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Analysis Last Updated: Jan 3rd, 2008 - 01:05:16

Kissinger to al-Hakim: Stay the course
By Abbas J. Ali
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jan 3, 2008, 01:03

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Henry Kissinger is neither an ordinary politician nor a typical global deal maker. His name is invariably associated with gamesmanship, partisanship, and secrecy.

Since the day William Buckley introduced him to Richard Nixon in the late 1960s, Kissinger has played a controversial role in global politics. He is admired by powerful elites, decried by his critics, and feared by disadvantaged people across the globe. Those who know him understand the scope of his political design and the dire consequences of his involvement.

Kissinger�s recent meeting (Dec.3, 2007) in Washington with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), arouses anxiety among Middle East experts as to what neoconservatives have planned next for Iraq. Though, at least since 2002, the neoconservatives have maintained close consultation with al-Hakim, this is probably the first time that a neoconservative elder has had a private session with him. It is possible that al-Hakim�s meeting with Kissinger is meant to reaffirm neoconservatives� confidence in him and to convey to the outside world that the Iraqi venture is still their own.

As a neoconservative patriarch and strategist, Kissinger�s vision constitutes a blueprint for neoconservative design and action. Kissinger�s focus on the Middle East is not a mere political curiosity but more likely a fulfillment of neoconservatives� perception of Biblical prophecies. Though Iraq was mostly a secular state with a strong liberal tradition, Kissinger, in the Washington Post (August 14, 2001), called for the Bush administration to initiate an alliance with India, China, and Russia against �Muslim radicals� for the sake of Israel. A year later he wrote in the Post that there was �no possibility of a negotiation between Washington and Baghdad.� And in 2005, he was adamant that the invasion of Iraq was essential to fight �radical Islam,� stating the Iraq war was intended to send a larger message �in order to make a point that we're not going to live in this world that they want for us.�

Kissinger�s meeting with al-Hakim, a leader of a highly conservative religious organization, raises serious concerns especially if the latter is part of the neoconservative�s scheme for Iraq. Before the invasion of Iraq, al-Hakim was primarily a messenger between his late brother Mohamed Baqr and other Iraqi and foreign organizations. After the death of his brother, he found himself at the center of politics despite his lack of charisma, appeal, and the articulated patriotic vision of his brother. These very qualities, however, recommend him to the neoconservatives and make him an ideal player in their design for Iraq.

Most Iraqi political observers and historians argue that al-Hakim is a political actor shaped by events beyond his control. In particular, the coming to power of liberal minded individuals and organizations after the 1958 Iraqi July 14 Revolution, the subsequent marginalization of the aristocracy and landlords who constituted the power base of his father, the late Ayatollah Muhsin al-Hakim, his troubled exile in Iran (1980-2003), and his early encounter with neoconservatives strategists, including Wolfowitz and Khalilzad, have all had an impact on al-Hakim�s personality.

The first event was painful for young al-Hakim who witnessed, with great sadness, the widespread popular support for the revolution�s enacted progressive agrarian and economic reforms along with liberal civil and personal affairs laws. These developments significantly weakened his family�s traditional power and its network of support. The second two factors have made al-Hakim considerably less concerned with patriotic issues, especially the prosperity of Iraq�s general public and the prospect for an unified healthy country, but more attentive to schemes which could lead to a fragmented, unstable, and undemocratic Iraq.

His frequent visits to Washington before the invasion of Iraq have given al-Hakim an opportunity to acquaint himself with neoconservatism and its leading thinkers in the Bush administration. It was during these visits that neoconservatives recognized that al-Hakim, despite his close ties with Iran, could be a unique player for implementing their design for Iraq and the region. Since then, they have offered him and his party, including its military wing, the Badr Organization, considerable assistance and unlimited access to the newly established Iraqi army and security apparatus.

After the assassination in August 2003 of his brother, Mohamed Baqr, al-Hakim seized the opportunity to monopolize power and gain complete control over the party and the Badr Organization. He utilized his newly found power to restructure his group and situate his sons, Muhsin and Ammar, in leading positions. More importantly, he openly espoused the neoconservatives� design for Iraq. He immediately and tirelessly promoted the virtue of establishing an autonomous region encompassing the central and southern parts of Iraq and reaffirmed his plan to place the oil sector in the hand of multinational corporations.

Faced with a widespread popular rejection for his project to fragment Iraq, al-Hakim in late 2003 solidified his alliances with the two leading Kurdish warlords and deepened his reliance on foreign powers. In the meantime, he has made concentrated efforts to revitalize tribal and sectarian sentiments. These attempts have been essential for moving Iraq away from its liberal and outward outlooks and more toward hopelessness and dependency mentality.

In fact, the SIIC has been instrumental in promoting and implementing neoconservative agenda, especially concerning two major elements: fragmenting and partitioning of Iraq along sectarian and ethnic lines which was originally proposed by Oded Yinon in 1982 and the incitement of sectarian and tribal discord advocated by David Wurmser, Vice President Cheney�s former Middle East adviser. The latter announced that after removing Saddam, efforts must be made to cripple Iraq �by the politics of warlords, tribes, clans, sects, and key families.�

Neoconservatives have long recognized that Iraq had been a center of the Arab cultural renaissance and was endowed with people who were motivated and who attached high value to dignity, moral integrity, and achievements. According to Eric Margolis, for the neoconservatives, the �primary objective was to destroy Iraq, not to rebuild it; for Iraq, once the Arab World�s best educated, most industrialized nation, had to be expunged as a potential military and strategic challenge� to Israel.

Since August 2003 Iraqis who oppose federalism, fragmentation, and the occupation of Iraq have been targeted by groups which benefit from keeping Iraq occupied and under constant threats of terrorism. In a series of articles, the London�based newspaper, Alhayat, reported that Iraqi patriots were being jailed, kidnapped, or killed. Those who have been fortunate left the country searching for safety and dignity.

On December 9, 2007, Alhayat reported that illiterate individuals who belong to SIIC, the Badr Organization, and other clannish and sectarian groups have been given senior ranks in the Iraqi security forces and other positions in government. As the educated have either been killed or been forced to leave the country, the newly appointed people who do not read or write or have only an elementary school education are certain to lead Iraq into darkness and backwardness; a realization of the neoconservatives� goal.

On December 23, 2007, the New York Times magazine reported that Kissinger �did things that were very damaging to human beings.� In that light, his meeting with al-Hakim should not be underestimated. Middle East experts may argue that Kissinger simply briefed al-Hakim on how Washington views the situation in Iraq and the region. More plausibly, however, is that Kissinger in meeting al-Hakim has offered the neoconservatives� blessings and reaffirmed their approval and support for his strategy and action in Iraq.

Abbas J. Ali, Ph.D., is a professor and director in the School of International Management, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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