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Attack on Shia Shrine Collapses its Golden Dome

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The Askariya Shrine in Samarra, the mausoleum of the 10th and 11th Imams of the Shias was attacked by militants in the early morning on Wednesday, destroying its golden dome in a series of explosions.

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The place has the graves of two Imams, Ali al-Hadi and Hasan al-Askari. It is also the place of ascension of the last and 12th Imam, Mehdi, who is to return with the ascended prophet Jesus to establish justice before the Last Day. Three Imams being direct descendants of the Prophet Mohammad’s family, the hurt and anger felt by the Shias especially may be beyond that felt after the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York.

This is also the month of Muharram, the beginning of the mourning period for the slain 3rd Imam, Hussain, when historical persecution of Shias, and in particular the family of the prophet through many generations, is narrated with celebrations and enactments of grief.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThis attack is very bad news for everyone: the US, the Sunnis in Iraq and elsewhere and more so the Shias worldwide.

Most likely it is the work of Wahabi Sunni elements like the Al-Qaeda who do not favor reverence for shrines and even have unmarked graves. This brand is also historically the worst enemy for Shias and other Sunni sub-sects, viewing them as heretics and non-Muslims.

The attack is very bad news indeed.

Even the mild Ayatollah Sistani has urged protest and seven days of mourning. He has also insisted that there be no violence or reprisals towards Sunnis and their mosques.

President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd and Sunni, has appealed to avoid civil war and called the bombing a shameful crime.

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Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the prime minister, has declared three days of official mourning and contemplating motives behind the attack – to inflame sectarian division.

The US Ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, and the top US commander, Gen George Casey, said the US would contribute to the shrine’s reconstruction.

There already have been some reprisals as crowds have come out on the streets in protest.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usClaesk, an observer, notes that the al-Qaeda in Iraq have for a long time tried to start a war but so far the Shia has been kept calm by Ayatollah Sistani even as thousands have been killed. Of note are events: one when Moqtada al-Sadr was fighting the Americans, and Sistani’s gesture on his return from London was all it took to resolve matters, and second, when Sistani urged Iraqis to go and vote peacefully despite constant attacks to inflame Sunni-Shia relations.

Most Americans remain unaware how far the successes in Iraq, if we can call them that at all, revolved around the influence and poise of Ayatollah Sistani in dealing with political matters. His quietist influence, as opposed to the anti-Shah revolutionary fervor around Ayatollah Khomeini, may go some way in exerting a healthy influence in the successful governance of Iraq – a country with a mix of large minorities.

The current attack is a severe test of the country’s resolve for peace and security. Even Saddam Hussein – a secular and socialist Sunni, who had repressed Shias and Kurds during his rule as President – had not attempted such an attack. In the stark severity of its extreme resolve this event is definitely comparable to the attack on the United States on 9/11 – which probably points to the involvement of al-Qaeda.


BBC article
Guardian article


Gazelle’s blog: Truth Shall Veil Beauty

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About Gazelle

  • This is truly terrible news – the ramifications are huge

  • and things are deteriorating. ina bad way i checked juan cole. the govt is weak as it is . people are more than prepared to defennd themselves. Juan cole quotes that boyz of najaf are descending on samarra…

  • Bliffle

    Aren’t you glad that GWB has projected us right into the middle of these interneccine wars?

  • Bliffle:

    I thought you wanted the west and muslims to fight. here you are abetting internecine strife.

    i mean, get your priorities straight man.

  • ” Another senior member of the Shia establishment, Grand Ayatollah Bashir al-Najafi, told the Guardian he was “distraught by the events”, but criticised those charged with protecting the shrine: “The attack is the work of Takfiris who blemish Islam, and who strike at the heart of Islam. It is an attempt to start civil war in Iraq. We warned the government and the US about protecting holy shrines. They should do their legitimate and national duty. If they are unable to, the people will take their security into their own hands.” ”

    Guardian Story [click]

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Well done, Gazelle. It strtikes me that the question an intelligent person might wish to ask of a friendly Shia cleric or scholar is “what impact might this have on the Mahdi’s arrival?”

