The role of the Shiites in Iraq [Archives:2003/660/Opinion]

August 18 2003

The American adventure in Iraq is yielding many surprises, especially for the Americans who planned the whole ordeal at the Bush “War Office”. At this stage the observer can pretty much assume that the adventure is not exactly unfolding as the schemers had in mind. Oh, we can say that the Americans have won a quick victory against an already ailing regime in Baghdad by all counts. However, in view of the daily taking of American (and now British) lives, one is inclined to believe that the victory is not quite sealed. First of all the ongoing violent resistance has been the prevailing scene in Iraq. The political set-up established in post Saddam Iraq has not received any international recognition of value. Even with the death of Saddam's two sons, with their exaggerated roles, to make the killing somewhat worthwhile, has not lightened the resistance fight against the American occupation. While this resistance has yet to show a coherent and coordinated effort, with many factions, proclaiming themselves to take the helms of the liberation fight, including elements of the old Baath regime, it is not clear yet who is actually behind all these guerrilla activities.
It is clear that for the past months since Bush declared that the “war is over”, most of the fighting has taken place in the predominantly Sunni areas. This should not be taken to imply that it is only the Sunnis who despise the American occupation, while the others (Shiites and Kurds) welcome this uncalled for occupation. Ironically it is these groups that were the vanguard in the fight against Saddam before and out of whom most of the victims of the oppression of Saddam came. These groups do have some semblance of representative institutional setups to wage a considerable resistance fight against the Americans and their entry into the resistance fight would certainly introduce a qualitative leap into the resistance effort. However, the two leading Kurdish organizations of the KLP and the KLF were the first to welcome the American intervention and have tacitly approved the occupation up to now. Nevertheless, the extent to which this tacit approval is widespread among all Kurdish constituency is a matter of debate, as not all Kurds fall under the two groups. For sure, the approval may be deemed as more a political and strategic convenience than an association by conviction. This convenience is manifested in the neutralization of any Turkish incursions against the Kurdish nationalists in Iraq.
The Shiites of Iraq also have their own political and strategic arithmetic at work in the Iraqi situation. While they have openly denounced the occupation and all its efforts in Iraq (although willing to follow “liar to the door of his house”, as the Arab saying goes, such as taking part in the “temporary governing council”), they have declined to turn this opposition into any violent efforts. This presents a problem for the War Office, as the whole idea behind the Iraqi adventure, was mainly to provide a strong base for the elimination of the Islamic Republic of Iraq, in response to rightwing-Zionist coalition aspirations in the region. With the Shiites, not willing to give the Americans the opportunity to use Iraq as a staging ground for anti IRI activities, they have wisely opted for maintaining a silent opposition to avoid the excuse of the Islamic Republic of Iran fomenting Shiite resistance (of course it will be called terror). This puts the War Office in a perplexing situation. Without Shiite violent resistance, how can an intervention of one form or another be justified in Iran. For certain, the Shiites are capable of understanding these factors in the American efforts in Iraq (with oil and other factors not falling far behind, but IRI is a major factor in the effort, notwithstanding). Thus, they are insisting to avoid any opportunity for being used as strategic pawns for the War Office. Having said that, the War Office and their various operatives in the area are working hard to promote violent rebellion by the Shiites to enable them to take the initiative against the IRI. This has already been manifested this week by the violence unleashed against peaceful Shiite protests in Basra, dubious letters calling on the Shiites to rise up in arms (jihad) against the Americans and British and more openly the downing of a symbolic Shiite flag by an American helicopter. That was probably expected to trigger violent outrage by the Shiites and thus lead to finding a solid excuse for a new war against Shiite terror, supposedly inspired by Iran. But alas, the well-organized Shiites, saw behind the real intentions of all these efforts and again the War Office failed in underestimating the caliber and political and strategic expertise of the Shiites, in Iraq and Iran. For certain, the Shiites have been capable of facing the challenges brought upon them by the efforts of the War Office to get them to consolidate with their brethren in Iran and are apparently up to par with the Bush “War Office” conniving and scheming. This translates into a very long-term and costly stay for the Americans in Iraq, with a trial and error strategy leading to dubious and uncertain conclusions for all concerned. One is however reminded of the astute keen calculations of another Shiite organization that is unholy mention in the War Office and Tel Aviv: Hezbollah!