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Book Market Bombing Kills 38, Wounds 105 - Shiite Pilgrims Targeted
Tuesday, 06 March 2007 10:34
by Juan Cole

Guerrillas detonated a huge car bomb at the old book market at al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad, killing at least 38 persons and wounding 105. The explosion destroyed 15 automobiles on the street and set many of the bookshops ablaze. The street was strewn with body parts and a thick black smoke made people nauseous and caused them to retch.

The murderousness and determination to destroy Iraqi culture apparent in the al-Mutanabbi bombing provoked one observer, speaking to to compare these days to those of Mongol conqueror Hulagu, who tore down many of Baghdad's monuments.

Police found 15 bodies in the capital on Monday. There were several other bombings or mortar attacks in West and central Baghdad, some targeting Shiite pilgrims on pilgrimage to Karbala to commemorate the 40th day after the martyrdom of Imam Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet. At a time when the US military is disarming the Shiites, to have Shiite pilgrims subjected to these attacks will raise tempers.

Parliamentarians from the Sadr Bloc vowed that they would resist Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's plans to dismiss 5 out of 6 cabinet ministers from their party. The Sadrists have 32 seats in the Iraqi legislature, and their support was key to the election of al-Maliki last spring.

KarbalaNews.net reports in Arabic that al-Maliki gave an interview in which he said that high judicial authorities are preparing indictments against members of parliament for involvement in militia and death squad activity. Maybe al-Maliki thinks he does not need the Sadrist MPs because so many of them will soon be in prison.

Indeed, the scale of the indictments against sitting Iraqi representatives and officials hinted at by al-Maliki suggests a judicial coup.

Given that Sunni and Sadrist MPs have been loudest in denouncing the new oil law, if large numbers of them were incarcerated, it would also make it easier for al-Maliki to get the legislation enacted.

There are no mechanisms for by-elections to the Iraqi parliament to my knowledge, so that the parliamentarians that are arrested will likely not be replaced until late 2009. The arrests could dramatically alter the relative proportion of representatives of various communities. No Kurds will be arrested, since their Peshmerga militia has been legalized, so their bloc will be strengthened.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari rejected Arab League calls for the internationalization of the Iraq crisis and the new security plan. The Arab League, most of whose states are Sunni Arab, has been pushing for a better deal for Sunni Arabs and ex-Baathists.

Only 28 percent of Americans in a recent poll think that the US can "win" in Iraq. They should tell the rest of us what "winning" in Iraq would even look like. There is substantial support in the public for withdrawing US troops by 2008, but views are more divided on denying Bush money to send an extra contingent of 21,500 troops. The public does want the troops to have a year off between rotations to Iraq. Since we only have 10 fighting divisions, I'm not sure if they understand that such a 1-year rest in and of itself would require the withdrawal of substantial numbers of troops from Iraq.

Professor of History, University of Michigan - Juan Cole Blogs at Informed Comment
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