23 Die In Iraq Violence
Shiite Cleric Assassinated
Guerrilla attacks killed 23 persons in Iraq on Thursday, including one US serviceman. One bomb blew up near a Shiite mosque in Baghdad, and an important Shiite cleric was killed.
Al-Sabah says that when Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi met with Grand Ayatollah Sistani in Najaf on Thursday, he insisted that “There is no evidence that Iran is supporting terrorism.” He said Iran would be happy to help restore security in Iraq.
Meanwhile, the LA Times reports that the Americans have decided to get more involved in mediating Iraqi decision-making, in an attempt to reverse the deadly drift and political gridlock that has gripped the country. It seems obvious, as well, that left to themselves the Shiites and Kurds who won the Jan. 30 elections are perfectly happy to cut the Sunni Arabs out of the deal, and to risk prolonging and deepening the Sunni guerrilla war.
Taking a cue from Hannah Allam and Muhammad al-Dulaimi of Knight Ridder, Fred Kaplan of Slate considers whether a US military campaign like the recent one at Qaim does more political harm than good. He concludes that the US is alienating the very people eager to cooperate with it by using its massive firepower with too little discrimination. The Project on Defense Alternatives argues that US occupation of Iraq is producing a vicious circle, whereby US military action is actually provoking an ever growing guerrilla war.
The Wahington Post reports that the body of Shaikh Muhammad Allaf, a Shiite cleric, was pulled from a car at the bottom of the Tigris, for all the world like the victim of a Mafia hit. Allaf was a clerical representative of Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Sa’id al-Hakim, a close associate of Ali Sistani. Other sources identified Allaf (not Allaq) as a lieutenant of Sistani himself.] Al-Hakim issued a statement condemning the assassination through his son, Muhammad Husain. The Post adds,
‘ A statement from the office of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq’s most influential Shiite cleric, said insurgents were focusing on religious figures because they are easy prey. “The government is capable of protecting itself, so the insurgents are after soft targets,” Sistani’s statement said. ‘
Several aides to Sistani himself have been assassinated in the past few months, and a huge bomb was found and dismantled near Sistani’s own home recently.
Sistani also condemned the government of Yemen for waging “a kind of war” against the Zaidi Shiites in that country.
Abbas Kadhim argues that what Iraq needs is legal and judicial reform.
Al-Sabah: In Saudi Arabia, prominent cleric Safar al-Hawali, who has supported the “holy war” by Sunnis in Iraq, denied that he had called upon Saudis to participate in it. He issued a statement that such participation by Saudis would be illegitimate.
Mansoor Moaddel reveals in the Daily Star the results of his opinion polling in Iraq last year. A sociologist at Eastern Michigan University who has been working with the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, Moaddel is highly qualified to do scientific polling.
Some of the findings he reports:
To the question, “Is Iraq better off without Saddam Hussein?” the ‘yes’ answers broke down this way:
Sunnis: only 23 percent said “yes.”
Shiites: 87 percent said “yes.”
Kurds: 95 percent said “yes.”
On the question of whether a university education is more important for boys than for girls:
Sunnis: 44 percent disagreed, favoring equality for girls.
Shiites: 50 percent disagreed, favoring equality for girls.
Kurds: 78 percent disagreed, insisting the girls be educated equally.
In other words, the Sunni Arabs in Iraq are nearly twice as patriarchal in their attitudes as Kurds.
The third question is the most important: “Is life in Iraq unpredictable and dangerous?”
Sunnis: 77 percent said “yes.”
Shiites: 41 percent said “yes.”
Kurds: 17 percent said “yes.”
Moaddel argues that when people feel that their lives are not in their control, they are more likely to mount violent political campaigns in response:
“This disparity in attitudes toward the future could determine what eventually happens in Iraq. Widespread political violence in both Iran and Latin America in the 1960 and 1970 demonstrated a connection between popular feelings of powerlessness and the growth of urban guerilla movements. Leaders of these groups often defended terrorism by insisting that violence was the only means of bringing hope to demoralized people. This argument, long discredited, resonates in the actions of the Iraqi insurgents and their fanatical allies.”
He argues that the Sunni Arabs have to be brought into the political process to forestall this development.