Iraqis in Yemen concerned about the possibility of the chaos due to the ongoing violence in Iraq:Iraq chaos [Archives:2004/727/Front Page]

April 8 2004
Muqtada Al-Sadr
Muqtada Al-Sadr
By Peter Willems
“I have lost hope,” said an Iraqi engineer living in Yemen after unexpected violence erupted in Iraq this week. “After the war began, I was hoping for it all to end quickly, for there to be security and democracy to replace the regime. Instead there is only killing and bloodshed.”
On Sunday, supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr rioted in several cities, including a suburban area of Baghdad, Sadr City. Eight US soldiers and at least 45 Iraqis were killed.
The riots were sparked by the arrest of one of Al-Sadr's top aides, Mustafa Al-Yacoubi, on charges of murdering Abdel-Majid Al-Khoei, considered by many one of Al-Sadr's rivals. Al-Sadr's followers had already been angered by the closing of his weekly newspaper on March 28, as Americans accused the newspaper of urging violence against US soldiers.
Up until this week, US forces were facing an insurgency led by Sunni Muslims. But after clashes on Sunday, US forces may have to deal with new resistance made up of some Shiite groups. In Iraq, Shiites make up 60% of the population and has rarely had clashes with US soldiers since the coalition forces invaded a year ago.
Thousands of Iraqis have come to Yemen for over the past decade. Some came for better opportunities while the Iraqi economy suffered in the nineties, while others came to avoid oppression under the Saddam Hussein regime. It is estimated that the largest Iraqi Shiite group in the Middle East living outside of Iraq is in Yemen.
Many have anticipated returning home after the United States ousted Saddam Hussein. But after the violence this week, many view their country as turning into chaos and cannot see Iraq becoming a safe place in the near future.
“Nothing tells us that something will be good in the next few months or even years,” said Muhammed Abdul Hameed, an Iraqi teacher in Yemen. “I was very afraid to go back under Saddam, but now the situation is worse. People are dying all the time and all we really want is security.”
The US government has planned to hand over sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government on June 30. Even though some US officials now have doubts that the US can follow through, US President George W. Bush said on Monday that he would stick to the June 30 deadline.
Before this week's uprising, some Iraqis in Yemen said that an Iraqi government would do a better job of building security than the United States because it would know more about the people and the Arab culture. But after the clashes, many say that a new government would not be able to succeed in pulling the country together in a lawless atmosphere.
“The Americans handing over power on June 30 is impossible,” said Yassir Al-Hatem, an Iraqi student at Sana'a University. “With all this chaos, there would not be enough security and fighting would get even worse.”
Some are also not satisfied with the US plan to install the interim government. They are suspicious of the government and want to be able to elect a government under their own power.
“This will not be a real government,” said Dr. Erfan Al-Shammari, an Iraqi doctor at Hadda Hospital. “This one is created by the US government, not by the Iraqi people.”
Analysts are also concerned that some Shiite groups may join the Sunni insurgency. One Iraqi Sunni in Yemen said that he is so fed up with the conditions in his home country that he hopes the Sunnis and Shiites work together and urge the coalition forces to leave.
“I support Al-Sadr's position,” said the Iraqi. “He represents the feelings of all Iraqis. The United States has done nothing so far, like no rebuilding and no security, so it is about time they leave, and I can see both Sunnis and Shiites together demanding that the Americans leave.”
But there is also concern over a possible civil war in Iraq. Some believe that if security continues to deteriorate, new political groups may pop up and start grabbing power. Although the leading Shiite cleric Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani has been supporting peaceful protests during the US occupation, some believe that Al-Sadr led the riots this week to help him build his position. Mussab Al-Zarqawi, the alleged leader of several attacks in Iraq, released a recording recently that criticized Iraqi Shiites and Shiite leaders and accused them of being the allies of Jews and Americans.
“A civil war could happen,” said Al-Hatem. “I wouldn't be surprised if there were assassinations and fighting after groups emerge to take power if this lawlessness goes on.”
Doubts are also surfacing about whether the US Administration developed a solid plan to deal with Iraq after the regime fell. According to the Pew Research Center poll, 57% of Americans believe that Bush has no clear plan for bringing about a successful conclusion in Iraq. Many Iraqis in Yemen agree.
“The United States said to the Iraqis before the war that they would come and let us be free and liberated,” said Saad Al-Hussein, an Iraqi barber in Yemen. “But what is this? This is liberty? Is this what they planned? I don't think they knew what to do from the beginning.”

Before violence sprang up this week, many Iraqis in Yemen made plans to return home soon. But after widespread clashes on Sunday, many have changed their minds and are planning to wait longer.
“It is terrible over there. There are no answers, no solutions, no way of knowing what the future will be like,” said Abdul-Hameed. “I don't know when I'll be able to go back.”