2007 November 15 Thursday
Shias In Iraqi Government Not Reaching Out To Sunnis

The decrease in bombs isn't leading to political reconciliation. The Shias fear the Sunnis will regain power in a more peaceful Iraq.

CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq -- Senior military commanders here now portray the intransigence of Iraq's Shiite-dominated government as the key threat facing the U.S. effort in Iraq, rather than al-Qaeda terrorists, Sunni insurgents or Iranian-backed militias.

In more than a dozen interviews, U.S. military officials expressed growing concern over the Iraqi government's failure to capitalize on sharp declines in attacks against U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians. A window of opportunity has opened for the government to reach out to its former foes, said Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the commander of day-to-day U.S. military operations in Iraq, but "it's unclear how long that window is going to be open."

Missing an opportunity? That's so not how the Shia leaders see it. Writing in Asia Times Syrian political analyst Sami Moubayed reports that the Shias fear that Sunnis are going to join the military in large numbers to get control of it.

One reason could be a last-minute decision by Shi'ite leaders to get Shi'ite young men into the armed forces - regardless of their political affiliations - to prevent these posts from being filled by Sunnis under pressure from US Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Gates, operating under the principle of former US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, has insisted on bringing Sunnis back into senior government and military posts.

One the one hand, militias are being absorbed into the army. On the other hand, 1,500 Iraqis are returning to Iraq per day (according to the London-based al-Hayat) from Syria. That too is troubling the prime minister and Muqtada since most of those returning in large numbers are Sunnis. This comes after Syria decided to implement restrictions on visas to control the 1.5 million-plus Iraqi community in Syria. If al-Hayat is correct and this pace continues, in nearly four years all Iraqis will be out of Syria and back in the civil war arena in Baghdad.

Moktada al Sadr's Mahdi Army are joining the Iraqi military in large numbers as a way to make the Iraqi military even more Shia than it already is.

Maliki and Muqtada fear a rebirth of Iraqi Sunnis at the expense of Shi'ites. This explains 18,000 Shi'ites being formally authorized to hold arms by joining the Iraqi army. This explains why Maliki is becoming bolder in turning his back on the Accordance Front. Recently, he received a list of 16 names earmarked to replace those of the Accordance Front in government, put forward by the Iraqi Awakening Council in Ramadi. Most prominent on the list was Sheikh Hamid al-Hayes, ex-Anbar Awakening president and current head of Iraq Awakening.

Sadr on the inside is going to work against granting the Sunnis much political power. Sadr wants the Sunnis to submit to Shia rule.

The US might have temporarily reduced the return from fighting in the streets. But the Sunnis still haven't reconciled themselves to Shia rule. Plus, the Shias (accurately I think) see the Sunnis as more dangerous to Shia rule when the Sunnis are inside the government. So why should the Shias try to reach out to the Sunnis as top US officers would like to see them do? That reaching out would put Sunnis closer to the levers of governmental control.

By the way, the second article above reports a huge surge of Sunni Iraqis returning to Iraq from Syria. At the same time this is happening liberal writers such as Fred Kaplan and Daniel Byman at Slate are arguing we need to let in a huge flood of Iraqi Muslim refugees. I say we also all sign up for "Getting hit on the head lessons" in advance so that we get into the spirit of it.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 November 15 11:16 PM  Mideast Iraq Ethnic Conflict


Comments
YIH (AKA Your Image Here) said at November 16, 2007 7:20 PM:

What's always bothered me is the fact that we (the US) really didn't have any idea of what we were getting into in ''iraq''.
Our ''elected leadership'' bought the line from Ahmad Chalabi that all we have to do is get rid of Saddam and his cronies and ''iraq'' would turn into ''a model'' for all of dar-al-islam.
SO WE DID JUST THAT. And it did indeed become ''a model'' for all of dar-al-islam and for us. And not in a positive way.
I agree with Randall Parker, leave ''the iraqi people'' to whatever fate lies for them.
Will it be ''Rwanda in the middle east'' WHEN (NOT 'IF', 'WHEN') we leave ''iraq''? Yes.
The only intellegent policy in the 'third world' is to say to them ''do what you can to make your homeland a better place'' and don't think you can be ''a refugee'' to the first world.
If the Chinese think that getting ''iraqi'' oil is important (and IMHO, they don't YET), they'll simply seize it.
''Iraqis'' will simply be grease under the treads of their tanks.


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