Accelerating the collapse of Iraq
By Abbas J. Ali
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Oct 3, 2006, 01:33

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.

David Wurmser, 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.

Similarly, the 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.

The Sadrist 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 countries.

Consequently, the 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 of 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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