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Thursday, May 13, 2004

Karbala Redux

From Juan Cole, whose perspective on the Iraqi war and expertise on the region make his blog an invaluable and daily must-read (if you want to get some idea of what's actually happening over there):

Negotiations Collapse amid Fierce Fighting in Karbala

US forces, having collapsed half of the historic al-Mukhayyam Mosque and set 7 hotels on fire in its environs in Karbala, are continuing to fight Mahdi Army militiamen in the area around the shrine of Imam Husain. Az-Zaman reports that fighting is also heavy in the eastern, al-Abbasiyah neighborhood of the holy city. 20 to 30 Mahdi Army men were killed, as they holed up in mosques and other buildings, putting civilians at risk. Hundreds of Iraqi and Iranian pilgrims to the tomb of Imam Husain cowered in their rooms as the firefights grew hot.

The US was given the green light by Karbala governor Saad Sufuk, who says he is determined to get the Army of the Mahdi out of Karbala.


...I don't care what Sufouk told them the Americans are most unwise to engage in major combat in Karbala so close to Husain's tomb. They make themselves look like Yazid. If they, or whoever is reading this, don't know who Yazid is, then they have no business being in Iraq, much less in Karbala.

Well, as of 6:00 CST this morning, I didn't know who Yazid was either:

YAZID B. MUAWIYA (c.642-683)

The second Umayyad caliph, he reigned from 680 to 683.

During the reign of his father, Yazid had commanded the army that laid seige to Constantinople. After his accession, Yazid was confronted with two rebellions. The first was that of Husayn, son of Ali and grandson of Muhammad, which occured in Kerbala in 680; the rebellion was short-lived and unsuccessful, but the martyrdom of Husayn and his family created a permanent division between the Shi`ites, the partisans of Ali, and the Sunni majority.

The second, far more serious revolt was led by Ibn al-Zubayr in Medina and Mecca. In 682, the Medinans declared Yazid deposed; a Syrian army was sent and the Medinese were defeated. The army then marched to Mecca, where Ibn al-Zubayr had taken refuge, and laid seige to that city; however, during the siege news arrived that Yazid had died. Doubts about his successor prevented a speedy resolution to the conflict, which persisted for nine more years.

Although often depicted by Muslim historians as a dissolute ruler, Yazid attempted to continue his father's administrative and military policies. He reformed the tax system and improved the irrigation system in the environs of Damascus.

There is so much we do not know and fail to realize. I wonder if the uniting effect the occupation has had on the Sunni and Shia in Iraq will come to be seen as the closing of a circle....

3 comments: to “ Karbala Redux

  • Rick
    May 14, 2004 12:24 PM  

    Nice work, Mitch. I'll be back to visit often.

    However, I've also studied a bit of Islamic history. While the concept of completing the circle, reuniting the sects, is romantic, it's unlikely. That conflict goes back to the beginning and is as much a part of their lives as the sand that blows between Mecca and Medina.

    Trying to change that is akin to trying to make piece between the Arab and the Jew. They're like oil and water. Of course, as long as there's oil over there, we'll likely be trying.

    Keep us informed.

  • Rick
    May 14, 2004 12:27 PM  

    Make that peace. Typing too fast, or thinking too slowly.

  • Mitch
    May 17, 2004 8:56 AM  

    Rick, I'd discussed the US-propelled Sunni-Shia reconciliation in an earlier post. It speaks not only to the only proof of our president's promised abilities as a "uniter not a divider," but also to the grave and historic proportions of the situation he and his neocon advisors have unleashed upon the world. And they did this in spite of the warnings and admonitions of many who knew much more of the reality of the region.

    Vanity and its folly.

    Glad you stopped by.

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