Prev | List | Random | Next
Events in Iraq are ocurring too swiftly to await the weekend for this update, so here's a special mid-week edition of our roundup of news from Iraq.
Today we meet the takfiri...
At Iraq the Model, Mohammed notes that the shrine attack was out of character for even the most ardent followers of the main religious groups in Iraq, and offers a convincing theory on the shrine bombing.
The reason I believe it's the Salafis who did it comes from their own ideology which considers all mosques built upon tombs as places of polytheism and infidelity and thus must be destroyed. This also applies to Sunni shrines like Abu Haneefa and al-Gailani; Salafis consider the Shia and the Sufis their worst enemies and they commonly refer to them in their speech with the term "tomb worshippers" or Mushrikoon Quborioon in Arabic.Last summer the Washington Post profiled a member of the Salafi sect, one who was busily smuggling fellow jihaddists into Iraq from Syria:
His father was a Sufi Muslim, devoted to a tolerant, mystical tradition of Islam. But Abu Ibrahim said he was born a rebel, gravitating early in life to the other end of the spectrum of Islamic belief.Within hours of the shrine bombing, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani accused the "takfiris" - those Muslims who regard other Muslims as infidels - of carrying out the attack in order to cause sectarian sedition. Takfiri is the somewhat cautious term used to indicate those enemies of Iraq described above. Used in a "politically correct" sense to avoid pinpointing (or enraging) a specific group before all the facts are in, everyone in Iraq knows what it means. There's a good reason to strike a balance between being specific and non-specific when addressing the masses in Iraq, as Mohhamed explains in his story of how violence spread last week:
Salafism, or "following the pious forefathers," is a fundamentalist, sometimes militant strain of the faith grounded in turning back the clock to the time of the prophet Muhammad.
In the Syrian countryside north of Aleppo where Abu Ibrahim grew up and married, his fundamentalist impulses took their present shape when he met "a group of young men through my wife's family who spoke to me the true words of Islam. They told me Sufism was forbidden and the Shiites are infidels."
A year later, he went to Saudi Arabia, a kingdom founded on Wahhabism, a puritanical form of Islam in the Salafi wing.
Abu Ibrahim credited Zarqawi with revitalizing the insurgency, especially since October, when he pledged fealty to Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader. Abu Ibrahim said that union helped cement an alliance among several resistance groups in Iraq that formed a joint treasury.
"Six months ago, Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden were different," he said. "Osama did not consider the killing of Shiites as legitimate. Zarqawi did that. Anyone -- Christian, Jew, Sunni, Shiites -- whoever cooperates with the Americans can be killed. It's a holy war."
Ayatollah Sistani issued a fatwa on Wednesday that sounded peaceful and normal from the first look but if you look closer at each word you will find that the "safety valve" became the igniter this time.Still, the majority of demonstrations were peaceful, though in the vicinity of Sadr city area of Baghdad in particular followers of the radical Shiite cleric did attack Sunni Mosques.
This time things were different because the political situation is different; the Ayatollah called for nationwide protests (and not to attack Sunni mosques) and a week of mourning. Now let's examine the part that said "do not attack Sunni mosques"…the sentence openly accuses the Sunni of being behind the attack or why would their mosques be mentioned in the first place?
In the government statements the term "Takfiri terrorists/Saddami Ba'athists" is the one commonly used but in the Ayatollah's fatwa this was replaced by "Sunni".
This fatwa which is sugar-coated with tolerance and restraint is actually pointing at the perpetrator that we-should-not-punish-because-we-are-merciful.
But after meeting with the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars, Sadr specifically condemned the takfiri for the shrine attack:
"This demonstration, for Iraq and for God’s prophet, will also aim at condemning the actions of the Takfiri (extremists) and Baathists who represent the knife with which occupants strike at us," he said.Following the meeting, representatives of Al-Sadr's group and the Association of Muslim Scholars issued a statement condemning the takfiri attack against the shrine, along with all attacks on mosques and prayer houses. They further issued condemnation of "every statement aiming at dragging the Iraqi people into civil war and stirring up sedition," calling for imposing "the maximum penalty on those who make such statements."
"We condemn the acts of terrorism carried out by the takfiris against Islam in general and the Iraqi people in particular."
Sadr took the opportunity to lash out at Americans too, calling for a "march to demand the departure of the occupation forces from Iraq". But that's opportunism defined. And few will accept that the U.S. gained anything from the shrine attack and subsequent events. Others have blamed Sadr's group, acting under Iranian sponsorship, for the crime. But some gain for Sadr or Iran in the bombing also seems unlikely; any potential political stature achieved would hardly be worth the risk. (Although much will be made in the American media of Sadr's increase in stature following these events - but he has actually lost face as a result of his inability to control his militia's response.)
So the takfiri seem the most likely suspects. The attack was designed to foment civil war in Iraq - few other credible explanations are available. The bombing itself was step one of a larger plan. Step two was to await the predictable response of the more radical elements in the Shiite population, step three to offer inflated claims of the nature of that response, and let the media act in an even more predictable fashion to further fan the flames.
Step two did not occur as hoped, though step three was a smashing success - the media surprised no one in their coverage. The Iraqi blogger at 24 Steps to Liberty:
I was amazed how only the provocative and civil-war-style quotes were published today in the newspapers. Almost no newspaper showed how great, it appeared to us, the solidarity among Iraqis was yesterday. It is true that Sunni mosques were attacked by unknown men yesterday, and some Sunnis were killed. But that wasn’t the only thing happened as a reaction. Newspapers should have been neutral, as we were taught, and show both sides. Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Arabs, Christians, Sabians, Turkumans, and others publicly condemned the attack, but no one wanted to show the truth. I am not saying there will be no riots in Iraq to react to the shrine attack. I am not saying there weren't mosques that were attacked yesterday and burned down. I am not saying that Shiites and Sunnis kissed and hugged after the attack yesterday. All what I am saying is that the news made Iraqis look like if they were fighting each other widely in the streets, which is not true. The news only made Iraqis sound like barbarians killing each other. There are barbarian Iraqis, like other people in the world, I am not saying all Iraqis are perfect and compete with angels in their manners. But why when anything good happens, they show the bad side of it too in their stories, but when any bad thing to happen, they only write about it and not the good sides around it?A perfect example would appear a day later, on February 24, as U.S. media hysteria reached it's peak. The New York Times declared in a banner headline that More Clashes Shake Iraq; Political Talks Are in Ruins. Not jeopardized, not threatened, but ruined. The Iraqi Consensus Front, a key Sunni Arab political bloc, had pulled out of talks to form a government with the Shiite and Kurdish parties. (Demanding apologies for attacks on Sunnis, and compensation to repair mosques - though most reports were still unconfirmed.) According to the Times, civil war was looming - perhaps had even begun.
All expect civil war in Iraq, which might happen although I don’t believe it would. Therefore, they want to contribute to the civil war’s first step. Shame on you all! Shame on the “free and honest” press!
It had to be painful for the same reporter to file this story with the Times 48 hours later
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 26 — Leaders of the main Sunni Arab political bloc have decided to return to suspended talks over the formation of a new government, the top Sunni negotiator said Sunday. The step could help defuse the sectarian tensions that threatened to spiral into open civil war last week after the bombing of a Shiite shrine and the killings of Sunnis in reprisal.Could defuse the tensions. Maybe. Possibly. Might.
A government mandated curfew had actually already prevented violence from spiraling further out of control. It's worthwhile to look again at the words of Ayatollah Sistani from his initial response. He called on the government of Iraq to restore order, adding that if they could not then the 'believers' would be forced to do so themselves. In media accounts this was interpreted as evidence of failure of the Iraqi government, with a focus on the Shiite militias as the real source of power in Iraq. But the statement was not an indicator of Sistani's expectation of government failure - it was a message to his followers to let the government have a chance before taking actions of their own.
And the government was in action. Within hours of the bombing Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari addressed his country via televised news conference:
We were honored today by the visit of the heads of the Sunni Waqf Office and the Shiite Waqf Office. They are two gentle and good- willed persons. The head of the Shiite Waqf told his brother the head of the Sunni Waqf: I am the head of the Sunni waqf and you are the head of the Shiite waqf. Exchanging such words during such a crisis has a special great meaning and reflects a special transparency. I received our two brothers, along with a number of Shiite and Sunni scholars. We exchanged views and discussed the current situation and how to use Friday sermons in the best possible way to strengthen relations between the scholars, who will deliver Friday sermons in order to guide the people in this crisis. I listened to them as they talked about certain points. I did not find any difference between their positions with regard to the need to emphasize unity among Iraqis and to inform people of the importance of unity, particularly under these current circumstances.And by first hand accounts, the government was about as successful as could possibly be expected. As American troops remained as far in the background as possible, the situation began to appear less like civil war, and more like ongoing violence.
We hope that our dear brothers will adopt a unified approach to communicate with the people, make them understand the seriousness of this, and stress the need for them to cooperate. The two sides talked about their complaints about some of the steps taken in this regard. They said that some people were killed and some mosques were raided. I denounce every act that targets an innocent citizen and violates the sanctity of mosques. We condemn such acts. As for the material damage, the government, which is responsible for running the affairs of the state and protecting citizens and property, will repair all damage, and will compensate people for their losses.
During the talks we held today, we urged the brothers, who affirmed their desire to end the crisis, to not only try to resolve the crisis through Friday sermons, but also to depend on their good relations and to be present in each others' mosques. There should be a Shiite presence in Sunni mosques, and there should be a Sunni presence in Shiite mosques. These efforts will support the efforts exerted by our scholars and religious authorities, who stressed the need for respecting the sanctity of mosques and people. Undoubtedly, there is a mutual feeling that some parties are trying to turn Iraqi national unity and sectarian coexistence into sectarian fighting. God willing, this crisis, with the help of the efforts made by our brothers, scholars, and preachers, will remind us that we should maintain Iraq's unity.
And this week American reporters ventured out to find the story. Louise Roug of the LA Times:
Shortly before 6 a.m. at Camp Liberty in Baghdad, 1st Sgt. Dave Meyer gave the mission brief to his soldiers: Patrol the streets, but keep a low profile. Don't engage locals. Let Iraqis take the lead.Max Boot, in the LA Times:
"Hanging out," said Meyer, 36.
Until December, Meyer and his fellow soldiers in Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry, had patrolled this part of western Baghdad, a heavily Sunni Muslim area bordered on the north by the poor Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Shula.
At the end of the year, they had turned the territory over to an Iraqi battalion, predominantly Shiite.
But last week, the Americans were pulled out of their beds in the city of Abu Ghraib and sent to their old neighborhood. For four tense days, they patrolled the neighborhood — part of the effort to tamp down fighting between Sunnis and Shiites that began with the bombing of one of the holiest shrines of Shiite Islam, the Golden Mosque in Samarra.
For the American soldiers it was an unfamiliar role. They found themselves in the middle of a fight they could only partially comprehend, stuck between two sides on the edge of civil war.
This was an Iraqi problem, their commanders told them. The solution would have to be Iraqi as well.
Before long, Stone was investigating allegations of reprisals against Sunni mosques. But because neither he nor any other American was allowed to enter the houses of worship, they remained on the outside, looking in. "All we could do was stand outside and take pictures," Stone said.
More than a dozen mosques were reported to have been attacked, although U.S. soldiers could confirm only three. Eight other mosques were briefly taken over by militias.
"It was a ghost town out there," said Meyer, who fought in Somalia in 1993. "It was tense — just weird."
