There can be no doubt that Iraq is in turmoil. Had we drawn down our forces in a more orderly and coherent fashion perhaps this latest threat of Iraqi disintegration might have been avoided. Alas the Obama regime simply wanted out for domestic political reasons so we can only hope Iraq does not splinter. In the long run the biggest threat to Iraqi unity is not the Sunni-Shia division but the Iraqi Arab-Kurdish chasm. Kurdistan continues to edge away from Iraqi central control but in an almost imperceptible manner.
It is true that Iraq is facing fragmentation …again. But putting the blame on al-Maliki, the Iraqi Shi’a prime minister, is way off base. For some reason he has never been popular with the American “Iraqi experts.” At first it was because he was too weak. a puppet…now suddenly he is Saddam II. Iyad Alawi speaking British -accented English and cozy with the Western media, of course, gets much better reviews.
A close friend of mine..an Iraqi communication specialist and former journalist in Iraq recently returned form Iraq and she said that its not some megalomania on the part the al-Maliki that is the problem. It is the fact that, unlike the Western media which alternated being bought off, or soft pedaling the brutality of the Ba’athi regime, the Shi’a population has not forgotten the Saddam persecution of the their community. Few sunnis can claim that they were non-complicit or non compliant in this era of brutish rule. It is not al-Maliki, it is the Shi’a community that limits al-Maliki’s ability to move toward the Sunni. And while Muqtada al-Sadr is popular in the urban slums, he is a joke among the educated Shi’a and viewed as a bigger joke among the Sunnis. Speaking of being in the Iranian pocket…how many years did Muqtada spend in Iran while sending out his Iranian trained militias to kill Sunnis and Americans. It was the Muqtada “special”militias that first began retaliating against the Sunnis for their continuous bombing of Shi’a neighborhoods. By initiating terror attacks on Sunni neighborhoods the Sunni began to pay a price they found unacceptable.
In a recent article by Emma Sky, a Britisher and former advisor to one of our General Odierno in Iraq, she wrote “the Shi’a claimed to be victims, on account of their persecution by Saddam Hussein.” “…They “claimed” …really..? This is the tip off to that fact that this is a typical sunni-centric version of events. Emma Sky is a first class Arabist. She has been there, speaks Arabic well, and knows her stuff well.But like so many Brit scholars on the Middle East she has a Sunni-Centric outlook. Beginning with Gertrude Bell through Freya Stark to the present day, the British scholars have always been partial to the Sunni viewpoints. The British have also long considered themselves to have a much better understanding of the Arab culture than Americans. Unfortunately this assumed superiority of knowledge was not evident in their governance of the Shi’a south during the occupation.
Our State Department has very few Arabists who could qualify as Shi’a experts. The best one, Hume Horan, died some years ago. U.S. academia is also a repository of the Sunni-Centric viewpoint largely centered on an Arab nationalist outlook – an outlook shared by very few Shi’a. American Professor Juan Cole has appointed himself as the Iraqi Shi’a expert, but as pointed out by the Iraqi blogger Omar, his Iraqi knowledge and historical grasp of Iraqi history are shaky at best.
Look at it this way…since 680 AD and the slaughter of the Shi’a supporters of Imam Hussein at the battle of Kerbala, the minority Sunni have controlled Iraq. First it was in the two great Arab empires, then the Sunni Ottoman empire, then the British and Sunni Hashemites, then the Ba’athis of Saddam. Now that the Shi’a have control they are very unlikely to allow the Sunnis to regain dominance. Unfortunately collectively, the Arab Sunni of Iraq, believe they have some inherent right to rule.
Because of the lack of insight into the Shi’a community, the American public is still largely ignorant of the vast killing machine operated by Saddam and the Ba’athis, in part because the mainstream media obsessed with beating up Bush prefers to focus on the damage done by the American war with Saddam and his supporters . They are legion even today among the Arab population..even those who live in the West. The main point here is that Al-Maliki has no real competition in a popular referendum. That is the main reason parliamentarians are trying to limit the terms he can serve as prime minister.
They know he cannot be beaten at the ballot box.