Thursday, November 16, 2006

Signs of a broader conflict in Iraq: And please note: The occupation is the enemy of both sides

Osama Mahdi had a busy evening in London on Thursday. At 6:30 he filed a piece for about the proliferation of attack documents in the Baghdad newspapers and web-sites, purportedly showing Shiite and Sunni leaders respectively preparing for broad-based sectarian attacks on the other side. One of them was a document purportedly issued by the Association of Muslim Scholars calling on people in Sunni neighborhoods to house displased Sunni families in houses recently vacated by Shiites. The purported statement called the Shiites "rejectionists". This is the expression used by the so-called takfiiri ("excommunicator") jihadi groups who consider Shiites among their top enemies. Mahdi says the newspapers that published this said that was tantamount to the AMS calling of Sunnis to kill Shiites. The purported statement also said the advisory (about housing) also included what it called "our brothers the Arab mujahideen". He said the AMS hadn't yet confirmed or denied the authenticity of the document.

Then at 11:45 he filed a story that said the Malaki government had issued an arrest warrant for Harith al-Dhari, head of the AMS, accusing him of fomenting sectarian violence. Al-Dhari is currently in the UAE.

As it happens, Tareq al-Hashimi, vice-president of Iraq and head of the Islamic Party, is also in the UAE, as is another Sunni leader, Adnan Dulaimi, head of the Iraqi Accord Front (44 seats in Parliament, the biggest Sunni group there). Reports have said the three have met in the UAE, and have discussed among other things the idea of the Iraqi Accord Front withdrawing from parliament and from the political process. And Mahdi adds: It is well known that the AMS and its leader Harith al-Dhari are opponents of the Maliki regime, which they describe as an agent of the occupation. The Maliki government is described as having asked Interpol to arrest al-Dhari.

Mahdi refers to remarks Al-Dhari made on Monday of this week (possibly interview remarks), in which he attacked the Maliki government and its current programs. He said federalism isn't the solution, but will make matters worse. And he said the National Reconciliation program, the way the Maliki administration is running it, is designed to get everyone into the political process without opposing the occupation, making it more of an appeal to criminals than to the resistance. He said the wave of killings and kidnappings are being carried out by the Americans, the Israelis, the British, the militias of the governing political parties, and by criminal gangs. But he said he doesn't thing there will be Sunni-Shiite civil war in Iraq. He said the proponents of civil war are those that arrived with the occupation, and have been trying to foment civil war to serve their particular interests since the first year. But they will not be in power for long, he said. Mahdi doesn't say exactly what statements of Al-Dhari triggered the arrest warrant, but you get the picture.

Back to the incriminating-documents story.

As it happens, vice-president Hashimi (who is also in the UAE) has been another topic in the incriminating-documents story. A Shiite website supervised by Shiite members of parliament, published a document purported on the presidency of the republic letterhead and signed by Hashimi, calling on the head of the Sunni Waqf (religious endowments) Agency to quit ignoring the Shiite attacks and promote "an Iraqi Arab campaign" to confront these attacks. Hashimi's office called this a crude forgery, noting mistakes in terminology and so on, in addition to poor printing. Hashimi's office described this as the work of someone not familiar with Iraq, maybe not even living in Iraq.

But the big item in the incriminating-documents story is a lengthy analysis and advisory purportedly issued by the Badr organization, part of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Mahdi says it has been published on Sunni websites. It warns Shiite factions to close ranks and prepare themselves for a possible attack by Sunni forces coordinated with the occupation, to be diligent in opposition to any proposals that could result in the return of the former army or former security officials. Mahdi says the authenticity of this document hasn't been confirmed or denied by the Badr organization.

Authentic or not, what the document shows is the prevalence of ideas of a coming broader conflict. And more important, that no matter which side you are on, "the occupation" is a major opponent. The Badr scenario envisages an attack by Sunnis coordinated with the occupation. And the Al-Dhari remarks illustrate the Sunni theory that the Shiite proponents of civil war are creatures of the occupation.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This morning J. Cole provides some interesting historic perspective on the Sunni/Shia conflict. However, there is, to my mind, a contradiction between what he says today and what he has written in the past. Specifically, he writes:” it is important to note that in the 20th century, Sunni-Shiite violence in Iraq was rare, and Iraqi national identity grew in strength.” This contradicts the vast majority of his Blog writing over the past 4-5 years. He has always lamented the persecution of the Shia under the Saddam/Sunni regime. Indeed, it is reasonable to say he generally supported the US invasion but not the particulars.

All of this goes the complexity of the Iraq issues and why this blog is so refreshing. It provides documented facts, which is the essence of the historian’s craft.

4:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree 1000%. Juan Cole's sectarian biases are extraordinary for an American! You would think he's party to the conflict.

7:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes i have to agree with both of u, this has previously been discussed on this blog right here:


8:26 AM  
Blogger markfromireland said...

Yeah in defence of Juan he's not bad for a mainstream analyis. He does his best to be intellectually honest and succeeds more than most of us I would say. And as I've remarked to Badger before watching his thought develop over the years is fascinating.

That being said I have to agree with the previous commenters. None of us are immune alas. I'm sure a trawl through my stuff would turn up inconsistency as well.

10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

point of clarification, its Waqf, not Wafd

"calling on the head of the Sunni Wafd (religious endowments) Agency"

10:26 AM  
Blogger badger said...

thank you, yes waqf. I'm going to take the liberty of fixing that right now.

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A man who can admit his mistakes is truly a man.

Additionally, it is not clear, and in my mind unlikely, that Dhari was in the UAE and met with Dulaimi and Hashimi in this instance. If you have seen reports that has them all together I would welcome it. However, those two were there on official visits and although Dhari's interview with al-Arabiya (indeed a UAE based station, but with satellites) may have coincided in date, I have seen no evidence or even allusion to any meeting as such of all three. It wouldn't change your point much either way, there is still much interplay, but if you have seen anything explicit about that, I would be intrigued.

1:41 PM  
Blogger badger said...

Here's what I was relying on: In the second piece I linked to (the one about the arrest warrant), first sentence in the second paragraph:

"Dhari has been for [several] days in the Emirates, at a time when (Hashimi and Dulaimi) were also visiting there, and there were reports that they met there and had discussions (lit: "pursued studies" I guess) about developments in the political and security situation in Iraq, [and about] the threat of the Accord withdraw from the government and from the political process."

That's all I know. He seemed to be saying their paths crossed there, and reports said they had these talks. Now that you mention it, I see that the verbs are not dual but plural, so they're talking about the three of them.

3:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just was unsure- being that he commented from Jordan this morning and that was the only source that had him there yesterday. It is entirely possible, anything is, I was just being skeptical.

3:46 PM  
Blogger badger said...

please query frequently. it is the spice of blogging and it keeps a person alert.

4:55 PM  

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