Violence in Baghdad, Samarra
Curfew Partially Observed
There was more violence on Friday in Iraq amid calls by clerical leaders for peace. The daytime curfew called for earlier was widely ignored, especially in East Baghdad or Sadr City, where the Mahdi Army militiamen were out in force, driving around in heavy vehicles.
Borzou Daragahi of the LA Times reports,
' violence broke out in Samarra, home of the destroyed Shiite shrine. Two police officers were killed and two civilians injured in clashes and a vital oil pipeline set ablaze by saboteurs. '
Daragahi adds, 'Iraqi police today found at least 29 bodies scattered in Baghdad. Each corpse was handcuffed and had single gunshots to the head, in the style often attributed to Shiite death squads believed attached to the Ministry of Interior. '
Ed Wong of the NYT reports on the role of the militias in the recent violence in Iraq. The Shiites will certainly now insist on keeping them, after the bombing of the Askariyah shrine, but the Sunni Arabs fear them and are threatening to form their own.
Al-Zaman says that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani called for calm on Friday, as did his Sunni Arab counterparts.
The daytime curfew called for Baghdad and some heavily Sunni Arab provinces was only partially effective. There were clashes in several districts of Baghdad, including Al-Sayyidiyah and al-Durah, but no details were forthcoming. Some clashes were said to be between Mahdi Army militiamen and Sunni Arab guerrillas.
Tariq al-Hashimi of the Iraqi Islamic Party said the security situation had improved somewhat, but expressed concern about streams of Shiite pilgrims headed from Karbala to Baghdad and then Samarra'.
Ayatollah Muhammad Ya`qubi, the spiritual leader of the Fadhilah Party, forbade his followers from marching to Samarra as they had originally planed. [The same thing is true of Muqtada al-Sadr.]
I gave an interview to Jim Lobe of Interpress Service in which I raised the possibility that there might now be a hung parliament in Iraq, with no group able to form a government, forcing new elections and further political gridlock. The Sunni Arab party, the National Accord Front, has pulled out of negotiations on the formation of a new government.
The daytime curfew in the central Sunni Arab provinces has been extended another day, through Saturday.
AP points to the way in which the Askariyah Shrine crisis points to the great authority and power of the clergy in contemporary Iraq.
NPR reported that on Wednesday and Thursday, many Iraqi policemen and soldiers either stepped aside for Shiite mobs who attacked Sunni mosques, and that some even joined in the attacks.
It just goes to show how inadequate this report for the Pentagon is. It says that 53 battalions can fight with US help, and that none can do so on their own, and that Sunni attacks have not yet produced sectarian violence. In comedy and in politics, timing is everything.