Sunday, May 13, 2007

Iraqis outside both the Red and Green Zones

For those of you who have already read my earlier entry on Nir Rosen ("The Education of Nir Rosen"), you know that he is an Israeli-American Jew who is both an atheist and a "hardcore leftist," according to David Adesnik, his old school friend and current blogger over at Oxblog. This same American Jew atheistic leftist who, during his time while in Iraq, learned to dissemble enough to be allowed to sit next to devout Muslims as they prayed in mosques and to hang around and befriend a veritable who's-who list of high-ranking members of the so-called resistance in Iraq, mostly Sunni Baathists from Anbar.

The contacts that he had made during his time in Iraq have allowed him now to continue reporting from outside Iraq. Today, in a lengthy NYT Magazine article called "The Flight from Iraq," Nir Rosen reports on the outflow of Iraqis into the surrounding countries of Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. As those of us who have followed the Iraqi bloggers know, people from all walks of life have left Iraq. Rosen points out that many of them have come from the professional classes who have been caught between Al Qaeda, the Anbar Baathists, and the Shia-dominated militia.

For the Shia who are exiting Iraq, these three countries do not offer the same prospect. "Of the main destination countries," Rosen writes, "Syria is the friendliest for Shiites. Egypt may be ill disposed toward Shiites, but Jordan is downright hostile."

Some of the most interesting interviews that Rosen conducted occurred in Jordan. In Amman, Rosen talked to a young Iraqi named Sattem:
He called the initial Sunni boycott of Iraqi politics “a big mistake” that opened the door to Shiite domination. “Now it’s too late,” he said. “People here, and in Amman, feel like they lost.” In Sattam’s view, the only way to protect Sunnis was a Sunni state that would include Anbar Province, Mosul and Tikrit. But radicals like Al Qaeda were now in control of Anbar Province, and the resistance was finding it hard to resist Al Qaeda. “Al Qaeda kills Sunnis the most, and you don’t know what they want,” he said. His priority was to deal with Al Qaeda in the Anbar first, then reconcile with the Shiites and then work to end the occupation.
Rosen also interviewed several ex-military officers in Jordan with alleged connections to the Iraqi resistance, one of them being Gen. Raed al-Hamdani, a former commander in the Republican Guard.
General Hamdani had fought in six conflicts and been severely wounded in 1991. “The hardest loss was this last one,” he said. “We were given the responsibility to defend our country. We lost the war, and we lost our country.”
The Anbar Baathists began rearming themselves almost immediately after the fall of Saddam to fight the Coaltion forces for two reasons: 1) they were unwilling to accept defeat, and 2) they could not accept a democratic Iraq in which the Shia would be given such a large voice when for decades the Sunni had dominated them.

As Rosen's interviewees admit, it was a mistake for the Sunni to boycott the elections and thus cede political power to the Shia. But what is not mentioned by them, and this lacuna is most telling in my view, is the far more destructive decision that they had made after the fall of Baghdad. The Anbar Baathists not only didn't vote but they were the ones who provided logistical support to the Al Qaeda terrorist jihadis, the very group that is now killing more Sunnis in Anbar than have died at the hands of Shia militia groups.

The Anbar Baathists had originally allowed the Al Qaeda foreign fighters into Iraq to help them with their insurgency operations against both the Iraqi government and the Coalition forces (and we at IBC have been writing about this for three years now). But, over time, they began to realize that the jihadists preferred killing Iraqi citizens to American soldiers and that they really didn't care all that much if they were Shia or Sunni. In fact, one of their stated goals was to kill people on both sides to foment a civil war and thus reduce all of Iraq to a heap of ashes. If one knows how to read between the lines and fill in the obvious lacunae in Rosen's interviews, one can hear a tacit recognition of this blunder that may yet grant the Al Qaeda jihadis their wish of sweeping all of Iraq into the dustbin of history.

Sometimes what people don't say is more important than what they do.

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If anyone is interested in Nir Rosen's entry into a career as a freelance journalist, I recommend checking out the links provided in "The Education of Nir Rosen," which offers links to his earliest articles written from Israel and Yugoslavia.

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