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Context of 'Early February 2006: Iraqi Government Allegedly Warned of Potential Attack on ‘Golden Mosque’ in Samarra'

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Longtime US Army intelligence officer Tom Golden, who is assigned to a watchdog position within the highly classified Continuity of Government (COG) program (see January 1984) and who recently reported irregularities inside the program (see After July 1987), is targeted by a lengthy and deliberate smear campaign. The effort to discredit Golden is organized by members of the secret COG project in retaliation for the whistleblower reporting instances of waste, fraud, and abuse to the Army Inspector General’s Office (see July 1987). Federal agents go door-to-door telling Golden’s neighbors they are investigating him for drinking and other embarrassing personal behaviors. Rumors are spread within the government about Golden having personal issues and spying for the Soviet Union. Those responsible for spreading the allegations include Brigadier General Eugene Renzi, who was exposed by Golden for awarding a no-bid contract to a company that employed the general’s son (see July 1987); Army intelligence officer Robert Rendon, an admitted black-marketer hired by the COG project in 1983 (see July 28, 1983); and Army Colonel Ned Bacheldor, who formally worked for the Army Inspector General’s Office and leaked Golden’s whistleblower status to members of the COG program. Rendon is ordered by his superior, Bacheldor, to spread insulting gossip about Golden. A classified document depicting Golden as a security risk is drawn up by Rendon and other members of the COG project and sent to the Justice Department in January 1990, leading to an official investigation of Golden’s background (see January-November 1990). In August 1990, Rendon insinuates to a fellow Army officer that Golden is a Soviet spy (see August 1990). “It leads people to believe you are in trouble,” Golden tells CNN in 1991, “and it damages your credibility, it damages your standing in the intelligence community, it really boils down to a smear campaign.” Separate investigations by the Army (see Summer 1987), the House Armed Services Committee (see Summer 1988-1989), and the FBI (see January-November 1990) conclude that Golden is guilty of no wrongdoing and is the target of a lengthy effort to intimidate whistleblowers inside the highly secretive COG program. “It cost myself and my family three years of living in absolute hell,” Golden says as he tears up during an interview with CNN, “my family paid a high price.” When asked if he would do it all over again, Golden nods and says, “Probably.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/16/1990; Knight Ridder, 12/18/1990; CNN Special Assignment, 11/17/1991]

Entity Tags: Eugene Renzi, Tom Golden, Ned Bacheldor, Robert Rendon

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

According to government and political sources, the Iraqi minister for national security sends a report to the Iraqi government saying that the security of the “Golden Mosque” in Samarra was breached. The mosque is considered to be sacred to Shiite Muslims all over the world. [BBC, 2/22/2006; Reuters, 3/2/2006]

Entity Tags: Iraqi Ministerial Committee for National Security, Golden Mosque

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

The Golden Mosque, before and after the bombing.The Golden Mosque, before and after the bombing. [Source: Associated Press] (click image to enlarge)The Al-Askari or Golden Mosque, in Samarra, Iraq, is partially destroyed in a bombing attack that devastates the ancient shrine. The mosque is one of the holiest of Shi’ite sites. The attacks are carried out by about a dozen men in paramilitary uniforms who enter the shrine, handcuff four guards sleeping in a back room, place a bomb in the dome of the mosque, and detonate it. [New York Times, 2/22/2006; Radio Free Europe, 2/12/2007] The devastating attack on one of Shi’a Islam’s holiest sites prompts off a wave of Shi’ite attacks on Sunni mosques, Sunni citizens, and even US occupiers that eventually takes over 10,000 Iraqi lives and brings the country closer to full-blown civil war. [Washington Post, 6/13/2004] Some local officials say that the bombers wore the uniforms of Iraqi security forces. Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari says that the attack was possibly the result of “infiltration” of Iraqi security forces. The four guards found handcuffed will later be arrested as suspects in the bombing as well as 10 men dressed as Iraqi police commandos. [Washington Post, 2/23/2006] The Iraqi government will blame the al-Qaeda faction in Iraq for the bombings, though that organization’s responsibility for the bombings remains unclear. [Reuters, 6/13/2007] One leading Iraqi Shi’ite politician, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, lays partial blame for the bombing on the US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, saying that Khalilzad’s public comments on death squads operating within Iraq’s Shi’ite-led Interior Ministry were a provocation to the bombing. [New York Times, 2/22/2006] Shi’ite and Sunni politicians exchange accusations over the bombings, with Shi’ite lawmakers saying that the government ignored warnings about the attacks, and Sunnis accusing Shi’ites of bombing their own shrine to exacerbate discords between the two religious factions. [Reuters, 3/2/2006] President Bush promises to rebuild the mosque. [CNN News, 2/22/2006] But the shrine is, as of mid-2007, never rebuilt, partly because of disagreements between Sunnis and Shi’ites as to how to go about the rebuilding process. [Radio Free Europe, 2/12/2007] The shrine will be bombed again 17 months later (see June 13, 2007), setting off another wave of violent reprisals.

Entity Tags: Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, Golden Mosque, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Zalmay M. Khalilzad

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

US Army Major General Rick Lynch speaks to reporters in Baghdad and claims that there was no warning in advance about a possible attack on the “Golden Mosque” in Samarrah. This directly contradicts claims from internal Iraqi government sources that say the national security ministry sent a warning to the Iraqi government about a breach of security at the mosque weeks before the bombing occurred (see Early February 2006). [Washington File, 2/23/2003]

Entity Tags: Golden Mosque, Rick Lynch

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

The Al-Askari Golden Mosque in Samarra, one of the holiest of Shi’ite shrines, is attacked for a second time, apparently by Sunni insurgents. The mosque was partially destroyed in a massive bombing attack over a year ago (see February 22, 2006), sparking a calamitous increase in sectarian violence that claimed at least 10,000 lives. Both US and Iraqi officials fear a similar outbreak of violence following this bombing. President Bush says the attack is “clearly aimed at inflaming sectarian tensions.” Additional US forces are sent to Samarra to enforce security. US and Iraqi officials blame al-Qaeda in Iraq, an extremist Sunni group with loose ties to the larger al-Qaeda network, but as with the February 2006 bombings, that assertion cannot be proven. In what are apparently retaliatory strikes, Shi’ite members of the Mahdi Army destroy the Sunni Grand Mosque in Iskandariyah, and attack another Sunni mosque in the same city. Mahdi leader Moqtada al-Sadr blames the Golden Mosque attack on “the hidden hands of the occupiers,” his term for the US military, but calls for peaceful protests instead of violent responses to the attacks. Al-Maliki says that Sunni security forces responsible for guarding the mosque may have been involved in the attack; until very recently, Sunni forces were the only ones delegated to guard the Shi’ite mosque. Iraqi authorities believe those forces may have been infiltrated by al-Qaeda operatives. One day prior, a Shi’ite force from Baghdad was deployed to the mosque. According to a resident, the Sunni and Shi’ite forces engaged in “some disagreement and fighting…because the previous force did not want to leave their position, but later they had to.” It is possible that the conflict between the two Iraqi forces precipitated the attack. [Washington Post, 6/13/2004] Many Iraqis feel that the latest attacks could carry Iraq to the brink of an all-out civil war. A Shi’ite graduate student says, “The problem is that ignorant people carry out the orders of those who want to arm Iraq. We have some of those, and some of the Sunnis also have some among them. We are on the edge of a catastrophe.” A Sunni housewife says, “We feel that the gap is getting bigger and bigger between us and the Shiites.” [New York Times, 6/13/2007]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Al-Qaeda, Moqtada al-Sadr, Al-Qaeda in Iraq

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

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