Day By Day

Monday, May 23, 2005

Revenge of the Shia

Richard Beeston, writing in the Times, reports that terrorist efforts to spark a civil war in Iraq are beginning to show some results. The Shia majority has for the most part shown almost super-human patience in the face of escalating attacks from Sunni and foreign terrorists, but now they are beginning to strike back, and as they do the possibility of civil war becomes more and more likely.

THEY HAVE lived side by side for generations, but the small farming communities south of Baghdad are being split apart by a vicious sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shias that many Iraqis fear could be a step on the path to civil war.

As politicians in Baghdad struggle to bring the communities back from the brink, fresh accounts are emerging from the fertile area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers south of the capital of the latest cycle of violence....

Until recently the Shias did not respond to the provocation, appearing to heed their religious authorities, who said that retaliation could plunge the country into civil war and jeopardise their political victory in January’s elections.

Now Sunnis say that restraint has ended. Last week around 50 bodies of murdered Shias and Sunnis, including 15 Sunni Arabs with links to the Muslim Scholars’ Board, were dumped in Baghdad. They included the body of Sheikh Hassan al-Neimi, a Sunni cleric who had been arrested by men in police uniforms....

It appears that the retaliations were engineered by Iranian trained forces. This should serve to remind us that it is not just Zawakari and the Baathist remnant who want to provoke civil conflict in Iraq. Iran has a strong interest in keeping Iraq divided and American attention focused there.

Read the whole thing here.

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