Tomorrow marks the Shia holiday of Arbaeen, which is the 40th day after the day marking the martyrdom of Imam Hussein. Forty days ago, the Shias were able to celebrate his martyrdom on the holiday of Ashura for the first time since Saddam Hussein took power. The event was tragically marked with a series of bombs which went off outside the mosque in Al Najaf. Even before the recent increase in hostilities, it was predicted that tomorrow would bring more violence, as thousands of pilgrims flood to Al Najaf from Iran and from all parts of Iraq. Now the predictions are all the more dire. The consular office has issued a travel advisory warning against all non-essential movement--an advisory which applies even within the far more secure U.S.-controlled Green Zone. Because it will be imprudent if not impossible for me to get to the Green Zone tomorrow, and because the internet cafes are closed on Fridays, I will not be able to post updates or respond to emails until Saturday. Accordingly, please do not read my silence as a bad omen.
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