AP reported that one or more suicide truck bombs had "collapsed" the steel structure of a bridge between the Baghdad neighborhoods of Azamiyah and Bab al-Muazam early Thursday with major loss of life.[1]  --  BBC News reported that "The rush-hour blast partially destroyed the Sarafiya Bridge by collapsing one of its girders."[2]  --  Reuters called the road over the bridge "a key artery in the northern part of the city . . . often used by minibuses and commercial vehicles travelling from central Baghdad to markets in the city's northern areas."[3]  --  The news headed up Juan Cole's summary of news from Iraq.[4]...



Middle East


Associated Press
April 12, 2007


[PHOTO CAPTION: This image from APTN television shows damage to the al-Sarafiya bridge connecting two northern Baghdad neighborhoods -- Azamiyah, a mostly Sunni enclave, and Bab al-Muazam, a mixed area Thursday April 12, 2007. A suicide truck bomb exploded on the bridge in northern Baghdad early Thursday, collapsed the steel structure and sent cars toppling into the Tigris River below, police and witnesses said. At least 10 people were killed and 26 injured, according to hospital officials. That toll was expected to rise.]

BAGHDAD -- A suicide truck bomb exploded on a major bridge in Baghdad early Thursday, collapsing the steel structure and sending cars toppling into the Tigris River below, police and witnesses said.

At least 10 people were killed and 26 injured, according to hospital officials. That toll was expected to rise.

Police were trying to rescue as many as 20 people whose cars plummeted into the waters below.

Hours after the blast, waves lapped up against twisted girders sinking into the water, as police patrol boats searched for survivors.

The al-Sarafiya bridge connected two northern Baghdad neighborhoods -- Azamiyah, a mostly Sunni enclave, and Bab al-Muazam, a mixed area.

Police said the attack was by a suicide truck bomber, but Associated Press Television News footage showed the bridge broken apart in two places -- perhaps the result of two blasts.



BBC News
April 12, 2007


A suspected truck bomb explosion on a bridge in Baghdad has killed at least eight people and sent several cars toppling into the River Tigris below.

The rush-hour blast partially destroyed the Sarafiya Bridge by collapsing one of its girders.

Several people have been hurt in the blast and police are reportedly looking for survivors in the river waters.

U.S. and Iraqi troops launched a security sweep in Baghdad two months ago in an effort to reduce sectarian violence.

U.S. commanders say the number of civilians being killed in the city has fallen for the third month running but there has been a rise in the number of violent deaths outside the city.

Many bridges in Baghdad have checkpoints at either end.



April 12, 2007


A truck bomb killed eight people on a bridge in Baghdad today and sent several cars plunging into the Tigris River below, Iraqi police said.

Police said the blast, which occurred during the morning rush hour, had damaged the Sarafiya bridge in northern Baghdad. One of its steel girders had collapsed.

Four or five cars had fallen into the river and the death toll could rise, police said, adding that 22 people had been wounded. Iraqiya state television said a number of people had been killed and wounded but gave no details.

U.S. and Iraqi forces launched a security crackdown in the capital two months ago that has managed to reduce death squad killings, but car and truck bombs have remained a problem.

The Tigris River cuts Baghdad in half and the Sarafiya bridge is a key artery in the northern part of the city. It is often used by minibuses and commercial vehicles travelling from central Baghdad to markets in the city's northern areas.

Checkpoints are placed at the entrances to most of the many bridges that cross the Tigris in Baghdad.

The security operation in the capital is seen as a last ditch attempt to halt Iraq's slide into sectarian civil war.

The US military said yesterday that for the third month in a row, civilian casualties had declined in Baghdad but that in the same period there had been an increase in casualties across Iraq.


By Juan Cole

Informed Comment
April 12, 2007

http://www.juancole.com/2007/04/thursday-morning-in-baghdad-truck-bomb.html (see original for links)

Thursday morning in Baghdad, a truck bomb detonated on the Sarafiya bridge in Baghdad. Early reports gave the casualty toll as 9 dead, but observers said that five or six cars were sent into the river and likely the number of fatalities would rise. Aljazeera is saying that there were 20 passengers in the cars. The bridge is a major artery linking east and west Baghdad.

Two more U.S. troops were announced killed on Wednesday, with several more wounded.

Reuters reports that police found 11 bodies in Baghdad on Wednesday, and 9 in Mosul. There were several bombings and mortar attacks in Baghdad.

British troops fought an intense gun battle with Shiite militiamen in a rough neighborhood of Basra, beginning on Tuesday, which left between 10 and 20 militiamen dead. I presume these are Mahdi Army, though it isn't clear from the report in the *Telegraph*. There are several Shiite militias in Basra, and some Marsh Arab tribes function as militias or mafias.

The Iraq Islamic Army, a major Sunni Arab guerrilla group, says that it is willing to parlay with the Americans on three conditions: The U.S. Congress must announce that the U.S. will leave Iraq; the Sunni Arab resistance must be recognized as a legitimate party in the dispute; and the talks must be sponsored by Russia, Turkey, or the European Union. The IIA excludes ex-Baathists from its ranks and has recently been fighting Salafi extremists who call themselves "al-Qaeda," but says that it wants to unite the Sunni Arab resistance.

Sunni and Shiite guerrillas are continuing to engage in ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods in Baghdad despite the increase in the number of U.S. and Iraqi troops there.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has issued a report saying that the situation for Iraqi civilians is bad and getting worse, and that there has been no tangible improvement for them in Baghdad. It says that thousands of bodies are at morgues throughout the country because families do not know they are there or are afraid to go pick them up. Mothers keep their children at home until the dead bodies are collected from the street so they won't see them.

