American and Iraqi government forces clashed with Shiite militiamen in Baghdad tonight in the most serious confrontation in months, and Iraqi officials said the fighting left at least 17 Iraqis dead, including an 80-year-old imam.And here's The Independent's take:
The fighting erupted at a very combustible moment in Iraq, with sectarian tensions rising, leadership problems deepening, and dozens of mutilated bodies continuing to surface on Iraqi streets today.
Another concern is that the clash could open an old wound, because the militiamen who were killed worked for Moktada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric who has already led several bloody rebellions against American forces.
Security in Baghdad seems to be deteriorating by the hour, and it is increasingly unclear who is in control. Earlier today, the Iraqi Interior Ministry reported that American forces raided a secret prison and arrested several Iraqi policeman.
Now, I'm having some real difficulty figuring out how any of the events of the past few days are serving the US administration's increasingly desperate-sounding rhetoric about an Iraqi national unity government. "Exit strategy" is one thing. But it increasingly sounds like absolutely everyone in Iraq is simply collapsed into total despair because there is no recognizable strategy of any kind to be found anywhere.
US forces killed 22 people and wounded eight at a mosque in east Baghdad in an incident likely to lead to increased tensions with the Shia community. Police said the US troops had retaliated after coming under fire.
Videotape showed a heap of male bodies with gunshot wounds on the floor of the Imam's living quarters in what was said to be the Al Mustafa mosque. There were 5.56mm shell casings on the floor, which is the type of ammunition used by US soldiers. A weeping man in white Arab robes is shown stepping among the bodies.
Police Lt Hassan said some of the casualties were at the office Dawa, the party of the Prime Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Haidar al-Obaidi, a senior Dawa official, said: "The lives of Iraqis are not cheap. If the American blood is valuable to them, the Iraqi blood is valuable to us."
The "historical judgment" that Bush, Rumsfeld, and Cheney like to use as a last line of rhetorical defense to their own populace sounds increasingly like, in actuality, it will be judgment of a gigantic accidental outcome, whatever that outcome is.