Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Death of Saddam, rebirth of the Persian Empire

Nuri Al-Maliki, Prime Minister of Iraq, and his predecessor, Ibrahim Al-Jaafari belong to the AL-Da'wa party, a once clandestine Islamic Shia movement that tried to assasinate Saddam Hussein seven times when he ruled the country. Two days ago, Al-Maliki had the pleasure of signing off Saddam's death warrant.

The manner and timing of Sadam's execution were designed to project Shia power in Iraq. Shias had been the underdog for centuries in the predominantly Sunni Middle East. The pendulum has swung back with a vengeance in Iraq, just as it has done in Lebanon through Hizbollah and, to a lesser extent, in Syria through the Alawites. Iran has played a fundamental role in "liberating" the Arab Shia communities in the last 30 years and the invasion of Iraq has only served to further its imperial ambitions in the region.

American policies in the Middle East have been discredited for decades because everyone knows that US administrations promote democracy only when and where it serves their interests. US Middle East strategic plans have now been well and truly defeated in the Shia crescent of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and to some extent the Palestinian Territories. Some believe US strategies have failed because Arabs are simply not capable of embracing democracy. This view is not only plainly arrogant but also dangerous because it serves the region's dictators and ignores the lessons of history. Oppression and violence perpetuate themselves through vengeance. Many decent people in the world had hoped the new government in Iraq would break the cycle of violence by sparing Saddam's life and working towards social reconciliation between Shias and Sunnis. Instead, the government has shown itself to be a puppet of Tehran and no less crude than Saddam was. Moqtada Al-Sadr, leader of the Mehdi militia army, which is financed and trained by Iran, and which won most of the votes in the Iraqi elections, had demanded Saddam's head as a price for joining the government. Nuri Al-Maliki duly delivered it to him on Eid Al-Adha (the Islamic "sacrifice" festival).

At this moment of our history, we are witnessing the re-emergence of the Persian Empire on the back of a Shia revival. There is no room for compromise, free speech or cultural diversity in an Empire that is in the ascendancy and needs to build power and use it to beat others into submission. As ever, the people of the Arab Middle East lay themselves wide open to foreign exploitation and despotic leaders. We pursue revenge rather than reconciliation, pure greed rather than social justice, closed rather than open systems of government and indoctrination rather than the opening up of young minds. No wonder our nations are weak and our people desperate.

In Syria, we have allied ourselves firmly with Iran as an emerging regional power. The late Assad was both politically astute and lucky; his regime needed Iran's backing but he also bet on the right horse. His focus on foreign policy and lack of interest in strengthening the institutional foundations of our nation has left us more vulnerable to foreign intervention than at any time since the Second World War. His son has continued in his father's footsteps to ensure the regime's survival. We are now throwing the whole of our country, our history, our future, our culture and our diversity at the feet of the new Persian Emperor. As if our people have not had enough of the Ottoman Turks, the French, the British, the Soviets, the Baath Party and the Assads already. Must we always remain weak or sell our souls to the highest bidder?


Fares said...

Excellent Post Philip. I love it.

Ishtar said...

did you read the scorpion's gate for Richard Clarke? its an interesting scenario for the middle east five years from now , a battlefield for America and Iran or as you call it "the Persian empire" , and it really seems that this is where we are heading ,
Iran for many people in the middle east represent everything that is anti American and anti Israeli...culture , freedom , human rights , all this doesnt really matter , Najad / Iran is the new anti american hero and many arabs are just getting blindly submissive to this increasing power...

Philip I said...


Thank you, I have not heard about the book but just read a brief review of it. The author is certainly well-qualified to write about geopolitical matters in our region but I personally find it hard to deal with semi-fact/semi-fiction type of writing. However, it allows the imagination to run wild and who is to say that speculating about the future in this way is not as good as, or sometimes even better, than cold objective analysis?

Of course the US and Israel see Iran as the enemy for their own reasons. They cannot stop Iran developing nuclear weapons, they can only slow down its progress. They cannot stop the country's ideological creep into the Shia crescent countries because they are 30 years too late.

I worry more about our own weakness than Iranian strength.

If we focus merely on portraying Iran as the new evil empire (as the US and Israel in effect are doing), we simply join their chorus. The Americans want the Gulf states to form a stronger regional coalition and spend billions of dollars on arms to protect themselves against "the new evil empire". So dictators and absolute monarchs have a perfect excuse for continuing to rule by stealth over us.

The point that seems to get swept under the carpet is that real national strength comes from within, and we as Arab nations, do not treat our citizens fairly and do not bring up free thinking men and women who can hold a diverse country together through consensus rather than the sword. If the Shia had been treated decently as equal citizens, Iran would not have been able to creep into our countries and develop imperial ambitions. It would have continued to be regarded as a neighbour to be treated with respect and caution, rather than a saviour, by the disadvantaged Shia and oppressed Palestinians. So we only have ourselves to blame and here we are making the same mistakes again, siding with the West against Iran instead of looking inward and reforming our political, economic and educational systems.

Ishtar said...

Very true Philip , the only thing is that Iran was able to creep inside the middle east not only as a savior for the discriminated shia's minorities or for the palestinians under occupation , Iran as ideology has managed to creep into larger populations no matter of sect or social status just for the fact that its an anti american power , as you said am not worried from Iran's strenght as much as much as am worried from our submission to this power , with the lack of any alternative ideologies or any other horizons

nobody said...

Some believe US strategies have failed because Arabs are simply not capable of embracing democracy. This view is not only plainly arrogant but also dangerous because it serves the region's dictators and ignores the lessons of history.


arrogant? maybe ... but probably true .. and what lessons of history you are talking about ? iraq is the greatest history lesson we ve got here in the last years ... hurts your national feelings that the arab world is such a hopeless place ? i can understand this .. but it still does not prove that all your troubles come from the yankees or jews

Philip I said...


Almost all our troubles come from our own social and political attitudes and values.

Having said that, we cannot ignore the fact that the region had been colonised for centuries and been a theatre of war for superpowers in the past. In modern times superpowers have felt the need to protect their energy supplies,Israel its existence and security and the Palestinians their dignity and restoration of their rights since 1948. So, layer upon layer of tragedies and complexities that shape education and attitudes which, in turn, influence events and regional politics.

The only way to break out of this vicious circle is to achieve a LASTING and JUST peace with Israel and the world to invent cheaper sources of energy!

Nobody said...

you are deeply delusional if you think that the arab world can manage such a tough restructuring that would follow the switch from oil ... as a society your nations neither possess internal integrity nor being plainly reasonable as individuals to endure such hardships without disintegrating into violence and sectarian conflicts ...