Sistani warns of his own Assassination, Civil War
al-Hayat: Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum, March’s president-for-a-month of the Interim Governing Council, revealed in a news conference on Wednesday that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani had warned late last week that “the enemies of Iraq” were “plotting to kill him [Sistani] in order to spark a civil war in the country.” He said that “regional, international, and local parties are working to light this fuse,” and he called on the Iraqis to avoid falling for it. Sistani remarked, “The enemies of Iraq have been working day and night, for a long time, to create an atmosphere encouraging of sectarian civil war, which will devour everything, the verdant with the barren, and will end the unity of the people and the nation.” He expected these enemies to kill him, to provoke the Shiites into a reaction that would lead to communal warfare. He announced that he knew of the existence of someone trying to assassinate him, which frightens him. He emphasized that he “forbids everyone to use his murder as a means of lighting the fuse of hateful sectarian warfare.”
Meanwhile, the Sunni cleric who administers that community’s pious endowments, Dr. Adnan Muhammad Salman, said he feared that the “usurpation of tens of Sunni mosques might lead to the kindling of public disturbances.” He called on the Shiite clerical leadership to denounced persons who attack Sunnis and their women, and who disrespect the companions and wives of the Prophet Muhammad.
There have been lots of instances where Sunni mosques have been taken over by angry Shiites in the south, on the grounds that Saddam built them there to plant Sunni influence. The Sadrist movement has been especially active on this front. Sistani has denounced the practice. Shiites view many of the early Islamic figures holy to Sunnis as traitors to the family of the prophet, and during their Muharram mourning ceremonies they often ritually curse them. Objects of their ire include the caliphs Abu Bakr and Umar, and A’isha, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad, all of whom they feel did not do right by Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet, of whom they are partisans.
Then, British special representative in Iraq, Jeremy Greenstock, waxed especially blunt. Speaking of the Iraqis, Greenstock said, “They’ve got an opportunity. There are things that can go wrong. We will be here to make those things more difficult to go wrong. The resources will come in. The oil will start flowing faster. The investment will come in. The neighbours will want to co-operate with the new Iraq.” But the former British ambassador to the United Nations acknowledged that dangers were rife in the post-Saddam Hussein era and that success was not guaranteed. He bluntly addressed the spectre of civil war haunting Iraq’s Shi’ites, Sunnis, Kurds, Christians and Turkmen.
Between Sistani and Greenstock, one comes away today with a song on one’s lips and a spring in one’s step.
Finally, al-Hayat received a communique from the “Council of Shiite Turkmen” in Kirkuk, complaining bitterly about the Basic Law or interim constitution, calling it “ill-omened.” It made Arabic and Kurdish the two state languages, ignoring the Turkmen. The Turkmen are marginalized (none of their party members is on the Interim Governing Council). The US is strongly allied with the Kurdish militias, and 70% of the police in Kirkuk are Kurds even though Kurds are a minority in the city. Then they want their own Turkmen province, of which Kirkuk must be the capital.
Bahr al-Ulum told the paper that he wants to satisfy the Turkmen. Good political answer, but I don’t see how you do that and avoid an explosion with the Kurds. (Turkmen are probably 2% of the population, Kurds more like 15-17%).
In other news, men disguised as Iraqi police ambushed and killed two US civilian contractors and their Iraqi translator on Wednesday, near the southern Shiite city of al-Hilla.