Monday, November 06, 2006

"Saddam's oppression was political, it is the Americans who are pushing sectarianism"

Reuters in Arabic published an interesting analytical piece following the Saddam sentencing announcement, by Saad al-Qarsh or Qarash, citing Mideast analysts in support of the idea that judgment is part of a strategy by certain Iraqi and non-Iraqi forces to build sectarianism into Iraqi government and society, for their own ends. Saddam's oppression, according to this view, was not sectarian but rather political, his motivation being preservation of his regime by eliminating threats from whatever group. His targets included Sunni as well as Shiite groups. It is the current US policy to do precisely what they illogically accuse Saddam of having done, namely weaken the nation by fomenting sectarianism. And the Saddam sentencing is part of that US-led strategy. Here the writer cites a recent book by Bashir Nafie called "Iraq: Unity and Division".

The other point is that the American invasion has had the effect not only of inflaming Sunni-Shiite antagonism, but also helped ignite latent inter-Shiite antagonisms as well. This part of the argument is fairly subtle and full of history. (But also current events: There is an indication of Chalabi having played an important role in trying to pin the murder of Imam Abdul Majid al-Khoei on April 10, 2003, on Moqtada, the two being inter-Shiite rivals.) The writer cites a recent book by Saif al-Khayat called "The Covenant and the Faith: The story of the Shiites in Iraq". (Both of these books are in Arabic; I am just giving my own version of the titles and the spelling of the authors' names).

Bashir Nafie is the Palestinian historian whose views on the two stages of the American occupation (first using the Shiites to suppress the Sunni opposition; now resurrecting the Sunni opposition to help combat the Shiite-Iran threat) was summarized briefly in the prior post here dated November 2 (second half of that post).

AFP's main point in its press summary is that European and other press reactions to the sentencing were generally in lockstep with the stance of the respective governments on the US invasion. (The Sun in the UK gloating; Figaro in France pointing to the illegality of the occupation; Tehran overjoyed; and so on).

Azzaman, for its part, digs a little deeper and notes that in at least one country (Egypt) where the US is supported by the government, the reactions didn't fit the government position at all. The point about the illegality of such a judgment under the US occupation was stressed, not only the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood (Mohammed Akef), but also be a leader of the liberal opposition Wafd party, who said Iraq is living under the horrific conditions imposed on it by the American neo-colonial policy, and any such judgment as this should wait until the occupation ends and the Iraqi situation is normalized. A spokesman for the biggest Egyptian human-rights organization made basically the same point. He said the Saddam trial was "political from beginning to end", and he added that the timing vis-a-vis the US congressional elections is obviously a part of that.


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