Monday, November 13, 2006

Self-help fronts reported to be forming to fight the Iranians

So far there have been reports of provincial-level self-help "salvation councils" in Al-Anbar province (originally in response to the AlQaeda/Islamic Emirate presence in Ramadi); and then in Ninawa province (which includes Mosul, in response to Islamic Emirate activities in that city). Today the news service Quds Press reports on something similar in Diyala province, directly north of Baghdad. There have been reports of AlQaeda/Islamic Emirate activity in that region, but this effort is described as a defence not against AlQaeda or the Islamic emirate, but rather against the Iranian influence.

The report says: "Ten political and civic groups have formed a broad front to protect Diyala from Iranian influence, which has turned the city of Diyala into one of the most violent in the country, after Baghdad". The announcement said the new coalition "will take upon itself the protection of Diyala from Iranian control".

The coalition is called "Patriotic (Wataniy) Front for the Salvation of Diyala". The member-groups include: Arab Socialist Movement; Iraqi Front for National Dialogue; Islamic Party; Independent Patriotic Notables Group (?); Turkmen Justice Party; Diyala section of the Iraqi Commission for establishment of a Civic Assembly; and others. The initial announcement said the security situation in the province is intolerable, with problems including killing of patriotic citizens by both the forces of the Interior Ministry and the Defence Ministry of the government, so that not only has civic life has for all intents and purposes come to a halt, but people are frightened even in their own homes.

This news item doesn't say anything about concrete security or military plans of this group, focusing instead on the background.

The group's statement describes Diyala as strategically the gateway to Baghdad [from the north and east], making it fertile ground for the foreign elements to organize themselves, and in particular the Iranians. It said the national and local governments have proven themselves incapable of defending against this, and instead have in effect opened the gates to an inundation of agents and destroyers moving from Iran to Iraq via this province.

And it said these views about Iranians coming to Iraq, and Revolutionary Guard people and Iranian intelligence people penetrating the Iraqi law-enforcement agencies, has started to be taken up by politicians too, citing a recent accusation made by one Saad al-Janani, head of something called Iraqi Republican Assembly, who said the Iranians are behind the collapse of security in Iraq.

And this item concludes by noting something similar is happening in Basra, where an armed group calling itself "Southern Brigades" has formed to fight what it describes as agents of the Iranian regime in Basra. This is mentioned as something similar to the Diyala project, but it isn't elaborated on at all.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

To my mind, the great virtue of this blog is its attempt to provide information that, in Badger’s words: “don’t fit any of the prevailing media or academic themes or hobby-horses [thus] standing a good chance of passing completely unnoticed in the mainstream.” A good example of such information is the repeated references to the Arab vs. “Persian” "Iranian" conflict rather than the “hobby-horse theme” Sunni vs. Shia (e.g. 14 Oct., 10 Oct. and today).

With no more information about the developing Iraqi civil war than the combatant’s respective Sunni and Shia Islamic sects, it is reasonable to conclude that the war is fought for theological reasons. Similarly, post-Reformation wars between Catholic and Protestant Christians appear prima facie to be theological. However, if the ethnic/racial characteristics of the respective groups are considered, then theological explanations become questionable.
For example, Frenand Braudel notes that the Protestant Reformation essentially represented a breaking away of the ethnic Nordic people from Latins. He writes: “The old frontier of the Roman [Latin] Empire along the Rhine and Danube essentially divides the Protestant and Catholic countries. Of course, the Reformation had its purely religious aspects: it was one outcome of the rising tide of religion [reform] that was evident throughout Europe. But [Latin Europeans] maintained the connection with Rome, while the [Nordics] broke completely away.” He wonders skeptically: “Is this coincidental?” (“A History of Civilization” p 349-356) Also, the Britannica 9 th edition (1898) article on the Reformation makes reference to its “Teutonic” nature.

The Tigris/Euphrates valley plays a role analogues to the Rhine and Danube; an ethnic divide. Throughout recorded history, in this valley, Eurasian migrants/invaders met and conflicted with their counterparts from the Arabian steppes. For example, in the 8 th century, “The focus of the nascent Arabic culture was Baghdad...a short distance above Ctesiphon, the former capital of the [displaced Eurasian] Sasanian Persian Empire...” (Toynbee: “Mankind and Mother Earth” p 390) Also, a millennium before the current Shiite/Sunni conflict, in 945 AD, the [Eurasian] Shiite Buwayhids, from the southern Caspian Sea shore, conquered Sunni Arab Baghdad.

Toynbee notes the differentiating ethnic characteristics of the Shia and the Sunni Moslems as the basis of conflict: “The Shi’ah identified itself with the reaction of the non-Arab subjects of the Caliphate against the Arab ascendancy. The most important of these non-Arab communities were the Iranians...Accordingly, from the latter part of the eighth century we find Shi’ism perpetually seeking to propagate itself into Iran from its original stronghold in Lower Iraq, which was a meeting-place of the [Eurasian] Iranian and Arabic cultures.” (“Study of History” v.1 p. 354)

Coming down to the 20 th century, the Persian character of Iraqi Shi’ites is recorded in the Britannica 13 th edition (1926): “Ethnographically [Southern] Irak is subject to a double influence. On the one hand Arabia. Even stronger than the influence of Arabia is that of Persia [a.k.a. Iran]. In general the inhabitants of [Southern] Irak are Shi’ites not Sunnites, and their religious connection and allegiance is therefore toward Persia. Persian customs are in fashion, Persian coinage is used, and in Baghdad, there is an important Persian quarter, while Kerbela and Meshed ‘Ali to the west of the Euphrates are really Persian enclaves.” Current media descriptions of Southern Iraq report essentially the same.

In sum, it is reasonable to ask if today’s Sunni/Shia conflict is in fact about respective interpretations of Islam. Given the historic pattern of ethnic conflict, there is reason to believe that the developing Iraqi civil war has more to do with ethnicity than religiosity.

4:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given the profoundly inhuman actions justified by racial theories throughout the history of Western culture culminating with Nazism, it is understandable the we (Westerners) are hyper sensitive about predicating racial theories of social events from basketball to wars. Nothing will wreak a political, academic, sports-announcer, etc career quicker than being labeled a racist. However, we may have thrown out the proverbial “baby with the bath water.” That is to say, in our efforts to atone and control negative racism, we have negated a significant explanatory factor of social events. For example, the theory that events in the Middle East may, in part be explained by the racial divide between Arabs and Eurasians( Iranians/Persians) is almost precluded from consideration because of our guilt and fear of racism.

Nevertheless, as one reads history and contemporary media, one finds tacit references to the racial dimensions of social events. As has been noted more than once in this blog, some Arab media posit explanations for the events in Iraq in terms of Arab vs. Persian conflicts; not Sunni vs. Shia or Iraq vs. Iran. Also, today’s (11/14/06) “Asia Times On Line” has two articles that are tacitly racial explanations of some international events. In one, the writer sees a “new cold war” developing between the “East and West.” The use of geographic terms East and West is code for people of the Yellow race vs. the White race. In a more overt reference to the explanatory role of race another article refers to the “The November 4 demonstrations in Russia were driven by dislike toward people from the Caucasus, Central Asia and China - all of whom Russia regards as Asian - not toward Europeans or even Americans.”

In sum, while the rejection of racial theories of behaior has resulted in much good (e.g. the end of slavery and rejection of segregation, etc.) it may be encumbering our ability to understand and explain international events. Such as the Iraq civil war.

6:44 AM  

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