Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The drumbeat of polarization

Abdulaziz al-Hakim gave a speech yesterday at the United States Institute of Peace (an institution funded by the US Congress) and the main point picked up by Reuters and thence by many others, was Hakim's attack on the "terrorist Baathists". It went like this:
We believe that the deterring factors are not up to the level of their [Baathists'] criminal activities. The strikes they are getting from the multinational forces are not hard enough to put an end to their acts, but leave them stand up again to resume their criminal acts. This means that there is something wrong in the policies taken to deal with that danger threatening the lives of the Iraqis.
Then this:
Eliminating the danger of civil war in Iraq could only be achieved through directing decisive strikes against terrorist Bathists terrorists in Iraq. Otherwise we'll continue to witness massacres being commited every now and then against innocent Iraqis.
The Reuters reporter rendered the "terrorist Bathists terrorists in Iraq" phrase as "Baathist terrorists (and other Islamists) in Iraq".

Clearly in a case like this we need to refer to "Informed Comment", where Juan Cole offers this important background:
...Hakim frequently urges a hard line against the "neo-Baathists" and militant Salafi revivalists, i.e., the Sunni Arabs of Iraq.
So you have a choice in the description of the enemy: "Terrorist Bathists terrorists in Iraq", or in Juan's explanatory turn of phrase, "neo-Baathists and militant Salafi revivalists, i.e., the Sunni Arabs of Iraq".

This comes at a time when Sunni Arabs of Iraq, Shiite Arabs of Iraq, and non-Arabs of Iraq are trying to form a coalition within the elected Iraqi parliament to force an end to the American occupation, summarized here and here, among other places. But what you hear in America is just the endless drumbeat of sectarian polarization.

As a matter of fact, according to Al-Hayat this morning, Hakim didn't primarily urge Bush to hit the Sunnis harder. Rather says the Al-Hayat reporter, the Bush-Hakim discussion centered on "how to support the Maliki administration and the best way of dealing with his (Hakim's) rival Moqtada al-Sadr leader of the Mahdi Army, and the formation of a coalition of moderates to confront the extremists." Same polarization scheme, different enemy.

The lead editorial in Al-Quds al-Arabi talks about "three trips with a single result", referring to Arab League head Amr Musa trying to navigate the political jungle of Lebanon; Palestinian Prime Minister Haniya touring the Gulf and Syria; and Hakim in Washington. Polarization, says the editorialist, has gone so far in all of these cases, that pacification seems now to be impossible. A large part of the responsibility for the polarization rests with Washington, but the Al-Quds editorialist says the Arab regimes in the region are even more responsible, for having acquiesced and supported Washington in this.


Blogger JHM said...

The Rev. al-Hakím singled out another enemy and fomentor of civil war besides "terrorist Bathists terorists,"

"I am afraid that some day the Shiite Religious Authorities might lose their ability
to calm down the reaction to the continuous sectarian cleansing attacks and violating the
sovereignty of the holy places of the Shiites aiming to displace them by the Arab media.
They are trying [to keep] the Shiite majority from getting their legitimate rights.
[p. 4]

Happy days.

3:48 PM  

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