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IRAQ - Iraqi Scenario With Iran Controlling The South.

Ghassan Atiyyah, an Iraqi expert who is founder and director of the Iraq Foundation for Development and Democracy and the editor-in-chief of Al-Malaf Al-Iraqi (the Iraqi File), first published in 1991 in London and recently re-launched in Baghdad, was on July 13 quoted as saying the recent election of Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad as president of the Iraqi republic marked the "the dawn of a new Islamic revolution in the world". Ahmadi-Nejad's election, he said, ended a period during which the Iranian religious leadership was "forced to retreat in the face of the American storm let loose" by 9/11, which "opened a space for Iranian reform that helped not only absorb America's rage, but also allowed for the building of bridges of cooperation, without allowing for genuine change inside Iran". But with the election of Ahmadi-Nejad, "the Iranian presidency regains its militancy in both form and spirit".

Attiyah added: "In spite of the Iranian-American antagonism, it was Iran that was the prime beneficiary of America's wars in Kuwait, Afghanistan, and most recently Iraq. These wars rid Iran of its two greatest adversaries - the Taliban regime and Saddam Hussein - without its having to fire a single bullet. The occupation of Iraq, however, brought with it an Iranian fear that America's quick victory would succeed in establishing a prosperous democratic system that would return Iraq to its former strength - a strength it might again be able to use against Iran. Positive change in Iraq also carried with it the possibility that further pressure would emerge from within Iran demanding democracy. Furthermore, the occupation gave rise to fears that Iran could be America's next stop after its victory in Iraq. This fear quickly led Tehran to build bridges of cooperation with Sunni and Shiite insurgents in Iraq. Once the US became embroiled in Iraq with no victory in sight, Iran entrenched and broadened its influence in Iraq. Washington cannot undertake military action against Iran. Rather, in order to maintain stability and order in Shiite-controlled areas, mainly in southern Iraq, it has become dependent on Islamist Shiite groups subordinate to Iran".

The US needs these groups, and their militias, to maintain order - most notably, the Iranian-backed Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Rather than mediating between the different Iraqi groups, US policy has given rise to a Shiite-Kurdish alliance - where the Sunni Arabs have become victims. Thus, in its confrontation with the Sunni Arab insurgency in Iraq, the US finds itself more reliant on Shiite Arabs and Kurds. "Consequently", Attiyah said, the US was "a prisoner of both rather than an arbiter among different Iraqi factions".

Washington has been forced to become more and more dependent on the Shiite religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, and the two Kurdish leaders, Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani, in order to make past and future elections a success and ensure the participation of the greatest number of voters possible. Attiyah then said: "One of the ironies is that the liberal and secular left in Iraq has become a victim of the electoral process... It is under these circumstances that 'revolutionary' Iran is engaged in expanding its influence in Iraq. Today, this influence remains limited to southern Iraq, especially Basra".

Attiyah went on: "The contending roles in the regime have congealed into one - that of an extremist Iran carrying a 'message' to the Islamic world and trying to acquire nuclear power. Washington's rush to bring about agreement on a permanent Iraqi Constitution and to hold elections in Iraq at the end of the current year will further tempt Iran to expand its influence for the advent of an Iraqi Shiite government. This government will be its ally, if not its subordinate. This it will do before American efforts to build bridges to the Sunni Arabs succeed".

Inter-Kurdish competition between Talabani and Barzani will compel Talabani, as in the past, to maintain open relations with Iran. There remain many unresolved issues between Iran and Iraq. Attiyah noted that Iran continued to demand compensation for the Iraq-Iran war according to UN Security Council Resolution 509. Iran insists that Iraq announce its compliance with the 1975 accord which redrew the bilateral border in Iran's favour.

Attiyah concluded: "The Bush administration's frustrations in Iraq serve Iranian extremism both inside and outside Iran. Unless there is a reconsideration of American policies in Iraq, the country could end up a de facto partitioned state, with southern Iraq under the influence or direct control of Iran".

Muslim On Extremism & Democracy: A survey done by the Pew Global Attitudes Project before the July 7 bombings in London found that the British public was among the least hostile to Muslims, along with Canadians and Americans. That tolerance is not unequivocal. The International Herald Tribune (IHT) on July 15 said that, by July 14, at least four mosques in Britain had been set ablaze since the July 7 attacks.

