Radical media, politics and culture.

Juan Cole, "Apocalypse II in Samarra"

"Apocalypse II in Samarra:

US Kills 6 at National Dialogue Front Office"

Juan Cole

CBS/AP report that an angry crowd of Sunni Arab demonstrators in the
northern city of Samarra, protesting Saddam's execution, broke "broke
the locks off the badly damaged Shiite Golden Dome mosque and marched
through carrying a mock coffin and photo of the executed former leader."

Folks, this is very bad news. The Askariyah Shrine (it isn't just a
mosque) is associated with the Hidden Twelfth Imam, who is expected
by Shiites to appear at the end of time to restore the world to
justice. (For them, the Imam Mahdi is sort of like the second coming
of Christ for Christians). The Muqtada al-Sadr movement is
millenarian and believes he will reveal himself at any moment.

The centrality of the cult of the Twelfth Imam, a direct descendant
of the Prophet Muhammad who is said to have vanished in 873 AD, helps
explain why the bombing of the Golden Dome on February 21 of 2006 set
off a frenzy of Shiite, Sadrist attacks on Sunni Arabs. Last
February, stuck in a Phoenix hotel because of a missed flight and
without an internet connection for my laptop, I blogged from my Treo
that it was an apocalyptic day. Sadly, it was, kicking off a frenzy
of sectarian violence that has grown each subsequent month.For Sunni Arabs to parade a symbolic coffin of Saddam through the
ruins of the Askariya shrine won't be exactly good for social peace
in Iraq. Can't that site be properly guarded or something?

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that hundreds of demonstrators marched in
Dur, near Tikrit on Monday, protesting the execution of Saddam
Hussein. Young men carried machine guns and fired them in the air,
chanting "Muqtada, you coward," and "Hakim! Yellow-belly! Agent of
the Americans!" They unveiled an enormous mosaic of Saddam Hussein
inscribed, "The Martry-Hero."

There was also a demonstration in the northern Baghdad district of
Adhamiya, at which protesters shouted condemnations of Muqtada al-
Sadr, according to al-Zaman. Some of those present at Saddam's
execution shouted "Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada!" Saddam mocked them,
asking if this was their sign of manliness. (Personally, I believe
this is Saddam's reference to rumors in Iraq that Muqtada's wife left
him, saying that he is actually gay. He is saying that chanting
Muqtada's name is a sign that they are also not real men.)

KarbalaNews.net gives in Arabic the sermon preached on Saddam's
execution by Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Mudarrisi, an old-time Shiite
activist in Karbala. He called the dictator "the graven idol of Iraq"
and said that the punishment was just given Saddam's long years of

Sudarsan Raghavan of WaPo reports that many Iraqi Shiites fear that
the US is turning on them. Money graf:
' "Who are the secularists?" demanded [Ali] Adeeb, the Shiite
lawmaker, his eyes tightening. "The secularists are the Baath
Party. . . It means the base of their thinking is not stable," he
continued, referring to the Americans. "They are going to lose the
Shiites. And they won't win the Sunnis back, because they attacked
them at the beginning. So now both sides will lose confidence in the
United States." '

AP adds, "Police reported finding the bodies of 40 handcuffed,
blindfolded and bullet-riddled bodies in Baghdad on the first day of
the New Year."

Reuters reports on political violence on Monday, and gives the most
plausible brief account I have seen of the fighting between US troops
and members of the National Dialogue Front. Reuters says that the US
soldiers were raiding a Salafi ("al-Qaeda") safe house when they came
under fire from the nearby offices of Salih Mutlak's National
Dialogue Front party. They say they counter-attacked and killed 6
paramilitary fighters. Mutlak insists that they killed 2 security
guards, wounded 2 more, and killed members of a civilian family in an
adjacent building. Some press reports got mixed up and suggested that
Mutlak was harboring al-Qaeda. He is a representative of secular
Sunni nationalism, and much closer to the Baath than to the
fundamentalist Salafis. Indeed, if his guards fired on US troops, it
was likely because they were driven by Baathist sympathies to want
revenge for Saddam's execution. The LA Times has a longer treatment.

The Iraqi government closed the al-Sharqiya television station,
headed by Saad al-Bazzaz, accusing it of instigating sectarian hatred
during its coverage of the execution. It was also accused of carrying
a report of the killing of three female college students that turned
out to be false (I summarized that report at the time; I don't know
if it is false or not and a government practicing censorship is an
untrustworthy arbiter of such things.)

The first judge in the trial of Saddam, Rizgar Amin, a Kurd with no
brief for the dead tyrant, complained Monday that his execution was
illegal in Iraqi law:

' The implementation of Saddam's execution during Eid al-adha is
illegal according to chapter 9 of the tribunal law. Article 27 states
that nobody, even the president (Jalal Talabani), may change rulings
by the tribunal and the implementation of the sentence should not
happen until 30 days after publication that the appeals court has
upheld the tribunal verdict. The hanging during the Eid al-Adha
period (also) contradicts Iraqi and Islamic custom. "Article 290 of
the criminal code of 1971 (which was largely used in the Saddam
trial) states that no verdict should implemented during the official
holidays or religious festivals," he said.'

David E. Sanger, Michael R. Gordon, and John F. Burns of the NYT
report on how Bush administration strategy went bad in 2006.

Al-Hayat says that the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, once allied with
Iran, has demanded that the government of King Abdullah II close the
Iranian embassy in Amman. The MB, which is an opposition party in
Jordan, blamed Iran and the US for the execution of Saddam Hussein.
Al-Hayat calls this demand "an index of the depth of the political
changes in the Arab world."

Also in Amman, the MB joined several political parties and
professional unions at a protest rally where Raghad, Saddam Hussein's
daughter, made a brief appearance. She thanked those assembled for
remembering her father, "the martyr." The Minister of Political
Development attended this rally, but when al-Hayat asked about his
presence, the government hastily replied that it did not express the
position of the Jordanian government. His presence will be a sore
point in Jordan's relations with the Maliki government, though. Many
speakers at the rally vehemently condemned Iran, blaming "the Safavid
magi" for the "assassination of Saddam." They shouted slogans
condemning Iran, Israel and the United States. One speaker denounced
Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni Arab fundamentalist,
as a "cowardly agent," which caused a disturbance that had to be
calmed before the rally could continue.

(There are an estimated 800,000 Iraqis in Jordan, a country of 5.4
million; they are mainly Sunni Arabs and some are wealthy ex-
Baathists who have brought enormous amounts of money into the
Jordanian economy. Many others, though are destitute refugees.)

A mourning ceremony for Saddam was held by Iraqi expatriates in
Damascus, al-Hayat reports, attended by thousands of mourners and by
some of Saddam's relatives.

In Egypt, the Journalists' Guild began a mourning session for the
late dictator.