Not a Civil War Yet - 03.08.2006

Brian Conley and Isam Rashid

BAGHDAD, Mar 7 (IPS) - Repeated cries in the mainstream press of an unfolding civil war fall on deaf ears of many Iraqis. Only some have begun to use the term ‘civil war’ to describe the conflict raging around Iraq; many feel the term is inappropriate.

In the days after the bombing of the Shia shrine at Samarra Feb. 22, the Association of Muslim Scholars and representatives of Shia 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 ten-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 organisations who tried to make this problem between Sunni and Shia become larger and larger, and we have all the rights to try them in future.”

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

It was significant that Shia 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 organisations were not involved directly in the violence.

”We charge the occupation forces and the Iraq sectarian government,” Sheikh Majid al-Sa’adi, a Shia representing al-Khalisi told IPS. Many of Iraq’s parties, particularly the Sunni groups, and the nationalist Muqtada al-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 to 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,” said Salam al-Kubaisi.

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

“From the first day of the occupation, because the U.S. government made meetings only with Shias and Kurds in London and they had an agreement with each other, but without Sunni, this was the beginning of the problem,” Mohammed Kareem, a 37-year-old security guard in Baghdad told IPS.

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

Other reports blame others. It has been revealed that Iraq’s minister for national security received reports in advance of the bombing that Shia 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 is on the brink of a civil war.

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

“The Kurds also want this, their purpose is to take the northern part from Iraq,” he added. “Also, the Iranian government wants this and they support the civil war in Iraq more than any other side. They need the U.S. troops to be busy in Iraq to leave Iran safe because they expect that the U.S. 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.

“Iraqi police forced Sunni people in Nahrawan to leave their houses and now these families live in the field with their women and children,” said a man who gave his name only as Hussein. “It’s injustice and now we become certain the Iraqi government is cooperating with Shia militia and occupation forces against Sunnis.”

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 United States occupation.

”The Iraqi government protects themselves only and they don’t care about the Iraqi people,” al-Sa’adi said. (END/2006)

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