Before the invasion
of Iraq in March 2003, the neoconservatives thought that incapacitating Iraqi�s
social and political institutions would facilitate the termination of Iraq�s
cultural and national identity. It was believed that this would ease occupation
and ensure the total submission to the neoconservative�s design for Iraq and
the entire Middle East.
currently Vice President Cheney�s Middle East adviser and a neoconservative
thinker, called for accelerating the collapse of Iraq, stating that, after
removing Saddam from power, Iraq would be �ripped apart by the politics of
warlords, tribes, clans, sects, and key families. . . . The issue [being]
whether the West and Israel can construct a strategy for limiting and
expediting the chaotic collapse that will be ensured in order to move on to the
task of creating a better circumstance.�
In preparation for
the London conference of the Iraqi oppositions in 2002, leading
neoconservatives, Paul Wolfowitz and Zalmay Khalilzad, personally oversaw the
conference agenda and carefully screened invited participants. Participants
were drawn based solely on their sectarian and ethnic allegiances. Those whose
allegiances were to Iraq�s cultural identity were excluded.
Just before the
invasion in 2003, selected groups of Iraqis were brought to Washington by the
Special Office in the Pentagon for a secluded training program. The program
lasted several months and was supervised tightly by prominent neoconservatives,
including Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Fieth. Participants in the program, along
with others, were indoctrinated with neoconservatism and the necessity for a
new Iraq without Arab identity and patriotic attachment.
Since then, several
media outlets have been established, inside and outside Iraq, to promote the
virtue of sectarian and ethnic identity, and highly scripted political
discourse is propagated. The sanctioned message deemphasizes patriotism and
attributes the calamity in the region, including Iraq, not to the lack of
democracy and the intolerable foreign domination but to the people�s failure to
appreciate the virtue of foreign hegemony.
By organizing and
relying on sectarian and ethnic minority groups, the neoconservatives have
believed that their design for Iraq -- ensuring chaos and using Iraq as a
staging ground to invade Iran and/or Syria -- would immediately see fruition. However,
immediately after the invasion, the neoconservatives� design faced a major
setback as a homegrown populist group, the Sadrist Movement, mounted an
unexpected serious challenge.
Unlike other groups
which willingly and enthusiastically cooperated with the neoconservatives,
members of the Sadrist Movement did not take refuge in Iran or other foreign
countries. They lived through the Saddam era in Iraq; their roots have always
been in Iraq. Though the movement was originally loosely organized and was
primarily social in its focus, it later presented a credible political
challenge to the occupier's power and its Iraqi political allies.
The movement draws
most of its members from poor neighborhoods in major cities and those who were
harshly abused by Saddam�s regime. Besides a history of poverty and abuse, the
members share common beliefs: a strong desire for liberty and independence,
resentment of oppression, and undivided loyalty to the country. These qualities
not only recommend themselves to the neoconservatives, but they certainly
endanger their design for a fragmented polarized Iraq.
After the chaos and
looting that took place in several Iraqi cities immediately following the
collapse of Saddam� s regime, the Sadrist Movement stepped in to maintain law
and order and vehemently denounced destruction of private and public
properties. This demonstration of organized discipline, patriotism, and a
commitment to protect and help the poor, strengthened the popularity of the
movement among Iraqis, but alarmed the neoconservatives.
popularity of the Sadrist Movement and its unexpected widespread influence
among the alienated and disenfranchised segments of Iraqi society has
frightened Iraqi sectarian and ethnic groups allied with the occupiers. These
groups view the movement as a formidable obstacle to their goal for carving
Iraq into sectarian and ethnic semi-independent or practically independent
cantons. As a result, they faithfully have cooperated with the occupiers to
forcefully eliminate the Sadrist Movement.
Twice, in 2003 and
2004, the occupation forces mounted military attacks on the Sadrist Movement,
but miserably failed to marginalize the movement. Instead the attacks
strengthened the appeal of its message to end the occupation and maintain the
unity of Iraq and its national/cultural Arab identity. These attacks, however,
helped to infuse patriotism with religious fervor.
Movement�s patriotic and nonsectarian message is seen by the neoconservatives,
and their supporters inside Iraq, as a threat to the design of a fragmented
chaotic Iraq and for the plan to attack Iran. In recent months, the movement
has vehemently denounced the ongoing ethnic and sectarian cleansing and
groupings, and rejected using Iraqi soil to mount attacks against neighboring
call for a concentrated military assault to eliminate the Sadrist Movement aims
to breach, forever, the last credible defense against the breakdown of Iraq and
the new design for a chaotic Middle East. This may explain the intensity of the
recent campaign by leading neoconservative thinkers and strategists (e.g.,
William Kristol, Zalmay Khalilzad, Max Boot, Charles Krauthammer, etc.) to
speed up the necessary military steps to destroy the Movement.
The call for a
forceful suppression of the Sadrist Movement is accompanied by rising terrorist
attacks against the movement, the kidnapping of its leaders by the occupation
forces, rapid ethnic and sectarian cleansing, redeployment of the foreign
forces, and intense media campaigns to discredit and silence patriotic Iraqis.
These activities deepen the suffering of innocent Iraqis, incite extremism,
make peace in the region impossible, and will eventually accelerate the demise
J. Ali, Ph.D., is a professor and director in the School of International
Management, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.