Monday, October 30, 2006

Well, I've finished Vali Nasr's book, The Shia Revival, and it has given me a lot to think about. His point that the Sunni-Shia divide in Islam is far deeper and deadly than we understand doesn't tell us what we should do at this point, but it does suggest that we've already won all we could reasonably expect by unleashing the Shia to assert their majority status in Iraq and triggering a showdown between Iran and the rest of the Muslim world, principally Saudi Arabia. Americans don't really know the difference between Al Qaeda and Hezbollah. To Sunni fundamentalists, all Shiites are apostates from Islam, not Muslims with different traditions. This all began when the first Shia Imam, Ali was murdered, and the second, Hussayn, was murdered by the Caliph's troops. Even though it was Iranians who settled in Southern Iraq, their descendants see themselves as Arabs, not Persians, and as Shiites, not Sunnis. They comprise 60% of the population and they're not going to go peacefully back under the boot of the Sunnis. The Sunnis see is as their right as regular Muslims to rule over the Shia. They may have to be subdued like Georgia before Sherman's Army. I doubt we'd find many American troops shedding tears over them. Nevertheless, I think there are still people in the elected government who want to work out a peaceful system for their nation. I don't believe things are so bad that we have to get out. That may happen, but it isn't yet, and if we withdraw, we'll guarantee civil war and inflame the region. The Shia are not going to submit again to the tyranny they lived under for the past third-century.

Muqtada al-Sadr is trying to boost himself into a Khomeini-like status with his Mahdi militia. But he's a light-weight compared to Sistani and other traditionalists. These Shiite opportunists probably need to be brought down, but for us to do it would probably turn the Shia, both in Iraq and the moderates in Iran, against us. The Shia street is probably with us now, but it could get ugly fast if we are seen to be interfering with the Shia resurgence.

We have removed the oppressor from the Shiites. We have seen them through elections which gave them political power, and we've trained their army. We need to finish that job, and bring their numbers up to where they can keep the peace. That may be all they want from us or will allow from us without our sending in a few hundred thousand more troops. It was never our intent to actually occupy the country. That's what is wrong with most of the critics from the retired generals. They are thinking in terms of the post-war occupation of Germany and Japan. We have done a lot, but we don't have the troops in place to defeat a guerilla enemy being supported by the Saudis or by the Iranians.

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