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January 25, 2007



Why is Iran a danger to the Sunni Arab governments allied with the U.S.? Is it because Iran is Persian, Shia or an Islamic Republic. I think Iran is a danger because it is an Islamic Republic that is trying to become a regional power based on its broader Islamist ideology. What is most frightening to these regimes is an alliance between Sunni Islamist groups and the Islamic Republic in Iran. This is bad news not only for them but for Israel and the U.S. as well. The only way to fight an Iranian power play based on Islam is to push the line that Shias are not really Muslim. It is working in Iraq and Lebanon and I think the consequences for the region will be more bloodshed. After all, these same regimes supported their Arab brother Saddam against his Persian enemy during the Iran-Iraq war. The bloodshed that began then is still continuing to this day.


Modern militant use, abuse of the internet


To the extent that there is substance to the prospect of "Shia dominance" rather than Iranian influence more generally I wonder if it isn't in the economic/sociological sphere rather than the political frame that people have been talking about. If power in Iraq and Lebanon were somehow to stabilize around SCIRI and Hizbollah, then wouldn't direct access to European markets for an Iraqi-Iranian bloc of petroleum deposits and industrial products have the potential to create a class of Shi'a nouveaux riches, in competition with the Gulfies? This scenario of a trade realignment, of course, assumes Syria stays in the fold and that Anbar is ultimately pacified by military or paramilitary forces of the "government" in Baghdad, but it's not totally inconceivable.

My personal experience is that when Palestinian want to slur Shi'a they call them 'Ajami, which more or less has the connotation of barbaros in Herodotus. I've heard Fatah people lately using it about Hamas activists, which tells you how serious the who "anti-Shia" thing is. It's a semiotic frame, no more substantive than any other coalition building resource.


These are useful analyses, but I feel that they leave out a very important issue, which is the extent and influence of pure anti-Americanism. And the fact that the US does not seem to be any longer interested in merely maintaining a balance of power in the area, but in simply conquering and controlling it outright. The question that no one discusses is whether or not the Shia and Sunni fear and/or hate each other more than they do the Americans. Do the states that fear Iranian influence fear it more than they do American influence? I don't think that they do. War, as they say, makes strange bedfellows, and I think people are seriously underestimating the extent of the hatred and fear of America, and the fact that there are important global issues here that may overwhelm the regional ones. For instance, the fact that Russia and China simply cannot allow the US to gain control of Iran. It's too close to their borders and represents a direct threat to their national security. That has nothing to do with the Shia/Sunni divisions. I can easily see all of the people in the Middle East, and indeed, in the world, uniting against the Americans and British. Of course, this issue is never mentioned in the so-called western media, since they are trying to make it look like these are regional problems that the US is only tangenitally involved in. But the situation is much more complex than that.


Hi Guys, my first post here!

I think that the controlling idea of this essay is correct, that the Khalijis and the US are more concerned about Iranian regional aspirations rather than the 'Shia' threat as a whole.

However, a few things need to be noted here.As far as political integration is concerned, I do think that places like Kuwait Bahrain and Saudia are volatile enough for their rulers to be very concerned of increasing Iranian influence.

Furthermore, any attempt at accomodating minorities or the under represented means being more open politically.Hence, it is a big threat to the power base of the dicators.You don't want to start even a conservative baby step of democratization, because each step leads to calls for two more, larger steps.Rising Iranian influence means that more Shia will be identifying with the label, and start bargaining for more rights.The political elite in the Gulf would hate for that to happen.

Finally, there is the point that Mark made in his previous posts.Even if this stems from trans national power politics, the thiong is that once the sectarianism is made commonplace and influnetial, and once you mobilize the populace, it is impossible to control the destructive effects.

A case in point is Lebanon.Hezbollah tries to alter the political balance, most of the Hariri controlled media plays the sectarian card and an alliance that cut across ethnic and sectarian lines on both sides has now become a horrifying spectre of intra factional violence, which even Hizbollah themselves are now struggling to control, despite their apparently disciplined bouncer come militia guys.


