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Saturday, February 25, 2006

There's More Trouble Brewing

Professor Juan Cole has a bleak blog going today and yesterday. The reality on the ground all over the Middle East is tense -- especially in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
Daragahi adds, 'Iraqi police today found at least 29 bodies scattered in Baghdad. Each corpse was handcuffed and had single gunshots to the head, in the style often attributed to Shiite death squads believed attached to the Ministry of Interior. '

Ed Wong of the NYT reports on the role of the militias in the recent violence in Iraq. The Shiites will certainly now insist on keeping them, after the bombing of the Askariyah shrine, but the Sunni Arabs fear them and are threatening to form their own.
I heard a report on NPR (on yesterday's All Things Considered) that militias are not only avoiding the curfews, but are flouting them with public calls for assembly at mosques for later protest marches, and that some local politicians and Iraqi police are aiding the more powerful militias in passing this information around to the populace or looking the other way in terms of conduct. NPR had another report on the subject today, and you can listen to it here.

Similarly, the NYTimes has an in-depth look at the strength of militias in Iraq -- and their increasing levels of power in the country and how that bodes ill for any hope of non-sectarian violence. BBC News has more on this as well.

The WaPo covers the resurgence of sectarian violence in Iraq despite the curfews.
Fierce sectarian violence erupted anew Saturday despite an extraordinary daytime curfew, killing at least 20 people in a car bombing attack on a Shiite holy city, a raid on a Shiite home and a brazen attack on the funeral procession of an Iraqi television journalist in Baghdad....

Shiite and Sunni Arab political leaders have issued public pleas for calm, but each side accused the other of mounting revenge attacks since the bombing of the golden-domed Askariya shrine in Samarra four days ago. More than 150 people have been killed in the fighting since the shrine attack.

Iraqis are waiting on tenterhooks to see whether the recent violence will explode into an open full-scale civil war.
The WaPo is also reporting on conflicting reports on the readiness or lack thereof of Iraqi troops. It is tough to know what is real information and what is spin in this, since every time we see reports the numbers shift back and forth when substantive questions are raised.

The NYTimes has a frightening look at what a civil war in Iraq could look like -- and how close we are to seeing one at this point.

ReutersUK tells us that the Iraqi government is now warning of the possibility of civil war.

I don't know about all of you, but just reading through the bits and pieces we see in the media -- and knowing full well that this is only a small part of what soldiers, diplomats and intel folks are seeing in country -- well, I'm very frightened about the implications of all of this. And it's not just in Iraq that we are seeing this sort of unrest. Take a look at these headlines from Saudi Arabia:

-- Al Qaeda Threatens to Hit More Saudi Sites. (AP via WaPo)

-- Saudi Arabia on High Alert After Attempted Oil Plant Attack. (Bloomberg)

-- Saudi Attack Sends Oil Prices Soaring (The Age Aus.)

And in case you were thinking we'd at least finished the job in Afghanistan -- NATO's head says we'll be there for years, because of continued violence and instability and continued threat from the Taliban.

I wish I had solutions for all of this. But at the moment, I'm just fearful for what all of this means for the days to come.

Wolcott adds this to the discussion, and it's worth some thought. I'm afraid it is too early for me to start having any "silver lining" thoughts about any of this. It's just looking so bleak at the moment, and I'm worried about what the next headline will bring. Here's hoping someone with far more expertise than me sees a way out of this debacle with some level of sanity attached to it.