- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 1, 2003

President Bush applauds the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shi’ite religious demonstrators with their “U.S. Go Home” banners as long-suppressed expressions of religious freedom. We must be careful not to confuse religious freedom with religious enslavement, democratic ideals with autocratic realities. Freedom of association and sloganeering is light years away from democratic decision-making.
  
  The blood that Shi’ite self-flagellators were seen beating out of their frail bodies was a ritual that their Saddamite gauleiters, all Sunni Muslims, had banned for over three decades. But it was also adumbration. Shiites, lest we forget, are almost two-thirds of Iraq’s 24 million, and have been ruled by Sunnis since before the Ottoman Empire swallowed Mesopotamia in 1638. It’s now payback time.
  
  The few hundred Iraqis who braved lingering fears of Saddam’s secret police informers to cheer U.S. Marines in Baghdad paled into insignificance next to the more than 1 million pilgrims who descended on Karbala and Najaf to mark the deaths of Shi’ite leaders 1,400 years ago and to tell the U.S. it was no longer welcome.
  
  Iranian agents did not wait for the liberation of Basra by British forces to cross the unguarded border with Iraq by the thousands. From teachers of the anti-U.S. dogmas of the Islam shanghaied by the Iranian ayatollahs in 1979, to revolutionary guard enforcers and intelligence agents, they were more at home in Kut, Najaf, Karbala, Hilla, Nasiriyah. Diwanaya, Amara and Basra than the coalition forces that liberated these cities.
  
  Anti-democratic forces led by Shi’ite clerics loyal to Iran quickly filled the void left by the sudden collapse of Ba’ath Party overlords. They have already pre-empted U.S. efforts to democratize Iraq with free elections. The made-in-Iran election slogan: “Vote Koran or vote America + Israel.” Anyone who votes for America under the ayatollahs’ game plan will be a pagan-Christian heathen.
  
  U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan gave the ayatollahs a powerful assist by calling the U.S. an “occupying power.” Thus, to vote for Ahmad Chalabi, the non-practicing Shi’ite Muslim who heads the formerly London-based Iraqi National Congress, and the favorite son of the Pentagon and the neo-cons to govern Iraq, will be serving Mammon and Uncle Sam. Not to worry, Mr. Chalabi responds, because the central government in Baghdad will control the oil purse strings. But what happens if Iran’s Shi’ite stooges control the southern oil fields and half the country’s potential revenue? A Mexican standoff?
  
  The Bush administration sent a little-noticed but sizable olive branch to Tehran as Operation Iraqi Freedom got under way. U.S. warplanes bombed two of the nine bases maintained by the Mujahideen Khalq, Iran’s largest opposition group that was long based in Iraq under the protection of the Saddam Hussein regime. The regime also gave it heft with some 400 tanks and armored vehicles.
  
  Khalq’s political philosophy was a blend of Marxism and Islam, the same coalition that staged the revolution against the shah in the late 1970s. It was formed originally in 1965 to fight Iran’s Peacock throne, and broke with the ayatollahs revolutionary regime in 1981 after the clerics began unloading less extremist supporters, which the communists were. Khalq, disclaiming any Marxist proclivities, then launched a major PR campaign on Capitol Hill where it still enjoys the support of 150 members of Congress who consider it pro-democracy, anti-fundamentalist, anti-terrorist, and the most organized alternative to the Iranian regime. To add to the confusion, the State Department has listed Khalq as a terrorist organization for the past five years.
  
  Following the U.S. bombing of the two Khalq bases, the entire organization 3,000 fighters and 7,000 relatives surrendered in mid-April to U.S. Special Forces. Emboldened by what the clerical hate-mongers read as American appeasement, Iran ignored the signal and plunged right on with its religious conquest of one third of Iraq and beyond. Even in Sunni-dominant sunny Baghdad, Shi’ites organized demonstrations whose double-barreled messages said, “Thank you America, now please leave and let us work out our own problems.” This week, 40 miles from Baghdad, the provocateurs punctuated the message by opening fire on U.S. troops. Return American fire killed 15 Iraqis. Turning an army of liberation into an army of occupation is their objective.
  
  After months of denials that it was helping Iran, directly or indirectly, achieve the badge of nuclear power, Russian Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev belatedly acknowledged last week that its client could indeed be advancing toward the production of nuclear weapons. But like North Korea that now boasts it actually has produced nuclear weapons, there was not much the Bush administration could do to thwart Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. In fact, it is the ever-growing proximity of the “Great Satan” on its eastern (Afghanistan) and western borders (Iraq) that goaded Iran into speeding up its nuclear option.
  
  Neither Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan nor Operation Iraqi Freedom had to face weapons of mass destruction. North Korea and Iran, the other two members of the “axis of evil” club, now appear to be close to achieving some form of nuclear deterrence. Which makes “not-quite-as-evil” Syria a more appealing target for the geostrategists who have planned to surround Israel with Arab democracies. However, democratic pluralism does not grow out of the barrel of an Anglo-American gun in the Middle East.
  
  Iraq’s southern Shi’ites may not be seeking to emulate the original 1979 Iranian model of flat-Earth obscurantist theocracy. But Western democracy is seen as a plot to emasculate Islam and recolonize Iraq. Gen. Jay Garner’s biggest roadblock: Islamist road rage. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld assures one and all that a clerical government is not on the U.S. menu.
  
  But Shi’ite clerics already control several town halls in the south. Arresting them the way the self-appointed mayor of Baghdad and another one in Kut were turfed out by U.S. Military Police can only generate more rage. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Tehran-based Shi’ite group that does not recognize Gen. Garner’s mandate to set up a U.S.-led interim administration, is already the shadow government in southern Iraq.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide