Shia or Sunnis? Keeping up with the enemy du jour

Juan Cole has an interesting post on the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who visited Washington and London in the past few days. If Cole is correct, its more than a little ironic that Bush and Blair were praising al-Maliki and condemning Hezbollah at the same press conferences.

My understanding is that Nuri al-Maliki was the bureau chief of the Dawa cell in Damascus in the 1980s. He must have been closely involved with the Iraqi Dawa in Beirut, which in turn was intimately involved in Hizbullah. I am not saying he himself did anything wrong. I don’t know what he was doing in specific, other than trying to overthrow Saddam, which was heroic. But, did they really think he was going to condemn Hizbullah and take Israel’s side? (Informed Comment)

Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time that the west has backed an Iraqi politician with links to Lebanese Shia militias. Remember Ahmed Chalabi:

In the 1980s, Chalabi’s scandal-plagued Petra Bank funnelled money to Amal, a Shia militia allied with Iran in Lebanon. And according to a former CIA case officer who worked in Iraq, Chalabi had close ties to the Iranian regime when he was in Kurdish Northern Iraq in the mid-1990s trying to foment resistance to Saddam. (Salon: How Ahmed Chalabi conned the Neo-cons)

If Salon’s story is correct, Iranian/Iraqi/Lebanese Shia interests may well have played a decisive role in the lobbying and disinformation effort that led to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. This is not necessarily a surprising conclusion given that the emergence of a so-called Shi’ite Crescent was an obvious prospect in the aftermath of the war. indeed, this may well have been the reason the US didn’t invade Iraq in 1991.

Yet now, we are told US policy has been to undermine the Shia all along:

White House aides have said they consider the Lebanon crisis to be a "leadership moment" for Mr Bush and an opportunity to proceed with his post-September 11 plan to reshape the Middle East by building Sunni Arab opposition to Shia terrorism. Yesterday Mr Bush cited the role of Iran and Syria in providing help to Hezbollah. (Daily Telegraph)

Presumably, Toby Harnden’s source was thinking of the Saudis’ initial criticism of Hezbollah, although the Saudi line seems to have changed in the face of the group’s unexpectedly stiff resistance to Israel.

Al Qaeda has also since popped up with their two cents. Perhaps, they’re trying to remind us that there are Sunni terrorists out there, and they’d really like to keep the credit for September 11.

There is one Sunni leader who is sticking to the White House script though:

Amman – Toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has issued a warning to the Syrian leadership ‘not to go too far in its alliance with Iran,’ blaming Tehran for the current flare-up of violence in the Middle East, the head of Saddam’s defence team claimed Tuesday…

… ‘The president told us that the Syrian leadership should not go too far in its alliance with Iran, because the Persians harbour bad intentions for all Arabs and aspire to see them vanquished,’ he said. (Deutsche Presse Agentur, via Monsters and Critics)

Sounds like an ideal candidate to be the West’s bulwark against radical Shia Islam. Then again, isn’t that where we came in, a quarter of a century ago?

As for the machinations in between, I can’t help thinking of the same reference as Billmon:

if you’re a true Orwell disciple, it’s simply another meaningless switch in an endless war whose real purpose isn’t to defeat the enemy, but to keep the prols docile and the ruling party firmly in power in this country. You can take your pick, I guess. (Whiskey Bar)

Sounds like as good a theory of the Iraq War as any. I mean, what else could it have been about? Cheap oil? security for Israel? US bases in a middle East country with no Islamic shrines?






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