[It is becoming increasingly clear that the U.S. excuse for the “surge” is no way for real. Obviously Maliki and the dominant Shia are not going to yield anything to the Sunnis apart from death and deportation — many have fled the country already, including nearly half of the professionals necessary to run a modern country — doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. We are getting our guys killed and are killing Iraqis ourselves for no good reason except to keep alive the myth that the war on Iraq was somehow justified — either in our interest or that of the Iraqis. It was and is not. What a g-d awful mess. How long will it take to get us out of there? Ed Kent]



Sunday, July 1, 2007 – Page updated at 02:05 AM

Sadr City raid angers al-Maliki

By Lee Keath

The Associated Press


BAGHDAD — Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki condemned a U.S. raid Saturday in Baghdad’s Shiite Sadr City slum — a politically sensitive district for him — in which American troops searching for Iranian-linked militants sparked a firefight the U.S. said left 26 Iraqis dead.

The U.S. military said all those killed in the fighting were gunmen, some of them firing from behind civilian cars. But an Iraqi official put the death toll lower, at eight, and said they were civilians. Residents also said eight civilians were killed in their homes, angrily accusing American troops of firing wildly during the pre-dawn assault.

Sadr City is the Iraqi capital’s largest Shiite neighborhood — home to some 2.5 million people — making U.S. raids there potentially embarrassing for al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government. The district is also the stronghold of the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who was once al-Maliki’s ally.

“The Iraqi government totally rejects U.S. military operations … conducted without prior approval from the Iraqi military command,” al-Maliki said in a statement concerning the Sadr City raid. “Anyone who breaches the military command orders will face investigation.”

Al-Maliki last year banned military operations in Sadr City without his approval after complaints from his Shiite political allies. The ban frustrated U.S. commanders pushing for a crackdown on the Mahdi Army, blamed for sectarian killings.

Al-Maliki later agreed that no area of the capital was off-limits, after President Bush ordered reinforcements to Iraq as part of the Baghdad security operation.

Also Saturday, in Muqdadiyah, 60 miles north of the capital, police said a suicide bomber blew himself up near a crowd of police recruits, killing at least 23 people and wounding 17. The U.S. military also said a U.S. soldier was killed and three others were wounded Friday when a sophisticated, armor-piercing bomb hit their combat patrol in southern Baghdad.

U.S. troops have discovered a mass grave with as many as 40 bodies near Fallujah in western Iraq, the U.S. military said Saturday. Between 35 and 40 bodies — with gunshot wounds and bound limbs — were discovered at the site, the statement said. U.S. military officials are investigating, it said without elaborating, and it was unclear who the victims were.

Iraqi civilian deaths in Baghdad dropped significantly in June, a possible indication that recent American military operations around the country and raids on car-bomb shops in the “belts” ringing the capital are starting to pay off.

But June also marked the end of the bloodiest quarter for U.S. troops since the war began in March 2003.

Unofficial monthly figures compiled by McClatchy Newspapers show that 189 Iraqis, including police and government security forces, were killed in the capital through Friday, a drop of nearly two-thirds since this year’s high in February, when 520 were killed. The average monthly death toll of Iraqis in Baghdad was 410 from December through May.

The downturn in civilian deaths in Baghdad, should the figures hold, could arm Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, with the kind of results he needs to forestall pressure to set timetables on troop withdrawals. He is scheduled to give Congress a progress report on the war in September.

On the political front, followers of al-Sadr criticized efforts to form a new coalition of leading Shiite and Kurdish parties. Talk of a new coalition is widely seen as an effort to sideline al-Sadr’s anti-American movement, which holds 30 seats in the 275-member parliament.

Information from McClatchy Newspapers is included in this report.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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