Arbil and Baghdad Ratchet Up Tensions As 151 Are Killed Across Iraq

Tensions between Baghdad and Arbil continued to escalate as 151 people were killed and 86 more were wounded. The number of dead is likely higher because the bodies of dozens of fighters are arriving at the Najaf cemetery on a daily basis now. Baghdad has been tight with casualty numbers concerning its fighting troops.

Politics:

Baghdad retaliated against a Kurdish boycott of the cabinet by halting cargo flights to Iraqi Kurdistan. The escalation began when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused, without evidence, the Kurds of harboring Islamic State militants. The Kurds answered with a boycott and by blaming Maliki for all the country’s sectarian woes. They want his immediate resignation. The Kurds further emphasized that they have not left the Iraqi government just yet. They are only boycotting Maliki’s caretaker government. However, they do plan on an independence referendum in the near future.

The Kurds are also resisting Iranian entreaties to join the fight against the Islamic State. While the Kurds have been fighting the militants within Kurdish territories, they do not want to fight on behalf of Maliki’s government. The Iranians continue to support Maliki whom many believe is a puppet of the predominantly Shi’ite country, but they also prefer a unified Iraq, which is unlikely to continue under Maliki. Iran has its share of Kurdish rebels and may feel an independent Kurdistan will inflame them.

Thousands of Turkmen are arriving in Kurdistan. The Turkmen are a significant minority group in Iraq and are fleeing the Islamic State militants.

Meanwhile, in an example of how difficult it is to gauge reports from the Iraq government, local witnesses to the fighting at the Baiji Refinery report wildly different figures from those given by Baghdad. Depending on which account is believed, there are either 75 troops protecting the refinery or as many as 1,500. If the government figure of 1,500 is accurate, then it implies that the Iraq Army cannot effectively fight off what is believed to be only 500 militants.

Another example is the number of bodies arriving in Najaf, where the largest cemetery in the world is located. Currently they are receiving about 60 per day, but the exact number is unreported. Dozens of these bodies, however, definitely belong to the untrained Shi’ite militiamen fighting against Sunni militants. The government has neglected to release accurate casualty figures concerning these fighters and even their own troops. Today, 10,000 more tribesmen volunteered to fight in Anbar.

Fearing kidnappings and other violence, Sunni families are frantically trying to send their sons abroad.

Iraq reported that 88 pounds of uranium compounds were stolen from a research facility in Mosul. The International Atomic Energy Agency does not believe the low-grade material poses much of a risk.

The Pentagon has finally explained why the United States has not sent promised F-16 fighters ahead of schedule to Iraq. Among the issues is that there is no one who can fly them, and the base where they would be shipped is not safe. Also, the planes have to be retrofitted to use the range of weapons the Iraqis want. That will take several more months to complete.

Fighting:

A doctor in Falluja said that a Russian-made plane bombed a market, killing eight people and wounding 35 more. Twelve more civilians were wounded in a separate airstrike. Six militants were killed in a clash. A hospital source said that 542 people have been killed in shelling this year. Another 1880 were wounded.

In Dujail, 35 Sunni farmers were abducted as they brought their produce to market. It is unclear if Shi’ite militias, working with the Iraqi government, kidnapped the men under terrorism pretenses. Eleven farmers were kidnapped from al-Gelam.

Five soldiers and two policemen were killed, and six policemen were wounded during a skirmish in Ramadi. A militant official and two aides were killed.

Shelling killed three people and wounded 16 more in Baiji.

Four policemen were killed and two more were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded on a highway near Samarra.

Mortars in Nuiemiya killed one young man and wounded three other family members.

At least eight people were wounded in a bombing near a Kirkuk police station.

Militants took over an army base next to Muqdadiya.

Seven militants were killed and four security members were wounded as the al-Sudor police station was retaken by Iraq forces.

The Iraqi military claimed 46 militant’s lives in Anbar province and another 39 lives in Diyala.

In Jurf al-Sakhar, 25 militants were killed.

Two militant leaders were killed in Tikrit.

Read more by Margaret Griffis

Author: Margaret Griffis

Margaret Griffis is a journalist from Miami Beach, Florida and has been covering Iraqi casualties for Antiwar.com since 2006.