Morning Report: February 22, 2006

Bomb blast wrecks Samarra shrine. AP reports on the bomb attack at Samarra: 'A large explosion Wednesday heavily damaged the golden dome of one of Iraq's most famous Shiite shrines, sending protesters into the streets and triggering reprisal attacks against Sunni mosques. It was the third major attack against Shiite targets in as many days. ... The Interior Ministry said four men, one wearing military uniform and three in black, entered the mosque early Wednesday and detonated two bombs, one of which collapsed the dome and damaged part of the northern wall of the shrine. A government statement said "several suspects" had been detained and some of them "might have had been involved in carrying out the crime."' ITM reports: 'The quality of the target and the timing of the attack were chosen in a way that can possibly bring very serious consequences over the country. The situation in Baghdad is so tense now, it wasn't like this in the early hours of the morning as it took a few hours for the news to spread but on my way back from clinic I saw pickup vehicles with loudspeakers roaming the streets calling on people to shut their stores in the name of the Hawza and join the protests after the noon prayer to condemn the attack on the holy shrine. Ayatollah Sistani reacted quickly to the escalating anger by issuing a fatwa that forbids his followers from "Taking any action against Sunni sites" obviously to discourage his followers from carrying out retaliatory attacks on Sunni mosques. Sistani has also demanded a 7 day mourning and to consider it a week off but the government so far has announced only a 3 day official mourning. Muqtada cut his tour in Lebanon and is heading back to Baghdad, he called on his followers from Beirut to "have self-control and refrain from violence". ... I believe there are foreign terror groups behind this attack and I don't think local insurgent would do such a thing, simply because this particular shrine had been in Sunni territory for a thousand years and the residents of Samarra had always benefited from the movement of religious tourism and pilgrimage.' More info, updates at the link. Zeyad: 'The situation in Baghdad is bad, bad, bad. I had to flee work early and return home after news of large protests in Shi'ite districts, and several attacks against Sunni mosques in the Baladiyat, Sha'ab and Dora districts by angry rioters. Sunnis are being blamed for the attack against a Shia holy shrine in Samarra, a largely Sunni town.' The Belmont Club has a roundup. (various)

Al-Arabiyah airs Saddam tapes. The Intelligence Summit reports on audio recordings of Saddam on WMD: 'Al-Arabiyah airs rare recordings for former Iraqi President Saddam Husayn. The US Central Intelligence Agency has found in Iraq the recordings, which date back to the 1990's. The recordings document some 12 hours of conversations between Saddam Husayn and some former officials about dealing with the international teams in charge of inspection for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. [Begin recording] [Unidentified Al-Arabiyah announcer] More than 12 hours of audio recordings of conversations between ousted Iraqi President Saddam Husayn and his senior aides, which date back to the mid 1990's, have become public for the first time. They bring focus once again to the controversy over whether the former Iraqi regime possessed weapons of mass destruction. ... Excerpts at the link. (TIS)

Captain's Quarters on polarizing effect of cartoon rage. Ed at Captain's Quarters responds to a NYT article: 'In fact, most Muslim journalists who have criticized the response to the cartoons find themselves either in jail or facing arrest, and the article itself provides a very telling look into why. The isolation and persecution of these journalists show that the riots and demonstrations represent mainstream Islam, despite the multicultural pablum given by most pundits over this eruption. Friends and relatives of these reporters remain silent for fear of violent retribution. A significant moderate faction within Islam has been cowed into almost-complete silence by the ascendant violent and radical factions.' (Captain's Quarters)

Fausta on Ilan Halimi murder. Fausta has a roundup of press reaction to the murder of a young Jew in Paris. The press still find it hard to see anti-Semitism here. (Fausta)

Culture wars. Queen is now kosher in Iran, but Vietnam cracks down on a cultural menace: karaoke. (Andrew Sullivan, Samantha Burns)