Religious pilgrims to Babylon attacked. Is Iraqi religious civil war coming?
The New York Times last week reported on a memo attributed to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The Jordanian, allegedly a high-level Al Qaeda operative, said he was having trouble launching a religious civil war in Iraq.
"It has been extremely difficult to lodge and keep safe a number of brothers, and also train new recruits," he complained. "There is no doubt that our field of movement is shrinking and the grip around the throat of the mujahidin has begun to tighten. With the spread of the army and police, our future is becoming frightening."
Still, Zarqawi said, plans continued for attacks against four groups: Americans, Kurds, Iraqi law enforcement officers, and the Shi'a. The last of these, he said, are "the key to change":
Targeting and striking their religious, political, and military symbols, will make them show their rage against the Sunnis and bear their inner vengeance. If we succeed in dragging them into a sectarian war, this will awaken the sleepy Sunnis who are fearful of destruction and death at the hands of these Sabeans [i.e., the Shi'a]. … The solution, and God only knows, is that we need to bring the Shi'a into the battle because it is the only way to prolong the duration of the fight between the infidels and us.
The Zarqawi memo is undated, and it appears now—at least to some—that his outlook was too "bleak."
"The fault lines are emerging for a possible civil war," the Associated Press reports today. The news service outlines the warning signs:
Sunni politicians speak angrily of U.S. bias toward their Shiite rivals. Kurds are more outspoken in demanding self rule — if not independence. And someone — perhaps al-Qaida, perhaps Saddam Hussein loyalists — killed more than 100 people in recent suicide bombings. Rivalry and resentment among Iraq's ethnic and religious groups have become much more pronounced since Saddam's ouster in April. And those tensions are rising as various groups jockey for position with the approaching June 30 deadline for Iraqis to retake power.
But that doesn't mean that all of the insurgents' attention is focused on splits between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. Today, the U.S. military announced that a taxi "taking Americans from a religious group from the site of the ancient city of Babylon back to Baghdad" came under fire over the weekend, according to the Associated Press. Three Americans were wounded, and Reuters reports that one was killed. "The statement did not identify the religious group with which the Americans were affiliated, but a number of Christian humanitarian groups [are] working in Iraq," the AP notes.
Civil war or not, Iraq is probably not yet ready for religious tourism.
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