Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Iraq's worsening mess

I'm reading some very troubling reports in the Arabic press regarding the Askariya shrinebombing, and the political fallout following.
The mosque, one of the four most revered in Iraq, has been heavily guarded by Iraqi troops ever since the 2006 attack. No one ever asserted responsibility for that blast. But it was blamed on the Sunni extremist group al-Qaeda in Iraq, which over the years has launched attacks on both Shiite and Sunni targets in an effort to fuel religious battles and push the country into civil war.

The real question comes down to how soon will al-Maliki's government collapse, and what will follow.
Bombers returned overnight to finish off the Askariya Shiite shrine, the same one that was badly damaged in 2006, and Al-Sadr’s bloc suspended its participation in Parliament in protest over the al-Maliki’s government inability to provide basic security. This occurred in the midst of a coordinated insurgent campaign to destroy Iraqi bridges and other infrastructure in and around Baghdad, and while the Americans plead with the Iraqis to do more.

I also have questions about the timing. One day after Moqtada al-Sadr received Sistani's blessing for his attempts to end Sunni-Shia violence, the Shia shrine bombing seems to be an attempt to inflame sectarian conflict.

Al-Sabah carries on page 3 a 560-word report entitled "Muqtada al-Sadr Visits
Grand Religious Authority in His House in Al-Najaf; Al-Sistani Blesses Al-Sadr
Trend's Efforts To Bring Shiites, Sunnis Together." . .

"Sayed Muqtada refuses all kinds of violence and he refuses to answer violence with violence," Obaidi said. "Sayed" is an honorific used for descendents of the Prophet Muhammad.

As I've said before, al-Sadr has positioned himself to be a real power broker in the future of Iraq. He could be our best hope or our worst fear in Iraq.

The reaction was swift in Shiite-dominated southern Iraq. Black banners were
hoisted outside the Najaf residence of radical cleric al-Sadr, who called for three days mourning and peaceful demonstrations to mark the minarets' destruction and criticized the government for not doing enough to protect the site.

He also said the U.S. occupation is "the only enemy of Iraq" and "that's why everyone must demand its departure," or a timetable for its departure.

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