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[casi-analysis] The Bush Iraq Plan - Make or Break.

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The Bush Iraq Plan - Make or Break.
May 28, 2004

By Sama Hadad
On the 24th May 2004, President Bush reaffirmed his vision for a democratic and free Iraq. If 
successful, this plan would see Iraq as a shining example of democracy and liberty in the Middle 
East. Whilst this may be one of the boldest political endeavors since World War II, it is a fragile 
process that will not survive any political mistakes. The selection of the transitional Iraqi 
government presents the greatest opportunity for such a mistake to be made.

Having lived under generations of successive minority-dominated regimes, Iraq's Shia rejoiced when 
Saddam's statue was brought down. Subsequently, Shia regions have been largely quiet in comparison 
to the volatile Sunni triangle, which has been witness to large Coalition casualties. Despite the 
ongoing instability and mounting deaths, the Shia have remained optimistic about their future. The 
Americans came with the promise of democracy and liberty and therefore the majority of the Shia 
remained patient and hopeful. To them, short-term inconveniences and struggles were an inevitable 
difficulty that could be tolerated, in the hope that a new Iraq would emerge. A new Iraq that would 
bear no resemblance to that of the past. Sitting in a house in the slums of Baghdad in the 
sweltering heat of August last year, one woman reassured me when the power went out, "my dear, all 
this is worth it...prior to this past month, when have the Shia ever been the majority in 
government?" She was of course referring to the majority-Shia Governing Council, formed in July.

Now imagine, come the 1st July, and Iraqis wake up to a 'new Iraq' whose president or prime 
minister is a Sunni Arab. What will Iraq's Shia think? What will they do? It will not escape them 
that history is being repeated, for once again they will find themselves in an Iraq which is 
two-thirds Shia, but governed by an individual selected from the one-sixth Sunni Arab population. 
To them, Operation Iraqi Freedom will have been a sham and the lives lost on both theirs and the 
Coalition's side will have been lost in vain. Once again the seeds of minority rule will have been 
sown in Iraq to create a harvest of discord.

Iraq is embarking on a crucial stage in its transition to democracy. The next eighteen months will 
set the foundations for a democratic Iraq: a permanent constitution, a referendum and Iraq's first 
democratically elected national government. With ongoing terrorist activities and continuing 
security difficulties, its entrance into this crucial phase will be unstable to say the least. The 
compounding instability that will be created by handing over to an unpopular government headed by a 
Sunni president or prime minister, will obliterate any chance of Iraq becoming a beacon of 
democracy in the Middle East. Iraq's central and southern regions, the Shia heartlands, will erupt 
into unrest on a scale yet to be witnessed.

Ayatollah Sistani, the Shia's most senior religious leader, must not be forgotten. Although he is 
opposed to a theocracy in Iraq and does not wish to hold a political position, he has proven to be 
vocal whenever Iraq's Shia have been threatened. When Sistani felt that Shia representation was at 
risk from Bremer's caucus plan, he demonstrated his political strength - with one call, the Grand 
Ayatollah flooded Iraqi streets up and down the country with protesters. And, remarkably, in one 
call for calm, he was able to withdraw them. If Lakhdar Brahimi announces a transitional government 
whose top two jobs are not held by Shia, Ayatollah Sistani will not remain silent. Feeling 
marginalized, the power of Iraq's large majority will be unleashed. This will push Shia moderates 
into the hands of extremists.

A poll conducted last month by the Iraqi Centre for Research and Strategic Studies shows two-thirds 
of Shia still felt the war was one of liberation. By contrast, the same poll shows two-thirds of 
Sunnis felt the war shamed them. Furthermore, the poll shows that one-third of Sunnis support 
attacks against the Coalition. There is little sense in appointing a Sunni president or prime 
minister whose own ethnic group are openly hostile to the Coalition and will therefore oppose any 
Coalition decision regardless. There is even less sense in such a move, when it will serve to 
alienate the Shia majority. Any multi-ethnic democracy should have provisions and safeguards for 
minority groups, and that is exactly why there are two vice-presidency positions in the 
transitional Iraqi government.

While many names are being considered by Brahimi and the CPA for the transitional government, there 
seems to be one certainty: Adnan Pachachi or one of his associates will take the position of 
president or prime minister. Pachachi, who opposed Iraq's liberation and Kuwait's right to exist, 
is a Sunni pan-Arabist. Bush's Iraq plan is set to fail.

Sama Hadad is the Spokeswoman for the Iraqi Prospect Organization, a pro-democracy group.


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