“Iran is pursuing a delicate strategy of supporting fellow Shiite Muslims and preserving its influence in neighboring Iraq—where the government is under siege by radical Sunni militants—without pushing the confrontation into outright sectarian warfare. For the second straight week, influential clerics, who are appointed by the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, used their Friday sermons to denounce the militant groups and support Iraq’s government. But their speeches steered clear of explicitly encouraging individual Shiites to act against the Sunni insurgents……… The country has openly sent top military advisers to help the Iraqi government, and blamed a collection of foreign enemies from Saudi Arabia to Israel and the U.S. for the violence. It deployed at least three battalions of elite Revolutionary Guards units to Iraq, according to Iranian security officials—an action Iran’s foreign ministry denied…………….Yet it has stopped short of sending in large numbers of its own troops and discouraged ordinary Iranians from crossing the border to fight or defend holy sites in Iraq.………..”
So which one is it, pray tell? Did they send three battalions of the IRGC as those usual “unnamed security officials” have claimed or is it untrue as the foreign ministry says? Is Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani of Quds Force in Baghdad as Western and Arab media have claimed for three weeks, or is he in Syria, or maybe in Lebanon, or could it be that he has snuck into Yemen? Can he be lurking somewhere in the Gulf trying to reinvigorate the mythical Wahhabi-created ‘Gulf Hezbollah’ smack in the middle of the royal police states?
Or maybe he is making some deal with the new Saudi ambassador-at-large Prince Bandar over a cold glass or two of Leban (in Gulf Arabic) or Dough (in Gulf Persian).
On the other hand the Iranian news agency IRNA reported that an Iranian citizen has died fighting in Iraq. It claimed he died protecting the Shi’a shrines; maybe, but that can cover a lot of territory in Iraq. It did not specify his military service or rank. Which means that there are now some Iranians on the front lines inside Iraq, and some of them will die. More problematic is that these Iranians will also be killing Iraqis, not a very good prospect for either Iraqis or Iranians. They will not be able to keep it private, anymore than it was possible for Lebanese Hezbollah to keep its casualties in Syria private. A death and its aftermath are very public affairs for us Muslims, whether we are Sunni, Shi’a, Wahhabi, Sofi, Khawarij, or Episcopalian.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
In the year of Our Lord 15 Hijri (about 636 AD), the Muslim Arab fighters won a big victory at the Battle of Qadisiyyah in what is today’s Iraq. That opened the door for the spread of Islam to Mesopotamia and Persia and beyond.
In September of 1980, while Iran was in revolutionary turmoil, Saddam Hussein’s army invaded the Iranian province of Khuzistan (a.k.a Arabistan). Saddam made several demands and goals for his invasion, none of which were met at the end of the war. Seeing the dire situation inside Iran, he had expected a quick victory, as did most Arabs and many in the West (even the once-venerable The Economist wrote stupidly in 1980 that Iran might become an Iraqi satrapy). Saddam got the support of all the GCC states of the Persian Gulf, moral support, propaganda support, money support, and weapons. He also got the support of all the Western powers: weapons, intelligence, even some limited military action. As well as supplies of chemical weapons and overlooking his use of WMD against Iraqi Kurds and Iranian soldiers.
Not all Arabs sided with him: Syria, Libya, and Algeria among the Arab states, and a faction of the PLO, did not side with Saddam. The late King Hussein of Jordan, the man who lost Jerusalem and the whole West Bank to the Israeli IDF in one single day, even went to the front and fired some symbolic shots at the Iranians. Iraqi propaganda and Persian Gulf supporters called the war Qadisiyyah of Saddam. In the end Iraq came out of this war a financially broken country. That was when he turned his guns against the Gulf people who had stood by his side. He invaded Kuwait in August 2, 1990 and the rest is history.
Now we have the Wahhabi terrorists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, ISIL) sweeping across northern Iraq. The same great Gulf GCC tribal sectarian minds that cheered Saddam before 1990 are now cheering ISIS. Many of them are claiming that ISIS is really a nationalist rebirth of the Baath Party, apparently a softer Iraqi Baath Party that can now get along with the absolute tribal rulers of the Gulf. Maybe it is not the same Baath Party that invaded Kuwait and threatened the terrified Saudi princes until the Americans showed up and chased them out. Now they claim they are cheering for the disenfranchised Sunnis of Iraq, the 20% who have not reconciled to losing power.
Diehard sectarians in the Persian Gulf region are coming out of the closet, out in the open; not that they were ever well hidden. From tribal academics to media stars to liberal-Wahhabi-men-and-women-about-town to the clownish chief of the Dubai Police Dhahi Khalfan, they are all in justification mode, using crass sectarian terms. The same crass sectarian terms they used in the 1980s until Saddam’s tanks moved toward the south in 1990.
Now they see this new turmoil in Iraq as a third Battle of Qadisiyyah, or maybe as a second Battle of Karbala, as the Wahhabi invaders in Iraq are hinting at.
It is as if on my Gulf they have not learned any lesson from the past few decades. It is as if delusion is like an heirloom handed down from foolish fathers to foolish sons and daughters in the GCC countries of the Gulf.
“More recently, however, the mainstream rebels’ allies—chiefly the United States, Britain, France, Qatar and Saudi Arabia—have begun to expand their efforts to help those they consider worthy of support. They have been chuffed by the rebels’ war on ISIS. And they are co-ordinating efforts to help them better. An increasing number of vetted fighters in both the north and south of Syria have been trained in Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, given money to pay salaries, and supplied with anti-tank weapons, albeit so far in limited quantities. Meanwhile, Gulf donors are said to have cut off funds to some of the more zealous Islamist groups, including the Islamist Front, a coalition dominated by Ahrar al-Sham, a Salafist outfit…………..”
The Economist has been hawkish on Syria, but only on Syria of all the Arab uprisings. It has been pissed (to put it succinctly) by Obama’s reluctance to attack Syria for the past three years. It, like other Western and Arab media and their officials, has been critical of ‘foreign’ intervention in Syria. Not all foreign intervention in frowned upon: only Russian and Iranian and Lebanese intervention. Other sources of intervention: European, Turkish, American, Gulf GCC, Saudi, Qatari, Jordanian, and Al Qaeda intervention on the side of the Jihadists is apparently kosher and halal and seeks democracy and freedom and human rights in Syria. That has been obvious from past experience when the Jihadis took over towns and neighborhoods and immediately started to apply democracy, freedom, the chopping of heads, the kidnapping of nuns and priests, among other blessings of what the rest of Syrians can expect.