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Islam and Politics ( 23 Jun 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Islamic Identity and Unity in Danger in Iraq


By Aftab Ahmad, New Age Islam

June 24, 2014

The ISIS has been making advances towards Iraq’s capital Baghdad. They have captured Mosul, Tikrit, Raqqa, Anah and swathes of other territories. They have also captured the oil refinery in Baiji. The army commanders and soldiers who belong to the Sunni sect have joined the rebels. The Sunni people of the captured areas are with them. Thanks to this, they have not faced any resistance from them. Iraq’s Nuri Al Maliki does not seem to have any solution for this. He has been expecting military intervention from the US whereas the US that is going through a financial mess is either not in a mood to get embroiled in a military confrontation or is apprehensive of the wider ramifications of military aggression in the country. Decades back when the US had invaded Iraq, it had created the world opinion in favour of it on the pretext of war on terror, but things have changed since and it is not possible for it anymore to fool the world on the pretext of war on terror. Last year too, when it was preparing to attack Syria to topple Shia President Bashar al Assad, Russian President Putin vehemently opposed the US threatening it that if it attacked Syria, Russia will fight against it. At the same time Putin threatened Saudi Arabia of dire consequences if Syria was attacked because Saudi Arabia and Qatar were aiding the terrorists fighting Syria. Due to Putin’s intervention, the US had to abort its plans.

The reason for the concerns of Saudi Arabia-Qatar and the US is not sectarian because the US has nothing to do with Islamic sects. In fact, Russia has defence and economic ties with Syria which goes back to the period of Bashar al Assad’s father Hafiz Al Assad.  These ties are against the defence and economic interests of the US and Saudi-Qatar. Therefore, the campaign of the US, Saudi Arab and Qatar against Syria is more economic than sectarian. Saudi Arab and the US tried to give this economic cold war a sectarian colour and succeeded to a great extent. Various Sunni Ulema too issued fatwa exhorting Sunnis to join jihad. One fatwa is also of Qaradhawi. However, the danger hovering over Syria could be averted but the training that was given to the jihadis in the secret camps of Turkey and Jordan was put to work in Iraq. If the report that have poured in are from reliable sources, the US has trained the jihadists of ISIS in training camps of Turkey and Jordan and the funds for it have been provided by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It may be recalled that in June last year, Qatar had permitted Taliban to open its office called Political Bureau of Taliban on its soil. These are the reasons; the US does not want to send its troops in Iraq and wants Nouri Al Maliki to go.

The reason for America’s unhappiness with Nouri Al Maliki is that after coming to power, he increased the representation of Shias in the army and the bureaucracy pushing Sunnis to the minority position. During Saddam’s rule, he had put the minority Sunnis in the dominant position and Shias had virtually become minorities while numerically being the majority community. Maliki’s bringing the Shias in a dominant position in every walk of life created uneasiness among the Sunnis and created concerns for the US and Saudi Arabia.  As Iraq was turning into a Shia country, the power of Shias in the region was increasing. It meant greater influence of Iran in the region. Until, only Iran and Syria were Shia countries but with Iraq under Shia President Maliki with Shia army and bureaucracy also became a Shia country. It was therefore, necessary to curb the power of Iraq forcefully. That’s why the military resources that had been gathered against Syria were assigned against Iraq. Obama’s insistence that Nuri Al Maliki should give equal participation to all the communities of Iraq points towards the same concern. The US does not want Iraq to become a fully Shia country because it will increase the power of Iran in the region which is already a major concern for the US.

If the ISIS captures the whole of Iraq which does not seem impossible, the story will not end there. Its next target will be Bashar al Assad. By then ISIS will be in control of the Iraqi military and all the military resources of Iraq and it will open its front against Syria with full force. That’s what the US and Saudi Arabi want. At the moment, Iran too opposes American intervention in Iraq. Perhaps Iran thinks that the ISIS cannot topple Maliki government without the help of the US as the Shia militia and Shia people will be able to stop the advances of the ISIS. Reports say that the Kurds and Shias have taken oath of martyrdom to save Baghdad and they will sacrifice their lives to save the sacred places of Iraq. Iran has also warned that if ISIS dared to touch the sacred buildings, it will not sit idle. Under these circumstances, Iraq is on the verge of a dangerous civil war. But the question remains: why did not the Shias offered any resistance in the areas the ISIS captured?

About a decade ago, George Bush had destroyed Iraq on the pretext of WMD and its relations with Al Qaeda. But today a branch of the same Al Qaeda has attacked Iraq ironically with the US help. This has made the hypocrisy of the US on terrorism flagrantly evident. Today, soldiers and common people have come out in the support of the rebels due to the hypocritical policies of the US. The dirty politics played by the US in the region and the destruction of the region socially, politically and economically by the US has turned the people against the US and they want a government which is free from the influence of the US so that they can rewrite their own destiny. For this purpose, they are willing to support any force that could challenge the American hegemony. This is the reason they have extended their support to a Takfiri militant organisation.

 On the other hand, the sectarian policies of Nouri Al Maliki also turned the Sunnis against him and brought them closer to the militant organisation. This will not bode well for Iraq because if this organisation comes to power in Iraq, it will unleash sectarian war in the country. Their first target will be the sacred places in Iraq which are not sacred for the Shias alone but are symbols of Islamic identity. Even the slightest damage to these symbols of Islamic cultural and religious identity will hurt the religious sentiments of the Muslims the world over. Especially Iran will not tolerate it. As a result, the whole region will plunge into the abyss of a dangerous civil war and the NATO countries will take advantage of the internal strife of the Muslims. The sooner the Islamic countries find a way out of this mess the better for the entire Islamic world. Otherwise, as Iqbal has said:

Tumhari Dastan Tak Bhi Na Hogi Dastanon Mein

Aftab Ahmad is a columnist for New Age Islam.  He has been studying the Holy Quran for some time