Iraq: February 20, 2005


In the last three days, over a hundred people have been killed in religious violence. Over a thousand have been wounded. With most of the Shia population in mosques or the streets for religious observances, there was maximum turnout of the Iraqi security forces, along with coalition troops. Last year, the death toll was twice as large. The attacks employed car bombs, individuals wearing explosive belts, gunmen and teams firing mortar shells at mosques and Shia neighborhoods. These attacks are often portrayed as an attempt to spark a religious war between Sunnis and Shia. This is incorrect, as a religious war between Sunni and Shia has been going on for over a thousand years. During three decades of Saddam Husseins rule, Sunni violence against Shia Iraqis left hundreds of thousands dead. Now the Shia are poised to take control, backed by coalition troops, and a democratic vote. Many Sunni Iraqis will not tolerate this, and they are backed by many Sunni Arabs throughout the Middle East. Americans, and especially Europeans, don't like to view the violence in Iraq as a religious war, but that's what it is. And the religious angle has been pretty blatant for the last few days. Al Qaeda is a religious organization, and has taken the lead in doing Gods Will. But al Qaeda does not represent the majority of Sunni Iraqis, or Sunni Arabs. Most Sunni are willing to get along with the Shia. But the religious fanatics are eager to exploit the religious differences, and will kill to prove it. 


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