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  1. #1
    Senior Member Brian503a's Avatar
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    Civil War Threat Emerges in Iraq

    http://www.usatoday.com



    From Iraq shrine's rubble, civil war threat emerges
    If one man can be credited, until now, with keeping Iraq from civil war, it is the bearded grand old man of the Shiite religion in Iraq, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. When he came out of seclusion Wednesday after the bombing of one of the most holy Shiite shrines — urging protests, but no retaliation — it seemed a promising omen.

    But Sistani's entreaties, for once, couldn't stop the wave of violence, which has included revenge killings of Sunni clerics, the torching of some Sunni mosques and the slaying of three journalists from the TV network Al-Arabiya. As President Bush also appealed for calm Thursday, the questions at the forefront were crystal clear: Is this civil war? And does it threaten the whole U.S. enterprise in Iraq?

    The shrine bombing might well be the tipping point insurgents have long sought. It came at the worst time: amid delicate negotiations to form a government of national unity. The U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, has been relentlessly cajoling Iraq's three main groups — Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds — to work together. Though Shiites dominated December's elections, reflecting their 60% share of population, the other two won enough seats to gain a voice.

    But the violence has persuaded the main Sunni bloc to pull out of negotiations, confirming their fears Shiites want to punish them for years of brutal dominance under Saddam Hussein, and to keep them from power and a share of Iraq's oil wealth.

    The violence highlights the most serious danger that has been lurking, with too little U.S. attention: sectarian divisions in Iraq's armed forces. The Bush administration's drumbeat has been that U.S. forces will stand down as Iraqi forces stand up. But the forces have largely divided along religious lines — and are helping fan the flames of civil war.

    Private militias, including the Shiite Badr Brigades and the Kurdish peshmerga, haven't disbanded. Members of the Badr Brigades are also part of the Iraqi armed forces, giving them a double loyalty. Reports of torture centers within the Interior Ministry, and Shiite death squads in official uniforms, underscore the problem.

    The U.S. focus has to be on getting better control. It might already be too late. On Monday, Khalilzad threatened to cut U.S. funding for Iraq's security services unless the new Iraqi government appoints "non-sectarian" ministers of interior, defense and intelligence. But that led to charges that Khalilzad had somehow encouraged the shrine bombing.

    Options are further limited because the United States has handed power to Iraqis — and an Iraqi government can ask U.S. forces to leave. Even so, a reassessment is overdue of how Iraqi forces are manned and trained, perhaps with international help.

    For now, Sistani remains the best hope for rescuing Iraq from civil war — but this time it's not clear whether even he can do so.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Brian503a's Avatar
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    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/loca ... i-news-hed

    Bloody day in Iraq


    By Liz Sly
    Tribune foreign correspondent

    February 23, 2006, 11:01 PM CST

    BAGHDAD -- More than 100 people were reported dead Thursday as the fierce sectarian passions unleashed by the bombing of one of Shiite Islam's holiest shrines raged unchecked, pushing Iraq closer to the brink of what many fear could turn into a full-fledged civil war.

    Deepening the sense of crisis, Sunni leaders announced they are suspending their participation in talks with Shiite and Kurdish parties to form a new government, saying it is "not acceptable to negotiate with people who are harming us."

    In a bid to restore order and avert more violence, the government imposed a nationwide curfew from 8 p.m. Thursday until 4 p.m. Friday, a dramatic step that will prevent all Iraqis from attending the traditional Friday noontime prayers.

    Shops, offices and businesses were closed in observance of a 3-day period of national mourning for the destruction of the golden dome of the 9th Century shrine, which contains the remains of two of Shiite Islam's most revered imams.

    All leave was canceled for the Iraqi security forces, which were deployed in strength across the country. U.S. forces, which are increasingly ceding the streets to the incomplete Iraqi army and police force, kept a low profile. U.S. forces are still deployed, military spokesman Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch said, but Iraqi forces "are in the lead."

    Seven American soldiers were reported killed in two separate roadside bombings in the northern town of Hawija and in Balad, just north of Baghdad, but Iraq's attention has shifted from the anti-American insurgency to the brewing conflict between Iraqis.

