Monday, July 10, 2006

Chechen Terrorist Killed; Sectarian Violence Growing in Baghdad

The good news this morning is that Shamil Basayev, the Chechen terrorist responsible for the Beslan school massacre and other terrible deeds in Russia, has been killed in an explosion while apparently trying to carry 220 pounds of explosives in Ingushetia. Perhaps an operation coinciding with the G-8 summit was in the works.

Basayev will not be missed. Since Muslim fanatics could be counted upon to make any place the Russians bury him into a shrine, his final resting place should be kept secret, or maybe it would be wisest just to feed his carcass to the polar bears in the Arctic. That would be a fitting end to so inglorious a character.

Meanwhile, the bad news is that the situation in Baghdad has grown worse, with the attempts of the new "government," if that is the name for it, to quell sectarian violence turning up empty.

Yesterday was one of the worst days yet. There are reports that as many as 41 Sunnis were killed when Shiite militias set up roadblocks in the Jihad neighborhood, demanding to see identity papers and then killing those who showed Sunni identities.

This was followed a short time later by a bombing at a Shiite mosque killing 19.

The new government seems crippled. After the kidnapping of a Sunni member of parliament, a woman, last week, the Sunnis announced a boycott of the government, refusing to show up in parliament.

Just a few days ago, a story by one of the L.A. Times correspondents in Baghdad, Solomon Moore, told in detail how the Iraqi police have been infiltrated by sectarian militias, and often the barbarism in the streets, the killing of women and children, is the work of people wearing police uniforms. So much for our efforts to encourage the Iraqis to take care of their own affairs, something that nation has not succeeded in doing since the days of Nebuchanezzar.

Last week, the terrorist leader Osama bin Laden called for more sectarian killings of Shiites, thus associating himself clearly with the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Earlier, there had been speculation bin Laden and his cohorts felt that Zarqawi was too extreme. Fat chance! Bin Laden wants chaos throughout the Middle East, reasoning that would cut off Western oil and finally bring his extremists to power.

It's becoming clear that something has to give in Iraq, and it may be there is only at this point a choice between civil war or a dismemberment of the country, splitting it up into Kurd, Shiite and Sunni mini-countries. This last is not a very palatable solution, because it may only intensify the fighting in the short term, but it may be better than a civil war between Sunnis and Shiites that could spread all over the Middle East.

Already, seven weeks into the new "government," the experiment at a papered-over unity, incorporating the various ethnic groups, is showing itself to be pretty much a failure, and that means new troubles for 125,000 American soldiers fighting in Iraq.

Assuming we are not ready to quit the operation, and it seems highly unlikely that President Bush will, then a new policy is in order. But after more than three years of dead alleys in that country, pursuant to the American invasion, what can this be?

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