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في هذا المقال سأحاول نشر بعض ما كتب عن العراق خلال سنوات ما بعد السقوط ومقارنه ما توقعه الكتاب مع مايحدث في الوقت الحاضر


كتب هذا المقال في مجلة التايمز بعد حادثة تفجير المرقد العسكري




Sunday, Feb. 26, 2006

An Eye For an Eye

By Bobby Ghosh/Baghdad


Civil wars, as a general rule, don't announce themselves when they arrive. But how else to label what Iraqis witnessed in their streets last week? What other term could describe the sight of armed and angry Shi'ite mobs rampaging through Baghdad and other cities, dragging Sunnis into the streets and executing them, looting their homes and burning down their mosques? The proximate cause of the violence was the bombing of al-Askari, the sacred Shi'ite shrine in Samarra, but that attack could only partially account for the hatreds unleashed. A government-imposed curfew briefly interrupted the slaughter; after dark the fighting resumed. Ordinary citizens guided assassins to the homes of their neighbors. Iraqis like Isam al-Rawi, a Baghdad University geology professor and Sunni politician, kept their guns close and loaded. "I have to be ready for anything," he says. For him, the decapitation of the mosque in Samarra was an omen of doom. "I said to myself, 'This is it. The Shi'ites are going to go mad. This is the start of the civil war.'"


Such dire predictions have been made before and proved wrong. But this time Iraq got a very real, very frightening glimpse of what war with itself might look like. After three days of violence, more than 200 people were killed, and Sunni groups claimed at least 100 mosques were damaged. The extent of the carnage left many with the uneasy sense that the long-simmering hostility between the country's two main sects has at last boiled over--and that the fragile, feckless institutions of authority in Iraq have no means of holding the anger back. "This was the worst-case scenario we all hoped would never happen," said a Western adviser to the Iraqi government. "We've always known that when the Shi'ites ran out of patience, Iraq would run out of political options."


The outbreak of communal conflict has raised the nightmarish prospect of an even wider and more destabilizing war that would tempt the country's neighbors to intervene on behalf of the partisans. And the violence threatens to spoil the overriding U.S. objective in Iraq: brokering the formation of a broadly representative government, which the Bush Administration has hoped would defuse the Sunni-led insurgency and facilitate a substantial withdrawal of U.S. troops. To protest the other side's excesses, Sunni and Shi'ite leaders have both walked away from U.S.-led negotiations on the new government.


Caught off guard by the mayhem and powerless to stop it, U.S. officials could only offer general expressions of optimism. "Obviously it's a blow," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told journalists as her plane crossed Iraqi airspace after a five-day swing through the Middle East, "but whenever someone tries to tear them apart, [iraqis] find a way to get back together." Over the weekend, President George W. Bush spent an hour on seven phone calls to Iraqi leaders, expressing condolences, thanking them for their appeals for calm and urging them to continue working to form a new government. In private, U.S. officials sounded guarded. "This is plainly a test for the Iraqi government," says a well-placed national-security official. "What the outcome will be is not entirely clear." A U.S. anti-insurgency official in Baghdad was even more blunt: "It looks like all badWord is about to break loose here."


Some leaders of Iraq's warring sects are urging their followers to step back from the brink, but not everybody is listening. The violence that racked the country in the hours after the Samarra explosion subsided briefly after the imposition of a daytime curfew last Friday but soon flared up again. The radical Shi'ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr publicly called on his Mahdi Army militia, which perpetrated much of the anti-Sunni violence in Baghdad, to halt their attacks. But having endured so much pain at the hands of Sunni militants, many moderate Shi'ite leaders are reluctant to entrust security to government forces. A statement released by Grand Ayatullah Ali Husaini Sistani, Iraq's most revered cleric, called for nationwide demonstrations and seven days of mourning. It added that if the government was unable to protect religious sites, "then the believers will do it, with the help of God." Bush described Sistani's statement as "constructive and very important," but to Sunni ears, it sounded like a call for the Shi'ites to take the law into their own hands. A source close to Sistani told TIME that "he feels that the situation has become unbearable and says it has become too hard to control the streets."


