Archive for the ‘Sadr’ Category

Two things: brief piece about the Toyota Hilux, preferred transport to the world guerrilla, and a fatwa against mobile money transfer. You know you’ve made it when you’ve been fatwa’d.

More seriously, this huge Guardian piece on Iranian policy in Iraq is well worth reading. It’s interesting, to say the least, that the people Sadr wanted to see as guarantors of Iranian good faith were Hezbollah – it would seem they’ve got a foreign policy these days. Also, there’s a sort of disguised alliance between the Iranians and the US. The Americans fought hard to stabilise al-Maliki’s government and to build it up as a credible force. It’s hard to imagine they really want rid of him now.

And there’s this:

It is understood that the full withdrawal of all US troops after a security agreement signed between Baghdad and Washington at the end of 2011 was also sought by Sheikh Nasrallah.

“Maliki told them he will never extend, or renew [any bases] or give any facilities to the Americans or British after the end of next year,” a source said….US officials have strongly suggested they would scale back their involvement in Iraq if the Sadrists, who have been a key foe throughout the years of war, were to emerge as a significant player in any government.

But it’s their policy to leave:

On the 2011 December withdrawal date, the official said: “Any follow-up engagement with Iraq in relation to troops would be at the request of the government of Iraq. There are no plans to keep troops after December 2011. We are drawing down and all will be out of Iraq.”

The piece seems to be heavily influenced by sources in Al Baathi Allawi’s entourage. You do wonder if Allawi was only fetched out of the deep freeze in order to press Maliki into making a deal with the Sadrists.

I’ve repeatedly suggested that there is an emerging alignment between the Sadrists and political factions close to the NOIA insurgents and ex-insurgents. Here’s some news – a new coalition including Sadr, various mix’n’match factions including the Dialogue (close to NOIA), a chunk of Dawa that has split from SCIRI, and the Allawi fanclub (yes – he’s still going!). The Iraqi Accordance Front – the main NOIA political wing – isn’t there, but it’s falling apart between its commitment to working with the Shia-Kurdish alliance and its base’s desire to get paid for changing sides. This suggests to me, at least, that the political position is crumbling – the link between the Awakenings and the government is going, and at the same time chunks of the (much hyped) secular middle are falling off and moving closer to the Sadrists.

Az-zaman, via Cole reports that the Iraqi government “honoured” SCIRI…sorry…ISIC militiamen for their role in the Basra fighting, and that some 10,000 of them were officially signed up to the Government’s own forces (I thought they already were). The reason for this step is apparently that large numbers – thousands – of men in the Iraqi Army and other forces deserted rather than take part in the offensive. There is more here; supposedly two regiments did so in Baghdad, but I’d warn that what they call a regiment may just be an example of unit inflation.

Now, over at Kaboom! (officially the Colby Buzzell of 2008), here’s some corroboration.

Day 2: I stand in the streets, looking at a building with a sloping roof and two cannonball-sized holes in the middle of it. We have spent many hours zigzagging through the various Shi’a neighborhood cores in Anu al-Verona, but it is only now, with the light of the morning, that the full scope of JAM’s resurgent spectacle is comprehended. The aforementioned holes are the gift of an Iraqi Army’s BMP (armored personnel carrier) main gun, and the aforementioned building is the local Sawha headquarters. The one Son of Iraq who bothered to show up for work today expresses his displeasure with the situation. I thank him for his devotion to duty and ask him where his coworkers are. He looks at me like I have a dick growing out of my forehead and says, “they are at home, of course. It is not safe here.” I ask him why he isn’t home then. “Because my father kicked me out and told me to go to work and I have nowhere else to go.”

My bold. OK, so not only did some members of the Iraqi Army go over to the other side, but these ones took their BMP with them – and immediately turned its guns on the ex-NOIA guys, with the result that they made themselves scarce (or possibly set off for the nearest concentration of Shia for some revenge). There have been reports scattered around of the Sadrists capturing armoured vehicles from the government, but most have referred to Humvees and such; this is the first heavy armour to be mentioned.

It can be pretty heavy, too; the BMP-3, despite ranking as an infantry fighting vehicle, carries a 100mm gun. I don’t know which version we supplied to the Iraqi government (I think the armour came from Hungarian stocks). Meanwhile, Des Browne says:

At one point, he said, British tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and ground troops were deployed to help extract Iraqi government troops from a firefight with Shiite militiamen in the city.

Extract; as in “cover the retreat of”, “aid in escape of”, or just “save” them. It’s Sadr’s move, it always has been; as far as I can see, the only meaningful exit strategy has always been to recognise the people with actual mass support, so NOIA in the Sunni sector and Sadr in the Shia sector. Half of this has actually been done, although nobody wants to admit it; the problem is that their territories overlap. Lieutenant G’s area of responsibility is exhibit A; he’s far enough north to have 1920 Revolution Brigade NOIA on his side, but this doesn’t mean he doesn’t also have a major Sadrist presence.

Extra points: did anyone else spot Chalabi claiming credit for the ceasefire?

The Times has been doing the best reporting from Iraq by far at the moment. Here’s some evidence.

Now, to substance. Note this:

“We have received a shipment of Strela antiaircraft rockets,” Abu Sajad boasted to a Sunday Times reporter.

“We intend to use them to prove to the world that the Mahdi Army will not allow Basra to be turned into a second Falluja.”

This could get bad, especially if the Sadrists can be as good at shooting down helicopters as that NOIA outfit in early 2007 were. Anyway, the last dispatch is that far from the Iraqi government offering anyone mercy in exchange for surrender, Moqtada al-Sadr has just issued an official Leave It, Daz, He’s Not Worth It order to his army to stop beating them. I can’t see any evidence of this being due to imminent government triumph, so I reckon it’s a mix of an exercise in contemptuous indulgence and a renewed assault on the moral high ground.

Think of that; officially at least, the Sadrists have been on ceasefire, more sinned against than sinning, acting only in self defence, but they’ve also kicked the shit out of the Iraqi government, and now they’re looking to exit the confrontation on their terms. The question about this is of course whether the big red stop button will work; Sadr has historically had only coarse control of his army, basically a choice between STAND BY and BURN SHIT DOWN. It’s quite possible that the political dynamic will get out of hand, though, and there are signs of this round taking on a life of its own.

For example, it is reported that the Mahdi Army in Baghdad has been going after the usually ex-NOIA, Sunni “Awakening Councils”/”Sons of Iraq”, even to the point of attacking Sunni territory; apparently, their outposts are being rolled up into more defensible concentrations, which would mean at least a temporary disruption of the US counter-insurgency strategy, and at worst the enduring loss of territorial control and a major NOIA counteroffensive, probably (if you want a guess) in Diyala. Policemen are deserting in droves of up to battalion strength. It may be that this round of violence, like all the others in Iraq, is breeding its own army; 2004 gave us the original Mahdi Army and the NOIA, 2005 the SCIRI fake policemen, 2006 the ex-NOIA countergangs, 2007-8 the Mahdi Army 2.0?

There’s more evidence of renewed sectarian war here. Brief thought; has anyone else noticed that as well as improving its coverage, the Times has started referring to Moqtada al-Sadr as Hojetoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr? This shows both greater respect, and significantly improved spelling. (So has the US Army.)

Finally, let’s all be thankful the Mahdi Army mortarmen missed Tariq al-Hashemi, this blog’s favourite not-quite-an-insurgent Sunni politico and Iraqi vice president. Because that probably would have been the starting gun for the various Awakenings to turn.

Update: I spoke too soon. Someone tried to assassinate the governor of Diyala earlier today.

Well, it’s not as if we weren’t warned; the Iraqi government had been threatening to move against Fadhila in Umm Qasr, and there had been increasing tension between the Iraqi government and the Sadr movement going back to Christmas. Not so long ago, there were demonstrations in Sadr City against Sadr; they thought the movement wasn’t standing up to increasing provocation from police/SCIRI as was//Badr Corps men feeling braver now they didn’t have to fight NOIA any more.

You can read the violence in a number of ways; the government/ISCI/Dawa probably briefed it to the Americans as an extension of their counter-insurgency plan to the deep south, with the added twist that this was an operation the Iraqi army would throw all by itself, hence good politics. Sadr of course will consider it an outrage by the collaborationist-Iranian bastards, eerily mirroring Petraeus’s response to the Green Zone bombardment; if you adopt Jamie Kenny’s policy of trying to think like Leonardo Sciascia, you’ll see it merely as a fight for oil rake-offs between (as Douglas Adams put it) rival police gangs. As always, SF leads the way into history.