    Shiites staged more demonstrations in Baghdad and Shiite cities across the south, but the mood was calmer than it was Wednesday when the rage ignited by the bombing of the shrine showed how quickly Iraq could disintegrate into chaos.

    In the worst carnage, the bodies of 47 men were found bound and shot in the head in a ditch near a factory in Diyala province. In a reflection of the reigning confusion, it was unclear who the men were. An Interior Ministry official said all the men were Shiites; an official with the Islamic Party said they were Sunnis.

    Among the dead found Thursday were several prominent Sunni imams, who were abducted during attacks Wednesday against Sunni mosques in retaliation for the bombing of the al-Askari mosque in Samarra. A bomb blast in the town of Baqouba killed 16 people.

    Correspondent slain

    Also killed were a correspondent and two employees of the Al-Arabiya television network. Their bullet-riddled bodies were found in Samarra on Thursday morning near their satellite truck.

    The correspondent, Atwar Bahjat, 30, was a familiar face across Iraq. She had once worked for Iraqi state television, then for Al Jazeera and most recently for Al-Arabiya. The three went missing shortly after she filed a report from Samarra on Wednesday evening, Al-Arabiya said.

    The bombing of the shrine has triggered an outpouring of suppressed grief and rage by the country's majority Shiites, who long have borne the brunt of the suicide bombings by Sunni extremists over the past 2˝ years.

    The Iraqi Islamic Party said 169 mosques had been attacked, burned or occupied across the country in what appeared to be retaliatory attacks by Shiite militias.

    The figure could not be independently confirmed, but armed Shiite militias continued to roam in many neighborhoods of Baghdad, residents said, and the attacks on mosques and other Sunni targets went on.

    In the Baghdad neighborhood of Zayouni, armed men burst into the Kazaza mosque during afternoon prayers, sprinkled gasoline on the carpets and set the building ablaze. As terrified worshipers fled the flames, four were seized by the gunmen and taken away, according to Abdul Rahman Mohammed, the mosque's sheikh.

    Among those appealing for calm was radical cleric Moqtada Sadr, who cut short a visit to Lebanon and flew to Iran on his way back to Iraq. In a telephone call from the Iranian city of Qom to Al Jazeera, he called for the creation of a joint "committee of Shiite and Sunni clerics to attend to this crisis."

    "Sunni and Shiite mosques are being attacked as if we are enemies," he said.

    But Sunni leaders say Sadr's Mahdi Army has been responsible for much of the violence against Sunni mosques.

    "It has been proven to us beyond any shadow of a doubt that the United Iraqi Alliance, particularly the al-Sadrist trend, and the external parties associated with them were behind what has happened to us," Islamic Party leader Tariq al-Hashemi said at a news conference, referring to the Shiite coalition that controls the government.

    Despite appeals for calm, including a fresh plea from President Bush, the mood in Iraq was far from conciliatory. Sunni and Shiite politicians traded blame, accusing each other of fomenting the violence.

    The Association of Muslim Scholars, a prominent Sunni group, issued a statement implicitly criticizing the top Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, and other senior Shiite clerics "for calling for demonstrations when they know Iraq cannot control the streets."

    'Civil war is happening'

    "The civil war is happening now, but we are the ones who are trying to calm people down," said Khalaf Alyan, a leader of the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front, the largest Sunni bloc in the new Iraqi legislature due to be seated on Saturday. "It is the others who have announced the civil war, by killing our people and blowing up our mosques."

    "We did more than them to solve this problem, but they did nothing," responded Jalaluddin Sagheer, a Shiite legislator with the Badr Organization, one of the leading armed Shiite militias. "They just said a few words of condemnation [of the bombing of the shrine]. They don't understand how our people were shocked. For us, this was like the shock of 9/11 for Americans."

    In a sign of how the political climate has changed, Sunni leaders who have insisted that a timetable for American withdrawal be set called on U.S. forces to protect them.

    Iraqi President Jalal Talabani conducted a meeting of top political leaders at his home in an attempt to cool tempers.

    "The fire of sedition, when it breaks out, will burn everyone and spare no one," he said after the meeting.

    But the National Accord Front boycotted the meeting and also suspended participation in the negotiations for a new government, throwing into jeopardy U.S. hopes that a new national government grouping all the major factions can soon be formed to heal the divide.

