Feb 22, 2006

Iraqi Mosques Attacked, Country Descends Into Wider Violence

Above: Before and after photos of Samarra shrine's distinctive golden dome courtesy of Associated Press.

A predawn bomb attack wrecked an important Shia shrine in Samarra on Wednesday, sparking widespread protests and forcing the government to issue an urgent appeal to avoid sectarian reprisals.

Tens of thousands of people staged protests across Iraq after the detonation of two bombs inside the holy shrine. Dozens of Sunni mosques were later reported to have been targeted with six Sunnis killed.

The most dread of terms - civil war - is beginning to be whispered by Washington policymakers and pundits. If the violnce escalates into a factional, countrywide war, hopes that American troop withdrawals would begin this year will be dashed, and it is likely that troop strength in Iraq would need to be increased to quell the violence.

If the flames of ethnic and religious violence could be quenched at all.

In the southern city of Basra Shia militiamen attacked a prison and lynched at least eleven Sunni inmates. Among the victims were at least two suspected foreign insurgents.

The shining dome of the 1200-year old Askariya shrine crumbled to the ground, and leaders on both sides called for peace.

"We are facing a major conspiracy that is targeting Iraq's unity," said President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd. "We should all stand hand in hand to prevent the danger of a civil war."

Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issued a statement forbidding attacks on Sunni mosques and calling for seven days of national mourning. He broke with past practice, though, and also called for public protests.

Respected Middle East scholar Juan Cole was especially disheartened by the events:
Tuesday was an apocalyptic day in Iraq. I am not normally exactly sanguine about the situation there. But the atmospherics are very, very bad, in a way that most Western observers will miss.

Strap yourselves in, folks. I believe that the situation in Iraq is about to take a sharp nosedive into chaos.


Anonymous said...

Jesus, man, that's awful.

By the way - where in the hell do you find time to write so much, Mike? You have written more in the last week than I did last year in college.


historymike said...

Yes - scary stuff, Petrograde.

I am lucky in that 60-70% of my work involves a computer, so I can drop in and out.

Writing is a large part of what I do, so for me it's more pleasure than work. I would have to say that it is also a sort of recreation, perhaps the way "normal" people might watch TV or chat on the phone (two things I do very little of).

I also have a ton of work that I have done over the past few years that has never seen the light of day, so it's not as if I churned all of this out today.

The Molho review, for example, I composed last spring and just got around to putting online today.

I would estimate I have 400 double-spaced pages of material on various hard drives waiting to get edited for posting.

I did get on a bit of a roll with the terrorist coverage, though. That was something bordering on obsession.

liberal_dem said...

Yes, Iraq descends into wider violence as everyone knew it would. Well, not everyone, I understand that a few folks on Pennsylvania Avenue thought it would be a walk in the park.

historymike said...

Yes, the Vulcans did anticipate a shorter war, ld.

Setting partisanship aisde, though: if you were GWB, what would you do now? Add more troops, slowly withdraw, or completely withdraw?

We can be pissed about being in Iraq, but we are there now. It's almost a circular argument these days to talk about WMDs or terrorists who multiplied tenfold AFTER we invaded.

A chuckle for LD: An editor from The Nation was on Stephanopolous's show Sunday, and she said that WMD now means: "We Meant Democracy."

Subcomandante Bob said...

The 1200-year old Askariya shrine was demolished for a higher purpose, according to reporters at National Nitwit

Anonymous said...

I fear for the US servicemen and servicewomen over there. Looks like it's going to get nasty.

Dariush said...

Here's a Reuters report on the aftermath of the bombing:

...police said three Sunni clerics were among six people killed at 27 Sunni mosques in Baghdad that were attacked. Much damage was minor but at least two mosques were burned out.

Sectarian clashes among militias occurred elsewhere. In Baghdad residents rushed home before dark, some stocking up on food.


Sunnis accuse police of running death squads against them.

Militiamen loyal to radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr patrolled streets in Baghdad and clashed in Basra and elsewhere with Sunnis.


After gunmen attacked offices of his party in Baghdad and Basra, Sunni political leader Tareq al-Hashimi said: "We will pursue anyone who attacks Sunnis." His Iraqi Islamic Party also demanded protection for Sunni areas.

