Monday, February 27, 2006
Leaders of the main Sunni Arab political bloc have decided to return to suspended talks over the formation of a new government, the top Sunni negotiator said Sunday. The step could help defuse the sectarian tensions that threatened to spiral into open civil war last week after the bombing of a Shiite shrine and the killings of Sunnis in reprisal.
That bloodletting has amounted to the worst sectarian violence since the American invasion nearly three years ago, and the possibility of Iraqis killing one another on an even greater scale appears to have helped drive Sunni Arab politicians back to moderation, after they angrily withdrew from negotiations last Thursday.
This afternoon, four rockets slammed into the Shouala neighborhood of Baghdad, killing at least four people and injuring at least 17.
The Bush administration has pegged its hopes for dampening the Sunni-led insurgency, and withdrawing some of the 130,000 American troops here, to Sunni Arab participation in the political process.
While the Sunni bloc, the Iraqi Consensus Front, has not publicly announced its decision and could still reverse course, Iraqi officials say the talks may resume as early as this week, depending on the level of tension in the streets.
Sectarian violence appeared to be ebbing across Iraq on Sunday, with more people venturing outside for the first time in days. Nonetheless, Shiite militiamen retained control of some Sunni mosques they had raided, and scattered mayhem left at least 14 people dead, including three American soldiers. At least 231 people have been killed since the shrine bombing.
The young spiritual leader of the Shiite militiamen, Moktada al-Sadr, made his first appearance in Iraq since the paroxysm of violence. He arrived in the southern port city of Basra from a trip to Iran, and, in a rare public speech, called for unity between Shiites and Sunnis while demanding a timetable for the withdrawal of American forces.
Blaming the American military for the recent violence, he told Iraqis to "cut off the head of the snake." Thousands of followers, some waving Kalashnikov rifles, cheered in the streets.
The return to talks of the Sunni Arab bloc would be a crucial step in keeping on track the formation of a permanent government, which was mired in troubled negotiations even before the attack last Wednesday. The Sunni negotiator, Mahmoud al-Mashhadany, said Sunni politicians now recognize the need to form a widely inclusive government as quickly as possible to succeed the current interim government, dominated by religious Shiites and Kurds. (emphasis added)
Shorter New York Times: The Sunnis suddenly figured out (i.e., "now recognize") that if they push the Shiites too far a great many Sunnis will die, so they had better cut a deal. The Shia retaliatory violence has forced the Sunnis back to the negotiating table, and in a substantially weaker position. They are no longer imagining a return to preeminence or even arguing over control of the oil or amnesty for Ba'athist murderers. They are just hoping that the Shiites won't treat them the way they treated the Shiites during Saddam's era.
Either way, if al Qaeda was indeed behind the attack on the Golden Mosque, it did nothing but further weaken the leverage of its putative allies.
Has al Qaeda come forward to claim credit for the Samarra bombing? It's not in their style to disclaim credit for things they've done. And if they didn't do it, that leaves a very short list of alternatives -- when it comes to mysterious acts of terrorism, it's often best to ask: who benefited? In this case, the Shiite factions espousing sectarian violence, supported by Iran.
I'm not convinced that the Sunnis will realize that compromise is a necessity. Nor am I convinced that the Shi'ites' sectarian violence will dissipate even if the Sunnis come to their senses. I hope I'm wrong. But the ME is littered with true believers of all shapes and sizes, many of whom seem to hold grudges for centuries. Aren't we all still hoping for Iraq's Nelson Mandela?
The Shi'ites' have been infiltrated by the mullahs of Iran. They have become the oppressors themselves. Their government legitimacy is tainted by thugs that are allowed to run the streets and murder innocents. Their politicians calls for calm are double speak.
The Iranians need to completely purged from the government.
U.S. Envoy in Iraq accuses Iran of playing both sides against the middle.
Disband the militias, neutralize the likes of al-Sadr. Give Iraqi democracy a fighting chance.