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?