From http://www.consortiumnews.com/index.html A balanced background analysis of why the Sunni rebels have directed most
of their attention to destroying the nation building process and the Shiite population than they have in attacking Americans.
Editor’s Note: A key logical flaw in George W. Bush's political strategy in Iraq
is that the Shiite majority and their Kurdish allies – having finally gained control of both the government and the
nation's oil reserves – will want to share them with the once-dominant Sunni minority. That has left the Sunnis, including
the educated elite, in the unenviable spot of either accepting a marginal role as impoverished second-class citizens or resisting.
We have made this point before, even as Washington
pundits raved about Iraq's
January election (see "Sinking in Deeper"). In this guest column, Independent Institute's Ivan Eland expands on the analysis.
much-ballyhooed elections in Iraq later this week are likely to dig the Iraqi hole a little deeper for the Bush administration.
The Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered Shi’ite Muslim cleric in Iraq,
has indirectly ordered fellow Shi’a to cast their ballots for representatives of the Shi’ite religious parties
that now control the interim Iraqi government. A permanent Shi’ite-Kurdish government may prove even more intransigent
than the interim government in addressing Sunni concerns about being cut out of Iraq’s oil revenues—thus accelerating
the incipient civil war in that nation.
The ever over-confident Bush administration, controlling the levers of authority in the globe’s
only hyper-power, has never really bothered to understand important characteristics of nations it invades. In its lust for
the rhetoric of “spreading democracy,” the administration has failed to notice that the term means something different
in countries with little democratic experience, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, than it does in the United States.In Iraq, as in Afghanistan,
voters cast their ballots as prominent leaders desire. In Afghan elections, people voted as their tribal leaders or warlords
directed. In Iraq, most of the majority Shi’a population
(60 percent of Iraqis) will reliably vote the way al-Sistani wants. In contrast, American voters—even fundamentalist
Christian ones—don’t usually vote solely on the basis of their religious leader’s political wishes (if they
are expressed at all).
The Shi’ite religious parties in Iraq,
which will most likely be victorious, are heavily influenced and funded by the oppressive theocratic government in Iran.
One of the most prominent of those parties, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq,
originally consisted of Iraqi defectors, exiles and refugees who spent two decades in Iran
during Saddam Hussein’s rule and fought on the Iranian side in the Iran-Iraq War during the 1980s. The party’s
militia, the ruthless Badr organization, has been accused of assassinations and other violence against Sunnis and secular
Shi’a. According to foreign policy analyst Gareth Porter, the Dawa party, another Shi’ite group, is organized
on the basis of Leninist methods. Shi’ite militias have infiltrated Iraq’s
security forces and Interior Ministry, which has recently been implicated in the torture of Sunnis in two prisons.
In short, the now desperate Bush administration’s attempt to achieve “victory in
Iraq” and pledge to take the Iraqi democratic experiment on the road to other autocratic Arab countries really amount
to letting U.S. soldiers die to make the world safe for theocracy. In fact, such future theocracies in Iraq
and elsewhere would likely be very unfriendly to the United States
and might even sponsor terrorist attacks against U.S. targets.Of course, the “victory” of installing a Shi’ite theocracy in Iraq
is predicated on the low probability of the United States
defeating the Sunni insurgency and avoiding a civil war, which is already beginning. That internecine war will likely be intensified
by the new Iraqi constitution, which barely escaped a Sunni veto in the referendum on October 15.
The constitution gives the Kurds and Shi’a a greater proportion of oil revenues than the
Sunnis because most of the petroleum lies in Kurdish northern and Shi’ite southern Iraq,
respectively. In addition to attempting to evict the foreign invader from their land and having angst about likely paybacks
from the Shi’ite-Kurdish government for the excesses of Saddam Hussein’s years, the Sunni insurgents are fighting
because they fear being left in a resource-poor rump area.The constitution only
passed because the interim government agreed to renegotiate portions of it after the vote. But now that the document has been
approved, a newly elected and stronger permanent Shi’ite-Kurdish government will have little incentive to do so. So
the feud over oil revenues will likely fuel the embryonic civil war.
