Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Bush Fiddles, Iraq Burns, U.S. Pays

Wednesday The Decider will try to convince us we can win in Iraq.... win what?

When, and why and how did the Iraq troubles start.....

Some say in 1918 when the official Iraq boundaries were sketched on tracing paper by a low level British diplomat named Gertrude Bell and Faisal was set up as king of the new nation of Iraq.

Iraq resulted from the union of three Ottoman provinces: Mosul in the north with ties to Syria and Turkey, Baghdad in the middle identifying with Persia and adjacent Shia shrines, and Basra in the south also heavily Shia.

Bell was warned of the folly of trying to corral three such disparate regions inside the borders of a single nation because they had no conception of nationhood.

But heedlessly, Britian has fiddled with Iraq ever since.

The Iraqis rebelled under the colonial regime, and there was a country-wide uprising in 1920. British forces battled for over a decade to pacify Iraq using airplanes, armored cars, firebombs and mustard gas. Air attacks were used to "shock and awe.".... sound familiar?

For four years during WWII the British again occupied Iraq after which they restored the monarchy under Crown Prince Abdallah, descendant of King Faisal.

In Iraq between 1921 and 1958 when the British-appointed monarchy was overthrown, more than fifty governments came into power, frequently, beginning in 1936, on the wings of military coups. This led to a tradition of "strongman" rulers such as Saddam Hussein.

In 1963 "Western" reforms were proclaimed by the neighboring Shah of Iran. The reforms were opposed by the powerful Iranian Shia religious scholars who instigated riots which were brutally put down and the Ayatollah Khomeini was exiled to Iraq.

Also in 1963, the secular Baath regime took over Iraq in a coup and in 1969 Saddam's kinsman appointed him Deputy Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council and Vice President. Saddam thus controlled the internal security and intelligence organs of the government.

From 1975 to 1979 the president of Iraq was in effect a figurehead while Saddam controled in his shadow.

In 1975 Saddam signed the Algiers Accord with the Shah of Iran. The Accord defined the border with Iran and ended Iranian support for the Iraqi Kurds.

In 1978 the Ayatollah Khomeini who was living in Najaf was expelled from Iraq.

In July of 1979 Saddam forced the president to retire and Saddam was sworn in as President of Iraq. Purges followed.

In 1979 there was an Islamic Revolution in Iran and the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to assume power. Iranian Shias, who constituted almost 90 percent of the Iran population, galvanized opposition to Iran's secular Baath Party. This made Saddam, now president of Iraq, fearful of a similar revolution against his minority Baath Party in Iraq.

On November 4, 1979 following the Shah's overthrow, Iran's new leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, urged his followers to demonstrate against the U.S. and Israeli interests.... the U.S. embassy was overrun and 66 hostages taken, most of whom were held for 444 days, until January 20, 1981.

In 1980 leading Shia cleric Sayid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr was executed in Iraq. Saddam publicly tore up the 1975 Algiers Accord with Iran and invaded Iran.

Recent al-Sadr and Muslim events...... In 2004 Muqtada al-Sadr's forces took control of the holy city of Najaf which includes one of Shia Muslim's holiest shrines, Imam Ali mosque. The Shia Muslims recognize four grand ayatollahs that compose the main Shia "seminary" in the holy city of Najaf... Ali al-Sistani, Muhammad Sayid al-Hakim, Muhammad Ishaq Fayadh and Bashir Hussein al-Najafi.

Fayadh and Najafi focus on spiritual matters and Fayadh, an Afghan, is the senior-most leader of Afghan Shias. South Asian Shias look to Najafi, who is of Pakistani origin.

Hakim, an Iraqi, is the uncle of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir-al-Hakim, the former head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq killed by a car bomb in 2003. Hakim and Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr founded a political Islamic movement in the late 1950s.

Baqir al-Sadr was executed by Saddam in 1980, and his cousin, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr was assassinated in 1999 and two of his sons were killed with him.

