Friday, February 2, 2007

A massacre and a new civil war

By Pepe Escobar

".......In this sorry attempt by the Iraqi government to create a one-size-fits-all conspiracy (Saddamists, al-Qaeda and Iranian fanatics all in cahoots), the main problem is how to fit in current US anti-Iran hysteria. The Mahdawiya have never had anything to do with Iran. This is a nationalist Iraqi group: no wonder they are fiercely opposed to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who is Iranian, born in Sistan-Balochistan province.

According to Abu al-Hasan, a Mahdawiya member close to Sarkhi, quoted by London-based Al-Hayat, the accusations of a planned ayatollah massacre in Najaf are nothing but lies. Hasan said what happened was that Iraqi police tried to arrest Sarkhi, his followers revolted, and that led to the massacre.

Religiously, it's important to note that the Shi'ite clerical aristocracy in Najaf - of which Sistani is the epitome - does not like being challenged, be it by the Sadrists or, worse even, by a splinter group. In parallel, Arab Shi'ites all over southern Iraq prefer to trust an Arab marja (senior spiritual leader) in Najaf, and not a Persian (Sistani)......

Both the Hawatim and Khazaali tribes are fiercely Iraqi Arab nationalist. They are fiercely against both the SCIRI and Da'wa - that is, the governments of Najaf and Baghdad, which for them are puppets of Iran. The Mahdawiya for its part was based in Zarga. They could have easily been set up as the fall guys in the massacre. Nothing could be more convenient than blaming it all on a fanatical, anti-government Shi'ite cult. But a consensus emerging among southern Iraqi tribes is that the massacre was a Baghdad-concocted operation designed to torpedo an increasingly popular, non-sectarian Sunni and Shi'ite Iraqi nationalist alliance (anti-US and anti-Iran).

The modus operandi was clear: Shi'ites supported by Iran (the current Iraqi government) screaming "al-Qaeda!" and used the Pentagon to kill Arab nationalist Shi'ites. In this scenario, everything in Iraq that is not SCIRI or Da'wa is bundled into the "terrorist" bag. This pattern is bound to be replicated before, during and after the US surge.....

What is certain is that the Maliki-Hakim alliance will continue to deploy its US-trained Iraqi army and police in further massacres, advised by the dreaded Scorpion commando squad, which is funded by US dollars, and responding to the head of Iraqi intelligence. In this sense, the Najaf massacre is also a classic case of the "Salvador option" in its Iraqified version: or how the lessons of Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s are useful for the "New Middle East".

Furthermore, the massacre also signals that the Pentagon is now linked to killing Arab Shi'ite tribes. If this is true, it is a big mistake. Sistani does not control them anymore. This means more and more revengeful, nationalist Arab Shi'ites will be amplifying another anti-US/Baghdad guerrilla front.

Take the example of the Beni Tamim, a mixed Sunni and Shi'ite tribe. Their sheikh, 70-year-old Hamid al-Suhail, was killed one month ago in Baghdad by a death squad. Revenge is inevitable. Anti-US and anti-Baghdad guerrillas in southern Iraq have been spreading like wildfire since November.

The model is to be found in modern history: the Shi'ite resistance that from the 1920s to the 1930s fought and kicked out the British. Southern Shi'ite tribal chiefs are going for a united, Sunni and Shi'ite muqawama (resistance). The Bush administration is reaping the kind of Iraqi chaos it craves: yet one more civil war - of (Arab) Shi'ites against ("Persian") Shi'ites. "

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