Apocalypse II in Samarra
US Kills 6 at National Dialogue Front Office
CBS/AP report that an angry crowd of Sunni Arab demonstrators in the northern city of Samarra, protesting Saddam’s execution, broke “broke the locks off the badly damaged Shiite Golden Dome mosque and marched through carrying a mock coffin and photo of the executed former leader.”
Folks, this is very bad news. The Askariyah Shrine (it isn’t just a mosque) is associated with the Hidden Twelfth Imam, who is expected by Shiites to appear at the end of time to restore the world to justice. (For them, the Imam Mahdi is sort of like the second coming of Christ for Christians). The Muqtada al-Sadr movement is millenarian and believes he will reveal himself at any moment.
The centrality of the cult of the Twelfth Imam, a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad who is said to have vanished in 873 AD, helps explain why the bombing of the Golden Dome on February 21 of 2006 set off a frenzy of Shiite, Sadrist attacks on Sunni Arabs. Last February, stuck in a Phoenix hotel because of a missed flight and without an internet connection for my laptop, I blogged from my Treo that it was an apocalyptic day. Sadly, it was, kicking off a frenzy of sectarian violence that has grown each subsequent month.
For Sunni Arabs to parade a symbolic coffin of Saddam through the ruins of the Askariya shrine won’t be exactly good for social peace in Iraq. Can’t that site be properly guarded or something?
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that hundreds of demonstrators marched in Dur, near Tikrit on Monday, protesting the execution of Saddam Hussein. Young men carried machine guns and fired them in the air, chanting “Muqtada, you coward,” and “Hakim! Yellow-belly! Agent of the Americans!” They unveiled an enormous mosaic of Saddam Hussein inscribed, “The Martry-Hero.”
There was also a demonstration in the northern Baghdad district of Adhamiya, at which protesters shouted condemnations of Muqtada al-Sadr, according to al-Zaman. Some of those present at Saddam’s execution shouted “Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada!” Saddam mocked them, asking if this was their sign of manliness. (Personally, I believe this is Saddam’s reference to rumors in Iraq that Muqtada’s wife left him, saying that he is actually gay. He is saying that chanting Muqtada’s name is a sign that they are also not real men.)
KarbalaNews.net gives in Arabic the sermon preached on Saddam’s execution by Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Mudarrisi, an old-time Shiite activist in Karbala. He called the dictator “the graven idol of Iraq” and said that the punishment was just given Saddam’s long years of tyranny.
Sudarsan Raghavan of WaPo reports that many Iraqi Shiites fear that the US is turning on them. Money graf:
‘ “Who are the secularists?” demanded [Ali] Adeeb, the Shiite lawmaker, his eyes tightening. “The secularists are the Baath Party. . . It means the base of their thinking is not stable,” he continued, referring to the Americans. “They are going to lose the Shiites. And they won’t win the Sunnis back, because they attacked them at the beginning. So now both sides will lose confidence in the United States.” ‘
AP adds, “Police reported finding the bodies of 40 handcuffed, blindfolded and bullet-riddled bodies in Baghdad on the first day of the New Year.”
Reuters reports on political violence on Monday, and gives the most plausible brief account I have seen of the fighting between US troops and members of the National Dialogue Front. Reuters says that the US soldiers were raiding a Salafi (“al-Qaeda”) safe house when they came under fire from the nearby offices of Salih Mutlak’s National Dialogue Front party. They say they counter-attacked and killed 6 paramilitary fighters. Mutlak insists that they killed 2 security guards, wounded 2 more, and killed members of a civilian family in an adjacent building. Some press reports got mixed up and suggested that Mutlak was harboring al-Qaeda. He is a representative of secular Sunni nationalism, and much closer to the Baath than to the fundamentalist Salafis. Indeed, if his guards fired on US troops, it was likely because they were driven by Baathist sympathies to want revenge for Saddam’s execution. The LA Times has a longer treatment.
The Iraqi government closed the al-Sharqiya television station, headed by Saad al-Bazzaz, accusing it of instigating sectarian hatred during its coverage of the execution. It was also accused of carrying a report of the killing of three female college students that turned out to be false (I summarized that report at the time; I don’t know if it is false or not and a government practicing censorship is an untrustworthy arbiter of such things.)
The first judge in the trial of Saddam, Rizgar Amin, a Kurd with no brief for the dead tyrant, complained Monday that his execution was illegal in Iraqi law:
‘ The implementation of Saddam’s execution during Eid al-adha is illegal according to chapter 9 of the tribunal law. Article 27 states that nobody, even the president (Jalal Talabani), may change rulings by the tribunal and the implementation of the sentence should not happen until 30 days after publication that the appeals court has upheld the tribunal verdict. The hanging during the Eid al-Adha period (also) contradicts Iraqi and Islamic custom. “Article 290 of the criminal code of 1971 (which was largely used in the Saddam trial) states that no verdict should implemented during the official holidays or religious festivals,” he said.’
David E. Sanger, Michael R. Gordon, and John F. Burns of the NYT report on how Bush administration strategy went bad in 2006.
Al-Hayat says that the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, once allied with Iran, has demanded that the government of King Abdullah II close the Iranian embassy in Amman. The MB, which is an opposition party in Jordan, blamed Iran and the US for the execution of Saddam Hussein. Al-Hayat calls this demand “an index of the depth of the political changes in the Arab world.”
Also in Amman, the MB joined several political parties and professional unions at a protest rally where Raghad, Saddam Hussein’s daughter, made a brief appearance. She thanked those assembled for remembering her father, “the martyr.” The Minister of Political Development attended this rally, but when al-Hayat asked about his presence, the government hastily replied that it did not express the position of the Jordanian government. His presence will be a sore point in Jordan’s relations with the Maliki government, though. Many speakers at the rally vehemently condemned Iran, blaming “the Safavid magi” for the “assassination of Saddam.” They shouted slogans condemning Iran, Israel and the United States. One speaker denounced Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni Arab fundamentalist, as a “cowardly agent,” which caused a disturbance that had to be calmed before the rally could continue.
(There are an estimated 800,000 Iraqis in Jordan, a country of 5.4 million; they are mainly Sunni Arabs and some are wealthy ex-Baathists who have brought enormous amounts of money into the Jordanian economy. Many others, though are destitute refugees.)
A mourning ceremony for Saddam was held by Iraqi expatriates in Damascus, al-Hayat reports, attended by thousands of mourners and by some of Saddam’s relatives.
In Egypt, the Journalists’ Guild began a mourning session for the late dictator.