    This is messianic politics, and the believer here is the Iranian pesident – who is known to have links to Shia messianic organizations in Iran.

    Understanding this might help in comprehending what may transpire out of Teheran…

  • Ruvy

    Mahdi Jesus Dajjal on Google

    the belief is widespread but some actively prepare for the arrival of the Imam, so there are books like ‘Waiting for the Imam’…and an even smaller number want to prepare things before his arrival…

    how far ahmedinejad is along this path i have no idea, but the coming of ayatollah khomeini (from exile in paris), although a very big religious revolutionary event, was not ‘mistaken’ for the Mahdi. So I see this as the natural limit on ahmedinejad – a sort of introverted working-class politics anti-israel, anti-american – but how far would this be millenial or suicidal in todays realities, i dont know.


  • thanks little miss attila,

    emotions are high,
    but this clearly is not a shia-sunni dispute, as is is obvious from the sunni reaction in omar’s blog.

    its about the american presence in iraq.

    the UN is offering to take over in the interim.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Thank you for the link, Gazelle.

  • Here we go again…it’s all Americas fault…what a bunch of bullshit!

  • Nancy

    The good news is, H5N1 has arrived in Baghdad; there have been 2 fatalities already. What next…?

  • AlphaTux

    Care to expand on that blather, Nancy? On second thoughts, don’t – we have enough hate in the world as it is

  • Nancy

    Sarcasm, AT. Unfortunately it isn’t always obvious in print, which is why I included ‘what next…?’.

  • Nancy

    I meant, ‘what ELSE is going to happen over there, what else do they need to try to cope with?’. What they’ve got already is rather a full plate, they certainly don’t need avian flu pandemics to make it even more fun.

  • #10


    I am not blaming the americans for the blast, unless there is a covert CIA/Al-Qaeda link, which I am not saying there is. That would be a conspiracy theory we dont know anything about.

    There is probably ‘error in judgement’ in how to handle Shia-Sunni relations, if not just a plain security gap.

    What I am saying is that al-Qaeda is there and doing this because the place is under occupation by foreign forces and it wants to create problems of governance. This is very simple political logic. Normal Sunnis don’t go around doing this to Shias, or vice versa.

    Al-Qaeda or foreign fighters, whoever it is, also are not happy that Iraqi Sunnis participated in the elections and are willing to dialogue and enter government in power sharing arrangements. By creating this literally outrageous situation, the Sunnis politicians are backing out of dialogue in/with government. Similarly, Shias are hardening, because the federal govt has failed in providing security. And the federal govt is given security by none other than the US Ambassador and the commander of US forces there – the highest authorities there.

    So yes the US presence is causing problems as a target itself – a political target, a target for failed governance, and a target for failed security, and a ‘magnet’ of military attacks on its soldiers, and now this distraction. This attack is not against the Shias (although it is literally), it is against the Americans – designed to hasten their failure.


  • Yeah…we have people in this country that like to do that stupid shit too…you’re pissed at whatever, so burn down, or blow up your own neighborhood…makes all the sense in the world….

  • Nancy

    I never did understand why people went & flamed their own turf.

  • Then you must have a wonderful life, Nancy…

  • Nancy

    All things considered, and compared with most others in this world, yeah, I probably do. What I was trying to say was, I can understand them going to the mansions of the rich & burning them down, or to the local Neiman-Marcus ditto, but their own homes? Kind of like sawing off their own noses to spite their oppressors’ faces, isn’t it? Of course, the kind of people that would do this to begin with I guess could not be considered the sharpest knives in the drawer, either, perhaps….?

  • Bliffle

    gazelle: “here you are abetting internecine strife. ”

    I was joking. Are all muslims humor-impaired?

  • Bliffle #20:

    [!] loud explosion [!]


  • Dave Nalle

    As a followup to this story, I find it remarkably how well the country has come together after this disaster and am very impressed by the restraint shown by most Shia. The anger at the Wahabis and Salafis and Al Quaeda has become a unifying force which may make civil war unthinkable.