Gause: "moderate" Shia in Iraq (Da'wa, SCIRI)

Al-Da'wa is `moderate'????

Here's a few articles, some old some new, which assert the exact opposite:

1. Iraq: Bush's Islamic Republic
By Peter W. Galbraith
NYRB, Volume 52, Number 13 · August 11, 2005

Real power in Shiite Iraq rests, however, with two religious parties: Abdel Aziz al-Hakim's Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Dawa ("Call," in English) of Iraq's Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari. Of the two, SCIRI is the more pro-Iranian. Both parties have military wings, and SCIRI's Badr Corps has grown significantly from the five thousand fighters that harassed Saddam's regime from Iran in the decades before the war; it now works closely with Iraq's Shiite interior minister, until recently the corps' commander, to provide security and fight Sunni Arab insurgents.

SCIRI and Dawa want Iraq to be an Islamic state. They propose to make Islam the principal source of law, which most immediately would affect the status of women. For Muslim women, religious law—rather than Iraq's relatively progressive civil code—would govern personal status, including matters relating to marriage, divorce, property, and child custody. A Dawa draft for the Iraqi constitution would limit religious freedom for non-Muslims, and apparently deny such freedom altogether to peoples not "of the book," such as the Yezidis (a significant minority in Kurdistan), Zoroastrians, and Bahais.

This program is not just theoretical. Since Saddam's fall, Shiite religious parties have had de facto control over Iraq's southern cities. There Iranian-style religious police enforce a conservative Islamic code, including dress codes and bans on alcohol and other non-Islamic behavior. In most cases, the religious authorities govern—and legislate—without authority from Baghdad, and certainly without any reference to the freedoms incorporated in Iraq's American-written interim constitution—the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL).

Dawa and SCIRI are not just promoting an Iranian-style political system —they are also directly promoting Iranian interests.

2. Bush surrenders Iraq to Maliki’s death squads
by Ahmed Amr
Saturday November 4, 2006


Both walk away from the encounter – which was initiated at the request of Maliki – with the understanding that the United States will abandon efforts to tackle the death squads in Iraq.

As the Commander In Chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces, Maliki was making a power play and exercising his ‘right’ to protect his death squad allies from any interference by Bush’s troops.

But Maliki didn’t stop there. He demanded more American funding and accelerated training of the very same Iraqi security forces that moonlight as death squads. And, of course, Bush had no other option but to comply with the absurd request to provide American tax dollars to further enhance the criminal capabilities of the militia infested police and army.

The latest media farce is to portray Nouri Al-Maliki as a man out to curb the violence and chaos in our Mesopotamian colony. According to this fable, The Prime Minister is caught between Iraq and a hard place - forced to navigate a treacherous path between a desire to assert the Iraqi State’s monopoly of violence over ‘rogue’ elements in the security forces and the Shia parties that engineered his ascension to power.

There is only one problem with this tale of Maliki’s woes. The Prime Minister is the defacto chairman of the death squads – a radical partisan leader who is out to insure Shia supremacy in the new Iraq. Maliki, Bayan Jabr and Moqtada Sadr are cut of the same ideological cloth. They are men who have spent a lifetime in the quest to convert Iraq into a Shia theocracy – by any means necessary.

3. Beirut Bombers Seen Front for Iranian-Supported Shiite Faction, The Washington Post, January 4, 1984

The terrorist group that claimed responsibility for the bombing of the U.S. Marine compound and the French military headquarters here may be a front for an exiled Iraqi Shiite opposition party based in Iran, in the view of a number of Arab and western diplomatic sources.

Authorities in Kuwait say their questioning of suspects in the recent bombing there of the U.S. and French embassies indicates a clear link between Islamic Jihad, a shadowy group that says it carried out the Beirut attacks, and Al Dawa Islamiyah, the main source of resistance to the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Al Dawa (The Call) has been outlawed in Iraq, where it wants to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state to replace the secular Baath Socialist government of Saddam Hussein, who is a Sunni Moslem.

