Wednesday :: Feb 22, 2006

Is Bush About To Lose His Iraq Bet?

by Steve

Those of us who have been hoping that we could get a large number of our forces out of Iraq ahead of a civil war have reason for despair today. Sunni insurgents bombed one of the holiest shrines in Iraq, and the Shiites responded in kind with dozens of attacks of their own. Juan Cole tells us we are at a true crisis in Iraq now, whether our media covers it or not.

Insurgents detonated bombs inside one of Iraq's holiest Shiite shrines Wednesday, destroying its golden dome and triggering more than 60 reprisal attacks on Sunni mosques. The president warned that extremists were pushing the country toward civil war, as many Shiites lashed out at the United States as partly to blame.
As the gold dome of the 1,200-year-old Askariya shrine lay in ruins, leaders on both sides called for calm: But the string of back-and-forth attacks seemed to push the country closer to all-out civil war than at any point in the three years since the U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
In the hours after the bombing, more than 60 Sunni mosques were attacked, burned or taken over by Shiites, said the Iraqi Islamic Party, the country's largest Sunni political group. The attacked mosques were mainly in Baghdad and predominantly Shiite provinces south of the country.

And the Shiites, who have recently suspected that we are trying to support the Sunnis to offset Iranian influence, were quick to drag the US into the bombing:

Some Shiite political leaders already were angry with the United States because it has urged them to form a unity government in which nonsectarian figures control the army and police. Khalilzad warned earlier this week - in a statement clearly targeted toward Shiite hardliners - that America would not continue to support institutions run by sectarian groups with links to armed militias.
After the attacks, one top Shiite political leader accused Khalilzad of sharing some responsibility for the bombing of the shrine because of that stance.
"These statements ... gave green lights to terrorist groups. And, therefore, he shares in part of the responsibility," said the official, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the former commander of its militia.

Iran has taken advantage of this bombing to stoke the flames even further:

In neighboring Iran, however, the spiritual leader of the country's Shiite theocracy, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, blamed the attack on U.S. and Israeli "intelligence organizations." He urged Shiites to refrain from attacking Sunni mosques and property.

And now the stage is set for it to spin out of control:

Thousands of Shiite militia fighters -- many armed with pistols, automatic rifles and grenade launchers -- took to the streets of cities across Iraq after the bombing, even as Shiite political and religious leaders called for peaceful demonstrations and restraint.
In Baghdad, news of the mosque bombing prompted thousands of Shiite men to abruptly leave their homes and jobs to report to offices of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. School boys, fighting-age men and graying elders marched on foot or piled into buses and the back of pickup trucks, to report for action.
"We are waiting for orders from our clerics," men shouted outside the headquarters of Sadr, in Baghdad's Sadr City.
Over loudspeakers late in the day, a preacher at the Sadr headquarters blamed the bombing on Iraq's "occupiers," meaning Americans, and ordered that there be no retaliation against Sunnis.
This is like 9-11 in the United States of America," Adil Abdul-Mahdi, a leading Shiite politician, told the Arabic-language al-Iraqiya television station.

Oh, and in other news, Condi was blown off by the Egyptians when she tried to get their support to isolate Hamas. With Iran now funding Hamas, and Egypt ignoring us, let’s see what tatters Bush had made of years of work in the Middle East peace process.

So ask yourself this question: are we any safer now than we were on September 10, 2001?

Picture courtesy of the AP

Steve :: 1:38 PM :: Comments (9) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!