To reduce the chances of such a conflagration, the constitution should be amended to partition
Iraq into Shi’ite, Kurdish, and Sunni areas (all lands
within these three or more areas do not have to be contiguous) and to proportionally share petroleum revenues or even oilfields
with the Sunnis.To give the Shi’a and Kurds an incentive to reach an agreement
to share oil, the United States would inform them that the
U.S. military, which is the only thing propping up the Iraqi
government, will be exiting quickly.
The administration has dug itself so deeply into the Iraqi hole that no perfect solution exists
to avoid the impending civil war. But this solution at least stops the digging and begins filling in some dirt.
The sectarian violence which has
swept across Iraq following last month’s terrorist bombing
of the Golden Mosque in Samara is yet another example of the tragic consequences of the U.S.
invasion and occupation of Iraq. Until the 2003 U.S.
invasion and occupation, Iraq had maintained a longstanding
history of secularism and a strong national identity among its Arab population despite its sectarian differences.
Not only has the United
States failed to bring a functional democracy to Iraq,
neither U.S. forces nor the U.S.-backed Iraqi government in
Baghdad have been able to provide the Iraqi people with basic security. This has
led many ordinary citizens to turn to extremist sectarian groups for protection, further undermining the Bush administration’s
insistence that American forces must remain in Iraq in order
to prevent a civil war. Top analysts in the CIA and State Department, as well as large numbers of Middle East
experts, warned that a U.S. invasion of Iraq
could result in a violent ethnic and sectarian conflict. Even some of the war’s intellectual architects acknowledged
as much: In a 1997 paper, prior to becoming major figures in the Bush foreign policy team, David Wurmser, Richard Perle, and
Douglas Feith predicted that a post-Saddam Iraq would likely be “ripped apart” by sectarianism and other cleavages
but called on the United States to “expedite” such a collapse anyway.As
a result, the tendency in the United States to blame “sectarian
conflict” and “long-simmering hatreds” for the Sunni-Shiite violence in Iraq
is, in effect, blaming the victim.
Fostering Fragmentation and Conflict
One of the longstanding goals of
such neoconservative intellectuals has been to see the Middle East broken up into smaller ethnic or sectarian mini-states,
which would include not only large stateless nationalities like the Kurds, but Maronite Christians, Druze, Arab Shiites, and
others. Such a policy comes not out of respect for the right of self-determination—indeed, the neocons have been steadfast
opponents of the Palestinians’ desire for statehood, even alongside a secure Israel—but out of an imperial quest
for divide-and-rule. The division of the Middle East has long been seen as a means of countering the
threat of pan-Arab nationalism and, more recently, pan-Islamist movements. Given the mosaic of ethnicities and sects in the
Middle East, with various groupings having mixed together within both urban and rural settings for
many generations, the establishment of such ethnic or sectarian mini-states would almost certainly result in forced population
transfers, ethnic cleansing, and other human suffering.
The risk of Iraq
breaking up into a Sunni Kurdish state, a Sunni Arab state, and a Shiite Arab state is now very real. And, given the intermixing
of these populations in Baghdad, Mosul,
Kirkuk, and scores of other cities, the potential exists for the most violent
breakup of a country since the partition of India sixty years
ago. Recent weeks have shown ominous signs of what may be yet to come on a massive scale, as scores of Shiite families were
forced to flee what were once mixed neighborhoods in and around Baghdad. Even
barring a formal breakup of the country, the prospects of a stable unified country look bleak. As the Los Angeles Times reported
on February 26, “The outlines of a future Iraq are emerging: a nation where power is scattered among clerics turned
warlords; control over schools, hospitals, railroads, and roads is divided along sectarian lines; graft and corruption subvert
good governance; and foreign powers exert influence only over a weak central government.”
