- By Reza Ageung, Hidayatullah.com
A huge protest in Iraq has been going on for almost a week when this article was written, and it is likely to get hotter. The biggest demonstration with 10 thousand protestors was held in Falujjah, the city that was once a center of resistance against the American occupation a few years back. The protesters at first directed their protest at what they call a “sectarian policy” by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki who is a Shi’ah. The initial trigger of the protest was the arrest of nine guards of the Finance Minister, Rafa al-Essawi, who are Sunni on charges related to terrorism. Essawi was wrathful with the arrest and then responded by calling for the resignation of al-Maliki from his post.
Indeed, last year (2012 – ed.), violent acts that reek of Sunni-Shi’ah dispute were increasingly escalating. The mass media put the number of casualties at hundreds of people, and also signal that the elements of Government begin to suspect that any party that is Sunni (even from the internal government) is related to terrorism acts.
This condition is certainly not comfortable in the atmosphere of the transition of sovereignty from the American occupation to the Government of Iraq that was marked with the withdrawal of Obama’s troops from Iraq. There is one more spice that makes this protest seemed more tempestuous, namely the “Arab Spring” which so far, after moving around to Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Syria, has not touched Iraq.
An analyst of Iraqi politics, Sabah al-Mukhtar told al-Jazeera, “all these problems (sectarian policy, poor infrastructure and public services) make all the people of Iraq want change. And do not forget, we are having the Arab Spring. The citizens of Iraq say, “If other people rebelled, why do we not rebel against the regime, imposed on us by the force of the (American) occupation in 2003?”
Iran, Shi’ah and American Invasion
Nuri al-Maliki is the PM from the new Iraqi cabinet after the fall of Saddam Husein, appointed in 2006 under the shadow of America under the leadership of the regime of George W. Bush. At that time, with the spirit War On Terrorism (WOT), spiced with the fictional story that Saddam was developing weapons of mass destruction, Bush was determined to invade Iraq in 2003, ignoring the disapproval of the United Nations and millions of its own citizens who spilled protesting into the streets of New York. Later, it was evident that his ambition was for the sake of a handful of oil Tycoons, thus the Iraq war is often sarcastically refereed as “The War for Oil.”
Uniquely, al-Maliki’s cabinet is practically dominated by the Shi’ahs, perhaps to coax support from the Shi’ah components in the country of the ’1001 Nights’. Whereas, the community of Shi’ah, although many but not enough to make them the absolute majority like in Iran. In Iraq, according to the media, the percentage of the Shi’ahs is 60% (but in recent protests, the Sunni protesters chanted “we’re not the minority”).
Indeed, so it was said that at the time of the dictator Saddam, who was formally Sunni (although more appropriately a socialist-secular Baathist), the Shi’ahs were suppressed to such an extent. Therefore, it can be said that the American policy that gave the Shi’ahs colours, is to give the stamp of “liberation from tyranny”. This is typical of the American occupation anywhere, the guise of the actual imperialist ambition.
Since then, the Sunni-Shi’ah sectarian strife erupted. Bombings happened everywhere, even the media highlight the bombings in the masjids and markets. Although some analysts believe that the conflict and the bombings are engineered by U.S. Intelligence and are exaggerated, America itself took advantage of the chaos to better harness its intervention. Nevertheless, there is a reason behind the Sunni groups’ resistance against the Shi’ahs, i.e. because the Shi’ahs are allied with the U.S. to establish a puppet government. Although early in its invasion, we often heard that there was one Shi’ah group which was led a popular Shi’ah cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, that carried out resistance against America, but anyway in the end it was proven that the Shi’ah block in that country, and also Iran, are supporting al-Maliki’s cabinet.
Associated Press (AP) in June 2012 reported that Muqtada al-Sadr went to Iran for a discussion, that Iran pressed the President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, to reduce pressure on al-Maliki. And the Shi’ah cleric Ayatollah Kazim al-Haeri, who is considered as al-Sadr’s mentor, recently issued a fatwa to support the secular leaders in the government of Iraq.
This increasingly strengthens the image of the resistance (jihad) of the Sunni groups and in the selves of the protestors on the streets of Iraq today, that the government, the product of the American occupation’s “illegitimate child”, is standing in one row with the Shi’ah camps, both at home and abroad (read : Iran).