    Sinan Adhem contributed to this report.

    lsly@tribune.com
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  3. #3
    Senior Member Brian503a's Avatar
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    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld ... -headlines

    Clerics Take Lead After Iraq Bombing
    By Borzou Daragahi
    Times Staff Writer

    9:26 PM PST, February 23, 2006

    BAGHDAD — Rarely since the U.S.-led invasion have Iraq's politicians appeared so insignificant and its religious leaders loomed so large as in the 48 hours since Wednesday's bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra.

    Few Iraqis seemed to pay attention to statements by Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari and other political leaders who called for calm. But many winced with trepidation or smiled with satisfaction as hours after the attack, the office of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the paramount Shiite religious leader here, issued an unusually blunt statement suggesting it was time for "the faithful" to start protecting religious sites — an apparent endorsement of militias.

    Others watched to see what Muqtada Sadr, a radical Shiite cleric, would do as he rushed back from Lebanon after the explosion.

    Even Sunni political leaders, who Thursday announced they were pulling out of talks to form a new government to protest the government's failure to safeguard their mosques and offices, were outflanked by Sunni clerics.

    The Muslim Scholars Assn., an umbrella group for Sunni religious leaders, issued a condemnation Thursday of their Shiite counterparts "for calling for demonstrations knowing that these demonstrations can be infiltrated and they can not control the streets." The statement noted that "the resistance controlled Samarra for two years, and nothing happened to the shrines."

    The dominance of clerics from both sects on the political scene marks a dramatic reversal of 85 years of secular rule in Iraq.

    "The clerics are the kingmakers, the peacemakers and the war-makers," Ismael Zayer, editor in chief of Al Sabah Al Jadid, a daily newspaper, said in dismay. "People are marching by order of clerics and stopping by order of clerics."

    Iraq's political leaders and U.S.-led forces can shut down the country for a time and reduce the violence by setting up checkpoints and flooding the streets with soldiers. But few doubt who really hold the cards.

    "If the religious leaders decided to go all the way to a civil war they could, in no time," said Hassan Bazzaz, a political scientist at Baghdad University. "And if they really wanted to stop it, they could. The religious leaders are the ones who have the real power."

    Unlike Sunni religious leaders, who are usually associated with local mosques, the Shiite clerics emerge from a system of religious schools and have a loose hierarchy. At the top in Iraq are the marjaiyah, the four most respected grand ayatollahs, of whom Sistani is considered the head.

    The reality of clerical power here discomforts U.S. officials, who have tried to promote secular leaders or moderate Islamic political groups. U.S. officials have little sway with religious figures on either side of the Sunni-Shiite divide.

    Indeed, the religious leaders are notable for their lack of direct contact with American officials. Sistani, for example, has refused to meet with any since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Forces loyal to Sadr fought U.S. Marines in Najaf in the summer of 2004. And the vehemently anti-U.S. Muslim Scholars Assn. is believed to have close ties to the insurgency.

    By contrast, secular politicians perceived as being close to the Americans have steadily lost power. The most notable example is former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. His attempt to build a coalition across Iraq's sectarian divisions was supported by U.S. officials but it fared poorly in the December parliamentary elections.

    "We keep recirculating the same stale politicians over and over again," said Wayne White, a former State Dept. intelligence specialist now a scholar at Washington's Middle East Institute. "A lot of Iraqis resent the occupation and associate a lot of the politicians who have been in circulation since 2003 with the United States."

    Even leaders of Iraqi's religious political parties, some of them scions of famous clerical families, have been so damaged by recent infighting that they have been sidelined in favor of the clerics themselves.

    The rise of the clerics comes after decades in which secular politicians have failed to deliver decent government, culminating in the disastrous reign of Saddam Hussein.

    Most of Iraq's current political leaders spent the Hussein years in exile, but the clerics mostly stayed in Iraq, often at great personal risk. They've been able to take positions that give them enormous moral authority among Iraqis, as opposed to politicians who have had to make compromises with each other and with the Americans.

    Sistani, the top Shiite cleric, has barely budged from his house in Najaf for decades and has been outspoken in his insistence that the country's Shiite majority has the right to a direct say on the country's political future. He insisted on holding direct elections at a time when the U.S. was reluctant to do so.