Daniel Davies has apparently finally taken my much repeated advice and read A Bright Shining Lie, which has apparently led him to conclude that the Dawa-Sadr fighting is a good thing on the grounds that it strengthens the government, even if only as the biggest gang. Well, it has led the annoying look-at-me contrarian Daniel Davies to do so; what the real one thinks I don’t know. I don’t agree; the Sadr movement demonstrated its deterrent capability on day one, when it resumed rocketing the Green Zone and seized police stations across the Big Gap in southern Iraq, as well as the road between Amara and Basra, rather as they did in the first and second Shia risings in 2004. Further to its massive popularity, the Sadrists also have had at least a tacit alliance with some currents in NOIA – there’s a risk of the whole shithouse crashing down. Note that the Dawa and Sadrists, and ISIC, are on the opposite sides of one of Iraq’s worst territorial fights.

So inevitably, the US authorities seem to have swallowed the “southern surge” thing, and are now pressing for more British troops to be sent – not just that, but for an advance back into Basra. This is genuinely bugfuck insane and the Prime Minister has no choice but to reject it; there is literally no-one left. Army planners are already looking at calling out at least 2 TA battalions in their entirety to cover routine tasks; a mass of resources is going into Afghanistan; there is some question as to whether there is another brigade in the tubes for the next but one rotation in Iraq. The inter-allied shit just hit the fan.

Of course, nothing would do more for Gordon Brown’s polls than turning the fan right up…it’s worth noting that officially, the only support MNDSE is giving this operation is aerial reconnaissance; that could perfectly well be provided from Kuwait. However, maybe not.

Apparently the alternative to the Baker commission/TYR solution in Iraq – get the fuck out under a negotiated settlement with Iran – that the White House is floating is a “tilt to the Shia and Kurdish 80 per cent. I find it a little hard to work out how we are meant to tilt to them any more-after all, I’ve been saying since 2003 that our presence in Iraq is dependent on the continuance of a Shia-Kurdish alliance, and the Shia have the government of Iraq that is held up by British and American bayonets.

But anyway. In pursuit of this, apparently, urgent talks are underway with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of SCIRI, presumably with a view to throwing the Dawa guys like Maliki and Jaafari overboard. The obvious flaw in this strategy should be, well, obvious. SCIRI is the closest Iraqi actor to Iran. If you want Iranian and Shia power extended, this is just the right way to go about it. I suppose there is an argument that it’s better to talk directly to SCIRI, who are strong, than to talk to Dawa and the Allawi fan club and through them to SCIRI, but the benefits are marginal at best.

Mark Kleiman, and many others, point out that the implication of tilting even further to the Shia is essentially that we are going to take sides in the religious war, which they argue will mean genocide. I’m not so sure. NOIA looks like it can look after itself, and it is being repeatedly made clear that it will have official Saudi support. But there is another concern, even before we get to the mind-buggering prospect of getting the Magic Kingdom involved.

If we align explicitly with the (pro-Iranian) SCIRI in its war with the NOIA, what happens with the Sadrists, who are at least as strong as SCIRI? Moqtada al-Sadr’s movement frequently denounces SCIRI as an Iranian Trojan horse, little better than the Americans, although they have until recently cooperated in government after a fashion. The Sadrists are nationalistic and violently opposed to a) occupation and b) Iran, and they have on occasion cooperated with NOIA in the past. If we tilt the table towards Tehran, we risk bringing the whole thing crashing down on us as the Mehdi Army is called out along the MSRs to help the “besieged Iraqi resistance” fight the “Iranian invaders, American occupiers and their collaborator scum in Baghdad”.

Indeed, if we really must continue to behave as if there was any hope of a non-terrible outcome, we would be much better off tilting towards Moqtada al-Sadr. What his price would be I dare not speculate, but it would certainly involve getting troops off the streets in short order, and an accommodation with NOIA in its stronghold regions. (You say that like it’s a bad thing.) This post of Phil Carter’s on the Sadr movement’s civil-operations activities would argue strongly for it. David Hackworth would have said he’s the G who’s out-G’ing the other G’s. (Phil’s ten lessons from Iraq are highly recommended as well.)

And finally, can we please, please, please not do anything that is likely to get the Saudis involved? They do have some things that could greatly strengthen the NOIA, specifically an endless supply of cash and an equally endless supply of deranged takfiri killers who they are desperate to see explode, well, somewhere else. They also have no shortage of arms. This was, of course, their 1980s strategy of shipping jihadis to other wars so as to prevent revolution at home – call it the Anywhere but Abqaiq Approach. Unfortunately, they were left with an underutilised maniac industry after the Afghan campaign, and rather lost control. Doing it again is likely to have similar consequences, but much closer to home.

After all, as Michael Ledeen puts it in this criminally irresponsible tirade, They know their people hate them, and they know that revolution could erupt if we supported it. He’s talking Iran and Syria. Perhaps. But somehow three little words show up nowhere – “Saudi”, “Arabia”, and “oil.” Listen to this, too. Once we do, we will find that we’ve got many political and economic weapons, most of them inside our enemies’ lands. Indeed, habibi, we call them debt, energy inefficiency and the exhaustion of the US Army’s infantry. If they are fools enough to…where was I? What, this isn’t the head of the Revolutionary Guards Corps speaking?

Ledeen is intellectually dishonest, ignorant, mercenary, mendacious and more. But I ask of you – surely he knows that there are 2 US Navy carriers capable of operations, that practically all US Army and Marine manpower is committed to Iraq? So what is this madness, from an objective point of view? We know his old chum Manuchar Ghorbanifar is almost certainly an Iranian intelligence asset, and his mate Chalabi told them their ciphers were insecure. Has he never wondered if he’s being exploited?

In this post, we analysed the options open to the Iraq Study Group. Supposedly, the original brief foresaw 8. Number 8 was one last push, and it seems that this is exactly what we’re going to get. Note that it is sourced to the President and “Pentagon officials”, rather than the Group itself.

In that post, I pointed out that option 8 was absurd because there was no discrete strategic, or even operational, aim that could be achieved by a “last push”. I theorised that it was included as a debate framing exercise to make some version of option 3, phased withdrawal, seem palatable through the false impression of “balance” or “moderation.” Well, it seems that George W. Bush has bought the dummy so completely he thinks it’s a real option.

Years ago, I had a dog, a big friendly barky one that was not perhaps very bright. One day, out for a walk by the Wharfe, the dog smelt a rabbit and plunged off after the creature. Normally, the bunny would have outmanoeuvred him within a couple of turns – I’m sure one of them managed to get on his tail once and claim a Fox-10 – but this one made a fatal mistake. Assuming the dog was intelligent, he reefed into a sharp turn one way, then back the other, then threw a dummy the other way but kept going the same way. The dog, however, wasn’t clever enough to notice the dummy, and the rabbit ran right into his jaws.

So George and Dick are going to send for more troops, 20,000 of them – presumably this is “whatever is left in the bag” rather than any specific tactical formation – in order to “secure Baghdad”. Ah, that again. I see no reason why they will be any more successful at this than the last three times. One sane use for more troops, incidentally, would be to concentrate a reserve strike force in the MND(SE) zone in case it becomes necessary to re-open the roads by force. But they could be provided by pulling out of Anbar.

They are also flirting with the idea of a international conference, but can’t quite bring themselves to say “talk to Iran”. It is hinted at, but they prefer to talk about Saudi Arabia and Kuwait – who are the least influential Arab nations in Iraq by a distance. And the idea of encouraging the Saudis to get involved in a fight with SCIRI and Sadr inspires, well…fear more than anything else except perhaps astonishment.

So it looks like Charlie Whitaker was right.

They also want to revive the national reconciliation process and ask Congress for more resources. On this, frankly, I’m disappointed they didn’t also get to grips with the urgent question of ponies.

The chatter is building up that a serious change in policy in Iraq is afoot. Supposedly, there is talk of an ultimatum to the Iraqi government to do various defined things or face undefined sanctions (this is an old John Paul Vann idea from South Vietnam), but there are also reasons to imagine that the Americans are preparing themselves to accept a break-up (see the Harpers’ story), and Des Browne told the BBC today that British forces might be out in 12 months because “planning was under way to hand over to Iraqi security forces”.

To quote Vann, “Damn, I’m an optimist. I think we can hang on longer than that!” More seriously, at the same time we saw the SCIRI-led Iraqi police being run out of Amara by the local Sadrists, who sealed the deal by destroying the police stations after seizing them. The last we heard, the Queen’s Royal Hussars group was standing by in case the order came to retake the place. Given the strength of the local Mahdi Army – it was this lot who fought Camilla’s Killers through August, 2004, and who mortared the QRH out of Abu Naji camp a couple of months ago – this would have been a very bloody business.

