Sunday, October 23, 2005

A Glimpse of Iraq

Responding to an inquiry I made a few months back, my cyber-friend Abu Khaleel has published an excellent essay addressing the complicated relationship between Iraq and Iran. I'm sure I am not alone in being confused the key members of the government in Iraq seem to be overly familiar with key people in Iran. These two countries were at war only a few years ago, and now the newly-elected mayor of Tehran is an old buddy of some of Iraq's key players.

There are so many parts to this puzzle that I have had a hard time putting them together. Just today I was reading an article in Prospect (linked a couple of posts ago) that makes reference to three political parties in South Iraq, one of which clearly has Iranian roots.

The founding leader of SCIRI, Muhammed Bakr al-Hakim, an Iraqi cleric, campaigned for a theocracy in which the Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini would become the supreme leader of a Shia superstate embracing Iran and Iraq. Under his umbrella came the Badr brigade, a paramilitary unit of Iraqi exiles commanded by the Iranian revolutionary guard who had fought on the Iranian side in the Iran-Iraq war.

Many of the leaders of this group still have family in Iran. They are all religiously conservative and committed to the establishment of an Islamic government. Their leadership has long-term connections with the Iranian revolutionary guard and intelligence services. Thousands of their followers receive salaries from Iran, but they would not consider themselves agents of Iran. Many claim to have been humiliated while in Iran and to be committed Iraqi nationalists. [!] Immediately after the allied invasion, al-Hakim recommended compromise with the coalition, no longer calling for an Iranian theocracy but instead for "a democratic free Iraq that reflects the interests of its people." He was assassinated and his group is now run by his less charismatic brother, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who is one of the most important figures in the national government in Baghdad. [Link to article]

Abu Khaleel's essay is really in two parts. The other part is on his other blog, Iraqi Letters. This part of his commentary is more contemporary. he underscores the point that I just made above about the Badr Brigade, and repeats the same mystery that continues to puzzle me:

In the simplest possible terms, I cannot understand the following: Iran is a declared enemy of America. America invades Iraq. America consistently strengthens the hand of pro-Iranian political parties and their influence on the future shape of Iraq!

The latest source of amusement is that both the US administration and the regime in Iran are enthusiastic supporters of the new draft constitution.

Go figure! This information is consistent with what I am learning from other sources, and it points out specifically part of a complex web of connections between the two countries.

The more I learn, the less I seem to know. But this much is clear. I already know a lot more than most people I speak with and the depth of ignorance that most Americans have about what is happening in Iraq is utterly breathtaking. Concerned citizens owe it to themselves -- and to the sad memory of what will soon be two thousand dead soldiers -- to quit thinking in simple terms and start doing some serious homework about this awful war and what would really be best for Iraq.

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