Iraq: balance the imbalance

Daily: The Statesman
Date: 15.04.04

‘Any thing can be proved or disproved by reasoning’ concludes Bertrand Russell in On Life
and Letters (London, 1924, vol. iv, p. vi). To that reference, a case for war or peace can
also be made by sheer reasoning. That is why it is being said that the acquisition of victory
in the war in Iraq is mandatory otherwise attacks on the West will happen in future—a
strange relationship of victory in Iraq with future of the West!

Similarly, a case for peace can also be made—simultaneously—that victory in the war in
Iraq is not mandatory, as the human crisis is growing worse. Instead democracy and
freedom are the gifts to the people of Iraq by the West. By doing so, a better face of the
West can be shown to the people of Iraq especially and the world, including the Muslims,
generally to embrace a lasting friendship. The same will dispel the impression that the West
is egocentric also in a war.

To make a case of war on behalf of the West seems quite unjust on the part of Tony Blair, if
one looks at the trends of the allies enfolded in the ‘coalition of the willing’. There is more a
tendency of pulling out than an inclination to stay further in Iraq especially after one futile
year. The ghost of illegitimacy is still haunting the allies and pinching their conscience from
inside—one of the compulsions for June 30 transfer of power. Those stand prudent who
have announced intent to depart from the modern history quagmire.

Near the closing of the first year of occupation-cum-liberation of Iraq, two new
phenomenons have being witnessed. The first is a wave of hostage taking while the second
is a Shia-Sunni rebellion against the allies. Out of all these, the Sunni insurgency of the
central Iraq (the Sunni triangle) was expected even before the invasion. However, the acts
of hostage taking, Shia uprising, and joining hands of Shias and Sunnis against the allies
are the three quite significant and unprecedented propositions.

Firstly, instead of attacking on the non-combat allies like Japan, they are being forewarned
to take out troops from Iraq. In that context, the hostage taking is actually also a prelude to
the uprising—individually or jointly, besides mocking the invaders.  

Secondly, for the first time someone (Muqtada al-Sadr) from the religious clerics has
publicly and formally challenged the US presence in Iraq by saying that either the American
forces should leave Iraq or face ‘Inqalab’. His message was read in his absence on April 9
(the first anniversary of occupation) during a Friday sermon in a central mosque of Kufa,
his hometown. To that effect, one of the common implications of both the aforementioned
points was resignation of the interim Iraqi Interior Minister, Nuri al-Badran willingly or
unwillingly.

Thirdly, the formation of an indigenous Shia-Sunni coalition against the foreign coalition is
also a new dimension. It is a failure of the famous ‘divide and rule’ policy. One can argue
that Muqtada’s al-Mehdi Army represents only a radical minority in Shia population vis-à-vis
the moderate Ayatullah Ali al-Sistani and his followers. However, the regional outlook
forebodes a looming strategic disruption. That is, there are chances of the spill over effect,
for instance in Fallujah, of the backlash of the assassination of Sheikh Yassin in the Gaza
Strip on March 22, and the consequent formation of Iraqi versions of Hamas and Hezbollah.
Moreover, as the US and its allies have been making room to extend their strategic depth
inside Iraq, the one disgruntled country to that effort would be Iran. That is how the Shia-
Sunni coalition can be formed—both politically and ideologically—to be against the
respective perceived threats from a common enemy.

If one imagines a situation wherein a transfer of power happens to Iraqis on June 30, 2004
and a process of democracy commences, what next then? What happens in Iraq afterwards
stand secondary to what happens in the US and the UK! Both the concerned political
parties will win elections in their respective countries. The same will allow continuation of
their policies for another four years especially towards the Middle East. Further, the same
can prompt them to poke their common nose in affairs of other countries as well by
bypassing the UN consensus, on one pretext or another, more than ever before. However,
these apprehensions-cum-foresight can become untrue if the situation unfolds otherwise.

‘The otherwise situation’ implied in the foregoing para seems to be an undercurrent cause
of what is happening in Iraq, now, and the same is the reason of worry of both Bush and
Blair. That is, if there appears a second wave of insurgence especially based on Shia-
Sunni coalition before June 30, it means dreams of the allies to transfer power to Iraqis may
be shattered. The same will send signals of a failure back home, especially in the wake of
failure to find the Weapons of Mass Destruction—an actual case of war in hindsight.

The twin failures hold potential to undo a case of success in the forthcoming elections,
especially for Bush in the US. That is what are the importance of the pre-June 30 and the
chance of emergence of subsequent wave of rebellion. In that context, six developments
are still to be seen. First, the fate of Muqtada and his militia; second, the standing of Badr
militia, a Shia militia with a stronghold in Najaf, supported by Iran and bearing inclination
(and not control) towards the Grand Ayatullah Sistani; third, the role of non-Iraqi Muslim
fighters including Zarqawi; fourth, the response of both combat and non-combat allies of
the US; fifth, the chances of availability of a quick withdrawal option left with the US and
allies; and sixth, the possibility of engagement of the UN. Above all, the repercussion of the
consequences of the deaths of innocent women and children in Fallujah is hitherto to be
observed.

Presently the allies have been focusing on ‘winning the hearts and minds’ of Iraqis, both
Shias and Sunnis, and therefore are ready to enter into any ceasefire. However, once the
allies realize that they will not be able to transfer power to usher an era of democracy in
Iraq and to be declared successful consequently, to get rid of the opponents back at home
as well as internationally, they may resort to punitive measures. At that time it may be said
again that the West has to fight a war for its existence in Iraq. At the end, it is still to be
seen who wins, where one tries to strike a balance in one’s favour to win the forthcoming
elections while one’s opponent endeavors the otherwise.

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