The arrest of Ali Fadhil & the threat of civil war.
The Guardian of London runs with a story about US troops arresting a prize winning journalist, Dr Ali Fadhil, in Baghdad. Dr Fadhil was investigating a story about millions of dollars worth of Iraqi money which had gone missing in the hands of US and British authorities. The troops burst into his house, firing bullets into the bedroom where he slept with his wife and children. The article mentions the fact that only a few days earlier, Dr Fadhil's team had approached the Americans for an interview, regarding the findings of his investigation. The troops seized several tapes which haven't yet been released, and the likelihood is that they never will be either.
It is the seemingly small stories like this, which take place each and every day, which have led to even the top US General in Iraq admitting that most Iraqis want the troops out. The constant humiliation as a result of the occupation has taken its toll on the Iraqi people. And the US isn't the only country to come under fire. The prison break incident in Basra back in september 2005 involved UK troops, and highlighted the lack of respect that the occupation holds towards Iraq's sovereignty. In that incident, two british SAS men, dressed in Arab clothing and wearing wigs were arrested by Iraqi police after they killed one policeman. The British army then went charging in and knocked down the prison walls with their tanks and set the two men free. Around 50 other criminals escaped as a result, and the British press set about painting the freed men as heroes, despite the extremely suspicious circumstances surrounding the whole affair. It is inevitable that eventually, the Iraqi people will get sick and tired of the current state of affairs and will drive the occupation out by force. The Iraqi political and religious elite are also running out of patience and it may not be long before a call is made for the US and her allies to leave. Should this happen, the US may have no other option but to comlpy.
The one thing stopping Iraq's government from asking the US to leave now is the fear of falling into civil war. For the past year, leading Iraq observers, such as Juan Cole, who runs an incredibly informative blog, have constantly claimed that Iraq is on the verge of an all out civil war, and for the past year they have been proven wrong. The threat is very real, but to the great credit of the Iraqi people, they haven't allowed themselves to be dragged into a mutually destructive battle just yet. The Shia community in particular have maintained an incredible level of restraint, in the face of huge provocation. At the same time, the sunni arabs are producing leaders of immense courage, such as Tariq Al Hashimi and Adnan Al Dulaimi, who have entered into negotiations for a 'national unity' government.
In order for the threat to be lifted forever, the shia leadership must continue to restrain their constituents, as they have been doing to great success so far. This includes telling the SCIRI leadership to keep their militia, the Badr brigades under control. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, being the most authoritative voice for the Shia, deserves the most credit for keeping his followers restrained. Had it not been for the tradition of the Shia to follow the rulings of their most senior clerics, Iraq would already have been in the middle of one of the worst human tragedies in history.
The Shia political leadership also have a role to play. They must make the sunni arab representation in the 'national unity' government as strong as possible in order to make the coalition solid. If the Sunni's are firmly onside, then there is every chance the Baathist and Salafi forces driving the insurgency will be isolated and defeated. At the moment, the baathists in particular, enjoy a reasonable amount of support from the sunni arab populace, and if Dulaimi and Hashimi can draw that support away from them, then it will only be a matter of time before they are defeated. A lot rests on these two men making a sincere and whole-hearted commitment to Islam, Iraq and peace. Only they can convince the Sunni people that the Baathists do not have their best interests at heart and only they can offer a realistic alternative.
An unbreakable bond between the leaders of Iraq's ethnic groups is the only way in which the Baathist reign of terror will come to an end. They feed on the divisions which have grown in the last few years, and a unified Iraq, determined and steadfast in the face of their aggression, is their worse nightmare. It is the duty of every Iraqi to strive to ensure that this nightmare becomes a reality for them.