Friday, February 24, 2006

WAR NEWS FOR FRIDAY, February 24, 2006 Bring’ em on: Seven U.S. soldiers killed in two separate incidents in Iraq on Wednesday when roadside bombs struck the vehicles in which they were traveling. Four U.S. soldiers were killed in the Iraqi town of Hawija while on patrol, the military said. Three U.S. soldiers were killed near the Iraqi town of Balad when their vehicle struck another roadside bomb. Bring ‘em on: American officials ordered a lockdown in some locations within the Green Zone, after two or three mortar shells exploded, causing no casualties. IRAQ NEWS: AFTER THE SAMARRA MOSQUE BOMBING Twenty bodies of people killed overnight and this morning brought to Baghdad morgue Three children of Shiite legislator in Basra kidnapped by armed men Bodies of two bodyguards for Basra Sunni organization found shot dead Clashes in Baghdad: Shi'ite militiamen clashed with gunmen in southern Baghdad on Friday, leaving Iraqi security forces who are trying to enforce a curfew helpless to stop them, police sources said. They said the clashes were between unidentified gunmen, possibly minority Sunnis, and members of the Mehdi Army militia loyal to firebrand Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who called on his followers on Friday not to attack Sunnis or their mosques. SECURITY DEVELOPMENTS: KIRKUK - Gunmen killed a member of the Badr movement, Khalil Ibrahim, in his house in the city of Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, on Thursday, police said. TUZ KHORMATU - Gunmen killed a Shi'ite cleric Abdel Khalek Hussein in Tuz Khormatu, north of Baghdad, on Thursday, police said. BAGHDAD - Abu Asma, the al Qaeda military emir of northern Baghdad, was killed in a raid by the U.S. military and Iraqi police, the U.S. military said. Abu Asma was an explosives expert with close ties to senior car bomb makers in Baghdad, they said. LATIFIYA - Gunmen stormed a house and killed two Shi'ite men and a woman in Latifiya, southwest of Baghdad, around 7 a.m. on Friday, despite a curfew. Two children, aged around 11 and 13, were wounded in the attack. POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: BAGHDAD - An emergency curfew for Friday's Muslim day of prayer helped quell sectarian violence that has killed some 200 people around Baghdad, keeping much of the Iraqi capital deserted as leaders work to avert civil war. The government extended an overnight curfew until 4 p.m. (1300 GMT) on Baghdad and three surrounding provinces and police said they will arrest those who take to the streets. BAGHDAD - U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad said sectarian violence after the bombing of a major Shi'ite shrine only reinforces the need for a government of national unity. BAGHDAD - Thousands defy government curfew in sprawling Shi'ite slum of Sadr City after radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called on his Mehdi Army militia to attend Friday prayers but banned attacks on Sunni Muslims. "We call for the American ambassador to leave Iraq and the U.S. forces to withdraw for they are behind all the strife in Iraq," said Fatah al-Sheikh at the protest in Sadr City. About 20,000 Sadr supporters crowded Sadr City chanting slogans in favour of Shi'ite-Sunni brotherhood. "We are not enemies but brothers," Sadr said in a statement. "Anyone who attacks a Muslim is not a Muslim and he who assaults sacraments and mosques shall get his just punishment." BAGHDAD - U.S. forces are patrolling the streets of Baghdad, the U.S. military said, but Iraqi security personnel are situated around sensitive sites such as mosques and government buildings. KUFA - About 5,000 people show up for prayer at the southern Shi'ite city of Kufa. "These are America's plots and the incidents that are happening are because they want to sow strife among the ranks of Iraqis and this is to the benefit of the occupation," said Qaws al-Khafaji. BASRA - About 8,000 people gathered for Friday prayers in the southern city of Basra, Iraq's second largest. "This happened with the blessing of the elected government, God's curse upon it, and because the government did not care because it follows what America wants and nothing else is important," said Karim al-Ghizzi, an official at the office of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. "The government is too busy with itself and its master America. We see thousands of guards in front of the houses of the leaders. This explosion is because we have been busy, us Shi'ites, with politics and elections without turning to our nation." IRAN - A few thousand people crammed the streets of central Tehran after Friday Prayers chanting slogans such as "We protect the holy shrines with our blood" and the traditional cry of "Death to America, death to Israel, death to Britain". IRAN - Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, quoted by the official IRNA news agency, in a speech he gave to supporters in central Iran on Friday said "You the endeared people of Iraq, you are at the beginning of the road to freedom and you should know that all your problems originate from the occupiers. The occupiers ... should be held responsible for the insecurities in that country." IRAN - Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani, addressing Friday prayers at Tehran University said: "It is no secret that behind it (the Samarra bombing) is the Zionist Israel and the United States, that is all there is. Mossad and the CIA, the earth and the heavens' curses be upon these two dirty and wicked organisations, have plans against the Islamic Ummah (nation). Muslims should try and understand ... the conspiracy of the enemies, understand their plans to destroy the Islamic Ummah (nation), do not act, do not yell, do not break the glass, do not destroy any place; that is the enemy's plan." Curfew stalls Iraq bloodshed: A daytime curfew in Baghdad and concerted calls for Muslim unity from mosques across the country on Friday seemed to check sectarian violence that has left 200 dead in the capital alone over the past three days. Though tens of thousands of Shi'ite supporters of militant cleric Moqtada al-Sadr defied the ban to march to weekly prayers in Baghdad's Sadr City stronghold and his Mehdi Army militia was involved in clashes, there was little bloodshed and appeals from pulpits may have nudged Iraq back from the brink of civil war. "We are not enemies but brothers," Sadr told his followers. A senior Shi'ite politician said: "Sunni and Shi'ite clerics and political leaders have made great efforts and the situation is better. But to be honest, Iraq is still in the danger zone." Thousands of untested, U.S.