The U.S. may have little choice but to try to take them back. The seeming inability of the U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces to quell the violence was especially worrying to U.S. commanders, since any U.S. withdrawal is predicated on Iraq's taking charge of its own security. Just as disturbing was the reappearance of Shi'ite militias on the streets, flaunting their weapons and often riding along with police and military patrols. A former high-level Bush Administration official told TIME that the violence may scuttle White House hopes of reducing troop levels this year. "It's unrealistic to think 2006 is a year of transition," he says. "What's holding things together and preventing this spark from turning into civil war is the presence of our troops in large numbers." But he doubts the White House is ready to concede publicly that it may not be able to bring substantial numbers of troops home. "I don't think they've come to terms with that yet. They need to see more of what they've seen over the last few days to come to terms with that."


However shocking in scale and ferocity, the eruption of sectarian violence last week was not totally unexpected. For months, hundreds of dead bodies have been turning up in streets, ditches and sewers in and around Baghdad--most of them bearing unmistakable signs of military-style execution. Almost all the dead are Sunni males, many of whom had been arrested by men wearing police uniforms. Sunni politicians have long blamed those deaths on Shi'ite death squads operating within Iraqi police and security forces. U.S. officials now privately concede that the death squads may indeed exist. In response to mounting allegations that Shi'ite militants were carrying out atrocities against Sunnis with the knowledge, if not the support, of the Shi'ite-run Interior Ministry, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad last week threatened to block U.S. funding to Iraq if the new government didn't turn away from sectarianism. "We are not going to invest the resources of the American people to build forces run by people who are sectarian."


But if Khalilzad intended to soothe the anxieties of the Sunnis the U.S. has tried to coax into the government, his comments only further outraged Shi'ites. For their part, Shi'ite politicians point out that thousands in their community have been killed in Sunni terrorist attacks since the fall of Saddam Hussein. "After every tragedy, every time that the terrorists pour [gasoline] over our emotions, we tell our people to be patient, to remain calm," said Jassim al-Mutairi, a political aide to al-Sadr. "But each time, we worry that the next [terrorist] attack will be the one to light the match."


The Samarra explosion was surely designed to set sectarian hostilities aflame. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the bombing of al-Askari, but suspicion fell on al-Qaeda in Iraq. Its leader there, Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi, subscribes to an extremist Sunni view that regards Shi'ism as an apostasy and all shrines as idolatrous abominations. Al-Zarqawi, whose group comprises mainly foreign jihadis, has encouraged his followers to attack Iraqi Shi'ite targets.


They could hardly have picked a more provocative one than al-Askari. It is associated with three venerated Shi'ite imams, including the Mahdi, or Hidden Imam, who is believed to have disappeared in 878 into a tunnel directly under al-Askari. The two imams buried in the shrine were the Mahdi's father and grandfather. Most Shi'ites believe that the Mahdi will one day reappear as a messiah to bring justice to the world. That makes al-Askari one of Shi'ite Islam's holiest sites, exceeded in veneration only by the shrines of Najaf and Karbala. Even Samarra's Sunnis hold al-Askari in high esteem. The expression "to swear by the shrine" is routinely used by both communities. Insurgent groups that have occasionally operated out of Samarra since the fall of Saddam's regime made sure to give al-Askari a wide berth. And when U.S. and Iraqi forces stormed Samarra in October 2004, they took special care not to damage the shrine. Struggling to explain their emotions at the sight of the shattered dome, many Shi'ites cited the U.S. response to the collapsing towers of the World Trade Center. "This is our 9/11," became a common refrain for Shi'ite commentators.


The grief hardened quickly into fury. Within 12 hours, Shi'ites across the country torched mosques, gunned down clerics and kidnapped Sunni families at gunpoint. As the violence escalated, it became less discriminating: among the victims were three journalists working for al-Arabiya television who were abducted and executed while reporting in Samarra. Gunmen then attacked the funeral cortege of one of the journalists, killing one person. On its way back from the cemetery outside Baghdad, the convoy was hit by a bomb, killing two others. On both sides, not all the stories of slaughter and desecration were immediately verifiable, since the violence and curfews--extended through last weekend--restricted the movements of journalists. But the authenticity of the allegations mattered less than their effect on a scared and sullen population. Omar Saad, 73, saw his Sunni mosque in the northern Baghdad district of al-Shaab being attacked twice on the same day by armed Shi'ite militias dressed in black--the uniform of the Mahdi Army. The mosque's guards fought off the attack until they ran out of ammunition. The militias then entered the premises and trashed it, torching everything inside. They returned in the evening with explosives and leveled the building. "Now there isn't a mosque anywhere near us, so we haven't heard the call for prayer for two whole days," said Saad. "It feels like something fundamental is missing from our lives."


