Two articles on Iraq in today’s press, one from the Iraqi street and one coming out of the White House:
First, the real world,
While Baghdad and three other Iraqi provinces are supposed to be under security lockdown, Shiite militias are roaming the streets among and alongside Iraq’s police and army, attacking and occupying dozens of Sunni mosques — and reflagging some as Shiite — and detaining and killing worshipers. Residents of several Baghdad neighborhoods have reported seeing pickup trucks barreling through otherwise empty streets, bearing militia members armed with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.
Ostensibly outlawed, private militias maintain thousands of foot soldiers across Iraq. Members of two Shiite militias — the Mahdi Army and the Badr Organization, which is affiliated with the country’s dominant Shiite political party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq — dominate the ranks of Iraq’s police and army. Ethnic Kurds also have a huge armed force whose members, called pesh merga , are arrayed throughout the Kurdish-populated north. But Sunni Arabs, who make up the bulk of Iraq’s insurgency, lack their own formal militia and have blamed the Shiite militias for recent kidnappings and assassinations, allegedly committed by men wearing uniforms of the security forces.
And coming out of the White House,
Bombs and gunfire killed about 60 people as another daytime curfew Saturday failed to halt violence that has claimed nearly 200 lives since the destruction of a Shiite shrine set off a wave of retribution against Sunnis and pushed Iraq toward civil war.
In an unusual round of telephone diplomacy, President Bush spoke with seven leaders of Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish political parties in a bid to defuse the sectarian crisis unleashed by the bombing of the Shiites’ Askariya shrine in Samarra.
Bush “encouraged them to continue to work together to thwart the efforts of the perpetrators of the violence to sow discord among Iraq’s communities,” said Frederick Jones, a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council.
The wheels are coming off in the streets, so make a few calls to Iraqi politicians with little influence on the real players. Yeah, that’s the ticket.