17 March 2005

Caught between a popularly elected government dominated by fundamentalist Shiites and a determined guerilla movement led by Arab Nationalists and radical Sunnis

Juan Cole, professor of modern Middle Eastern history at the University of Michigan, pens an insightful op-ed which takes stock of what is likely to happen in Iraq in the coming months.
The political contradictions facing the United States have been sharpened by the victory of parties that are critical of Washington and dedicated to razing the wall between religion and state. The Shiite religious parties were the big winners of the Jan. 30 elections, and not only in the federal parliament.

The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq won eight provinces, including Baghdad. At least two are dominated by the radical Sadr tendency, associated with Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr (d. 1999) and often with his son, the fiery Muqtada. Fundamentalist Muslim parties also did well in the Sunni Arab regions.

These provincial governments will increasingly restrict Iraqi civil liberties and personal freedom in the coming year. The remaining liquor stores will be closed. Many video stores will be driven out of business by puritans. Fundamentalist ideals will probably be introduced into school curricula. Regulations will be passed restricting women’s rights, encouraging or requiring veiling, and segregating education and other social spaces. Women graduates' access to increasingly all-male professional schools will be curtailed.

The elected parliament can be expected to establish a government that will be far less deferential to U.S. interests and demands. The parliament may well repeal many of the laws passed by U.S. civil administrator Paul Bremer, which aimed at imposing Polish-style shock therapy on the Iraqi economy and at effacing the legacy of Baathist Arab socialism. In addition, the new prime minister is likely to come into conflict with the United States about the launching of major military campaigns like that at Fallujah.

Also predicted is future trouble in Kirkuk.

Yes, freedom is on the march. Women relegated to second class status, the imposition of a totalitarian theocratic state, with abductions and assassinations galore.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.


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