening of support in the US. And when you've lost (and Nouri's lost), what's to do? Bomb. CBS and AP report:

U.S. warplanes bombed sites in the southern Iraqi city of Basra overnight, targeting Shiite militia members, a British military spokesman said Friday.
The aerial bombardment is a sign of the difficulty Iraqi forces have had clearing the crucial oil city of armed militias that, until less than a week ago, ran Basra unchecked - most notably by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.

If you're not getting what a failure this stunt (that has cost many lives) to shore up Nouri's reputation (on the eve of Petraeus' report to Congress, don't forget), check out the opening of James Hider's "Areas of Baghdad fall to militias as Iraqi Army falters in Basra" (Times of London):

Iraq's Prime Minister was staring into the abyss today after his operation to crush militia strongholds in Basra stalled, members of his own security forces defected and district after district of his own capital fell to Shia militia gunmen.
With the threat of a civil war looming in the south, Nouri al-Maliki's police chief in Basra narrowly escaped assassination in the crucial port city, while in Baghdad, the spokesman for the Iraqi side of the US military surge was kidnapped by gunmen and his house burnt to the ground.
Saboteurs also blew up one of Iraq's two main oil pipelines from Basra, cutting at least a third of the exports from the city which provides 80 per cent of government revenue, a clear sign that the militias -- who siphon significant sums off the oil smuggling trade -- would not stop at mere insurrection.

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