Thursday, February 23, 2006

The aftermath of the Shrine attack

Al Jazeera reports a toll of 130 killed, including more than two score in what is described as an artificial checkpoint used by some insurgent/terrorist force. The Sunni break from government talks is described in some detail as well:
With tensions escalating, a crisis summit called by President Jalal Talabani was thrown into turmoil when the biggest Sunni political group, the Iraqi Accordance Front, boycotted the meeting in protest at what it called the government's failure to protect Sunni mosques.

"The government neglected to provide security for our sites," Iyad al-Samarrai, a front official said, announcing the boycott. "They did not condemn these acts of aggression."

Another Front official said it would suspend participation in US-sponsored talks to form a national unity coalition.
Reuters reports on some of the same stories:
The U.N. envoy also stepped in, asking Iraqi leaders to join him in a meeting. "I have invited political, religious and civil leaders to discuss confidence-building measures to ensure the situation remains under control," Ashraf Qazi told Reuters.

But the main Sunni political group said it pulled out of U.S.-backed talks on forming a coalition after December's parliamentary election and leading clerics traded unusually frank sectarian criticisms that may do little to calm passions.

President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, pressed ahead despite the Sunni boycott with a meeting that he had called to avert a descent toward a civil war. After discussions with Shi'ites, Kurds and leaders of a smaller Sunni group, he told a televised news conference that if all-out war came "no one will be safe".

Among the dead were 47 people, apparently both Sunnis and Shi'ites, whom gunmen dragged from vehicles after they attended a demonstration to show cross-sectarian solidarity near Baghdad.
CNN lists the Sunni demands to return to government-construction talks:
In a letter to the president's office, the Iraqi Accordance Front said it wants:

Condemnation by the government and all parties of the attacks against Sunni mosques and locations.

Investigation into the attacks.

Compensation for all damages sustained.
These demands could be a nonstarter, as the retaliation attacks were extensive and no doubt involved many militia members.

These attacks leave America in a difficult position, the Los Angeles Times:
"The Americans also abandoned us extremely. They could have put some of their vehicles to protect the mosques; they have the forces to do that," said Khalaf al-Hayan, general secretary of the Sunni Iraqi National Dialogue Council. "How does a civil war start? It starts like this."
American military hegemony carries with it the perception of more capability than actually exists, this applies to both the neoconservatives and the common man-on-the-street. In Iran and among some in Iraq, there has been a boogeyman reaction that pits blame on the "zionist" and American forces. However, this quote in the Los Angeles Times shows a perception that America could have and should have done more to prevent these attacks. In hindsight, that may be an accurate analysis. However, it also is analysis derived from an overestimation of American control in the region. Substantial damage is done, because American forces have been unable to protect one of the most holy spots in the country -- a religious center of gravity. Similarly, Iraqi forces -- most of the Shiite -- have failed in the same charge. Hence, we see comments from Sistani stating that the faithful (militias) may have to augment or replace the government sources of protection.

A successful government must preserve and maintain the legitimate use of force in order to sustain its control of the territory. When a government fails to do this, its very existence is called into question. Even in the best case scenario, this has already occurred in Iraq -- and a difficult situation has become a great deal worse.

Mohammed of Iraq the Model:
The situation is still very tense but the good thing is that the Sunni have not returned the attacks and I hope the Shia have satisfied their vengeance by now because I don't want to even think of what can happen if this situation lasts longer than this.


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