After the “shock and awe” hype of the Pentagon boss Donald Rumsfeld, and the extravagant claims of “Mission Accomplished” by his commander in chief in the White House, a clearer picture of the war in Iraq has gradually emerged, even in the US. Now we see a US government that finds itself stuck in a unwinnable war against the Islamic movement. For damage-control, the masters of spin in America (and their Israeli tutors) are beginning to put out whispers that this struggle against what they are calling Islamo-fascism is a modern parallel of last century's ideological and military confrontation with communism. The implications are twofold; first that “Islam” – as they see it – has replaced communism as enemy number one; and secondly, that no one should be surprised if this war stretches into years or even decades. In this Hollywood-style scenario, the “Sunnis” are emerging as a new crop of nasty commies who are aspiring to a totalitarian empire “from Spain to Indonesia”, in the words of George W. Bush, the neo-emperor of American neo-imperialism. The Sunnis' “Bolshevik” stirrings can be seen in today's Iraq, where the US is quickly becoming a sore superpower rather than the sole superpower, virtually abandoned by the “coalition of the willing”.
The position of the US in Iraq looks eerily similar to that of Israel in Palestine: diplomatically isolated, popularly abandoned, and dangerously genocidal. (The fact that the international news media has transferred its attention from the US's military struggle to Iraq's political evolution under US hegemony should not make us forget the fact that the US is still engaged in extremely brutal military operations in which hundreds are routinely being killed.) Inside the United States, post-hippy liberals, pre-Armageddon Evangelicals, and pro-Israeli neo-conservatives are all trying to come to terms with a Iraq in which they find themselves apparently caught without any face-saving way out. American imperial hubris has finally caught up with the ruling class in Washington, and they have all realized, military and civilians alike, whether they admit it or not, that they are damned if they leave Iraq and damned if they don't.
Of course, the American war against Islam is not a new enterprise. It can be traced back at least two and a half decades, to the Reagan era, when Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush Senior were in the cabal that groomed Saddam Hussein and company to “drain the revolutionary swamp” of Imam Khomeini. The challenge of the Islamic Revolution, and the threat of a free and independent Muslim people, prompted the US to re-establish the highest-level diplomatic contact with the Iraqi regime, raise the Iraqi economy to European levels (it was compared to the southern European economies of Yugoslavia, and Greece), and offer Saddam and his henchmen all types of weapons; even a gradual nuclear build-up in Iraq was acceptable to the US and its allies, as long as Ba’athist Iraq was fighting Islamic Iran. These imperialists inWashington even had the Saudis, Kuwaitis and other oil-producers foot the bill for fighting Iran, instead of paying their proxies themselves. Yet we all know how that ended – Islamic Iran was not defeated; indeed, it was only prevented from emerging victorious by direct US intervention in the conflict.
Now the Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush-junior cabal are again claiming that their main object in Iraq is trying to drain the Islamic swamp. Their argument is that democratizing Iraq will have a ripple effect, bringing down the regimes whose autocracy of repression has encouraged Islamic radicalism – from pseudo-revolutionary Syria to pseudo-Islamic Saudi Arabia and heavyweight Egypt – and see them replaced with democracies that are bound, by definition, to be pro-Western. So far the neo-conservatives in Washington have managed to cut short the lives of at least two thousand American servicemen (and uncounted mercenaries working for the US as “contractors”), bring no fewer than 30,000 GIs back to the US maimed or injured, and incinerate around US$300 billion; yet the motion picture is still in its opening shots.
Of course, this is not the only front in their war on Islam; and their failure there is encouraging them to pursue others all the more vigorously. Another approach, also drawn from their experience fighting the communist menace, is to try to divide the Islamic movement. To this end they are out in the field – in themasjids, in Islamic conferences, and in some Islamic organizations – trying to identify “moderate” Muslims who will take on “extremist” Muslims, as well as “extremist” Muslims who will target “moderate” Muslims. In a parallel strategy, these American spotters and recruiters are also trying to find “Sunni” Muslims who will take on “Shi‘i” Muslims, and vice versa. Of course, the conflict in Iraq is feeding this effort. The recurrent sectarian trouble between Shi‘is and Sunnis in Iraq is one of the few bright spots America sees inIraq. The discord, distrust and confrontation between extremist Sunnis and extremist Shi‘is in Iraq is being exploited by the US regime to raise similar tensions in Syria, Lebanon, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia; in all of these countries there are plenty of Muslims who are all to ready to play into the US's hands in this regard.
The Saudi foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, recently warned Washington that an Iraqi civil war could lead to the break-up of the Iraqi nation-state and the meltdown of Iraqi society. It is quite something hearing a Saudi warning of sectarianism, or for that matter of the danger to Iraq. It was Saudi Arabia that had no compunctions about pushing Iraq to invade Islamic Iran, a war that brought Iraq to the brink of dissolution, and was trumpeted at the time as a war to defend the Arabs and civilization itself. Then and now, the Iraqi people are cannon-fodder for schemes hatched elsewhere, in Tel Aviv and Washington, to defeat and destroy the Islamic State of Iran, the model of the Islamic Revolution, the image of Islamic independence, and the “Shi‘i ‘Ajam.”
