Al-Queda's Fading Hopes Of Igniting Civil War

Discussion in 'Middle East - General' started by NATO AIR, Sep 12, 2004.


    NATO AIR Senior Member

    Jun 25, 2004
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    USS Abraham Lincoln
    excellent article by fareed zakaria (the main proponent of the iraq war from newsweek, along with george will)

    he cites encouraging information, such as the fact the shia are behaving, even reigning in (to a certain extent) their problem children (like al-sadr). This along with the fact that PM Allawi is doing his best to co-opt the Sunni insurgency as best he can, and we can see improvement. Laslty, AL-Queda's hopes of formenting religious and ethnic warfare are fading. However, he points out the value of not following Britain's err of favoring a single group over the others, as such a policy risks civil war and ethnic slaughter.

    here is the article...

    The Holes in a 'Shia Strategy'
    The British Empire often favored a single group as a quick means of gaining stability. The results were almost always ruinousBy Fareed Zakaria
    NewsweekSept. 20 issue - Trends in Iraq seem to be moving in two different directions these days. The guerrilla war between the United States and insurgents continues, with mounting clashes and casualties. Yet the standoff with the Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr in Najaf and Al Kufah has ended, and those cities are no longer controlled by the Mahdi Army. The intractable security problems in Sunni areas coupled with some success in Shia ones might lead the Iraqi government (and Washington) toward a "Shia strategy" in Iraq. But going down that path has deep dangers. It would polarize Iraq along ethnic and religious lines. That would make today's problems look easy.

    After the creation of the interim Iraqi government in June, many hoped that the insurgency would die down. It hasn't. Today it appears more organized, entrenched and aggressive than ever. The American Army cannot use military superiority to take Sunni cities from the guerrillas because it would mean high civilian casualties and an angry public. The interim Iraqi government may itself not have the necessary credibility to take on such a task. Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is a tough guy, but he is clearly aware of the limits of his legitimacy. And the Iraqi Army will not be up to the job for at least another year. In these circumstances, it's difficult to see how the insurgency diminishes in strength. Last week Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, Samir Sumaiada'ie, predicted to The Scotsman that unless the United States and Britain added "a considerable amount" of troops to Iraq, the insurgency would grow.

    But for all its resilience, the insurgency has not spread across the whole country, nor is it likely to. Its appeal has clear limits. While it has drawn some support from all Iraqis because of its anti-American character, it is essentially a Sunni movement, fueled by the anger of Iraq's once dominant community, who now fear the future. It is not supported by the Shias or the Kurds. (The Shia radical al-Sadr has been careful not to align himself too closely with the insurgency, for fear of losing support among the Shia.) This is what still makes me believe that Iraq is not Vietnam. There, the Viet Cong and their northern sponsors both appealed to a broad nationalism that much of the country shared.

    Hence the temptations of a "Shia strategy." Such an approach would see the Sunni areas in Iraq as hopeless, until an Iraqi Army could go in and establish control. It would ensure that the Shia community, as well as the Kurds, remained supportive of Allawi's government and of the upcoming elections. It would attempt to hold elections everywhere—but if they could not be held in the Sunni areas, elections would go forward anyway. That would isolate the Sunni problem and leave it to be dealt with when force is available.

    The Shia are easier to handle. They supported the American invasion, which rid them of Saddam Hussein's tyranny. They have also disciplined their own, curbing al-Sadr's violent challenges to the government. Allawi and Washington handled this well, careful not to blast their way through Najaf's Imam Ali shrine (a "sensitive" war, one might say). But the key was that Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the towering Shia figure, does want al-Sadr to disrupt the path to elections (and thus, Shia majority rule).

    But there are considerable risks to this approach. If the Sunnis end up with no representatives, they will have even less incentive to support the new Iraqi order. Today a significant number of Sunnis feel disenfranchised, and thus they support the guerrillas (estimates vary from 25 percent to 65 percent). If they are cut out of the government, all will feel disenfranchised. And to have 20 percent of the country—people who are well trained and connected—supporting an insurgency makes it extremely difficult to defeat militarily.

    Allawi is trying hard to co-opt Sunni tribal and religious leaders. But the structure of Sunni political authority is fractured; there is no dominant Sunni leader like Ayatollah Sistani. And Allawi's plans to offer insurgents amnesty were derailed by the U.S.'s objection to pardoning anyone who was involved in killing Americans.

    In Iraq, the one truly pleasant surprise so far is that there has been little religious and ethnic bloodshed. Many of the experts who counseled against an invasion predicted that after Saddam's fall, the Sunnis, Shias and Kurds would tear each other apart. Nothing like this has happened. The problems—of resistance, nationalism and anti-Americanism—have been quite different. But the balance is fragile. If the United States and the Iraqi government play a sectarian strategy, things could unravel.

    In many of its colonies the British would often favor a single group as a quick means of gaining stability. Almost always the results were ruinous—a trail of civil war and bloodshed. If Allawi and the United States make the same mistake, there will be 140,000 American troops in the middle of it all.

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