A day after Iraqi Special Forces under the supervision of American advisors apparently shot up a Shia religious center in Moqtada al-Sadr’s stronghold, the Iraqi government itself is blaming us for the killings of possibly 40 worshippers, possibly execution-style. Government ministers are condemning the Americans for the killings, and Saddam’s former Number Two, a Sunni who has somehow escaped our capture for three years, has called upon neighboring Arab states to support the Sunni insurgency.
Worse yet, after initially denying that an attack took place on a “mosque”, the American commanders on the ground are now distancing themselves from the Iraqi Special Forces they were supervising as advisors yesterday,
and are now waiting for new talking points from Washington.
Against this backdrop, it was revealed this afternoon that our ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad signaled to the Shiites Saturday that the United States wanted Prime Minister al-Jaafari, who is supported by al-Sadr, moved aside for a new prime minister, which is being interpreted by some in the ruling Shiite alliance as an attempt by the Americans to control the government, with Kurdish support.
Iraqi Special Forces are run out the Defense Ministry, which is headed by a Sunni Arab. Iraqi police operate out of the Shia-run Interior Ministry, and several of them were killed yesterday. It appears that Sunnis conducted yesterday’s attack in an area run by al-Sadr, a Shiite stronghold. Can someone tell me why our commanders on the ground, with three years of intelligence about this insurgency, would allow themselves to supervise Sunni Special Forces on an operation in a Shiite stronghold, unless Donald Rumsfeld wanted to provoke a civil war?
Update 3:39 PM Pacific Time: Nevermind, we now have seen the new talking points: our commander on the ground is accusing the Shiites late today of making it all up, and of moving bodies from the firefight into the religious center to paint a picture of an American-led massacre. I kid you not. That’s our story from the Pentagon. (Then why did our commanders distance themselves from the Iraqi Special Forces today?) All I can say is this: with the ruling Shiite political party now firmly behind this story of an American-led assault yesterday, the Pentagon better be right, because if this newest defense from Rummy falls apart, it will be game, set, and match for our credibility over there.