Jihad Watch Board Vice President Hugh Fitzgerald discusses the Sunni/Shi’ite divide, and what ought to be done about it:
The charge will be made (for all I know, is already being made by assorted imams, muftis, qadis, ayatollahs, or for that matter assorted presidents-for-life and kings-for-a-day, beglerbegs and princes and local pashas) that everything was wonderful between Shi’a and Sunnis until those bad Americans arrived.
Americans did not cause the Sunni-Shi’a split. That split goes back to the first century of Islam, back to 661 A.D. The United States did not exist then. The American government was not behind the massacre at Karbala. The American government was not around to promote Sunni persecution of Shi’a, which led the latter to find a weapon in the religiously-sanctioned dissimulation known as “taqiyya” — a weapon of deception. “War is deceit,” said Muhammad. Deception comes naturally to those conducting Jihad and trying, as long as they can, to keep the Infidels unwary so that both Da’wa and demographic conquest can proceed without effective opposition.
It was not the Americans who over the entire life of modern Saudi Arabia have caused the Wahhabi (Sunni) Muslims to persecute and humiliate the Shi’a, now living in the oil-bearing eastern province of al-Hasa. It was not the Americans who forced the Sunni Arab rulers of Bahrain to lord it over the more than 70% of the population which is both Shi’a and Persian in origin. It was not the American government that over the entire life of modern Pakistan has convinced the Sunni members of Jaish-e-Jangvi and Sepaha-e-Sapir to attack Shi’a mosques, to find and execute Shi’a professionals, and in short to make war, in the name of the “real” Sunni Islam, on the Shi’a of Pakistan. It was not the American government that persuaded the Taliban to persecute and kill the Hazaras of Afghanistan because they were Shi’a.
And in Iraq, for the past three years, the Americans have everything they could to defuse Sunni-Shi”a hostility, despite its usefulness in distracting from the Jihad. That is, they did everything except one thing, the one thing that made the open expression of that hostility inevitable. And that one thing was the initial act of invading and destroying the murderous regime of Saddam Hussein.
And when will this charge be raised the loudest, in the most hysterical voice? It will be raised precisely when the Americans finally — not a moment too soon — leave Iraq, leave hopeless Iraq, leave tarbaby Iraq, leave drain-on-our-men-money-materiel Iraq, to dissolve, slowly, into its own vilayets of violence. And of course it is only when the Americans leave that the full force of Shi’a desire to even the score against the Sunnis, and not take it anymore, will be unleashed — without worrying about the reaction of Geneva-Convention-sticklers among the American forces.
American policy should not depend upon the ability, or willingness, of “Iraqis” (i.e. Sunni and Shi’a Arabs, and Kurds) to be “Iraqis.” They won’t be. Or if they will be, it will only be because we are no longer there to favor the “other side” — for Shi’a think we are favoring the Sunnis, and the Sunnis think we are favoring the Shi’a. As currently presented, American policy appears to be in the hands not of Americans, but of Iraqis. We have assured them, so President Talebani says, that the Americans will stay for just as long as the Iraqis want and need them. Really? Is that how we are deciding our policy — letting the “Iraqis” decide what American soldiers and Marines, what Reservists and National Guard troops, what vast expenditures of money, will still be misallocated and squandered? Which Iraqis? And for what reasons having everything to do with personal and sectarian or ethnic group advantage, and very little, if anything, to do with the perceived good of something called “Iraq,” will they make their decision? Is the fact that the Iraqis” are “not ready” that will determine the fate of our men, the use of our money, the positioning of our equipment? Their “readiness” for what, exactly? For a nation-state that is bound to be riven by hostilities that will not end?
Everyone should be attacking this idiotic “as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down” policy. It makes no sense. It cannot work. There are not a sufficient number of people in Iraq who think of themselves solely, or mainly, as “Iraqis.” And that cannot be accomplished by General Petraeus or whatever combination of generals have succeeded him in the hopeless task of creating a sufficient number of units (oh, they might manage to create one or two) of soldiers who are willing to go out on missions entrusting their safety, if they are Shi’a, to Sunni fellow-soldiers, or if Sunnis, to Shi’a fellow-soldiers, or if Kurds to Arab fellow-soldiers. This will never happen on anything but a very small scale.
The failure to be fully informed about the origin and depth of Sunni-Shi’a hostility is not a minor matter. American lives and American money are both being squandered because this is not a subject that has been given its due. It has not been given its due because it does not fit, did not fit, with the other assumptions made by the Big Planners who planned all this, from the remarkably ignorant “weapons systems analyst” (ignorant of Islam, ignorant about the effects of culture and history, ignorant even of what that phrase “Oriental fatalism” means) Paul Wolfowitz, to Bernard Lewis whose influence has been made so much of (grateful former students, or rather acolytes, in the Pentagon, for whom Lewis is the Final Authority on everything), to Bush, a sentimentalist, a confused but obstinate man, whose obstinate confusion is forcing others to unnecessarily risk their lives in what is not a mission, but a mirage in the desert. Or if we were to trade that desert-dwelling metaphor for something marshier to accommodate the Shatt al-Arab, then a will-o’-the-wisp that flickers, flickers, flickers, as you trudge towards it and as you seem to approach it, disappears.
There are very few “Iraqis” as we would like that word to be understood. There are many Sunni Arabs, and Shi’a Arabs, and Kurds (who are mostly Sunni, but for them, at this point, that is irrelevant). And the Kurds do not feel “Iraqi.” And the Shi’a feel that they make up 60-65% of the population, and most of the oil is in the south, and the Sunnis lorded it over them for so long, and why should the Shi’a not lord it over the Sunnis, as they have the votes, and this is a “democracy” — or if they do not lord it over, then to take the south and whatever else they can grab, and all the oil save what the Kurds may possess in the north? And if the Shi’a were sensible, they would support the Kurdish demands in Kirkuk and even Mosul, in order to weaken the Sunni Arabs. They wish to leave for their former masters the Western Desert, and that Sunni isosceles triangle, while Baghdad would remain a place of permanent contention, which — if the Iranians were to supply basiji and money — might be seized for the greater glory of Shi’a Islam. But it would be a permanent affront to the Sunnis that the seat of Haroun al-Rashid should be in Shi’a, semi-Persian hands — and the game would continue.
When the Administration uses the word “Iraqi” as in such phrases as “we are training the Iraqis” or “the Iraqi army” or “the Iraqi police,” one wonders about the continued indifference to reality. Few “Iraqis” (though perhaps most of those “Iraqis-in-exile” whom the Administration relied on) would call themselves “Iraqis” and by that use, mean to include, as equal in their claims and rights, the other sectarian or ethnic groups in Iraq. Kurds do not use the word “Iraqi” very much now; their sights are set elsewhere. When the Shi’a use the word “Iraq” they mean an “Iraq” where the Shi’a will rule, their power obtained through the ballot box, because they constitute between 60-65% of the population. Their notion of “democracy” is close to winner-take-all, and the American attempt to make them see things differently will run up against the resentments that have built up, not in the last few years, not in the last ten years, not in the last 30 years, not since 1932, when the British left, but over centuries in which the Sunnis have oppressed Shi’a, sometimes less and sometimes more (just as in India, the Hindus were oppressed by Muslim masters, sometimes less — as under Akbar, an sometimes more, as under Aurangzeb).
When the phrase “when the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down” is used, one immediately should ask: “Which Iraqis”? Would it be the “Iraqis” in the Badr Militia of SCIRI (Al-Hakim, Managing Director)? Would it be the Sadr militia, that is to say the Mahdi army of the los-de-abajo urban poor who listen to that obvious demagogue Moqtada al-Sadr, who is so resentful of the Islamic book-learning of those high-falutin’ ayatollahs? (“What does the Ayatollah Sistani have that I don’t have? I’ll show him” — so thinks, or tries to think, Moqtada al-Sadr). Would it be the Kurdish pesh merga, or would it be the former pesh merga, now in the “Iraqi army” — units that alone have performed well enough to earn the praise of American officers? Would it be whatever Sunni militias have been formed out of the former Sunni officers-and-men from the Iraqi army that was dissolved?
How can, with a straight face, anyone involved in Iraqi policy continue to talk about the “Iraqi army” and the “Iraqis” standing up, while “we stand down”? It makes no sense. It ignores a reality that goes back to the history of Islam.
Even in New York City, Shi’a are being threatened by Sunnis.
And if Sunnis can threaten Shi’a in New York, and suppress Shi’a in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province, in Bahrain, in Kuwait, in Yemen (where the two sects are nearly evenly divided), who have largely made up those “Iraqi army” units, and murder them in Pakistan, is that — from the viewpoint of Infidels — bad, or good? Would it be bad, or good, for Infidels trying to stave off the global Jihad, if Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran were to fight a sectarian war in Iraq? Was the Iran-Iraq War, which used up the energies and money and military equipment of both Iraq and Iran for eight critical years (1980-1988), a good thing, or a bad thing — for the Infidels?
The Iran-Iraq War was undeniably a Good Thing for Infidels. The removal of all American troops, as fast as they can be removed, would lead to a situation that can only be a Good Thing for Infidels. Were there to be low-level hostilities between Shi’a and Sunni, or open warfare, it would be a Good Thing for Infidels. Were that warfare to attract support on the Sunni side from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arabs, supplying mainly money and weapons, and men from Egypt and Syria and Jordan, and on the Shi’a side attract men, money, equipment and attention from the Islamic Republic of Iran, it would be a Good Thing for Infidels. And how wonderful it would be for the Christians of Lebanon (and even the Druse and the old-line Sunnis would be pleased) if Hezbollah bezonians were drawn off to fight, and disappear into, the conceivable cauldron of Sunni-Shi’a fighting in Iraq.
Meanwhile, the Western world, which apparently needs lesson after lesson in the nature of Islam, in the violence and aggression of Islam, will watch. It will watch not with the “Americans” present to blame, but without the Americans who, in fact, were the only force intent, for so long, on keeping the sectarian and ethnic peace. Just look at the way that Condoleeza Rice has continually discouraged the Kurds, possibly out of the inability of the Americans to comprehend why a free Kurdistan would weaken that Islamic state which presently is the most dangerous, Iran, by attracting the support of Kurds in Iran, and by serving as a model for other non-Persian minorities, such as the Azeris and Baluchis, to demand autonomy or more from the Persians who run things from Tehran. And a free Kurdistan, it has been suggested here more than a hundred times, would also inspire other non-Arab Muslims, such as the Berbers, to make their own demands, or to begin to view Islam as what it always was: the Arab religion, the vehicle for Arab supremacism.
Tell you what, Pentagon. I need money. I need a better car. I need a better computer. I need to pay medical insurance. I’ve been reading that you have a lot of money to spend, hundreds of billions, on this “war on terror.” Send me a little. And by return mail, I will send you a Complete Guide to Countering the Instruments of Jihad. Qital, or Combat. The Wealth Weapon. Da’wa. Demographic Conquest. And everything else. With specific and realistic policy prescriptions for every continent. Only $9.95 while supplies last.
Of course, there is P & H. And Postage and Handling, I’m afraid, will come to one million dollars. Not much postage, I admit, but a lot of handling. Can you swing it, Pentagon, ole buddy? Possibly you don’t yet know how to turn on a dime in Iraq, but if you spare that dime for me, I’ll tell you.
Offer available only in the continental United States.