Effective in the sense of being powerful, not in the sense that it’ll accomplish anything. Everyone’s already heard the news, I assume, about the minarets of the Samarra shrine having been destroyed this morning in a bombing. Curious thing: the Shiite-dominated Iraqi army’s been protecting that shrine ever since AQ blew the golden lid off of it last year. Look at the Times’s photo; the minarets are immediately adjacent to the building itself, meaning they’re well within the security perimeter. And yet, according to WaPo, “The collapse of the two minarets appeared to have been caused by explosive charges placed at their bases.”
In a sign of the sectarian tensions quickly provoked by the incident, members of the Iraqi security forces, which are dominated by Shiites, yelled threats at Samarra residents, blaming them for the destruction of the mosque and threatening revenge. Some citizens, meanwhile, hurled remarks back, asking how anyone could destroy the minarets when the entire religious complex was being so carefully guarded by Iraqi security forces.
State TV pathetically attributed the explosions to mortar rounds, even though they’re famously inaccurate and the explosions were heard almost simultaneously by bystanders. Iraqslogger lists the conflicting reports, one (and only one) of which claims a firefight between Iraqi police and insurgents shortly before the bombs went off. But CNN has the most sensational account, and it comes right from the top:
Authorities have evidence that Wednesday’s bombing of Al-Askariya Mosque in Samarra was an inside job, and 15 members of the Iraqi security forces have been arrested, a U.S. military official said…
The U.S. military official, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, told CNN’s Karl Penhaul that he believes members of the Iraqi security forces who were guarding the site either assisted or directly took part in helping al Qaeda insurgents place and detonate explosives at the mosque’s minarets…
“He told me there was no evidence at all that this was an attack using mortars or anything of the like and said, in his words, that this was an inside job,” Penhaul, who’s embedded with U.S. troops in Baquba, told CNN’s “American Morning.”
Mixon said an additional Iraqi army brigade will be sent to Samarra. So far, there have been no reports of sectarian clashes in the city.
According to the Times, “the shrine had been under the protection of local — predominantly Sunni — guards. But American military and Iraqi security officials had recently become concerned that the local unit had been infiltrated by Al Qaeda forces in Iraq.” Why the Shiite-run Ministry of Interior would have wanted mostly Sunni guards minding a Shiite shrine that had once notoriously been bombed by Sunnis is completely beyond me. But Sadr has already exploited the incident, withdrawing his MPs from parliament to protest government impotence and blaming the incident on the occupation.
No reports yet of Shiite reprisals. Here’s the PSA; the timing couldn’t be better. If you need some good news to wash this down, there’s a little red on red happening at Roggio’s site. Click the image to watch.