-trained Iraqi police and troops blocked roads across Baghdad and surrounding regions as U.S. patrols, widely resented by both sides, kept a low profile. Elsewhere, including the second city of Basra which has also seen violence, there was neither curfew nor much trouble. Police sources said 20 people had been killed around Baghdad overnight and in the morning, compared to nearly 180 over the preceding two days when Iraqis confronted mayhem and fear unseen since the U.S. invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. Mehdi Army fighters and suspected Sunni gunmen clashed in southern Baghdad during the night and morning, police said. Gunmen killed three Shi'ites in a house south of the capital. City center streets -- and mosques -- were largely deserted but in neighborhoods where people felt confident they were among fellow Sunnis or Shi'ites crowds walked to prayers to hear sermons calling for Muslim unity and warning against division. "Anyone who attacks a Muslim is not a Muslim and he who assaults sacraments and mosques shall get his just punishment," said a statement from Sadr, whose Mehdi Army is one of a number of rival Shi'ite militias to have been on the streets this week. Iraq’s religious leaders call for Sunni-Shiite unity: In a statement read over national television, top Shiite leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, said those who carried out the Wednesday bombing at the Askariya shrine in Samarra "do not represent the Sunnis in Iraq." Al-Hakim instead blamed Saddam Hussein loyalists and followers of al-Qaida in Iraq boss Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In the northern town of Birtilla, which is not covered by the curfew, 500 Shiites marched to demand Saddam's execution and death to Sunni fanatics. On Thursday, the Sunni clerical Association of Muslim Scholars said at least 168 Sunni mosques had been attacked. The Interior Ministry said it could only confirm figures for Baghdad, where it had reports of 19 mosques attacked, one cleric killed and one abducted. Correspondent for Al Arabiya TV and two members of her crew killed by gunmen in Iraq: Al Arabiya's Baghdad correspondent Ahmed al-Saleh said police found the bodies of Atwar Bahjat, her cameraman and soundman on the outskirts of Samarra, a city north of the capital that was racked by sectarian violence on Wednesday. All three were Iraqi citizens and had been covering the aftermath of the bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in the city. An Al Arabiya official said Bahjat was a Sunni Muslim. OTHER NEWS German government acknowledges two German spies provided U.S. with intelligence on Iraq: The 90-page text is part of a larger report given to a parliamentary oversight committee that has been investigating reports that Germany's BND foreign intelligence agency helped the United States select sites to bomb during the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, despite official opposition to the war. The report says former BND president August Hanning decided on March 17, 2003 -- three days before the U.S.-led invasion began -- that two BND agents would remain in Iraq despite the evacuation of the entire German diplomatic corps from Baghdad. Given their precarious situation in Baghdad, the two agents depended on the invading U.S. authorities for their safety and ability to gather intelligence, the report said. "In view of the possible need for evacuation or decontamination measures the (BND agents) would be dependent on the willingness of U.S. authorities to cooperate," it said. The report acknowledges the BND agents provided the United States with intelligence but said this was mostly limited to reports about items such as "civilian protected or other humanitarian sites, such as Synagogues and Torah rolls and the possible locations of missing U.S. pilots." The agents also provided U.S. agents with descriptions of "the character of military and police presence in the city." The German agents provided U.S. officials with "descriptions in isolated cases of Iraqi military forces along with geographic coordinates". It said these were provided only after the agents were convinced the Americans had the information. Responding to media reports that the agents had given the United States coordinates that could be used for bombing, the report said the BND provided "no support for the strategic air offensive" in Iraq. Iraq Vet Accused of Stabbing Wife 71 Times: Army officials have recommended a court-martial for a Purple Heart recipient accused of stabbing his young wife 71 times with knives and a meat cleaver. Spc. Brandon Bare, 19, of Wilkesboro, N.C., was charged with premeditated murder and indecent acts related to the mutilation of his wife's remains. On Wednesday, Fort Lewis officials said post commander Lt. Gen. James Dubik agreed with an investigating officer and referred Bare's case to a general court-martial. Bare remains held in the post's Regional Corrections Facility. No trial date has been set. If found guilty, he faces a maximum of life in prison. Bare had returned to Fort Lewis from Iraq in April