Last Train to Quantico
LEMONDE.FR | 24.02.06 |
Q. Wednesday’s attack on a Shi’ite mosque set off a wave of rioting and violence. In Baghdad, no less, dozens of Sunnis have been found dead. How do these recent events figure in the history of cohabitation between the two Iraqi communities?
For the last two years now there has been a latent civil war between the Shi’ite majority in power and the Sunni minority, representing approximately 20% of the Iraqi population. The war was set off by the Sunni fundamentalist movement, which is linked to al-Qaeda. This movement chose to wage war on Iraqi Shi’ites, that is, war waged against the United States vicariously through an Iraqi community. The war has already caused tens of thousands of deaths, mostly Shi’ites, the victims of waves of attacks.
In retaliation, there is state-sponsored terrorism by death squads linked to the Interior Ministry, which is controlled by the Shi’ites. They have become notorious through arbitrary detentions, torture and summary executions of Sunni Iraqis.
The provinces where here are areas of contact between the two communities have become the front lines in this war, especially Baghdad. The curfew is an acknowledgement on the part of the Shi’ite leaders of the dimension of this inter-religious war.
Q. To what is the recent flare-up of violence owed?
The worsening violence is the result of a political process which has broken down. The process, fostered by the Americans, assumes the reconstruction of Iraq along communitarian lines. This is a system that excludes many Iraqis, especially the Sunnis. The status conferred on the Sunnis is one of a minority deprived of wealth and power.
Moreover, the most recent elections have enshrined the movement led by Moqtada al-Sadr as a premier political party. As we may be seeing today, the Shi’ites are becoming increasingly aware of the confessional and communitarian impasse in which Ayatollah Sistani has placed the country. Moqtada al-Sadr is certainly the best placed to bring about a Sunni-Shia reconciliation. And this union will take place in a spirit of anti-Americanism.
Q. What could be the consequences of these recent events?
The spiral of violence will produce no result or partition, as some suggest, between Sunnis and Shi’a. With so much bloodshed, it will require time to put the pieces back together and to restore confidence.
Today, several demonstrations called for the unity of Iraqis beyond confessional differences. The protesters denounced the lack of sovereignty of the Iraqi government. They believe that the country’s status as an occupied nation is at the heart of the communitarian impasse.
Because of the difficulty in forging a consensus for a new government, one of the first resolutions passed by Iraqi Parliament could be a demand that the Americans to establish a schedule for withdrawal. And if the Americans are smart, they will seize the occasion to pull out with their heads held high without a moment to lose.
Interview conducted by Constance Baudry and Cécile Fandos.