February 23, 2006

Zal Watch: All Hail Breaking Loose


Well, there’s one thing the Sunnis and Shiites agreed on today. 

Both Abdul-Salam al-Kubaisi, a spokesman for the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars, and Shiite leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim said U.S. Ambassador Khalilzad bore some responsibility for the mosque bombing in Samarra on Wednesday. 

When you look at factors that elevated the tension this week, you can start with Don Zal‘s Monday press conference.  Khalilizad issued a warning to the Iraqis that the U.S. would not continue to support institutions run by groups with sectarian aims.  I believe he was primarily referring to groups with connections to armed militias.  Still, the distinction seems to have been lost.  On Tuesday, the Prime Minister blasted back.  According to the NYT:

Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the prime minister and a conservative Shiite, scoffed at Mr. Khalilzad’s remarks. “When we are asked, ‘Do you want the government to be sectarian?’ our answer is ‘no,’ ” Mr. Jaafari said. “Not because the U.S. ambassador says this and warns us, but because this is our policy.”  He added, “We think that sovereignty means no one interferes in our affairs.”

I’ve been holding onto this image ever since it appeared two weeks ago.  The thought that keeps going through my mind is: how odd that Iraqi soldiers would be saluting the American ambassador.

(image: Wathiq Khuzaie/Reuters. February 2, 2006.  Baghdad.  Via YahooNews.)

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Michael Shaw
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