His remaining son is..... Muqtada al-Sadr whose Mehdi Army militia is blamed for much of the current violence in Iraq, and whose supporters played a key role in the compromise appointment of Iraq Prime Minister Maliki.

Al-Sadr takes his political direction from an ultra-conservative, Iran-based, Iraqi-exiled cleric, Ayatollah Kazim al-Haeri, who was a student of Bakir al-Sadr.

The fourth spiritual leader, Al-Sistani, who is the Shia spiritual leader in Iraq, was a student of Grand Ayatollah Abu Gharib al-Qassim al-Khoei, whose son was killed by a mob of Muqtada al-Sadr's supporters in 2003.

....In 1988 a ceasefire was declared between Iraq and Iran, ending the 8-year war that was estimated to have caused one million casualties including 250,000 Iraqi dead. In 1990 Iraqi troops crossed into Kuwait and occupied the country. In January of 1991 allied planes begin bombing Iraq.

So, the problems in Iraq started when the country was ill-formed in 1918?.... only partly.

Iraq has been a battleground for the sectarian split between Sunni and Shia Muslims for more than 1,000 years. These fueds actually started when the Muslim community leader, the Prophet Muhammad, died in 632. Yes, the year 632.

One group of Muslims elected Abu Bakr as the next leader, but another group believed the prophet's son-in-law, Ali, was the rightful successor. Although Ali eventually became the fourth leader, his legitimacy was disputed and he was murdered in 661.

The Shiat Ali (Party of Ali) refused to recognize his chief opponent and successor, Muawiya. Ali's sons Hassan and Hussein continued to oppose Muawiya and his successor, Yazid, and fighting between the two sides resulted.

Ali, Hassan and Hussein became the first of the 12 imams who Shia Muslims believe are the divinely-appointed leaders of the Muslim community.

Their leadership by imams continued until 878, when the 12th Imam, Mohammed al-Mahdi, is said to have disappeared from a cave below a mosque in Samarra.

Not accepting that he died, Shias still await his return more than 1,100 years later. Shias believe his return will reverse their fortunes and herald the reign of divine justice.... a happening much anticipated by the current president of Iran.

Sunnis reject the principle of leadership of imams,and instead believe in the primacy of the Sunna - what the Prophet Muhammad said, did, agreed to or condemned.

Sunnis are the majority sect in the Muslim world.... including Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. Shias today dominate Iran, and form over 60% of Iraq's population, whereas Sunni Arabs are in the minority in Iraq, split between ethnic Arabs and Kurds. Sunni Arabs have traditionally formed Iraq's elite.

After Saddam was overthrown in 2003, the Sunni Arab supremacy was suddenly wiped out. The U.S.-led (with Britian) Coalition's de-Baathification ejected from power large parts of the Sunni elite which had been nurtured by Saddam.

They were replaced by Shia leaders, the majority of Iraq's population. Sunnis felt increasingly marginalized and boycotted the political process and began to support militants opposing the occupation.

Sunni extremist groups, such as Abu Musab al-Zarquawi's al-Qaeda in Iraq, began to advocate targeting the now dominant Shia community.

The Sunni extremist groups attacked Shia Islam's most important shrines at Karbala, Najaf and Samarra and killed many Shia politicians, clerics, soldiers, police and civilians.

It is into this political cauldren of ancient hatreds and warring sectarian Muslims that President Bush has thrust our troops, whose numbers he now plans to tokenly increase. "Bush Works to Rally Support for Iraq 'Surge' ".... reportedly 20,000 additional troops to help quell the violence in Baghdad.

Our over-extended U.S. troops are to confront, supposedly with Iraqi help, the largest and best-armed militia, al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, as well as other armed factions, both Shia and Sunni.

I leave it to your judgment.... does sending 20,000 more U.S. troops into the midst of this deadly morass make any kind of sense.... have any hope of success.... do anything but prolong the inevitable?

The Iraq war.... we were lied into the why, failed with the how.... we are left with only the when will it end?

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