2004 March 08 Monday
Will Iraq Remain Democratic And United?

The Kurds and various Shia factions look like they may be working up toward guerilla warfare in Kirkuk.

The long-simmering friction between Kurds and Turkmens here is taking a sectarian turn, with thousands of Shiite militiamen recently arriving to protect the Turkmens and Arab coreligionists against Kurdish hopes to incorporate Kirkuk into their sphere of influence in the north.


And concern that those tensions will spill over into violence has grown with the arrival of several Shiite militias here in recent weeks.

They include the Army of the Mahdi, the militia of the firebrand cleric Muqtada Sadr; the Badr Brigades, the military wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq; Iraqi Hizbullah; and the Dawa Party.

Marc Erikson thinks the more radical Shiites may eventually seize power.

I consider it a dangerous illusion that - after a putative electoral victory of Shi'ites under Sistani's leadership - the likes of Muqtada al-Sadr or al-Da'wa and Badr Corps leaders and their followers could be smoothly integrated into a peaceable Shi'ite political body leading a unified, democratic Iraq. Quite understandably, with thousands of their former comrades in arms buried in Saddam's mass graves, hatred for the once Ba'ath Party-led Sunni minority runs deep, as do motives of revenge and retribution. In the long run, more importantly, these radicals will not foreswear the ideas for which many of them have fought for decades. With a popular following and armed to the teeth, why should they subordinate their goals and aspirations to those of a weaker leader's? Badr Corps commander Abdul Aziz al-Hakim spelled out the strategy quite clearly: first have elections, in which Shi'ites under moderate leadership win an absolute majority; then use popular pressure and force transformation into a Khomeini-style Islamic republic. It's the old Leninist two-stage strategy by the precepts of which the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia in 1917 after intermittent moderate Menshevik rule under Alexandr Kerenski.

Will the long term presence of US soldiers stationed in Iraqi bases be enough to prevent a creeping radicalization of the Iraqi government into a Shiite theocracy? Will the Shiites and Kurds gradually escalate fighting into a low grade guerilla war? In response is there anything the US could do aside from allowing a partitioning of Iraq patterned after Bosnia?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 March 08 02:56 AM  Mideast Iraq Democracy Failure


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