When insurgents attacked an American convoy with AK-47 rounds and a couple of grenades on a dusty highway in a Baghdad suburb this week, U.S. soldiers returned fire, chased the suspects through narrow alleyways and raided houses.
Tuesday’s clash killed two Iraqi adults and a 14-year-old and wounded four people, including two children.
When the shooting subsided, another confrontation began. A senior Iraqi army commander who arrived at the scene concluded that the Americans had fired indiscriminately at civilians and ordered his men to take the U.S. soldiers into custody. The U.S. military said the soldiers had acted in self-defense and had sought to avoid civilian casualties; U.S. commanders at the scene persuaded the Iraqis to back down.
The incident, apparently the first time a senior Iraqi commander has sought to detain U.S. soldiers, signals a potential escalation of tensions between U.S. and Iraqi forces trying to find a new equilibrium as Iraq assumes more responsibility for its security. [continued…]
Iraq’s government said Thursday that it was demanding explanations from the United States and Turkey about a protocol signed this year between an American official and a representative of a group of Iraqi Sunni insurgents in Istanbul as a precursor to negotiations between the two sides.
The Iraqi government said in a statement that the protocol amounts to “an interference in Iraq’s internal political affairs” and that it was expecting “clear explanations” from American and Turkish officials at the embassies in Baghdad.
Contacts between the American government and Iraqi insurgent groups are nothing new, and the most recent ones have occurred with the coordination of an Iraqi government reconciliation unit attached to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s office. The goal is to get insurgents to renounce violence and embrace the political process.
But the release of the document of the protocol appears to be an attempt to embarrass the United States and show how deeply involved it remains in Iraq’s affairs. It also underscores just how hostile Mr. Maliki’s Shiite-led government remains to any serious engagement with Sunni insurgents, especially those suspected of having links to Saddam Hussein’s former ruling Baath Party. [continued…]