Sakset/Fra hofta

Alt er ikke tapt i Irak. Tvertom, det er en følelse av håp og en begynnende konsensus: Sunni-eliten har tapt krigen om Bagdad, makt og olje. Shiaene trenger derfor ikke Mahdi-hæren i samme grad. Irak kan bli den første arabiske stat hvor folkegruppene deler makten.

Så optimistisk uttrykker Fouad Ajami seg etter et nytt besøk i Irak. Det er vanskelig å forene med det mismot som brer seg i Washington, og den oppgitthet og til dels skadefryd man finner i Europa. Men Ajamis versjon kan ikke avfeies. Hans faglige kvalifikasjoner er ubestridelige. Men mest teller det at han har en overgripende forklaring på hele historien, ikke bare Iraks, men hele Midtøstens. Det har frigjøring som premiss. Man skulle tro europeere ville omfavne Ajami, men nei, europeerne sluker sunni-tolkningen, som sier at Palestina-konflikten er kjernen og at USAs administrasjon er en katastrofe for regionen.

Det er tøv, sier Ajami. Det er å gå på limpinnen å tro at en fredsplan for Palestina vil kunne løse dagens fastlåste situasjon. Man kan ikke «undo» historien. USAs invasjon av Irak var riktig. Alle feilene som er begått kan ikke oppheve det. Og sunni-herskerne som i årevis tiet stille om Baath-regimets forbrytelser har ikke noe de skulle sagt.

Shia-representanten i grunnlovskomiteen spurte saudi-araberne: hadde dere det så bra med Saddam? Han startet kriger og invaderte naboene. Et Irak ledet av shiaer og kurdere og med sunnier som deltakere vil ikke true noen.

Men dette budskapet har ennå ikke sunket inn, skriver Ajami.

Konspirasjonsteorier i Midtøsten har et visst utspring i virkeligheten, dvs. egne interesser. Således tror mange at USA og Iran samarbeider om å velte sunni-regimene, uaktet at de også konkurrerer om makt og innflytelse. De ser beviset i Irak.

Nytt perspektiv

Sunni-eliten har tapt krigen, sier Ajami. Vi står ikke foran en eksplosiv borgerkrig, den er på en måte allerede over. De hundretusener som har flyktet landet er den sunni-profesjonelle eliten. Bare den har penger til å flykte landet: leger, advokater, forretningsmenn, handelsmenn.

Sunni-lederne gjorde den katastrofale feil å satse på opprørerne, i samarbeid med jihadistene. De greide aldri innse at kreftenes parallellogram var endret for godt. Da Zarqawi lyktes å utløse shiaenes vrede med sitt angrep på Askariya-moskeen 22. februar ifjor, beseglet han samtidig sunnienes skjebne.

De er nå renset fra sine bydeler i Bagdad slik at de trolig utgjør omlag 15 prosent av befolkningen. Sunniene har tapt slaget om Bagdad.

Shiaene er takknemlig for Mahdi-hæren som beskyttet og hjalp dem (med høyst diskutable metoder). Men nå merkes en utålmodighet. De er lei eksessene og vil at den underlegges regjeringskontroll.

Ajami er sikker på hva shiaene egentlig mener: de er USA evig takknemlig for at de veltet Saddam. Men fremdeles merkes en frykt for at USA skal snu og svikte dem, og gi for stor innrømmelser til sunniene.

Fremtid

Analysen til Ajami gir helt andre perspektiver enn de rådende i Vesten: Han tror Irak kan bli det første arabiske land hvor folkegruppene nyter likestilling: Hvis bare sunniene kan forsone seg med nederlaget.

Sunniene ventet på kavaleriet, skriver Ajami. De ventet på at sunni-herskerne skulle komme dem til unnsetning. Akkurat slik palestinerne har gjort opp gjennom historien. For retorikken har vært ildfull og svulstig. Men har bare vært ord: sunni-kavaleriet kommer aldri. Det tar litt tid før sunniene innser det. Men når de gjør det, bør de tilbys en plass ved bordet.

The Sunni and Shia versions of political things — of reality itself — remain at odds. But there can be discerned, through the acrimony, the emergence of a fragile consensus.
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The Sunni and Shia versions of political things — of reality itself — remain at odds. But there can be discerned, through the acrimony, the emergence of a fragile consensus.


Amarrah

The nightmare of this government is that of a precipitous American withdrawal. Six months ago, the British quit the southern city of Amarrah, the capital of the Maysan Province. It had been, by Iraqi accounts, a precipitous British decision, and the forces of Moqtada al-Sadr had rushed into the void; they had looted the barracks and overpowered the police. Amarrah haunts the Iraqis in the circle of power — the prospect of Americans leaving this government to fend for itself.

