Khamenei, Global Demonstrations, Blame US
Demonstrations in Sadr City, Basra, Kashmir
3 Sunni Mosques Torched
Iran’s Supreme Jurisprudent,Ali Khamenei, managed to blame the Iraqi Baath Party, the Wahhabi sect of Islam, the Salafi Jihadi radicals among Sunnis, and the United States, jointly for the blowing up of the minarets at the al-Askariya Shrine in Samarra. The shrine is among the holiest sites for the Shiite branch of Islam. Iran is the largest Shiite country, with 90% or so of its 70 million people adhering to it. Khamenei is both the head of the Iranian state and the head of Iranian Shiism, and is recognized as authoritative by some Shiites outside Iran, especially the Hizbullah Party of south Lebanon. Most non-Iranian Shiites follow instead Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani of Najaf, who has called for calm. But Khamenei has a big megaphone among Shiites. His laying of responsibility for the bombing at the feet of the US will increase anti-American hatred in the Shiite world. Khamenei’s heated and irrational rhetoric, positing a vast conspiracy among various groups that hate one another, is typical of the hardliners in Iran, but it is my impression that in recent months he has tended to leave the wilder talk to his rival Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi and his protege, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. I don’t think Khamenei’s remarks on this matter are a good sign.
The English text of Sistani’s statement on the bombing of the shrine can be found here.
There were angry demonstrations by Muslims in Srinagar and elswhere in Indian Kashmir, at which the US was blamed for the Samarra bombing and Bush was burned in effigy: ‘The protestors said that the US had launched a war against the Muslim world, and decried its policy in West Asia [i.e. Israel/Palestine]. . . Reports of protests have also come from other parts of the valley like Baramulla, Pattan, Mir Gund Divsar and Qazigund.’
Oh, great. Now Bush’s Iraq blunder has made us hated in Mir Gund. He is such a great leader. I’ll bet the people of Mir Gund once just ignored the United States. Bush got their attention all right. God talks to him and gives him missions, you know. To rile up Kashmiris in Mir Gund.
Not to mention the Caucasus. And we thought Azerbaijan was on our side.
And Bahrain, for a second day. Bahrain is not that big a place and 6,000 people are a lot there. Are there other good places in the Gulf for a naval base? I’d shop around.
And, wait until Friday afternoon in the Middle East and Asia. Shiites in Karachi, Pakistan, are planning fiery anti-American sermons and demonstrations. They are demanding that Pakistan cut off diplomatic relations with the US.
Tina Susman and Suhail Ahmad of the LAT provide ample anecdotal evidence that a lot of Baghdad Shiites are buying the conspiracy theory that the American military was behind the explosions in Samarra. Some even think that the US generals are in league with al-Qaeda. It is horrible, but I suppose it is ironic that Dick Cheney sent the poor US troops off to fight Saddam in Iraq on the ridiculous grounds that Saddam was in bed with al-Qaeda, so now those lies and conspiracy theories in Washington are being met by similar ones generated by Khomeinist Shiites, tying Cheney to al-Qaeda!
The biggest tragedy is that any sane person would have recognized after 9/11 that the US and the Shiites had a common enemy in Bin Laden and his ilk, and the US could have made up with Khatami’s Iran. If the Iraq War had not happened, and the hardliners had not won the summer 2005 Iranian elections, the US position in the Muslim world would have been potentially strong by now. Instead, those great Islam scholars and political geniuses, Richard Perle and David Frum, managed to get Bush to put Iran in a cockeyed ‘axis of evil.’ It has been downhill ever since.
Meanwhile, in Baghdad, Reuters reports that a curfew and the presence of Iraqi and US troops in the street did not prevent large demonstrations from being held in Sadr City and in southern Shiite cities such as Karbala and Basra. In the capital, the Green Zone took mortar fire, as did the courtyard of the nearby al-Rashid Hotel (an employee was killed and several injured).
Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports in Arabic that Sadr City and some other Baghdad neighborhoods closed up their district gates for security reasons. There were also scattered clashes, it says, between Mahdi Army militiamen and Iraqi government & US forces.
There are reports of fair numbers of Iraqis defying the curfew to flee their homes in Baghdad in fear of sectarian reprisals. Some are showing up in displacement camps outside the city. Some are attacked by militiamen on the way.
South of Baghdad in the cities of Iskandariya and Mahaweel, angry Shiites torched three Sunni mosques.
On Wednesday, 23 bodies had been found in Baghdad, victims of death squad killings. Even with all the security and curfew, 5 bodies were found on Thursday.
McClatchy adds these incidents around the country:
‘ During the last 24 hours, seven people in Basra were killed in sectarian violence resulting from the Samarra explosions. . .
DIYALA: Around 5 p.m. Wednesday, gunmen planted bombs inside Ali Kamal al-Deen shrine in Arab Thuailib village, destroying the dome and a large portion of the shrine. . .
DIYALA: TV news reports Thursday said the head of Diyala university has disappeared. Earlier, he had reported that 12 university lecturers were killed and 44 others transferred to other universities seeking safety. . .
KIRKUK: Around 12:30 p.m. Thursday, a suicide bomber targeted the municipality building of al-Riadh district (west of Kirkuk) during the weekly session of the board. Six were injured – three soldiers, two policemen and a civilian. . .
ANBAR: Around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, a suicide car bomber targeted the highway police patrol station in Fallujah, killing two policemen and injuring five others. . .