Thursday, February 23, 2006

Shrine attack part 3

This is the most significant event since the invasion of Iraq.

It comes at a difficult time, with sectarian security formations, powerful militias, insurgents, terrorists and coalition forces tugging at one another or a combination of the groups.

I am exacerbated that the media seems to "ho hum" and say "well, one step closer to civil war, now let's talk about those lotto winners and Torino."

The destruction of the Shrine that housed the remains of the 10th and 11th Imam was a catastrophic blow to the entire Muslim world (all religions, in fact) and could particularly inflame the majority Shiite Iraqis to exert control over as much of the country as possible.

Healing Iraq has another blog entry that is a must read. It provides some incredible detail:
So far, there has been no retaliation by any Sunni groups. There was news of a bombing at a small Shi’ite shrine in the Karrada district called Maqam Sayyid Edriess, but no details on that. A couple of insurgent groups with ties to Al-Qaeda in Iraq, notably the Mujahideen Council, have denied any responsibility of the Samarra attack. This leads us to wonder, if the Sunni groups have been planning to start a civil war all along, as many analysts have claimed, why are they so silent now? Where is Zarqawi? I am actually baffled by the lack of reprisals or any other response from the Sunni community. That could be the only glimmer of hope we have now. For how long, though? Friday prayers are tomorrow, and that is bad. But then again, maybe there won’t be any Friday prayers, as it looks like most of the mosques are either closed or taken over by Mahdi militiamen, at least in Shi’ite and mixed areas.

The timing of this incident is very ominous. Just as pressure was being mounted on the UIA to form a more inclusive government, and to disband its sectarian militias, we have this. I normally don’t resort to conspiracy theories, and I don’t like the ‘Who gets to benefit from this?’ explanations. People often commit stupid actions for stupid reasons, and lashing out in violence is also a very human reaction. But still, the extent and the spontaneity of the violence are deeply troubling.
Prominent blogger Greg does not have a complete grasp of the situation, like many I have read today. He begins:
This was a big deal, but it hasn't inexorably opened up the gates of hell (ie, full blown civil war) in Iraq. Still, this was a seminal event in the narrative of post-Saddam sectarian tension, and it was timed well given the fragile state of politicking generally as between the different factions. Another major shrine or two destroyed, a particularly grisly series of mass ethnic killings--how much more can Iraq take before degenerating into more significant sectarian conflict? Still, leaders are pledging to rebuild the shrine asap, Sistani (and Sadr) are calling for restraint, national days of mourning will help cool the situation. But, make no mistake, we are dancing at a knive's edge in Iraq. It's an even bet whether the project is salvageable, if by salvageable we mean securing a viable, unitary quasi-democratic Iraq.
I am not certain how we can dance on a knives edge and have an even bet of success at the same time. Sounds to me like dancing on a knives edge would result in lesser odds, it would be a mistake to go in there and do that -- catch my drift?

But, even odds? That is insane. My comments (edited because I screwed up some alphabet soup, as you can see):
The gates of hell may not yet be open, but a few people are hanging around them and they look like they are up to something.

A government must preserve the peace and exercise force in a legitimate way. In the attack on this sacred shrine and the numerous and ongoing reprisal strikes, the Iraqi government has achieved neither. The argument can be made that both the IAF and Sistani have arrived at the same conclusion. I see far too many media and bloggers out there quoting Sistani as if he called for peace.

He did. He also, and much more importantly, chided the government of Iraq for being stronger than it has been in years and yet unable to prevent this from happening. He then said that if the government could not preserve the holiest of places, the faithful could. This is a major change in his point of view and public direction to the country. He has already limited his support to the existing government in the elections, which was probably a warning because they have been ineffective or at the least not effective enough, and now he is raising the specter of militias protecting the faithful and their shrines.

The IAF in the meantime pulled itself out of government formation talks and demanded a full investigation of the reprisal attacks, while they were still going on.

Before the terrible destruction of this shrine, I could see one major event leading to the total destruction of the Iraqi government, and that would have been the Interior Ministry not reforming and sectarian security formations remaining in effect. That would have undermined any peace efforts and sent the Sunnis back to the arms of the insurgents (troubling enough, the ones with the most bucks and the least scruples would be a prime draw).

That may or may not still happen, but the ball is rolling in a very negative direction. Tomorrow is Friday. What will the local clerics say in their sermons and what will the faithful do when they are walking into or out of prayers?

The gates of hell have not yet opened, but do not for a second underestimate the impact that this could have. Iraqis have called it the worst day since the invasion.


Blogger Charlie said...

It looks like those that warned against the war before the invasion (i.e. Senator Hagel) may be been right about the consequences of it.

A civil war could be disasterous in this situation. It would make any economic growth or reconstruction to pre-war (invasion) levels year away.

10:23 PM  
Blogger Bassizzzt said...

Just think, Bush offered to replace the shrine. What a laugh. Pandering, whimpering is what he's all about.

12:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait? Who likes to pander and whimper? Is it bush or the arab dude?

2:49 AM  
Blogger copy editor said...

Charlie, this war is a mess.

Bassizzzt, I would not call it pandering. However, his offer demonstrated a tremendous ignorance concerning the sentiment in the Iraqi street. They would probably prefer to leave the shrine as rumble rather than have it rebuilt by America.

12:24 PM  
Blogger Bassizzzt said...

Well, at least maybe the animals that occupy the newly built shrine will think twice in hating America.

5:41 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home