I am aware that the title may be intriguing or even slightly shocking, however this is solely for the purpose of capturing the attention of the reader. As we watch the events in Iraq continue to unfold before us, we see the phenomenon of sectarian violence between the Shi”a and the Sunnis increase. Unfortunately, there are those who are encouraging this internal conflict unaware of the consequences that it may bring.
There are those of course, who will contradict my fears and refer to a history of sectarian coexistence in Iraq and the social cohesion that is based upon kinship ties rather than sectarian relationships. In Iraq, marriages between Sunnis and Shi”a are common allowing their children to appreciate the passion of Karbala as well as the political identity of Abbasid and Ummayad Baghdad. I certainly do appreciate such aspects of the unique Iraqi culture and history however; this should not allow us to become oblivious to what seems be a fire under the ashes, that is, the events that are raging in Iraq right now.
Leaving Al-Zarqawi aside, a mere a newcomer, extrinsic to the Iraqi local scene whose violent and blatant fundamentalism does enough to alienate him and reveal his true colors, one must look at the religious sectarian critique between the Sunni and Shi”a divisions. There is major criticism from the ”Muslims” Scholars Association” of Iraq, who are the major representatives of the Sunnis, against the counter religious sectarianism of the ”Badr” organization affiliated with the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution. No matter how hard each one of those two parties attempt to portray an image that sectarian identity can be surpassed by nationalism, this pretense remains a political tactic. This spiritless talk is void of sincerity and is consequent to the pressures by the overshadowing American presence.
We have seen the Secretary General of the Muslim Scholars Association, Sheikh Harith Al Dari condemn the Badr militia, accusing them of killing Sunni sheikhs as well as other representatives because of their religious identity. In response, Abdel Aziz Al Hakim defends his organization and similarly accuses certain parties targeting Shi”a figures for their identity just as ”Alaa Al Lamy has argued. Al-Hakim has also called for Al-Dari to take his case to court rather than declaring a media war, calling upon those who accuse the "virtuous powers of the Badr militia" to be pious and review their stances.
It seems that the intense American presence is the barrier that keeps Iraqi sectarian differences from clearly coming to the fore, especially when the affiliation between some Iraqi organizations with regional powers is not concealed. Perhaps the most apparent example is the association between Badr and Iran. They were clearly created and funded by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which is demonstrated by the fact that many of soldiers and activists declare their allegiance to the Iranian religious leader Khamenei above anyone else.
According to a private report by one of the research centers devoted to the surveillance of the Iranian military and intelligence that is present in Iraq, a comprehensive plan exists. The plan has been prepared by Iranian intelligence in cooperation with the leadership of the ”Jerusalem Brigade” of the Revolutionary Guard, to manage the Shi”a political parties of Iraq and to keep them under the control of the Iranian state.
In addition to the main task of general leadership of the Revolutionary Guard to support and protect the regime against its local enemies, it is also involved in another secret task. This task is to supervise the military and security activities of the regime outside Iran through a specified division called ”The Jerusalem Forces”. This semi-military, semi-intelligence institution administers external jihad (export of the revolution) as its main task. According to the report, the Jerusalem Forces consist of nine brigades, one of which is devoted to Iraq (namely, the first brigade). This is in addition to the ninth brigade, which is none other than the Badr Brigade.
Therefore, the forces of Badr militia are nothing but one brigade of the Jerusalem Forces brigade affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. According to the report, until recently, the number of these forces ranged between 5000 and 7000 soldiers, all replete with the ideas of the Khomeinian Islamic Revolution and the Iraqi variations of them. Khomeini, of course, had been residing in Najaf while he was exiled and this is where he propagated his ideas, influencing the Iraq”s top Shi”a clerics such as Sayyed Mohsen Al Hakim and Sayyed Al Kho”ee who were impressed by his courage.
These ideas of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, which was founded in the early 1980s in Iran, are not consequent to the Iran-Iraq war, as some believe. Hostility between the regime and the Shi”a political division reached its peak essentially as a response to the massacres ordered by Saddam Hussein that were also inflicted upon the religious establishment in Najaf as well as the major crime of killing 16 people in Al-Hakim. The brutality of Saddam”s crimes added a violent element to the intellectual animosity and emotional detachment of the fundamentalist Iraqi Shi”a, constituting to the distinguished atmosphere of Karbala.
In fact, the crisis of political Shi”ism in Iraq predates the regime of Saddam with regards to its confrontations with the secular regimes that ruled before him since the foundation of the Da”wah party in 1959 by several Shi”a activists, the most prominent of whom was Mohamed Baqr. This actually means that the crisis of the Islamic political Shi”ism reflects that of its Sunni counterpart. In the case of the former, it seeks to rebuild the state of the infallible imams whereas the latter call for the reestablishment of the rightly guided Khalifah.
The return of the Supreme Council and Da”wah as the two largest
Shi”a political organizations to Iraq, to invest in the American victory over Saddam Hussein, came among other objectives as an attempt to achieve the dream of an Islamic Shi”a state. I asked an Iraqi expert, also the grandson of the most prominent Iraqi cleric during the last few years, about the extent to which there is an attachment to the dream of an Islamic state such as that of Iran, to which he answered, "I believe the direct political reform is the main goal. The dreams of the early pioneers have weakened." An Iraqi writer further added, "Do not forget that Al Ja”fari the leader of the main organization, left Iran a long time ago to live in London, therefore his ties with Iran are not strong enough to propel him to serve the Iranian regime or to ally himself with them. Also there are new conditions in Iraq that do not oblige him to seek Iranian support, as was the case in the past when Iran was Iraq”s biggest enemy."
That is what they say, however, the hint of sectarianism cannot be ignored. The grandson of the influential cleric argues that the Shi”a act towards a goal, which can only be ensured by the leaders rather than the followers, the majority of whom live according to the ideological mobilization they were indoctrinated with in the Badr camps on the Iranian-Iraqi borders and its headquarters in Tehran.
This is truly worrying, as many accusations have been directed at members of the Badr brigade with regards to killing numerous Sunnis and Ba”thists. One of the worst cases involved the hunt for followers of Zarqawi as this foolish act is "the quickest way for civil war to outbreak", says our colleague, Hoda al Husseini.
Those who use the sectarian language, or base their discourse on it, desire a turbulent future for Iraq. The Shi”a parties face a historical test to prove that they deserved the victory of the general elections. The most dangerous aspect of it all is the use of historical sectarianism to interfere and impose the authority of powerful figures. It is regretful to see that the country is inclining to serve the interests of influential public figures through the pretense of serving sectarian needs and at the expense of its people.
I say this, as I read about those who propose a separate Shi”a state in Southern Iraq, as reported by news agencies. Among them, is Abdul Karim Al-Muhmadawi, an important member of the Da”wah Party. Meanwhile we are witnessing the return of Khomeinism with Negad”s victory in Iraq. All that has been mentioned above has referred to the Shi”a political groups, however, the main religious framework, namely the grand Shi”a clerics, have a different opinion of state and government. I conclude with two questions: is it necessary for Iraq to repeat the Khomeini experience to see the establishment of an Iraqi Islamic Republic despite its failures in Iran? Is not one Khomeini enough?