to recuperate from cuts and internal ear injuries in a grenade attack on his Stryker brigade unit in Mosul. He was there as a machine-gunner with the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. California latest US state to pass resolution against Patriot Act: Last Thursday, the California State Senate approved Senate Joint Resolution 10 in a 23-10 vote. The California Assembly already approved of the measure last month on a vote of 44-32. Seven other states have passed similar resolutions critical of the USA Patriot Act: Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, and Vermont. In addition to the eight states, 53 cities have passed resolutions against the USA Patriot Act, including Los Angeles, Detroit, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, New York City, Austin, and Milwaukee. The resolution "urges [the California] Congressional delegation to work to repeal any provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act that limit or impinge on rights and liberties protected equally by the United States Constitution and the California Constitution and to oppose any pending and future federal legislation to the extent that it would infringe on Americans' civil rights and liberties." REPORTS Two eyewitness accounts of the night before the bombing: Update: There was one small mistake in the translation, the time line says 6,41 should be 6,45, that’s all. The picture above shows Sunnis in Samarra demonstrating and condemning the bombing of the “Golden Dome”, the Imam in picture is a Sunni imam, you can tell from his white turban, Shiia imams wear a black turban. I want the readers to know that for Samarra inhabitants, the mosques doesn’t represents a Shiia shrines only but represents the existence of the city also and they are very proud of them, even when the situation went very bad between Sunni and Shiia, Shiia pilgrimages to city never attacked by any group, it’s kind of unwritten code of honor. Testimonies of two eyewitnesses near the bombed Dome: Witness 1: I live in a district very near to the mosque and I will tell you exactly what I saw hours before the bombing. There is a daily curfew in our city (Samarra) starts from 8,00 in the evening until 6,00 in the morning, in the night before the bombing and just when it’s getting dark there was unusual activities by the ING in the area around the mosque, I heard their cars the whole night until next day in the morning. The Mosque Guards testimony says: Four people with ING uniforms blind folded them and set the bombs. The witness continues, so ask I you how could the terrorists enter the area which is usually surrounded by the ING and enter the mosque then runway without being got by the police?. Witness 2: Witness 2 gives more detailed information and the Americans connection to the events before the bombing, so I made it as timeline of the events. My name is Muhammad Al-Samarrai, I own an internet-cafe near the mosque, I sleep in my shop because I am worry about my computers from thieves. 8,30 (evening) joint forces of Iraqi ING and Americans asked me to stay in the shop and don’t leave the area. 9,00 (evening) they left the area. 11,00 (evening) they came back and started to patrol the area until the morning. 6,00 (next day morning) ING leave the area . 6,30 Americans leave the area . 6,40 first explosion. 6,45 second explosion. He confirmed again that the curfew starts at 8,00 (evening) until next day 6,00 (morning), INGs and the Americans will surround and patrol the city all that time. City gripped by fury, fear and wild search for a scapegoat: The shops were closed and the streets empty yesterday in Samarrah. Only when a member of the government tried to make an official visit did the crowds form. They wanted to vent their rage at the envoy of a government this primarily Sunni city believes is making their community scapegoats for the destruction of a shrine they had protected for more than 1,000 years. The motorcade of Jassem Mohammed, the Iraqi housing minister and a Shia, approached the twisted masonry that is all that remains of the dome whose cladding of 72,000 golden pieces once dominated the skyline. Then the locals lined up to shower the cars with stones. "It is the Sunnis being blamed but the mosque was the pride of our city," Mohammed, 45, a local businessman, said when questioned about the hostile reaction afterwards. "It is a plot by the Iranians to discredit us and create sectarian war so they can take control of our country. This government are their agents in our midst. Look how they do not stop the retaliatory attacks." Some blamed the militiamen of Moqtada al-Sadr for the destruction of the Golden Mosque. That they had mobilised to offer protection to other Shia holy sites following Wednesday's explosions was proof they had been forewarned, they said. Others thought the Americans were responsible, the destruction part of their scheme to keep Iraq in chaos so they could maintain their occupation. But no Sunnis interviewed would believe that any of their own could have been responsible for an attack that has brought infamy and increased violence to their home city. COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS Foes and even friends in Mideast say ''America is to blame'': The rush to blame the United States for the shrine bombing is a sign not only of the deteriorating situation in Iraq, but the tense state of West-Mideast relations overall. From riots over the prophet drawings to the United Arab Emirates ports dispute to Hamas' election win, little is going right for the United States across the Arab world. Even a supposed friend — a top Iraqi Shiite leader, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, who President Bush once praised at the White House — took a poke after Wednesday's attack on the Askariya shrine in Samarra, saying the U.S. ambassador ''gave a green light to terrorist groups.'' With Iraq veering closer to civil war, many feel like Dr. Nabil Salim, a political science professor at Baghdad University who says U.S.