Sunday, May 04, 2008

Dhari: Sadr City atrocities should help us cure Sunni-Shia animosity

A commenter yesterday wanted to know, really and truly, what could be the US motive in damaging a hospital and taking out ambulances and other vehicles, and so on. I did the best I could, referring him to the statement of the Baghdad health director who said it was an effort to degrade the facility, making in hard for doctors to get to work, and so on. Had I been more alert, I could have referred him to this statement made yesterday by Harith al-Dhari, head of the Association of Muslim Scholars of Iraq (AMSI). Dhari is the leading public spokesman for the nationalist/Islamist wing of the Sunni resistance movement. Here's the concluding part of what he said, according to a summary on the AMSI website:
[Dhari] also stressed that what the occupation forces and the Iraqi forces are doing in this city [Sadr City] is what they do in other cities like Falluja, Samarra, Haditha, and Hit, and in parts of Mosul, Baghdad and other places: They use armed persons as pretexts for pitiless attacks on the people and the infliction of damage on them, with the aim of degrading them [idhlaal: degradation, debasement, humiliation] and causing them by force to cooperate with the notorious projects of the occupation and its collaborators.
That was one point: the use of degradation, debasement, humiliation in an attempt demoralize people and force compliance. It is a point that has been made many times before.

But the Dhari statement also contained an important message respecting the specific problem of Sunni-Shia solidarity. The statement is introduced this way:
The Association [AMSI] urged the people of Sadr City to learn from these events and to have patience, because the government and its leaders and its political blocs who have done this to them, and have called down upon them the forces of the occupation--these are the same people who earlier exploited many of the people of this city to help them execute their vile aims, under false slogans, whose basis is the defense of sectarianism.
As readers can see, Dhari is talking about the post-Feb 06 "ethnic cleansing" period. He is saying to the Sadrists of Sadr City: Hopefully now you will be able to better understand that those who were manipulated into participating in that, were being exploited by the same people who are now sponsoring these American air-strikes and other atrocities against you. Hopefully this will serve as an education for you, on the path to abandonment of sectarianism and an better understanding of the need to throw out the occupiers who are at the root of all of these problems, from which we have been suffering sequentially.

His remarks on this theme are summarized by the AMSI site as follows:
The Association criticized these atrocities as terror, and it blamed them entirely on the American occupation and the current government. It urges the people of this city--as it earlier urged the people of other cities who have undergone what they are now undergoing--to maintain their determination, and their solidarity and their patience, because that is what will break the enemy's arrogance, and force it to retreat and abandon all of its destructive projects.
It is true that the theme of the American occupation as the single root cause of all of the different manifestations of sectarianism from which Iraq has suffered, one after the other, since the invasion--that this theme has been stressed in all of Dhari's political/strategic statements, so its repetition here isn't new as far as that goes. What is new is his addressing this message to the Shiite population of Sadr City, in the light of the history of animosity dating from the post-Feb 06 period: In the final analysis, he is saying, this was not one group against another group. Rather this was just another case of instigation of sectarianism directly or indirectly by the American occupation. Now that the current stage of that cycle of instigated sectarianism is upon us, the conclusion should be inescapable: The same (Badr Corp and their American masters, although he doesn't put it that way) who were using Sadrists to attack Sunnis, are now bombing and attacking you. The simple answer is the return to Iraqi solidarity and the expulsion of the occupier.


Blogger markfromireland said...

I keep on pointing out that relations between al-Sadr and the AMSI are generally very good.

Many thanks for this important posting.

9:50 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Thanks for the update and clarification on this issue.

You write that Dhari is sending the message that this kind of policy of humiliation should be a cause around which Shiites and Sunni can unite to resist the occupation. I'm wondering, as a purely tactical matter, is it really possible for nationalist Shiites and Sunnis to unite to do this and fight the Americans directly, or does what Dhari is calling for really require them to fight Shiites allied with SCIRI and Maliki (who support and are supported by the American occupation)?

I guess what I'm wondering is if, given Maliki and his allies' symbiotic relationship with the occupation, there really is any way for nationalist Iraqis to resist the occupation without thereby further engendering sectarianism?

6:46 AM  
Blogger badger said...

(Answering you with more questions)

As you rightly point out, that's a major tactical issue, and it will be interesting to see how they deal with it. Recall Sadr making a point of offering olive branches and copies of the holy Koran to Iraqi security people who refused to fight. And in a different context (but the same theme) Dhari's famous warning against Sunni resistance groups declaring war on "AQ" because really and truly, most of the so-called "AQ" people are young Iraqis that have been misled ("They are of us and we are of them"). Their minds are working in the same direction, and hopefully they can find ways of avoiding the tactical pitfall you mention.

However there is another factor: Iran, and the idea that some of the Sunni groups have adopted to the effect the "Iranian occupation" is the more serious short-term problem. That's where I think the risk of triggering sectarianism is highest, and an area where I don't think "we" (Western people) have a lot of insight.

8:29 AM  

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