Didn't see this coming??

  1. How could our gov't be so short-sighted as to miss this? I am no expert, but I always knew there were possibilities of huge repercussions of a religious nature once SH was gone. Theocracy may be what they want over democracy, but are we going to let them have that? I don't think so. Another reason for not invading as we did. Oh, well. What's done is done, but I still find it amazing that this is suprising our officials.


    U.S. wary as Iraqi Shiites rise in strength
    Role of religion underestimated

    CIA sees place for moderate clerics


    WASHINGTON--As Shiite demands for a dominant role in Iraq's future mount, U.S. officials say they underestimated the denomination's organizational strength and are unprepared to prevent the rise of an anti-American, Islamic fundamentalist government in the country.

    The burst of Shiite power-as demonstrated by the hundreds of thousands who made a long-banned pilgrimage to the holy city of Karbala yesterday-has U.S. officials looking for allies in the struggle to fill the power vacuum left by the downfall of Saddam Hussein.

    As Washington plotted to overthrow Saddam's government, U.S. officials said this week, it failed to fully appreciate the force of Shiite aspirations and is now concerned those sentiments could coalesce into a fundamentalist government.

    Administration officials were focused on the overriding goal of defeating Saddam and paid little attention to the dynamics of religion and politics in the region.

    "It is a complex equation, and the U.S. government is ill-equipped to figure out how this is going to shake out," a U.S. State Department official said. "I don't think anyone took a step backward and asked: What are we looking for? The focus was on the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.''

    Complicating matters is that the United States has virtually no diplomatic ties with Iran, leaving American officials in the dark about the intentions of the government in Tehran. The Iranian government is the patron of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the leading Iraqi Shiite group.

    The CIA has cultivated some Shiite clerics, but not many, and not for very long."We don't want to allow Persian fundamentalism to gain any foothold," a senior administration official said. "We want to find more moderate clerics and move them into positions of influence.''

  2. 27 Comments

  3. by   Furball
    The Shiites were suppressed for so long it's no wonder they are so adament/exhuberant in their views and expressions. There are also more secular forces within Iraq pushing for separation of religion and politics, thank God. It's going to be rock n roll for a time without a doubt. It's so odd that they still hold anti-American views when we are the ones who finally got rid of Hussein. They are protesting freely in the streets because of the US, Britain and Australia. A Theocracy vs kleptocracy (Hussein), I guess if I had to choose, I'd pick the Theocracy. I hope Iraq can create their own democracy, some kind of compromise between Theocracy and Democracy. They are going to need time to work things out. For now, it's great they can express their views freely even if it's angrily.

    Edited to add: I agree....this should have been foreseen...but is it really preventable? Do we want to prevent it? We should put pressure against a Theocracy, of course and support a more secular form of government. Shouldn't Iraq figure it out themselves? It doesn't sound like they are very open minded at the moment. Can we expect democracy to flourish in the Middle East without constant head butting with rigid, religious fundamentalists. It's natural for them to fall back on what they know rather than some foreign, political ideal. I don't know...these are questions. It isn't going to be easy.
    Last edit by Furball on Apr 23, '03
  4. by   sbic56
    And great questions, too, Furball!

    I don't see the majority of them "opting" for a democracy. That is some mighty extreme religious expression I see going on over there. To imagine that may meld with the christian democratic model we are trying to sell is a stretch to say the least. I can't see the US allowing them to form a theocracy, either. Should they be allowed to run their country they way they desire is the obvious question that finding the best ethical answer to is going to be complicated. If we don't allow them whatever type of organized rule they want, then did we give them freedom after all?
  5. by   Mkue
    They are free to express their views now, that is a new freedom.
  6. by   sbic56
    Originally posted by mkue
    They are free to express their views now, that is a new freedom.
    But are we truly going to let them run their own country. Are we going to liberate them to that extent?
  7. by   maureeno
    this article has a few extra interesting paragraphs

    major points
    `some officials were dazzled by Ahmed Chalabi
    `Shiites more organized than originally thought
    `war could spark fervor for Islamic governments in Jordan,Syria,Saudia Arabia,etc.
    `this could be 25 year project, the hope is to combat fundamentalism through building a secular education system

    will we let them run their own country?
    we will give them a framework which they can fit to themselves

    but,ironically in a way they might be more secure and free than us:
    no permits required for marches
    no national id card will be required [one is in the works in our Senate for us]
    oil profits will be used for the public good
    universal free healthcare
    universal free education to university level
    subsidized food and fuel
  8. by   Furball
    Sorry, this is kinda long and repeats a bit from the original post.

    U.S. warns Iran about interference

    White House alleges agents operating in Iraq
    Iraqi Shiite pilgrims beat their heads as they enter the Imam Hussein holy shrine in Karbala on Wednesday.


    WASHINGTON, April 23- The White House on Wednesday warned Iran not to interfere with U.S. efforts to rebuild Iraq after the downfall of Saddam Hussein. "We have concerns about Iranian agents in Iraq," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "We have made clear to Iran we oppose any outside interference in Iraq's road to democracy."

    IRAN SHARES the same religion as Iraq's Shiites, who were long repressed under Saddam. Tehran also has offered refuge to many Iraqi exiles while some of Iran's religious leaders, including the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, have been educated in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf.
    Now that the United States has successful prosecuted the war to oust Saddam, the Shiite community has been invigorated, demonstrating its newfound religious freedom with fervor while flexing political muscle in Baghdad and in the southern cities.
    More than a million Shiites gathered over the past three days in Karbala to express their devotion to one of most important figures of the faith, Prophet Muhammad's grandson's Hussein, who is buried in the city.
    MSNBC: Shiites in N.Y. eye Karbala
    However, the huge gathering also was marked by sporadic anti-American protests and U.S. officials are becoming concerned about Iran's role in setting the political agenda for this potent political force.
    Shiites, who comprise 60 percent of the Iraq population, already have asserted de facto control over several cities in the south, filling an administrative vacuum and nimbly moving ahead of the U.S. drive to form a transitional central government.

    Overall, Shiites have welcomed the overthrow of Saddam and his Sunni Muslim-dominated regime, but they are deeply suspicious of U.S. plans in the country.
    But the extent of the anti-American sentiment is not entirely clear, according to U.S. intelligence officials.
    "After being repressed by a brutal minority government for 30 years, you have to expect them to be venting a bit," one official told NBC, speaking on condition of anonymity.
    The officials said they worried that Iranian agents may be "stirring things up" among the Shiites but cautioned that the Shiite followers cannot be regarded as holding one viewpoint.
    One official noted that Iran's influence is offset somewhat by Iraqi nationalism. Also, while Iranians and Iraqis share the same faith, there are notable differences. For example, Iraq is an Arab nation while Iran is Persian.

    Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Shiite Muslim community - which represents 60 percent of Iraq's population - has basked in newfound freedom while jockeying for power in the postwar era. Shiites have welcomed the demise of the Sunni-dominated regime of Saddam but are deeply distrustful of the U.S. effort to establish a new administration. At the forefront of the resurgent community are influential clerics eager to flex their muscles. Select a leader from the list above.
    Grand Ayatollah Ali Hussein al-Sistani
    A top "marjaa," or religious authority, in the clerical hierarchy, al-Sistani, 72, originally from Mashhad, Iran, heads the Hawza al-Ilmiya, a historic center of Shiite learning in the holy city of Najaf that produces clerics serving across Iraq and the Shiite world.
    Despite its influence, the Hawza's leadership has traditionally avoided claiming direct political power. But radical clerics have in the past pushed to change that stance. While in exile before leading Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was in Najaf and influenced many clerics.
    Al-Sistani has rejected any "foreign rule" over Iraq but has urged his followers not to interfere with U.S. forces and says he will accept whatever "form of government that the Iraqi people approves of."
    Muqtada al-Sadr
    Al-Sadr, who is in his 20s, is son of al-Sistani's predecessor as grand ayatollah, Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, who was killed by Saddam's regime in 1999 and is now revered by many as a martyr. Witnesses said al-Sadr's followers were behind the killing of prominent cleric Abdel Majid al-Khoei, an al-Sistani ally, in Najaf on April 10.
    Arab newspapers have since quoted al-Sadr as insisting he has no dispute with al-Sistani. But some clerics who have been organizing local administrations in southern Iraq and Baghdad are said to be loyal to him.
    Many of al-Sadr's supporters want the Hawza to take a more powerful political role, and they oppose the U.S. presence in Iraq, according to Arab newspapers.
    Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim
    Al-Hakim is head of the largest exile group, the Iran-based Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is opposed to a U.S. administration in Iraq but has close ties with the rest of the U.S.-backed opposition.
    The council's military wing, the al-Badr Corps, which the group claims has several thousand fighters, has operated secretly for years in Iraq against Saddam's rule. The fighters have been ordered not to confront U.S. forces, but the group has made its rejection of U.S. dominance clear by boycotting the first U.S.-led meeting near Nasiriyah aimed at paving the way for a new administration.
    The son of another grand ayatollah, al-Hakim fled to Iran in 1980 and said in mid-April that he would return to Iraq soon.

    Printable version

    Nonetheless, Fleischer said the United States has told Tehran through "well-known channels of communication" not to meddle in Iraq. "Infiltration of agents to destabilize the Shiite population would clearly fall into that category," he said.
    The United States does not have diplomatic relations with the Iranian government, which President Bush characterized a year ago as part of an "axis of evil" that also included North Korea and Iraq under Saddam.
    Bush, for his part, has indicated he isn't worried about the Shiite mobilization. "I love the stories about people saying, 'Isn't it wonderful to be able to express our religion, the Shia religion, on a pilgrimage ...' It made my day to read that," he told Newsweek.
    Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, in charge of reconstruction in Iraq, acknowledged evidence of anti-U.S. passion in the country.
    But speaking at a news conference in the Kurdish-dominated city of Irbil, he added, "The majority of people realize we are only going to stay here long enough to start a democratic government for them, we're only going to stay here long enough to get their economy going ... to get their oil flowing back to the people."

    The U.S. commander of the land invasion, Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, said coalition forces had noted the presence of Iranian agents but didn't view them as a threat to the military operation.
    "But we're watching all these competing interests," he said, naming a number of groups seeking a voice in the new government. "And if truth be known, this is probably a little bit of democracy in progress right now in Iraq."

    The Washington Post on Wednesday quoted administration officials as saying they had focused so much on ousting Saddam that they had not given much thought to how the ensuing power vacuum would be filled.
    The officials said the administration had underestimated the strength of the Shiite majority and were not in a position to prevent the possible rise of an anti-American, Islamic fundamentalist government.
    Analysis: Iranian intentions in Iraq

    The ability of Shiite clerics to smoothly organize the pilgrimage has underscored their influence and strength in postwar Iraq and suggests they may be better organized than previously thought.
    One of those clerics, Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer al-Hakim, said Wednesday that he was ready to work with the United States and others to establish stability in his war-torn homeland.

    But Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and one of the most powerful forces among Iraq's Shiites, said the Karbala pilgrimage showed Iraqis were able to govern themselves.
    He said there was no direct parallel between Iraq and Iran's Islamic republic. "We should not make a copy of the Iranian revolution and establish it in Iraq," he said.

    Zaheer Kazmi of the Al-Khoei Foundation says the procession to Karbala has "enormous emotional and religious significance" to Shiites.

    Shiite Muslims bleed after beating themselves with swords Tuesday as a religious sacrifice to Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, during a pilgrimage in Karbala. Click "Play" to learn more about the event.

