Monday, May 15, 2006

Incitement to Division

Today, Juan Cole posts an Asharq al-Awsat interview with hardline Sunni leader Harith al-Dhari. I want to call attention to this part:
"On what is being said about a covert war between the Sunnis and Shias, Al-Dari said, 'Many people wonder whether there is indeed a covert war between the Shias and Sunnis in Iraq. I say there is no war between between the Sunnis and the Shias but there is a different kind of war that is being launched by forces that have an interest in fragmenting Iraq's unity by fomenting sedition among its people. These are political forces that have their own interests and agendas. Some of these interests are purely selfish while others are influenced by external forces on them. Therefore, they seek to foment sedition and incite one side against the other in order to create a sort of conflict and hatred. This is obvious in several Iraqi towns, especially in Baghdad, Basra, and other towns'.

"Asked about what the Sunnis in Iraq are being subjected to by other elements that are considered to be followers of Shiite groups, Al-Dari said, 'Terrorism does not differentiate between Shias and Sunnis although what the Sunnis have been exposed to for some time is dominant in the Iraqi scene. When the occupation failed to hit the resistance it resorted to inciting one side against another. It attacked this or that sect to incite reactions that they think would lead to sedition and to clashes among the sons of the same homeland and thus achieve their desired end, namely, the fragmentation of Iraq on one hand and giving the occupation the upper hand on the other'."

The conspiracy theory here is that foreign powers are working to divide Iraqis against each other. This idea comes from deeply held (and not entirely inaccurate) beliefs that the former colonial powers in the Middle East wanted the Arab world divided so as to keep it weak. Those who argue that we should try to force partition on Iraq ignore this context, mistaking an Iraq steeped in Arab nationalism for a Yugoslavia steeped in regional independence rhetoric. If Iraq, potentially one of the most wealthy and powerful Arab nations, is divided, it will sow new seeds of hatred of the United States and other Western powers throughout the Arab world.

(Crossposted to American Footprints.)


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