Iraqi troops patrolled in Baghdad. The U.S. military said its forces were on hand but had not taken any special action.

Shi'ite gunmen took over several mosques in the capital, burning down two, and at others hanging out black Shi'ite flags.


...government-run Iraqiya television included in its evening schedule a graphic music video hailing 9th-century Shi'ite leaders' battles against Sunni dominance.

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the powerful SCIRI Islamist party, accused U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad of encouraging Sunni insurgents with comments on Monday insisting the new cabinet must include Sunnis among other minorities.

His comments highlighted growing friction between U.S. and Shi'ite leaders who privately accuse Americans of promoting Sunni interests to limit the influence of Shi'ite Iran.

Reflecting the broader regional interests involved, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, urged fellow Shi'ites to show restraint and blamed the attack on U.S. and Israeli agents.


More on Shi'ite reprisals here.

Also important to read what Iraqi bloggers such as Riverbend, Truth About Iraqis, and Imad Khadduri are saying.

liberal_dem said...

if you were GWB, what would you do now?

Resign the Presidency. It is truly amazing that the American people 'put up with' this total failure for our president. For what he has done and failed to do he should either resign or face impeachment.

...about what I would do? To answer in Rovian terms: 'that's a hypothetical and we don't deal in hypotheticals.'

Would 'get the hell out now' nail it?

Speaking of circular arguments, a brain-spinner is the one proposed by Bush himself: 'if we cut and ran now the lives all of those brave servicemen and women who died bring'n freedom to Iraq woudl be in vane.' Which, of course, begs for an infinite number more deaths to 'honor' the ones who died to 'honor' the ones who...

White Mormon Patriot said...

Saddam Hussein was a nasty, brutish thug, but he held the country together. Perhaps this explains one of the major reasons why no serious, organized, and sustained opposition ever arose.

This war was triggered in part by childish idealism, that because democracy "worked" so well for us, everyone should have it, and everyone will have it even if we must impose it at gunpoint. We cared nothing about the history or tradition of Iraq.

At least in Vietnam we were invited in by an allied government under siege, even if we lost that war politically. Who invited us into Iraq?

George W. Bush needs to be impeached and put on trial. As a matter of fact, it really wouldn't break my heart to see him, Cheney, and Rumsfeld tried as international war criminals at The Hague. These guys get away with trashing a country, yet David Irving goes to jail for disputing the Holocaust. What a paradox!

historymike said...

Good point about Sadaam.

The best pre-war analysts noted that it would probably be better for the region to have a weak Sadaam in power than to create a power vacuum by deposing him.

The minute the US leaves, I expect that Iraq will get carved up (by war or by design) between Iran, Syria, Saui Arabia, and Turkey.

liberal_dem said...

The minute the US leaves, I expect that Iraq will get carved up...

Does this then necessitate a long-term military presence in Iraq?

Of course, this would fit quite nicely into the plan of the neoconservatives who designed and executed their master plan of Pax Americana.

So many Americans were duped by this neocon plan, even some who should have been brighter and more well-read on the subject. And, compounding the problem, the media were shills of the operatives, forsaking their Constitutional duties to kowtow to the faux-patriotic furvor drummed up by the political spin-meisters in the Bush administration.

How easily duped a nation can be with flag-waving and patriotic songs. The Germans learned this lesson after 1945.

Stephanie said...

Avoiding the very tempting partisan line of commentary...

This could be a catalyst either way, and it really seems too early to tell. 9/11 initially brought Americans together, then divided us more thoroughly than we were before. As this is initially dividing Iraq more thoroughly than before, the attempts to call Iraq to unity may prove more effective than we can rightly imagine. It's too early to tell for sure.

Stephanie said...

What I find most disturbing (other than ANYONE wanting to destroy a building that's 1200 years old, OUCH!) was the stuff coming from Iran. (link stolen from Reverse_Vampyr)

"Speaking to a crowd of thousands on a tour of southwestern Iran, the president referred to the destruction of the Askariya mosque dome in Samarra on Wednesday, which the Iraqi government has blamed on insurgents.

