Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Iraqi Civil War Round-Up

You know, the more I read about today's events in Iraq, the sicker I feel. Here's the NY Times summarizing the day's events:

Blast at Shiite Shrine Sets Off Sectarian Fury in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 22 — A powerful bomb shattered the golden dome at one of Iraq's most revered Shiite shrines on Wednesday morning, setting off a day of sectarian fury in which mobs formed across Iraq to chant for revenge and attacked dozens of Sunni mosques.

The bombing, at the Askariya Shrine in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, wounded no one but left the famous golden dome at the site in ruins. The shrine is central to one of the most dearly held beliefs of Shiite Islam, and the bombing, coming after two days of bloody attacks that have left dozens of Shiite civilians dead, ignited a nationwide outpouring of rage and panic that seemed to bring Iraq closer than ever to outright civil war.

Shiite militia members flooded the streets of Baghdad, firing rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns at Sunni mosques while Iraqi Army soldiers who had been called out to stop the violence stood helpless nearby. By the day's end, mobs had struck or destroyed 27 Sunni mosques in the capital, killing three imams and kidnapping a fourth, Interior Ministry officials said. In all, at least 15 people were killed in related violence across the country.

Thousands of grief-stricken people in Samarra crowded into the shrine's courtyard after the bombing, some weeping and kissing the fallen stones, others angrily chanting, "Our blood and souls we sacrifice for you, imams!"


Shops soon closed across the country as angry mobs filled the streets. In Kirkuk, about a thousand Shiites marched in the streets, chanting against America, members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, and Takfiris, a word used to describe militant Islamists who denounce other Muslims as infidels. Similar demonstrations broke out in Baquba, Najaf, Karbala, and other cities. In the southern Shiite city of Basra, Shiite militia members damaged at least two Sunni mosques, killing an imam, and launched an attack on the headquarters of Iraq's best-known Sunni Arab political party. One man was killed in the gun battle that ensued and 14 were wounded, the police said.

Later, the Basra police took 10 foreign Arabs who had been jailed in connection with terrorist attacks from their cells and shot them dead, apparently in retaliation for the shrine bombing, a police official said.

Ayatollah Sistani issued another statement on Wednesday warning the faithful not to attack any Sunni holy sites. But it was too late: angry mobs had already begun shooting and firing rocket-propelled grenades, and setting some mosques on fire. Imams at three Baghdad mosques — Al Sabar, Al Yaman, and Al Rashidi — were killed, Interior Ministry officials said. A fourth imam, Sheik Abdul Qadir Sabih Nori of the Amjed al-Zahawi mosque, was kidnapped, the officials said.

The violence was not confined to big cities. In Salman Pak, a town just south of Baghdad, Shiite militia members evacuated a Sunni mosque and a religious school, warning the imam that he would be killed if he did not leave the town within two days.

Sunni Arab political leaders mixed their denunciations of the shrine bombing with anger at the attacks on Sunni mosques. Tarik al-Hashimi, the leader of the Iraq Islamic Party, Iraq's best-known Sunni political group, urged Iraqis to "confront the criminals and put a stop to these crimes before it is too late."

Adnan Dulaimi, another Sunni leader, told Al Jazeera that he thought the attacks on Sunni mosques had been planned before the Samarra bombing as part of a broader vendetta against Sunnis.

In Sadr City, the vast Shiite slum in Baghdad, flatbed trucks bristled with black-clad militia fighters carrying guns. Leaning out car windows, men with grenade launchers pointed at them menacingly.

"If I could find the people who did this, I would cut him into pieces," said Abdel Jaleel al-Sudani, a 50-year-old employee of the Health Ministry, who said he had marched in a demonstration earlier. "I would rather hear of the death of a friend than to hear this news."

Truly fucking horrifying.

What happens now?

And what is Preznit Bush going to do about having 140,000 American troops stuck in the middle of a civil war?

It seems to me, if Iraq completely devolves into chaos, our troops will be put more at risk than they already are. Which means we either get them out of there or send a couple of hundred thousand more to help quell the violence.

And since we don't have a couple of hundred thousand more troops to send...

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