Friday, February 24, 2006

Stepping Back from the Brink?

The blood-lusters of Al Qaeda-in-Iraq have attempted to ignite a civil war in Iraq. The Iraqis now face the decision of their lives: Will they let Al Qaeda drive them to sectarian violence and civil strife? Or will they collectively give al-Zarqawi the finger? Today, many lean toward the latter.

My Way News has the story.
Iraq's most influential Shiite political leader called Friday for Sunni-Shiite unity as religious figures sought to calm passions and pull the nation from the brink of civil war after the bombing of a Shiite shrine two days ago and a wave of deadly reprisal attacks.

An extraordinary daytime curfew in Baghdad and three nearby provinces appeared to have blunted the wave of attacks on Sunni mosques that followed Wednesday's bombing which destroyed the golden dome of the Shiite Askariya shrine in Samarra.

Still, Iraqis feared that the two days of violence which followed the Samarra attack had pushed the country closer to sectarian civil war than at any time since the U.S.-led invasion nearly three years ago.

Several joint Sunni-Shiite prayer services were announced for Friday, including one at the Askariya shrine. But security forces turned away about 700 people, virtually all of them Sunnis, who showed up for the service.

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.

"We all have to unite in order to eliminate them," al-Hakim said in a statement. "This is what al-Zarqawi is working for, that is, to ignite a sectarian strife in the country," he added. "We call for self-restraint and not to be dragged by the plots of the enemy of Iraq."

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad acknowledged the danger facing Iraq - and the U.S. strategy for disengaging from this country. But he also said this was also a "moment of opportunity" for Iraq.

"This tragedy can be used to bring people together," Khalilzad told reporters.

Late Thursday, Iraqi state television announced an extension of the nighttime curfew until 4 p.m. Friday in Baghdad and the nearby provinces of Diyala, Babil and Salaheddin, where the shrine bombing took place. But security forces permitted worshippers to walk to mosque for midday prayers.

A large crowd attended Friday prayers at Baghdad's Abu Hanifa mosque, Baghdad's most important Sunni site, where Imam Ahmed Hasan al-Taha denounced the attack on the Shiite shrine as a conspiracy intended to draw Iraqis into sectarian strife.
Nothing would satisfy Al Zarqawi or Bin Laden more than a brutal civil war between Shi'a and Sunni Iraqis. What better opportunity could Al Qaeda ask for? Iraq would easily become the new Afghanistan after such a civil war. Or worse.

After sectarian violence that has claimed over one hundred lives, and unprecedented daylight curfiews imposed by the government, prominent Shi'a leadership have now called for Sunni-Shi'a unity. Will the Iraqis respond?