What is Happening in Iraq?
With escalation of terrorism in Iraq, everyone is asking about those behind the terror? Are they Al-Qaedeh terrorists? Are they Saddam's old loyalists? Or terrorists sent by IRI (Islamic Republic of Iran). Are they Wahabi Islamists from Saudi Arabia? Terrorists from Syria or perhaps some Palestinian terrorist groups? Who are they? The investigators tell us one or the other depending on the particular attack of the day!
Some others try to say the terrorism is because of US occupation and they try to depict it as a popular movement against a foreign occupation and resemble it to the anti-US attacks in South Vietnam in the 60's and 70's.
Some others try to say the reason is democracy in Iraq and that the people who have lived under dictatorship are not used to democracy and so because of being unemployed or unhappy with their plight, in the conditions of democracy, they resort to armed attack on the state, for any grievance they may have.
Are any of the above speculations correct? I think not.
I think the situation in Iraq is very simple. It is basically going through the same phases that Lebanon and Iran and many other countries in the Middle East went thru, when the old order in those countries collapsed and a new order had not been formed yet and unlike Afghanistan, various forces have enough strength to show their presence. It is not hard to see this fact and it is not as important as it may seem. What is important is the outcome these current events will bring about in the long term structure of Iraq?
Will these conditions force Iraqi state to become another dictatorship like Saudi Arabia, Syria, or Iran? Or will it make it end up in another chaotic Lebanon which is the same way after three decades. Or will it be the first example of a democracy in the Arab world? Who benefits from each scenario and what states are reinforcing which path for Iraq and why?
The current terrorist groups are a variety of groups just like in Lebanon, ranging from pro-IRI terrorists to pro-Saudi to Al-Qaedeh to Palestinian to new kids in the block. The important thing is that the U.S. should not judge various political forces in Iraq by whether they are anti-US or pro-US. If a group is terrorist and if they are pro-US, so much the worse.
It is not right to think that in an environment of terror, it is good to have pro-US terrorist groups to compensate for anti-US terrorists. The terrorist groups may become pro-US or anti-US at any time. They should be stopped as long as they are undermining the democratic process in Iraq regardless of their stand about the U.S. This is what did not happen in Lebanon and from time to time various terrorist groups were favored in Lebanon and it has continued and gotten worse after three decades.
The U.S. should encourage all groups that promote and support the *democratic process*, whether they are pro-US or anti-US, and should stop all those who justify killing of opponents to achieve their political goals. The U.S. should expand democracy by even allowing government funds for the groups that condemn terrorism and support democratic process, and should cut the funds of the groups that promote fatwa killing and other forms of murdering their opponents, even if they are pro-US at this time. This is the only way to bring stability and a lasting peace to Iraq.
What is the interest of Saudi Arabia? Well, Saudi Arabia is not happy that Iraq is becoming U.S. favorite Arab state in the region and they prefer to show it is unstable. And they know a successful democracy in Iraq will make Saudi modern thinkers to ask why not Saudi go the same path? Also they see a stable Iraq as a competition to their oil revenues. And finally they like Iraq to become the next Taliban Afghanistan that would follow their footsteps. And they are afraid of IRI Shi'a influence in Iraq as they always wanted Iraq as part of the Arab "unity" in the region and this is why they heavily supported Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War and they see such servitude of Iraq as the necessary requisite for Saudi to be the dominant force in the region and not Iran.
What is the interest of Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI)? IRI wants Iraq to be like Lebanon. Unstable so that Iranian people do not look at Iraq as a paradigm to get rid of IRI. Also they want to keep the highest influence in Iraq thru Shiites in the South to counter Saudi influence in the region and they also do not want their oil revenues be impacted by a successful Iraq in the oil business. And the fear of Arab unity. So they prefer to see Iraq along with other Arabs in fight with Israel to relieve them in their goal of exporting Shiite Islam to the region.
Thus Iran and Saudi favor chaos in Iraq and Syria just like in Lebanon, prefers chaos in Iraq, as they always view Iraq as a competitor to themselves. Especially a successful democracy in Iraq can have a strong impact on Syrian people who have suffered the same kind of dictatorship under the fascist Baathist state monarchy called republic (sic), decades after decades. And Al-Qaedeh is following its own anti-US agenda and Palestinian groups use any opportunity to show themselves as a force anywhere they see a vacuum in the Middle East.
The European Union wants to see Iraq pay its debts so they will cooperate and support the U.S. Administration of Iraq as the only reliable party to get their money back. They are even trying to improve their relations with U.S. by helping out to ease the US-IRI conflict, to ensure the loans they gave to Saddam is paid by the U.S. government in Iraq.
The above goals of different states changes from moment to moment. What is a lasting issue in Iraq is whether it will end up in another Lebanon or another Iran, the first with a reigning chaos after three decades and the second which quickly ended the chaos of first years after the revolution with an Islamist iron hand, in other words ending the semi-democracy that followed the 1979 Revolution in Iran of 1980-1982 by the IRI dictatorship massacring the political opposition.
I hope the U.S. to follow a path to help the success of *democratic process* and secularism in Iraq. Any attitude of judging the Iraqi political groups by whether they are pro-US or not, is a wrong approach. The same mistake the US made at the time of the Soviet Union, when supporting dictatorships in the Middle East, because of them being pro-US. An Islamist despotic terrorist group should be confronted, even if it supports the U.S., and a democratic group clearly condemning terrorism and dictatorship, should be supported even if it is anti-US. This is how to help Iraq succeed and not by curtailing democracy, which these dictatorial terrorist groups hope for to legitimize themselves.
Sam Ghandchi, Publisher/Editor
Nov 3, 2003