Saturday, January 06, 2007

Al-Hayat reports Baghdad is on the verge

Al-Hayat cites statements by the Association of Muslim Scholars and by Adnan Dulaimi, head of the biggest Sunni coalition in Parliament, warning that Baghdad is on the verge of a new level of violence. Dulaimi warned that the Shiite militias, having obtained control of most of Shiite east Baghdad, are preparing an organized attack on the remaining Sunni neighborhoods in the western part of the city. The Al-Hayat reporter says leaders of armed groups are advising their friends to leave Baghdad before this starts.

Dulaimi listed neighborhoods according to their status in this overall struggle (you'd need a detailed map to follow this), and for balance the reporter notes there is a website run by Shiite politician Jalaladdin Saghrir that gives a different view, with daily updates about mortar attacks on Sunni-majority areas Saghrir calls the "areas of explosions and terror". But the journalist adds: He ignores the origins of this, in the process of intimidation, kidnappings and killings, that is common to most areas of Baghdad. And the journalist continues: Many groups are implicated in this, from the "organizations of AlQaeda, which early on announced their intention of [setting up] a state of their own in certain neighborhoods once they were emptied of Shiites; to the various Shiite groups including the Mahdi Army and the Badr Corp [military wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, SCIRI] which infiltrated the police and army, and were able to use them to hasten the process of ethnic separation, in preparation for the final battle".

The journalist also quotes a former staff officer by the name of Hussein al-Samarae, with this analysis of the Baghdad situation:

Originally the sectarian confrontations had something of a one-on-one character that he describes as a football game with attacks and killings, and flight, but this has now come to have an organized and all-encompassing character, so that: "At this stage it has become impossible for us to get inside neighborhoods [apparently talking from a law-enforcement point of view], because of the huge size of the interventions [in these neighborhoods] both in terms of sects, whether religious or ethnic, and also just in geographical terms, because there are now Shiite neighborhoods within [larger] Sunni districts, and vice versa". He added: "The year 2006 was decisive because it saw the elimination of the last obstacles in the way of outbreaks of bloody violence; sectarian separation took on a programmatic character, and now we can see [apparently he means looking back over the process that occurred] that there were local coalitions formed [in neighborhoods], having a sectarian unity, which took control of specific territory, which they then tried to defend against attacks from other coalitions. And this came to involve the use of mortar fire, rockets, and armed attacks".

The journalist himself adds: "On the ground one can see heavy deployment of armed groups in the Sunni neighborhoods, and the presence of militias in the Shiite neighborhoods, and in both cases they have organized armed patrols, and have set up checkpoints where they verify people's sectarian identity."

And in conclusion, the journalist notes this: "Armed groups that were originally formed for resistance against the occupation, now center their attention on open war with the [Shiite] militias, for instance in a recent statement the "Emir" of the Islamic Army in Iraq said "the struggle against the exterminating Safavids is more important than the struggle against the American occupation".


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