June 11, 2006

Iraq After Zarqawi

So much good stuff to read on Iraq. Don't miss this by Reuel Marc Gerecht; Now for the Bad News

The Sunni will to power is deep-rooted and ferociously strong in Iraq. Underestimating this force and failing to confront it head on early in the occupation remains perhaps the single greatest analytical error of the U.S. military, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Coalition Provisional Authority under Ambassador L. Paul Bremer. It distorts and has so far defined the ethics of the Iraqi Sunnis as a community.

Their belief in Sunni supremacy has made mincemeat of those Americans and secularized Iraqis who were certain that Iraqis thought of themselves as Iraqis first, without reference to sectarian loyalties. Sunni hubris has made compromises with the Kurdish and especially the Arab Shiite communities extraordinarily difficult. Whether it be dividing oil wealth, assigning senior positions in government, or striking the balance between purging and tolerating the former Baathists, Iraq's Sunnis could surely have cut a better deal without the Sunni insurgency. More than any other factor, the insurgency has converted Iraq's traditional Shiite clergy from hostility to federalism in Iraq to neutrality or even sympathy. Zarqawi understood the dynamic here and did all that he could to ensure that sectarian sensitivities were inflamed after Saddam's fall.

Rod Norland in Newsweek

Iraq's Shiites have centuries of practice at swallowing their anger. They have been a subject people for most of the past millennium, even though Shiism was born in Iraq. Many Sunnis seem utterly convinced that they were born to rule. Mishan al Jibouri is one of the few Sunni politicians who ignored the boycott calls and won a National Assembly seat. He insists on referring to Baghdad's Shiite majority as "guests" and makes it clear that he regards them as unwelcome ones. "Sunni Arabs were the ones who built Baghdad," he says, "and ever since the Abbassid Dynasty they have been ruling it." He insists that the Americans are plotting to hand the place over to Tehran.

Many of Iraq's Sunnis share that suspicion. "Every day we are approaching the moment of explosion," Jibouri warns. "Since Saddam fell, I've never been as concerned about the possibility of civil war as I am today." The risk of a breakdown is undeniable. But the ayatollahs seem determined to keep it from happening. Iraq's Shiites have kept their patience for 1,000 years and more. For the sake of assuming power at last, they may succeed in holding out a little longer.


Most fascinating of all is the suggestion that Zarqawi was all along receiving help from the mullahs in Iran. He certainly seems to have been able to transit their territory (Herat is on the Iranian border with Afghanistan) and to replenish his forces by the same route. If this suggestive connection is proved, as Weaver suggests it will be, then we have the Shiite fundamentalists in Iran directly sponsoring the murderer of their co-religionists in Iraq. This in turn would mean that the Iranian mullahs stood convicted of the most brutish and cynical irresponsibility, in front of their own people, even as they try to distract attention from their covert nuclear ambitions. That would be worth knowing. And it would become rather difficult to argue that Bush had made them do it, though no doubt the attempt will be made.

By the way, Hitchens links to the text of Colin Powell's famous U.N. speech on Iraqi WMD, and I read it all for the first time. It's well worth taking the time to look at, (pack a lunch) especially for second guessers on the decision to depose Saddam.

William Kristol

It is also the time to revisit the case for the war. Zarqawi is a perfect reminder of why we had to fight in Iraq. Would we be safer if he were living there, under Saddam's protection, securely planning attacks around the world and working on his chemical and biological weapons projects? Zarqawi's life and death remind us that we are engaged in a global struggle. When he died, Palestinian foreign minister Mahmoud al-Zahar, a leader of Hamas, linked the "resistance" in Iraq to that against Israel, deploring what he termed the "assassination" of Zarqawi. As Saul Singer noted in the Jerusalem Post, we are "witnessing the seamlessness of jihad. Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and al Qaeda come from different sides of the Sunni-Shiite divide, but they agree on the need to wage jihad against the West, particularly Israel and the United States. The death of Zarqawi saddens all of them, just as it causes encouragement for free peoples everywhere."

See also:

Daniel Henninger

The Atlantic - MaryAnne Weaver

Posted by dan at June 11, 2006 12:41 PM