London Daily Telegraph — Iran Warns US As Forces Pound Holy Sites In Iraq
Iran issued a “formal warning” to the Bush administration yesterday as American military forces launched a major attack on the Iraqi holy cities of Najaf and Kufa.
The attack was an apparent attempt to crush the Shia rebellion in the south of Iraq led by the militant cleric Moqtadr al-Sadr.
Aircraft bombed Najaf, site of the Imam Ali shrine, one of the holiest in Shia Islam, killing several civilians. Tanks and armoured cars raided an important mosque in nearby Kufa, killing around 20 militants.
The attack appears to be a last-ditch attempt by the Americans to gain the initiative in the Shia belt about 100 miles south of the capital, Baghdad, even as control is slipping from their grasp.
In recent weeks their troops have barely been able to move out of their heavily fortified bases without coming under attack from militants loyal to Sadr.
The outcome of the campaign to regain control of Najaf, Kufa and Karbala, slightly to the north, may well prove pivotal for US attempts to pacify Iraq and conduct an organised withdrawal.
One of the things that has annoyed me about recent press coverage in Iraq is the constant use of the term “holy site” and “holy city” without scare quotes, as if these places were in fact endowed with some supernatural quality rather than simply being the object of superstitious fascination by adherents to a particular religious sect. I can’t, off the top of my head, recall such treatment being given to things held sacred by, say, Christian denominations.