-led forces share blame for the shrine bombing ''because they are in charge of security in the country. ... And they are not doing a good job of improving internal security or controlling borders.'' In the end, it may never be known who actually blew up the shrine: Many Shiites did immediately blame ''takfiri'' — Sunnis so extreme, like Zarqawi, that they believe Shiites are infidels. Many Sunnis in turn immediately blamed extremist Shiites, saying they blew up the shrine to appear more like victims and strengthen their political hand. All sides — Shiite, Sunni, Hezbollah, Iran, friend, foe — blamed the United States. Why? In the end it may boil down to this: America is the outsider. And if you're an outsider trying to get your way, sometimes everybody else pulls together just enough to blame you. Why?: It still remains unexplained why Sunni "insurgents" would bomb a sacred mosque containing the remains of Imam Ali al-Hadi, who died in 868 A.D., and his son Imam Hassan al-Askari, who died in 874 A.D, both descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. Obviously, this is a calculated attack on a Shia pilgrimage site, designed to enrage the Shia and pit them against the Sunni, a completely boneheaded move on the part of the Sunni resistance since it will create far more problems for them than it will solve. In fact, Shia mobs have already attacked Sunni mosques, murdered imams, and are likely in the process of slaughtering random Sunnis on Baghdad street corners. Logic in Bushzarro world dictates that in order to unite Iraq and eject the foreign invaders, the resistance must first enrage and alienate the majority of the people in the country, who are Shi’ites. Of course, in America and Europe, increasing numbers of people believe Arabs and Muslims are irrational and dangerously emotional and thus the unlikely prospect Sunni "insurgents" blew up the al-Askari Golden Mosque in Samarra is not only plausible for them, it is the only acceptable explanation. As well, from a strategic perspective, a religious civil war in Iraq makes perfect sense as the Straussian neocons prepare to attack Iran. If the Sunnis and Shia are busy killing each other, it will be more difficult to rally them to fight against the Anglo-American forces in Iraq, especially after the planned shock and awe campaign against Iran, now considered inevitable. In fact, it is not unreasonable to consider the bombing of the Imam 'Ali al-Hadi and Imam Hasan Al-’Askari mosque in Samarra as a milestone on the road to total war in the Muslim Middle East, a bellwether ominously indicating the decimation of Iran is on schedule, as the Straussian neocons, firmly in control of foreign policy, will not abandon their long held desire to foment a "clash of civilizations" and usher in decades of strife and misery and thus nudge the world a bit closer to the horrific prospect of nuclear Armageddon. Whose Bombs were They? "The only viable strategy, then, may be to correct (Iraq’s) historical defect and move in stages toward a three-state solution: Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shiites in the south" Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations; from "Three-state Solution" NY Times 11-25-03. "We are facing a major conspiracy that is targeting Iraq’s unity." Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. There’s no telling who was behind the bombing of the al-Askariya Mosque. There were no security cameras at the site and it’s doubtful that the police will be able to perform a thorough forensic investigation. That’s too bad; the bomb-residue would probably provide clear evidence of who engineered the attack. So far, there’s little more to go on than the early reports of four men (three who were dressed in black, one in a police uniform) who overtook security guards at the mosque and placed the bombs in broad daylight. It was a bold assault that strongly suggests the involvement of highly-trained paramilitaries conducting a well-rehearsed plan. Still, that doesn’t give us any solid proof of what groups may have been involved. It is difficult to imagine that the perpetrators of this heinous attack couldn’t anticipate its disastrous effects. Certainly, the Sunni-led resistance does not benefit from alienating the very people it is trying to enlist in its fight against the American occupation. Accordingly, most of the prominent Sunni groups have denied involvement in the attack and dismissed it as collaboration between American and Iranian intelligence agencies. A communiqué from "The Foreign Relations Department of the Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party" denounced the attack pointing the finger at the Interior Ministry’s Badr Brigade and American paramilitaries. The Ba’ath statement explains: "America is the main party responsible for the crime of attacking the tomb of Ali al-Hadi…because it is the power that occupies Iraq and has a basic interest in committing it." "The escalation of differences between America and Iran has found their main political arena in Iraq, because the most important group of agents of Iran is there and are able to use the blood of Iraqis and the future of Iraq to exert pressure on America. Iran has laid out a plan to embroil America in the Iraqi morass to prevent it from obstructing Iran’s nuclear plans. Particularly since America is eager to move on to completing arrangements for a withdrawal from Iraq, after signing binding agreements on oil and strategy. America believes that without the participation of "Sunni" parties in the regime those arrangements will fail. For that reason 'cutting Iran’s claws’ has become one of the important requirements for American plans. This is what Ambassador Zalmay spoke of recently