FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Bombings and Sectarian Bigotry in Iraq

Baghdad.

The Iraqi authorities arrested 50 suspects yesterday in connection with the suicide bombs that killed 67 people and injured 175 in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala.

Claims by the police that some of those arrested had confessed to having links with Iranian and Syrian intelligence agencies will not sound convincing to Shia Iraqis who believe that the bombings were the work of Sunni fundamentalists.

Iraqis are now beginning to ask if they are slipping towards conflict between the country’s Shia and Sunni communities. Walid al-Omar, a businessman from Basra in the Shia-dominated south, said: “The feelings of each community are becoming polarised. They have not quite reached boiling point yet but they might do so in future.”

The election on 30 January is deepening sectarian divisions because the Shia, who make up 60 per cent of the population but were previously denied any significant amount of power, will take part and most Sunnis say they will not.

Shia leaders have appealed for their followers not to engage in revenge attacks and, for the moment, they are being listened to by the well-armed Shia militias.

In Najaf, where an explosion tore into a funeral procession close to the shrine of Imam Ali, killing 54 people and wounding 142, the police chief, Ghalib al-Jazaari, said that those arrested included “elements” linked to Iranian and Syrian intelligence agencies. But there is no reason why those who planned the attack should have anyone in Najaf other than the suicide bomber who died in his own explosion.

Iraqi security forces have had little success in detecting the organisation behind the suicide bombers. Many Shia and Sunni Iraqis believe these bombings were carried out by Salafi or Wahabi Sunni militants who denounce all Shias as infidels. Sunni villages and towns south of Baghdad in the Latifiyah area are notorious for their sectarian bigotry.

The rubble-strewn streets of Najaf were almost empty yesterday apart from the funeral processions of those who died in the bombings on Sunday.

Iyad Allawi, the interim Prime Minister, distanced himself yesterday from the claim by his Defence Minister, Hazim al-Shalaan, that Iran and Syria were supporting the insurgents. Mr Shalaan said that they were co-operating with the al-Qa’ida group in Iraq and their leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Mr Allawi said: “The Defence Minister was talking from his own perspective. It does nor represent the government position.”

Though the US and the interim government have frequently claimed that foreign fighters were leading the battle in Fallujah and other Sunni cities, there is no evidence that they are more than a marginal element. Few of the prisoners taken in Fallujah were non-Iraqi.

The election of a 275-member National Assembly on 30 January which is largely Shia and Kurdish may further alienate the Sunni Arabs and lead to more violence. There is likely to be a boycott of the polls in Sunni rural areas. In Baghdad, middle-class Sunnis may vote but in mixed areas people may be too frightened.

Ghassan Atiyyah, a writer and academic, presenting the manifesto of a non-sectarian group called the Iraqi Independence Bloc, said there was no reason why the situation should improve after the election. He said: “We have been told this many times before, such as when the interim government was formed, but things always get worse.”

 

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
August 16, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Uncle Sam was Born Lethal
Jennifer Matsui
La Danse Mossad: Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein
Rob Urie
Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity
Stuart A. Newman
The Biotech-Industrial Complex Gets Ready to Define What is Human
Nick Alexandrov
Prevention Through Deterrence: The Strategy Shared by the El Paso Shooter and the U.S. Border Patrol
Jeffrey St. Clair
The First Dambuster: a Coyote Tale
Eric Draitser
“Bernie is Trump” (and other Corporate Media Bullsh*t)
Nick Pemberton
Is White Supremacism a Mental Illness?
Jim Kavanagh
Dead Man’s Hand: The Impeachment Gambit
Andrew Levine
Have They No Decency?
David Yearsley
Kind of Blue at 60
Ramzy Baroud
Manifestos of Hate: What White Terrorists Have in Common
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The War on Nature
Martha Rosenberg
Catch and Hang Live Chickens for Slaughter: $11 an Hour Possible!
Yoav Litvin
Israel Fears a Visit by Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib
Neve Gordon
It’s No Wonder the Military likes Violent Video Games, They Can Help Train Civilians to Become Warriors
Susan Miller
That Debacle at the Border is Genocide
Ralph Nader
With the Boeing 737 MAX Grounded, Top Boeing Bosses Must Testify Before Congress Now
Victor Grossman
Warnings, Ancient and Modern
Meena Miriam Yust - Arshad Khan
The Microplastic Threat
Kavitha Muralidharan
‘Today We Seek Those Fish in Discovery Channel’
Louis Proyect
The Vanity Cinema of Quentin Tarantino
Bob Scofield
Tit For Tat: Baltimore Takes Another Hit, This Time From Uruguay
Nozomi Hayase
The Prosecution of Julian Assange Affects Us All
Ron Jacobs
People’s Music for the Soul
John Feffer
Is America Crazy?
Jonathan Power
Russia and China are Growing Closer Again
John W. Whitehead
Who Inflicts the Most Gun Violence in America? The U.S. Government and Its Police Forces
Justin Vest
ICE: You’re Not Welcome in the South
Jill Richardson
Race is a Social Construct, But It Still Matters
Dean Baker
The NYT Gets the Story on Automation and Inequality Completely Wrong
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Retains Political Control After New US Coercive Measures
Gary Leupp
MSNBC and the Next Election: Racism is the Issue (and Don’t Talk about Socialism)
R. G. Davis
Paul Krassner: Investigative Satirist
Negin Owliaei
Red State Rip Off: Cutting Worker Pay by $1.5 Billion
Christopher Brauchli
The Side of Trump We Rarely See
Curtis Johnson
The Unbroken Line: From Slavery to the El Paso Shooting
Jesse Jackson
End Endless War and Bring Peace to Korea
Adolf Alzuphar
Diary: What About a New City Center?
Tracey L. Rogers
Candidates Need a Moral Vision
Nicky Reid
I Was a Red Flag Kid
John Kendall Hawkins
The Sixties Victory Lap in an Empty Arena
Stephen Cooper
Tony Chin’s Unstoppable, Historic Career in Music
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bruno Latour’s Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime
Elizabeth Keyes
Haiku Fighting
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail