Why Hold Iraq Together?
Bombers returned overnight to finish off the Askariya Shiite shrine, the same one that was badly damaged in 2006, and Al-Sadr’s bloc suspended its participation in Parliament in protest over the al-Maliki’s government inability to provide basic security. This occurred in the midst of a coordinated insurgent campaign to destroy Iraqi bridges and other infrastructure in and around Baghdad, and while the Americans plead with the Iraqis to do more.
Interestingly, the Shiites were the ones in the best position to stop a new bombing at the shrine, and they failed.
The mosque, one of the four most revered in Iraq, has been heavily guarded by Iraqi troops ever since the 2006 attack. No one ever asserted responsibility for that blast. But it was blamed on the Sunni extremist group al-Qaeda in Iraq, which over the years has launched attacks on both Shiite and Sunni targets in an effort to fuel religious battles and push the country into civil war.
In response to Wednesday's attack, the entire Iraqi security force responsible for guarding the mosque, the 3rd Battalion of the Salahaddin Province police, was detained for investigation, Iraqi law enforcement officials said. The collapse of the two minarets appeared to have been caused by explosive charges placed at their bases. CNN reported that U.S. military officials suspected that some of the guards may have collaborated in the attack.
Separately, the Pentagon is now telling Congress that the Iraqis need to contribute at least another 20,000 forces in Baghdad for Petraeus’ counterinsurgency plan to work, meaning that Petraeus’ plan was built on a faulty premise from the beginning. If al-Maliki’s Shiite forces can’t guard one shrine, or don’t care to, then why should we believe that they can deliver another 20,000 trained and motivated forces to patrol Baghdad?
The Times reports this morning that the Iraqis will fail to reach any of the political benchmarks expected of them by September, and it is likely that they won’t reach any substantive agreements this year.
None of the three major sectarian blocs wants to work together, which leads to the question: why are we dying over there to hold together a country that doesn’t want to be held together?