As we continue to fight this global war on terror (actually, let me rephrase that), as we fight this war in Iraq it is alarming how many American’s have no idea of the power struggles between Sunnis and Shiites.
Who can deny that Saddam Hussein was an evil and malice dictator? However, would you be shocked to know that woman’s rights in Iraq, America’s relations with Iran, and partisanship in Iraq has become increasingly worse without Saddam?
Saddam is a Sunni, and Sunni’s are a minority party in Iraq. How, you might ask, if Sunnis are a minority power could Saddam remain as a dictator? Easy, fear. There were many attempts at taking Saddam out of power by the two other parties.The Kurds paid dearly for their attempt with the massacre fueled by chemical warfare. American’s determination to label this genocide is incorrect; Saddam was not interested in destroying the culture, but to send a strong message to those who opposed him. Shiites were just as scared, though they maintained the majority of the population, and watched the Sunni leader control Iraq for decades.
With Saddam out of power and the seeds of democracy now growing, the Shiites are using their majority to take back control. However, the Shiite’s are interested in intertwining religious ideals into their new constitution. One of those ideals is the lack of influence woman maintain in society. Iraqi woman can expect more oppression, less freedom of thought, and a non-existent role in any position of influence.
Over the course of Saddam’s administration, the Sunni controlled Iraqi government was at odds with Shiite dominated Iran. Saddam was a spoken enemy of Iran, and the Shiite Iraqis looked to Iran for strength and support. With Saddam removed from power and the Shiites now in control of Iraq, loyalties run deep and an alliance between the two great Middle East countries is being formed. Look past the soft media and you will find many Iran loyalists in the newly formed Iraqi government. America’s purpose of creating stability in the Middle East is being accomplished. Unfortunately it’s not the stability we were hoping for.
Another issue between Sunnis and Shiites is the great partisan divide that continues to widen. Shiites now in power are looking to avenge the many years of Sunni control over their nation. The problem with democracy in the Middle East is history runs deep and is not forgotten. Unlike America where the domination of power by one party can easily be ousted by the diversity of the population, Iraqis at the mercy of the united Shiite citizens. Many Sunni delegates have walked away from the new government in complete dismay because the Shiites propose and ratify legislation that opposes their group. This discontent between these two cultures is also what is sparking a civil war.
As we continue to watch Iran speak with more confidence and less remorse, know that we have made their position stronger by providing a friendly neighbor. The Sunni-controlled Iraq is history, and history the Shiites will not forget.
(There is a great article in the NY Times titled, "Can You Tell a Sunni From a Shiite?")