In the long scheme of history, the Shia Arabs had never governed — and Mr. Maliki and the coalition arrayed around him know their isolation in the region. This Iraqi state of which they had become the principal inheritors will have to make its way in a hostile regional landscape. Set aside Turkey’s Islamist government, with its avowedly Sunni mindset and its sense of itself as a claimant to an older Ottoman tradition; the Arab order of power is yet to make room for this Iraqi state. Mr. Maliki’s first trip beyond Iraq’s borders had been to Saudi Arabia. He had meant that visit as a message that Iraq’s «Arab identity» will trump all other orientations. It had been a message that the Arab world’s Shia stepchildren were ready to come into the fold. But a huge historical contest had erupted in Baghdad, the seat of the Abbasid caliphate had fallen to new Shia inheritors, and the custodians of Arab power were not yet ready for this new history.

For one, the «Sunni street» — the Islamists, the pan-Arabists who hid their anti-Shia animus underneath a secular cover, the intellectual class that had been invested in the ideology of the Baath party — remained unalterably opposed to this new Iraq. The Shia could offer the Arab rulers the promise that their new state would refrain from regional adventures, but it would not be easy for these rulers to come to this accommodation.

Tapt

The blunt truth of this new phase in the fight for Iraq is that the Sunnis have lost the battle for Baghdad. The great flight from Baghdad to Jordan, to Syria, to other Arab destinations, has been the flight of Baghdad’s Sunni middle-class. It is they who had the means of escape, and the savings.

Whole mixed districts in the city — Rasafa, Karkh — have been emptied of their Sunni populations. Even the old Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiyyah is embattled and besieged. What remains for the Sunnis are the western outskirts. This was the tragic logic of the campaign of terror waged by the Baathists and the jihadists against the Shia; this was what played out in the terrible year that followed the attack on the Askariya shrine of Samarra in February 2006. Possessed of an old notion of their own dominion, and of Shia passivity and quiescence, the Sunni Arabs waged a war they were destined to lose.

No one knows with any precision the sectarian composition of today’s Baghdad, but there are estimates that the Sunnis may now account for 15% of the city’s population. Behind closed doors, Sunni leaders speak of the great calamity that befell their community. They admit to a great disappointment in the Arab states that fed the flames but could never alter the contest on the ground in Iraq. No Arab cavalry had ridden, or was ever going to ride, to the rescue of the Sunnis of Iraq.

A cultured member of the (Sunni) Association of Muslim Scholars in Baghdad, a younger man of deep moderation, likened the dilemma of his community to that of the Palestinian Arabs since 1948. «They waited for deliverance that never came,» he said. «Like them, we placed our hopes in Arab leaders who have their own concerns. We fell for those Arab satellite channels, we believed that Arab brigades would turn up in Anbar and Baghdad. We made room for al Qaeda only to have them turn on us in Anbar.» There had once been a Sunni maxim in Iraq, «for us ruling and power, for you self-flagellation,» that branded the Shia as a people of sorrow and quietism. Now the ground has shifted, and among the Sunnis there is a widespread sentiment of disinheritance and loss.

They had made their own bed, the Sunni Arabs, but old habits of dominion die hard, and save but for a few, there is precious little acknowledgment of the wages of the terror that the Shia had been subjected to in the years that followed the American invasion. As matters stand, the Sunni Arabs are in desperate need of leaders who can call off the violence, cut a favorable deal for their community, and distance that community form the temptations and the ruin of the insurgency. It is late in the hour, but there is still eagerness in the Maliki government to conciliate the Sunnis, if only to give the country a chance at normalcy.

The Shia have come into their own, but there still hovers over them their old history of dispossession; there still trails shadows of doubt about their hold on power, about conspiracies hatched against them in neighboring Arab lands.

The Americans have given birth to this new Shia primacy, but there lingers a fear, in the inner circles of the Shia coalition, that the Americans have in mind a Sunni-based army, of the Pakistani and Turkish mold, that would upend the democratic, majoritarian bases of power on which Shia primacy rests. They are keenly aware, these new Shia men of power in Baghdad, that the Pax Americana in the region is based on an alliance of long standing with the Sunni regimes. They are under no illusions about their own access to Washington when compared with that of Cairo, Riyadh, Amman and the smaller principalities of the Persian Gulf. This suspicion is in the nature of things; it is the way of once marginal men who had come into an unexpected triumph.


Håp

One can never reconcile the beneficiaries of illegitimate, abnormal power to the end of their dominion. But this current re-alignment in Iraq carries with it a gift for the possible redemption of modern Islam among the Arabs. Hitherto Sunni Islam had taken its hegemony for granted and extremist strands within it have shown a refusal to accept «the other.» Conversely, Shia history has been distorted by weakness and exclusion and by a concomitant abdication of responsibility.

A Shia-led state in Baghdad — with a strong Kurdish presence in it and a big niche for the Sunnis — can go a long way toward changing the region’s terrible habits and expectations of authority and command. The Sunnis would still be hegemonic in the Arab councils of power beyond Iraq, but their monopoly would yield to the pluralism and complexity of that region.

Iraq in the Balance
In America Panic, in Iraq Cautious Optimism

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