The Guardian 1 March, 2006

Iraq leaders call for calm and unity

The Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) has strongly condemned the attack on the shrine in the city of Samara last week that was followed by massive demonstrations in the streets of a number of Iraqi cities.

"The aim is to ignite the flames of sectarian sedition among the Iraqi people and destroy their national unity that we all strive to preserve", said the ICP statement. "The loss of this unity would mean the loss of Iraq, as a land, a people and a civilisation."

"While condemning this criminal act", said the statement, "we call upon all our people of all religious sects and nationalities, to remain resilient and show a high sense of responsibility and shun vengeful tendencies. The criminals must not be allowed to achieve their aim of destroying Iraq and shedding more blood Every effort must be made to preserve our national unity so that we can eliminate terrorism and terrorists and continue our march to build a democratic and prosperous Iraq".

The statement did not lay specific blame for the bombing of the shrine but said that we must "stand firmly together against the terrorists and murderers and those behind them".

Both Shia and Sunni Islamic leaders have been equally outspoken in condemning the terrorist act which they say "was meant to ignite a civil war".

The Teheran Times (Iran) wrote: "This is a critical juncture for the vigilant Islamic world. Shias certainly know that such moves are not the work of their Sunni brothers but are directed by the hands of the enemies of Islam. Meanwhile, the Sunni brothers should also be aware that the same terrorists who carried out the criminal act in Samara will probably attack their holy sites in the future.

Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran said that "evil and criminal hands created a great catastrophe today". He went on: "This is a political crime and its roots have to be traced in the intelligence organisations of the occupiers of Iraq and the Zionists I call on mourners in Iran, Iraq and other parts of the world to seriously avoid any measure that would lead to animosity and aggression among Muslim brothers."

At the same time, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani (Iraq) appealed for calm and opposed vengeance.

The Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, a Sunni Kurd, accused the attackers of trying to sabotage attempts to form a coalition government. "We together against...the danger of civil war", he said. He called a meeting of Iraqi leaders to avert a "devastating civil war".

After days of sectarian demonstrations the voices of reason seem to be prevailing with joint meetings of both Sunni and Shia Imams and their supporters taking place, the first steps towards stopping the spiral into civil war.

Although most political leaders have condemned the destruction of the Samara shrine newspaper headlines continue to inflame the situation. A Sydney Morning Herald headline last Friday declared: "Sunni bombers give a lesson in how to start a war", even though none of the Iraqi leaders, and not even President Bush ventured to lay the blame for the destruction of the mosque.

The Australian was just as strident: "Iraq on brink of religious war" it screamed. A more responsible headline would have said: "Iraq leaders call for calm and unity".

PM Howard was also able from afar to declare that the bombing was the work of Al Qaida without a skerrick of evidence.

Both Prime Minister Howard and Treasurer Peter Costello made inflammatory anti-Islamic statements which have the effect of dividing the Australian community and stirring up racist sentiments. Costello used the occasion to attack multiculturalism and even went so far as to threaten the deportation of any Australian citizen who does not subscribe to Australian "values".

It is political leaders such as these who are promoting a Christian vs Muslim conflict as the means to enforce the control of the imperialist powers on all oil-rich Middle-Eastern countries.

The launching of a civil and religious war in Iraq which, once launched, could easily spread to other countries, would serve only their interests at a time when the leaders of the "coalition of the willing" have no policies to extricate themselves from the quagmire into which they have pushed their countries and armed forces.

It is the time honoured tactic of imperialist governments to create divisions along religious or ethnic lines and, thereby, maintain their own domination.

As with every crime the first question to ask is: "Who benefits?" None of the people of Iraq or the several religious groupings have anything to gain from a civil war. The only ones to gain from such a conflict are obvious.

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