The Love Affair of Iran and America
George Friedman in the Stratfor Global Intelligent journal, 28 May 2004 said that before America and its allies invaded Iraq in 2003, Ahmad Challabi, the in-exile chairman of the of the National Congress Party of Iraq has asked Iran and the American to overthrow Saddam Hussain. At that time, the Bush administration hoped he could be the country’s new leader.
Chalabi was born into a family Iraqi Shi’ah in Baghdad, but left that country in 1956. He then returned in 2003. Before the American invasion on Iraq, a group of Iraqis in Washington, formed a team of analysts, borne by the United States Government funds. But the Bush administration’s relationship with Chalabi began to rift while the U.S. suspected Challabi of being a spy for Iran. In the end, in 2004, the Bush administration stopped the financial aids to the organization of National Congress of Iraq until the American security forces stormed Baghdad.
In an interview with The New York Times and some American journalists before returning to Iraq, he admitted he was funded a lot by America and Iran in order to realize himself to re-establish power in Iraq and overthrow Saddam.
In the interview with The New York Times, he admitted to have been staying for a few days in Tehran and met with senior officials in the Revolutionary Guard, security and intelligence officials, and reported directly to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the spiritual leader of Iran, the most powerful person in that country. He said, the Iranian officials had promised to help him enter Iraq illegally.
However, a senior Iranian official downplayed the activities of the Iraqi opposition by saying, “They just pass through. They happen to have friends here.”
This escalation is increasingly asserting the reality of the position of Iran in front of the Arab world and America. In the mass media, the tension between Iran and the America, as well as Israel continues to heat up, in line with the heating up of the nuclear issue. However, the Iraqi case has dismantled what is happening in the real world. Iran is not entirely hostile to the U.S., at least in Iraq it runs its political hegemony by utilizing a sectarian sentiment. In other words, al-Maliki and his administration have accommodated the will of America to form a pro-America democratic government on one side, with the interests of Iran to hegemonize the region based on sectarian sentiment on the other side .
Although Obama confidently said in his speech at Fort Bragg that, with the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, he has left behind a Government that is sovereign, stable and self-sufficient, its reality is questionable because stability and self-reliance is a goal that is difficult to achieve for Iraq. Military officials themselves are worried that the post-America void will be filled by the influence of Iran which is increasingly strengthened. However, this worry in truth is unwarranted because what actually happened was that America and Iran are supporting each other. Arianna Hufftington in hufftingtonpost.comwrote that actually America and Iran were already “cooperating” to sustain al-Maliki’s administration.
A clearer picture was perhaps what’s written by Associated Press in mid 2012 which called Iran as the “big brother” for al-Maliki, because it has has helped him devise his administration in 2010 and now is calling upon all factions of its ally (Shi’ah) in Iraq to take care of al-Maliki’s regime. “Iran’s fingerprints are there all over the inner circle of al-Maliki,” wrote AP. So it was true when Hufftington asserted, “on one side, we are satanizing Iran. On the other side, our (American) invasion on Iraq has given Iran a big and increasingly important ally in the Middle East.”
Iraq has given way to what Tariq al-Hashemi, vice president who is now a fugitive, referred to as “the Safavid project” referring to the name of a Shi’ah dynasty in Iran in the 16th century to 18th century.
Muslims should realize this fact, that the game between America, its puppet regimes and the Shi’ah powers led by Iran has made Muslims float without certainty, like a ball that is rolled from foot to foot or even more extreme, like a prey that is being tossed from the tiger to the wolf.
The problem doe not lie on whether the Sunnis would get a quota in al-Maliki’s administration or not, because clearly the regime is still a part of the “illegitimate child” of the occupation.
The problem is the occupation itself on one side, and the will of Iran with its sectarian politics on the other hand. Here lies the urgency of Islamic Ummah to unite upon a true aqeedah and struggle for the life that is based on al-Qur’an and Sunnah only, with a correct understanding, namely the understanding of the Sahabahs and the generation of the Salafus Soleh.
The Ummah should not be influenced by dictation of the West and Iran. The true aqeedah and understanding cannot give way to the invaders to master over the Muslims, let alone with sectarian excuses.
“And never will Allah give the disbelievers over the believers a way [to master over them].” (QS. An Nisa 141). Wallahu a’lam.
- Iraqi Sunni protesters turn out in several cities (alhittin.com)