Thursday, June 30, 2005

Blumenthal summarizes the Iraqi situation: 600 years of Sunni rule | Empty words

Bush's strategy rests on more than sheer avoidance of facts, however; it depends on willful ignorance of the history of Mesopotamia.

From the creation of the Iraqi state in 1921 to the army's coup of 1958, Iraq had 58 governments. In 1968, the Baathist Party led by Saddam staged another coup. Some periods of this prolonged instability were less unstable than others, but the instability was chronic and profound. The overthrow of Saddam appears to have returned Iraq to its 'natural' unstable state. But in fact the instability runs even deeper.

The Baathists, of course, were Sunnis. Saddam was a Sunni. Before him, the monarchs, beginning with Faisal I, were Sunnis. Before Faisal, the Ottomans, who ruled beginning in the 15th century, were Sunnis. Shiites have never ruled the country until now. Why should the Sunnis, after 600 years of control, accede to the dominance of Shiites? In Vietnam, the root motivation against the United States was nationalism, as it was against the French. It even trumped communism in the national liberation struggle. In Iraq, religion and ethnicity are often ascribed as the root motivations of conflict. But to the extent that nationalism may exist as a factor, its ownership does not and cannot reside in the current Iraqi state.

The present Iraqi government is a ramshackle affair of Shiites and Kurds. The Kurds have no interest in a central authority, and play the game only to solidify their autonomy. The Shiites are maintained as dominant only by the presence of the U.S. occupation army and their sectarian militias. They will never disband those militias in favor of a national army unless they can run the army like an expanded version of the Shiite militias. Prime Minister al-Jaafari and the other Shiite leaders, including Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi, have all been Iranian agents or allies, recipients of Iranian largess in one form or another. Shiite Iraqis are natural friends and allies of Shiite Iran. Iraq under the Shiites does not have to be remade in Iran's image to serve Iranian interests. Whether or not sharia (Islamic) law is imposed, Iraqi Sunnis will never see Shiites as Iraqi patriots or nationalists but, instead, as being in league with Iraq's traditional and worst enemy.

These suspicions are hardly abstract. The militia of the largest Shiite faction, the Badr Brigade of SCIRI (Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq), was trained and armed by Iran's Revolutionary Guards, and is heavily infiltrated and directed by Iranian agents today. Yet Bush has invested American blood and treasure in the proposition that a Shiite-dominated government, which now inevitably means an Iranian-influenced regime, can serve a second master in the United States and present itself to the Sunnis as national saviors.
At the time of the invasion I thought Rumsfeld's strategy made sense only if the goal was to partition Iraq.

Given the current state, is the least worst goal mitigation of the civil war?

No comments: