Sunday, July 09, 2006

Background To The Current Outbreak Of Sectarianism In Iraq

I have written a briefing for western readers interested in learning more about the background to the increase of sectarianism in Iraq. The briefing covers from the Ottoman period to the present American occupation of Iraq. Here's an extract:

The US led invasion and occupation of Iraq has dramatically deepened sectarian tensions. The Americans wanted to establish a pro-occupation government that would inter alia:

  1. Request American assistance to "bring order" to the country.
  2. Grant immunity to American military personnel and contractors for crimes committed
  3. Grant permission for the US to establish permanent bases in Iraq.
  4. Sign production sharing agreements with American oil companies.

  5. Open the Iraqi economy to imports from American companies.

To achieve this it searched for Iraqi political actors to form a local government which would act as an adjunct to the occupation. Local secular political forces were marginalised by the American occupiers who did not want people who it deemed to be too nationalist in the Iraqi government it sought to establish. Instead it sought out religious parties, groupings, and politicians who it believed would be less experienced and more compliant.

Intensifying Iraqi resistance to the American occupation of Iraq strengthened the occupying forces opposition to Iraqi nationalism in all its forms. The US occupiers aggressively promoted a view of Iraqi politics that focussed entirely upon ethnic/religious questions and completely ignored the long tradition of secular nationalism. Moreover the American occupation government ignored except at the crudest of levels the complex ethnic mix and diversity found in many Iraqi cities and regions, such as Mosul, Basrah, Kirkuk, and of course Baghdad. A compliant western mass media in particular the news wire and television services accepted this paradigm without question. When questions were to be asked or interviews to be undertaken a variety of "experts" from right-wing think tanks were available for interview and the production of a snappy soundbite in support of American policies on demand. That many of these pundits had little experience of Iraq and that many of them could not even speak Arabic never occurred to western journalists. Moreover the US occupation's military tactic, of using Kurds and Shia to police Sunni towns, worsened relations between religious communities thereby seemingly validating the idea that Iraqis were incapable of living together. That many of these local troops, in particular those drawn from the Peshmerga had a revenge agenda of their own never seems to have occurred to most American officers in the field until it was too late.

The full text of the briefing can be found at my markfromireland site.

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