Shiite reaction to Massacre: Blame on Sunni Mosques
Sunnis Allege Reprisals on Mosques, Civilians
Narratives of what happened on Sunday, when snipers targeted Shiite pilgrims as they passed through Sunni Arab neighborhoods of Baghdad, killing 20 and wounding nearly 300, are confused. What is clear is that there were two follow-ups to this violence. One came from US helicopters. The other from Shiite militiamen, who attacked Sunni mosques.
al-Hayat reports [Ar.] that Lt. Gen. Rashid Fulaih, commander of the 1st Division of the Iraqi army, told al-Iraqiyah television, “The most serious attacks were registered in al-Rusafah, when some armed elements issued from some of the buildings on Jumhuriyah St. and Fadl district, and opened fire indiscriminately with light weapons on pilgrim processions.” He said 14 policemen had been wounded in pitched battles with the guerrillas.
Al-Hayat adds that some of the Shiite pilgrims were killed by mortar fire. The Iraqi security forces intervened late in the day. They were followed by American helicopters, which targeted the sources of (Sunni Arab guerrilla) fire and destroyed a number of buildings on Waziriyah Street and in Fadl district.
Now comes the story of reprisal attacks on Sunni mosques. Al-Hayat says that Adnan Dulaimi (a Sunni fundamentalist leader of the National Accord Front) condemned “militia attacks on Sunni mosques.” He said that they had used medium weaponry to attack mosques in Salikh, Fadl, Filistin St., Hurriyah and Shaab. He accused elements in the official Iraq security services of “being behind” these attacks. He said it was impossible for Shiite militias to conduct such a wideranging and coordinated attack on mosques unless the police and army turned a blind eye and allowed it. He said some eyewitnesses spoke of the militiamen wearing police uniforms. Others spoke of armed clashes between Shiite militiamen and Sunni defenders in these neighborhoods.
(I have to say that I am confused about the Sunni Arab charges of Shiite militia attacks on Sunni mosques on Sunday. Western wire services are not reporting this story, and none of the Arabic sources gives any casualty counts. I think it is possible that it is an urban myth or at least very overblown. The rumor is being spread by pro-guerrilla newspapers such as Mafkarat al-Islam and it is possible that it is just a species of Sunni Arab war propaganda, like most of these highly unreliable “resistance reports”.)
Al-Hayat reported the reaction of the leader of the Sadrist bloc in parliament, Fallah Shunaishal, who blamed “Baathists” and “Inquisitors” (literally, excommunicators) as being behind the attacks. He said that some of the attacks occurred in the Karkh and Rusafa districts. He said that 13 guerrillas who had been captured admitted to belonging to the “Monotheism and Holy War” organization that has pledge fealty to al-Qaeda. He also said that some of the sniper received marching orders “from mosques in Sallikh.”
Al-Hayat also says that Tariq al-Hashimi of the Iraqi Islamic Party maintained that armed Shiite militiamen went on a rampage, attacking Sunni mosques in districts such as al-Waziriyah, Salikh, al-Dawla`i, al-Sarrafiyah, and al-Shaab.
The stridently pro-Shiite KarbalaNews.net [Ar.] turns the table on the Sunnis, or perhaps just explains the reprisals, when it blames Sunni mosques for the shootings of Shiite pilgrims on Sunday. (This article said that 8 of the wounded later died on the operating table).
The article maintains that some of the snipers were in mosques or on minarets as the Shiite pilgrims came through Sunni neighborhoods in the west and center of Baghdad. It says that these mosques were planted in Baghdad by Saddam as a means of controlling major thoroughfares and intersections. It even maintains that the call to prayer is unusually long from these Saddamist mosques to give cover to snipers mounting the minarets. This inflammatory article is clearly intended to excuse the attacks on Sunni mosques and to encourage further Shiite reprisals against them for Sunday’s massacre. It refers to the Sunni Arab guerrillas as “the New Umayyads,” a reference to the Umayyad dynasty in early Islamic history, which Shiites believe persecuted the Imams or holy descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. An Umayyad ruler had Imam Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet, killed for leading an uprising against him.
The article also condemns by name Adnan Dulaimi, the leader of the Sunni religious bloc in parliament, alleging that he maintained that the real story in Iraq is the persecution and killing of Sunni Arabs (i.e. the reprisals by militias), not the original massacre of Shiite pilgrims. If the attacks on Sunni mosques did not in fact occur or were very minor affairs, that would help explain why this Shiite newspaper is so outraged. Dulaimi’s speech is looked upon as a mere diversionary tactic by the Sunni Arab side. If so, how enraging– to have your people shot down in reality but to people attempt to offset that with rumors of imaginary injuries to the other side.
When Sunni Arabs and Shiites in Iraq cannot even agree on what exactly happened on Sunday and what its significance is, then the country is already mentally partitioned.
In what should be a worrisome turn for Americans, the article explicitly blames US military helicopters for bothering Shiites in Sadr City while circling around uselessly allowing Sunni guerrillas to shoot down Shiite pilgrims at will. (This latter characterization is not, as we have seen, correct, but a lot of Shiites will believe it.)
Senator Chuck Hagel admitted that US influence is slipping in Iraq. I fear it is worse than that. The level of popular vitriol against the US is frightening. 90% of Iraqis would not want an American even to live next to them!. I think of that statistic every time I hear Bush come out and talk about the new Iraq. 76 percent think he invaded them to control their petroleum.
Sociologist Michael Schwartz lays out the 7 reasons for which the US is helpless in Iraq and for which its presence is probably counterproductive.
Nor are the self-serving comments of US and Iraqi officials in Iraq downplaying the significance of the Sunday massacre and allowing as how it could have been much worse, likely to endear any Shiites to us.
Reuters gives further civil war violence on Sunday.
The Ancient of Days has some thoughts on what is wrong with the Neoconservatives’ vision of a “new Middle East.”