May 9, 2007

An Eruption Of Shi'ite Disunity

We have heard plenty about the sectarian fighting in Iraq, as ethnic and religious differences have inspired militia attacks that focus primarily on Baghdad and its environs. To the south, the Shi'ites comprise the vast majority of the population, and the concern there has not so much been sectarian violence as it has been about Iranian influence on a monolithic block of Shi'a. Yesterday's bombing in Kufa, however, indicates that the Shi'ites have significant fractures as well:

A suicide car bomber attacked a crowded market in this holy Shiite city Tuesday, killing at least 16 people, injuring more than 70 others and further stoking tensions between rival Shiite militias.

The bomb was detonated in a gray sedan beside a restaurant and across the street from a girls primary school. ...

The incident was a continuation of a series of showdowns in recent days between the two groups in far-reaching sections of the country, including east Baghdad, Diwaniya, Basra and Najaf, which neighbors Kufa 100 miles south of the capital. Both militias are tied to political groups that are vying for dominance among Iraq's Shiite majority.

Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Saeed Hakim sought to tamp down the intra-sect dispute and blamed the bombing on "the terrorists and the Saddamists who continue their criminal show that started when the Saddam regime fell."

This follows on the heels of reports that the British sector has destabilized in the wake of the announcement of the withdrawal of the UK. After making that announcement, the two factions have begun to fight each other for power in what had been a fairly stable area in the country. It has become bad enough that the Coalition troops in the area now come under continuous fire, and the Danes -- who also announced their withdrawal date -- had to send almost 500 more troops into the area for force protection.

Once again, we see the problem of withdrawal without having secured the objective of the mission. The one Shi'ite faction has engaged with the government, which is why so many of the police belong to the Badr organization. Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army has not engaged with the government, preferring its status as a stand-alone militia, and now they see an opportunity to seize the advantage in the power vacuum left by the departing British and Danish troops. The escalating violence in the An-Najaf region (Kufa is nearby) is a result of Sadr's ambitions for post-occupation control of Iraq.

At the moment, it suits Sadr's purposes to blame the US and the police, while the Badr organization blames it on "Saddamists". Nouri al-Maliki, who relied on Sadr for the political support that put him into office, faces a real dilemma in the south. Either he has to crush the Sadr revolt against the forces that represent the Iraqi government, or he will need to leave his post and throw in with Sadr instead.


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Comments (9)

Posted by Snippet [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 9, 2007 7:41 AM

I'm really starting to wonder how much more obvious it could possibly be - AT THIS POINT - that the attempted democritisation of Iraq is in the process of failing abysmally.

What you see as proof of how important it is for us to stay is, to me, proof of just how futile this endeavor is for us to prolong this freakshow.

Posted by ajacksonian [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 9, 2007 8:34 AM

The British sector has had long lasting and endemic problems since the beginning of the conflict when a temporary council in Umm Qasr (if memory serves) tried to impose harsh islamic law there and had to be removed. The local police have not had sufficient screening to keep out Iranian agents, radicals or criminals, and Basra has been a sore point on that for the last two years. With al Anbar finally getting its act together and the analysis of much, much more oil there, the need to buy into a National Government has become paramount.

What the strife in the south is pointing out is that the next step of Provincial Elections is coming up and that will re-balance the sub-National governance especially once the oil plan gets finished. There is a mad scramble by the National parties to see if they have *any* cohesive local or regional base and many of them are finding that while they can get some agreement and organization, the Tribes are playing a much larger role at that scale and some of the umbrella parties are not having an easy time of it locally.

The Sadr and Badr organizations, along with others, are finding that their precious few National Seats are depending upon places where their local support is withering. As they are violent groups, they utilize violence to enforce their viewpoint. The Anbar Salvation Council may actually serve as a more cohesive structure for localized politics than what the Sadr/Badr organizations are trying to do. Working together to build things and promote peace to get prosperity is winning out in 'lawless' Anbar. And getting the rest of Iraq outside of the south more cohesive allows the minoritarian violence in the south to be shown for what it is: repugnant and self-serving. Unlike Capone, they can't even get the trash picked up on time.

