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Iraq’s Sunnis and Shiites…And Bush’s Vision - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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In his memoirs (Decision Points), former U.S. President George W. Bush accepts that he did not foresee the consequences of his decision to disband the Baath party, saying “The Shiites and Kurds in Iraq, who constitute the majority of the population, welcomed liberation from Saddam. However, the decision had a psychological impact that I had not predicted – many Sunnis regarded it as an indication that they no longer had a place in the future of Iraq. This situation was wrought with danger, particularly with regards to the army, where thousands of soldiers had been notified that they were no longer needed. Instead of joining the new military establishment, many of them joined the rebels”.

He says “Regarding the orders of Jerry (Paul Bremer), it was necessary to insist on further discussions, especially in relation to the message that the decision to disband the army would bring, and how the policy of Debathification would affect a lot of Sunnis”. He added “Over time, it became clear that the program of Debathification, which was presided over by Ahmad Chalabi, who spent a long time in exile, had led to deeper repercussions than we calculated, including its impact on party members in mid-level positions, such as teachers”.

Then he adds, and this is the crux of the point: “Decisions were difficult. Like any alternative; it created another set of problems. If the Shiites had concluded that we were not serious in putting an end to the era of Baath rule, maybe they would have turned against the coalition forces, and rejected the goal of building a united, democratic Iraq, instead entering into an alliance with Iran.”

The question now, after all these years, is: Did some Iraqi politicians, particularly those in the Shiite parties, distance themselves from Iran [as a result of this U.S. policy]? The answer: No! The day before yesterday, an Iranian official told our newspaper that Tehran was dissatisfied with the latest political agreement in Iraq. The source argued that the government which has been agreed upon, headed by Prime Minster Nuri al-Maliki, “is not expected to work in the same way that the previous government operated. Perhaps [al-Maliki] will have obstacles in front of him. Perhaps he [al-Maliki] will be forced to tolerate the Baathists”. This Iranian statement, not to mention Tehran’s actions, shows that the Americans were victims of a trick, conducted by Iran’s allies in the Iraqi opposition. The Americans were also victims of Bush’s incompetence, and the tendency of his administration to resolutely stand behind one sentiment, which was formed after the September 11th terrorist attacks. From reading Bush’s memoirs, it can be noted that he only sees the world from the 9/11 perspective, when time effectively stopped for him, particularly since bush was a president of isolation before the terrorist events, without inclinations towards foreign affairs, and this was exploited by Iran’s allies in the Iraqi opposition, to the clear anger of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

To date, it seems that Americans do not understand the danger of Iran and its allies in Iraq. Regarding the concept of majority and minority, a significant national Iraqi figure told me that the Americans have yet to realize: “The Sunnis, even if they are a minority, act with the mentality of a majority, whilst the Shiites, even though they are the majority, act with the mentality of the minority. The Sunnis want Arabism in Iraq, and independence, whilst some Shiite leaders want to depend on Iran”. This is the bottom line!

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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