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The Bush Iraq Plan - Make or Break…

By Sama Hadad
Friday, May 28, 2004

On the 24th May 2004, President Bush reaffirmed his vision for a democratic and free Iraq. If successful, this plan would see Iraq as a shining example of democracy and liberty in the Middle East. Whilst this may be one of the boldest political endeavors since World War II, it is a fragile process that will not survive any political mistakes. The selection of the transitional Iraqi government presents the greatest opportunity for such a mistake to be made.

Having lived under generations of successive minority-dominated regimes, Iraq's Shia rejoiced when Saddam's statue was brought down. Subsequently, Shia regions have been largely quiet in comparison to the volatile Sunni triangle, which has been witness to large Coalition casualties. Despite the ongoing instability and mounting deaths, the Shia have remained optimistic about their future. The Americans came with the promise of democracy and liberty and therefore the majority of the Shia remained patient and hopeful. To them, short-term inconveniences and struggles were an inevitable difficulty that could be tolerated, in the hope that a new Iraq would emerge. A new Iraq that would bear no resemblance to that of the past. Sitting in a house in the slums of Baghdad in the sweltering heat of August last year, one woman reassured me when the power went out, "my dear, all this is worth it…..prior to this past month, when have the Shia ever been the majority in government?" She was of course referring to the majority-Shia Governing Council, formed in July.

Now imagine, come the 1st July, and Iraqis wake up to a 'new Iraq' whose president or prime minister is a Sunni Arab. What will Iraq's Shia think? What will they do? It will not escape them that history is being repeated, for once again they will find themselves in an Iraq which is two-thirds Shia, but governed by an individual selected from the one-sixth Sunni Arab population. To them, Operation Iraqi Freedom will have been a sham and the lives lost on both theirs and the Coalition's side will have been lost in vain. Once again the seeds of minority rule will have been sown in Iraq to create a harvest of discord.

Iraq is embarking on a crucial stage in its transition to democracy. The next eighteen months will set the foundations for a democratic Iraq: a permanent constitution, a referendum and Iraq's first democratically elected national government. With ongoing terrorist activities and continuing security difficulties, its entrance into this crucial phase will be unstable to say the least. The compounding instability that will be created by handing over to an unpopular government headed by a Sunni president or prime minister, will obliterate any chance of Iraq becoming a beacon of democracy in the Middle East. Iraq's central and southern regions, the Shia heartlands, will erupt into unrest on a scale yet to be witnessed.

Ayatollah Sistani, the Shia's most senior religious leader, must not be forgotten. Although he is opposed to a theocracy in Iraq and does not wish to hold a political position, he has proven to be vocal whenever Iraq's Shia have been threatened. When Sistani felt that Shia representation was at risk from Bremer's caucus plan, he demonstrated his political strength - with one call, the Grand Ayatollah flooded Iraqi streets up and down the country with protesters. And, remarkably, in one call for calm, he was able to withdraw them. If Lakhdar Brahimi announces a transitional government whose top two jobs are not held by Shia, Ayatollah Sistani will not remain silent. Feeling marginalized, the power of Iraq's large majority will be unleashed. This will push Shia moderates into the hands of extremists.

A poll conducted last month by the Iraqi Centre for Research and Strategic Studies shows two-thirds of Shia still felt the war was one of liberation. By contrast, the same poll shows two-thirds of Sunnis felt the war shamed them. Furthermore, the poll shows that one-third of Sunnis support attacks against the Coalition. There is little sense in appointing a Sunni president or prime minister whose own ethnic group are openly hostile to the Coalition and will therefore oppose any Coalition decision regardless. There is even less sense in such a move, when it will serve to alienate the Shia majority. Any multi-ethnic democracy should have provisions and safeguards for minority groups, and that is exactly why there are two vice-presidency positions in the transitional Iraqi government.

While many names are being considered by Brahimi and the CPA for the transitional government, there seems to be one certainty: Adnan Pachachi or one of his associates will take the position of president or prime minister. Pachachi, who opposed Iraq's liberation and Kuwait's right to exist, is a Sunni pan-Arabist. Bush's Iraq plan is set to fail.

 

© 2007 Iraqi Prospect Organisation
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