The feeling of loss was shared by all Iraqis, who struggled to make sense of what their countrymen had wrought. Although the violence of last week may have been sparked by a single act of provocation, it came in the context of a history of Shi'ite-Sunni enmity. The roots of the sectarian divide lie in a schism that arose shortly after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century. Under Saddam, communal hostilities in Iraq were suppressed, their very existence denied. Beneath the surface, though, relations between the two sects have always been tainted by prejudice and discrimination. Although Shi'ites make up the majority in Iraq, the country was long ruled by a Sunni élite, often under the patronage of a foreign power, like the Ottoman and British empires. Sunnis historically had a monopoly on the best education and jobs, especially in government and the military. As a result, many Sunnis see themselves as Iraq's natural ruling class, and the Shi'ites as poor, superstitious rabble.


The U.S. invasion upended the "natural" order: in the past two elections, the Shi'ites have finally made their numerical superiority translate into political power, leaving many Sunnis bitter and resentful over their diminished status. It didn't help that many of the new Shi'ite ruling parties have ties to Iran, feeding Sunni suspicions about Shi'ite loyalties. In private, some Sunnis refer to Shi'ites as Iranians or Persians--in other words, traitors.


In turn, fanatical Shi'ites regard Sunnis as descendants and followers of the murderers of their most revered heroes. That resentment culminated in the rule of Saddam, who outlawed important Shi'ite observances, had many top Shi'ite clerics murdered and finally, after the first Gulf War, ordered a massive campaign of murder and repression of Shi'ites. Now politically ascendant, some Shi'ites want reckoning for those and other historical wrongs. They regard the assassination of Sunnis by death squads as eye-for-an-eye justice. Even some moderate Shi'ites, who condemn extrajudicial killings, view Sunnis as deluded losers who are supporting terrorist groups in a futile bid to regain their monopoly on power.


Yet the two sides have more in common than they openly admit. Iraq's Arab Shi'ites and Sunnis come from the same ethnic stock (the Kurds, a different ethnic group, tend to be Sunni) and share the same language and diet. They even dress alike, although Shi'ites have a special fondness for black, a color associated with one of their historic heroes. From appearance alone, a Shi'ite would not be able to identify a Sunni on the streets of Baghdad any more than a Catholic would be able to point out a Protestant in the U.S.


Indeed, what makes the rise of sectarian violence so chilling is precisely the difficulty involved in carrying it out. Some Shi'ite mobs last week stopped people in the street and demanded to see their ID cards, looking for Sunni names. Each sect regards some names as taboo, usually because they are associated with hated figures from history. But that too is imprecise: the vast majority of Muslim names are used by both sects. In the end, as is often the case in sectarian wars, many of the victims of last week's violence were simply fingered by their neighbors.


Can a country in which neighbors are ratting one another out to bloodthirsty mobs drag itself back from the brink of civil war? Iraq has done so before. In the summer of 2004, when al-Sadr's fighters battled U.S. forces in several cities, Iraqi leaders warned of a potential Shi'ite insurgency. In the end, the Mahdi Army was cornered, and Sistani ordered the fighters to go home. But taking a beating from an overwhelmingly superior force of foreigners is one thing. It is hard to see either Shi'ites or Sunnis backing down from a more evenly balanced sectarian fight, if only because the burden of history makes it impossible for either side to admit defeat.


Given the failure to head off last week's conflagration, U.S. hopes of averting an ignominious defeat in Iraq now hinge on whether it can bring the fighting to an end. The biggest fear is that the breakdown of order could draw neighboring countries into the conflict, with Iran intervening on behalf of the Shi'ites and Arab states supporting the Sunnis. Some U.S. military officers say privately that the turmoil has vindicated their insistence that it's premature to turn over security duties to the Iraqis. "This week's events support our caution and unwillingness to pull out troops too quickly," says a senior military officer. "The civilian leadership wants us to move faster, faster, but it's a little bit of 'We told you so.'"


