Sunny Downtown Najaf

Crossposted from Town Called Dobson

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Here is what "surge" looks like:

Local government officials claimed that as many as 300 militants from a Shia sect calling themselves Jund al-Samaa (Soldiers of Heaven) were killed in fierce fighting that lasted for nearly 24 hours and cost the lives of five Iraqi personnel and two US servicemen whose helicopter crashed. A further 100 rebels were reported captured.

Reports from Najaf today described the city as calm but awash with Iraqi soldiers and roadblocks, ordering men out of their cars and demanding identity papers. A sandstorm enveloped the streets in an orange mist.

Iraq’s national security minister said the leader of the sect was a 40-year-old Iraqi who claimed to be the Mahdi -- an Islamic prophet who is destined to rise again and judge good from evil. The man, believed to be from the nearby Shia city of Diwaniya was killed just as he was preparing to lead an attack on Shia clerics in Najaf, said Shirwan al-Waeli.

I watched footage all weekend from American and foreign news services and didn't see any footage of the so-called Iraqi Army. I did see all the Madhi followers dead or in US custody.

And the make-up of the insurgents remains unclear. This was more of an apocalyptic cult than insurgency.

The role of al Qaeda is unclear, because the group has typically allied itself with extremist Sunni militants, regarding Shia Muslims as apostates and heretics. The deputy governor of Najaf, Abdel Hussein Attan, said the militia "appears to be a Shia group but its deep-rooted conviction is different".

And this is just a SLICE of what went on in Iraq this past weekend. The mayhem was not limited to sunny downtown Najaf.

Mortar shells, meanwhile, hit the courtyard of a girls’ school in a mostly Sunni Arab neighborhood of Baghdad, killing five pupils and wounding 20. U.N. officials deplored the attack, calling the apparent targeting of children “an unforgivable crime.”

Two car bombs exploded within a half hour in the northern city of Kirkuk, killing 11 people and wounding 34, police Brig. Gen. Sarhad Qader said. Three ethnic groups — Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen — are in a bitter struggle for control of that oil-rich area.

This is what escalation looks like and we are sending MORE soldiers into the maul, not less, nor are we removing them completely.