Wednesday, June 13, 2007

U.S. Losing What Little Control It Had Over Iraqi Political Development

Events on the ground are superseding the U.S. attempts to make political headway in Iraq.

Suspected al-Qaida insurgents on Wednesday destroyed the two minarets of the Askariya Shiite shrine in Samarra, authorities reported, in a repeat of a 2006 bombing that shattered its famous Golden Dome and unleashed a wave of retaliatory sectarian violence that still bloodies Iraq.

Police said the attack at about 9 a.m. involved explosives and brought down the two minarets, which had flanked the dome's ruins. No casualties were reported.

The attack immediately stirred fears of a new explosion of Sunni-Shiite bloodshed. There are close ties between al-Qaida and some Iraqi Sunni militants. State television said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki quickly imposed an indefinite curfew on vehicle traffic and large gatherings in Baghdad as of 3 p.m. Wednesday.

The 30-member bloc loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr suspended its membership in parliament Wednesday, saying they will stay away from the 275-seat house until the government takes "realistic" steps to rebuild the Askariya shrine.

The suspension, announced in a statement by the bloc, is likely to weaken al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated government and delay the adoption of a series of laws needed to build national reconciliation to reduce violence in Iraq.

The U.S. cajoling of the Maliki government towards sectarian unity will probably be falling on deaf ears today:

Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte visited Baghdad on Tuesday to press Iraq's Shiite-led government to complete a series of political reforms intended to reconcile the country's warring sects.

It was the second visit Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki received this week from a high-profile American official; on Sunday, the top military commander for the Middle East, Adm. William J. Fallon, warned that the Iraqi government needed to make tangible political progress by next month to counter opposition to the war in Congress.

Mr. Negroponte, the former ambassador to Iraq, met with Mr. Maliki at his office in the fortified Green Zone and emphasized the need for accommodation and compromise among Iraq's combative factions.

After today's bombing of the shrine, Maliki will hardly be in a position to hold back his Shiite brethren from taking revenge.

And the Bush administration will still refuse to admit that there is a civil war in Iraq.


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