Iraq: Khalilzad warns of regional destabilization

More evidence that, whatever the hubristic schemes of the neocons three years ago, Washington is terrified of losing control of Iraq, having over-played the divide-and-conquer card. From the Irish Examiner, April 8:

SUICIDE attackers wearing women’s robes blew themselves up yesterday in a Shi’ite mosque in northern Baghdad, killing at least 79 people and wounding 164.

It was the second major attack against Shi’ite targets in as many days.

The violence came as US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad warned Iraq faces the possibility of sectarian civil war if efforts to build a national unity government do not succeed, and that such a conflict could affect the entire Middle East.

Police said the blasts were caused by two attackers wearing black abayas at the Buratha mosque, which is affiliated with the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the main Shi’ite party.

Jalal Eddin al-Sagheer, the preacher at the mosque and one of the country’s leading politicians, said there were three assailants.

One came through the women’s security checkpoint and blew up first, he said. Another raced into the mosque’s courtyard while a third came to his office before detonating themselves, said Mr al-Sagheer, who was not injured.

He accused Sunni politicians and clerics of waging “a campaign of distortions and lies against the Buratha mosque, claiming that it includes Sunni prisoners and mass graves of Sunnis.”

The attack occurred as worshippers were leaving after Friday prayers. Earlier in the day, the Interior Ministry had cautioned people in Baghdad to avoid crowds near mosques and markets due to a car bomb threat.

On Thursday, a car bomb exploded about 300 yards from the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf, the most sacred shrine in Iraq for Shi’ite Muslims. Ten people were killed, police said.

The attack yesterday was likely to increase tensions between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims, already at a high level following the February 22 blast at a Shi’ite shrine in Samarra and reprisal killings. That bombing triggered reprisal attacks against Sunni mosques and clerics.

The US ambassador urged Iraqis to restrain from retaliatory violence and “come together to fight terror”.

Mr Khalilzad told the BBC that political contacts among Sunni, Shi’ite and Kurdish leaders were improving, but that within the general population, “polarisation along sectarian lines” was intensifying – in part due to the role of armed militias.

He said “a sectarian war in Iraq” could draw in neighbouring countries, “affecting the entire region”.

Yeah, no kidding. From PTI, April 6:

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw’s visit to Iraq last week proved counterproductive and only served to strengthen premier Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s resolve to retain his post, a media report said today.

Jaafari aide Haider al-Abadi told the ‘New York Times’ that the visit was ill-timed, counterproductive and “naked intervention.”

Both the US and Britain want Jaafari to step down.

“Pressure from outside is not helping to speed up any solution. All it’s doing is hardening the position of people who are supporting Jaafari. They shouldn’t have come to Baghdad,” the daily quoted al-Abadi as saying.

His comments were echoed by other Iraq leaders across the political spectrum, including Kurds and Sunni Arabs.

“They complicated the thing, and now it’s more difficult to solve,” Mahmoud Osman, an independent member of the Kurdistan Alliance, told the daily. “They shouldn’t have come and they shouldn’t have interfered.”

By winning the most votes in December’s election, the main Shiite political bloc earned the right to choose the country’s next prime minister. Jaafari won the nomination in a close internal ballot but has faced a fierce campaign by a coalition of Sunni Arabs, Kurds and independents – joined more recently by some Shiite leaders.

The Bush administration has not concealed its disapproval of Jaafari and the visit by Rice and Straw was widely viewed here as an attempt to ratchet up the pressure against him to relinquish the nomination, the paper said.

See our last post on Iraq.

  1. Mubarak: civil war imminent
    AP, April 9:

    In a far-reaching interview Saturday with an Arab satellite channel, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned that an Iraqi civil war was imminent…

    Asked by the interviewer if civil war was at Iraq’s door, a troubled-looking Mubarak said it had already passed the threshold.

    “It is not at the door. Civil war has almost started among Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds… I don’t know how Iraq will be brought together. At the moment, Iraq is almost close to destruction.”


    Asked what effect an immediate US troop withdrawal would have, he said: “Now? It would be a disaster… It would become an arena for a brutal civil war and then terrorist operations would flare up not just in Iraq, but in very many places.”