Much of Iraq’s current divisions
can be traced to the decision of U.S. occupation authorities immediately following the conquest to abolish the Iraqi army
and purge the government bureaucracy—both bastions of secularism—thereby creating a vacuum which was soon filled
by sectarian parties and militias. In addition, the U.S. occupation
authorities—in an apparent effort of divide-and-rule—encouraged sectarianism by dividing up authority based not
on technical skills or ideological affiliation but ethnic and religious identity. As with Lebanon,
however, such efforts have actually exacerbated divisions, with virtually every political question debated not on its merits,
but on which group it potentially benefits or harms. This has led to great instability, with political parties, parliamentary
blocs, and government ministries breaking down along sectarian lines. Even army divisions are separated, with parts of western
Baghdad being patrolled by army units dominated by Sunnis while eastern Baghdad
is being patrolled by Shiite-dominated units. Without unifying national institutions, the breakup of the country remains a
Theologically, there are fewer
differences between Sunnis and Shiites than there are between Catholics and Protestants. In small Iraqi towns of mixed populations
with only one mosque, Sunnis and Shiites worship together. Intermarriage is not uncommon. This harmony is now threatening
to unravel.Shiite Muslims, unlike the Sunni Muslims, have a clear hierarchy.
(Ayatollahs, for example, are essentially the equivalent of Catholic cardinals.) As a result, the already-existing clerical-based
social structures in the Shiite community were among the few organizations to survive Saddam’s totalitarian regime and
were therefore more easily capable of organizing themselves politically when U.S.
forces overthrew the government in Baghdad in 2003. Sunni and secular groupings,
then, found themselves at a relative disadvantage when they suddenly found themselves free to organize.
As a result, the United
States initially insisted on indefinite rule by Iraqis picked directly or indirectly by Washington.
However, when hundreds of thousands of Shiites took to the streets in January 2004 demanding the right to choose their country’s
leaders, the Bush administration reluctantly agreed to hold direct elections. Having been dominated by Sunnis under the Baathists,
the Hashemites, and the Ottomans, the Shiite majority was eager to rule. Not surprisingly, elections have brought Shiite religious
parties to power which have since marginalized other groups and imposed their repressive and misogynist version of Islamic
law in parts of Iraq where they dominate, particularly in
the south of the country.
Sunni opposition to Shiite dominance
does not just stem from resentment at losing their privileged position in Iraqi political life under the former dictatorship.
Indeed, Saddam Hussein suppressed his fellow Sunni Arabs along with Sunni Kurds and Shiite Arabs.
officials have failed to recognize is that Iraq’s Sunni
Arab minority, regardless of its feelings about Saddam Hussein’s regime, has long identified with Arab nationalism.
Not surprisingly, the armed resistance which emerged following Saddam’s removal from power three years ago by U.S.
forces has come largely from the Sunni Arab community. The insurgency has also targeted the U.S.-backed Shiite-dominated Iraqi
government, which came to power as a result of the U.S. invasion
and which many see as being puppets of the U.S. occupation.
They also fear that the Iraqi government may identify more with their fellow Shiites of Iran than with other Arabs. More radical
Sunni chauvinists, many of whom are foreign Salafi extremists like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, have engaged in widespread terrorist
attacks again Shiite civilians and their holy places.
Despite its dependence on the United
States and ties to Iran,
however, the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government has its own agenda. Culturally and linguistically, Iraq’s
Shiites are every bit as Arab as the Sunnis. Yet while the vast majority of the country’s Shiite Arab majority has no
desire to be pawns of either Iran or the United
States, the response by the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government and Shiite militias has done
little to lessen Sunni fears and hostility. Seeing their government faced with a growing insurgency and their community falling
victim to terrorist violence, the Shiites have responded with aggressive counter-insurgency and counter-terrorist operations
against the Sunni community. Human rights abuses by Shiites against the Sunni minority have increased dramatically, polarizing
the country still further.Even before the latest upsurge in sectarian violence,
the Baghdad morgue was reporting that dozens of bodies of Sunni men with gunshot
wounds to the back of the head would arrive at the same time every week, including scores of corpses with wrists bound by
John Pace, the outgoing head of
the United Nations’ human rights monitoring group in Iraq,
has reported that hundreds of Sunnis are being subjected to summary execution and death from torture every month by Iraqi
government death squads, primarily controlled by the Ministry of the Interior. High-ranking American officers have reported
that radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Al-Mahdi Army maintains a strong presence in the regular police force, including
up to 90% of the 35,000 officers currently working in the northeastern part of Baghdad.
