Friday, November 12, 2004
I remember last year whenever I saw an angry religious cleric calling for jihad against America and described how those occupiers messed up the paradise that Iraq was in under Saddam, I used to turn over to my dad and tell him "forget the dude, he's Sunni." After some Shia clerics started adopting the same rhetoric of their Sunni counterparts, I used to turn over to my dad and tell him "forget the dude, he's from the Sadr folks." Now after Ayatollah Sistani splendidly mixed his religious authority with the authority that comes from AC-130 warplanes to squash Muqtada Sadr, we're left with the first dude.
Last year we were busy pampering Sistani. I used to scream at the top of my lungs: lose Sistani, lose Iraq. Now I'm (regrettably) forced to scream: lose Sunnis, lose a significant portion of Iraq including important areas of Baghdad. In other words, if you lose Sunnis, we can kiss the dream of unified elections next January goodbye.
There were several good advantages with the Sadr case that we won't find with the Sunnis. First, the Sunnis do not have a Sistani. They are leaderless since their leader is now in prison. Second, it seems that the terrorists do get considerable support from the Sunni local population who might be upset for losing the political privilege they had under Saddam Hussein. Now I am not quite sure of how much this support is especially since countless Sunnis were so glad that Saddam was gone. However, we can comfortably assume that the amount of support that the terrorists have within the local Sunni population is more than the support that Sadr has within the Shia community.
Anyway, the new challenge now is to convince the Sunnis that they have a stack in the new Iraq. Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds must believe in the new Iraq in order for this messy enterprise to succeed. It will take 3 to tango. The Shias in the south are already having a great time on the dancing floor (read Zeyad's latest post for more info), the Kurds hesitantly went to the dancing floor with the dream that they will one day run away from it (to create an independent Kurdistan), but many Sunnis are still standing outside. Who will pull them?