The Bush administration grew tired of Garner's techniques of endless palaver, which had endeared him to the Iraqis of all flavors, and replaced him with a Man of Action, that pathetic buffoon Bremer. The policy of Marja Sistani and Shiites generally has advocated a unified non-confessional religiously tolerant Iraq. Bremer did not heed Sistani's wise advice, and there has been hell to pay
Iraq's elections, as I reported in yesterday's diary, have not gone to any one "fundamentalist" party in toto. The issue of Islamic law is far more complex than the dreaded hudud laws: Iraq's forms of Islam are not Deobandi or Wahhabi, and have surprisingly little impact on the lives of ordinary Iraqis. The Kurds are barely Muslims at all, and their sects are generally considered idolatrous. I am a particular fan of the Kurdish culture and their Qadiri and Naqshbandi forms of Sufism, a holdout of a far more ancient religion, Zoroastrianism, which would affect all forms of mystical Christianity, Judaism and Islam. For centuries, Baghdad had the largest community of Jews in the world. It was not the Islamists who drove out the Jews, it was the secular Ba'athists, who are equivalent to Nazis, as I have said before. The politicization of Islam is a modern thing, for centuries, Islam was its laws, and little more. It is true Islam has now become highly political, but this phenomenon appears in the USA, witness the ludicrous Intelligent Design debate, and the Prayer Breakfasts, so fashionable in our own fair land. True, Religion may attempt to meddle in politics but history has more generally shown the politicians wrapping themselves in the borrowed mantle of Religion to buttress their own stances.
Saddam turned to Islamic rhetoric only when his war against Iran was going badly. It was never terribly sincere. Saddam's own Islam was highly suspect: he had an entire Qu'ran lettered in his own blood, drawn from his veins over several months. This curious artifact was on display for years, and still exists, I am told. There's just one problem, Islam has so many prohibitions against the use of blood, especially human blood, Saddam's Qu'ran is an incredible act of haram sacrilege. Saddam was a thoroughgoing secularist, and murdered hundreds of Islamic scholars and clerics. We should not be surprised to see the Iraqis turn to Islam as the bedrock of their moral/political underpinning, Islam has been under assault in Iraq since Ba'athism first appeared, this reaction is as much an exercise in intellectual and religious freedom as anything else, the Iraqis are exhilarated to finally declare their clan and religious identity without fear of retribution. Wahhabism never got a toehold in Iraq: Saddam killed off Wahhabism's missionaries as they appeared. Sunnism was the official faith of the Ottoman Empire, but it has predictable decayed into factions, correlate the miserable doctrinal debates of the Protestants to envision the state of affairs in the Sunni religious community.
The Sunni "insurgency" is by no means a single thing, nor does it represent Sunni policy in any substantive way. There are several different insurgencies going on, all at once. I call it the Three Insurgencies.
Insurgency One: everyone hates the Americans: the Sunnis hate them because they overthrew Saddam. They are fearful. The Kurds are not exactly pleased with the Americans, for now they look like American toadies. The Shii hate the USA most of all: they once rose against Saddam at the urging of the USA and were slaughtered for their trouble. Now the Shii view the Americans with contempt for failing to secure Iraq: especially the Oct 25 bombing of a Shiite mosque, killing 25 and wounding more than 80. The Shii have endured some godawful treatment after the invasion, only their strong leadership has kept the ordinary Shii from rising in entirely justifiable revenge.
Insurgency Two: the Zarqawi-esque terrorism, now widely discredited. This second insurgency is in serious trouble, in Maoist terms, they have lost the support of the peasants. The Iraqis will not become the tools of terrorists, as the unfortunate Palestinians became the pawns of Arafat: there is too much to lose. See Insurgency One
Insurgency Three, the last, and least understood insurgency is the one within the Sunni and Shii clans: you didn't really think they were monolithic entities, did you? Well of course not. There are at least a dozen major Sunni clans, and no less than fifty subclans. The Sunni sheikhs have come, hat in hand, to do their deals with the oil-rich Kurds, and mend fences after Saddam's policy of evicted Kurds and installing Sunnis. Stern warnings against election violence were issued from the Sunni camps: though they may quite properly hate the American soldiers, especially in towns like Ramadi, the Sunnis are far too integrated into Iraqi society to ever demand more than political coexistence. The Sunni sheikhs are no fools. The Shii factions have been killing each other forever. The murder of Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, Moktada Sadr's father, in 1999 was followed by the murder of Ayatollah Majid al-Khoei in April of 2003. The Americans were too stupid to see what was happening: arrest warrants were not issied until August of 2003. The Americans may have defeated Moktada Sadr's Mahdi Army, but they left Moktada Sadr to create more trouble. To a lesser extent, the Kurds have been feuding among themselves, too.
The USA has until quite recently stupidly conflated the Three Insurgencies. Thanks to Zalmay Khalilzad and other wise heads, we're finally sussing these insurgencies out. The Sunnis cannot be extirpated any more than Saddam could extirpate his enemies in toto. We have learned to our lasting disgrace in places like Ramadi and Fallujah, we cannot really do away with Insurgency Two: confronted in battle, the Zarqawis of this wicked world run away, leaving the wretched townspeople to endure our attacks with white phosphorus and 500 pound bombs. Such hamhanded tactics only feed Insurgency One.
Insurgency Three is absolutely beyond our control, and is best solved in poliical terms. The USA has quite inadvertently solved Insurgency Three through the elections, even a blind pig may find an acorn from time to time.
The Three Insurgencies can be coopted into the broader geopolitical strategies of the United States quite neatly. By enabling an honest debate among the Iraqi factions, and the creation of a free press, the USA has set in motion a juggernaut of genuine reform in Iraq. Today's Arab headlines are breathlessly reporting the Iraqi demands for a new honest election. The commentary from Al Ahram, Egypt's largest state controlled media outlet is slyly intimating the Arab world's most populous nation should do the same. Egypt's status-quo party system is completely irrelevant. It's time for grass roots democracy in the Arab world, even if it wears the face of Islamic parties like the Muslim brotherhood. It's a damned good start, and we should not fear it overmuch. We have more to fear from backing the status-quo.