when he declared that no sectarian would take control of the Ministries of the Interior or Defense. Similarly, America has begun to publish information that it formally kept hidden regarding the crimes of the Badr Brigade and the Interior Ministry." Whether the communiqué is authentic is incidental; the point is well taken. The escalating violence may prevent Iraq from forming a power-sharing government which would greatly benefit the Shia majority and their Iranian allies. Many critics agree that what is taking place Iraq represents a larger struggle between the United States and Iran for regional domination. This theory, however, is at odds with the response of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei following the bombing. Khamenei said, "The occupation forces and Zionism, which seeing their plans dissolve, have planned this atrocity to sew hate between Muslims and fuel divisions between Sunnis and Shiites….Do not fall into the enemy trap by attacking mosques and sacred places of your Sunni brothers….The enemy wants nothing more than weakening of the Islamis front right as Muslims with a single voice have been protesting against the continual provocations of their enemies." The belief that the attack was the work of American and Israeli covert-operations (Black-ops) is widespread throughout the region as well as among leftist political-analysts in the United States. Journalist Kurt Nimmo sees the bombing as a means of realizing "a plan sketched out in Oded Yinon’s "A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties" (the balkanization of Arab and Muslim society and culture.) Nimmo suggests that the plan may have been carried out by "American, British or Israeli Intelligence operatives or their double-agent Arab lunatics, or crazies incited by Rumsfeld’s Proactive Preemptive Operations Group (P2OG) designed to 'stimulate’ terrorist reaction." Nimmo is not alone in his judgment. Other prominent analysts including, Pepe Escobar, Ghali Hassan, AK Gupta, Dahr Jamail, and Christian Parenti all agree that the Bush administration appears to be inciting civil war as part of an exit strategy. Certainly, the Pentagon is running out of options as well as time. Numerous leaked documents have confirmed that significant numbers of troops will have to be rotated out of the theatre by summer. A strategy to foment sectarian hostilities may be the last desperate attempt to divert the nearly 100 attacks per day away from coalition troops and finalize plans to divide Iraq into more manageable statlets. Is the bombing of the Golden Mosque the final phase of a much broader strategy to inflame sectarian hatred and provoke civil war? Clearly, many Sunnis, Iranians, and political analysts seem to believe so. Even the Bush administration’s own documents support the general theory that Iraq should be broken up into three separate pieces. But, is this proof that the impending civil war is the work of foreign provocateurs? The final confirmation of Washington’s sinister plan was issued by Leslie Gelb, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, in a New York Times editorial on 11-25-03. The CFR is the ideological headquarters for America’s imperial interventions providing the meager rationale that papers-over the massive bloodletting that inevitably follow. Gelb stated: "For decades, the United States has worshipped at the altar of a unified Iraqi state. Allowing all three communities within that false state to emerge at least as self-governing regions would be both difficult and dangerous. Washington would have to be very hard-headed and hard-hearted, to engineer this breakup. But such a course is manageable, even necessary, because it would allow us to find Iraq’s future in its denied but natural past." There you have it; the United States is only pursuing this genocidal policy for 'Iraq’s own good’. We should remember Gelb’s statesman-like pronouncements in the months and years to come as Iraq slips further into the morass of social-disintegration and unfathomable human suffering. Iraq: Occupation and Sectarianism: At the outset of the Occupation, it was clear that the U.S. would rule Iraq by breaking the country into mini states or regions and dividing the Iraqi population on ethnic and sectarian lines. The Occupation-orchestrated violence between Iraqis was meant to provide a pretext for the long-term occupation of Iraq, and direct Iraqis anger away from the brutality and violence of the Occupation. It started with the deliberate destruction and dismantling of the Iraqi State, and the appointment on July 13, 2003 of the so-called Iraq Governing Council by U.S. Proconsul L. Paul Bremer. The appointees – mostly expatriate quislings – were deliberately chosen and identified according to ethnic and sectarian criteria. They were encouraged and promoted to compete for power and positions. Moreover, Paul Bremer initiated the criminal process of “De-Baathification”, which implied the liquidation of anyone associated with the Ba’ath Party as well as anyone with anti-Occupation nationalist views. “De-Baathification” is simply a murderous tool for inciting violence and destroying Iraqi society. To cement these divisions within Iraqi society, the U.S. and its allies staged illegitimate and fraudulent elections. The latter were designed to establish sectarianism – not ‘democracy’ – as well as legitimise the Occupation. Iraqis were promoted and encouraged to vote based on their religious and ethnic affiliations. Both the electoral system and the methods of voter mobilization applied by major players were meant to fan the flames of sectarianism rather than contribute to national unity and liberation. There were no candidates or political parties with political ideologies, just religious and ethnic slates. In addition, the U.S.