It draws its strength from the large Shiite population in southern Iraq. Thousands of its most militant members were expelled to Iran in 1980 before the outbreak of the Iranian-Iraqi war and joined Al Dawa there. But it also has a large following in Lebanon among Iraqi exiles and sympathetic Lebanese Shiites.

While Al Dawa operates out of Tehran, it is not clear whether its activities abroad are under direct Iranian control or merely have Iran's tacit acceptance.

[Keywords: Iraq, Islamic fundamentalists, Islamic fundamentalism, Shiite fundamentalists, Al Sadr, Al-Maliki, Al-Hakim, Bayan Jabr, Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, SCIRI, Al Dawa, Death Squads]


Here’s more on Al-Dawa….


Please qualify moderate?


Keywords: Al Dawa, Islamic Fundamentalism, Sharia, Iran and Iraq, terrorism, US Embassy attack

1) Large Turnout Reported For 1st Iraqi Vote Since ‘58 The Washington Post, June 21, 1980

In another development today, Al Dawa, a clandestine Iraqi fundamentalist Moslem organization, claimed responsibility for yesterday’s grenade attack on the British Embassy here in which three gunmen reportedly were killed.

An Al Dawa spokesman told Agence France-Presse by phone that the attack was a “punitive operation against a center of British and American plotters.”

2) Iraq Keeps a Tight Rein on Shiites While Bidding to Win Their Loyalty The Washington Post, November 30, 1982

Membership in Dawa, which means “the call,” is punishable by execution. Dawa guerrillas were known for hurling grenades into crowds during religious ceremonies, and attacks claimed by the party were frequent until the middle of 1980.

3) U.S. HAS LIST OF BOMB SUSPECTS, LEBANESE SAYS Detroit Free Press, October 29, 1983

The source said the drivers of the two bomb-laden trucks were blessed before their mission by Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, leader of the Iranian-backed Dawa Party, a Lebanese Shiite Muslim splinter group.


Secretary of State George Shultz said Tuesday that there “quite likely” was a link between the U.S. Embassy bombing in Kuwait and attacks on American facilities in Lebanon. He warned of possible retaliation.


The sources said the investigators matched the prints on the fingers with those on file with Kuwaiti authorities and
tentatively identified the assailant as Raed Mukbil, an Iraqi automobile mechanic who lived in Kuwait and was a member of Hezb Al Dawa, a fundamentalist Iraqi Shiite Moslem group based in Iran.

The Miami Herald, December 19, 1983

Kuwait Sunday announced the arrests of 10 Shiite Moslems with ties to Iran in the terrorist bombings that killed four people and wounded 66 last week at the U.S. Embassy and other targets.


Hussein said fingerprints from the driver who died in the blast at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait identified him as Raad Akeel al Badran, an Iraqi mechanic who lived in Kuwait and belonged to the Dawa party.

6) 10 Pro-Iranian Shiites Held in Kuwait Bombings, The Washington Post December 19, 1983

Kuwait announced yesterday the arrest of 10 Shiite Moslems with ties to Iran in terrorist bombings that killed four people and wounded 66 last Monday at the U.S. Embassy and other targets.

“All 10 have admitted involvement in the incidents as well as participating in planning the blasts,” Abdul Aziz Hussein, minister of state for Cabinet affairs, told reporters after a Cabinet session, United Press International reported.

Hussein said the seven Iraqis and three Lebanese were members of the Al Dawa party, a radical Iraqi Shiite Moslem group with close ties to Iran.

7) Baalbek Seen As Staging Area For Terrorism, The Washington Post, January 9, 1984

Al Dawa, according to Arab and western sources, is believed to have had a role in the Oct. 23 suicide bomb attacks on the U.S. Marine and French military compounds in Beirut.

8) Message From Iran Triggered Bombing Spree In Kuwait, The Washington Post, February 3, 1984

Al Dawa, for example, is no household name in the United States.

But it is a name important to this story.

It leads us back to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the ruling figure in Iran; to Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, the militant Lebanese Shiite leader who has been implicated–despite his denials–in the Marine and French bombings in Beirut; to Hussein Musawi, Fadlallah’s strong-arm lieutenant; to the Hakim brothers in Iran and their connections to the Middle East terrorism industry.


