- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2003

After the amazing technological display of "shock and awe" in Baghdad, which destroyed Saddam's palaces and ministries, a second awe is brewing. While the first one was engineered by Washington's military leaders, the next one will come from inside Iraq. But, this time it won't be a Ba'athist threat, as much as it will be the "liberated Iraqis." And the world is up for a surprise.
The early signs coming from liberated Iraqis in the north and the south of Iraq will become the next political victories for the U.S.-led coalition. A TV interview of an Iraqi-Kurd this morning was a powerful expression of what is to come. His words were as powerful as daisy cutters. One can start seeing the future Iraq: One which was buried by Saddam's regime for decades and shielded by the coalition of the unwilling for months.
The Iraqi-Kurdish spokesman said: "American forces and their allies are liberators not invaders." Blasting the critics worldwide, he warned those "who stood on the side of oppression not to involve themselves in the future of Iraq." Obviously the hint was about the French and other governments.
In the extreme south of Iraq, Shi'ite Iraqis exploded their joy after allied forces entered their towns. They were seen worldwide tearing apart huge pictures of Saddam Hussein.
These statements made by liberated Iraqis are creating waves in the region. They are seen as devastating to the pro-Saddam, anti-American and jihadists in the Arab world. They can already show a sample of who wants what in the future.
While al-Jazeera is out inciting for jihad, then broadcasting reactions by fundamentalists around the world, the first liberated Iraqis are the real challenge to anti-Americans. The battle is on and raging between global jihadists (both Ba'athists and Islamists) and oppressed Iraqis. The opponents of the U.S.-led coalition are arguing that America is invading a Muslim country and therefore must be faced with jihad and retaliation. The "freed" Iraqis, although small in numbers for now, are reversing the argument. America is liberating Iraq inch by inch, they say. Americans are the allies in Mesopotamia, and therefore should be received as heroes. The stakes are really high for each side. If the Iraqis are silent, the outside jihadists and pro-Saddam, as well as the regime, will succeed politically and mobilize the world against the liberators. However, if Iraqis start to talk, the truth will come out gradually.
Imagine the global embarrassment. As soon as Iraqis would uncover the real story in Iraq, many icons will start to shake off. What would other Arabs say as Iraqis would speak their truth in Arabic? What would President Jacques Chirac argue when many Iraqis would burn Saddam's picture? What would the marchers worldwide march about when Iraqis would demonstrate in joy?
Yes, the bigger awe is yet to come. U.S. bombing of palaces in Baghdad showed the high technology America is deploying. But, the political awe is about to unfold. And that is when the liberated Iraqis will speak, little by little, faster and faster, freer and freer.
What the United States and allied forces need to do as they progress into Iraq's areas is to establish freedom enclaves. From Basra to Kirkuk, the outside and the Arab worlds should see and hear the peoples of Mesopotamia for and in the name of whom this whole campaign is really waged.
Such awe will have the mother of all effects on Muslims in the West and in the Middle East; Western (European public); and the international public opinion. The shock waves from the current success of the U.S. invasion will be felt far beyond Baghdad.

Walid Phares is a professor of Middle East studies at Florida Atlantic University, author and analyst of MSNBC.

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