On Monday the 1st of January 2007, the Iraq News Agency reported on an important development; the following is a paraphrase of their report:
The U.S. army announced that it has killed six "terrorists" and arrested another two during heavy fighting in Baghdad while attacking the headquarters of the National Dialogue Front, led by Dr. Saleh Al-Mutlaq. The army statement assured that the raid was based on an intelligence report that indicated the area has been used as a safe sanctuary for Al-Qaeda in Iraq members for executing attack plans.
The statement claims that while approaching the targeted area, the U.S. army received heavy fire from automatic machine guns and grenades from several near building tops. The statement continues that the allied forces returned fire on the source of the attack killing two terrorists. Meanwhile, several others fled to a 3rd building, adding that allied forces also managed to get a foothold in a near by building, which led to the killing of four terrorists and the apprehending of another.
I called Dr. Saleh Al-Mutlaq today and asked him about what happened, and his account is very different. Dr. Al-Mutlaq said that the U.S. and Iraqi forces surrounded his party’s headquarters in Baghdad after midnight and that a brief exchange of fire took place, so he tried to contact the U.S. embassy and U.S. army to understand what was happening and to clarify that his guards thought they were being attacked by militias when they fired back, and that they didn’t know the U.S. army was involved.
It seems that the U.S. embassy and Army where not interested in hearing from Dr. Saleh in that time. So instead of calling him back, the U.S. army destroyed the headquarters by an air strike that killed two of the guards, Mr. Jasim Ameer Muhammad and Mr. Muhammad Khamees Al-Falahi, in addition to killing a neighboring family of four (the parents with their son and daughter). The six casualties were described in the U.S. army reports as "terrorists".
This attack against the National Dialogue Front (NDF) led by Al-Mutlaq does not seem to be accidental. The Bush administration’s attempts to create a pro-occupation coalition in the Iraqi government failed last week after Al-Sistani, the grand Shia Ayatollah, refused to support the U.S. plan. The bush administration’s plan seems to have changed from simply excluding anti-occupation political parties (like Sadrists, Al-Fadila party, NDF, and others) from the Iraqi government to actively bombing them.
The attack on NDF’s headquarters in Baghdad is nothing more than the first step in the administration’s plan B. The Al-Sadr movement and its militia, Al-Mahdi Army, seem to be next, and others will follow.
Attacking NDF, the only political party with no militias, will push the country towards more violence and militarization. It sends one message to Iraqis who still believe in political solutions: We will destroy you unless you were strong enough to destroy us.
RAED JARRAR is the Iraq Project Director at Global Exchange and a member of the Steering Committee of United for Peace and Justice.