Prof Juan Cole writes:
Readers sometimes ask me if analyzing the news from Iraq every day doesn't get me down.It got me down today. Sunni Arab guerrillas, unable to operate as effectively in Baghdad because of the US troop surge, had a suicide bomber drive a truck loaded with explosives into a market in a village on the fringes of the northern city of Tuz Khurmato and detonate his payload. As I write, authorities had counted 130 dead bodies, many of them women and children, and relatives reported another 20 dead. Another 250 or so were wounded, some of them badly, according to the Arabic daily al-Hayat.
The latter says Iraqis are referring to the bombing as "the Turkmen massacre." Some 40 homes, 20 shops, and a dozen automobiles were also destroyed.Like the detonation of the minarets at the al-Askariya shrine in Samarra recently, this act of terrorism had a strategic purpose. First, even 160,000 US troops cannot provide security to the whole country.
The guerrillas are announcing that if they are prevented from operating in the Karrada neighborhood of Baghdad, they will just shift operations to Samarra (an hour's drive due north of Baghdad) or Tuz Khurmato.
Moreover, they are saying that they are just as capable of waving a red flag in front of the Shiite bull even if they aren't in Baghdad. Thus, they hit a sacred Shiite shrine again at Samarra. And Tuz Khurmato is a largely Shiite Turkmen city of some 63,000, surrounded by villages with a similar composition, like the one that was blown up Saturday. Although Turkmen Shiites had in earlier decades been removed from the formal, clerically-dominated Shiism of Najaf, practicing instead a folk religion, in the 1990s Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr reached out to them and brought many of them into orthodox Twelver Shiism.
Arab Shiites now feel solidarity with them, and on occasion young cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has sent Mahdi Army fighters up to protect them. The Badr Corps of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council has also attempted to attract their loyalty. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki denounced the bombing as the work of Sunni extremists who declare that Shiite Muslims are actually infidels.