Should any Muslim feel bad that the pan-Islamic Shi‘is in Iran and Iraq might weather this American scheme and achieve a geopolitical unity that combines the ideological, economic and military potential ofIran and Iraq into a consolidated Islamic state? Especially if it could be achieved without American-sponsored Shi‘i extremism or the self-generated sectarianism in that part of the world? Why should it be politically unacceptable for Islamic Iran to express its solidarity with non-sectarian Shi‘is in Iraq, with non-sectarian Sunnis in Iraq, and with committed non-sectarian Muslims everywhere? Yet the US, which uses its military, political and economic power to assert its national interest all over the world, finds it outrageous that Iran should “interfere” in Iraqi affairs! What is worse, there seems to be a layer of Iranian diplomats who think so too, along with their counterparts in Saudi Arabia and other countries. The assumptions and values of nation-state diplomacy and the international political game have infiltrated their minds and attitudes, which should have been (and once were) guided by the Revolutionary Islamic ideals of Imam Khomeini.
The problem for the Saudi officials now is that their position as patron saints of large proportions of the “Sunni” Islamic movement is unravelling: the Saudis are no longer capable of offering their “Sunni” clients the rewards that they used to. The US treasury and federal authorities have placed the oil wealth of Saudi Arabia under strict monetary monitoring. Many Saudi charities have collapsed since September 2001. The American economy once benefited from Saudi dollars while Islamic organizations enjoyed Saudi pennies; now the US wants it all, dollars and pennies both.
The result is that the Saudis are exposed as unable to support their “Sunni” brethren in Iraq, Lebanon andSyria in the way that Islamic Iran is able to do. That is one reason that Saudi Arabia has no equivalent of the Hizbullah to boast of; another of course is that many of the movements it has supported in the past have turned against it because the fundamental illegitimacy of the Saudi regime is too blatant for any Islamic movement, even a sectarian Sunni one, to ignore. Thus the Saudis too, like their American patrons, are reaching the limits of their influence in Iraq. The time is ripe for the the Islamic State in Iran, and those parts of the Islamic movement outside Iran that are capable of rising above sectarian impulses and influences, to deliver us all from the trap that the Americans are trying to set in Iraq.
The Islamic Uprising in Iran a quarter of a century ago is too important and too special for Muslims to simply watch it wander from its original and true course. We remember all too clearly the impact this breakthrough had on Muslims everywhere. For the first time in modern history, Muslims had risen against a corrupt government and its imperialist and zionist sponsors, and were able to take control of their own country, and begin to show the rest of us how things should be done.
Of course, the road forward was not likely to be smooth. The sponsors of the Pahlavi regime could not be expected to sit and watch a people shape their own future on the basis of their Islamic faith and commitment. Throughout the last 25 years, America and Israel have been working to bring the Islamic government in Iran to its knees, with the support of their Western allies, Iran’s pro-Western neighbours and even supporters within Iran. Iran’s borders amount to some 8,000 kilometers; American troops are now based across six thousand kilometers of this border. This grim scenario has been gradually built over 25 years, and has passed almost unnoticed by most Muslims, and even most Iranians. There has never been any cessation of hostilities between the followers of the line of Imam Khomeini (r.a.), who refuse to compromise when it comes to the independence and sovereignty of the Islamic state, and the numerous other interests wanting to shape the state on their terms.
Part of our object in this new column is to look at some of the gaps that have developed since the passing of Imam Khomeini (r.a.), many of which are rooted in earlier events, and how these gaps have caused serious problems about which we can no longer remain silent. But before we walk into this sensitive area, one point needs to be made absolutely clear. This is that none of the points we make are intended to express any criticism of Imam Sayyid Ali Khamenei, the successor to Imam Khomeini (r.a.) as Rahbar of the Islamic State. Many of the points we make will be highlighting natural processes in the evolution of post-Revolutionary state and society. Others will indeed involve criticism of errors and failures in Iran, mainly on the part of those who have been responsible for aspects of Iranian government and policy at the executive level. It was inevitable that such errors and failures should emerge over a quarter of a century in an unprecedented and highly-pressured historical situation; unfortunately they have contributed greatly to what many now see as the Islamic experiment’s current stagnation.
Sometimes frank statements of truth can be bitter pills to swallow; we hope no-one will consider this column to be too bitter a pill. We say what we say only to express our honest understanding of the issues. If we are correct, we appeal earnestly to Allah to accept our humble words to our humble readers. If not, we request Allah’s forgiveness and correction from anyone able to do so; without, we hope, descending into personal issues or hidden agendas. Ameen.