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    Middle East
     Feb 13, 2007
How the US is doing Iran's killing in Iraq
By Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily

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.

Iran is 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.

The people 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 "messianic cult".

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.

"It 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 termination."

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".

"I 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 occupation."

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 anti-occupation.

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 Ahmad.

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 Tehran.

The US administration is, however, pointing the finger at Iran, and not at the government in Baghdad that it props up.

(Inter Press Service)


How the 'security' charade plays in Baghdad (Feb 10, '07)

The US's pricey fighting flops (Feb 10, '07)

Slouching toward D-day (Feb 9, '07)

An uphill battle on Baghdad's mean streets (Feb 9, '07)

 
 



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