Saturday, June 14, 2014

Battle of Samarra: Crucial Milestone in Shia-Sunni Conflict

As heavy fighting razes in and around Iraqi historical city of Samarra, we are gauging at an event which may prove to be a turning point in historical Shia-Sunni conflict and can carry its intensity to limits unknown to the modern world. The city houses one of the most important Shia pilgrimage site with which ISIL wants to do something of the kind Taliban did with Bamiyan Buddha.

Some reports from Arab TV channels say that ISIL fighters are already inside Samarra and controlling major portion of city. Samara's theological importance to Shias is huge. Samarra's Al-Askari mosque houses shrines of 10th and 11th Imams. It is also the place where last Shia Imam went into occultation and as per theological beliefs will return at appointed time (the belief is similar to that of Seventh Day Adventists about Jesus Christ). Al-Qaeda has targeted the mosque two times in 2006 and 2007 which had led to major ethnic clashes across Iraq. But falling of Samarra to Sunni Islamists is another thing. Anticipating the ISIL intentions in advance,three days back, Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr had called upon Shia fighters to rush to Samarra and Karbala to save the shrines. Now, highest ranking Shia cleric in Iraq has also called upon his followers to take up arms against Sunni Islmists and save the nation.

Western Media continues to report that thousands of Shia voulnteer fighters are moving towards Samarra and Iranain Quds forces are also inside Iran. We may see Muqtatad al-Sadr's Mahdi Army soming to life again in next few days which had given Americans very hard time in past. In another important development, Saudi Daily Al Watan reported that Iran has asked Hezbollah to sent its fighters to Syria so that Iraqi Shia fighters may return home to take on Sunni Islamists.

Iran's President Rouhani has spent lot of political capital on peace process with Americans. He cannot afford to be soft on Iraqi situation and Tehran would got to any limit to save the situation in Iraq. Attacks on Shias have been increasing on Iran's eastern border with Pakistan. With Taliban all set to get stronger in Afghanistan after US withdrawal, Tehran seems to be in no mood to get hemmed in between Sunni extremists from both sides. Moreover, Iran also has to sustain the Assad regime in Syria and importance of that mission has increased in light of current situation in Iraq.

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