Ethnic Cleansing in Battle for Baghdad
Sistani Aide Claims threat to Islamic Line
McClatchy reports a mortar attack on Zafaraniya in Baghdad, which killed 5 and wounded 15. Another two civilians were injured in al-Amil by mortar attacks. Police found 12 bodies in Baghdad.
Gunmen abducted an American civilian and two of his Iraqi aides on Friday in Basra.
Reuters reported a deadly attack by guerrillas on a checkpoint in Dhulu’iya, where guerrillas killed 4 Iraqi soldiers.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports in Arabic that Abdul Mahdi al-Karbala’i, an aide to Sistani in the holy city of Karbala in the south, said Friday that a failure of the al-Maliki governmen might well discredit the whole “Islamic line.” He urged the government to act before it was too late. It would be ironic if the collapse of Iraq really did discredit political Islam. But I fear it is more likely to discredit democracy and the United States. It is hard to discredit utopian ideologies. Studies have shown that members of sects whose leaders predict the end of the world on a certain date are actually more committed to the leader when the date comes and goes with nothing happening. Apparently they had so much time, money, and social networks invested in him that they didn’t want to lose it all.
On Thursday, the Association of Muslim Scholars (or now some are calling it the Muslim Clerics Association) issued a warning that Sunni Arab districts in Iraq were going to be attacked by militias, implying that there was government connivance in all this. On Friday, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had his office issue a statement: “The statement from the Muslim Clerics Association is totally baseless and raises tension, and we hold the Muslim Clerics responsible for any action that results from this.” The Association’s statement did not explicitly mention Shiites, but they seem to have had the Mahdi Army in mind.
Al-Hayat reported in Arabic that Adnan Dulaimi, the leader of the Sunni fundamentalist Iraqi Accord Front in Parliament said that Baghdad had entered a decisive battle after the success of Shiite militias, especially the Mahdi Army, in implementing a campaign of the ethnic cleansing of Sunnis from eastern districts of the capital, which they are following up with an identical plot in West Baghdad. Dulaimi said that the battle had begun when Shiite militias launched attacks in the districts east of the Army Canal, in the neighborhoods of Sadr City, Talibiya, Shaab, Ur, al-Ubaidi, and New Baghdad, none of which now has a single Sunni family living there. Then the militias took the battle to the area west of the canal, including Rusafa, Salikh, Tunis, Adhamiya, Karrada, Jadiriya, and Palestine street, where Sunnis were once 30 or 40 percent of the population before the fever of ethnic cleansing took over in the districts of al-Amil and Baya’ of West Baghdad.
Dulaimi maintained that in some other districts where Sunnis had been more than half the population, such as Kharkh, there were now no Sunnis, including in Hurriya, Shu’la, Tubji, and Kadhimiya. He said that there is now a battle for control of the districts of Adl, Mansur, Ghazaliya, Amiriya, and Dura, that is, the last Sunni strongholds in the Kharkh region of Baghdad, and Adhamiya in Rusafa.
Dulaimi maintained that the Mahdi Army was not reacting to Sunni guerrilla provocations, but was rather implementing a carefully thought out plan that was supported by the Iraqi government. He said that Iran was suppying new, state of the art, mortar launchers to the militias, which they were now using against Sunni neighborhoods.
In contrast, Shiite MP Jalal Saghir of the United Iraqi Alliance maintained that the Sunni Arab ethnic cleansing of Shiites has been going on some time, including in the districts of Abu Ghraib, Khadra, Amiriya, Adhamiya, and Dura, all of which are now nearly empty of Shiites. Saghir maintains an Arabic web site, BurathaNews.com, where he gives news of ethnic cleansing attempts.
LAT says that a US military sweep in Diyala province east of Baghdad turned up few guerrillas, since they melted into the countryside.