Free Iraqi

I was not living before the 9th of April and now I am, so let me speak!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Reviewing the enemies of the change.

When I said in a previous post that the American military in Iraq and some people in the White House still see Sunnis as the enemy I never meant that they're taking sides, and truly I see that it's ridiculous to think this way.

What I meant was that they haven't been paying enough attention to the changing dynamics in Iraq since the 9th of April 2003 and still see things generally in the same scope. When the Americans entered Iraq most She'at and Kurds were overjoyed while most Sunnis were in shock. They didn't believe that it was possible and some of them didn't want to believe it was. They also feared a possible reappraisal from the She'at majority. Saddam and his propaganda machine did a good job in making Sunnis terrified of the prospect of She'at mobs marching to Sunni areas to kill and burn and rape, and it worked despite that none of that happened in the 1991 uprising when the She'at targeted no Sunni just for being Sunni. They only targeted Ba'athists and officials regardless of their sect.

Sunnis boycotted the political process and the fact that Ba'athists remained strongest than the Americans in Sunni areas made most Sunnis believe that this is not the end of it and that Saddam or the Ba'ath without him will make a comeback sooner or later. I say stronger because they were still able to kill and torture while the Americans 'couldn't' do that and couldn't even prevent Ba'athists from doing it and that translates as Ba'athists being stronger to most Iraqis.

But the political process went on and the Sunnis lost a lot by not joining it and at some point even the active ex-Ba'athists had to see that they would gain nothing from such a boycott and that a participation would be more rewarding especially that these people have no moral code or principle that keeps them fighting regardless of the outcome unlike hardcore Islamists who are by the way mostly non Iraqis.

The enemy no 1 of the change was the Sunnis while She'at and Kurds were mostly supporters of it. With time and as Sunnis decided to take part in politics this has changed. The truth is that there are many enemies to the change now in Iraq and many of them have strong influence inside or outside the government. Religious She'at are enemies of a liberal democracy in Iraq. Hardcore Ba'thists and even ex-Ba'athists are enemies of it too. Even extremist Kurd nationalists are strong enemies too, as their plans do not include a democratic Iraq but at best a democratic Kurdistan. Most of those however found it impossible to declare their frank opposition to the change and act upon it except for the Sadirists and some remnants of the Ba'athists and Al-Qaeda and its likes.

So which opposition deserves our full attention and which can be dealt with at a later stage? Is it the most determinant or the most capable?

Most Sunnis (Al-Qaeda and Ba'athists included here) tried to stop the political process but failed. Zarqawi couldn't stop the transformation of authority to Iraqis. He couldn't drive Americans out. He couldn't stop the formation of a transitional government, two elections and the writing of the constitution despite his desperate attempts. In the end Sunnis split as most of them saw that fighting isn't the answer.

Before the latest events that signaled what can be seen as a civil war by some, many Iraqis thought that on the event of Americans pulling out the Ba'athists would rule again using their most powerful weapon; terror and their still functioning base and semi-military structure. I thought that was possible too. What we saw though is that She'at militias were able to go inside almost strictly Sunni areas and burn mosques or occupy them and threaten and kill many Sunnis while no Sunni or Ba'athists were able to get anywhere near places like Sadr city for example and the only way the Sunni extemists fought back with was car bombs. Not a very efficient way to take over a country. Morevover, those suicide bombers are not part of any influential Sunni political power while She'at militias are and the fact that most Sunnis voted in the last election proves that.

When I asked an American friend here the question why American military still see Sunnis as enemy number 1 he answered, "Because they're the ones who are killing our soldiers" and that's a painful truth, that American soldiers are being killed and by Sunni radicals. Ba'athists and Al-Qaeda supposedly supported by many Sunnis can kill American soldiers, Iraqi soldiers, She'at civilians and can harm the infra structure. All that is terrible but did it stop the political change? It didn't just fail to stop Kurds and She'at but in fact it led Sunnis to join them.

The worst effect that radical Sunni groups can achieve is dependant on the response of the Iraqi government and namely the religious She'at groups. Had they confronted this terrorism as Iraqis and not as She'at, built a capable national army and police, none of what's happening now would've happened. Instead they used the support and money from the US to strengthen their own militias and basically turned the police and army into a sectarian force and more an oppressive one that targets Sunnis 1st but spread its oppression to involve all citizens including poor religious She'at who have no partisan support. They turned this into a sectarian confrontation while they could have made it a confrontation between Iraqis and terrorists but that would not have served their agenda. This is the major obstacle now. We have failed to build and Iraqi army and police and we failed to build an Iraqi government.

Thankfully the American embassy is paying attention and has been sending clear messages to the UIA that this is unacceptable and has been putting pressure on it to give up its sectarian policies.

Enemy no 1 of the change now is tens of thousands of organized militia under the control of fanatics like Sadr and Al-Hakeem and who have legitimate cover provided by Sistani and almost unlimited support (and influence) from Iran with funds coming from the revenue of the holy sites, Iran and sadly the US itself. This is the capable enemy even though it may look less determinant but that's only on the outer surface.

The Americans were not supporting She'at religious parties and are not fighting Sunnis, not at all. They're supporting the Iraqi government and fighting the insurgency, praising and glorifying those in power and discouraging opposition, as they saw it as opposition to the change and in some case it was but not all the time. The confrontation changed from one between supporters of democracy and opposing parties in the start as we all saw it into one between radical She'at on one side and Sunnis together with some secular She'at and Kurds now on the other side. Some Americans couldn't see this change and kept supporting the 'government' and discouraging the opposition.
The Iraqi army is great and the police is wonderful and the constitution is a great step towards democracy and the government represent all Iraqis and all Iraqis should support it. That's all they have been saying and all they wanted to hear.

Lack of patience maybe a factor and the fact that the enemy of the US is Sunni in most parts of the world maybe another factor. The battle in Iraq is more complicated than that however since She'at are much stronger here.
This project aims, as I see it, to spread democracy in the Arab/Muslim world. Most Muslims are by far Sunnis and therefore for such a project to gain acceptance among the majority of Muslims it has to not just help Iraq become a stable prosperous democracy but during the journey it should prevent any sort of obvious sectarian oppression and domination by She'at, as Sunni Muslims all over the world would become resentful and fearful of it.

This is a very difficult project, more difficult than we who believe in it ever thought but it still can work and it needs patience and sacrifices from all. I keep hearing it from American friends, here in Iraq and through this blog, that Americans want the Iraqi army to get on its feet as soon as possible and then leave. I'm sorry to say that I think it's better you leave now if that's what you think, as staying for a while and doing this in a rush won't make any difference for Iraqis and would only cause more unnecessary sacrifices among Americans. This project requires full commitment and nothing less.

What Iraqis have to do is another story of course. We have to have faith in each other and I'm one of those who believe that the natural course of events, with the needed commitments from Iraqis and Americans will definitely lead to what we all hope; a stable prosperous democratic Iraq that can be one of America's best friends in the region and that can convince most Muslims to reject fanaticism and endorse democracy. Let's decide if it's worth it and if it can happen.