13 people were killed in the second day of fighting between Jeish al-Mehdi and U.S. and Iraqi troops. The U.S. military says it has targeted Iraqi militants linked to Iran in East Baghdad during the last two days, sparking firefights that have left at least twenty-seven people dead, including a Reuters photographer. Today, U.S. troops fought and killed at least six Iraqi police in the neighborhood of Fadhilia. Click the image below to download the RealPlayer radio report.
The streets were quiet as we drove back to our hotel this afternoon. Eerily quiet. It was a bit disconcerting until we remembered that the Iraqi football team was playing Australia in the Asian cup.
Iraq won 3-1, provoking celebratory gunshots after the game. Afterwards, as I walked to a nearby restaurant to get dinner, the streets in the neighborhood around the hotel were full of kids playing soccer. The harsh midday sun had given way to the soft light of evening, and I enjoyed a peaceful moment in what had otherwise been a depressing day, spent investigating a round of fighting on Thursday that had led to the deaths of a Reuters photographer and his assistant, as well as a dozen fighters and civilians, depending on whose account one believes.
The incident is another example of how hard it is to get to the bottom of things here, and it didn't help that the amount of time we were able to spend in the neighborhood was limited by the potential that the people giving eyewitness accounts might decide to vent their anger on us rather than to us.
That brings the official total of press and support staff killed to 150, though likely it is higher.
According to residents, US fire directed at this minibus during a firefight in Baghdad's al-Amin Ithania neighborhood killed seven, including two Reuters employees.
Residents of al-Amin Ithania prepare for the funerals of three people killed on Thursday.
Navigating Amman is usually done by referencing its traffic circles, most of which have been assigned numbers: you get into the cab and ask to go to the 7th Circle, 3rd Circle, whichever. I'm not the first to riff off Dante with regards to Amman, but it was hard for Rick and I to ignore that the last circle (which is on the way to the airport) is the 8th Circle, suggesting that, as you travel further east, the 9th Circle is... do I need to say it?
Anyway, day two in Baghdad was a wash. We spent most of it in the hotel as the translator we hired was confined to his neighborhood by a US military raid against the Jeish al-Mehdi, which might explain why so many mortars hit the Green Zone today. (The BBC reported 12, al-Jazeera international reported 30.)
Am finding as I speak with people about what is possible that it is far more difficult to move around here than it was the last time I was here, in May 2006. The increasing tensions between the Sadrists and the government, as well as continued fighting between the Jeish al-Mehdi on the military, have everyone on edge and expecting worse.
And Dante was wrong about the ice in the 9th Circle. It's toasty here.
We arrived in Baghdad from Amman yesterday. Today has been spent so far on logistics such as getting cell phone SIM cards and setting up interviews, so I'll reflect quickly on Jordan and begin blogging about Iraq in my next post.
Sunni and Shitte tribal leaders North of Baghdad have signed an agreement with the U.S. military to allow them to police volatile cities and villages. The agreement was consented to by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. U.S. soliders are optimistic; Iraqis still have some reservations.
Fareed Zakaria interviewed David Enders on Foreign Exchange. Just back from Iraq, David describes a stagnating, often deteriorating security situation, a central government unable to provide basic services to Iraqi citizens, and the rise of militias as the real authority in many areas. The interview is a sobering counterpoint to recent official reports from the region and is, in our view, essential viewing as the Bush administration presents its much-touted "progress report" on Iraq.
Iraq, Iran and Patterns in Foreign Policy
On a sunny winter day in the heart of old Baghdad, in a melting-pot neighborhood where everyone knows everyone and the routines of daily life are prized, the prospect of war can seem distant indeed.
As President George W. Bush prepared Tuesday to make his case for confronting Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, the only sign of impending war in Baghdad was the stoic anticipation by average people of havoc to come.