How the US is doing Iran's killing
in Iraq By Dahr Jamail and Ali
NAJAF, Iraq - New evidence is
emerging on the ground of an Iranian hand in
growing violence within Iraq, but not necessarily
as the US claims Tehran is involved, that is, by
providing arms to Shi'ite Muslim militants.
The massacre in Najaf last month indicates
that Iran could be working through the Iraqi
government, local leaders in Najaf say. The
killing of 263 people in Najaf by Iraqi and US
forces on January 29 provoked outrage and vows of
revenge among residents in and around the sacred
Shi'ite city in the south. The
killings have deepened a
split among Shi'ites.
predominantly Shi'ite, one of the two main
groupings within Islam along with the Sunnis. Iraq
has for the first time a Shi'ite-dominated
government, comprising groups that have been
openly supportive of Iran.
killed in Najaf were mostly Shi'ites from the
Hawatim tribe that opposes the Supreme Council for
Islamic Revolution in Iraq as well as the Da'wa
Party. These two pro-Iranian groups control the
local government in Najaf and the central
government in Baghdad.
The Najaf attack
has provoked strong reactions among members of the
Hawatim tribe and among other Shi'ite groups who
are not loyal to Iran - and who became the target
in those killings.
An attack on a local
tribal leader led to an assault on members of the
tribe by US, British and Iraqi forces. The tribe
was described by government officials as a
Abid Ali, who witnessed
the Najaf fighting, said a procession of about 200
pilgrims from the Hawatim tribe had arrived in the
Zarqa area near Najaf to celebrate the Ashura
festival. After a confrontation over the
procession, Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint shot
dead Hajj Sa'ad Sa'ad Nayif al-Hatemi, chief of
the tribe, as he and his wife sat in their car.
Members of the tribe then attacked the checkpoint
to avenge the death of their chief.
was after this that the Iraqi army called in the
Americans, and the planes began bombing
civilians," Ali said. "It was a massacre. Now I
believe internal Shi'ite fighting has entered a
very dangerous phase."
Ali said most
people in the area believe the US military was
told by Iraqi security forces loyal to the
pro-Iranian government in Baghdad that
"terrorists" or the "messianic cult" were
attacking Najaf. They say the misinformation was
intended to mislead occupation forces into
attacking the tribe.
Many Shi'ites in the
southern parts of the country and in Baghdad now
say they had been fooled earlier by US promises to
help them, but that the Najaf massacre has
dramatically changed their views.
Significantly, the Association of Muslim
Scholars, a group of Sunni Muslims headed by Dr
Harith al-Dhari, issued a statement condemning the
Iraqi-US military attack in Najaf against the
Hawatim tribe. The statement, which seeks to
bridge a Shi'ite-Sunni divide, denounced the
killing of dozens of women and children and added,
"It was an act of vengeance and political
Jaafar al-Jawadi, a
political analyst from Baghdad, said the Americans
"were misled, and their last move in Najaf shows
how smart the Iranians are in leading the
Americans deeper into the Iraqi sands".
really admire the way the Iranians are dealing
with the situation in a professional way while the
Americans are walking with their eyes closed,"
Jawadi said. "They are losing the last Iraqi fort
they were hiding behind, and that was the peaceful
way Arab Shi'ites were dealing with the
Jawadi, who is a former
Shi'ite politician, said he once believed in US
promises of liberation for Iraqis, particularly
the Shi'ite population. Like many other Iraqis, he
now believes that the United States has been used
by the pro-Iranian government in Baghdad to carry
out attacks against Shi'ite tribes in southern
Iraq who have recently become more
Talib Ahmad, a lawyer and
human-rights activist in Najaf, said, "I do not
really understand what those Americans are doing
because now they are just like an elephant in a
china shop, and everything they do is terribly
wrong, as if they are committing suicide.
"Iran is benefiting from that for sure.
Americans are simply fighting for Iran, which
appears to be the winner in Iraq after all," said
Many Iraqis are amazed at the
unlimited support the US administration has been
presenting to what many now call an Iranian-Iraqi
government. The new US condemnation of Iran could
be a first sign that the United States is getting
wise to the fact that it is being fooled by
The US administration is, however,
pointing the finger at Iran, and not at the
government in Baghdad that it props up.