Friday, November 17, 2006

Iraq's Shiite Government "Standing Up, So We Can Stand Down"

Today's gesture towards reconciliation in Iraq:

The Iraqi government on Thursday ordered the arrest of the country's most influential Sunni cleric for allegedly inciting violence and supporting terrorism, a move by the Shiite-led administration that could inflame the sectarian tensions already disfiguring the capital and other parts of Iraq.

Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani declared on state television late Thursday that an arrest warrant had been issued for Harith al-Dhari, leader of the Association of Muslim Scholars, one of the most outspoken defenders of Iraq's minority Sunni Arabs after the U.S.-led invasion. ...

Dhari, a vocal critic of the Shiite-led government and its American backers, travels frequently outside Iraq and could not be reached for comment Thursday. He was believed to be in neighboring Jordan.

"The warrant that was issued is evidence that this government has lost its balance and that it is announcing its bankruptcy," Mohamad Bashar al-Faidy, a spokesman for the Association of Muslim Scholars, which represents Iraq's Sunni clergy, told al-Jazeera television Thursday night. ...

While Sunni Arabs revere Dhari, Shiite political leaders describe him as a hard-liner who is deepening sectarian divisions with his caustic rhetoric and vocal support for the Sunni insurgency.

Alaa Maki, a prominent Sunni political leader, said late Thursday that the arrest warrant suggested that the government was "ignorant politically" or had an agenda. "It's a politically weak decision coming from a weak government," said Maki, a senior official in the Iraqi Islamic Party, a leading Sunni Arab group. "It comes at a time when we need to calm down the situation, when we need to minimize tensions."


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