Iraq: Green Zone again hit by mortar rounds

Issue 

"More deadly violence occurred north and south of Baghdad as insurgents appeared intent on sending a message to US and Iraqi officials that their recent expressions of confidence in the nation's security were premature", the November 24 Los Angeles Times reported, adding that the attacks were "marked by hits on targets that lately had escaped attack".

The LA Times reported that the attacks "included mortar rounds fired into the Green Zone, the fortified enclave in Baghdad that houses the US embassy and most Iraqi government buildings. Ten rounds were fired into the Green Zone on Thursday [November 22], the first such barrage since summer, when bombardments occurred almost daily."

The US military claims that its 30,000 troop "surge", which took total US troop numbers in Iraq to 168,000 in June, has "succeeded" in reducing "violent attacks" in Baghdad by at least 50% since the beginning of the year.

According to Washington's puppet Iraqi government, 758 Iraqi civilians died violent deaths in October, compared with 1315 in October 2006. However, the November 2 Washington Post reported that an unofficial tally by the Iraqi health ministry showed that 1448 Iraqi civilians had died violent deaths this October.

Reuters reported on November 28 that a survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre had found that 79% of US journalists working in Iraq "said they believe violence and the threat of violence have increased during their tenures. Much of the danger for journalists is faced by local Iraqis, who often do most of the reporting outside Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, the data showed."

"Above all, the journalists — most of them veteran war correspondents — describe conditions in Iraq as the most perilous they have ever encountered", Pew Research said in a report that accompanied the data.

On November 24, the US military blamed an "Iranian-backed" Shiite militia cell for a bombing in a Baghdad market the previous day that killed 15 people — the deadliest attack in the heart of the capital in more than two months.

"Based on subsequent confessions, forensics and other intelligence, the bombing was the work of an Iranian-backed special groups cell operating here in Baghdad", US Rear Admiral Gregory Smith told reporters. He also said Shiite "special groups" were believed responsible for a series of rocket and mortar attacks against US bases in eastern Baghdad on November 18.

Market bombings have typically been conducted by the Sunni fundamentalist Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) group, often targeting Shiites. But as part of their effort to build public support for a future invasion of oil- and gas-rich Iran, US officials have accused Iran for months now of arming and training Iraqi Shiite militia groups to attack US troops. Prior to that, US officials blamed the "foreign fighters" of AQI for most of the violence in Iraq.

The November 22 New York Times reported that "Saudi Arabia and Libya, both considered allies by the United States in its fight against terrorism, were the source of about 60 percent of the foreign fighters who came to Iraq in the past year to serve as suicide bombers or to facilitate other attacks ...

"The data come largely from a trove of documents and computers discovered in September, when American forces raided a tent camp in the desert near Sinjar, close to the Syrian border. The raid's target was an insurgent cell believed to be responsible for smuggling the vast majority of foreign fighters into Iraq.

"The most significant discovery was a collection of biographical sketches that listed hometowns and other details for more than 700 fighters brought into Iraq since August 2006 ...

"Saudis accounted for the largest number of fighters listed on the records by far — 305, or 41 percent — American intelligence officers found as they combed through documents and computers in the weeks after the raid ...

"Libyans accounted for 137 foreign fighters, or 18 percent of the total ... According to the rosters found in the raid, the third-largest source of foreign fighters was Yemen, with 68. There were 64 from Algeria, 50 from Morocco, 38 from Tunisia, 14 from Jordan, 6 from Turkey and 2 from Egypt."

The NYT noted that the records "underscore how the insurgency in Iraq remains both overwhelmingly Iraqi and Sunni ... In contrast to the comparatively small number of foreigners, more than 25,000 inmates are in American detention centers in Iraq. Of those, only about 290, or some 1.2 percent, are foreigners, military officials say. They contend that all of the detainees either are suspected of insurgent activity or are an 'imperative threat' to security." Four-fifths of the detainees are Sunnis.