    After the Samarra bombing, the Iranian-born leader captured the discontent of Iraq's Shiites with his suggestion that people should consider taking their own action to make up for the security shortfalls. That stance contradicts the evolving policy of the recently elected government to curb militias.

    Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric, has won support among the country's poorest and most angry Shiites with sermons that lambaste the "occupiers" and "Crusaders," blaming them for Iraq's crises. His speeches denounce the same U.S.-led military forces that back and physically protect the country's secular political leaders.

    Sunni clerics from the beginning have taken a hard line against the U.S. military presence. They express the sense of victimization felt by many in the Sunni Arab minority, a group that was favored under Hussein.

    Blaming the Shiite clergy for stirring up reprisals after the Samarra bombing, they voice the anger many Sunnis feel about their elected representatives breaking bread with former enemies among the Shiites.

    Meanwhile all the politicians have been able to do since the explosion was to issue pro forma condemnations while ordering a curfew in an attempt to curb violence across the country.

    And the more the political leaders appear unable to stem the bloodshed, the more their prestige and authority wanes.

    "We don't have a real government, and we don't have a real authority to apply law," Bazzaz said. "In the power vacuum, people retreat to their religions."
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Brian503a's Avatar
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Judy's Avatar
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    We have 160,000 American Troops that will be caught in the cross-fire of millions of Iraqis fighting over things they themselves need to resolve without our presence.

    We need to get our troops out of Iraq and let the Iraqis resolve these internal issues on their own. Our mission is over.

    Thanks for the pictures Brian. It's sad to see them, but it was inevitable if we didn't leave months ago. Our presence there is a fuel to this in many ways. We should have left soon after the elections last spring.

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  6. #6
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    I am terrified for our troops. Looking at that sea of hostile faces how could one not be terrified?

    Our mission in Iraq has long been over. How in the hell will they disengage our people now? Can you imagine the mental stress they are currently experiencing? These are YOUNG men who may never be the same after this deployment.

    Our own grandson is home, has married, is an expectant father...I grieve for the others who remain there.

    My BIG question is: What will happen when the military rank and file and the citizens learn the truth? That they were engaged in a war based on lies...based on press releases placed by our own CIA??

    OMG

    RR
    The men who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed. " - Lloyd Jones

  7. #7
    Senior Member dman1200's Avatar
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    Why would anyone be surprised by this? Just another blow to Bush's neocon fantasy. Freedumb and Demoncrazy for a bunch of savages who can't behave in a civilized manner unless they are forced to by a force greater than them? I don't think so. These savages can't even agree on what song they want to listen to or what food they should eat or what game they should play and yet we are suppose to think they can govern themselves? Come on, give me a break. This pending civil war was inevitable and the only thing that stands in the way of it is our troops. God help us.

    If Bush had any brain cells he'd pull out now, let those SOB's kill each other and then let our troops take out whatever's left.

    This is what troops are thinking when they are deployed to this cesspool:

    BEAM ME UP SCOTTY, THERE'S NO INTELLIGENT LIFE HERE.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member JuniusJnr's Avatar
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    I am not surprised by it. Bush the Daddy knew this in 1990. Anyone who knows anything about the Mid East knows that there are people just waiting for the chance to slit each other's throats. There are countries in the Mid East where every shi'ite village is locked down at the first hint of trouble because they are the most dangerous. Bush insisted on them having an election that the Shi'ites won in Iraq. To me, that only goes to prove that he didn't have a clue what he was doing to destabalize the region or else he didn't care.

    Now get our boys home and put them on our border before we are in a similar situation here over vastly different cultures in our own country that become warring factions because our leaders were too blind to see the forest from the trees.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Judy's Avatar
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    Bring our troops home...NOW!!

    Get them out of there before they are all butchered in the cross-fire of a civil war.

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  10. #10
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    Our guys fought their way in...betcha five they have to fight their way out....but this government will wait until it's much too late...what in the hell can they be thinking??

    I agree, dman...when I lived in those areas...Kuwait, Lebanon, Tehran...I thought I'd arrived at the backside of the earth. Nothing in their behavior while I was there convinced me otherwise...I certainly knew where I'd place the nukes...

    RR
    The men who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed. " - Lloyd Jones

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