Monday, December 04, 2006

Good News From Iraq You Haven't Heard--Is Hope On the Way?

The Iraqi Muslim Scholars Association has, in the past, been implicated in being at least passively supportive of the Sunni insurgency, especially in Anbar Province and other areas in the north.

After the President of the Association, Harith Dhari, fled to Jordan recently, the Association apparently decided to take a firm stand for positive change.

The following translation of a story that ran in two Iraqi newspapers last Friday describes what has happened:

Sunni leaders in Basra representing, Party of Islam, Muslim Scholars Association, The Sunni Endowment and heads of Sunni tribes, issued a Fatwa (religious opinion or edict) banning and forbidding the spilling of Shiite blood or joining any terrorist or extremist organization. The Fatwa also called for the rebuilding of the [Shi'ite] Asqariah [also spelled Al-Askari] shrine in Samarah.
It appears to me that this represents a major shift in the so-called "Iraqi Civil War." If the leaders of half of those fighting the "civil war" call for a halt to the hostilities then the subject of concern goes straight to the other side, namely, the al-Sadr (Shi'ite) Mahdi Militia.

The Iraqi government recently said that it was going after the Sunni insurgency first, and mentioned harith Dhari by name.

With Dhari gone and the broadly supported Fatwa issued by the Sunni religious leadership the ball now goes into al-Sadr's court.

This development may explain why the US military chose the mystifying strategy of shifting thousands of our troops from Anbar Province (where al-Qaeda and the Sunni insurgency is the problem) to Baghdad (where al-Sadr's militia appears to be the major problem).

It now appears that the situation on the ground in Iraq may be in the midst of a radical paradigm shift.

1. Sunni religious leaders call for an end to sectarian violence by Sunni Muslims and, by Fatwa, isolate al-Qaeda as a forbidden organization.

2. News reports indicate that Sunni militias in Anbar Province have begun assisting the Iraqi Security Forces in attacking, killing and rooting out al-Qaeda members in the area.

3. With Dhari gone and the Muslim Scholars Association opposing the insurgency the US Military, with the support of the Iraqi government and Security Forces (and the likely reluctant support of Iraqi President Maliki--who is Shi'ite) is now free to cut the legs out from under al-Sadr, his militia and his financial and weapons pipeline to Iran.

For over two years the biggest question in Iraqi stability has been not if but when al-Sadr will be brought down. Apparently the time is coming soon for the "High Noon" showdown.

Will Sadr back down as he has before and feign cooperation? Or has his long-acknowledged surrogacy for Iran made him personna non grata to even the Shi'ite leadership in the Iraqi government?

I truly hope it is the latter.

A crushing defeat of Sadr and his militia would be a decisive blow to Iran's hopes in the region and the last major hurdle in creating an enviornment for a peaceful future for a unified Iraq.

Previous experiences in Iraq have shown, however, that whenever a major shift towards peace and stability takes place, Iran and/or al-Qaeda have taken desperate measures to undermine and disrupt the momentum.

If Iraq, with the support and participation of US troops, goes after al-Sadr then we can expect many very bad things to happen over what will seem a very long period of time.

I would describe this painful period as the pains of labor that take place prior to the birth of a child. This is always the most dangerous period for both mother and baby. It can sometimes be fatal. More often than not, however, such pain and travail ends in a beautiful affirmation of life that makes the entire period of pregnancy, labor and delivery well worth the time, trouble and suffering.

I have personally been dispairing over the future of Iraq during the past 2-3 months. This is the first sign of hope that I have observed in a very long time.

It appears to have the potential of being a substantial (and perhaps pentultimate) step towards the resolution of the Iraqi mess.

It is hard to believe that it was only three weeks ago that Omar, at Iraq the Model, saw the potential shift in his country for this very scenario to develop. As he put it then,
Anyways, I think if law-enforcement apparatus, judicial and military alike, are allowed to retain the momentum, then maybe in a year we will be discussing al-Sadr and al-Dhari verdicts
.(Note: I posted on this here).

At the moment it may still be a dream . . . but it is a beautiful one . . . and we may be on the verge of seeing the dream become true!

ht:Mudville Gazette