Pew found that nearly four years after 9/11, and with terrorist attacks continuing around the world, a growing number of Muslims said violence against civilian targets was never justified. That figure was highest in Morocco, followed by Indonesia and Turkey, with big majorities rejecting suicide bombing as an acceptable means of defending Islam. Yet, roughly half of the Muslims questioned in Jordan, Lebanon, and Morocco said that in Iraq, suicide bombings against Americans and other Westerners could be justified.

Pew said a belief that democratic governance would work for the Muslim world had risen sharply. But at the same time, in many Muslim countries, support was strong for a greater Islamic role in national governments.

The poll, among 17,000 people from late April to early June, offered an unusually broad look at Muslim attitudes, and at Western attitudes on a range of Muslim issues. It found a sharp drop in the numbers of Muslims saying they would support violence against civilians in defence of Islam. This was most striking in countries which themselves had been hit by high-profile bombings. Support for such violence dropped sharply in Lebanon, where former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri was killed on Feb. 14, and in Morocco where suicide bombers killed dozens of people in Casablanca in 2003. In every instance, support dropped sharply when people were asked to contemplate attacks in their own country. Support for violence against civilians fell in Indonesia, which suffered a big decline in tourism after the Bali bombings of October 2002, with 45% of Indonesians surveyed saying they viewed Islamic extremism as posing a threat to their country. Still larger percentages in Morocco, Pakistan and Turkey said they viewed Islamic extremism as posing a very or fairly great threat to their country. There was no consensus about the causes of Islamic extremism.

Lebanese and Jordanians pointed to US policies; Moroccans and Pakistanis to poverty and joblessness; Turks to lack of education; and Indonesians to immorality. The polling was conducted in six predominantly Muslim countries - Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan and Turkey - and in Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain and the United States. Margins of error ranged from plus or minus two percentage points to plus or minus four. The responses amplified a Pew finding released in June showing that anti-US feelings had been declining in the Islamic world but that favourable feelings outnumbered the unfavourable only in Morocco.

From its findings in the West, the Pew report sketched more sharply some of the fault lines in nations where Muslims and others coexisted. In almost every European country with a Muslim minority, a majority of respondents said they viewed Muslim immigrants as slow to accept and take on local values and customs, and they overwhelmingly viewed a growing sense of Islamic identity among Muslims in their countries as "a bad thing".

About 9 in 10 Dutch respondents said Muslims in the Netherlands had a strong sense of Muslim identity. A 9 in 10 Germans said Muslims in their country wanted to remain distinct from the larger country; only half of Americans said this about Muslims in the US.

Paul Scheffer at the University of Amsterdam said there was no doubt the distance between Muslims and the rest of Dutch society was growing in the Netherlands. He said for Muslims, "reaffirming their religious identity is also the result of not feeling at home". Big majorities in every non-Muslim country except Poland said they were concerned about Islamic extremism in their own countries. In Canada, the US and Russia, majorities said they had very or somewhat favourable views of Muslims, as they did in France, with the largest Muslim population in Western Europe - about 10% of the total population of 60m. Only in the Netherlands did a bare majority hold unfavourable views, as did nearly half of Germans. Majorities in Germany and the Netherlands said they held negative views of immigration from the Middle East and North Africa.

Many in Muslim countries seemed to confirm the perceived separateness of societies, saying they saw themselves first as Muslims, then as citizens of their country. In Europe, attitudes on Turkey's bid for EU membership were shaped strongly by attitudes on immigration. Majorities in France, Germany, and the Netherlands said they opposed EU membership for Turkey; majorities in Britain, Poland, Spain and Turkey were in favour.

Polling in most Muslim countries found falling levels of confidence in Osama Bin Laden. In Jordan, confidence rose from 55% in 2003 to 60%, and in Pakistan it rose from 45% to 51%.

There was near-universal antipathy in the Muslim countries towards Jews. In Lebanon, 99% of Muslims and Christians said they were very unfavourable towards Jews.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Redrawing the Islamic Map
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Jul 18, 2005
Previous Article:IRAQ - Why Is The US Less Safe.
Next Article:IRAQ - Resurgence In The Shiite World - Part 8 - A Sectarian War.

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