Thursday, February 23, 2006

Violence continues in Iraq after bombing of Samarra shrine; Sunnis pull out of Iraqi government talks


Sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites continues to escalate.

47 Sunni civilians were shot by Shias and their bodies left in a ditch near Baghdad as militia battles, mosque attacks and reprisals continued in Iraq following the ed the bombing of the sacred Shiite shrine at Samarra. Sunni Arabs have suspended their participation in talks on a new government.

Bodies are being found all over Iraq, many of them shot execution-style.

The Sunni Clerical Association of Muslim Scholars said 168 Sunni mosques had been attacked, 10 imams killed and 15 abducted since the shrine attack. The Interior Ministry said it could only confirm figures for Baghdad, where 90 mosques were attacked, one cleric was killed and one kidnapped.

Three journalists working for Al-Arabiya television were found murdered in Samarra, site of Wednesday's Askariya mosque attack.

President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, summoned political leaders to a meeting Thursday. B The biggest Sunni faction in the new parliament, the Iraqi Accordance Front, refused to attend.

"We want a clear condemnation from the government which didn't do enough yesterday to curb those angry mobs," said Dr. Salman al-Jumaili, a member of the Front. "There was even a kind of co-operation with the government security forces in some places in attacking the Sunni mosques."

Ouch.

Another player, our old friend Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr accused the Iraqi government and U.S. forces of failing to protect the Samarra shrine and ordered his militia to defend Shiite holy sites across Iraq.

"If the government had real sovereignty, then nothing like this would have happened," al-Sadr said a statement. "Brothers in the Mahdi Army must protect all Shiite shrines and mosques, especially in Samara."

So much for the Bush Administration's demand that the Interior and Defence Ministries go to non-sectarian appointees not associated with the militias...

The language coming from both Shiite and Sunni clerics is increasingly warlike in tone. An exception has been the chief Shiite cleric Ayatollah Sistani, who called for peace and seven days of mourning by Shiites.

Of course, Sistani got no credit for that from the Sunnis. Abdul-Salam al-Kubaisi, Sunni Clerical Association of Muslim Scholars spokesman, blamed the violence on the Ayatollah Sistani, and other Shiite religious leaders.

Al-Kubaisi also said U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad enflamed the situation when he warned Monday that the United States would not continue to support institutions run by sectarian groups with links to armed militias.

"Without doubt, these statements mobilized all the Shiites," al-Kubaisi said. "It made them ready to go down to the street at any moment."

After the Sunni massacre of Shiite worshippers at Karballa last year and given Iraq's previous history, it is somewhat unrealistic for the US or the Sunnis to expect the Shiite militias to simply disarm overnight.

The Iraqis themselves are going to have to make a decision to halt the violence if the country is to avoid splintering into civil war. I get the feeling that the US is already preparing a fall back position.

1 comment:

myotherfellow said...

I am unsurprised by the violent reaction to this despicable crime, because the fundamental dispute between Shiites and Sunnis outrageously spawns hatred, nonstop. I am unsurprised, therefore, by the reprisal attacks at Sunni mosques.


As a Shiite, I am shocked, however, at the murder of three Sunni journalists in Samarra.