Progress towards national reconciliation in Iraq is being hindered by a number of obstacles. Among these are the impediments involved in the cooperative efforts to incorporate Sunni tribesmen into the Iraqi police force. The attempt is being made as part of the efforts to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq; however it has been met with adamant opposition from Iraqi officials.
A prominent leader in the United Iraqi Alliance who spoke to ‘The Washington Post’ on the condition of anonymity called upon the US administration to put an end to this “adventure”, which he upheld is rejected by all the national political forces. He added that, “their elements are criminals who cannot be trusted,” in reference to the Sunni clans that have vowed to fight against Al Qaeda organization.
Last Tuesday, Harith al Dari, Secretary-General of the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), which is considered the largest Sunni clerical body in Iraq, appeared on the Al Jazeera news channel and said, “Al Qaeda remains part of us and we [make up] 90 percent of it … Today, Al Qaeda is [comprised of] Iraqis.” He moreover called upon Sunnis to not collaborate with the union of ‘revival councils’, which is fighting with Al Qaeda alongside the American and Iraqi forces.
Thus, we have an anonymous Iraqi leader calling upon the US to sever its ties with the Sunni tribes, moreover accusing them of being criminals, while on the other side; Sheikh Harith al Dari openly calls upon the Sunnis to not fight Al Qaeda.
So who benefits from all this?
Al Qaeda, of course.
And this is where the problem lies; the Al Qaeda organization does not grow and flourish except when there is sectarian conflict. In ordinary societies there are institutions capable of quelling the Al Qaeda epidemic and reducing the danger of its impact when it strikes, as opposed to areas that are embroiled in sectarian strife. Regions where sectarianism is widespread act as catalysts that help activate Al Qaeda, as it finds the land and conditions that help strengthen it.
This is precisely the Iraqi government’s problem, which act as a hindrance to national reconciliation efforts. It is clear that the Iraqi government is gambling on the time factor; a year from now President George Bush will leave the White House and the time will come for the US Army to withdraw from Iraq.
Consequently, according to the Iranian president’s statements, Tehran will fill in that vacuum. Why is the Iraqi government striving towards reconciliation when it has friends other than Washington who are capable of supporting it, according to previous statements issued by Mr. Maliki?
The reality that is overlooked by the Iraqi government is that following the US withdrawal and the increasing isolation of moderate Sunnis; the conditions will be much more favorable for the Al Qaeda organization and for the Baathists that operate under the Al Qaeda banner to gain more support. The intention would not be to end the US occupation but to consolidate Sunni influence and seek vengeance on the Shia. This is where the real danger lies since the battle will transform into a sectarian one and thus will be uglier, more brutal and will reach farther to affect everyone so long as the rational minds in Iraq and the influential parties abroad, including the US, accept al Maliki’s government’s actions and the logic of Harith al Dari.