If you haven’t read Juan Cole’s blog today, go and do so. Scary, scary stuff.
Tuesday was an apocalyptic day in Iraq. I am not normally exactly sanguine about the situation there. But the atmospherics are very, very bad, in a way that most Western observers will miss.
The day started out with a protest by ten thousand people in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, against the Danish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. These days, Shiites are weeping, mourning and flagellating in commemoration of the martyrdom of the Prophet’s grandson, Imam Husayn. So it is an emotional time in the ritual calendar. when feelings can easily be whipped up about issues like insults to the Prophet. An anti-Danish demonstration in Karbala is a surrogate for anti-American and anti-occupation sentiment. The US won’t be able to stay in Iraq withiut increasing trouble of this sort.
Then guerrillas set off a huge bomb in a Shiite corner of the mostly Sunni Arab Dura quarter of Baghdad, killing 22 and wounding 28. Another 9 were killed in other violence around Iraq. These attacks are manifestations of an unconventional civil war.
Then real disaster struck. The guerrillas blew up the domed Askariyah shrine in Samarra. The shrine, sacred to Shiiites, honors 3 Imams or holy descendants of the Prophet. They are Ali al-Hadi, Hasan al-Askari, and his disappeared son Muhammad al-Mahdi. Thousands of Shiiites demonstrated in Samarra and in East Baghdad, against this desecration.
Froomkin asks today how the Administration moves forward when the trust is gone. He asks this in the context of the port deal — but it really transcends that issue to go to the heart of domestic and foreign policy for this President. With this level of civil unrest rising in Iraq, how can we possibly be any sort of honest broker when the trust is gone?
UPDATE: More from Forbes on the rising potential for civil war in Iraq.