Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Shrine attack

The attack on the Shrine of the 10th and 11th Imams, and in Shiite religion the epicenter for the return of the Mahdi, is a major story and has not received sufficient coverage or understanding in the West. Here are two excerpts that underscore the potential for harm.

The Los Angeles Times:
At least 10 Sunni mosques throughout Baghdad were attacked in apparent reprisals, some of them torched or shot at with rocket-propelled grenades, police said. Government officials and powerful clerics called for calm, but their statements were tinged with anger. Even Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, long a voice of restraint in the face of violence against his Shiite followers, hinted that the attack on the shrine required a militant response.

"The Iraqi government now is supported more than ever, and if its security apparatuses are not able to offer the required security, then the faithful must be able to do it, with the help of God," according to a statement released by Sistani's office in Najaf.
This is a seachange in Sistani's subtle leadership of the country.

The A.P.:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - A Shiite political leader said Wednesday that U.S. Zalmay Khalilzad shares some of the responsibility for the bombing of a major Shiite shrine because of his criticism of Shiite-led security forces

Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, cited Khalilzad's statement at a press conference Monday that America would not continue to support institutions run by sectarian groups with links to armed militias.

"For sure, the statements made by the ambassador were not made in a responsible way and he did not behave like an ambassador," al-Hakim told reporters. "These statements were the reason for more pressure and gave green lights to terrorist groups. And, therefore, he shares in part of the responsibility."

Khalilzad has urged the Iraqis to form a unity government in which nonsectarian figures control the ministries of Defense, which runs the army, and Interior, which is responsible for the police.


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