"Shiite Muslim religious leaders ratcheted up their rhetoric against the United States during Friday prayers", the April 1 Los Angeles Times reported, adding that "Shiite religious leaders throughout the country ... condemned a March 26 US-Iraqi raid on a Shiite house of worship in northern Baghdad which left at least 16 dead".
The day following the attack by 25 US Special Forces troops and 50 US-trained Iraqi commandos on the Mustafa mosque, Iraqi security minister Abd al Karim al Enzi told Reuters: "At evening prayers, American soldiers accompanied by Iraqi troops raided the Mustafa mosque and killed 37 people. They were unarmed." Enzi said that all of the victims had been tied up and executed.
The March 30 US News reported that the "US military was trying to send a 'little reality jab' to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr when American and Iraqi troops raided a Shiite community center and shrine over the weekend, says a top US military official". Many of those killed were supporters of Sadr. Others were members of Iraqi PM Ibrahim al Jaafari's Dawa party.
"This grisly crime was committed by the occupier and its mercenaries", prayer leader Mohammad Tabatabai told worshippers in the impoverished Shiite neighbourhood of Sadr City on March 31. "America is taking on the role of pharaoh to the world. America came to kill the believers."
On April 1, Reuters reported that senior members of the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the coalition of Shiite religious parties that holds the largest bloc of seats in Iraq's parliament, "called publicly for the first time on Saturday for Ibrahim al Jaafari to step down as prime minister".
Reuters reported that Jaafari continued to have the support of his own Dawa party and the 30-member parliamentary bloc aligned with Sadr. The pro-US Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and its allies in the UIA were against Jaafari.
Leading members of the Dawa party and the Sadrist bloc have accused Washington, via US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, of orchestrating a drive within the UIA to oust Jaafari because of his refusal to support a crackdown on Sadr's Mahdi Army militia. In 2004, the US occupation forces waged an unsuccessful military campaign to wipe out Sadr's forces and to assassinate him.
The public calls from SCIRI-aligned UIA leaders for Jaafari to step down came as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British foreign secretary Jack Straw made a surprise visit to Baghdad.
The April 3 Washington Post reported that when Rice met with Jaafari on Sunday, "the tension was noticeable as Rice sat with a frozen smile on her face and the pair made awkward conversation about the dreary weather while reporters were in the room.
"By contrast, Rice bubbled over with enthusiasm when she arrived for lunch at the home of vice-president Adil Abdul-Mahdi, who narrowly lost a race with Jaafari to be the Shiite choice for prime minister. 'It's wonderful to see you', she exclaimed twice."
Abdul-Mahdi was favoured by US officials to become their Iraqi PM back in February 2005, but lost out to Jaafari.
In an article posted on the AlterNet website on January 27, 2005, Antonia Juhasz, a former legislative assistant to US Congress members John Conyers and Elijah Cummings, explained why US officials were so keen on Abdul-Mahdi: "On December 22, 2004, Iraqi finance minister Abdul-Mahdi told a handful of reporters and industry insiders at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, that Iraq wants to issue a new oil law that would open Iraq's national oil company to private foreign investment. As Mahdi explained: 'So I think this is very promising to the American investors and to American enterprise, certainly to oil companies.'
"In other words, Mahdi is proposing to privatize Iraq's oil and put it into American corporate hands.
"According to the finance minister, foreigners would gain access both to 'downstream' and 'maybe even upstream' oil investment. This means foreigners can sell Iraqi oil and own it under the ground — the very thing for which many argue the US went to war in the first place."
During her two-day visit to Baghdad, Rice also repeated calls made by Khalilzad before the US attack on the Mustafa mosque for the Iraqi government to crack down on "private militias".
Throughout March, Khalilzad accused the Mahdi Army of being responsible for the large number of Sunnis killed following the bombing of a Shiite mosque in Samarra on February 22, an accusation that Sadr has repeatedly denied.
"Iraq's Sunni Arabs, once viewed as the primary perpetrators of ethnic violence, have increasingly become victims as shadowy groups with possible ties to official security organs have launched a campaign of abduction and murder", the April 1 LA Times reported. It noted that it has now been widely reported that these death squads are made up of members of the SCIRI's Badr Organisation militia recruited into Iraqi army and police commando units, which are trained and "advised" by US Special Forces officers.
From Green Left Weekly, April 12, 2006.
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