Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Crucial Moment In Iraq

Insurgents in Iraq are doing their best to provoke a Sunni-Shiite civil war:

Insurgents posing as police destroyed the golden dome of one of Iraq's holiest Shiite shrines Wednesday, setting off an unprecendented spasm of sectarian violence. Angry crowds thronged the streets, militiamen attacked Sunni mosques, and at least 19 people were killed.

With the gleaming dome of the 1,200-year-old Askariya shrine reduced to rubble, some Shiites lashed out at the United States as partly to blame.

These are the kinds of tactics that can spoil the great potential of the Iraqi democracy. Attacks like this are specifically designed to instigate infighting among otherwise peaceful Iraqi civilians. Deranged insurgents whose sole reason for opposing Iraq's new government is based on their hatred of the United States and of western culture can not be allowed to disrupt the implementation of a free society in Iraq.

This is a crucial time in Iraq where cooperation and collaboration are needed to ensure the freedom of the Iraqi people and the survival of the Iraqi democracy. The world's leaders realize this:

Many leaders called for calm. "We are facing a major conspiracy that is targeting Iraq's unity," said President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd. "We should all stand hand in hand to prevent the danger of a civil war."

President Bush pledged American help to restore the mosque after the bombing north of Baghdad, which dealt a severe blow to U.S. efforts to keep Iraq from falling deeper into sectarian violence.

"The terrorists in Iraq have again proven that they are enemies of all faiths and of all humanity," Bush said. "The world must stand united against them, and steadfast behind the people of Iraq."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair also condemned the bombing and pledged funds toward the shrine's reconstruction.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, called the attack a deliberate attempt to foment sectarian strife and warned it was a "critical moment for Iraq."

Patience and calm must be the attitudes of the moment. It is crucial that Sunnis and Shiites in positions of power pass this message along to their average Iraqi followers, and do all they can to prevent a fragmented civil war.

Acknowledging that these attacks are the work of insurgent zealots is the first step in curbing their influence, and keeping Iraq on track in its path towards a stable, free democracy.