Turning Point…But Which Way?

The coverage of the bombing of the shrine in Askariyah flags this event as a turning point toward civil war. If there is any U.S. consensus about Iraq among pundits left and right, it’s that Iraq’s divisions are so great, and this event will so inflame them, that it’s only a matter of time until the entire country descends into bloody chaos and finally breaks apart — making a mockery of the huge U.S. effort to render a democratic state out of the ruins of Hussein’s dictatorship. The right says “it was a worthwhile gamble.” The left says, “told you so.”

But this Baghdad blogger, who goes by “24 Steps to Liberty,” reports another kind of turning point might have been reached due to this latest act of terror:

The first reaction to the bombing which “targeted a Shiite” shrine came from the Sunni residents of Samarra. The first demonstration to condemn the attack was held spontaneously by Sunnis in the area where the shrine is. Almost all Sunni leaders went on TV to condemn the attack and show solidarity and unity with the Shiites. Here are some of what the Sunni leaders said on TVs all day yesterday [that’s what I could get]

– Wafiq Samarraie, a Sunni politician from Samarra city and serves as Iraq’s president’s advisor for security issues. [from Arabiya satellite channel]
He said “Iamam Ali al-Hadi is not only for Shiites. The shrine is a symbol of all Iraqis and of Samara city in particular. I demand to dismiss the governor of the province and take all the legal procedures to prevent strife. There will be no strife in Iraq. Iraqis will not fight each other. Samarra city should be protected. The information is very clear. The government should have chased the terrorists in eastern Samarra and they are a few. The government and the governor should have done something this issue. I tell the tribes in Samarra, especially in eastern Samarra, that ‘ it is a shame to leave the strangers among you. You should inform the police force about them.’”

– The Iraqi Islamic Party, IIP, one of the most powerful Sunni political and religious groups, issued a statement saying: “The size of the wicked conspiracy that is targeting the Iraqis, their sacred symbols, and unity, is clear now. After the series of attacking mosques and assassinations of clergies, people of Samarra woke up today on the bombing of Imam Ali Al-Hadi dome. We, the Iraqi Islamic Party/ Samarra branch, denounce this criminal act and demand a wide investigation to reveal the controversies that raise many questions on who was behind this incident.

(snip)

We in the Iraqi Islamic Party/ Samarra branch, urge our people to go in wide, peaceful demonstrations to condemn this crime. We also remind all Iraqis to protect their unity to prevent the chance for suspicious conspiracies, which target all Iraqis with no exception. IIP/ Samarra branch”

– Iraq’s Kurdish president, Jalal Talbani, net with tribal leaders and prominent figures from Salahudin province, where Samarra city is, and talked about the incident. [from Iraqiya satellite channel]
He said “This is a crime against Iraq as a whole, not against Shiites only. It aims to provoke a sectarian strife and a civil war among us. I hope the Sunni clergies would condemn this crime. We all are facing a conspiracy against Iraq and its entity. Therefore we should all unite to prevent the danger of civil war.”

The title of his post: “We Are All Misinformed.”

Read the Iraq-based bloggers, and you learn they are very aware of how their country is being depicted in the U.S. media — and how it enrages them. They complain about the U.S. media even more than we do. No wonder, since so much more is at stake for them than for any of us. Not all of them agree; some are more anti-U.S. than others, but collectively, they give a perspective that the American and British reporters will never give you.
I think it’s still okay to be optimistic about Iraq. Uncool as it might be to say it in some precincts, there’s heartening evidence of progress and reconciliation, if you look for it.

However, the Baghdad dentist Zeyad who writes “Healing Iraq” was a little too close to some frightening street fighting today:

Fierce streetfighting at my doorstep for the last 3 hours. Rumor in the neighbourhood is that men in black are trying to enter the area. Some armed kids defending the local mosque three blocks away are splattering bullets at everything that moves, and someone in the street was shouting for people to prepare for defending themselves.

There’s supposed to be a curfew, but it doesn’t look like it. My net connection is erratic, so I’ll try to update again if possible. The news from other areas in Baghdad are horrible. I don’t think it’s being reported anywhere.

My father and uncle are agitatedly walking back and forth in the hallway, asking me what we should do if the mob or Interior ministry forces try to attack us in our homes? I have no answer for them.

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