Filling the Void

When former Baathist thugs or Al Qaeda forces do their dirty work in Shiite neighborhoods, the locals cry of “Wahhabi” terrorists. When Al Sadre’s militia rips into a Sunni section of Baghdad to flex its muscles, the locals scream of “Iranian” madness.

No one in Iraq actually thinks that Saudis and Iranian soldiers are on the ground in Iraq fighting these battles. But the locals know for sure who is backing the factions. They know where the money is coming from.

The western media like to claim there is a civil war going on in Iraq. That makes for nice headlines and allows them to go after their particular political enemy – George W. Bush. But a more accurate description would be proxy war - a proxy war between the Saudis and the Iranians.

Wahhabists in Saudi Arabia have denigrated and discriminated against Shiites and their own Shiite population for centuries. And the Persians have battled defensively and offensively against Sunni forces since their breakaway version of Islam formed only years after the death of Mohammad. The area that now forms Iraq has been the buffer zone between these two conflicting groups for fourteen hundred years and the present situation is just another battle in an ongoing conflict.

In this century, the various Iraqi governments have used strong, centralized command and control to keep a lid on the underlying tension that is always close to the boiling point. Sunnis have had the upper hand recently and Saddam was particularly effective in controlling the Shiite population. America’s intervention in the region created a temporary vacuum and the predictable result has been a bloodletting between these two groups.

The American plan has been to fill that vacuum with a representative government. There has been some progress toward that end with several successful elections. But real success will only come when the Iraqi government is strong enough to marginalize the influence of the Saudis and Iranians on the ground. We may be seeing the first signs of that now.

This week, Iraqi Bedouin tribal leaders met with Saudi leadership to hammer out issues related to their use of border areas. Acting in concert with Sunnis in the new Iraqi government, this dialogue is an initial indication that Iraqi Sunnis can discuss tribal issues with the Saudis independent of the Baathists who spoke for the tribes before.

As for the Shiites, the new prime minister elect, Jawad Al-Maliki, has apparently convinced the Badr Brigades to roll themselves into the Iraqi Defense Forces. This appears to be a first step forward in getting some of the Iranian backed Shiite militias under the control of the Iraqi government.

To Americans who expected this war to be a three week affair after which the US Army and Marines packed up and headed back to the States, these recent events may seem like a small blip in a never ending fiasco. But to those who actually listened to Bush’s warning that 9/11 kicked off a forty year war, this week’s news might appear to constitute small but important steps toward filling the power vacuum that we created in Iraq.



12:31 PM

Very imformative.