Writerís view is personal, must not be
The Bush, Ba'athist, Bin Laden joint decree:†make war on the Shia
By: Rannie Amiri
This motley trio has more in common with each other than
any individually would dare to admit. The cozy relationship of
the Bushs' with the Bin Ladens' is well known, as is the
sordid history of United State's support for the tyrannical
Ba'athist regime of Saddam Hussein. Recently, however,
all three have united under a common banner: to end the
growing influence of Shia Muslims in the Middle East. This has
always been the case with Iran. Even more pressingly now in
Iraq. Currently in Lebanon. But a call to arms, unmistakably,
has been issued.
It is by no coincidence that the countries which have piqued
the ire of the US over the past several weeks/months/years -
Iran, Iraq, Lebanon - all happen to involve the rise of Shia
Muslims to power (or greater power) and the subsequent
determination of George Bush, Ba'athist elements, and Bin
Laden (used here as being broadly representative of al-Qaeda)
to see this not come to pass.
The ideologies driving them vastly differ. The Wahabi/Salafi
school which bred Bin Laden, Zawahiri and the erstwhile
Zarqawi stems from an extremist interpretation of Islam,
holding Shia Muslims as "apostates" for the special reverence
accorded to the family of the Prophet Muhammad. Seen as
heresy, it makes them legitimate targets for righteous
retribution. The slaughter of the ethnic Hazara Shia minority
of Afghanistan by the Taliban is a gruesome testament to this.
The Ba'athists, specifically those in Iraq, are the polar
opposite: pure secular Arab nationalists. They regard the Shia
Iraqi Arabs as a fifth column due to affiliation with
co-religionists in Iran, a majority Shia but non-Arab state
considered historically hostile to the greater Arab nation.
Indeed, a favorite slogan of the Ba'ath was the disparaging
pronouncement of Shia, Shiou'ie, Shu'ubi or "Shia, Communist,
and [roughly translated], 'one who rejects his Arabism'."
George Bush Sr. had amicable relations with both of the
aforementioned during his long tenure. As CIA director,
vice-president and president, he armed the likes of Bin Laden
and his mujahideen during the Russian occupation of
Afghanistan and bankrolled Saddam's chemical wars before they
parted ways. But it is now the neo-conservative "Likudist"
school which holds great sway over Bush the junior, espousing
an "Israel-first" foreign policy.
Those are the players. So what of their playground?
Iran, although spuriously implicated in the troubles engulfing
Iraq and Lebanon, has most prominently come under scrutiny for
development of an alleged nuclear weapons program. As of yet,
no evidence of bomb-making has been found.
Should Iran pursue a nuclear weapons program though, many
would contend this to be an appropriate check on the Israeli
nuclear arsenal, not to mention that held by an unstable
regime in Pakistan which may fall into the unfriendly hands
of the Taliban or their al-Qaeda cohorts (unlike Iran, both
Israel and Pakistan are non-signatories to the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty). Some are left to lamentably
conclude that the only way to curtail Israeli military
adventurism would be an Iranian nuclear deterrent. It was
Seymour Hersh, writing in the April 2006 issue of The New
Yorker, who exposed the Bush administration's apparent
willingness to launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran without
forsaking the use of nuclear weapons in doing so. The neo-cons
thus seem keen to assure the balance of power in the Middle
East remains unbalanced, even if it means starting another
In Iraq, the situation is more dynamic. An historical shift
took place after the fall of Saddam. The minority Sunni Arab
population, which has dominated Iraqi politics since the
Ottoman period, no longer ruled over the majority Shia
Arabs. This was not an insignificant occurrence.
For decades, the Shia of Iraq have been marginalized,
persecuted and at various times, massacred wholesale by the
Ba'ath regime of Saddam. It is far beyond the scope of this
essay to detail all the crimes perpetrated against them. Among
the most notorious was the mass slaughter of tens of thousands
of Shia Muslim civilians during the 1991 uprising (which those
in power now in Iraq are unlikely to forget) while the Arabs
and US watched shamefully on the sidelines.
The war started by Saddam against Iran, purportedly to stem
the influence of the Iranian revolution, was a prime example
of skillful pandering to both Arab fears and nationalism
through use of anti-Iranian, and by implication, anti-Shia
propaganda. This is important to recognize because it remains
a recurrent theme in today's Lebanon and Iraq as the driving
force behind the Sunni-led insurgency there.
To even the nonchalant observer, it is unequivocally
clear that the overwhelming majority of civilian death and
carnage in Iraq has been at the expense of the Shia community.
Countless mosques, marketplaces, and funerals have been
targeted, with the most heinous on the Imam Ali mosque in
Najaf killing Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim in August 2003
and the Samarra mosque bombing in February 2006. These events
belie the almost daily killing of scores upon scores of
civilians and the ethnic cleansing of entire neighborhoods in
Baghdad's ever widening circle of sectarian violence. It was
Saddam who shrewdly sewed the seeds of such discontent long
Finally, Lebanon. Its current devastation has found great
applause beyond the neo-conservative and Israeli-apologist
crowd. The green light given to the Israelis to attempt to
annihilate the Shia group Hezbollah under the pretense of
rescuing two captured soldiers came not only from Washington,
but from Cairo, Amman, and Riyadh. It is understood that
Hezbollah can rightly claim to be the only organization to
have legitimately resisted and emerged victorious against the
lauded Israeli military by expelling them from southern
Lebanon in 2000 - hence the neo-con's support for the present
disproportionate violence. But Arab countries wary of
Hezbollah's widening appeal are also implicated and typified
by their passive reaction to Israel's assault.
The mass demonstrations present in many Arab capitals and
groundswell of popular support for Hezbollah has now forced
many of these same country's leaders to do some
hasty backtracking, especially after the second Qana massacre.
Even Ayman al-Zahawiri, whose animosity toward the Shia is no
secret, has tried to capitalize by opportunistically aligning
himself with Hezbollah, although there has never been a
relationship between the otherwise inimical groups.
The recent comments by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
questioning the loyalty of the Arab Shia to their countries as
well as the fears expressed by Jordan's King Abdullah on the
formation of a "Shia crescent" in the Middle East were
telling. Within a six-month period, though, it was actually
Sunni Muslim extremist suicide bombers who struck hotels in
Amman, and a similar group of Salafi radicals who hit the
Egyptian resort of Dahab. Also, the ability of the Saudi royal
family to remain on their thrones appears increasingly
precarious as al-Qaeda's purview within the Kingdom grows.
So why are they so concerned with a group that has done them
little harm? What leads them to tacitly condone, if not
support, the Iraqi insurgency, the invasion of Lebanon, not to
mention the mutually destructive Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s?
It is a combination of underlying historic prejudice,
protecting spheres of influence, and allowing nothing to
jeopardize a lifelong reign of monarchs and dictators.
While seeing the Shia come to power in Iraq, albeit in a
feckless and feeble manner, under no circumstance do they wish
to see Hezbollah continue to gain in popularity on the Arab
street. Nor do they wish to see a country like Iran become the
region's new power-broker should they join the nuclear
club. Two Shia flanks, one in the east and the other in the
west, threaten the notion of Sunni Arab supremacy of the
Middle East, the preservation of Arab regimes acting as
yes-men for the US, and al-Qaeda's ability to convince the
masses that a return to the life of centuries past is the
All three have come to a consensus.
A war on the Shia it must be.
Rannie Amiri is an independent observer, commentator,
and exponent of issues dealing with the Arab and Islamic
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