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After Samarra bombing

Iraqis blame U.S. intervention for violence

Published Mar 3, 2006 11:21 PM

No one has yet revealed hard evidence proving who blew up the Imam Ali Al Hadi shrine in Samarra, Iraq, which provoked battles between Sunni and Shiite communities. But no matter whose hands set off the charge that smashed the golden dome, the U.S.-led occupation forces are responsible for this additional assault on the Iraqi population.

As of Feb. 27, five days after the explosion, no organization or state had publicly accepted responsibility for the bombing. This alone shows that whoever carried out the bombing intended to throw the blame for it on other forces. The bombing was certain to incite battles between the two major Arab communities in Iraq—Shiite and Sunni. If such warfare broke out on a large scale, it could lead to fragmenting Iraq into multiple mini-states more easily manipulated by imperialism.

Iraqi blogger Riverbend wrote that Baghdad woke up to the news that “men wearing Iraqi security uniforms walked in [to the shrine] and detonated explosives, damaging the mosque almost beyond repair. Several mosques in Baghdad were attacked. I think what has everyone most disturbed is the fact that the reaction was so swift, like it was just waiting to happen.”

Sectarian fighting followed and was reportedly carried out by organized groups. The Badr brigades are suspected. These are the militia of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution (SCIRI), associated with Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani. SCIRI collaborated with U.S. forces when they invaded and desecrated the holy city of Najaf to put down the insurrection led by fellow Shiite Muqtada al-Sadr.

Since the provocation in Samarra, U.S. big-business media have presented the events in Iraq so as to exacerbate the differences between the Sunni and Shiite communities. However, it is enlightening—and at least somewhat encouraging—to contrast the reports in the corporate media with those from Iraqis, inside and outside the country, who oppose the U.S. occupation. They indicate that, in many cases, mass demonstrations after the bombing attempted to build Shiite-Sunni unity against the occupation.

Sunni-Shiite solidarity

Knowledgeable analyst Dahr Jamail, an anti-occupation journalist who spent eight months reporting directly from Iraq, wrote Feb. 24 that “the Sunnis were the first to go to demonstrations of solidarity with Shiites in Samarra, as well as to condemn the mosque bombings. Demon strations of solidarity between Sunni and Shiites went off over all of Iraq: in Basra, Diwaniyah, Nasiriyah, Kut and Salah al-Din.

“Thousands of Shiites marched shouting anti-American slogans through Sadr City, the huge Shiite slum area of Baghdad, which is home to nearly half the population of the capital city. Meanwhile, in the primarily Shiite city of Kut, south of Baghdad, thousands marched while shouting slogans against America and Israel and burning U.S. and Israeli flags.”

The Turkish media reported on Feb. 25 that Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr “publicly made peace with political and religious Sunni leaders. Four sheiks from the Sadr movement made a ‘pact of honor’ with the conservative Sunni Muslim Scho lars Association, calling for an end to attacks on places of worship, the shedding of blood and condemning any act leading to sedition. The meeting also announced the formation of a commission to ‘determine the reasons for the crisis with a view to solving it,’ while also calling for a time table for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.”

Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his Mehdi Army to no longer wear their signature black uniforms, for fear that others were disguising themselves as Mehdi forces in order to provoke clashes between Shiites and Sunnis. Even though al-Sadr joined an electoral bloc with the reactionary SCIRI and al-Dawa forces—which have supported the occupation and which are seen as also being aligned with Shiites in Iran—many in the resistance see the Mehdi Army as the most likely of the groupings in the Shiite community to join the mostly Sunni-area forces now fighting the occupation.

In addition to attempting to avoid civil war, forces within both Shiite and Sunni communities in Iraq are joining together to rid their country of an unwelcome and painful imperialist occupation.

Sami Ramadani, an Iraqi exiled in Britain, wrote in the Feb. 24 British Guardian: “It has not been Sunni religious symbols that hundreds of thousands of angry marchers protesting at the bombing of the shrine have targeted, but U.S. flags. The slogan that united them on Wednes day was: ‘No to America, no to terrorism.’

“The Shiite clerics most listened to by young militants swiftly blamed the occupation for the bombing. They included Moqtada al-Sadr; Nasrallah, leader of Hizbullah in Lebanon; Ayatollah Khalisi, leader of the Iraqi National Foundation Congress; and Grand Ayatollah Kha menei, Iran’s spiritual leader.” Khamenei blamed the intelligence services of the U.S. and Israel.

