Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. -- Winston Churchill

All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them. -- Galileo Galilei

I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell. -- Harry Truman

Location: Wichita, Kansas

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Some Signs of Hope in Iraq

It is still too early to draw a conclusion on whether sectarian violence will spread to send Iraq in to civil war. There are continuing provocative incidents of violence. There are also heartening indications that the Iraqis may be too smart to fall for insurgent efforts to inflame Sunni and Shiite populations into mutual destruction.

On the negative side, here is a brief run down of the violence from Reuters:

A security man was killed after gunmen opened fire on Saturday at the funeral procession in Baghdad of an Al Arabiya correspondent killed in Iraq.

Gunmen stormed a house near the Iraqi city of Baquba on Saturday and killed 12 members of the same Shi'ite family, Interior Ministry sources said.
Gunmen opened fire on Saturday at the house of the head of Iraq's leading Sunni Muslim religious organization, in an attack he blamed on government forces.

On the positive side from Reuters:

Iraq's most influential Shia political leader, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, said the bombers who attacked the shrine in Samarra "do not represent Sunnis in Iraq". In a televised statement, Mr Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, blamed the militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and loyalists of former leader Saddam Hussein. "We all have to unite in order to eliminate them," he said.

Followers of radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr attended his sermon in the Sadr City district, hearing him urge restraint. "We are not enemies but brothers," he told them. "Anyone who attacks a Muslim is not a Muslim."

Several large joint Sunni-Shia protests were held on Friday in Basra, Kut and Mosul to appeal for calm and national unity.

Envoys of Sadr, whose militiamen were accused by some Sunnis of attacking Sunni mosques in reprisal for the attack in the city of Samarra, met members of the Sunni Muslim Clerics Association and the Iraqi Accordance Front, the biggest Sunni political bloc. Sadr's representatives reiterated denials that his Mehdi Army militia attacked Sunnis and their mosques. "There is no way we will be divided no matter what the conspiracies," said Fadil al-Sharaa, a cleric who represented Sadr in talks at a Sunni mosque in Baghdad.

Iraq's top political leaders held talks on Saturday to discuss the formation of a new government as they tried to ease sectarian tensions that have raised fears of civil war. The talks, which included Shi'ite Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Kurdish President Jalal Talabani, and leading Sunni and secular politicians, followed a meeting of influential religious leaders who vowed to end sectarian violence. Arab Sunni politicians who had suspended their participation in negotiations on the formation of a new government attended the meeting, as did U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad.

That both the Sunni and Shiite leadership, including the inflammatory Sadr, are out front calling for peace is important. Just as important is that all parties are attributing the acts of provocation to al-Zarqawi, recognizing the Al-Qaeda ploys for what they are. The sudden attack on the revered mosque may turn out to have been too transparently over the line.

Domestic sectarian feelings just would not account for such a desecration. Despite all their other bombings and killings, things were continuing to move toward an government in Iraq succeeding. It may be that al-Zarqawi miscalculated in his gamble of blowing up a holy shrine. This was an act of desperation by the insurgents.

Peace may not prevail, but at least there is the possibility that in the end Sunni and Shiite factions may pull together against a foreign insurgency attempting to harm their country.

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