Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Bad news from Iraq

Boy, talk about a perennial headline. But this is noteworthy:

Shiite militants and police enraged by massive truck bombings in Tal Afar went on a revenge spree against Sunni residents in the northwestern town Wednesday, killing as many as 60 people, officials said.

The gunmen roamed Sunni neighborhoods in the city through the night, shooting at residents and homes, according to police and a local Sunni politician.

Witnesses said relatives of the Shiite victims in the truck bombings broke into the Sunni homes and killed the men inside or dragged them out and shot them in the streets.

Ali al-Talafari, a Sunni member of the local Turkomen Front Party, said the Iraqi army had arrested 18 policemen accused of being involved after they were identified by the Sunni families targeted. But he said the attackers included Shiite militiamen.

While not a direct reflection on Bush's surge, this is disheartening on three levels:

1. It's the sort of violence we are simply not equipped to stop. Incidents like this are why people say that we're not fighting insurgents, we're caught in the middle of a civil war.

2. It involves police massacring innocents -- demonstrating that, once again, the security forces are part of the problem.

3. It happened in Tal Afar, a city once held up as an example of a pacified city. I've written about it before (and may or may not have received a comment from Col. Sean MacFarland, then the commander in that area). Here's another take, with details on how we rooted the insurgents out of Tal Afar. If we can't pacify that city despite pouring troops in and surrounding it with sand berms, I don't hold out much hope for places like Baghdad.

If this isn't a sectarian civil war, what is it?

And this is just icing on the cake:

Saudi King Abdullah, whose country is a close US ally, on Wednesday slammed the "illegitimate foreign occupation" of Iraq in an opening speech to the annual Arab summit in Riyadh.

"In beloved Iraq, blood is being shed among brothers in the shadow of an illegitimate foreign occupation, and ugly sectarianism threatens civil war," Abdullah said.

He also said that Arab nations, which are planning to revive a five-year-old Middle East peace plan at the summit, would not allow any foreign force to decide the future of the region.

With friends like these....

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