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IRAQ - Resurgence In The Shi'ite World - Part 20 - Iraq & Again Tackling Iran.

Adnan al-Dulaimi, who leads the largest Sunni bloc with 44 seats in the 275-seat parliament, the Iraqi Accordance Front (IAF), has warned that Baghdad was in danger of falling into the hands of the "Persians" and "Safawis" - referring to Iran. Dulaimi on Aug. 12 said: "Oh Arabs, your brothers in the land of the two rivers and in Baghdad in particular are exposed to an unprecedented genocide campaign by the [Shi'ite] militias and death squads directed, armed and supported by Iran". Dulaimi's words reflected growing frustration among Sunnis with the government of PM Nouri al-Maliki, widely accused of having a Shi'ite bias and failing to stop execution-style killings by Shi'ite death squads. Maliki on Aug. 8-10 made his second trip to Iran since taking office in May 2006, in what critics claimed was proof of Iran's influence over his government.

Hamid al-Mutlaq, a senior member of the Sunni National Dialogue Front (NDF), on Aug. 13 said of Maliki: "It is one year and 4 months now that he has been in office and he is still leading a one-man rule and a sectarian policy. The country is on the verge of collapse. Is he going to give a cure after all this destruction? He has proved that he is a sectarian leader and a failure; the country is under the control of criminal gangs with the complete absence of an authority or government".

In tackling the threat of the Neo-Salafi groups, the most extreme and violent strain in Sunni Islam, the US forces in Iraq are engaged in three types of confrontation: (1) US troops directly fighting these groups in Baghdad, the provinces of Anbar and Diyala and elsewhere in Iraq; (2) arming Sunni tribes which have suffered a great deal from these groups, an approach which has angered Shi'ite militants backed by Iran; and (3) helping Iraqi Army and security forces, mostly infiltrated by Shi'ites, fight these groups (see Part 19 in rim1-IraqTacklingNeo-SalafisJul23-07).

In all cases, however, the Americans in Iraq have found the Shi'ite theocracy of Iran to be a major obstacle. This is despite a split within the Shi'ite community in Iraq, which features an old rivalry between the Sadrist movement, now headed by a young mullah Muqtada al-Sadr, and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), until recently known as Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Tehran has so far prevented a major shift in the balance of power in Iraq's Ja'fari Shi'ite community. The SIIC is headed by Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim who in religious ranking is superior to and much older than Sadr. Sadr is less experienced, but potentially more dangerous, than Hakim (see Part 18 in RIM6-IraqSadrVsHakimJun11-07, which has a look into the history of Shi'ism).

In addition to leading an axis of forces in the Middle East opposed to the US military presence in the region, Tehran is counting partly on the 'Alawite/Ba'thist dictatorship of Syria in many things, including its process of converting Sunni Arabs into Ja'fari Shi'ism (see news4SyriaShi'ismJul23-07). But the Iranian challenge where the US is concerned has far more serious consequences as Tehran is also arming Sunni insurgences in Afghanistan (see news8Afghan&PakinUSoffensivAug20-07).
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Publication:APS Diplomat Redrawing the Islamic Map
Date:Aug 20, 2007
Previous Article:IRAQ - US Commanders & Envoy Seek More Time.
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