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    Middle East
     Mar 10, 2006
Iraqis fight talk of civil war
By Brian Conley and Isam Rashid

BAGHDAD - Repeated cries in the mainstream media of an unfolding civil war fall on the deaf ears of many Iraqis who see the violence as a direct result of the US-led occupation.

In the days after the bombing of the Shi'ite shrine at Samarra on February 22, the Association of Muslim Scholars and representatives of Shi'ite groups led by Muqtada al-Sadr and Sheikh al-Khalisi met at the Abu Hanifa Mosque in Adhamiya to negotiate a response.

They constructed a 10-point plan for responding to the violence and building a future for Iraq. That plan is currently being

implemented with varying amounts of success.

A primary function of this plan is to "condemn the press organizations who tried to make this problem between Sunni and Shi'ite become larger and larger, and we have all the rights to try them in future".

During their meeting, they made simple and well-publicized decisions to condemn the Samarra bombing, and all subsequent attacks against Sunni mosques, as well as condemning all terrorist operations.

It was significant that Shi'ite representatives were invited to the Abu Hanifa Mosque, a famous Sunni site in Baghdad, and a recurring target of anti-insurgency operations. "We invited them to see what we can do to end this problem and to stop the killings between Iraqi people," Sunni leader Dr Salam al-Kubaisi said.

The meeting was called "also to stop attacking Sunni mosques and to end the shedding of Iraqi blood, because this blood is very expensive for us and in future we can rebuild everything except human life".

The leaders agreed to find compensation for all people harmed by the sectarian violence in the aftermath of the Samarra bombing. The representatives who met at the Abu Hanifa mosque claimed that their people and organizations were not involved directly in the violence.

"We charge the occupation forces and the Iraq sectarian government," said Sheikh Majid al-Sa'adi, a Shi'ite representing Khalisi. Many of Iraq's parties, particularly the Sunni groups, and the nationalist Sadr hold this view.

The groups placed two final statements in their agreement to point to the role of the occupation in the recent violence.

Their statement accuses the occupation of "responsibility for all that has happened in Iraq - sectarianism, terrorism and other problems". Furthermore, the resolution demanded that the occupation forces "leave Iraq as quickly as possible and return back home".

The agreement finally calls on the Iraqi people to live together in peace and defy what it called the occupation's desire to inflame sectarianism and create civil war.

"We ask Iraqis to not cooperate with the occupation's plans, because their purpose is to make civil war in Iraq. Second, as Muslim leaders, we want to show all the world we are all against these attacks happening since the Samarra bombing," Kubaisi said.

Many Iraqi men seem to support the results of the Abu Hanifa gathering.

"From the first day of the occupation, because the US government made meetings only with Shi'ites and Kurds in London and they had an agreement with each other, but without Sunnis, this was the beginning of the problem," said Mohammed Kareem, a 37-year-old security guard in Baghdad.

Those responsible for the Samarra bombing have yet to be located, but names of suspects abound. The US and Iraq's current governing council have made it clear they believe al-Qaeda was involved.

Some reports blame others. It has been revealed that Iraq's minister for national security received reports in advance of the bombing that Shi'ite shrines were being considered for terrorist attacks. Last week, Mithal al-Alusi, a Sunni independent, called for "a political-judicial committee to be established immediately to check out these reports".

It was largely the failure to investigate attacks that followed the Samarra bombing that led media around the world to declare that Iraq was on the brink of a civil war.

Some parties may have their own reasons for projecting a civil war in Iraq. "Some of the Shi'ite leaders in Iraq, especially those who came from Iran after the war, want to split Iraq and take the southern part for them," Kareem said.

"The Kurds also want this, their purpose is to take the northern part from Iraq. Also, the Iranian government wants this and they support the civil war in Iraq more than any other side. They need the US troops to be busy in Iraq to leave Iran safe because they expect that the US troops will invade Iran after Iraq."

Although there has been a great deal of violence, it has been focused in only a few provinces, and is mainly occurring in Baghdad. In the latest violence, uniformed gunmen raided a private security company and took away all 50 employees. Hours earlier, the bodies of 24 men were found, 18 of them stuffed into an abandoned truck in western Baghdad.

The sheikhs who stand in opposition to the occupation have expressed common ground with Iraqis who feel abandoned by Iraq's new government and by the promises made by the US occupation. "The Iraqi government protects themselves only and they don't care about the Iraqi people," Sa'adi said.

(Inter Press Service)

Blaming the victims as Iraq disintegrates
(Mar 9, '06)

As militias arm, civil war threat 'recedes'
(Mar 8, '06)

Civil war all but declared
(Mar 2, '06)

Payback time in Iraq
(Feb 25, '06)


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