I'm here at my desk in the middle of the night working over interview notes for an article I'm writing and I see this late wire story from Iraq: "Iraqi Shi'ite Militia Battles Italian Troops."
In brief, Sadrist militiamen are engaged in what seem to be running battles with Italian troops in Nassiriya.
According to the report, the Sadrists have burned four Italian military vehicles and they still control streets near the local CPA headquarters.
The casaulties, at least as reported so far, seem relatively light.
But this has now been going on for several days. And these aren't terrorist attacks, bomb blasts or ambushes. These are continuous armed battles in which the insurgents are -- for at least periods of time -- taking control of parts of cities that are right up near, if not on top of, the symbols of the occupation authority itself.
In Karbala, says the Post, "Sadr's followers attacked a police station and a television station. In Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, they occupied the governor's office and traded fire with British troops."
In an urban warfare context there's obviously not always a bright line between all out war and isolated guerilla attacks. But this sounds a lot more like the former than the latter. And especially in areas where there aren't large concentrations of American troops, these sound a lot more like standoffs or worse than situations where coalition troops can quickly mobilize and stamp out the attacks.
We really do seem to be on the brink here. Like a top, once its even spin turns into a reckless wobble, these things can be very, very hard to right once they fly out of control.
According to the Times, Tony Blair is coming to Washington next week for crisis talks that won't be called crisis talks. From the Times article ...
British officials say that while they are sympathetic with the daunting management task that Americans have undertaken, they also believe that the Coalition Provisional Authority under Mr. Bremer has become too "politicized," meaning that events are orchestrated and information controlled with the American political agenda uppermost in mind.
A very difficult situation has been worsened by the political priorities of key decision-makers in the occupation authority. But that fact seems more like an afterthought when you consider how dire a situation we've backed ourselves into.