In addition, the Iranian-trained Badr Brigade dominates police commando units. A police unit known as the Punishment Committee
goes after civilians believed to be flouting Islamic laws or the authority of Shiite militia leaders, particularly Sunnis.
The Shiite government of Iran,
long cited for its human rights abuses by both the Bush administration and reputable human rights organizations, has actively
supported Shiite militias within the Iraqi government and security forces. (Despite this, the Bush administration and its
supporters—including many prominent Democrats—have been putting forth the ludicrous theory that Iran
is actually supporting the anti-Shiite and anti-American Sunni insurgency.) Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr was trained
by Iran’s infamous Revolutionary Guards and later served as a leader of the Badr Brigade, the militia of the Supreme
Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.Americans have also trained Interior Ministry police and commandoes, though—unlike
some notorious cases in recent Latin American history—there is little evidence to suggest that U.S. trainers have actively
encouraged death squad activity. Still, there is little question that actions by U.S. occupation troops over the past three
years—such as the torture of detainees, the hair-trigger response at checkpoints, the liberal use of force in heavily-populated
civilian neighborhoods, and the targeted assassinations of suspected insurgent leaders—have contributed to the climate
of impunity exhibited by forces of the Iraqi government.
Mr. Pace has also observed how
U.S. troops are making things worse by rounding up large numbers
of innocent young Sunni men and detaining them for months. Noting how such “Military intervention causes serious human
rights and humanitarian problems to large numbers of innocent civilians,” he lamented at the fact that many of these
detainees, in reaction to their maltreatment, later joined Sunni terrorist groups following their release. Despite last month’s
terrorist bombing of the Shiite shrine and the tragic killings that followed, however, there were also impressive signs of
unity. In cities throughout Iraq, Sunnis and Shiites mobilized
to protect each other’s mosques and neighborhoods.
Even the young firebrand Shiite
cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr emphasized to his followers, “It was not the Sunnis who attacked the shrine … but rather
the occupation [forces] and Ba’athists.” He called on his followers not to attack Sunni mosques and ordered his
Al-Mahdi Army to “protect both Shia and Sunni shrines.” He went on to say, “My message to the Iraqi people
is to stand united and bonded, and not to fall into the Western trap. The West is trying to divide the Iraqi people.”
In a later interview, Sadr claimed, “We say that the occupiers are responsible for such crisis [Golden Mosque bombing]
… there is only one enemy. The occupier.”
Similarly, Sunnis were quick to
express their solidarity with Shias in a series of demonstrations in Samara and elsewhere. Anti-American signs and slogans
permeated these marches. Indeed, there is a widespread belief that it was the United States,
not fellow Muslims or Iraqis, which bears responsibility for the tragedy. Even Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mehdi claimed
the United States was responsible for the bombing of the Golden
Mosque, “especially since occupation forces did not comply with curfew orders imposed by the Iraqi government.”
He added, “Evidence indicates that the occupation may be trying to undermine and weaken the Iraqi government.”
Though charges of a U.S.
conspiracy are presumably groundless, it does underscore the growing opposition by both communities to the ongoing U.S.
military presence in their country and how the United States
has little credibility left with either community as a mediator, peacekeeper, overseer, or anything else.And it underscores the urgency for the United States
to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible.
Stephen Zunes is Middle East
editor for Foreign Policy in Focus. He is a professor of Politics at the University
of San Francisco and the author of Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the
Roots of Terrorism (Common Courage Press, 2003).
WAR MAKES MORE EVIL PEOPLE THAN IT KILLS—Immanuel Kant
The single greatest waste of human resources is war related activities.In the period from 1945 until 1985 the United states had consumed through its military expenditures enough to build
a second United States—from factories, roads to homes and consumer items.