GKHAN – The role of Shiites in Iraq’s collapse

The role of Shiites in Iraq’s collapseLiora Lukitz, a respected authority on Iraqi history, gave her book the title “Iraq: The Search for National Identity.” Lukitz’s title is accurate.

The history of modern Iraq has been a complex pursuit of a national identity. For Lukitz, “the divisiveness of the Iraqi population” has been the chief problem for Iraqi politics and society.

According to Lukitz, Iraq has “overlapping identities and shifting loyalties” and these different groups “sometimes move in opposite directions, or are clashing altogether” For instance, even in its earliest years, Iraq was faced with the Assyrian affair The Assyrians rejected the 1930 Anglo-Iraqi Treaty — the treaty signed with the British establishing a Sunni hegemony in Iraq — because they did not want to relinquish their traditional privileges. Many of the regulations introduced to the newly independent Iraq, like the 1930 Public Education Law, favored the Sunni-Arab population.

Naturally, various groups like the Assyrians did not welcome this model of nation-building.After more than 80 years the Iraq project has almost collapsed.

The 1930 plan failed because the Kurds and Shiite Arabs successfully resisted the British-designed nation-building model. Their success has not united Iraq.

Is the collapse of Iraq the inevitable outcome? It could be. One should not forget that Iraq has been challenging this model since the 1990s.

When a state begins to collapse the typical solution is to create a certain type of federal model that embraces the “warring” groups. The period between 1990 and 2014 could be considered an example of this, a federation-testing period of Iraqi history.

Attempts to federalize Iraq have failed. Ironically lessons learnt from this period may, paradoxically, provide the foundations for the independence of the groups.

That is exactly what we are seeing in Iraq now.In this scenario, the possibility of an independent Kurdish state is the most attention-grabbing issue.

However, the fate of the Iraqi Shiites is equally important. If the Kurds leave Iraq, what will happen next? Will the Sunni and Shiite Arabs maintain what is left — a smaller Iraq? Or what if Shiite or Sunni groups go the same way as the Kurds?There is no doubt that the Kurds’ exit from Iraq will create deep anxiety among the Shiite community.

Once the Kurds have their own state and their own international allies (presumably Israel and Turkey), the Shiites will be left with a smaller Iraq where ISIL-like groups threaten the community. The priority for any Iraqi Shiite will be: “Who will protect me?” The answer, of course, is “Iran.

” At the moment it is not clear whether the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) will be in Iraq for a long stretch of time. However, no matter how long it stays, ISIL’s attitudes to Shiites will not change.

In this case, the Iraqi Shiites have two sources of help: Iran and the global Shiite community.We should not underestimate the, albeit limited, influence of the global Shiite community.

Indian newspapers are full of reports that thousands of Indian Shiites are ready to take up the ayatollahs’ call for jihad (holy war). Unlike in the Sunni world, the Shiites are well organized, courtesy of the mullahs who forged the spiritual network.

Recently, Iranian religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the conflict in Iraq a “clash between humanity and barbarian savagery,” not a war between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. This might be correct theoretically, but in practice ISIL radicalism poses a real threat to Shiite communities.

Therefore, ayatollahs like Khamenei cannot help but emphasize the global solidarity of the Shiites. Clever mullahs like Khamenei fully understand the global role Shiite networks play in such tough times.

Iran is well prepared for the Iraqi crisis following their experiences with Syria The Syrian crisis was and remains a critical test for post-1979 revolution Iran, as was the war with Iraq. In both instances Tehran successfully protected both its own and Shiite strategic interests in the region.

If Iran repeats this in Iraq it will increase its leverage in the Shiite world, including the Gulf States.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman