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Wednesday, August 29, 2007




The Fall of Baghdad

Last updated: August 29, 2007

January 30, 2007


Thousands of US troops are already on the way to Iraq in the wake of the latest George Bush's initiative aimed at getting hold of the situation in Baghdad. It appears that Iraqi PM, Al-Maliki, finally became convinced that an urgent action should be taken against the Mahdi Army unless something really bad happens. Yet there is a catch here.

The Mahdi Army has been massively expelling Sunnis recently not only from Baghdad's mixed neighborhoods but from predominantly Sunni areas too. Moreover, the Mahdi Army is reported to be invading small Sunni towns and villages around Baghdad displacing dozens of thousands of more Sunnis.

Moqtada Al-Sadr, who is officially the leader of the MA and whose faction is part of the ruling coalition, toned down his rhetorics lately despite the clampdown on his baby by the Iraqi forces led by the Americans. It may signal that even the MA's leadership realizes that the things went just too far. In public Al-Sadr professes the same HA-style ideology of a united Sunni Shia front against Western imperialism and Zionism and he clearly cannot give his support to the massive ethnic cleansing campaign carried out by his military wing against the Sunnis in and around Baghdad.

Yet on the ground the things are rather different. Apparently many of Al-Sadr's loyalists in Baghdad are openly disobeying his orders or joined the MA's runaway factions. And whatever anti imperialist ideology Al-Sadr believes in, on the ground his Shia are slaughtered not so much by the hated imperialists and Zionists but by their fellow Sunni brothers.

With the Iraqi forces proving themselves to be of little use and with the American troops spread too thinly to be effective it is the MA's men who man the roadblocks around the Shia neighborhoods. Ethnic cleansing may be a very bad word but it may also be the last option for a population that faces daily deadly attacks. The Sunni insurgents recently perfected their tactics so much that on a good day a hundred of people may easily die in Baghdad in multiple car bomb attacks.

While the US and Iraqi government are planning their huge security operation to try to stabilize the situation in Baghdad area they should have it very clear that any attempt to crash the MA without providing an adequate protection to the Shia will be immediately interpreted as an attempt to disarm the Shia leaving them defenseless in the face of the brutal Sunni insurgency. The Shia nerves in Baghdad are very frayed.

It may be that it's too late and the beast spent too much time in the wild for anybody to be able to get hold of it, but even if the US and Al-Maliki succeed in crashing the MA, to stop the car bomb attacks will be even more difficult. But a failure to do this will not only nullify any possible achievements against the MA, it may cause Baghdad's Shia to rethink their attitudes towards their own government and its hapless army, since for good or for worse in the eyes of too many Shia the Mahdi Army has become their only protector.

Nevertheless any attempt to subdue the MA is worth of trying. This is because if one day Baghdad goes completely Shia and totally lost for the Sunnis the significance of this fact for the Sunni world will be comparable to Baghdad's fall to the Mongol armies centuries ago. When news of Baghad having fallen into the Shia hands hit the Sunni Arab street it may unleash a reaction of a scale and ferociousness that no sane Arab leader would dare to contemplate even as a remote possibility.


PS

Sunni areas in the Baghdad neighborhood of Mansour are now almost empty. The rate of ethnic cleansings is accelerating both in and around Baghdad with Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army invading Sunni strongholds at the perimeter of the city. The photo is from It Has Unraveled So Quickly by The New York Times.


August 13, 2007

By STEVEN R. HURST, Associated Press Writer
Sun Aug 12, 2007


BAGHDAD - Iraq's most senior Sunni politician issued a desperate appeal Sunday for Arab nations to help stop what he called an "unprecedented genocide campaign" by Shiite militias armed, trained and controlled by Iran . . .

Adnan al-Dulaimi said "Persians" and "Safawis," Sunni terms for Iranian Shiites, were on the brink of total control in Baghdad and soon would threaten Sunni Arab regimes which predominate in the Mideast.

"It is a war that has started in Baghdad and they will not stop there but will expand it to all Arab lands," al-Dulaimi wrote in an impassioned e-mail to The Associated Press.

Sunni Arab regimes throughout the Middle East fear the growing influence of Iran's Shiite theocracy with radical groups like Hezbollah and Hamas as well as the Syrian regime. Raising the specter of Iranian power reaching the Arab doorstep, unlikely in the near-term, betrayed al-Dulaimi's desperation

But his fears of a Shiite takeover of Baghdad were not as farfetched. Mahdi Army militiamen have cleansed entire neighborhoods of Sunni residents and seized Sunni mosques. Day by day, hundreds have been killed and thousands have fled their homes, seeking safety in the shrinking number of majority Sunni districts.

. . .

Source

To be fair, I should add that not only the Sunni Shia war is now a reality in Iraq, an all-out Shia Shia war in the South is probably coming too, and the hasty British withdrawal from Basra makes it even more likely.

August 20, 2007

Shia vs Shia

By BUSHRA JUHI, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb killed the governor of the southern Muthanna province on Monday, police said, the second assassination of a top provincial official in just over a week.

. . .

The blast struck the SUV carrying Gov. Mohammed Ali al-Hassani about 9 a.m., shortly after his convoy departed from his home in Rumaitha en route to his office in the provincial capital of Samawah, about 230 miles southeast of Baghdad.

Al-Hassani, his driver and a guard were killed, while his office manager and two other guards were seriously wounded, police said.

A curfew was immediately clamped on Samawah and new checkpoints were erected.

On Aug. 11, the governor and police chief of another southern province, Qadasiyah, also were killed in a roadside bombing attack. Gov. Khalil Jalil Hamza and the police chief Maj. Gen. Khalid Hassan were killed as they returned to the provincial capital of Diwaniyah from a funeral for a tribal sheik.

Both governors were members of the influential Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, a group led by Shiite politician Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim whose loyalists have been fighting the Mahdi Army militia for control of the oil-rich south as British-led forces gradually withdraw from the area.

. . .

Police quickly laid blame on the Mahdi Army, which is nominally loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and has been involved in several recent clashes with its rivals.

"There was nothing against the governor inside the province except the confrontations between Mahdi Army and SIIC, which have claimed the lives of dozens of people," an officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he feared retribution.

. . .

Source


Last updated: August 29, 2007

By ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writer


BAGHDAD - Sporadic gunfire echoed through the center of Karbala early Wednesday after daylong clashes between rival Shiite militias claimed up to 51 lives and forced officials to abort a Shiite religious festival that had drawn up to 1 million pilgrims from around the world.

. . .

Security officials said Mahdi Army gunmen loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Tuesday fired on guards around two shrines protected by the Badr Brigade, the armed wing of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.

Residents of Karbala contacted by telephone said snipers were firing on Iraqi security forces from rooftops. Explosions and the rattle of automatic weapons fire could be heard during telephone calls to reporters Tuesday in the city 50 miles south of Baghdad.

Officials reported 51 dead and 247 injured on Tuesday, but the city council member said Wednesday that 38 had been killed and 231 injured.

. . .

Gunfights also broke out Tuesday between Mahdi militiamen and followers of the Supreme Council in at least two Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad and in Kut, about 100 miles southeast of the capital, police said.

Extra police took up positions in the center of another Shiite city, Diwaniyah, after gunmen fired on a mosque associated with the Supreme Council, police said. A curfew was clamped on the Shiite city of Najaf after a mortar round exploded on a major square, causing no casualties, officials said.

. . .

___

Associated Press reporters in Karbala contributed to this report but their names were withheld for their safety.

Source

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