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Tribal and religious impacts among Iraqi and foreign Muslim elements


Part 2

This series started with two forecasts, the first that Iraqis, primarily Sunnis, will attempt to produce a new WMD (primarily chemical) capacity, and the second, that this capacity will be used against US/Coalition forces and Shias and other adversary Sunni groups. Part 2 was an introduction to the impact of tribes and clans so that the many fault lines of intercene violence among Sunni-Shia, Sunni-Kurd, Sunni-Sunni, various indigenous criminal organizations, and jihadists (foreign Muslim fighters) would be easier to grasp.

First is the obvious Sunni-Shia fault line whose origins commence (here and here) at the death of the Prophet in 632. Soon gaining ascendance, Sunnis dominated Islamic history for over 1300 years and until the January 2005 election "18 of the 21 Arab countries were ruled by Sunnis." The shock of Sunnis to now be subservient to Shias, regardless of the demographic predominance of Shias cannot be underestimated. The fact that a "predominantly Shiite government to preside over an Arab state is utterly revolutionary." The shock to Swedes when traditionally subservient Norway inverted the economic pyramid via North Sea oil revenue (the Swedes' hierarchy is Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and, last, Norway) pales in comparison to Sunnis finding themselves second, even third, in government after Shias:

Sunni Arabs constitute about 4 million of Iraq's population of 25 million and predominate in Baghdad and its western and northern hinterlands. They had been the elite of the country in the 20th century, and they dominated the upper reaches of the civilian bureaucracy and the officer corps, as well as being large landlords and entrepreneurs. Under Saddam Hussein, the Baath Party became an important source of wealth and patronage for Sunni Arabs, the top leadership of which kept Kurds and the majority Shiites politically marginalized.

For Sunni Arabs, then, the triumph of the Iraqi Shiites is a calamity. The tables have been turned in a manner reminiscent of the South during Reconstruction, when former slaves not only were freed and granted civil rights, but also briefly won political power in some states. So one easily foreseen consequence of the Shiites' triumph could be a redoubling of the Sunni insurgents' efforts to disrupt and, ultimately, defeat the democratic government in Iraq.

The tedious delay in forming a Cabinet and government has unleashed the sectarian violence that I had expected to follow the 72-hour lockdown over the elections. The perceived Shia-Kurdish bickering over power sharing, including which Sunni candidates might pass almost impossible acceptance criteria (free of Baathist taint yet of personal competency and tribal status to fulfill their brief and command Sunni allegiance), has opened a window for combinations of Sunni Baathists, insurgents, and jihadists increasingly target Shiites and Kurds. Juan Cole observed:

In the week after the Cabinet was presented to Parliament, Sunni Arab guerrillas went on a bombing spree that left some 200 dead and hundreds more wounded. The Bush administration had hoped that the new, elected government would attract the loyalty of alienated Iraqis, and that as a result the guerrilla war would wind down. Instead, Sunnis are furious that their representation on the Cabinet is still unclear and that their suggestions for Cabinet members have been rejected by Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari.

The massive suicide bombing that killed 60 and wounded 150 at a police recruitment station in Irbil Wednesday morning was only one of a string of deadly assaults signaling the resolve of the Sunni Arab guerrillas to keep fighting. While some of the attacks were carried out by fundamentalist holy warriors ("jihadis"), the bulk are probably the work of Baath military men. A Col. Zajay, a Shiite police official in south Baghdad, told the London Times last week, "We have lots of information that the Baathists are regrouping ... They think they can take power again."

Continued in 3b

A New Political Setback for Iraq's Cabinet
New York Times
May 9, 2005

Iraq Finally Fills Six Cabinet Vacancies
The Associated Press
May 8, 2005; 11:51 AM

Melting Pot of Blood
By Juan Cole
Friday 06 May 2005
Mirrored complete here

Bush, the Great Shiite Liberator
New York Times
May 1, 2005
Mirrored in
Bahrain News and Lebanese Lobby

Gordon Housworth

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