The Sadrists pulled something similar just down the road a day later, and some of their leaders are on record as boasting that the next objective is Basra. The entire incident was a demonstration of two things – the increasing Shia/Shia split between SCIRI and Dawa on one hand, and Sadr on the other, and the progressive loss of coalition control between Basra and Baghdad. The British security perimeter in the south is shrinking – the Sadrists used a supposed 800 men to storm Amara, a force the size of a battalion with better recruitment rates than most of ours. That kind of movement should have been spotted, if all the crap about drones was true.

Apparently the US government is considering eight options, these being as follows:

1. British out now.

2. Everyone out now.

3. Phased withdrawal.

4. Talk to Iran and Syria.

5. Remove Nuri al-Maliki in favour of a “strongman”.

6. Break-up of Iraq.

7. Retreat to “Super Bases”.

8. One last push.

Well, if those are your options… Close examination suggests that some of these options are actually double-counted. For example, 3 is only another way of saying 2, as it’s more than one day’s work to get from Baghdad to the Kuwaiti border, so any withdrawal will be in some sense phased. Even a British unilateral departure will involve at least a move back to Basra and Shaibah before the final evacuation. 1 won’t solve the problem on its own, but it will require 4 if 2 isn’t going to be immediately brought about. And a phased withdrawal, even more than a straight dash for the exits, will need coordination with the neighbouring states.

Further, talks alone won’t solve anything. The ex-officers of the New-Old Iraqi Army and the Sadrist street kids are not controlled by a state-sponsor Dr Evil and cannot just be switched off. Talking to Iran and Syria is only useful if the discussions involve some course of action, like 1, 2, 3, 5 or 6. It’s a necessary, not sufficient, condition. Speaking of 5, I see they are yet again parading the ragged corpse of Iyad Allawi’s credibility through the streets, trying to make it look like it’s alive. Look, the last time he had to deal with the Shia they ran him out of Najaf beating him with their shoes on live television. He’s only still alive because he spends as much time in London as possible. And what is he meant to do?

There is, of course, always Saddam, although I suspect if it ever looks like he might be sprung the SCIRI will shoot him first. This is only partly a joke: see Nibras Kazimi on the strange case of the former Electricity Minister.

That brings us to option 6, the break-up of Iraq. I’d argue that it’s already happening and we have little control over it, but anyway. If it looks like happening, 2 is top priority – the last thing we want is to have 140,000 troops in the middle of the break-up – and 4 is urgently necessary to consider how to limit the damage. Iran, Syria, Turkey, Jordan and to a lesser extent Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have serious interests in Iraq, and could all become embroiled. After all, the Syrian army could get to Baghdad in three days, there being no-one on that particular route who would fight them, and park its tanks in Dora, where they might even be greeted with flowers, until/unless the SCIRI arrived to greet them with RPGs, car bombs, kitchen sinks etc (in that scenario, the Sadrists’ position would be very ambiguous indeed).

7 is easily disposed of. Ever since 2003, every time casualties spike, George Bush has promised that the US Army is being pulled out of the cities to secure bases out in the desert. US lefties are obsessed by “permanent bases!” And, in fact, the US army did indeed move into big fortified camps on desert airfields. They can’t do it again. And it’s not cost-free – it’s precisely living in land submarines that denies them useful intelligence and orientation. Check out this post (and Slate article) of Phil Carter’s about the problems caused by living in the Balad “super base”. Moving into them leaves the country and the population to the enemy. In the worst case scenario, they become insurgent magnets; without the Euphrates valley main supply route, they become so many besieged fortresses dependent on their capability to suppress mortar or rocket fire to keep the runways open, and their garrison’s ability to keep the SAM template clear to prevent the planes being shot down on approach.

8 is frankly ridiculous – even if it is possible to improve the operational situation by a further effort, what is the strategic aim? With the “push” complete, we would just be facing the same list of options. And what would such a “push” look like? The only halfway sensible scenario is something as follows – we do X in order to get the mayhem down to a tolerable level, so we can then hand over to a stronger Iraqi government (i.e. option 2 or 3). But I can’t see any kind of discrete operation in prospect that would do that.

The inclusion of option 8, though, does serve a purpose. If all the options were negative, the report would be rejected out of hand. Including 8 and 5, though, permits its authors to show that they have considered all options and that their recommendation is “sensible”, “moderate”, “reasonable” etc. Further, it makes all options short of 2 look like a happy mean and hence be more thinkable. I sense the formidable political abilities of James Baker at work here.

