WEEK 48: Ten years ago, the Sunni Awakening with the help of many Shia Iraqis collaborated to oust Al Qaeda In Iraq (AQAI). At that time, Iran started to hedge its position for the future which is the topic of this week’s essay.
Recall the start of Charlton Heston narrating the movie Armageddon. To paraphrase, “Ten million years ago an asteroid six miles wide struck the earth and changed everything. It happened before, it will happen again.” Lets just say history repeating itself within a decade is not a good indicator for peace and stability.
History repeated itself most recently from 2014 through 2017 when the US supported Coalition with Iraqi Security Forces (read mostly Shia Iraqis some of whom are Iranian supported militias) ousted ISIS. Today, Iran has reopened its corridor through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon. Expect ISIS or its next variant to return to Iraq if Iran doesn’t stop meddling in Iraq and Syria and allow for Sunni inclusion. But, I digress from the past which is why you read this.
“We’re closer than pages that stick in a book
We’re closer than ripples that flow in a brook”
– Robbie Williams version of Me and My Shadow
“I can’t believe the news today
Oh, I can’t close my eyes and make it go away”
– U2, Sunday Bloody Sunday
Well what have we here? The Sadrists and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq – nee SCIRI – have agreed to not fight. Muqtada al Sadr and Abdel Az Hakim signed the agreement. Saturday’s AFP headline reads “Iraq’s Hakim calls for total US withdrawal”.
Oh the nuances of information. Ammar Hakim, the son of the ISCI leader, makes the announcement following his daddy’s agreement with Moqtada.
AFP, the kings of optimism and pro-US rhetoric, delivers the compelling headline. Meanwhile, most Arabic channels reported Ammar Hakim said Iraq must rapidly build up the Iraqi Security Forces so the US can leave. He added the US will not retain any permanent bases in Iraq.
A couple of weeks ago, the Sadr and ISCI militias, Jaysh al Mahdi and Badr Corps, were slugging it out in the streets of Karbala. Now, the leaders are bestest buddies. Go figure. How do such things happen?
Let’s look at the events of the last month or so. The Concerned Local Citizens (nee Iraqi Security Volunteers – nee Freedom Fighters) are gaining popularity with Sunni participation. These citizens are partnered with Coalition Forces and non-corrupt Iraqi Security Forces to route Al Qaeda and stop the Jaysh al Mahdi expansion. As these groups stand up closer to the heart of the city, the Shia leaders, who spent their exile in Iran and Syria, are becoming antsy over the Sunni retaining ground and making resurgence in Baghdad.
The information battle over Concerned Local Citizens in Saydiyah is raging. We witnessed pro-Concerned Local Citizens demonstrations in Saydiyah. We saw an anti-Concerned Local Citizens demonstration outside the International Zone with accusations of Sunni ousting Shia families. The Government of Iraq is weighing in by accusing the Coalition Forces of arming new militias.
The females are starting to dress less conservative.
Whereas all black abayas were standard garb earlier in the deployment, I have seen more women adding color to their repertoire. I have even seen the audacious in Ghaziliya and Adl wear blue jeans with a colorful blouse and scarf.
Don’t misread my intent. I am simply noting the change in customs and culture. It is my job to observe these trends – trends that were common in a secular Iraq. Earlier in the month, a Council of Representatives leader said the religious government had failed. Now, we are getting to the heart of the recent agreement. Even thought the Shia are a sect of Islam, this is not a unifying Shia Iraqi alliance as much as it is a religious Hawza alliance that extends into Iran.
The Prince’’s words of disdain still ring in my head. I doubt many of the Shia tribal leaders are willing to throw their influence behind the ‘holy men’. Peel the onion some more and see who is behind the ‘holy men’ but the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The masters of discourse, who have inflamed Lebanon for decades, now need some semblance of unity and coherence. They are sensing the Coalition Forces will not go away soon and their adversaries, the Sunni, are closer to the Coalition Forces.
If I were allowed to gamble in Iraq, I would be willing to wager the information battle between Coalition Forces and the Shia Political Theocrats is going to heat up real soon. Their international support wants us gone before the Sunni can reconsolidate and maintain a foothold in Baghdad. Sadr and the Hakim’s are going to increase their rhetoric toward Coalition missteps and purpose. What better time for us to articulate why we are here? If we don’t, our adversaries of a unified or democratic Iraq will fill the void.
When we state our noble purpose and our overt contributions to the Iraqis, we portray our political adversaries in such a way they are non-supportive to Iraq’s future without us blatantly intervening in their domestic affairs. Heck, we are just providing what the people want. Try this and stick with it: Coalition Forces support Iraqis for a secure and unified Iraq.