I think the above post speaks to my earlier comment: "moderate" from the American perspective often means little more than willingness to deal with the U.S., irrespective of a group's actual political and or theological project. As Bush gets more desperate (and takes on anybody in Iraq who will have them) and as actual moderates get less and less willing to sully themselves by contacts with the Americans, the term "moderate" as used by U.S. analysts is becoming even more divorced from the reality on the ground. I think that's what's happening here. Translation: "Shiite, but not Sadrist."



The term "moderate" is used not only to Al Hakim's SCIRI by USA analysts but also to Rafsanjani, Abu Abbas, Qaradawi and others by some american and most european analysts. They usually do not explain to the readers that "moderate" in the ME settings does not mean the same as that word does to the citizens of the western countries. That's why there is confusion not only in US but also in europe about so much of the ME politics.
You can not accuse only americans of being wrong when the same mistakes are being made by politicians and many analysts in france, germany, canada and other countries in regards to different ME political personalities.
As for americans being divorced from the reality on the ground, I am afraid that the same one may say about politicians in other western countries. Please note that I am not talking here only about UK politicians.


DAVOS-U.S. invasion was "idiot decision"-Iraq vice president
By Stella Dawson

DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 25 (Reuters) - The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was an "idiot decision" and Iraqi troops now need to secure Baghdad to ensure the country's future, Vice-President Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Thursday.
"Iraq was put under occupation, which was an idiot decision," Mahdi said at the World Economic Forum in Davos.


As far as I can see, Al-Dawa has not been examined by anyone, so it has not been deemed as "moderate" or anything else.

As I posted above, this is unlike the 1980s.

Meyerson of the WaPo just had a piece.

He mentioned the SCIRI only.

Please, share your sources wherein "Al-Da'wa" has been described as "moderate".

Gregory Gause

I just want to clarify that I am not contending that SCIRI or Da'wa are "moderate" -- that is why I put the word in quotes. That is what the Administration is saying, in its effort to divide the Middle East up into "moderates" who are with us and "radicals" who are against us. This was a point made in an earlier comment that is spot on. In America, the definition of a moderate is somebody on our side. Personally, I do not think that SCIRI is moderate at all. I think that it wants to break up Iraq, which would not be my definition of moderation.


Seeing as George Bush and his administration have made
just about every wrong move, chosen every dark alley in this misbegotten war I suggest doing the opposite.

I say turn Iraq over to Iran and Syria. The Syrians can get the Saudis to pony up cash for their soldiers to protect their Sunni cousins. The Iranians can finance themselves.

They won't jump into this briarpatch if Bush invites them. Nobody, but nobody wants to be seen doing his bidding these days. So Bush should just keep making feckless threats as we moonwalk out. The Weekly Standard and AEI boys should keep writing apocalyptic screeds about impending doom if we leave Iraq. Halliburton could leave a few billion dollars worth of shiny new oil field spares laying around to entice the Iranians. That sure wouldn't be out of character. Somebody walked off with a $15,000 valve among other items in the early days of the occupation. A lot of the loot wound up in Iran. The Syrians probably won't be able to resist the urge to corner the market on those delicious Iraqi sheep. One of our generals said the other day that Iraqi sheep smugglers are mainly what we're snagging on the Syrian border.

What's the worst that could happen? They'd succeed at pacifying their neighbor where the mighty USA failed? I doubt that'd happen but if it did GOOD! Islamic countries need a few successes to get over their massive inferiority complex. They're not very good at making war. Hell they don't even build one tank or a plane. Being good at making peace might give them ideas. It beats building nukes. At the very least it'd keep 'em busy.

