Wholly Shi'ite Alliance?
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al—Maliki—who spent years in Iran during his exile from the Saddam Hussein regime—made his first official visit to Iran Tuesday, September 12, 2006 —five years and a day after the cataclysmic jihad terrorist attacks of 9/11/01. Mr. al—Maliki was greeted warmly by Iranian President Ahmadinejad. The meeting reflected growing economic ties between Iraq's Shi'ite—led government and the Shi'ite theocracy of neighboring Iran.
Last month Baghdad finalized deals for Tehran to provide it with gasoline, kerosene and cooking fuel amid a shortage in Iraq. Immediately prior to al—Maliki's visit, a separate Iraqi delegation discussed additional petroleum deals, including possible Iranian investment in Iraq's fuel sector.
Accompanied by mutual expressions of 'brotherhood', the two Shi'ite leaders—al—Maliki and Ahmadinejad—pledged continued cooperation. Ahmadinejad stated,
'This trip will strengthen bilateral relations. Iran and Iraq, as two brotherly neighbors, will stand by each other and unwanted guests (U.S.—led coalition forces) will leave the region'.
Al—Maliki characterized the talks as 'very constructive' adding that Iran is '...a very important country, a good friend and brother.'
I found the meeting between al—Maliki and Ahmadinejad surreal, and profoundly depressing, juxtaposed with President Bush's speech commemorating the fifth anniversary of 9/11/01, which ended only hours earlier (9:18 PM EDT), in Washington, DC.
The President told us (sans Muslim references),
Al Qaeda and other extremists from across the world have come to Iraq to stop the rise of a free society in the heart of the Middle East. They have joined the remnants of Saddam's regime and other armed groups to foment sectarian violence and drive us out.
But only hours later, the clearly extremist Shi'ite Muslim President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Shi'ite 'brother', our ostensible ally Iraqi Prime Minister al—Maliki, pledged their own mutual cooperation against (Sunni Muslim) Al—Qaeda, Ahmadinejad affirming,
All our assistance to the Iraqi people will be to establish complete security in this country [i.e., Iraq]
President Bush also warned,
If we yield Iraq to men like bin Laden, our enemies will be emboldened; they will gain a new safe haven; they will use Iraq's resources to fuel their extremist movement. We will not allow this to happen. America will stay in the fight. Iraq will be a free nation, and a strong ally in the war on terror.
But what if the Shi'ite Iraqi government willingly allies itself to the jihadist Shi'ite theocracy of Iran, an erstwhile nuclear power? Iran clearly has designs on 'Iraq's resources' (for the moment contenting itself with 'trade'), which could be used to advance its own hegemonic 'extremist movement'. And President Bush's 'not allow' rhetoric already rings hollow as these unsettling developments—highlighted by al—Maliki's Iranian visit—are happening now, despite America staying 'in the fight'. Moreover, if Iraq continues its seemingly inexorable progression towards a Shari'a state ['Islamic State by the will of the people', in popular Islamic parlance], it will be neither a 'free nation', nor 'a strong ally in the war on terror'.
Perhaps the earliest, most concrete sign of things going awry in Iraq's march toward 'freedom' was already evident in February 2004: the refusal of the interim Iraqi government to allow its ancient, historically oppressed (often brutally so) Jews to return in the wake of the 2003 liberation. Singling out the Jews was agreed upon absent any objection, except for the dissent of one lone Assyrian Christian representative in the interim government, who knew well what such bigotry foreshadowed: the oppression and resultant exodus of the Assyrian community — which is now transpiring.
Despite his lionization, Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Sistani remains an irridentist Shi'ite cleric who believes in najis—one of the more despicable belief systems in all of Islam—which imposes ugly restrictions on non—Muslim 'infidels' due to their supposed physical and spiritual 'impurity' [I have written about najis here, here, and here]. Sistani also 'wishes' for Sharia (Islamic Law) to be implemented in Iraq. As a result, Sistani—supporting women in the Iraqi Parliament are putting forth his repressive agenda. (From the Times of London, "Iraq's women of power who tolerate wife—beating and promote polygamy"):
As a devout Shia Muslim and one of eighty—nine women sitting in the new parliament, she knows what her first priority there is: to implement Islamic law. When Dr Ubaedey took her seat at last week's assembly opening, she found herself among an increasingly powerful group of religious women politicians who are seeking to repeal old laws giving women some of the same rights as men and replace them with Sharia, Islam's divine law.
And when Sistani posted this fatwa about gays on his website,
Q: What is the judgment on sodomy and lesbianism?
A: "Forbidden. Those involved in the act should be punished. In fact, sodomites should be killed in the worst manner possible,' [emphasis added] he precipitated a surge in homophobic killings by state security services and Shi'ite religious militias.
During the recent conflagration between Israel and the Shi'ite jihad terrorist organization (and Iranian proxy) Hezbollah, Baghdad was the scene of the largest pro—Hezbollah demonstration in the Middle East. This disturbing, if predictable, popular expression of Iraqi Shi'ite sentiments is now being transcended by an overt political alliance between the Iraqi government and the Iranian Shi'ite theocracy, which poses far graver dangers.
President Bush's noble rhetoric was eerily reminiscent of the same misplaced optimism expressed 70 years ago by the British Arabist S.A. Morrison. Despite great expense of British blood and treasure, more than a decade of military occupation, and even after the Assyrian massacres (by Arab and Kurdish Muslims) of 1933—34, shortly after Britain's withdrawal, Morrison wrote, (in 'Religious Liberty in Iraq', Moslem World, 1935, p. 128):
Iraq is moving steadily forward towards the modern conception of the State, with a single judicial and administrative system, unaffected by considerations of religion or nationality. The Millet system [i.e., dhimmitude—not reflected by this euphemism] still survives, but its scope is definitely limited. Even the Assyrian tragedy of 1933 does not shake our faith in the essential progress that has been made. The Government is endeavoring to carry out faithfully the undertakings it has given, even when these run directly counter to the long—cherished provisions of the Shari'a Law. But it is not easy; it cannot be easy in the very nature of the case, for the common people quickly to adjust their minds to the new legal situation, and to eradicate from their outlook the results covering many centuries of a system which implies the superiority of Islam over the non—Moslem minority groups. The legal guarantees of liberty and equality represent the goal towards which the country is moving, rather than the expression of the present thoughts and wishes of the population. The movement, however, is in the right direction, and it may yet prove possible for Islam to disentangle religious faith from political status and privilege.
Over seven decades later, the goals of true 'liberty and equality' for Iraq remain just as elusive after yet another Western power has committed great blood and treasure toward that end. More ominously, Iraq's newly empowered Shi'ites and their leaders appear to have forged an unholy alliance with Iran which is more likely to promote Sharia despotism, than liberal democracy.
Andrew G. Bostom is the author of The Legacy of Jihad.