-drafted Constitution was there to cement and legitimise these various divisions. One wonders why Britain and the U.S. do not have the same ‘democratic’ system at home. Another U.S. trigger for civil strife and security chaos in Iraq was the deliberate and criminal act of dissolving the Iraqi army and security forces and replacing them with ethnic and sectarian-based militias. U.S.-trained militia, Iranian-trained militia and Israeli-trained Kurdish Peshmerga form the bulk of the new Iraqi army and police. Their lack of loyalty to the Iraqi nation as well as the rivalries and hostilities between these various militia ultimately serve the interests of U.S. forces. These paramilitary groups are deployed to fight their Iraqi brothers belonging to different ethnic areas. This process thereby served to create ethnic tension and division. Furthermore, death squads trained and armed by the Occupation forces are torturing and murdering innocent Iraqis, including prominent Iraqi politicians, nationalist leaders, Iraqi academics and professionals. Even Iraqis who participated in the 1980s war to defend Iraq against the Iran are being targeted. The thugs are eliminating all those who are opposed to the Occupation. After the recent criminal attack on the Askariyah shrine in Samarra – which has never been attacked for centuries –, all Iraqis without exception have condemned the attack. “This is a terrorist act that is aimed to fan a sectarian strife among Iraqis”, said Sheikh Ahmed Daye, member of the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars. The Occupation-appointed president Jalal Talabani said: “We are facing a major conspiracy that is targeting Iraq's unity. We should all stand hand in hand to prevent the danger of a civil war”. Others in the puppet government have pointed the finger at the U.S. Ambassador in Baghdad for inciting the violence and for interfering in Iraqi political and domestic affairs. Thousands of ordinary Iraqis took to the streets throughout Iraq denouncing the U.S. and Israel. Samarra is like Fallujah. U.S. forces have attacked the Resistance city several times, and Donald Rumsfeld has threatened the city with destruction unless it surrenders. Iraqis believe that the attack is a pretext for the U.S. forces to invade the city. The attack was not something new; similar attacks were perpetuated against other Iraqi cities in the past. These attacks were well-orchestrated to provoke one group of Iraqis against the other, and bring in U.S. forces as “peace brokers”. Immediately after the attack on the Askariyah shrine, violence erupted in several localities in Iraq. Only the U.S. and Britain stand to benefit from the violence and bloodshed. Iraqi sources argue that U.S. and British forces and their collaborators are behind every major sectarian killing and kidnapping in the country. After every act of killing of civilians, a specific Iraqi community is deliberately blamed for the violence. “[W]e have widespread evidence that the outside forces are attempting to instigate a civil war here and Iraqis are conscious of that and have made determined effort not to respond to it”, said Dr. Saad Jawad, a political scientist at Baghdad University. The arrest by Iraqi Police last September of two British undercover soldiers identified as “SAS elite special forces” and disguised as Arabs planning to detonate explosives-packed car in the centre of Basra was a case of Western perpetuated terrorism. Bush and Blair have often used the pretext of preventing “civil war” to counter Iraqi demands for troops' withdrawal. It is the old colonial cliché: The more the natives are divided, the easier to rule them and exploit them. Significance of the Samarra bombing: Background briefing Background Islam is a religion with more than 1.4 million devotees world wide. Its adherents are referred to as Muslims. Muslims predominate in East- and North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and Indonesia. The word "Islam" is best translated as "submission to the will of God," and comes from the Arabic rootword (s-l-m) for "peace," "safety," and "security." A "Muslim" is a person who has made this existential surrender to the will of God. Many, in my experience most, Muslims use the expression "true Muslim" for the truly devout. The idea being that all people belonging to Islam are considered as being Muslims, even if they are not particularly observant. Islam is as Gellner(1981) puts it, "the blueprint of a social order". 1. It postulates a community of believers (the umma). 2. It contains and transmits a body of legal prescriptions. 3. It contains and transmits a body of moral injunctions. It is therefore an intrinsically "political" religion and the Western distinction between private religious beliefs and the body politic is meaningless to most Muslims. Shia and Sunni The two major schools of Islam are referred to as "Sunni" and "Shia." It is important to understand that this is not an ethnic distinction. The difference lies in a disagreement as to who should lead the community of believers and the nature of that leadership. The Shia hold that God sent Imams who are descended from the Prophet, filled with the light of creation, and who were to guide the Umma to God. The Sunni hold that the Caliphs were the rightful inheritors of the Prophet's mantle and lay more emphasis upon Islamic law called the Sharia The origin of the Shia After the Prophet Mohammed's death in 632 C.E. a dispute arose within the umma over who should succeed him. Ali ibn Abi Talib, who was both the Prophet's cousin and married to the Prophet's daughter Fatima, was thought by many to have a good claim to the succession. Others while not denying his sterling qualities considered him to be as yet too young and inexperienced and he was passed over in favour of; 1. Abu Bakr (632 - 634), 2. Umar ibn al-Khattab (634 - 644), 3. and Uthman ibn Afn (644 - 656). Uthman's policies caused discontent within the umma and