[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com]
Lightning paced thriller writer
of International Intrigue
National Bestselling Author

The Shifting Sands Of Iraq
by Allan Topol, [IMAGE]2004


Photo Courtesy: Julie Zitin
[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com] The current American endgame for Iraq is both clear and simple. In January, the Iraqi people elect a democratic government. Once it takes office and has the security situation reasonably under control, the United States declares victory and withdraws its troops.

This American strategy hinges on both January elections taking place and the formation of an elected government which we can claim is representative of the Iraqi people on the whole. One or both of those are now at risk because the ground is shifting under the feet of our troops.

For months, it seemed as if the violence in Iraq was aimed at the United States and the American occupation. Foreign Jihadists had slipped into Iraq from Syria and Iran, we believed, to wage a bloody war against the infidel. Under this scenario, the U.S. was viewed as the enemy of not merely the Arab world, but of all Muslims everywhere.

In the last couple of weeks, evidence has surfaced which demonstrates how wrong this assessment was. In the recent battle for control of Fallujah, characterized as the fight between the U.S. and foreign insurgents, only five percent of the first one thousand detainees we captured were foreigners. Then there is the fact that increasingly it is Iraqis—soldiers, police recruits, interim government officials—who are the targets of the car bombs and attacks.

What is emerging is a nascent civil war. The struggle is now between the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, whose percent population figures are roughly 60, 20, 20. Each of these three has an objective in the new Iraq if a single country emerges form the American occupation. The hatred which many in the three groups have for the others is difficult to appreciate in the United States.

For Shiites, cruelly suppressed under the rule of Saddam Hussein, himself a Sunni, and his Sunni pals, elections are the vehicle at long last to gain control of the government in a country in which they are the majority. The Shiites not only want these January elections to occur, but under their spiritual leader, Ayatollah Sistani, have made major strides in quelling dissent in their ranks from Moktada Al-Sadr and others, in order to present a broad Shiite coalition of candidates in January.

For the Kurds, the objective is to have virtual autonomy within their own territory while being a part of Iraq. For them, the ideal new Iraq would be a loose federation. They have been undecided about whether that objective is best achieved by January elections or not. Their current view seems to be support for the elections because that’s what the Americans want and the Americans can help them achieve their objective. The Kurdish position is still fluid.

There is no doubt about the Sunnis goals. Long the rulers in Iraq, wealthier and more powerful for decades, many Sunnis are simply not willing to cede control of the government to the Shiites. Hence, the increased violence aimed at the Shiites and the interim Iraqi government which represents Shiite aspirations.

A hard core of Sunnis will do whatever it takes to stop a Shiite dominated government from being formed. That means blocking the elections from occurring. There are plenty of these hard core Sunnis, and they are well armed.

The hypocracy is that the Sunnis are causing the violence. Then they announce that the elections have to be postponed because of the violence. Let’s not be deluded into thinking that a delay of several months in the elections will do any good at all. We are dealing with people whose aim is to prevent the election from ever occurring. Happily, the American government hasn’t fallen for this deceit. The Bush Administration is determined, as it should be under these circumstances, to have the elections occur, if they possibly can.

The difficulty is that the elections, even if they take place, will not mark the end of the Sunnis struggle. Violence will be intensified against a new Shiite controlled government.

Other Arab governments could help ease the situation but don’t expect it. Most of them are controlled by Sunnis, and it’s clear where their sympathies are.

It’s time to recognize that the United States is in the middle of what’s headed toward a bloody civil war. Lebanon and the former Yugoslavia are reference points. Our current endgame is doomed to failure regardless of whether the elections occur. We need plan B for Iraq. More about that in a future column.