“Shi’ite challenge to US policy”

By Gareth Porter in "Asia Times"

WASHINGTON – In escalating their conflict with the United States over its efforts to weaken the Iraqi insurgency by co-opting Sunni political figures, Shi’ite party leaders may have delivered a fatal blow to the US strategy.

US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad has been trying to convince the Sunni population that a share of political power will protect their interests. But the ruling Shi’ite party – supported by the anti-US cleric Muqtada al-Sadr – has now broken decisively with that strategy, castigating both Sunni political leaders and the US as being apologists for terrorists.

Responding to the January 5 suicide bombing in Karbala that killed 60 Shi’ites and wounded 120, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader

of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which heads the ruling Shi’ite coalition, said, "We hold responsible coalition forces and political elements that have openly announced their support for terrorism, for the pure blood that has flowed."


So, I guess Hakim would be a "partisan" critic?

Seriously, this is bad news.  If Hakim and his Shia friends are going to do the predictable thing and simply oppose anything that might placate Sunni Arabs enough to lure them away from support of the various insurgent groups, then the effective dissolution of Iraq, either "de facto" or "de jure" is virtually inevitable.

Some people write to me to express their ideas as to how things "ought to be" in Iraq.  Often they do not seem to understand the difference between "idea" and "reality."  They believe that "right thinking" and "justice" are "reality."  In fact they are "idea."  Sounds a little like "The Cave?" Even soldiers read Plato. (and not at the University of Chicago)

In Iraq, we have an example of the trouble one can get into by confusing "idea" and "reality."  Our "idea" in Iraq has been a transformed polity run on the basis of "one person, one vote," universal suffrage, the rule of law, a belief in the countrywide acceptance of Iraqi nationality as the primary basis of self identification, in short a NEW IRAQ.  Unfortunately, this NEW IRAQ does not seem to be emerging from the smoke and flame.  A number of senior American government people cling bravely (or egregiously as the case might be) to all or various parts of this "idea" of ours concerning Iraq.  I imagine that they will do so even in their memoirs, years after the climax of these events. 

Hakim’s "reality" seems to be shared by a great many in Iraq.  In his "reality" the Shia (one man, one vote) majority is going to use its voting power to dominate and "punish" the Sunni Arabs for the millennium of oppression which they suffered at their hands. 

I can hear it now!  Is this not FAIR?  Is it not JUST?  Yes, it is!  Justice will have been served in that outcome, but Iraq as it has been will cease to be and warfare at some level of violence will continue in Mesopotamia indefinitely.

Is Justice not more important than Peace?

I suppose the answer depends on the identity of him who answers. 

Pat Lang


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13 Responses to “Shi’ite challenge to US policy”

  1. angela says:

    General Odom predicted in his argument for withdrawal that the Shiite militias and Iran would wait until after the eclections to assert their power.
    They have us over the barrel I think. Hakim’s claim that the constitution can not be seriously amended either discredits us a lot or discredits us quite a bit and forces us into bargaining.
    They do remember how Sistani forced elections.
    The administration has decided not to ask for more funding for AID right after responsibilit for reconstruction passes from Rumsfeld to State.
    I don’t know if this is purely political spite or an indicator that we don’t plan to “stay the course,” wither way it seems a move back to the style that aggravated the probems from the beginning.
    It would not surprise me that if we fail to offer new funds that people like Hakim and others will demand an accounting of the many billions of Iraqi money the CPA spent on dubious projects.
    I supported the move by us and the British to try and reform the prisons and police, but it does look like it will lead to a showdown between us and the ruling elements of the new government.
    Politically so much is at stake domesticaly, the situation must be deemed a success I expect we will back down. Which I expect will lead Sunni throughout the middle east to believe we are parties to their suppression in Iraq.

  2. Jerome Gaskins says:

    “Is Justice not more important than Peace?”
    As I read your words, Colonel, I felt the memories of so many people throughout history who have asked that question with the ruin of their lives…

  3. W. Patrick Lang says:

    And what is your answer?

  4. John Howley says:

    The Shiite groups you mention are closely tied to the Iranian government. How do recent events in the two countries relate? U.S. “tilts” to Sunnis in Iraq and Teheran breaks the seals on nuclear materials and otherwise provokes the U.S. Probably just a coincidence…

  5. Jerome Gaskins says:

    Well, you know what they say in LA:
    “No Justice, no Peace”
    How long can an aggrieved party swallow their injuries in the interest of peace? It’s not like the offender is going to repent; in fact, they will be more likely to offend.
    I may be wrong, but I’ve always believed that the ills suffered by so many people and ignored in the interest of peace are the sole reason for all forms of terrorism.

