February 5, 2007

Massacre in Najaf?

Under the subtitle "Al-Zaman reports..." Juan Cole comments on Sunni calls for an investigaion into the recent assault near Najaf in which hundreds were reported killed, and a US helicopter was shot down. Juan Cole continues:

The Sunnis are archly comparing what they are calling a massacre to the killings at Dujjail in 1982. It was for killing 150 or so persons there, in response to their attempt to assassinate him, that Saddam Hussein was hanged. The Sunnis are implying that now that the Shiites are in power, it is they who are massacring people when they prove troublesome, and that maybe some more hangings are in order.
He points out an inconsistency that the supposed pilgrims were going to Najaf to commemorate the martyrdom of al-Husayn, the Prophet's grandson.

I still can't understand why you would go to Najaf for that commemoration. Husayn's tomb is in nearby Karbala, and 2 million other people went there, including people from Najaf.
Maybe the people involved in the military confrontation were on their way to Karbala? Then, Cole adds a comment that I interpret to suggest he is suspicious of the claims of a massacre:

Maybe this kind of suspicious detail is the reason for which only Sunnis are taking the allegations seriously.
Maybe. But other reports aren't as cautious as Cole's.

Here's another take on the question of a "Najaf Massacre" from DemocracyNow! which involves an interview with Patrick Cockburn, of the London Independent, and Dr. Amer Majeed, an Iraqi doctor at Al Sadr hospital in Najaf.

Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily, reporting for Inter Press Service (IPS), add their voices on this subject. What might be confusing to some is that it was Shia who were killed and Sunni who are calling for the investigation, according to Cole. Jamail and al-Fadily explain that the Hawatimah and Khaz'al tribes, members of which were supposedly killed, do not follow Iranian-born Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Rather, according to the IPS report, "They believe the religious leadership should be kept in the hands of Arab clerics." Ali al-Fadhily, who visited the scene for IPS, reports:

Ahmed, a member of the al-Khazali tribe said "our two tribes have a strong belief that Iranians are provoking sectarian war in Iraq which is against the belief of all Muslims, and so we announced an alliance with Sunni brothers against any sectarian violence in the country. That did not make our Iranian dominated government happy."
It looks like the southern Iraqis called in US and British "air support," and the coalition forces did much of the dirty work. It raises the question, once again, who benefits from the sectarian violence? Iraqi blogger Riverbend has pondered a similar question.

Regardless of this recent event in Najef, there is plenty of reason compare acts of the US, and Israel for that matter, with the the case of Dujail.

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