    The Karbala gathering marked the end of a 40-day period of mourning for the martyred grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.
    Such pilgrimages had been tightly regulated for decades under Saddam-and practices like ritual flailing were banned outright. But with Saddam's fall, it was a whole new day for Iraq's long-suffering Shiites.
    At an anti-American protest Wednesday, some Shiites carried banners with messages such as "No to America, no to Israel, yes to Islam." The demonstrators marched through the streets for an hour before dispersing.

    "Saddam Hussein was evil. And so is America," said Khudayer Abbas Musawi, a 25-year-old engineering student. "America came here not to free the Iraqi people but for oil. They came to occupy, not to liberate. The Americans removed Saddam, and now the Americans should leave."
    Not everyone agreed.
    Kathem Jasim Mohammed, a 50-year-old vendor, said: "I want to thank Mr. Bush for breaking the prison in which Iraq was. I thank him for what he did, and God bless him."
    NBC: Shiites' new strength

    NBC's Robert Windrem in New York and Ron Allen in Karbala, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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    Last edit by Furball on Apr 23, '03
  9. by   sbic56

    It's a long article, so I'll provide the link only. It covers alot of ground and is an interesting read in regards to the topic of this thread. It clarifies exactly why the democracy the US is offering may not be what most Iraqis want.
  10. by   Gomer
    We've created another Iran...lord help us now.
  11. by   sbic56
    Originally posted by Gomer
    We've created another Iran...lord help us now.
    But, which one is going to help whom "most" is the question. "Will the real lord please stand up", I suppose, is the real question. Please, nobody take that comment as anti/pro anything, as it is not intended to be inflammatory. What I do mean is that this war and subsequent outcome of the liberation process has way more to do with religion than this administration cares to admit.
  12. by   Gomer
    You got it Sbic...I doubt if the Bush administration ever thought when they were saving Iraq for democracy that a million plus Shiites would be voting. Now talk about a group that hates America...oy!
  13. by   jnette
    I'm glad Iraq is free of the tyrant/murderer. I'm glad Iraq has been liberated enough to express their opinion, voice their concerns, verbalize their dreams.

    Here's what worries/bothers me...

    Now that we have done what we intended to do (according to the administration).. oust SH, liberate the ppl of Iraq, and find WMD (still in progress)...will we be content with that? Must we now also force our way of thinking and our way of life upon them? Give them the opportunity to choose..yes, by all means.. give them living examples, yes.. be available as guide and mentor, yes. But what if they CHOOSE (and we provided that new word) to reject our ways and insist upon Islam/Theocracy?

    Do we have the right to deny a country this choice?

    To us it may be hard to understand, and it may well spawn new and greater threats to this country, as they allign themselves with Islam Fundamentalists. This would not be good. HOWEVER.. we brought choice to them. Are we going to now be the "indiangiver"?

    I often attempt to turn the tables and see it from the other side..

    What if we in this country were invaded (even if to be liberated from a dictatorial "president") and we were grateful for having been set free. Would we not continue to desire our previous way of life? Would we be open to the "liberators" way of life? Would we welcome their lifestyle, mentality, political and religious convictions? Would we want these imposed on us, or "encouraged for own own good"? Would we give in or would we rebel?
    I can't imagine America ever doing anything other than what we've done for the past 200 years. We'd fight to the death to uphold what we so firmly believe in. And rightly so.

    Should we expect any less from those who have known and valued their ways for some 700 hundred years?

    Perhaps we don't understand the WHY'S.. (why don't they want what we have, think like we do, place importance on the same things as we, value what we value, etc., etc., etc.)

    But have we the right to expect that, much less insist upon it?

    So it will indeed be interesting to watch this unfold...will we in the end regret having gone in to "liberate"?
  14. by   molecule
    wasn't 'to liberate the Iraqi people' a third justification for the invasion? wasn't 'the threat to America' the primary reason we made war? wasn't war planned for years and peace given only a few months study? is democracy something that can be installed like a new engine?