Thursday, December 27, 2007

The nationalist version of tribal mobilization

There was a brief reference to the Central Council of the Arab Tribes of Iraq in Al-Hayat last week (referred to in this post), where the point was that one of the sources of GreenZone anxiety about the "awakenings" is the fact that they might serve as a vehicle, or an occasion, for the mobilization of pan-Iraqi nationalism, with anti-occupation implications. This has been overlooked in the Western accounts of the whole awakening phenomenon, which talk about GreenZone (and US military) anxiety about the awakenings only in its other form, which is--you guessed it!--the sectarian "Sunni versus Shiia" perspective. The more things change (in Iraq), the more they stay the same (in the Western accounts).

Today Al-Hayat reports on another meeting of this tribal council, this one held in Damascus, and the journalist names a number of the participating tribal leaders with their regions of origin, noting that they included Shia and Sunni, from Anbar, Mosul, Basra and other regions, along with some religious leaders. The journalist leads the story like this:
Sunni and Shia tribal sheikhs and religious leaders affirmed in a declaration yesterday that the unity of Iraq is a red-line that is not to be violated under any circumstances, and they affirmed the unity of stance among the tribes respecting the main principles guaranteeing the independence of Iraq and the unity of its land, preventing external interference in its affairs, and the eliminating sectarian designations from the current political agendas.
In his concluding paragraph, the journalist summarizes the declaration this way:
[It] outlines the commitment of the tribal leaders to protect the unity of Iraq, and reject its partitioning, and to demand the exit of the foreign troops from Iraq and the prevention of interference by neighboring countries in the affairs of Iraq, and the preservation of the national Arab character of Iraq as a country in the Arab and Islamic sphere. [The declaration also outlined] a challenge to the neighboring countries not to use Iraq as a locus for settling of accounts or for the extension of their influence; and a demand on the Iraqi government to broaden the scope of national reconciliation to include all Iraqis, and to end the spirit of [sectarian] monopolization and "allocations" which has been dominant in the Iraqi political scene; and to open the door for the return of members of the former army.
The program of troop-withdrawal, blocking of (Iranian and other) foreign interference, along with the call for ending the spirit of sectarianism, is very similar to the usual programs of the largely Sunni resistance groups, but with these differences: (1) There is explicit Shiite participation, and the program is explicitly pan-Iraqi in terms not only of its ideals, but in its roster of participants as well; and (2) it is missing the call to armed resistance.

Finally, the journalist explains what this declaration has to say specifically about the awakenings.
[The declaration said] the tribal leaders can appreciate some of the motives that caused the creation of some of these Awakening Councils in Iraq, [but] they affirm that these councils are not acceptable when the intent is to strike against the national project in Iraq and cooperation with the occupier against the national people, while at the same time affirming [that the tribal leaders should] encourage their people to preserve security in their areas and deter oppression and attacks on the people [no doubt referring to takfiiri excesses].
In other words, let's channel tribal mobilization in the right direction!


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