The Iraq War has spurred terrorism and provided a training ground for al-Qaeda, according to a new British report.

The U.S. military spokesman Major General William Caldwell argued on Wednesday that Iran is giving military aid to Sunni guerrillas in Iraq. Since the Sunni guerrillas are killing and blowing up Shiites every day, and since Iran is closely allied with the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and its Badr Corps paramilitary, the leaders of which have repeatedly been targeted by Sunni guerrillas, that Iran is trying to kill its own guys in Iraq is flatly implausible. Caldwell can come out and say it every day, and I will come out here and say it is implausible every day. Anti-Iranian sentiments are a key characteristic of the Sunni Arab guerrillas.

Iranian arms may be being smuggled into Iraq, but it is unlikely that the government is doing the smuggling, or that they are more important than all the other arms that are being smuggled into Iraq from a variety of neighbors. So the U.S. military might well find Sunni guerrillas with Iranian arms.

We also know that some Sunni guerrillas want to foment a war between the U.S. and Iran. So captured Sunni guerrillas may be feeding interrogators this line that they are getting help from Iran, to make trouble. That is, whatever the U.S. military is finding in the way of evidence for this absurd allegation can be explained in some other plausible way, so as to avoid our having to come to conclusions that make no sense whatsoever. I am hoping that journalists covering the war will treat these allegations with the profound skepticism they deserve.

The easy way for the U.S. military not to be inconvenienced by arms smuggling into Iraq from neighboring countries is for it to leave Iraq.

These ridiculous allegations against Iran of supporting Baathists and Salafis in Iraq are probably just pressure tactics. The Iranians want the U.S. to release five diplomats who had been invited to Irbil by Kurdistan president Massoud Barzani, but who were kidnapped by the Bush administration. The U.S. maintains that they are intelligence field officers. Iran is threatening not to attend the upcoming Sharm el Sheikh conference on Iraq if their men are not released.

The U.S. is refusing to release the Iranian personnel.

Young nationalist Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr issued a communiqué on Wednesday sharply rebuking Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for saying in Japan that there was no need for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq.

Tens or hundreds of thousands of protesters assembled in the holy city of Najaf on Monday, despite the dangers of traveling in Iraq, to protest the continued U.S. military presence in the country, answering Muqtada's earlier call. Monday was the fourth anniversary of the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime. Moqtada said in his statement that his parliamentarians are considering boycotting the al-Maliki government.

The 32 Sadrist deputies engaged in such a boycott in November and December (to protest al-Maliki's meeting in Jordan with George W. Bush), making it difficult or impossible for parliament to get a quorum. (Many of the parliamentarians actually live abroad, whereas the Sadrists are in town, so their absence is crucial). A Sadrist boycott of the al-Maliki government, coupled with the defection of the Islamic Virtue Party from his coalition, could make it difficult for parliament to function, and could stop the passage of the proposed petroleum investment bill. The Bush administration appears privately to have told al-Maliki that passage of that bill by June is a benchmark on which his government will be judged.

Al-Zaman writes in Arabic that its sources say that a Sadrist withdrawal is unlikely. It says that the Sadr Movement is now made up of three major groups: Sadrists who have become loyal to al-Maliki; the parliamentarians; and the Mahdi Army, which is loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr.

The Iraqi Accord Front, a coalition of Sunni Arab fundamentalists with 44 seats in parliament, may withdraw from the political process, as well. Several of its MPs have been targeted for raids by the U.S. military and have been tied to Sunni guerrilla groups. Others have abruptly fled the country without filing the requisite paperwork. MP Khalaf Ulyan, one of 3 leaders of the Front, had his house raided recently and the U.S. alleged it found weapons there. He is abroad.

If the Sunni Arabs in parliament withdraw, and the Sadrists withdraw, that really could spell the end of any quorum and produce [an even more] complete legislative gridlock. *Al-Zaman* is saying that the Iraqi Islamic Party, one of the three members of the IAF coalition, has indicated that it would not depart from the political process.

Prime Minister al-Maliki was forced to reaffirm that foreign policy is the prerogative of the Baghdad government, in the face of threats and pronouncements of Kurdistan Regional Government president Massoud Barzani on April 6. Ankara is enraged by Barzani's threats to cause trouble in Diyarbakr if Turkey interferes in the Kirkuk issue.

The U.S. military in Iraq appears to have killed an awful lot of Iraqi civilians out of being trigger happy. I mean, you sympathize in a guerrilla war situation with troops being suspicious even of civilians, but a schoolboy with a bookbag?

48 percent of adult respondents in a recent poll said that Bush should sign the appropriations bill that contains language on setting a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq.

43% said that they thought Bush should veto the bill.

Barack Obama criticized John McCain on Wednesday, suggesting that the current surge in the number of U.S. troops will not resolve Iraq's civil war.

Senator Chris Dodd, a Democratic presidential candidate, called for more diplomacy on Iraq and criticized the idea that an increase of troops can succeed. He critiqued the position of John McCain in support of a "surge," as a military solution to the problem.

The retired generals seem implicitly to agree with Obama and Dodd since they are voting with their feet. Bush cannot so far sign any of them up to be a "war czar" to oversee the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. Mostly, they have figured out that Dick Cheney actually calls the shots on war policy, and that Cheney is inflexible and not living in the same dimension as the rest of us. Having responsibility for two wars with no actual authority to make policy would be an unenviable position to be in. News that SecDef Robert Gates wanted to close down Guantanamo and stop the torture, and was over-ruled by Cheney, probably gave these candidates pause.