he was assassinated in a mutiny in 656. Ali who was a good soldier, had grown up in the Prophet's household, was imbued with the Prophet's ideals, and who had inspired many by his letters preaching the necessity of justice and importance of dealing compassionately with those under Muslim rule was acclaimed as the fourth Caliph. Not everyone however supported his rule and Mu'awiyya, the founder of the Umayyad dynasty, challenged Ali's position. Ali was murdered in the Iraqi city of Kufa in 661 C.E. The Shi'at 'Ali who had supported Ali subsequently supported the claims of his sons, Hassan and Hussein, to be his rightful successors to the leadership (al-imama) of the Muslim community. Both Hassan and Hussein led unsuccessful revolts against the Umayyad line of Sunni rulers and were killed (Hassan in 671 and Hussein in the massacre of Karbala in 680 C.E.). Thereafter the Shia who held that the leadership of the umma combined spiritual and temporal responsibilities that necessitated divine inspiration and that the imamate should therefore be drawn from the Prophet's line alone considered all Sunni rulers to be illegitimate usurpers and withdrew from political life recognising only their own imams in the line of descent from the Prophet through Ali's children. Present-day distribution of the Shia It is difficult to find reliable and precise statistics on the geographical distribution of the Shia. They are generally believed to number between 10 to 15% of the global Muslim community. As a proportion of national population they are believed to be distributed as follows: * Iran: 89%. * Azerbaijan: 65 - 70 % * Bahrain: 60 - 70% * Iraq: 60 -65 % (or more) * Lebanon: 38 - 40 % (The largest single confessional group in the population as a whole). Elsewhere in the Muslim world the Shia form clear but significant minorities. Religious Significance of The al-Askari Shrine in Samarra Most Shi'ites today belong to a Shia sect called "The Twelvers." The name comes from the number of Imams they recognise. The al-Askari Shrine is dedicated to the spirituality of the last three Imams. * Ali al-Hadi, the tenth imam who was forced into exile in Sammara and who died there. * Hassan al-Askari, his son, the eleventh imam, who also died in Sammara. * Hassan's son, Muhammad. Shortly after Imam Hassan's funeral Muhammad vanished. In "Twelver" theology, this is called "the Occultation." Twelvers believe that God removed Imam Muhammad from the earthly sphere to the world of pure spirit. Hassan's son Muhammad is therefore referred to as the "Hidden Imam." Twelvers believe that he continues to guide and protect believers and will one day return as the "Mahdi" to inaugurate the reign of peace and justice under God upon the earth. The al-Askari Shrine in Samarra is the burial place of the tenth Imam (Ali al-Hadi )and the eleventh Imam (Hassan al-Askari,) it is also next to the cave from where the Occultation of the Twelfth Imam took place. Significance Of The Timing Of The Bombing At the risk of gravely offending some of my Shia friends I will try to explain this to my Western readers using an analogy to Christian history. We are at present in the forty day period between the religious feast Ashura and the religious feast Arba'een. To destroy the Shrine at this time is broadly comparable to someone destroying the site of the Crucifixion at Golgotha a few days before Easter. Where Iraq is heading: The shattered golden dome of Samarra is yet another milestone in George Bush's "long war" - in which a civil war in Iraq shows every sign of being a devastating feature. But what sort of civil war? I am convinced it is not the type of war that politicians in Washington and London, and much of the western media, have been anticipating. The past few days' events have strengthened this conviction. It has not been Sunni religious symbols that hundreds of thousands of angry marchers protesting at the bombing of the shrine have targeted, but US flags. The slogan that united them on Wednesday was: "Kalla, kalla Amrica, kalla kalla lill-irhab" - no to America, no to terrorism. The Shia clerics most listened to by young militants swiftly blamed the occupation for the bombing. They included Moqtada al-Sadr; Nasrallah, leader of Hizbullah in Lebanon; Ayatollah Khalisi, leader of the Iraqi National Foundation Congress; and Grand Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's spiritual leader. Along with Grand Ayatollah Sistani, they also declared it a grave "sin" to attack Sunnis - as did all the Sunni clerics about attacks on Shias. Sadr was reported by the BBC as calling for revenge on Sunnis - in fact, he said "no Sunni would do this" and called for revenge on the occupation. None of the mostly spontaneous protest marches were directed at Sunni mosques. Near the bombed shrine itself, local Sunnis joined the city's minority Shias to denounce the occupation and accuse it of sharing responsibility for the outrage. In Kut, a march led by Sadr's Mahdi army burned US and Israeli flags. In Baghdad's Sadr City, the anti-occupation march was massive. There was a string of armed attacks on Sunni mosques in the wake of the bombing but none of them was carried out by the protesters. Reports suggest that they were the work of masked gunmen. Since then there has been an escalation of well-organised murders, some sectarian, some targeting mixed groups, such as yesterday's killing of 47 workers near Baquba. But as live coverage of Wednesday's demonstrations on Iraqi and Arab satellite TV stations clearly showed, the popular mood has been anti-occupation rather than sectarian. Iraq is awash with rumours about the collusion of the occupation forces and their Iraqi clients with sectarian attacks and death squads: the US is widely seen as fostering sectarian division to prevent the emergence of a united national resistance. Evidence of their involvement in Wednesday's