“Along with Grand Ayatollah Sistani,” continued Ramadani, “they also declared it a grave ‘sin’ to attack Sunnis—as did all the Sunni clerics about attacks on Shiites. Sadr was reported by the BBC as calling for revenge on Sunnis—in fact, he said ‘no Sunni would do this’ [bomb the shrine] and called for revenge on the occupation.”

Divide Iraq into three parts?

Washington’s legal responsibility for protecting the shrine was made clear in a statement by the BRussell’s Tribunal which read: “The destruction of Al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, Iraq, represents yet another breach of the obligations of occupying powers under international humanitarian law.” Those rules of war and occupation were spelled out in the conventions signed in The Hague and in Geneva more than 50 years ago.

U.S. imperialism’s responsibility, however, goes far beyond the mere breaking of these rules. The Bush administration consciously spread lies in an attempt to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq. The U.S. then set up an occupation regime to seize Iraqi oil and to establish permanent military bases and a center of operations to control the Middle East and Central Asia.

In April 2003, when Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld still believed he could “shock and awe” all of Iraq into accepting these plans, the U.S. leaders might have believed they could set up a single weak and submissive Iraqi puppet government. Within months of the April 2003 Penta gon takeover of Baghdad, however, the Iraqi resistance made it clear that the U.S. occupation would not be easy.

Washington considered other strategies.

By November 2003, U.S. think tanks were already proposing that Iraq be split into three parts. Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the powerful Council on Foreign Relations, wrote, “The only viable strategy, then, may be to correct [Iraq’s] historical defect and move in stages to ward a three-state solution: Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shiites in the south.” (New York Times, Nov. 25, 2003)

Toward the end of 2004, the Rand Corporation conducted a study on behalf of the U.S. Air Force. One of the primary objectives of the study was to “identify the key cleavages and fault lines among sectarian, ethnic, regional and national lines, and to assess how these cleavages generate challenges and opportunities for the United States.”

The U.S.-drafted Iraqi Constitution and all the rules for selecting representatives in Iraqi elections included elements of this three-way split. This institutional split encouraged battles among communities, even where their differences were considered unimportant in the past.

Provoking a civil war among communities in Iraq is a dangerous move for the U.S., but the growing strength of the resistance has put the imperialists in a desperate situation. There is evidence that the U.S. is already using what has been called the “Salvador option,” that is, setting up death squads in Iraq to run a secret war against anyone there who opposes the occupation.

Hundreds of Iraqi scientists and academics have been mysteriously assassinated. As journalist Robert Fisk wrote on July 14, 2004, in the British newspaper the Independent, “University staff suspect there is a campaign to strip Iraq of its academics to complete the destruction of Iraq’s cultural heritage, which began when America entered Baghdad.”

John Pace, a United Nations official who left Baghdad in mid-February, told the Independent (Feb. 27) that “much of the killing was carried out … under the control of the Interior Ministry” in the U.S.-backed puppet government.

Elements in the Iraqi resistance, for example from the Baath Party, object to and attack intervention by any Iranian elements in Iraq, whether by pro-Iranian groups like the Badr Brigades or by Iranian agents. Pro-Iranian groups likewise target the Baathist role in the resistance.

This hostility stems in a great part from the 1980-1988 war between Iraq and Iran, both capitalist nations oppressed by imperialism. The U.S. was able to manipulate their antagonisms to weaken and set back both Middle Eastern countries. The peoples of Iraq and Iran have an interest in overcoming this hostility to better combat the direct threat from imperialism they both face today.

U.S. allies in the region, especially the British, have their own experience in using “divide and rule” against colonial nations. The British instilled hostilities by encouraging the partition of colonial India into India and Pakistan in 1948. In the northern part of Ireland, the British colonialists provoked sectarian violence to justify their occupation and repression of the mostly Catholic community that was for freedom from British rule. The U.S. and European imperialists used differences among the peoples of Yugoslavia to break up that socialist federal republic into a half-dozen more easily ruled mini-states.

In addition, Israeli government policy has always aimed to weaken Iraq by splitting it into three parts and/or leave it completely ungovernable.

The U.S. occupation has brought death and destruction to Iraq and has been unable to set up a functioning society there. More and more people in the U.S. are aware of that failure and of the horrible costs of the war.

A Zogby International/Le Moyne College poll published Feb. 28 found that 72 percent of U.S. troops said the U.S. should withdraw within 12 months, includ ing 29 percent who said they should pull out immediately. A CBS News poll report ed that only 30 percent of respondents in the population approved Bush’s handling of Iraq.

It is time—beyond time—to mobilize that popular sentiment in order to force the U.S. to end its occupation of Iraq.