Arbaʿeen: bigger than ever

Arbaʿeen, for those who aren’t familiar, is the second Shiʿa holy day that is centered on the Battle of Karbala, and thus the death of the early Shiʿa leader Husayn b. Ali, in 680. The first, Ashura, is commemorated on the day (per the Islamic calendar) of the battle, while Arbaʿeen (Arabic for “forty”) occurs… Continue reading Arbaʿeen: bigger than ever

That time of year

The month of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic (Hijri) calendar, is one of four months that, in addition to Ramadan, are explicitly identified as sacred months in the Qurʾan. This is probably an extension of a pre-Islamic Arabian tradition wherein certain months were set aside to be free from violence. The tenth day… Continue reading That time of year

More sectarian fun

At LobeLog, Georgetown’s Shireen Hunter took a deeper dive into the Saudi Grand Mufti’s declaration that Iranians are not Muslim. Of course, there’s no deep theology behind the mufti’s pronouncement; it’s simple anti-Shiʿa bigotry: This belief is neither new nor limited to the Saudis or the Wahhabis. However, as far as I can recall, no… Continue reading More sectarian fun

Finding unity in terror

The death toll from Sunday’s car bombing in Baghdad just keeps climbing; Reuters says the Iraqi Health Ministry has now raised it to 292. 23 people are still hospitalized with injuries from the attack, but from what I can gather most of the increase in the number of dead has come from people who were… Continue reading Finding unity in terror

The Fallujah operation is reportedly going sideways

The operation to liberate Fallujah has reportedly hit a wall, and control over it appears to have slipped entirely from Baghdad’s grasp. The Iraqi special forces that have been tasked with leading the advance into the city say that they’re being stymied not by ISIS’s resistance but by an inability to coordinate their operation with… Continue reading The Fallujah operation is reportedly going sideways

This is what provocation looks like

ISIS only survives in the long-run (at least in Syria and Iraq) to the extent that it’s able to continue taking advantage of Sunni alienation and anger at the governments in Baghdad and Damascus. Their leadership is well aware of that, which is why on Monday they did this: At least 32 people were killed… Continue reading This is what provocation looks like

How much of Iraq does the Iraqi government actually control at this point?

Seriously, I don’t know anymore. I’m not talking about the parts of Iraq that are controlled by ISIS–obviously Baghdad has no real control over them at this point, but presumably (hopefully) that’s temporary. But of the rest of the country, the parts that aren’t controlled by ISIS, and in terms of the normal everyday things… Continue reading How much of Iraq does the Iraqi government actually control at this point?