But frankly there's no reason to think Ahmadinejad, the Iranian ayatollahs and Assad would be any better at fixing this mess than Bush. Hell if Mohammed and the 12th Iman came back hand and hand and said knock it off they'd still probably keep fighting for awhile. So Syria can set up a fiefdom in Anbar and the Iranians in the south. We'll negotiate a base agreement in Kurdistan and tell 'em to keep their hands off. Let Iran and Syria piss away their naitonal treasures and have their soldiers ride around waiting to get blown up. Like I said it'd keep them busy. If Syria and Iran come to blows Hezzbollah can kiss off Damascus as their waystation for Iranian missiles. It might even bring down Ahmadinejad or Assad without us firing a shot. Nobody likes a leader dumb enough to get involved in a hostile occupation. Iran's gonna be in Iraq eventually anyway. Why not get the Syrians in to counter balance them? I say cut to the chase and make them think it's their idea. Democrats aren't stupid enough to buy into Bush's fisaco but the Iranians and Syrians might.

They're already leaning in that direction. Ahmadinejad sent a note to the Saudi king (http://www.tehrantimes.com/Description.asp?Da=1/18/2007&Cat=2&Num=4) proposing that they cooperate to help stabilize Iraq.

Ahmadinejad: "We, Saudis and other neighboring countries can help the Iraqi people to take the lead to consolidate their government's capability to stabilize and maintain security in their country," Ahmadinejad told the Saudi-owned satellite television channel.

"I sent a message to King Abdullah in this regard and the answer, generally, was positive," the Iranian president said in the interview taped Saturday in Venezuela, one of the countries on his Latin American tour.

He's got millions of under and unemployed men and women he promised jobs to. According to the CIA factbook they have over 1.6 million reaching military service age annually. The UN sanctions are starting to bite their economy and it looks like the real Iranian powers that be want him to take the blame for blowing their carefully crafted talk 'em to death fait accompli nuke strategy.

He's just been castigated (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0701190118jan19,1,4018337.story) in Khamenei's newspaper, Jomhouri Eslami, for flapping his yap about the UN sanctions. A second newspaper run by an aide to the country's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, also pressed Ahmadinejad to end his involvement in the nuclear program. He needs something to keep him busy besides badmouthing the US and Israel. His kids need jobs and something to do besides badmouthing him too.

Sending Iranian kids to Iraq for peacekeeping and peace corp. duties would help him live up to his campaign promises. Or at least get half those western culture loving hippies out of his country and his hair.

Syria had almost 7 million people fit for military service in 2005. Over 400,000 come of age every year. Assad's country is dirt poor too. They could use a little of those Saudi petro dollars and the self esteem and Islamic respect they'd get for helping out their Arab brethren.

We have no right to ask them. Cleaning up Bush's fiasco isn't their responsibility. The whole idea is fraught with risks. It might even kick off a regional conflagration that leads to WW111. But hey, it's an opportunity for the Arab world to prove they're big civilized countries. More civilized and capable than the Republican party of the United States. It also gives Islamic nations a chance to prove Islam really is a religion of peace. It'd mightily piss off both George Bush and Osama Bin Laden. What do we have to lose?


If I may, with Galbraith's (above) piece in mind the Bush admin's use to the term "moderate" is palpably absurd and cannot withstand even the slightest amount of scrutiny.

Despite its uniform weakness, the vast majority of Americans are probably still thinking that Iraq is pro-American and are completely unaware of the absolute lack of "moderation" in the Shiite fundamentalist government which Bush *inadvertently* fathered in direct response to the horrific attacks of 9/11.

I find the lack of coverage on the history of Al-Da'wa, SCIRI, etc appalling.

Compare some what we could read about Al-Da'wa in the 1980s (above) with what we read today.

Al-Da'wa's terrorist past is conspicously absent.

The lack of coverage and scrutiny is worse than it was for the WMDs.

I cannot even imagine what would happen if America knew that GWB, in direct response to 9/11, wasted oceans of blood and treasure for the sake of an inadvertently fathered pro-Hizbollah, pro-Hamas, pro-extremist-Iranian, Death to America chanting, Islamic fundamentalist republic.

9/11 + Iraq = Bush's Islamic Fundamentalist Middle East


(See: Can Democracy Stop Terrorism? F. Gregory Gause III
From Foreign Affairs, September/October 2005; Beware of What You Wish For F. Gregory Gause III February 8, 2006)

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