Juan Cole reviews reports of the fighting in Najaf, creeping ever closer to the shrine of Imam Ali (it's already well into the adjoining cemetery), and worries that
- Al-Zurufi and PM Iyad Allawi appear to have given the US Marines permission to fight in the shrine of Imam Ali if it became necessary in order to flush out the Mahdi Army militiamen holed up there. The outrage among Iraqi Shiites and Shiites throughout the world should the Marines pursue such a plan would likely cost the US the war, even if it won the battle.
("Al-Zurufi" is the appointed governor in Najaf, Ali Al-Zurufi, the man chosen because he's got his finger on the pulse of this trickiest of situations in Iraq, with up-to-date personal knowledge of the game and the players. Where are such paragons to be found? Before this gig, Mr. Al-Zurufi was apparently unemployed in Dearborn, Michigan).
Of course, if there is damage to the shrines, no matter who pulled the trigger, we will be blamed. And of course, our enemies are very well aware of that...
More: From Baghdad, Riverbend comments.