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Pax Americana In Iraq Is Changing - Part 2 - Unity Efforts.

The US is intensifying efforts to preserve the unity of Iraq, while the Shi'ite theocracy of Iran is seen as a divisive force in this country and other parts of the Arab world. In a combination of diplomatic efforts and the use of American force, the US wants to project this as a model for the rest of the Arab world.

The US efforts will concentrate on disarmament of militias belonging to Iran-backed Shi'ite political parties which want to establish in a part of Iraq a theocracy similar to that of Tehran. In Lebanon, the Iran-sponsored Hizbullah is establishing its own theocracy in the Shi'ite parts of the country including the south and the Beqa' plateau even before a partitioning of this country.

In Lebanon, Hizbullah already has become stronger than the state. Hizbullah's military wing is behaving as if it is stronger than the state's army. Hizbullah's representative in Tehran has said the organisation's guerrilla force will have to defend Lebanon as long as the state's army is incapable of doing so (see news9-LebHizb-IranUS-Aug28-06).

An escalation of sectarian violence has engulfed Iraq for nearly six months. Bombings and abductions are common in many parts of Baghdad, a capital mainly divided into Sunni and Shi'ite enclaves - with Kurds and other minorities trying to be in protected areas. From Washington's standpoint, whether or not Iraq is in civil war is a question less important than whether Pax Americana still holds a promise for those people in the Middle East who hope their part of the world will have a good future (see fap1-IraqSectarianJuly17-06).

The Neo-Salafis of al-Qaeda are seeking to move their main base of operation from Afghanistan to Iraq (see news3-Neo-SalafiBaseJuly17-06). A radical strain of Sunni Islam which is threatening society, the Neo-Salafis are trying to prove to the world that Pax Americana in Iraq is an impossibility. A failure for the US in Iraq could mean a dangerous decline in America's standing across the globe and a partition of most Middle Eastern countries into sectarian and ethnic statelets around an Israel becoming a super-power or an entrenched ghetto.

Neo-conservatives (neo-cons) in the Bush administration are claiming that Iran is a divisive power seeking to partition Iraq, Lebanon and other Arab states. Indeed, Iran-backed Shi'ite political parties in Iraq want a federal system in their country. The Sunni Arabs have repeatedly accused these parties of wanting to partition Iraq, with the Shi'ites in the south of the country to become a theocracy and to federate with Iran.

Hizbullah's Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon is the representative of Ayatullah Ali Khamenei, the supreme guide of Iran's Shi'ite theocracy. There is a representative of the theocracy's supreme guide in Iraq and in each of the Shi'ite communities in Saudi Arabia's oil-rich Eastern Province, Bahrain, and other countries.

The deputy of Nasrallah in Lebanon's Hizbullah leadership, Shaikh Na'im Qassem, has written a book on the concept of "velayat-e-faqih" (the rule of the supreme guide, or a theocracy in Ja'fari Shi'ite terms). There have been hints that Hizbullah's objective is to establish in Lebanon yet a more credible Shi'ite theocracy similar to Iran's, which would mean a partitioning of a country with Christians, Sunnis and Druze communities forming 65% of its total population.

Iran-backed Iraqi Shi'ite parties betting on such a model in Iraq include the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) of Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim. Iran is trying to win over the radical Sadrist movement of young Shi'ite mullah Muqtada al-Sadr who is Hakim's arch-rival and whose militia, Jaysh al-Mahdi, is trying to become stronger than Hakim's Badr group. In recent months Badr militia forces have been losing out to Jaysh al-Mahdi, which Iran is said to be trying to model after Lebanon's Hizbullah.

Experts, however, insist that the Sadrist group has been projecting itself as being part of an Arab nationalist movement in Iraq and has support from among Sunni Arab religious and political groups in the country. Whether or not Iran's overtures to Sadr have already made this radical mullah part of Tehran's geo-political ambitions remains to be seen. Since he has visited Tehran early this year, Sadr has been receiving financial aid and weapons from Iran, including improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Hakim has been extremely worried by Jaysh al-Mahdi's rapid rise to prominence and has recently called for all militia groups in Iraq, including SCIRI's Badr, to be disbanded. Hakim has been weakened as a result of Sadr's ascent.

Whereas Hakim still relies on American support and military presence in the country, Sadr has all along called for an end to the US-led occupation of Iraq. Sadr belongs to a Shi'ite religious family which has given Iraq illustrious leaders for the past century, including his uncle and father-in-law Grand Ayatullah Muhammad Baqer al-Sadr - a co-founder of the Da'wa movement, who was executed in 1980 by Saddam's Ba'thist dictatorship - and his father Ayatullah Muhammad Sadeq al-Sadr who was killed in 1999.

While it is generally understood that Muhammad Sadeq al-Sadr was executed by Saddam's regime, there has been a rumour that he was assassinated by a member of the Hakim camp - although Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim and his elder brother Grand Ayatullah Muhammad Baqer al-Hakim and other members of this clan lived in Iran from the early 1980s until they returned to Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

The elder Hakim was killed, along with many other Shi'ites, in a bomb at the entrance to Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf. It was said the killing was done by a Neo-Salafi suicide bomber belonging to al-Qaeda's Iraq branch which until June 2006 used to be led by Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi. Zarqawi was killed in a US air strike near Ba'quba in June 2006.

Experts point out that, whereas Sadr is backed by Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Hakim draws support from the pragmatic wing of Iran's traditionalist camp. The latter camp includes former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, head of the powerful Expediency Council who wants to see the nuclear issue with the US resolved peacefully, while the IRGC wants to retain "the nuclear card" which its critics say means nuclear weapons. Iran's hardline President, Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, is part of the IRGC bloc in the Shi'ite theocracy. The IRGC has been behind both Hizbullah and Sadr's Jaysh al-Mahdi.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Fate of the Arabian Peninsula
Date:Aug 28, 2006
Words:1046
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