"They invade the shrine and bomb there because they oppose God and justice," Ahmadinejad said, alluding to the U.S.-led multinational forces in Iraq.

"These passive activities are the acts of a group of defeated Zionists and occupiers who intended to hit our emotions," he said in a speech that was broadcast on state television. Addressing the United States, he added: "You have to know that such an act will not save you from the anger of Muslim nations.""

--emphasis added

Not only is he blaming the US and Israel, but he's calling this passive? That I just don't get.

Stephanie said...

Not able to remain completely non-partisan...

From the same link:

Radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who cut short a visit to Lebanon after the blast, said blame must be laid either with the Americans or the Iraqi government.

"If responsibility is not in the hands of the Iraqi government, then I consider the responsibility for this event lies with the occupation forces which should either leave immediately or according to a timetable," al-Sadr said in Syria on his way back to Iraq.

al-Sadr agrees with liberal_dem.

Dariush said...

Stephanie: "al-Sadr agrees with liberal_dem."

So do I, Steph.

al-Sadr: "...I consider the responsibility for this event lies with the occupation forces which should either leave immediately or according to a timetable," al-Sadr said in Syria on his way back to Iraq."

I don't know how closely he follows Western media or the words of important and influential behind-the-scenes figures in the West, but he's more right than he probably even realizes.

Here's James Kurth from the cover story of the Sep 26, 2005 issue of The American Conservative, "Splitting Islam: A Shi’ite-Sunni strategy for surviving the War on Terror".

I wanted to select one or two quotes, but I find the whole thing to very relevant. Simply reeks of Machiavellian malevolence.

The schadenfreude expressed on FOX over these events also speaks volumes.

Here are the words of Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, from a November 2003 editorial in the NY Times entitled "Three-state Solution":

"The only viable strategy, then, may be to correct (Iraq's) historical defect and move in stages toward a three-state solution: Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shiites in the south"


"For decades, the United States has worshipped at the altar of a unified Iraqi state. Allowing all three communities within that false state to emerge at least as self-governing regions would be both difficult and dangerous. Washington would have to be very hard-headed and hard-hearted, to engineer this breakup. But such a course is manageable, even necessary, because it would allow us to find Iraq's future in its denied but natural past."

Also some great analysis from Mike Whitney, Chris Walker, Robert Dreyfuss, Dahr Jamail, valleycat, Kurt Nimmo (here, here and here) and Truth About Iraqis.

liberal_dem said...

Stephanie: al-Sadr agrees with liberal_dem.

The amazing thing, Stephanie, is that my opinion is becoming the majority voice among Americans these days.

I hope that you are not one of those uber patriots who believe that the U.S. has to 'win' in Iraq to get the gold metal or something like that.

Check through your world history books for evidence that supports the premise that an invading country 'wins' the hearts and minds of the conquered people.

Invading nations, no matter how strong and powerful, cannot overcome what sports-minded folks already know: home court advantage is powerful.

Then toss in a bit of specious lies aabout the 'reasons' for the invasion, and the stage is set for disaster.

What's your take on this?

Stephanie said...


I started to respond, but it just got too long. Luckily, I have my own blog for just that reason (amongst others). So as not to distract from the point of Mike's post, which was particularly about the Mosques, please go to my site to continue this discussion.

Stephanie said...


"The amazing thing, Stephanie, is that my opinion is becoming the majority voice among Americans these days."

I've not seen ANY statistics to support that statement whatsoever. Please provide them.

I'm not an uber patriot. I'm not even a neo-con. I just don't think leaving Iraq is a responsible, ethical option. As far as winning the minds and hearts of the Iraqis, that's NOT why I support the war in Iraq. However, giving the Shi'ite and Kurdish people a chance to live equitably is one of the reasons (another is the firm belief that people, and nations, need to take responsibility for their actions, something some liberals tend not to agree with). And, from what I've heard from our soldiers, there are those who appreciate the improvements in their lives, despite the consistent liberal claim that such peoples do not exist.

Do we have to do a better job of balancing actual help with violence? Obviously we do. However, leaving doesn't accomplish that.

But this isn't what Mike's post was about. Feel free to hope over to my blog to learn more about my views on Iraq.