Saturday, June 14, 2014

JAFFAR AL-RIKABI - Ramblings from Baghdad

Al-Qaeda made a fitting choice for their new governor: formerly a senior Ba’athist charged by Saddam Hussein to run his network of palaces in the 1990s. His appointment is a microcosm of what terrorism in Iraq is really about: a Ba’athist-jihadist alliance seeking to restore absolute Sunni Arab minority rule. Moderate Sunni leaders who believe in democracy, power- sharing, or who believe in a national identity that transcends sect, are killed or scared away....

We thus stand today at what may prove to be the most significant junction in Iraq’s modern history. If the Ba’athist-jihadist alliance continues its offensive, with Turkey and Saudi supporting it behind the scenes, and the Shi’a now fully stirred up and ready for the fight, then we will likely see flashes of a brutal civil war and the final breakup of modern Iraq.
Or perhaps we will not. Perhaps Sistani’s uncompromising stance and the reunification of Iraqi Shi’a leaders with Iranian support will frighten Al-Saud and the neo-Ottomans. Perhaps the United States will intervene behind the scenes and make it clear to the Turks and Arabs that Iraq’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and democratic political order are red-lines. A pseudo-federal Iraq may be the compromise solution...
18:30 Baghdad time, June-13-2014
I have been in Iraq for around three weeks now, mainly in Baghdad. My greatest fears prior to the national elections, of a violent onslaught on innocent citizens and on the fragile Iraqi democratic state, is being realized before my eyes: later than I expected, but to a much more frightening level than either I or others have dared to imagine.
The news on television screens and on websites is truly alarming, and yet so many things seem to me here to be so perfectly ordinary. It is another dusty, summer day in Baghdad. Birds are chirping outside.
Many analysts rightly now speak of the threat of terrorism facing Iraq, Syria, the Middle East, and the world at large. But the media fervour over the last few days around the monstrosity and intensity of ISIS’s attacks shrouds the political ends that are what the war in Iraq has always been about.
Clausewitz once taught that war is simply the “continuation of politics by other means”. In Iraq, the political battle lines were drawn from the day the region’s borders were drawn up by Britain and France, and arguably even long-before then.
In the modern Iraqi state, Britain empowered tribes and political figures emanating from the minority Sunni Arab community to rule over the majority Shi’a Arabs in the south and centre, and the largely Sunni Kurds in the north. A Sunni political class was thus born and bred, which would soon become accustomed to the privileges that come from power. Racist, elitist rule needed a justifying ideology, and one was borrowed from the wider Middle East region: the Kurds were the stupid, foolish other; the Shi’a, the heretic, polytheist, paupers who are “more cursed than the Jews”.
For some years, when the state was weak – such discrimination did not matter as much, but as oil-driven wealth engineered the emergence of a powerful, centralized, intrusive state, racist politics at the elite level came to permeate society at lower levels, fomenting divisions in an Iraqi society historically known for its tolerance, moderation and togetherness.
The Iraqi Ba’ath party did not emerge from a vacuum, nor was Saddam a particularly innovative prophet of death. Saddam’s strand of Ba’athism deepened and consolidated the racist Sunni Arab nationalist socialist ideology common in the region at the time. Saddam’s Ba’athists simply went further than others - just as Hitler and Stalin introduced new depths to a racism, brutality and darkness that existed, albeit partly dormant, in Europe and Russia long prior to the era in which either of those two were around.
When the US led a war on Saddam, the Sunni world led by the Gulf Sheikhs and the self-appointed Ottoman Caliph, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, protested loudly. They cited international laws they had never recognized and human rights long denied to their own citizens. Over night, Saudi-funded news channels transformed the broken, corrupted leader that was Saddam into an Arab national hero.
No more talk of secular despotic socialism. A suited man with a fine beard and a copy of the Qur’an was plastered across Arab screens: a modern Saladin.Did you not know? He even had plans to liberate Jerusalem!
What Saudi, Turkey & Co. were protesting was not the removal of Saddam, nor the likely deaths of innocents. Neither mattered much to the Gulf Kingdoms or the heir of the Ottomans. What caused regional convulsions was the American push to introduce ‘democracy’ to the region, and in so doing, unwittingly to re-draw the maps of old.
Turn to the chapter of post-2003 Iraq, and we now meet names with which we are all far more familiar. Welcome to Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and its many acronyms. Meet Aymen Al- Zarqawi. Meet Abo Omar Al-Baghdadi. Meet the Muslim Clerical Association. They are here to liberate Iraq from those infidel occupiers. Wait, but are they really?
Why are they targeting innocent civilians instead? Collateral damage, we were told. Why are many of these so-called Islamists former political, military or intelligence chiefs of Saddam’s deposed regime? They must have had a change of ideological heart, I suppose!
Why are we now on the brink of an all-out civil war? Because American puppets in Baghdad sowed the seeds of division through discriminatory policies - like banning the racist Ba’ath party from reassuming political power... read more: