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Najaf Update: February 7, 2007

Still more sceptical reporting on the Najaf Incident. Conn Hallinan of Foreign Policy In Focus sees the way the story is being positioned as part of the run-up to a possible US attack on Iran.

The Najaf Massacre: Annotated

Foreign Policy In Focus

Conn Hallinan | February 7, 2007

Times Unrepentant

Despite the IPS, Independent, and Arab media reports, The New York Times continues to report that the battle was with a “renegade militia.” More than a week after the incident, a Times editorial chastised the Iraqi Army for allowing “hundreds of armed zealots” to set up “a fortified encampment, complete with tunnels, trenches, blockades, 40 heavy machine guns and at least two antiaircraft weapons.” The editorial went on to suggest that “a successful attack on top clerics and pilgrims in Najaf would have been disastrous.”

The details on the camp, the weapons, and the charge that Najaf was the target are straight from Iraqi government sources.

The way the U.S. media has reported the “battle” of Zarqa is a virtual replay of the kind of reporting that characterized the run-up to the Iraq War. The media seems to be taking a chillingly similar tack in its reporting about “Iranian interference” in Iraq. For instance, a recent story in The New York Times reports that Iran may have been involved in the recent kidnapping and murder of five Americans. But the story presents nothing but a series of unnamed sources and speculations.

The Bush administration allegations that Iran has set up insurgent training camps and built anti-personnel bombs that have killed and maimed U.S. soldiers have been routinely reported on all the major networks and daily newspapers with virtually no dissenting voices or questions raised concerning the motives of sources.

Such reporting paves the road to war. Will its next victim be Iran?

Chris Floyd underlines the role of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) in shaping the “official story” now making the rounds in The New York Times and other US publications.

Ersatz Apocalypto: Slaughter and Spin in the Battle for Najaf

Atlantic Free Press

Wednesday, 07 February 2007
by Chris Floyd

SCIRI members, buttressed by the Najaf provincial government, which they control, said that more than 1,000 terrorists were killed in the battle, and that some 200 “brainwashed women and children” were detained and “removed to another place,” presumably for deprogramming. SCIRI officials differed on the number of terrorists captured in the battle; one said 50, another said 16, yet another said “hundreds” were detained. It was SCIRI that advanced the notion that the attack aimed to kill the clerics, not capture them. Various SCIRI officials said the cult’s leader was a) the aforesaid unnamed Lebanese national; b) Dhiaa’ Abdul Zahra Kadhim, as in the Sadrist account; c) a renegade Sadrist named Ahmed Kadhim Al-Gar’awi Al-Basri ; d) another renegade Sadrist named Ahmed Hassan al-Yamani; e) a self-proclaimed messiah named Ali bin Ali bin Abi Talib.

A SCIRI member of the Najaf governing council also claimed that “the leader of this group had links with the former regime elements since 1993. Some of the gunmen brought their families with them in order to make it easier to enter the city,” Associated Press reports. An Iraqi army officer, sectarian affiliation unknown, added that Lebanese, Egyptians and Sudanese were taken prisoner in the battle – though none of these foreign fighters have yet been produced. And just for good measure, Najaf’s SCIRI governor, As’ad Abu Gilel, said the attackers were Sunni insurgents, planning to attack Shiite pilgrims on their way to mark the festival of Ashura in Najaf.

U.S. military officials originally picked various items from this dizzying smorgasbord of spin in cobbling together their own version of the battle, although in general they hewed more closely to the SCIRI line. But that’s not surprising, given the fact that this violent, extremist Shiite faction, whose death-dealing militia is deeply embedded in the Iraqi security forces, is currently in high favor with the Bush White House.

However, by mid-week, the Pentagon suddenly reversed course and came out with a whole new account, one cited by Bush himself, as the Washington Post reported. Now the battle was depicted as an exemplary pre-emptive strike by an “aggressive” and “impressive” Iraqi military, acting on good intelligence that the cult intended to storm Najaf and kill the leading clerics because they refused to recognize the claim of the cult’s leader (now known as Samer Abu Kamar, by the way) to be the Mahdi.

Nidhal Laithi of Azzaman says that members of the Iraq Parliament have called for a special tribunal similar to that which prosecuted former Iraqi President Saddam al-Tikriti to investigate the Najaf Incident. The Speaker of the Iraqi Parliment, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, condemned what he called a “massacre”.

The Najaf ‘massacre’ divides country

By Nidhal Laithi

Azzaman, February 6, 2007

Some members of parliament in a session on Monday requested the formation of a tribunal to look into the bloody incident.

Some legislators urged the parliament to form a tribunal like the one which sentenced former leader Saddam Hussein and two of his senior aides to death for the killing of 148 people from Dujail.

The government has said it mobilized troops to quell what it called a rebellion north of Najaf and asked U.S. military assistance to defeat the rebels.

But parliamentary speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, said that he received letters from tribal leaders in the south refuting the government version of events.

Mashhadani called the battle ‘a massacre’, accusing the government of hiding the truth of what exactly happened in Najaf.

BBS gives casualty totals according to the Iraqi government:

Bloody Najaf Battle Could Mark Turning Point


Sunday, February 04 2007 @ 01:18 PM EST

IRAQ: Southern Iraq in danger of slipping into chaos

Ambiguity still surrounds events of the battle that pitted Iraqi and US forces on one side against a previously unknown Shi’ite messianic cult called ‘Jund al-Samaa’, or ‘Soldiers of Heaven’, on the other.

The clashes, which erupted on 28 January in Najaf palm groves, left 263 militants dead, 210 wounded and 392 others arrested [emphasis mine–HH], Iraqi defence ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said.

At least 11 Iraqi troops were killed along with two US soldiers, whose helicopter was shot down during the battle. Some 30 Iraqi troops were wounded.

Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (wikipedia)

See also: Keyword ‘Najaf’ on scanlyze

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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7 February, 2007 Posted by | Air Force, Army, Bush, Iran, Iraq, journalism, massacre, media, memory hole, military, Najaf, New York Times, news, peace, politics, scanlyze, USA, war, war crimes | Leave a comment