Archive for January 2007
Two things. First, Shaikh Yusuf Qaradawi. A ‘moderate conservative’ linked to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Qaradawi has previously made positive statements about the need for Sunni-Shia unity, particularly in Iraq. At the Doha Inter-Islamic Dialogue Conference a couple of days ago he condemned the cleansing of Sunnis from mixed or Shia areas. “No one can tolerate such unspeakable hatred,” he said. “Sunnis are suffering more in Iraq. I had repeatedly called upon the Shia scholars and leaders in Iraq and Iran to intervene to stop this bloodshed.” He continued, “Iran has influence in Iraq. It can stop this violence and put out the fire that could destroy everything.” Then he went on to complain about Shia attempts to convert Sunnis living in Sunni majority nations.
Qaradawi was right to raise the issue of Shia death squads. He was wrong to keep silent about Salafi/ Baathist/ extremist Sunni terrorism. The Shia of Iraq put up with more than two years of massacres before they began to respond.
It seems this broken region, and this broken world, are in for a further escalation of conflict in 2007.
The report of the US Congress-mandated Iraq Study Group recommended that US forces end direct participation in combat operations in Iraq and concentrate on training Iraqi troops instead. It also called for American dialogue with both Iran and Syria for the sake of stabilising Iraq. Although the report failed to recognise the gravity of the problems in Iraq (that there are no ‘Iraqi’ troops, for instance, only militiamen) or to propose serious political solutions, and although its authors still envisaged a long-term American controlling presence in the country, it nevertheless represented an acknowledgment that America is failing in Iraq, and an attempt to limit the damage.
Bush and his people are ignoring the report. Who are Bush’s people? On the one hand, there are traditional right-wing Republicans who are unable to countenance defeat, the kind of people who don’t understand that America was militarily defeated in Vietnam. If it hadn’t been for hippies and weak politicians at home, they think, we’d have smashed the Cong. We won’t be defeated again! And there are neo-con nihilists, believers in ‘creative chaos,’ ideologues often more loyal to Israel’s perceived interests than to America’s. Many commentators have claimed the neo-cons are in decline: I fear not. They have been repositioning, certainly – blaming Bush and Rumsfield for the conduct of the war in Iraq (but not the war itself), making themselves more attractive to the right-wing of the Democratic party. It is very important to remember that as far as large sections of the American ruling class are concerned the Iraq war has not been a failure.
On his excellent ‘In the Axis’ blog (http://www.readingeagle.com/blog/syria/) Brian Anthony complains about the Sunni Arab world and international organisations protesting the execution of Saddam Hussain. Quite rightly, Brian objects to the tendency of many Sunnis to turn a blind eye to Saddam’s crimes. He also suggests that Sunnis may actively support repression of Shia in Iraq.
Saddam was certainly a murderous tyrant. He was helped to power by the CIA first in order to destroy the powerful Iraqi Communist Party, and then funded and armed by the US, Europe and the Gulf regimes to attack revolutionary Iran. He poisoned Iranian cities and Kurdish villages (Iraqi Kurdish militias were in alliance with Iran at the time) with gas. After falling into the American trap and invading Kuwait, he dealt with the 1991 intifada in the south and north of Iraq by annihilating whole clans and villages. This is when the sectarian horror really began to take a grip on Iraq. Tanks painted with the slogan ‘No Shia after Today’ moved into southern cities, and provided ample filling for mass graves. The aunt of one of my friends was driven insane when her sons were tortured to death by Saddam’s mukhabarat: just one story from very many. Saddam didn’t only build the worst secret police state in the Middle East, he actually organised rape squads, and special rape rooms, to destroy Iraqi women and Iraqi family honour. His victims number in the hundreds of thousands, and millions if you include the wars he started.
I still think it is legitimate to oppose his execution for a variety of reasons.