Saturday, June 16, 2007

Opinion (Sami Moubayed): A golden moment for al-Sadr

Above: The al-Askari shrine before and after its bombing in 2006, which brought down its famed 'golden dome'. Left: Protesters carry a poster of al-Sadr following this week's bombing, which brought down the two remaining minarets.

DAMASCUS - A famous phrase was imprinted in our minds from the Hollywood classic of the 1940s, Casablanca. At the end of the film, an American (played by Humphrey Bogart) shoots a Nazi officer in Vichy-controlled Casablanca. The French police chief, Claude Rains, refuses to arrest Bogart and instead calls on his policemen to "round up the usual suspects". Bogart and Rains then walk off together, saying that this is the start of a "beautiful friendship".

That phrase kept coming to mind on Wednesday as the bombing of the Shi'ite shrines took place in Samarra (125 kilometers north of Baghdad), raising alarms in a country already divided by sectarian violence. Who are the "usual suspects" in Iraq? There is no single answer to that question. Simply, everybody in Iraq is a suspect. That was clear from the flurry of accusations that erupted shortly after the attack. The Americans blamed al-Qaeda. Shi'ite cleric Sadr al-Muqtada blamed the Americans. The Iranians blamed the Ba'athists loyal to the late president Saddam Hussein. The Ba'athists blamed Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

The truth is that it is not really important anymore to know who blew up the minarets of al-Askari Mosque (Golden Dome). What matters is that this single terrorist act exposed just how chaotic and infiltrated Iraq has become, how terrible incapable Maliki really is, how useless his security plan has become, and how confused the Americans are on what to do with the helpless premier.

It also proved, however, that one man emerged wiser from this entire ordeal: cleric turned politician and former rebel leader Muqtada.

Read the rest at Asia Times