February 22, 2006

Bombs in Samarra

Very bad:
Insurgents detonated bombs inside one of Iraq's holiest Shiite shrines Wednesday, destroying its golden dome and triggering more than 60 reprisal attacks on Sunni mosques. The president warned that extremists were pushing the country toward civil war, as many Shiites lashed out at the United States as partly to blame.
Swopa rounds up evidence—okay, more like the barest of hints—that the Samarra bombing could have been the work of militant Shiites looking to provoke some serious sectarian warfare. It's not impossible, I guess. Quite obviously a lot of different groups in Iraq have a lot of different motives for edging the country closer to civil war, and it's getting easier and easier by the day. But it seems more likely that, as Swopa says, al-Qaeda in Iraq did this, in order to keep "Iraqi Sunnis out of nonviolent politics by pushing the Shiites further against the wall."

Meanwhile, it was only a few days ago that Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad threatened to withdraw aid from the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government if it insisted on engaging in sectarian warfare with the Sunnis. And now top Shiite leaders are blaming Khalilzad for encouraging the insurgents with that statement all while… engaging in sectarian warfare. So what will the U.S. do? President Bush sounds like he's planning to back the Shiite government and oppose the "terrorists" while calling for "restraint" on all sides. But this doesn't seem like the sort of thing you can really finesse in this way. Juan Cole says this is an "apocalyptic day." Seems right.
-- Brad Plumer 6:03 PM || ||