  6. W. Patrick Lang says:

    You sound like Dr. Spock, and not the one with th pointy ears. everything is nor about frustration leading to aggression. pl

  7. Patrick Henry says:

    Pat..Your Point is well taken ..The Article makes it clear that there are Many Forces and Influences Involved in Iraq..
    We` have Americas desire for Western style “Civilized” democracy..and “JUSTICE”…and THE various Iraqi Tribes
    and Cultures forming a Government based on all thier personal and cultural beliefs..
    All of the Muslims and cultures.. and nieghboring Middle East countrys and many levels of Leadership all over the place .. have an Interest inthese events.. and are taking sides and Forming alliances..
    Its getting close to the entire region now bwing divided 50/50 between moderation and support for the Bin Ladens and Jihadists..They are “IDOLIZED” super Heros..
    This is much bigger than Just Iraq..It is one of the Biggest On going Events in History Today….I see that you reconginze that Pat.. with all of Your knowledge and Expertise on the Middle East and Its Long History..This has to be a Fascinating study for you..
    The Rest of us only see the tip of the Ice Berg..and have limited understanding..
    The media does no documentarys on whats going on behind the scenes..in the Entire Region..or long range consequences..
    Now that the Administration has opened this can of Worms by Invading Iraq..All else has been set in Motion..Trying to Predict the outcome is the Challenge..Where do the Saudis…Iran..Syria..Lebanon..Egypt etc all fit in now…
    What power plays are really going on..??
    Why is Iran getting so Fiesty..with its Taunts and threats..?? What role do they and Have they played all along..??
    Whos backing them..?? is that why they are getting so “Brave” Do they really want to staqrt more War..??
    Do they anticipate a Tight Political alliance with the Shia in Iraq..?? Will the Kurds support that..?
    Will that alliance cause the new iraqi govt to demand our sudden and Complete Withdrawl..??
    Would a Iraq.. Iran Alliance keep Turkey and other surrounding nations under Control..??
    Who anticipates getting conrol of Most iraqi Oil..?? What deals are being made for Pipelines..
    and Joint Venture Partnerships..?
    Will the EU and UN groups wind up getting all the Deals..Partnerships with the United states having to withdraw ..
    Were we sucked into nothing more that Creating a Reqime Change ..is that what this was really all about..Iran and the Shia Gain…we LOSE..?
    How long will we Have to Stay and will it really do any good..???
    “Justice” Implys some type of Judicial process.. When the Offender is Dead..or Incarcerated..and Punished…then the Offended have had thier
    “Justice” and then there isw “Peace” until someone wants more “Justice” ..
    In the middle east..it seems that thier form of Justice Requires Blood Revenge in the Case of Murder ..Mr.Hakin demonstrates this in his reference to “THE~Pure Blood that has Flowed” regarding the murders of so many Innocent Shias and thier family members..
    One can understand why they would want “JUSTICE”..thats OUR Excuse for Invading Iraq in the First place..We`are bringing the bad guys to “JUSTICE”
    The Sunnis would be smart to want “PEACE” while they can..join the Process…Give up all the “Gangsters” who are Murdering people..and Realize that the Shias are looking for any excuse for revenge now..
    You can feel it Coming…
    or, as Pat said..It will be the Shias and Kurds now wanting revenge on the Sunnis and Baathists..and they are just waiting for Us to leave Iraq to do things the Old Fashioned Way.. and most Shia will support it..
    The Sunnis and Baathist are demonstrating the same Defiance and Arrogance and
    Bad Decision making that got them and Saddam in this Position in the First Place..
    They are Truely “DIE HARDS”
    and people Suffer..and the Innocent Die..
    Because of “Die Hards” and Fanatics..and LIARS..

  8. Jerome Gaskins says:

    Well, Colonel, prove me wrong if possible.

  9. angela says:

    I can show you are wrong. You wrote a few days ago:
    Okay, I may be wrong. But my gut tells me that it is time for the Shi’ites to do some ethnic cleansing of their own. Move the Sunnis out of Iraq. They have dominated Iraq for too long, and the Shi’ites should not stand for any more of it. Let the Saudis deal with them, or the Syrians or Egyptians.
    You do not say “oh my goddess we may face atrocities worse than Saddams,” your “gut” tells you that now is the time to start the murdering and driving six million from their homes.
    This is wrong. It is morally despicable and driving milions of refugees into the Arab countries is a way to alienate us not just from the Arab oil producers, but all civilized people in this world.

  10. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I wish I had the time.. pl

  11. wtofd says:

    Col. Lang, do you see similar mistakes being made in delaying the question of Iraqi federalism and the delay in deciding the status of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees? In other words, is it wise to wait on the biggest issues?

  12. W. Patrick Lang says:

    In general the notion of waiting in a diplomatic process to deal with the really hard issues at the end of a process is generally wrong. what happens in such an approach is that there is an appearance of progress which stops when you get to the hard questions at the end. pl

  13. That’s okay, sir. I just think that peace is more secure when the aggrieved party has it’s inequities addressed justly. BTW, I’ll have that letter soon.
    And angela, I also said
    “Whoa, Angela, I’m not proposing killing even tens of people. The ethnic cleansing I’m talking about could just as easily be called gentrification, but I wasn’t talking about converting slums…”
    Did you not read this the first time I posted it, or are you just being selective in what you choose to point out? I answered the question you posed to me with this; the least you can do is consider it before you sound an alarm about my turpitude…

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