Socialist Worker

Death toll rises in Sadr City siege

by Simon Assaf
Issue No. 2100

Over 800 people are feared dead in the poor slums of Baghdad following a brutal month-long siege by US forces and their Iraqi allies.

The figure from the Iraqi government, updated from 400 announced last week, marks a new bloody turn following months of a ceasefire.

In the latest incident US warplanes levelled a five story apartment block and a hospital, killing an untold number of civilians.

The Sadr City neighbourhoods, home to over 2.5 million people, have been swelled recently by waves of refugees driven out of their homes by sectarian cleansing.

The US is attempting to destroy the Mehdi Army, a Shia Muslim resistance organisation headed by rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

The organisation enjoys popular support among the majority of poor Shias. Sadr has called on his supporters to fight the occupation after his plea for a ceasefire was ignored.

Allegations

The US claims that Sadr is being armed by Iran. But even the US-backed Iraqi government, when questioned about the source of rockets hitting the Green Zone, the area in Baghdad where the occupation is based, admitted “there is no conclusive evidence” they were supplied by Iran.

Resistance fighters have stalled US forces at the edge of the Shia areas of the capital, prompting the occupation forces to launch a wave of attacks by warplanes, helicopter gunships and predator drones.

As occupation troops lay siege to Sadr City, the US unveiled a new “grand plan” for the Green Zone, now rebranded the “international zone”.

Over the next five years the US plans to transform it into a “zone of influence” packed with luxury hotels, restaurants and up market homes.

Takers so far include the Marriot hotel chain, MBI International – a conglomerate headed by Saudi billionaire sheikh Mohammed Bin Issa al-Jaber – and a Californian company that wants to build an “amusement centre” worth £250 million.

According to the US, property values inside the Green Zone have risen from £25 a square meter to over £250.

This playground of seven-star hotels will be defended by 15 foot concrete blast barriers, razor wire and heavily armed troops.

Rockets

The main problem with this plan is the steady stream of rockets raining down on the Green Zone.

Over the past month resistance fighters in the Iraqi capital have fired over 700 rockets and mortars into the zone killing scores of US troops and contractors.

Part of the US offensive on Baghdad neighbourhoods is to “pacify” areas of the city where the rockets are being launched.

Meanwhile the majority of Iraqis live in extreme poverty. They are forced to flee from one area to another to escape bombardments, military swoops and sectarian death squads.

Over two million have fled to neighbouring countries, while the relatively safer areas in the northern Kurdish regions are now in danger from ongoing Turkish military incursions.

According to independent journalist Dahr Jamail, Iraqis face a cut in their monthly food rations from ten items to five. They are the only means of survival for over four million Iraqis.


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Article information

News
Tue 6 May 2008, 18:23 BST
Issue No. 2100
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