Tuesday, December 05, 2006

One overview of the crisis

Elaph published an essay on Tuesday December 5 by Jamal Khashaqji which is unusual because it tries for a comprehensive analysis of the Iraqi crisis seen from a Sunni perspective, but reasoned and without the name-calling. (A commenter on the Elaph site writes: "May God protect this writer from the the accusations of sectarianism and Baathism and Wahhabism and Safavidism and Farsiism"). It is true that the author was recently (in 2004 anyway) media advisor to the Saudi embassy in London, but I am not even deterrred by that. I think it is worth laying out what he has to say because of the way he arranges the issues, and particularly because of his argument that it is the Sunnis who are in a particularly weak position in Iraq. Anyway the purpose of these posts is not to pick and choose from a position of superior wisdom, something I leave to Informed Comment and others, but rather to get familiar with the range of views so they can speak for themselves.

The writer starts by reviewing the recent exchange between Sadr and Harith al-Dhari. Sadr called on Dhari to publicly and clearly bar Sunnis from killing Shiites, and Dhari replied that he had from day one barred the killing of anyone. Not good enough said Sadr, you have to be clear and unambiguous. The writer continues with an imaginary exchange where Dhari says, well why don't you specifically bar Shiites from killing Sunnis, and never mind hedging with defensive remarks about only going after takfiiris and Baathists, and so on. Be clear and unambiguous. And so on, meanwhile Sunnis kill Shiites and Shiites kill Sunnis, and the country goes to ruin.

If they were to sit together and work out what each side needs, says the writer, the logical outcome would look like this. First of all, the Shiites bear a heavier responsibility, because they are in power, and also because they are the bigger group. The point is that they are able to do more than issue calls and statements. They are in a position to investigate and to punish. The Sunnis range of actions, by contrast, is very limited. They are, says the writer, ground between the two millstones of AlQaeda on the one hand, and the Shiite government authorities on the other. The heroics of Dhari and others, and their insistence on US withdrawal and so on, are little more than bluster, and a cover for a weak position. In fact the day is not far off when they (the Sunnis) will have to admit that the occupation is their only protection from both. It would do them well, he says, to reflect carefully about the escalating calls by Moqtada al-Sadr and his allies for the withdrawal of the American forces, particularly since he has become the most powerful figure among the Iraqi Shiites.

The writer explains that time and the deteriorating security picture are on the side of AlQaeda, which has succeeded in its initial moves, feeds on fitna and violence, and expands its reach, and for the same reasons time is on the side of the extremist equivalent on the Shiite side. These will be the only winners if nothing is done.

The logical conclusion, says this writer, is that regional and US pressure to get the elected government moving, and then to support it as it goes about reining in the militias, "both those that are in the open and those that are secret", bringing criminals before the courts, and eventually terminating the militias entirely. The government would also have to "develop support policies" for legitimate Sunni groups and tribal leaders, so that they will be able to take on AlQaeda, ending the "constraint" that they are now under (referring to fear of AlQaeda reprisals should they work with the government), so that they would be able to represent the real interests of the Sunni population. This latter phase (freeing Sunni groups from the constraints of AlQaeda) would be not only a security operation but should involve the spiritual leaders too, making it clear to all that AlQaeda in no way represents their interests, that there is no excuse for "either knowingly or unknowingly" supporting them, and that the only interests AlQaeda serves are those of the proponents of partition.

He concludes: The time has come for decisive action, because otherwise the situation will only deteriorate still further.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I despair when I read such rubbish - it proves that the Machiavellian strategy pursued by the US is bearing fruit. The occupation is NOT a source of protection for anyone - it is the root of all evils in Iraq! Who cut a deal with Iran to get rid of the sovereign Iraqi government in 2002? Who co-opted the Shiite militias into a vengeance-oriented secret police and who trained the death squads to terrorise the Sunni population? And who is now moblising ex-Baathists to massacre the Shiite militias after having pursuaded the latter to hound the former a couple of years ago??

6:08 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Okay okay. Don't forget this guy is a Saudi type writing in Elaph. He lays out their position. A big problem is that we don't have a coherent laying-out of the history the way you have described it(which is the subject-matter of a lot of this blog, as you know). Arab writers assume a lot of it goes without saying, and Western writers pretend to know nothing about it.

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While it is correct to say the Occupation is the source of all current "evil" and that it began with Iran and the US cutting a deal to remove a sovereign Iraqi government in 2002, the fact is that now there is an Iranian-backed majority Shiite Government in Iraq which is not going to disappear even if the US withdraws.

Doesn't this mean the minority Sunni population in Iraq has the difficult choices between accepting US protection and negotiating its place within the new Iraqi constitution, leaving the country (which many of them are doing) or continuing the fight against overwhelmingly superior numbers who now have the organs of government at their disposal?

The Sunni/Saudi writer seems to be accepting this reality and arguing for a negotiated solution.

3:21 PM  
Blogger badger said...

Interesting discussion. Certainly it makes sense for the weaker side to prefer negotiation under a third-party umbrella. But what infuriates anonymous (and many many others) is if you sneak in an assumption that the US is a neutral third party promoting negotiations and protecting people, when the truth is that the US used Shiites to beat up Sunnis and now they seem to be ramping up a program to use Sunnis to beat up Shiites.

4:31 PM  
Blogger markfromireland said...

"Kurds and Israelis unhappy with the turn of events" speaking as someone who's seen first hand the hellish aftermath of what the Pesh in uniform get up to when they're unleashed on civilians all I can say to that is "well boo bloody hoo ... you should have thought of that" Yeah I know it's understandable that they wanted to get their own back but there's a good reason why they shouldn't have (apart from the fact that slaughtering civilians, arson, looting, and rape are wrong that is) and that reason is that the Kurds have been repeatedly stabbed in the back by their Israeli and American "allies." I have to agree with anonyomous - I read stuff like this and just want to sit with my head in my hands.

11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wasn't meaning to suggest that US is a "neutral" third party but rather is demonstrably the only party with a self interest in containing Iranian ambitions and as such an interest in preserving Sunni political rights as per Iraq constituion.

6:34 PM  

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