Shiites, Sunnis Battle For Iraq

iraq coffins CBS

By CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier.



Imagine if masked men burst out of a car, grabbed your son from outside your home, then spirited him away past two nearby U.S. military checkpoints. The next day, you find your son at the Baghdad city morgue.

That happened to one grieving father we found today, collecting his son's body. He said the young man had no enemies. Or none he knew of, until today.

U.S. diplomats say this kind of thing has been happening for months, but now Sunni politicians claim it's getting worse, like the 15 bodies found dumped outside Baghdad last Friday.

Sunnis claim that ever since the Shiites won so many votes last December, they've been lording it over the Sunnis, and sending death squads to their neighborhoods to drive them out — or wipe them out. Sunnis say that may make it impossible for them to join the new Iraqi government, which hasn't even been formed yet.

Shiite officials say the claims are exaggerated, even nonsense. Iraq's national security adviser Mowaffak Rubaie told CBS News that he analyzed killings in Baghdad, and found 55 percent of the victims were actually Shiites, and 45 percent Sunni. Rubaie says every time he's tried to investigate Sunni claims, the numbers don't add up. He looked into one claim, that 400 men had been killed in one neighborhood, but says his investigators found only 27 men were killed – half Sunni, half Shiite.

But U.S. officials believe much of the killing is directed at Sunnis, and is carried out by members of Iraqi government. One western diplomat told CBS News of satellite evidence, tracking death squads from the Sunni neighborhoods where victims are grabbed, to the spots where the bodies are dumped, and back to Iraqi ministry parking lots.

Iraqi officials say, show them the evidence, and they'll act.

"I'm not denying it happens," Rubaie told CBS News. "There are so many sorts of complaints. And there's no smoke without fire." But, he says, he needs more proof to prosecute.

Iraq's Sunni politicians say they've handed over plenty, but so far, all that evidence has failed to yield a single arrest.

"We give you the pictures, we give you all these documents and you still say: 'why don't you give us more?'" says Hassan al-Bazaz, a Sunni politician. "I think sometimes you reach the point when we say: 'no, we don't have any other, any more to give.'"

Bazaz says he and his colleagues are fast reaching the point where it will be impossible to work with the Shiites in any future administration. Their people simply won't let them. Some of their constituency is already taking matters into their own hands. Sunni Arabs in Al Anbar have reportedly formed a new militia, the "Anbar Revolutionaries," with the sole aim of taking on Shiite and Kurdish forces.

Many Sunnis in Al Anbar had been focusing much of their energy on helping track down Al Qaeda of Iraq. So this development is lose-lose for the coalition: they could lose important allies in the fight against al Qaeda; they could face derailment of attempts to form an inclusive Iraqi government; and ultimately, they could face open warfare between two groups of people who have years of scores to settle, and now, no one who can keep them from doing it.
  • Jessica Goldman

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