Car Bombs Kill at Least 60 at Baghdad Market (New York Times)
The intent of bombings such as this is clear: someone is trying to draw out the Shiite militias – specifically, the Mahdi Army militia of Moqtada al-Sadr, the only powerful armed faction in Iraq that maintains a quasi-independence from the Americans, the Iranians, the Ayatollah Sistani and the Maliki government.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki cannot simply attack the Mahdi Army directly as part of the "dazzling" surge he and the Bush Administration are putting on; that would be political suicide for Maliki, who still depends on Sadr's faction to keep his grip on the exceedingly poisoned chalice of the Green Zone government. Yet it has long been apparent that the Bushists now want to settle up with Sadr once and for all. Maliki is caught between these clashing rocks, serving two irreconcilable masters: the American conquerors, and the fundamentalist cleric who commands the loyalty of vast swathes of the Iraqi electorate, specifically the masses of poor Shiites. The only way Maliki could countenance a military move against Sadr is if it is taken out of his hands entirely – i.e., if the Americans are forced to respond to attacks from Mahdi units enraged by the current campaign of bombing.
Sadr, meanwhile, is playing the long game. He has announced that his people will "cooperate" with the government's security crackdown, giving Maliki the necessary cover to hold back on any moves against the Mahdi Army. Sadr knows what anyone with eyes can see: that those vast swathes of Shiites now loyal to him hold the nation's future in their hands. Whoever can win and maintain their respect and support will be the most powerful figure in Iraq, whatever office he does or does not hold.
The only way this outcome will not hold true is if the Mahdi Army is wiped out on the battlefield, and a Saddam-like reign of terror decimates and cows the Shiites back into submission. Therefore it is in the interest of every faction in Iraq that would like to eliminate Sadr and his faction from the power equation to draw the Mahdi Army out of hiding now through extreme provocations.
Unnamed "American and Iraqi officials" tell the New York Times that the current wave of atrocities in the Shiite enclaves is likely the work of "Sunni militants" seeking to enflame sectarian tensions and undermine the government. And it may well be so. But if it so, then the Sunni militants and the Bush Faction have the same goal in the current operation: to provoke the Mahdi Army into action so it can then be destroyed by American forces.
(Here one cannot help but recall the Pentagon's plan to set up the "Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group (P2OG)," designed to "infiltrate terrorist groups" and "stimulate" them into action, in order to flush them out and destroy them. The plan was first uncovered by William Arkin in 2002. For more, see Into the Dark: The Pentagon Plan to Foment Terrorism, and Ulster on the Euphrates: The Anglo-American Dirty War in Iraq.)
While the gasbags in the U.S. Senate dither over a toothless, meaningless "non-binding resolution" expressing some displeasure over one small aspect of George W. Bush's monstrous on-going war crime, there is very dirty business afoot in Baghdad. The "creative destruction" once hymned by the war's loudest cheerleaders has reached a such level of noxious murk that there is scarcely any way of knowing just who is behind what anymore – perhaps even the perpetrators themselves have no idea whose interests they are actually serving.
In this grim mephitic fog, only two facts are clear: Innocent people keep on dying – and war profiteers keep banking the loot.