"We don't want to get stuck between Sunnis and Shiites, fighting for a mosque," he said. He added that the Iraqi forces "so far … have had a handle on it."
Lt. Col. Thomas Fisher, who commands the Army battalion stationed in Baqubah, a city of 450,000, was forced to deal with the fallout. I spent a day riding in his armored Humvee as he moved around town trying to figure out what was going on (Why were the 47 men killed?) and how he should respond (Should he step up his raids or let Iraqi security forces step forward?).The earlier media coverage prompted this response from Victor Davis Hanson - who had just returned from Iraq himself:
Trying to calm things, Fisher sought to dispel bizarre rumors that a U.S. bomb, not explosives planted by terrorists, had blown up the Samarra mosque. He told his soldiers not to get in the way of demonstrations but to stand by in case they turned violent. (They didn't.) Then he drove to the heavily barricaded government center to confer with the mayor about what he could do as a "good neighbor" to assist the Iraqis. The answer was that the locals had everything under control.
Given the growing competence of Iraqi security forces, this may not have been sheer bravado. As we drove through town, I saw Iraqi army and police checkpoints everywhere. Not only are more security personnel in the field, but they are also not running away from a fight, as they did in 2004. Fisher told me that when insurgents recently attacked a police checkpoint, the cops chased them down and arrested them. This combination of toughness (withstanding attack) and restraint (bringing back the attackers alive) augurs well for the future of Iraq.
Nor is this an isolated example. A few days later, while visiting the Green Zone in Baghdad, I was briefed on the progress being made in standing up Iraqi forces. A year ago, only three Iraqi battalions controlled their own "battle- space." Today, the total is up to 40 battalions and counting. Those units have achieved impressive results in some rough neighborhoods. As I discovered firsthand, it is now safe to travel down Route Irish between the Green Zone and Baghdad airport — once the most dangerous road in the world.
But here at home you would have thought that our own capitol dome had exploded. Indeed, Americans more than the Iraqis needed such advice for calm to quiet our own frenzy. Almost before the golden shards of the mosque hit the pavement, pundits wrote off the war as lost -- as we heard the tired metaphors of "final straw" and "camel's back" mindlessly repeated. The long-anticipated civil strife among Shiites and Sunnis, we were assured, was not merely imminent, but already well upon us. Then the great civil war sort of fizzled out; our own frenzy subsided; and now exhausted we await next week's new prescription of doom.And this more blunt assessment from Ralph Peters, reporting from Iraq for the New York Post:
There is a disturbing sameness to our acrimony at home, as we recall all the links in this chain of America hysteria from the brouhaha over George Bush's flight suit to purported flushed Korans at Guantanamo Bay. Each time we are lectured that the looting, Abu Ghraib, the embalming of Uday and Qusay, the demeaning oral exam of Saddam, unarmored Humvees, inadequate body armor or the latest catastrophe has squandered our victory, the unimpressed U.S. military simply goes about what it does best -- defeating the terrorists and training the Iraqi military to serve a democratic government.
The reporting out of Baghdad continues to be hysterical and dishonest. There is no civil war in the streets. None. Period.But this commentary from Iraq pundit preceded them both:
Terrorism, yes. Civil war, no. Clear enough?
Yesterday, I crisscrossed Baghdad, visiting communities on both banks of the Tigris and logging at least 25 miles on the streets. With the weekend curfew lifted, I saw traffic jams, booming business — and everyday life in abundance.
Yes, there were bombings yesterday. The terrorists won't give up on their dream of sectional strife, and know they can count on allies in the media as long as they keep the images of carnage coming. They'll keep on bombing. But Baghdad isn't London during the Blitz, and certainly not New York on 9/11.
You are being lied to. By elements in the media determined that Iraq must fail.
Why do these reporters want to see a civil war so badly in Iraq? It looks to me that they hate Bush so much that they will stop at nothing to prove that he's wrong about Iraq and they are right. The reporters have sunk so low as to take this cheap angle of insisting that an all out civil war has been underway for three years. When will they wake up and realize that this is not a White House scandal. This is about Iraq and its people. Yes some people are being aggressive and I pray that the violence doesn't spread. But why do the media report exaggerated numbers of attacks and damage when it can only make a bad situation worse. What ever happened to checking for accuracy? Iraq the Model posted a list of numbers of what really was damaged.Meanwhile:
The thugs of Moktada Al Sadr were responsible for most of the attacks. And the Interior Ministry's death squads were sent out by Bayan Jabr Solagh, who headed the Badr Brigades. IraqPundit is under no illusion that things are good right now. However, there is no reason to take the tabloid angle and declare a civil war when the parties who would fight that war have not yet declared one. The media appear to prefer to go for the schock approach instead of a responsible one.
"That crisis is over," U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad declared.There was a step 4 to the plan, by the way. That would be the violent takfiri "response" to the desired Shiite response to the shrine bombing. While that Shiite response was less than anticipated, the response of the media met the planners expectations to the point they could move forward anyway, so we're seeing elements of step 4 enacted now with continuing violence across Iraq. More people are dying, but no, you're not seeing civil war.
"I think the country came to the brink of a civil war, but the Iraqis decided that they didn't want to go down that path and came together," the ambassador told CNN. "Clearly, the terrorists who plotted that attack wanted to provoke a civil war. It looked quite dangerous in the initial 48 hours, but I believe that the Iraqis decided to come together."
The Defense Ministry said Iraqi security forces have killed 35 insurgents and arrested 487 in raids across the country since the bombing Wednesday of the revered Shiite shrine in Samarra.
And don't offer undue credit to the American troops. You are seeing proof of what they all know to be true - violence is ongoing, but the Iraqis are increasingly capable of handling it themselves. A few more "civil wars" like this one and the troops will indeed be home.
Update: On and on and on it goes:
Iraq's Cabinet, meanwhile, disputes a Washington Post tally of 13-hundred Iraqi dead in the past week, calling that number "inaccurate and exaggerated."That's a fog of war issue - but as a rule first reports are always wrong, and any specific numbers delivered confidently from the midst of chaos should be looked at with suspicion. (Via Gateway Pundit)
The Post cited figures from the Baghdad central morgue in its report on deaths in the violence since a Shiite shrine was destroyed. But a morgue official says as of Sunday night it had only received 249 bodies tied to the violence.
Last weekend's edition of Meanwhile Back at the Front - a look at the early evolution of this story and the use of media by the terrorists can be read here.
(The author of these compilations, an Iraq war veteran, runs the web log The Mudville Gazette.)
This should be occasion for a satiric posting, about how US media are in a panicked state, reports of chaos circulating, and the Iraqi government urges calm.Posted by david Hardy at March 2, 2006 01:33 AM
Hey I'm as resolute as the next guy, if the next guy happens to be a last-ditch type of personality, but I am getting to the WTF stage.
The fact that Al-Sadr is still LIVING is a glaring indictment of US policy, or at least it is IMO. While many better people have lost everything in Iraq and many US troops have paid a heavy price for trying to do the right thing, this low-rent scumbag just keeps getting stronger.
He should have been terminated with extreme prejudice soon after Baghdad fell. In all the confusion, and the many explosions, who could have said for sure what really happened. The fact that everyone knew what a nasty piece of work he was and still did NOTHING to eliminate him speaks volumes.
There was a window of opportunity in Iraq to deal with the 'monsters'. We allowed Sadr to live. He has has grasping little hands in virtually every problem in the Shiite areas. His ignorant thugs virtually control much of the police system in many places, making it a sectarian instrument of terror. He is nothing but a PROBLEM for EVERYONE.
We blew it.Posted by dougf at March 2, 2006 02:51 AM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(2) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)