But the U.S. has few good options left. Public patience with the mission in Iraq is likely to keep eroding as long as it appears that U.S. troops are standing in the middle of a religious shooting war. Civil wars are notoriously difficult to mediate without taking one side, and it doesn't help that in Iraq, battling Shi'ites and Sunnis seem to agree on only one thing: that the U.S. is ultimately to blame for the mess. Khalilzad is pleading with Shi'ites and Sunnis to return to talks on forming a new government. Still, it could be weeks, even months, before a workable new government is in place in Baghdad. That would be bad news for Washington, which desperately wants a quick political solution in Iraq. But most Iraqis would gladly trade last week's carnage for a few more months of political uncertainty.






With reporting by Christopher Allbritton, Yousif Basil/Baghdad, Mike Allen, Timothy J. Burger, Sally B. Donnelly/Washington, Elaine Shannon with Rice


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قراءة في احصائيات سابقة

العراقيون اكثرا تفاؤلا للمستقبل

Iraqis 'more upbeat about future'


UK majority 'want Iraq inquiry'

Violence and insecurity are no longer the main concern of most Iraqis, for the first time since the 2003 US-led invasion, an opinion poll suggests.

It says Iraqis are much more hopeful about the future and are increasingly pre-occupied with more conventional worries like the economy and jobs.

But Iraqis remain unhappy about the role foreign powers play in their country, notably Iran, the US and UK.

The survey was carried out for the BBC, ABC News and NHK in February.


A total of 2,228 Iraqis were questioned across all 18 provinces. The margin of error is 2.5%.



The poll is the sixth in a series of surveys stretching back to March 2004 and shows a marked overall improvement in perceptions, the BBC's Adam Mynott says.

Its findings show striking shifts in opinion since the last poll in March 2008.

On security, 85% of all respondents described the current situation as very good or quite good - up 23% on a year ago:

a total of 52% say security has improved over the last year, up 16% on March 2008

only 8% say it is worse - against 26% last year

59% feel safe in their neighbourhoods, up 22% from 37% last time.


See poll results on security and democracy


Supplies improving


The numbers of people who report direct experience of car bombs, suicide attacks, sectarian fighting, kidnappings and assassination in their areas are much lower than last year.


Iraq Poll 2009



Confidence grows as fear ebbs

Those who say their lives are going very well or quite well are now 65% of the total, up 9%. And there is a 14% increase - to 60% - of those who think things will be better in Iraq as a whole in a year from now.


The survey shows that some aspects of everyday life are improving, too.


The availability of power has been a major issue in the past six years, with only about 10% of the population saying in previous polls that they have had reliable supplies. In the latest poll, that figure has leapt to 37%.


And the number of those who say that availability of fuel for cooking or driving is now very good or quite good has also shot up to 67%, a 48% rise on the 19% of March 2008.


Sunni shift

As with previous findings, it is possible to distinguish between the responses of Shias and Sunnis.

All earlier polls have shown stark differences between them, with the Sunni minority profoundly more pessimistic than Shias about the current situation and Iraq's prospects.

These differences persist, but the new poll poll shows a pronounced shift in Sunni opinion towards a more optimistic view:

overall, there is a 9% increase among those who think their lives are going very well or quite well (Shias +8%; Sunnis +16%)

14% more think things will be better for Iraq in a year's time (Shias +13%; Sunnis +29%)

there is a 23% increase in those who say their local security situation is very/quite good (Shias +21%; Sunnis +32%)

21% more support democracy as the preferred model of government for Iraq compared with a strong leader or Islamic state (Shias +21% , Sunnis +27%).


Regional differences

Asked whether foreign countries are playing a positive or negative role in Iraq, Britain, the US and Iran get the most negative scores.

Overall, 59% of those questioned think Britain's role is negative, 22% positive; 64% say the US is negative, 18% positive; 68% view Iran negatively, 12% positively.

Also, 56% think the 2003 invasion was wrong (up 6%), while 42% say it was right (down 7%).

Only 30% think coalition forces are doing a good job, 69% a bad job - more or less the same as a year ago.

In the light of an imminent withdrawal of British troops from southern Iraq, Iraqis were asked about the value of the British presence since 2003.

The responses were mixed on this issue: 36% call it generally positive, 42% generally negative.

The poll also suggests that there are some marked differences in responses between the northern, central and southern regions of Iraq.

Overall, respondents in central Iraq, which includes Baghdad, are significantly less positive about how well things are currently going in their lives.





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