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Relative of Chief Judge in Saddam Trial Killed in Baghdad

September 29, 2006 at 6:10 PM EDT


JEFFREY BROWN: Christian, today the brother-in-law of the presiding judge in the Saddam Hussein trial was killed. Is anything known about the killers? Is it assumed that this was directly tied to the trial?

CHRISTIAN CARYL, Correspondent, Newsweek: We never heard anything specific about who was behind them, but we can generally assume that, in this particular case, people who we’re probably dealing with are regime loyalists, people who are essentially loyal to Saddam Hussein, and who view this entire trial as an offense against their sensibilities, as an insult to their group.

We’re talking probably about Sunni Muslims. And what this murder shows, this latest in a whole series of these murders, is that it’s basically impossible to provide total security for all the family members and relatives of the people who are involved in prosecuting this case.

Somehow, these groups find out where the family members and relatives of these people live. They use tribal networks; they use various kinds of groups. And they’ll find out where your relatives are, and they’ll come and get them. Security is provided for the actual prosecutors and prosecutors’ teams, but not for all of their relatives, obviously.

Iraqi violence continues

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, there were many bodies found in Baghdad today, many moreall week long. It was reported also that last week saw the highest number ofsuicide bomb attacks of any week since the invasion in 2003. What are peoplethere saying about the reasons behind the up-tick in violence?

CHRISTIAN CARYL: Well, I think there are a lot of reasonsbehind the up-tick in violence, but one thing that's very important to note isthat a lot of those attacks were not directed against U.S. forces.

This has, indeed, been a very bloody time for Americantroops -- especially in Baghdad, where there has been a very large Americansecurity operation, coalition security operation aimed at securing the city,and that means, of course, also the losses from those troops will be greater --but the important thing to keep in mind is that a lot, the vast majority ofthese killings that we're hearing about now are due to sectarian violence.

Suicide bombings these days are very much a terror weaponused, it would seem, primarily by Sunni groups who are out to terrorize Shiacommunities. And that wave of violence has been countered by Shia communitiesin a variety of ways, Shia groups.

And it's suspected that much of the death squad activitythat we're hearing about, although it's very, very hard to pinpoint who'sbehind it, it's suspected that much of that activity is actually from variousShia factions and groupings, some of them perhaps allied quite closely with thepresent government, with the Ministry of the Interior, or the police.

Numbers hidden in the background

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, I'm sure you're aware that there aresome first looks at the new book by Bob Woodward. One of the things that he hassaid, apparently, is that the number of insurgent attacks in Iraq isactually far greater than the Pentagon has made public. Do you have anyinformation on that?

CHRISTIAN CARYL: Well, I think we've always assumed that theactual amount of violence is greater than what the Pentagon has been saying,simply because there are huge amounts of violence that simply don't go reportedby the Pentagon or by the coalition forces.

That's been the case, I think, pretty much from thebeginning, because there's always been a lot of violence in Iraq that wasnever of a kind directed against coalition forces themselves. There's been alot of what one military official here recently called "backgroundviolence," criminal violence, a variety of different things going on at aparticular time.

And I think it's quite clear that a lot of the Americanstatistics have not captured some of this violence. And we've seen thatrecently, particularly in the case of the United Nations statistics that cameout recently on, for example, sectarian killings, where the number that theycaptured was actually quite a bit higher than what coalition spokespeople havenamed.

And I think, from the beginning, there's been a tendency onthe side of the American military to minimize certain kinds of violence and tobe rather selective in what they considered actual insurgency-related orpolitically related violence.

You know, we hear every day from our Iraqi colleagues whoare out there on the street reporting -- which is somewhat more hard for us todo -- about various events of violence that never get mentioned in the pressreports, never get captured in coalition statistics. We hear that all the time.So it's just clear there's a lot that isn't making it into these numbers.

Calling for greater force

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, moving to the situation in Anbar Province,there was a statement from a top commander today, Colonel Sean MacFarland, whosaid that the insurgency can be defeated there, but probably not until U.S. forcesleave. Now, this is the province where, a few weeks ago, there were reportsabout whether the mission there had all but been abandoned or conceded. Whatcan you tell us about what's going on there?

CHRISTIAN CARYL: Well, I think it's pretty much clear toeveryone at this point -- and I think most informed observers can see -- thatit's simply not going to be possible for the coalition to regain control of thesituation in Anbar Province if troop levels remain the way they are.

And there's no indication that I can see that anyone isseriously thinking about increasing the level of coalition troops involved inoperations in Anbar Province. And as long asthat's the political reality, I suspect that we'll be seeing the same people incommand of that area for the foreseeable future. And those people are Sunniinsurgents and who are, to a large extent, dominated by an al-Qaida-likeideology, if not al-Qaida itself.

JEFFREY BROWN: And finally, Christian, there have been inthe past few days reports that American military officials there were not satisfiedwith Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki in his dealings with combating themilitias. What is going on? What are you hearing from local officials?

CHRISTIAN CARYL: Well, you know, I was very struck by awhole series of articles that came out in the American press over the past weekor two that were striking, it seemed. And then fairly recently, within just thepast few days, we actually had senior military officials on the record sayingvery cautiously and delicately, but unmistakably, that they would desire thatthe Maliki government move a bit more forcefully to combat this kind ofsectarian violence which is now sweeping through Baghdad.

It seems that the problem is a very simple one: The Malikigovernment is dependent on support from the bloc of Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shiitepopulist strongman, and it's precisely his militia that is often pointed towhen we're talking about some of the those vicious of the recent sectariankillings, basically Shia on Sunni.

And until there's some different political configuration inthe government in Iraq,it's hard to imagine how the government here can actually crack down on thiskind of violence.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Christian Caryl of Newsweek,thanks very much.