Iraq Arrests Dozens in Terror Sweep, Offers Help to Iran

Iraqi authorities are going for the trifecta. They are finally forming a new government, nine months after the March parliamentary elections, to be headed by incumbent Nuri al-Maliki at the head of a Shiite-Kurdish coalition. They have finally gotten UN sanctions on Iraq, implemented after the 1990 occupation of Kuwait, lifted. And they are increasingly in charge of their own security arrangements, as US troops draw down, to depart altogether next year this time according to al-Maliki and the Status of Forces Agreement.

In the latter regard, Baghdad announced Friday that security teams had arrested nearly 80 Sunni Arab radicals from 14 terrorist cells in Diyala province, a few of them accused of planning roadside bomb and other attacks on Shiite pilgrims making their way to Karbala for the commemoration of Ashura. This holy day is held in honor of the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Imam Husayn, who was cut down with his followers as they protested oppression at the hands of the Umayyad kingdom in 680 CE [“AD”]. Diyala, an ethnically mixed province abutting Iran where Sunnis have organized to resist rule by hard line Shiite groups, has been the scene of persistent violence since 2003. Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Sunni young men there have organized themselves into “Youth of Heaven” (Fityan al-Jannah). Only two of those arrested are explicitly accused of planning suicide bombings against Ashura pilgrims, and a lot of the arrests probably involved sweeps against the usual suspects.

Nearly 2 million pilgrims are assembling in Karbala, 1 in 8 of them from abroad, and in past years the Sunni radicals eager to destabilize the new Shiite order in Baghdad had carried out massive bombings and other attacks on this special occasion. This is the first year that the Iraqi security forces are virtually on their own, with no US help on surveillance and intelligence (since the US has stopped actively patrolling, and no longer flies helicopter gunships routinely on missions, US intelligence must have dropped off sharply, and it is the Iraqi security that has the best idea from where threats might emerge). So far, some 17 pilgrims have died in disparate small attacks.

Iran’s PressTv reports on the meaning of Ashura:

In a nightmare for radical groups with a Sunni background, the Shiite government of Baghdad is now offering to give help to Iran in fighting bombings carried out by Salafi revivalists cum sub-nationalists in Iranian Sistan and Baluchistan. Baluch are mostly hard line Sunnis and some chafe at Shiite, urban Persian rule. (Sistan and Baluchistan is among the poorest and most disadvantage of Iran’s provinces.)

Iran blamed the US and the UK for the Dec. 15 bombing of a Shiite mosque by Baluch activists, called Jundu’llah or the Army of God, which killed 38.

The events in Karbala and Baluchistan demonstrate the ways in which contemporary Sunni-Shiite divides are increasingly politicizing the mourning rituals of Muharram (the month in which Ashura falls). But what is interesting is that although there is talk of transnational security cooperation, and suspicions of transnational guerrilla cooperation, in fact these are highly localized struggles pivoting on demands for ethnic autonomy; it is not even clear that religion is the most important issue in them.

10 Responses

  1. This insane ritual (self-flagellation) should stop!
    It only adds to the persecution complex of the Shiites.

    Anybody with surface understanding of Islam would know that this kind of lamentation never existed in Arab culture.

    • This is not your business. At least, we don’t hurt anyone by such an Islamic ritual.

      Prosecution of Shia throughout the history is a reality.


      PEACE to Juan and other Americans

  2. Iran has good cause to suspect the US and Israel, at least, of complicity in terrorist activity against them. It could get awkward if Iraqi counterterrorism activity picked up evidence of US involvment.

  3. Professor, did you know that Daily Kos, a website dedicated to electing Democrats, has banned Press TV videos as being antisemitic? A commentator on the site found news stories discussing the Jewish & Israeli organ gangs that called it a ‘Jewish conspiracy.’ This was deemed using the ‘blood libel,’ and so the moderator Meteor Blades banned Press TV videos. Now I can’t use the Press TV Gaza stringer in video diaries on Israel & Palestine on Daily Kos.