Maps are nice, aren’t they? So let’s have a look at a few maps of Iraq. This one shows Iraq’s administrative divisions, its roads and its rivers. Note especially that there are essentially two major roads between Baghdad and Basra. One runs along the Tigris valley parallel to the Iranian border. The other runs just inside the Euphrates valley on the right bank of the river, crossing it twenty or so miles upstream of Nasiriyah. There are two secondary roads, one of which runs up the left, western bank of the Euphrates from a junction with the main road before the crossing as far as Karbala, the other of which connects the Nasiriyah bridges with Kut on the northern main road. The first of these, Highway 8, is known to the Coalition as Main Supply Route Tampa, the road which connects the US Army’s Logistic Support Area Anaconda at Balad South-East airfield north of Baghdad, Baghdad Airport, Mosul, Basra and Kuwait City. Literally everything the coalition uses comes in either up this road from the docks in Kuwait, or else into one of the three strategic air bridgeheads (Baghdad, Balad, and the RAF’s Basra Air Station) and then along it to the point of use.

This map shows Iraq’s major oil infrastructure. You will note two things – first, the core-centric nature of the refinery at Baiji, which is why the insurgents go to such lengths to harass it, and secondly that the only pipeline between northern and southern Iraq runs next to Highway 8.

This map shows the distribution of religions and tribes in Iraq. Notice that the entire area of the main roads, pipelines and rivers (not to speak of the main railway line between Basra and Baghdad) is shown as entirely Shia, and borders on Iran. It’s also, although it’s not on the map, heavily SCIRI.

This map shows Iraq by population density. Note that, among many other things this map should tell you, the top 3 cities make up one-third of the population. The only areas of Iraq that can be described as “quiet”, except for Kurdistan, are the ones where there is either nobody to fight or nothing to fight over. The much mocked Information Minister, Mohamed Ali Al-Sahaf, had a point when he described the US army advancing on Baghdad as being like a snake in the desert – the only serious fighting before Baghdad occurred at the urban choke points of Nasiriyah and the Karbala area.

Now, there are some 5 coalition divisions in Iraq. There is the British-led division in the south-east, more and more these days concentrated around Basra. There are two US divisions in Baghdad, another division equivalent split between the north-central zone and the Karbala/Najaf area, and one brigade up north. There are also the leftovers of the old Multinational Division South Centre, not that they add up to much. To put it another way, there is a yawning gap between the British in Basra and the road to Kuwait, and the bulk of coalition forces around Baghdad. It is open to the Sadrists, SCIRI or Iran to make a retreat from Iraq very difficult and very bloody.

There is no alternative line of retreat. The road towards Jordan leads through Fallujah and Ramadi, and even the Jordanians might not be happy to help us make our exit via..Israel. Going north is a nonstarter – it means marching through Baghdad and the Sunni insurgent heartland, and then bringing the army over the mountains into Turkey. (Look at the first map, which shows precisely one tarmacked road crossing the border.) The light brigade up in Kurdistan could leave that way, or by air, but the three armoured divisions can’t. They have to go south, back the way they came. The conclusion?

We need to open military-to-military talks, so-called staff conversations, with the Iranians. We need to discuss the modalities, in the Northern Irish phrase, of an orderly departure. We need guarantees that their supporters in Iraq will not blow the bridges as they did in the first Shia rising, in April, 2004, and won’t mortar the airfields.

And this map is a work of psychotic stupidity.

Iraqi parliament votes to revoke an MP’s immunity. Details:

Earlier this year he was caught at Baghdad airport carrying hundreds of thousands of dollars in a suitcase, reinforcing the belief of many that he was engaged in illicit profiteering.

During the debate on lifting his parliamentary immunity, the head of the integrity commission said that Mr Jubouri had been siphoning off the equivalent of about $75m a month. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

He is believed to be abroad.

The speaker of parliament said Mr Jubouri was willing to return and defend himself but felt unable to travel because there was an Interpol alert for him at all airports and he did not want to be arrested.

Indeed. Not to mention being blown up by the speaker’s bodyguards…

Serious fighting in Diwaniyah between the Americans and the Sadrists. Note especially the destruction of a tank in a multiple RPG ambush. Also note that the Iraqi government’s crackdown on militias is, predictably, a crackdown on everyone except their militia.

The US Army is suffering a high casualty rate in Baghdad due to snipers. These things seem to be cyclical. After the RPGs, the IEDs, then the snipers in late 2004, then the big company-sized raids in 2005, now back to snipers.