IRAQ: Sectarian Clashes Flare Up Again
By Ahmed Ali and Dahr Jamail*
BAQUBA, Aug 26 (IPS) - A military operation said to target al-Qaeda has ended up targeting Sunni Muslims instead, creating new sectarian tensions.
A U.S.-backed security operation launched last month has only targeted cities with majority Sunni populations such as Buhriz, Tahreer, Qatoon, Mafraq, and Hay in Diyala province, north of Baghdad. The operation has drawn more than 50,000 Iraqi soldiers.
The deputy governor of Diyala, Awf Rahoomi, has demanded in a public speech in Baquba that "the new security plan should also include Shia cities like Hwaider, Khirnabat and Abara." These Shia districts are strongholds of the Mehdi militia of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and of the Badr organisation (the militia of the ruling Shia party, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.)
"The forces of the new security plan took all our weapons to the extent that we cannot fight al-Qaeda any more; we are impotent," Mullah Shihab al-Safi, commander of the Popular Committees Fighters (the Sunni leadership of the U.S.-backed Awakening Group militias), said at a meeting of the Commitment Council established by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.