Saturday, March 17, 2007
The new identities of Iraq
“It may turn out that the civil war that destroyed Lebanon was a pilot project for the whole region, and that with very few exceptions states will disintegrate into chaos of squabbling, feuding, fighting sects, tribes and regions. “ Bernard Lewis, Mideast states, pawns no longer in Imperial games. Essay. 1991
What’s happening in The Middle East today, In Darfour, Lebanon and particularly in Iraq is exactly what Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis wrote about 16 years ago in the aftermath of the first Gulf war, and the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
Lewis words are eerie prophetic giving the amount of slaughter, hatred, tribal and sectarian violence fueling the passions in Iraq. Iraq has, more or less, been redrawn and subdivided based on religious sects and ethnicities. The Shias a religious sect stood to reap the fruits of the American invasion and occupation their country leaving others to fight it out and fight them as well. The Kurds have for all intents and purposes carved out a country of their own in the north of what soon to be called “ the former Iraq” while the Sunnis are left to set themselves up some kind of a country in western Iraq.
Ever since the removal of Saddam Hussein regime in 2003, Iraq and the Iraqis are going through profound changes in their political, economic, religious and social lives.
For certain segments of the Iraqi society, this change is welcomed for others it brought doom, but the one thing for sure is that all components of the Iraqi society share, that is a country reduced from an advanced industrious one into a heap of wreckage, a shell of its former self.
In 1991, the first Bush administration opted to leave Iraq without a fight, after liberating Kuwait and therefore leaving it intact. The second Bush administration, however, came into this war with a plan.
But why do Iraqis who share a common heritage, common ethnic stock for the most part, and have lived together in some political configuration or another for thousands of years.
Yet they have transformed their own country into an inferno of killing each other off based on one’s membership of a certain religious sect or ethnicity.
The current occurring of slaughter and hatred has to do with the breakdown of the Iraqi national identity that was the glue that held all Iraqis together regardless of their sects or ethnic groups. Iraqis see each other today differently. Your next-door neighbor has all of the sudden become the enemy, simply because he is not a member of your sect or tribe or ethnic group.
Through Iranian influence and the work of Iranian Ayatollah, Ali Sistani, Iraqi Shias are increasingly embracing their new identity of being just “ Shia” while Iran in the mean time has emerged as the bigger winner since dismantling the previous Iraqi order. The Shias of Iraq look for Iran for support, guidance, and of course weapons and money. Iran for its part had created, trained and equipped thousands of Iraqi Shia precisely for the day they take over their former enemy’s country in some kind of political arrangement that will swallow the oil-rich southern chunk of it under the guise of Shia confederation.
Abdel-Aziz Al Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic revolution in Iraq, SCIRI, an Iranian-sponsored outfit, has called for the establishing of an all- Shia enclave in the south. This, if it happened will be the second practical step to divide Iraq. Kurdistan being the first.
To facilitate this, Iranians are living in Iraq by the hundred of thousands, particularly in the south and in the city of Najaf area, an unthinkable feat just few years past. Other Arab states stand powerless to influence these events in Iraq, even America is powerless in this regard and there is nothing it can do to change it.
Vali Nasr, Iranian author of the “ Shia Revival” a Mediocre book of polemics touting Shia-Persian nationalism as a new basis of identity for Arab and Pakistani Shias under the leadership of Iran, describes the smashing of the former Iraqi state and establishing a new “ Shia” order by using the term “opening” of Iraq, an old Islamic term used when conquering new territories. According to this view which is being fermented in the halls of power in Tehran and the religious seminaries in Qom and Najaf, other Arab countries are at risk of being “ opened” or conquered particularly those countries with restive Shia populations, such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, whom Nasr described its ruling family as a “ Sunni settlers” alluding to Iran’s territorial claims and ambitions for the Island country.
For " Sunnis" in Iraq, they would still identify themselves in Iraqi national terms and its overlapping larger sense of identity of being "Arabs" and "Muslims", and with the rest of Arabs in other Arab countries, without the narrow secterian bagage.
Israel stands to be the other beneficiary of the new Shia order in Iraq and the emerging Shia nationalism.
For Israel, Iraq has been removed as a powerful Arab country, now reduced to rubbles, thanks in part to the Iraqi Shias who rode America’s military might and enabled Israel in addition to Iran, to eliminate the possibilities of Iraq becoming a powerful industrial State.
Zbigniew Brzeninsky, President Carter former national security advisor, testified on February 1,at a hearing of the Senate Foreign relations committee said that in responding to Senator Joseph Biden that he can imagine several hidden motives for the war in Iraq:
“ One would be to gain American domination over the region’s oil, to put it very simplistically. Another could be to help maximize Israel security by removing a powerful Arab state. Another one could have been simply to get rid of an obnoxious regime with which the United States had accounts to settle going to back to 91 including the alleged assassination attempt against president Bush senior, there could be a variety of motives. But the official motives were weapons of mass destruction.”