Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Vali Nasr on Foreign Exchange

Any time Nasr and Zakaria get together, it's a must watch.

The key point about the Shia Revival is that like Northern Ireland it is not any longer about the original theological difference but about class (Shia=poor like Catholics in N.Ireland) and about power/land.
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Their representation is not commensurate, Nasr argues, with their demographic numbers and this split was hidden under the facade of Arab nationalism, Baathism, etc. all of which were swept away by the overthrow of Hussein.

Part of the reason for the rise of Shia is that the Shia realize Arab nationalism meant in practice Sunni nationalism. This is a point constantly made by Sheik Nasrallah of Hezbollah. He compares them to European Judaism and the rise of Zionism in relation to the Dreyfus Affair when it became clear that Jews would never be accepted as Europeans.

In Iraq the Shia who had joined the Baath were not able to protect the Shia who rose up during Gulf War I in the South. This group (think Iyad Allawi) lost support of the people, giving rise to someone like Sadr.

Other key points raised:

--The idea of one side unilaterally defining the terms of its own peace through surrendering power, in this case the Iraq Shia has no basis in history. Not to mention that the central government does not have any real power outside the Green Zone (3/4 of Baghdad is still not "under control" in the diplomatic language).
--Even if they did do this, there is no guarantee of a united Sunni representative. (Tribal Anbaris, former Baathist insurgents and multiple cells therein, Salafi Revivalists, and criminal gangs).
--There is no regional framework because the US has never leveraged the power of the allies of the fighting powers within Iraq (Iran for Shia, Arab states for Sunnis).
--The Strategy attached to the Surge will not work because the diplomacy that the surge is supposed to help create space for is not going to rise on its own.


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