    • It is legitimate to exclude a particular video that has antisemitic themes (singles out Jews unfairly, attributes to them omnipotence, stereotypes them across the board, etc.). It is not legitimate to exclude a good video report on a particular topic put out by an organization that sometimes produces bigotted reporting on other subjects. Not all PressTv employees are anti-Israel, much less antisemitic, whatever their bosses say, and we don’t know that the reporters and producers who did this one are. Few Western news networks have not produced anti-Muslim videos, or indeed anti-Chinese, anti-worker, etc., but there is no blanket policy by anyone of not embedding their videos. A particular piece of video should be judged on its own merits.

    • A gang of posters at Daily Kos also routinely abuse people who link to articles from respectable sites like, which they have labeled “antisemitic.” It’s part of a pattern of suppression of evidence that shows Israel in a bad light.

  4. Turkish PM Rajep Tayyip Erdogan’s participation in this years Ashura commemorations should further complicate our understanding of the “Sunni-Shiite divides”. The mourning gathering no doubt had political overtones but what’s equally important to note is that they are bringing the Shias and Sunnis together.

    link to

    The attendance no doubt was a powerful political gesture and is indicative of the current ‘anti-Israel, pro-Iran’ stance of not only the PM but also tens of thousands of common people in Turkey, and beyond. As the 2010 poll carried out by Zogby International and the University of Maryland shows, when the people in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates were asked to name the world leader they admired the most, Erdogan was among the most popular ones this year. Whereas, just a couple of years ago he had close to nil votes. (The diplomatic ties between Turkey and Israel soured in the last two years, especially after the Israeli onslaught on Gaza in Dec 2008-Jan 2009 and the May 2010 attack on Gaza aid flotilla that killed nine Turkish citizens.)

    When it comes to understanding the politics of the masses in the Middle East, which should be distinguished from that of their rulers, the lens of “Sunni-Shiite divides” may not be always useful for academic analysis.

    With Jundallah too, along with their ethnic nationalist motives, one should also factor in the active support of Washington to the group. That should further complicate the narrative.

    The labels “Shiite”, “Sunni”, “Salafi revivalists” often come off as not only the description but also the explanation of the situation in your posts, but they erase more than what they explain.

  5. Meteor blade’s reasoning lacks internal consistency. If it’s fair to refer to ‘Islamic terror’ because the people commiting those particular acts of terrorism are Muslim, then it’s fair to refer to a ‘Jewish conspiracy’ because the people who are committing this particular act of organ harvesting are Jewish. For history of same, please see here: link to

    Further, if if it were not(and the reason for such confounds me), then banning an entire source of news because of one report seems….a lot like just a random excuse for banning a uncomfortable source of news.

    • I haven’t seen the report, but I would argue that if the conspiracy was organized for specifically religious reasons, then it would be fair to call it a conspiracy from that religion. So abortion clinic bombers pretty much automatically are Christian terrorists; it’s only a matter of proving whether they are Catholic or Protestant conspiracies. Not all neoconservatives are Jews, and neocon schemes to strengthen Israel have nothing to do with the well-being of Jews worldwide, so I would call that a Zionist conspiracy, not a Jewish conspiracy. Obviously I don’t think the Federal Reserve or organ harvesting have a specifically Jewish purpose.

  6. “Washington Police arrested 135 of the protesters, in what is being called the largest mass detention in recent years. Among those arrested were Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst who used to provide the president’s daily briefings, Daniel Ellsberg, who released the government’s Pentagon Papers during the Nixon administration, and Chris Hedges, former war correspondent for the New York Times.

    No major US news media reported on the demonstration or the arrests. It was blacked out of the New York Times, blacked out of the Philadelphia Inquirer, blacked out in the Los Angeles Times, blacked out of the Wall Street Journal, and even blacked out of the capital’s local daily, the Washington Post, which apparently didn’t even think it was a local story worth publishing.”

    – Dave Lindorff

    link to

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