Could the murder of an Iraqi lawmaker kick off a new insurgency?
As US forces begin to pull out of cities, Hareth Obeidi's assassination is sparking concern among Sunnis.
Despite efforts by Iraqi officials to tamp down the repercussions of the assassination of a leading Sunni lawmaker on Friday, members of Hareth Obeidi's party say the attack shows that Iraqi security forces are unable to maintain security ahead of the scheduled withdrawal of US forces and warn it could reignite sectarian violence.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"It is very clear that the Iraqi military forces are not ready yet," says Saleem al-Jbori, spokesman for Tuwafaq [Accordance], the biggest Sunni bloc in parliament. "I expect the sectarian conflict will revive."
Dr. al-Jbori, speaking inside a parliament building draped with black banners mourning the killing, says the attack in a mosque secured by government guards has reversed more optimistic views of the security situation.
Dr. Obeidi, the head of Tuwafaq, was shot at point-blank range along with his office director and three body guards after he led Friday prayers at a mosque in Western Baghdad.
"[Obeidi] was the voice of moderation," said parliamentary speaker Ayad al-Samerai as officials gathered Saturday around the flag-draped coffins in the lobby of Parliament. An honor guard, wearing white jackets and helmets, carried out the coffins in the state funeral.
Echoes of 2006?
The attack was widely blamed on Al Qaeda in Iraq, which considers Sunni politicians traitors, but the assassination has cast a wide net of suspicion that has included charges of lax security by Iraqi government security forces in charge of the area.
Politicians say it's not yet clear whether the gunman blew himself up with a grenade or was shot by guards who pursued him.
Iraq's civil war, sparked by an attack on one of the holiest Shiite shrines by Sunni insurgents in 2006, gained momentum when Iraqis unable to rely on Iraqi government forces for security turned to either Sunni extremists or Shiite militias for protection.
Fear among Sunnis
Obeidi's funeral was broadcast live on Iraqi television on Saturday. Prime Minister Nouri al Malaki and a range of other leaders called for national unity and promised a high-level investigation.
Rasheed al-Aazawy, a member of parliament with Obeidi's Iraqi Islamic Party, the major player in the Tawafaq bloc, says he was heartened by the show of unity condemning his colleague's killing. But appearing to lay the groundwork for accusations casting wider blame, Mr. al-Aazawy says they do not want to jump to conclusions that insurgent groups were behind the killing.
"We don't want to accuse anyone before we have the results of the investigation," he says.