Saturday, February 23, 2008

IAI praises Shiite actions in the South

Al-Hayat printed on Friday an interview it said was the first ever by the "Emir" of the Islamic Army in Iraq, whom it didn't identify. The person's remarks dealt with a wide range of matters, including denunciation of the Awakenings and AlQaeda, and rejection of the Americans' negotiating overtures as "not serious", dismissal of the Baath as having lost strategic weight, and so on. But there are three points that are new (compared with earlier IAI statements), and they indicate attempts to make progress in the direction of bringing resistance groups together.

With respect to the AlQaeda in Iraq, aka the Islamic State of Iraq, he describes the latter expression as "a grand name for an imaginary entity", and points out that they call themselves AlQaeda, and in any event they have made themselves unwelcome in Iraq.
What happened is that AlQaeda [in Iraq] by its wrong policies, cut itself off not only from the other armed groups, but also from Iraqi society.
The interviewer then asks him about the declaration of a Political Council for the Iraqi Resistance, to which he replies:
The announcement of the Political council for the Iraqi resistance was a natural result of five years of jihad. Political work is not in contradiction with military operations, in fact military work is part of political work, as Clausewitz said: Politics is war but by gentler methods, and war is politics by violent means. The point is to impose your will.

The legitimate definition of politics is: That which is most effective in bringing the people closest to what is good and farthest from what is corrupt. ...And this is not any different from what is said in [the Prophet's] revealed law. So for that reason we don't see that discussing "politics" is a deviation, not at all.

Of course it should be clear that the Political Council doesn't mean entering into the actual political process. We don't recognize the political process that has been contrived by the occupation, which controls it.
He appears to be answering an objection from strict Islamists to the effect that any involvement in "politics" is against Islam. He says no: The principle of "politics" is essentially the same as that of Islam, no matter how strictly you interpret the latter, because in essence the point is to bring the people as close as possible to the good and as far as possible from the corrupt. The point is the same whether you take it from the broad definition, or from the tenets of revealed law, so there is not necessarily a conflict.

(Recall that in one of his letters to the factions, Harith al-Dhari raised this issue as an important point in achieving unity in the resistance, where some are for the caliphate, some are for pure Sharia, some are for modern institutions with Islam as a check on legislation. What appears from this interview with the IAI chief is that the caliphate group have put themselves beyond the pale, and that as for the remaining positions there could or should be a general definition, of the type he outlines, that will satisfy everyone).

There is another point where it appears some progress has been made, and that is in relation to the Shiites. Earlier statements attributed to IAI spokespeople have not had anything good to say about Shiites, referring to them mainly in connection with the "Safavid" Iran and consequently as hypothetical or real enemies. In this interview, the remarks with reference to Shiites are noticeably different. Asked about the possibility of agreement with people of "different sects", he said:
We support any social agreements that work to the benefit of religion and of the state by throwing out the occupiers and lifting oppression from the people. We invite the Arab Shiites to reject the occupation in all its shapes and forms, and not to comply with the Safavid ambitions.

And we welcome the positive reaction of the Arab Shiite tribes in their intifada against the Safavids who oppressed their views and their freedoms. What you are seeing in the South by way of activities of the [Shiite] tribes are steps in the right direction.
This is a lot different from the blanket denunciations in earlier statements.

The three points fit together: (1) Abandonment of the takfiiri crowd, means there isn't any basis for ruling out Shiites on the basis of religious definitions. (2) Finding a general non-religious definition of "politics" in principle opens the door to political discussions with groups on a range from secular to strict Islamic. And (3) there is recognition that Shiite groups can be patriotic Iraqis too.

On other issues, there is less change. He accused the Baathists of continuing to try and appropriate the fruits of others' efforts, to compensate for their own loss of strategic weight, so there is no sign of rapprochement there. And he said the Americans "aren't serious" about negotiating with the resistance. If they are talking with any group they think is the IAI, they are mistaken about the identity of their interlocutor.


Blogger Alison said...

The leaders and spokespersons of the Islamic Army, and some other 'Islamist' factions, whose ranks include thousands of EX-Ba’athists (and renegade Ba’athists?), seem to be more concerned with ONE-UPMANSHIP than with the liberation of Iraq.

Their penchant for sneering at – and smearing – the Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party, soiling the hand that fed and nurtured them before they found other patrons, is a disgrace. It plays into the hands of the Americans and their many agents, including the Saudis. They cannot fail to be aware of that.

Thanks to the irresponsibility and the short-sightedness of these people, many of whom seem to be ensnared in the Saudi-sponsored so-called Awakening, the liberation of Iraq will probably take at least a generation to accomplish.

If they had heeded the appeals of the Ba’ath - and their principled allies in the Iraqi Patriotic Alliance - for unity in the ranks of the (nationalist AND Islamist) Resistance things could have been very different…

4:02 AM  

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