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01 September 2006

IRAQ III, A Tale of Two Tribes

Life in Iraq / Security, BBC News


Omar of ITM (Iraq The Model) had the following conversation with one of his realtives in Iraq. Here you are a part of it.
The Relative: It all started several months ago when a bunch of young men from the local tribes began showing strange extreme religious behavior we're not familiar with in this area. They did not have influence here in the beginning and their apparent action was limited to hate talk against Shia who they refer to as the "enemies" while we coexisted here and lived peacefully with Shia tribes for centuries. It didn't take long before they translated their rhetoric into violent action, they started to carry out ocassional kidnapping and assassinations against Shia men from neighboring tribes and even attacked Shia neighborhoods deep inside Baghdad after they acquired heavy mortars and katyusha rockets. At this point we began to realize the true identity of those young men and we began to believe that they became part of al-Qaeda. The Shia community showed restraint for a while but then their patience ended and the militias started to fire back…at us unfortunately. The worst escalation happened last week when al-Qaeda snatched a relative of a senior Shia party official near his home, the militia of that party retaliated by kidnapping ten men of a Sunni tribe and there were also incidents of forced displacement on both sides…we don't know if a peaceful settlement can be ever reached.
Omar: Did you try to talk to them, intimidate them or do anything to dissuade them from keeping up their dangerous game?
The Relative: We tried, first they told us they were protecting us from Shia death squads and they fooled many of people here with that claim but that's bull shit because now they are the reason death squads are after us.
Omar's Father: That doesn't make any sense! You mean the entire tribe and neighboring ones can't control a dozen of militants?
The Relative: The problem is that these people behead victims and mutilate bodies, they plant bombs and use dirty tricks…the tribe's men are not adapted to dealing with this kind of horrors. When sheikhs met to arrange for reconciliation the terrorists sent messages telling the sheikhs they were "no longer wanted" and that they were "ripe" for beheading. By the way this was the 2nd meeting between Sunni and Shia sheikhs, the first one was held immediately after the Samarra bombing, it was a purely local initiative without mediation from the government or clerics…we had been good neighbors for ages! The sheikhs signed a pact of honor that forbid bloodshed and displacement and that what kept sectarian violence away from the area until those bastards came in.
Actually this was expected. Imagine a country where the Minority - part of them - continue to attack and kill people who belong to the Majority there. It's normal to see a violent response from the other side, who have more power, especially from the uneducated and immature people there. And that's why Sayed Ali Sistani for example continued to warn Shiits from attacking anyone. But it seems that at a certain point it was hard to stop the people from responding. It's said that the killing accelerated most sharply after the bombing on Feb. 22, 2006 of Imam Al Askari shrine, which unleashed a wave of sectarian bloodletting.
Though some observers state that a full blown civil war has not happened, many agree the framework for a potential civil war exists and is seen as a pressing concern. The whole civil war story may have been started with the bloody attacks happened there since August of 2003. You may see here a timeline of the attacks and the violent unrest in Iraq since 2003.
I myself don't see it as a Sunni-Shiiy civil war, for me it's a war between extremist groups from both sides. Not all Iraqi Sunni Arabs belong to Al-Qaeda, or The Association of Muslim Scholars, and not all Shiits there belong to Al Mahdi Army for example. But the problem is, as Omar's relative said, when the silent majorities in both sects cannot have control nor effect on the extremists there

References:
Wikipedia, Iraqi insurgency
Wikipedia, Sectarian violence in Iraq
Wikipedia, Al Askari Mosque bombing
Iraq the Model Blog
BBC News, Life in Iraq
Iraq, Reasonable Answers for our Questions
IRAQ I, Saddam Era
IRAQ II, The Instability

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