Will GWB ever say, “I was responsible” for this? Somehow, I don’t think so.
At Least 100 Are Killed as Bombs Explode Across Iraqi Capital
By Robert F. Worth
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 14 – More than 100 people were killed in a string of bombings and ambushes in Iraq today in the worst large scale violence since May and June, and the Al Qaeda group in Iraq said that it was launching a nationwide campaign of suicide bombings in retaliation for an American-Iraqi military offensive against insurgents in the northern city of Tal Afar.
The Al Qaeda statement, published on a militants’ Web site, did not claim responsibility for a specific attack but said: “We would like to congratulate the Muslim nation and inform it the battle to avenge the Sunnis of Tal Afar has begun,” according to Reuters.
Some of the attacks today were directed against Shiites, signifying they were the latest in a campaign by Sunni insurgents who are bent on exploiting sectarian divisions across Iraq.
Two militant groups had issued warnings of attacks against Shiites in retaliation for the offensive in Tal Afar. Although Kurdish pesh merga fighters took the lead among the Iraqi forces in that attack, most rank and file Army soldiers are Shiite, as is Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who ordered the campaign in Tal Afar.
The most serious attack took place in the Khadhimiya district of northern Baghdad at a place where large numbers of laborers typically gather in the morning in hopes of being hired for the day. A suicide bomber lured a crowd of men eager for labor to his minivan, and then blew it up just before 7 a.m., killing at least 80 people and wounding 162 in Khadhimiya, a Shiite neighborhood.
The explosions continued throughout the day in Baghdad, including a second suicide bombing in a Shiite neighborhood that left at least four people dead. There were two attacks on American convoys, but information about casualties was not immediate available. A car bomb blew up next to an Iraqi national guard patrol in a north Baghdad Shiite neighborhood, killing three members of the Iraqi forces.
North of the capital in Taji, armed men abducted and killed 17 people, Interior Ministry officials said.
Violence continued to flare. Two policemen were shot and killed on a patrol in eastern Baghdad, an Iraqi interior ministry spokesman said. A car bomb exploded at the scene when the police arrived to investigate. There was no immediate information on any casualties in that attack.
On Tuesday, the leaders in the Shiite-dominated National Assembly said they approved a final, modified version of the proposed new constitution. But the charter still does not come close to mollifying Sunni leaders who had hoped to win far broader changes in the document before the Oct. 15 national referendum.
The approval came more than two weeks after the draft was formally presented to Parliament over the objections of some lawmakers.
The revisions are relatively minor, and are not likely to win the support of Sunni Arab leaders who oppose the charter and had hoped to see broader changes on regional autonomy and other issues. The four approved changes touch on water rights, adherence to international treaties, cabinet staffing, and Iraq’s Arab identity, a more controversial subject on which the new draft offers a compromise position.
The leaders of the constitutional drafting committee said they had signed off on a final version, as did Hussein al-Shahristani, the acting speaker of the National Assembly and a leader of its Shiite majority. Mr. Shahristani said that he would announce the document’s completion at a news conference on Wednesday, and that it would then be given to United Nations officials, who are responsible for printing and distributing it.
But in a measure of the chaos that has surrounded the constitutional process, some committee members said Tuesday afternoon that they were not aware a draft had been agreed on and suggested that more delays could be in store.
Nicholas Haysom, the head of the United Nations constitutional advisory team, said the United Nations would insist that any draft it received have the approval of the full assembly, not just the speaker or the committee that drafted the document.
For weeks, the constitution has been in a perplexing state of uncertainty. Several different versions were circulated after negotiations were said to have ended. Some Iraqi leaders held meetings on amending the charter in hopes of winning over the Sunni Arab opposition, while others insisted that the document was already final and that it would not be changed.
The delays have reduced the time Iraqis will have to study a final draft before they vote on the constitution on Oct. 15. It will take about 10 days to print the five million copies of the 39-page document, a little more than one for every household in Iraq, Mr. Haysom said. That will leave just over three weeks to distribute them, far less than originally envisioned. Nongovernmental groups and schools will assist in the effort, and newspapers and radio and television will help publicize it, he said.
One of the approved changes addresses an objection by the panel’s Sunni minority. They were angered by an article describing Iraq as part of the Islamic world without saying it is part of the Arab world. The amended version compromises by stating that Iraq “is a founding member of the Arab League and is committed to its charter.”
Mahmoud al-Mashadani, a Sunni member of the constitutional panel, said that was not enough to convince the constitution’s opponents, who have sworn to lead a campaign against the document.
“The defense and the prosecution have rested,” he said. “The case is now in the hands of the jury.”
Under transitional law, the constitution will be defeated if two-thirds of the voters in any 3 of Iraq’s 18 provinces vote against it. That would lead to fresh elections for a new temporary national assembly, which would be charged with writing a new constitution.
The revisions do not touch on the most controversial part of the draft constitution, a provision that allows for the creation of largely autonomous regions within Iraq. That section, written at the insistence of Shiite leaders, has ignited fierce opposition from Sunnis and some others, notably the rebellious Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, who has hinted that he may lead a campaign against the document, too.
Many Sunnis were also angered by language that banned the symbols and remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, another provision that is not being changed.
The changes that were made include the addition of language making it clear that the central government is responsible for the distribution of water. Some Kurdish lawmakers, seeking control of water rights on rivers that flow through Iraqi Kurdistan, had resisted the change, but ultimately gave in, several committee members said.
Another change, specifying that the prime minister will have two deputies in the next elected government, was made in response to requests from the Kurds, who believe it will ensure some Kurdish influence over the prime minister’s office.
The last change was the deletion of an article stating that Iraq would adhere to any treaties it had signed on international human rights “unless they conflict with the rules and principles of the constitution.” The clause was widely seen as an effort to escape the treaties, so the lawmakers chose to drop the article altogether.
The constitutional agreement came as violence continued across the country, with American and Iraqi forces battling insurgents in central and northern Iraq.
Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Abdul Razzaq al-Saiedy contributed reporting from Baghdad for this article, and Iraqi employees of The New York Times from Karbala and Kirkuk. Christine Hauser contributed reporting from New York.