anti-Sunni reprisals was picked up in the Times, which reported that after an armed attack on the al-Quds Sunni mosque in Baghdad the gunmen climbed back into six cars and were ushered from the scene by cheering soldiers of the US-controlled Iraqi National Guard. Two years ago I argued in these pages that the US aim of installing a client pro-US regime in Baghdad risked plunging the country into civil war - but not a war of Arabs against Kurds or Sunnis against Shias, rather a war between a US-backed minority (of all sects and nationalities) against the majority of the Iraqi people. That is where Iraq is heading. · Sami Ramadani was a political exile from Saddam's regime and is a senior lecturer at London Metropolitan University BEYOND IRAQ Innocence Ignored at Guantanamo: Donald Rumsfeld said "they're terrorists, trainers, bombmakers, recruiters, financiers, [Osama's] bodyguards, and would-be suicide bombers". The Bush Administration calls them the "worst of the worst". The former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Myers, said they were so vicious that if given the chance they would gnaw through the hydraulic lines of the aircraft flying them to Cuba. The Australian Government, apparently, agrees with these sober assessments. The references are to US prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. There are more than 400 of them and only 10 have been formally charged with crimes. Many of the remainder have no idea what they are supposed to have done. Two fascinating studies into the Guantanamo detainees have emerged this month in the US. Far from being the worst of the worst, it seems that most of these people should not be there at all. Corine Hegland, in the National Journal, examined the court documents of 132 prisoners who have filed habeas corpus petitions in the courts. Also, she has gone through the transcripts of the hearings of 314 prisoners whose "enemy combatant" status was reviewed by military bodies called combat status review tribunals. Professor Mark Denbeaux, at the Seton Hall University Law School in New Jersey, led a team of his students who investigated the US Government's documentation against all Guantanamo detainees, including its submissions to the tribunals. From both these exhaustive reviews there comes the question: apart from a small handful of hard cases, what does the US think it is achieving by continuing to hold most of these prisoners? Hegland found that a majority of the detainees were not Afghans but were captured in Pakistan. Seventy-five per cent of those who have brought habeas petitions are not accused of conducting hostilities against the US. The information points to the fact that about 80 per cent of the detainees were never members of al-Qaeda and many were not Taliban foot soldiers. They were caught in a dragnet searching for Arabs in Pakistan after September 11, 2001. Some had loose associations with the Taliban or al-Qaeda. Many were simply in the region at the wrong time. Much of the evidence against them is flimsy, having been gathered second-, third- or fourth-hand. Often it is based on admissions of other detainees. Hegland cites examples. Here's an example of loose association: a Saudi held in Guantanamo was classified as an enemy combatant because he spent a couple of weeks at a Taliban bean farm. However, he says he was imprisoned on the farm because the Taliban thought he was a Saudi spy. Others, at least 10, are held because when they were rounded up they were wearing Casio watches and the US Defence Department says these watches are similar to a model with a circuit board used by al-Qaeda for making bombs. This model is sold in shops around the world. Numerous people are detained because they have "affiliations" with groups not on the Department of Homeland Security's watchlist. Eighty-six per cent of the prisoners were not captured by the US, but turned over by either Pakistan or the Northern Alliance, often for money or as reprisals for all sorts of hatreds and feuds. The Road to the Muslim Holocaust: The 2005 report of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) on ‘Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims in the EU’ found that attacks on Muslims have markedly increased recently. Muslims in Sweden, Denmark and Austria are encountering difficult barriers. In Sweden, Muslims are advised to change their names to “Swedish- sounding ones” to increase their chance of employment. According to the report, 64 per cent of Muslims interviewed in Britain said that they were “unfairly targeted by counter-terrorism policies”. In Denmark and Austria, the report reveals, Muslim women wearing headscarves are less likely to find work or pursue education. In Sweden, rightwing parties warn of a “Muslim invasion”. Other Europeans such as Belgium, Holland, France, Italy and Spain are also contaminated with far right groups and anti-Muslims parties. Thousands of Muslims have been arrested and screened by German police only because of “their profiles have matched basic criteria, including an affiliation with Islam”, reveals the IHF report. The German state of Baden-Wurttemberg has enacted what is called the “Muslim test”, in which Muslim applicants for citizenship are asked about their views on September 11, gay relationships and whether their teenage daughters are allowed to attend swimming classes. Can you imagine all Germans (in Baden-Wurttemberg) have exactly the same opinion on all three? “I am afraid we have not learned from our history. My main fear is that what we did to Jews we may now do to Muslims. The next holocaust would be against Muslims”, Dr. Wolfram Richter, professor of economics at the University of Dortmund told Ziauddin Sardar of New Statesman magazine in Britain. It has always been easier to use crimes in order to commit even greater crimes.


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