There will be violence in Iraq just like there is in Turkey and for the exact same reasons: neighbors trying to destabilize the Nation have easy access to do so. Turkey does its best to take care of it, but then it has had decades to work on the problem. And that dos not prevent: bombings, shootouts, assassinations, arson, kidnapping.... it isn't on TV in America so we don't hear much about it. Iraq by having longer borders and more cross-border families and tribes will continue to have that sort of violence until something better can be worked out and those trying to destabilize it are addressed.

Posted by vnjagvet [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 9, 2007 9:05 AM


Of course, this country has had its share of lawlessness (the 1920s-1930s violence around prohibition comes to mind, as does the Reconstruction violence post Civil War, and the Indian Wars).

Was the idea of US democracy silly then as well?

Posted by Charles Bird [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 9, 2007 11:50 AM

I don't believe your link accurately characterized the players involved. Suicide bombings are the trademark of al Qaeda and its affiliated groups. Here's a better link. There may well be disputes between the Shiite sects, but the bottom line is that al Qaeda is trying its damndest to provoke sectarian violence. This bombing isn't part of the so-called civil war, it's al Qaeda & Co. trying to start one, right under al Sadr's nose.

This site catalogs the suicide bombings in Iraq since 2003 and accurately identifies the parties primarily responsible:

A 2005 Human Rights Watch report analysed the insurgency in Iraq and highlighted, "The groups that are most responsible for the abuse, namely al-Qaeda in Iraq, Ansar al-Sunna and the Islamic Army in Iraq, have all targeted civilians for abductions and executions. The first two groups have repeatedly boasted about massive car bombs and suicide bombs in mosques, markets, bus stations and other civilian areas. Such acts are war crimes and in some cases may constitute crimes against humanity, which are defined as serious crimes committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population."

Posted by Carol_Herman [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 9, 2007 7:40 PM

Costs $100,000 per BOOM.

Not exactly the kinds of money you continually raise in churches. Money comes from somewhere.

Did it come from Iran? Or the Saud's?

Here the locals know more than you. And, they don't trust ANYONE!

Sad that carnarge is also the name of the mafia.

Because some countries aren't run by politicians. They're run by despots. And, those despots RULE through THUGGERY.

One of the reasons I-R-A-K has lost its luster; is that lots of Americans thing a PLAGUE SHOULD FALL ON ALL THEIR HOUSES.

As to what happens "afta?" If that was your worry, or the world's worry, they should have screamed at Arik Sharon NOT to remove the Jews. Because when he did, gaza became gazoo.

And, Lebanon? Maybe, once it has nice beaches. But it is currently an armpit. No amount of deodorant can put them back into business, either.

The Mideast not only has problems, it also has enormous wealth. Now, "if" that money had been spent on building up society; the way you see in Hong Kong and Singapore, the lives of the people would be different.

Meanwhile? What's there worth fighting for?

Because we could'a just gone in with ONE PLANE. ONE BOMB. And, then wafted over a piece of paper. The living could surrender. Or not.

You say they can't be taken off their terror tracks? Okey dokey. PLANE TWO. BOMB TWO.

Nope. Most universal law of nature. Nobody not under the cloud would complain. Progress could then be made.

Posted by conservative democrat [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 9, 2007 8:00 PM

American GI's are supposed to fix these political problems? Why won't Maliki disarm the militias? How many Americans would it take to secure Iraq? The American people see Vietnam, let Bush drag his party down. His overthrow of Saddam has EMBOLDENED IRAN AND THE SHIA REVIVAL! Is that what he wanted?Maliki is playing Bush for the fool he is. Everyone can see it, except Georgie,what a dunce. Congrats to all the people who voted for that clown,good job.

Posted by gaffo [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 9, 2007 9:48 PM

Don't worry Conservative Democrat: All is going Swimingly in Iraq.

Cheney told me that it was just a few Deadenders - no biggie.

and his buddy told me that the Iraq war was over, mission was accomplished, and well.........if not quite well he told them turrists to come on and bring it on!!!

he's so tough - like Jonny buy Wayne, make me feel so good to now that we have a man of steel saying such meaty stuff. I'm so happy the World is only Black and White - Grey is oh so you know girlie-manish. damn libruls.

anyway - we won in Iraq, the War is over and there mission is accomplished - my hero cheney and bush told me so.

all is well CD.

Posted by gaffo [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 9, 2007 9:57 PM

you advicating a nuclear stike on a civilian population Carol?


guess Saddam (or his followers now) should invade the U.S. "before their first warning is a mushroom cloud" huh?