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Jay Currie

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7/17/2005

Silly Season turns nasty in Iraq

The chattering classes in the US are having great fun with, as John Tierney puts it in the NYT,

For now, though, it looks as if this scandal is about a spy who was not endangered, a whistle-blower who did not blow the whistle and was not smeared, and a White House official who has not been fired for a felony that he did not commit. And so far the only victim is a reporter who did not write a story about it.
nyt
Mark Steyn disassembles Joe Wilson, the ambassador who lied to rather than for his country.

Meanwhile, a rolling series of actual attacks in Iraq are taking lives and bringing the day closer when the Sunni minority may be stuck with the bill for its support of an increasingly murderous terrorist minority in its midst.
IRAQ is slipping into all-out civil war, a Shia leader declared yesterday, as a devastating onslaught of suicide bombers slaughtered more than 150 people, most of them Shias, around the capital at the weekend.

One bomber killed almost 100 people when he blew up a fuel tanker south of Baghdad, an attack aimed at snapping Shia patience and triggering the full-blown sectarian war that al-Qaeda has been trying to forment for almost two years.

Iraq’s security forces have been overwhelmed by the scale of the suicide bombings — 11 on Friday alone and many more over the weekend — ordered by the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
the times of london
Suicide bombers operating with at least tacit support from the Sunni minority are very hard to stop and, more to the point, potentially extrememly deadly. Their use signals the end of anything which might be called an "insurgency" in that they are not, in the main, being directed against anything which might be realistically called military targets. It also indicates that al-Qaeda, knowing full well that it cannot defeat the Coalition has decided to embark on a full scale war against the Shia majority.

Why? In simplist terms al-Qaeda cannot afford to lose or be seen to lose in Iraq. The problem it faces is that it is losing and that is going to become increasingly obvious as time goes by. Suicide attacks do not defeat a determined opposition.

What might defeat such opposition is the creation of conditions in which the Sunni minority become involuntary martyrs to an outraged Shi'ite majority.
Sheikh al-Saghir is close to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the supreme Shia spiritual leader and moderate who has so far managed to restrain powerful Shia militias from undertaking any outright attack on Sunni insurgents.
the times
As the focus of al-Qaeda's terror shifts from the Americans and other coalition troops to Shia civilians the provocation to that community becomes intense. Its own extremists, including Moqtada al-Sadr, are beginning to patrol parts of Baghdad. There are reports of reprisal shootings in the countryside.

A scorched earth strategy in which the Shi'ites massacre the Sunnis would be horrific; but it would, from al-Zarqawi's perspective, count as a victory. The anger at the Shi'ites throughout the Sunni world. The spectacle of the invasion of Iraq turning into a sectarian slaughter rather than the beginning of a transformation of the Middle East.

If al-Zarqawi can achieve this at the cost of a dozen jihadis, while he will not have "won" in Iraq, he certainly will not have lost. And lose he must.

It is armchair generaling of the worst sort to suggest that efforts to capture or kill al-Zarqawi be redoubled. Obviously every effort on those lines is being pursued. However, in a non-military sphere there may be opportunities to prevent the full onrush of the slaughter.

A place to start might be to give greater prominance to the recent declaration that,
According to PETRA, leading Muslim clerics on Wednesday endorsed religious edicts forbidding the declaration of any Muslim an apostate and limiting the issuance of religious edicts to qualified Muslim clerics in the eight schools of Islamic jurisprudence.
al bawaba
The declaration is important because it was endorsed by both Grand Ayatollah Al Sayyid Ali Al Sistani, the Shi'ite leader in Iraq and Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Jumaa who many regard as the leading Sunni religious teacher.

Now, there is no chance that al-Zarqawi is suddenly going to lay down arms - after all, his rationale for blowing up Shi'ites is rather clearly stated in his 2004 letter to al-Qaeda,
"These [Shi'ites] in our opinion are the key to change," Al Zarqawi said in the letter. "I mean that targeting and hitting them in [their] religious, political, and military depth will provoke them to show the Sunnis their rabies and bare the teeth of the hidden rancor working in their breasts. If we succeed in dragging them into the arena of sectarian war, it will become possible to awaken the inattentive Sunnis as they feel imminent danger and annihilating death at the hands of these Sabeans."
world tribune (there are more reputable source for the letter)
However, there is every chance that Sunnis and Shi'ites could be made to realize exactly who the enemy is and who the enemy is not. This is critical because the only way to soundly defeat al Zarqawi and al Qaeda in Iraq is to deny them the support of the majority of the Sunnis. Whether better security, ongoing sweeps, bribery or the Sunni's own sense of having backed the wrong horse will do this is difficult to say; but it has to be done and done before the Shi'ites take matters into their own hands on a large scale.