Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi
Let’s start with the aftermath of the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Many believe that Iraq was on his way to become a more secure and stable state. Instead, we have seen a deepening of sectarian tensions, as well as the rise of al-Qaeda and Daesh in Iraq. Often I was asked when I talk in the West to give an explanation of this fact.
It has been passed more than thirteen years since the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime, but very little has been achieved in this period. If we wanted to be more precise and specifically, Iraq, despite some limited progress of increasing freedoms and openness, the country has been deteriorated at all levels and other aspects, with an unprecedented rise in corruption and sectarianism and extremist ideologies.
The Iraqi people has a rich history, with high levels of education, and advanced civil society , and they have no history of the Islamic extremist ideologies , especially when compared with other countries in the region, where the extremist ideologies are more prevalent in neighboring countries, and not in Iraq, historically. Why, then, we see the rise of extremism among ordinary Iraqis? Why do we find that even those who were believers in the past with a strong belief in secular ideologies, including the Baath Socialist Party, are now supporters of religious extremist Salafi ideology, which is naturally in complete contradiction with previous convictions? What has happened since 2003, so that the spread of such extremist ideologies?
There are many factors, but, in my opinion, the most important reasons can be found in the short-sighted or destructive policies that have been adopted and implemented in Iraq by some individuals who ruled the country after 2003, who were not qualified explicitly for the job. Where when they found that their hopes for re-election had been threatened because of their failure to provide public and basic services and provide security for people and their lack of the deliberate economic policy, which increased the rate of poverty and unemployment with the spread of government corruption in their era which is unprecedented, they found that the only way for them to stay in power was inciting sectarianism. Not particularly Shiite politicians here only though the primary responsibility lying on their shoulders because they are the rulers of the country, but even a lot of Sunni politicians who have found it an ideal situation to promote sectarianism in gaining political support from Sunni grassroots. Like the realistic example on the ground, we find that during the peaceful demonstrations in Hawija, the result was because of those policies with a view to achieving the special interests on the account of the homeland’s interest and the citizen that there are more than seventy unarmed people were killed and more than three hundred were wounded by the Iraqi army and special forces who are highly well trained , knowing that Ayatollah Sistani God preserve him (which is the safety valve for this country) has sent a clear message to the government, not to confront these demonstrations by troops from the army or federal police, but asked them to use the local police to protect the protesters, but unfortunately this advice was rejected because it was contradicted with their goals to stay in power, these policies aimed at pushing the Sunnis to resort to the extremists Salafi al-Qaeda and others to save them then to suggest to the Shiite bases that they apply policies to defend them from the ” imaginary Sunni enemy “,in which the seed of discontent was originally existed , but a lot of Shiite rulers are refueling these feelings, which were greatly weakened after 2007, these rulers of the Shiites are turning a blind eye to the escape of more than a thousand detainees from the notorious al-Qaeda from the Abu Ghraib prison, and perhaps they are turning a blind eye to the entry Daesh to the city of Mosul, believing that they will defeat Daesh within a few days and they will get the support at all levels and from all countries in the war on Daesh, and will achieve the goals of their policies to stay on power, but all of those policies and attempts ended to fail, and those policies are put an end to them as well as the wise positions of Ayatollah Sistani, God preserve him.
These sectarian politics in my perception are the ones that laid the foundation for extremism. Let’s take a look now specifically to the rise of al-Qaeda and Daesh.
Salafi beliefs of these organizations have emerged about 250 years ago , at that time all Muslims (Sunnis and Shiites) considered this category as “Khawarij” (ie outlaws and perverts from Islam), at that time, the Ottoman Empire and the Egyptian army had conducted a major war against them because of their deviation and misuse of Islam. But since the twenties of the last century, when the Saudi ruling family was separated, which has truly become close to the Sunnis in their beliefs not Takfiri for other Muslims and the legalization of their blood, from the Salafi, Takfiri Muslim Brotherhood which was the nucleus for the emergence of al-Qaeda and Daesh movement, this group began falsely claiming to be from the Sunnis. Some of this Sunni had been deceived with this lie as well as many of the Shiites. Moreover, the Shiite rulers have abandoned the support of the Awakening forces who played a pivotal role in almost complete elimination of al-Qaeda, particularly in Anbar, after the abandonment , al-Qaeda began to hunt Awakening leaders who remained without material or military support or even without weapons.
In addition to all that marginalization and exclusion policy was followed to the Sunnis except the Sunni politicians who are praising of Shiite rulers, and instead of responding to the demands of the protesters in the Sunni areas , they have dealt them scornfully and thoroughly to increase the excitement and deepening sectarian breaths, these combined conditions have made the people of the western regions to tolerate with individuals of Al-Qaeda who participated in the sit-ins, not only because of they are standing in the face of sectarian Shiite rulers s, but even for fear of al-Qaeda where there was more than one thousand of those who were set free at large from Abu Ghraib prison and other prisons.
If we look at the historical behavior of these Salafi Takfiri movements that they killed in their contemporary history numbers of Sunnis more than the dead of Shiites, the killing of the Sunnis in Algeria in the nineties of the last century, more than (200,000) dead because of the Salafi extremist groups who permitted the killing of wives and children, police and Algerian soldiers and because of the Taliban , more than (400,000), an Afghan citizen were killed that more than (90%) of them are Sunnis, and in such way , the Sunnis in Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Anbar and Mosul have been killed, yes that hostility to Shiites is greater than their hostility for the Sunnis, but the Shiites and Sunnis in their eyes are apostates and deserve to be killed .
But with all what happened I am optimistic about the future of the country, for the reasons for the first of raising awareness among the people, where they knew that the sectarian chord is the ugly tone used by the politicians of both parties to rise to power on their backs, popular demonstrations have shown over the past two years that the Shiites and Sunnis stand together against the corrupt politicians of the parties, the second is the current Prime Minister, Dr. Haider Abadi, where he did not use the sectarian chord as it was used before him by the former Prime Minister, Mr. al-Maliki, the third that the areas liberated from Daesh which will be free of them, God willing, they have become more people to know Daash and they have gained complete immunity against this distorted ideas and have no roots in Iraq, unlike many other countries where such deviant beliefs are spread among them for centuries; so Daesh will not be born again as long as there is an awareness of the people, the task now in the court of the people and his test is the election boxes , and his goal has become clear in the need to get rid of the corrupt and sectarian politicians and this is what I expect in the future, God willing, which will reflect progress and development and prosperity for our country, God willing.
Rawabet Research and Strategic Studies Center
Translated by : Mudhaffar al-Kusairi