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Shias and Sunnis

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The US targeted assassination, via drone strike, of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, apart from a torrent of crucial geopolitical ramifications, once again propels to center stage a quite inconvenient truth: the congenital incapacity of so-called US elites to even attempt to understand Shi’ism - thus 24/7 demonization, demeaning not only Shi’as by also Shi’a-led governments.... Read More
TIKRIT and NAJAF, Iraq Nothing, absolutely nothing prepares you to revive, on the spot, the memory of what will go down in history as ISIS/Daesh’s most horrid killing field in Iraq or Syria since the death cult stormed across the border in the summer of 2014; the Speicher massacre of June 12, 2014 – when... Read More
Western politicos love to shed swamps of crocodile tears about "the Syrian people" and congratulate themselves within the "Friends of Syria" framework for defending them from "tyranny". Well, the "Syrian people" have spoken. Roughly 70% support the government of Bashar al-Assad. Another 20% are neutral. And only 10% are aligned with the Western-supported "rebels", including... Read More
The top geopolitical tragedy in 2012 is bound to remain the top geopolitical tragedy in 2013: the rape of Syria. Just as once in a while I go back to my favorite Hemingway passages, lately I've been going back to some footage I shot years ago of the Aleppo souk - the most extraordinary of... Read More
And the winner is ... the Gulf Counter-revolution Club (GCC), also known as Gulf Cooperation Council. Their collective celebration party is this weekend's Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix - complete with buckets of Moet and Ferraris oozing by. See it as a coterie of Sunni sheikhs telling the "international community" - we won; it's our... Read More
How poignant that the first anniversary of a true Arab pro-democracy movement in the Persian Gulf - then ruthlessly crushed - falls on February 14, when Valentine's Day is celebrated in the West. Talk about a doomed love affair. And how does Washington honor this tragic love story? By resuming arms sales to the repressive... Read More
Suppose this was a Hollywood script conference and you have to pitch your story idea in 10 words or less. It's a movie about Syria. As much as the currently in-research Kathryn Hurt Locker Bigelow film about the Osama bin Laden raid was pitched as "good guys take out Osama in Pakistan", the Syrian epic... Read More
Early last week, US President Barack Obama sent a letter to Saudi King Abdullah, delivered in person in Riyadh by US National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon. This happened less than a week after Pentagon head Robert Gates spent a full 90 minutes face to face with the king. These two moves represented the final seal... Read More
The current Arab counter-revolution is brought to you by the House of Saud - and enabled by the Pentagon. The Gulf has been plunged into pre-emptive war. After the initial euphoria of the great 2011 Arab revolt, the message of the Gulf kingdoms and sheikhdoms to Washington has been unambiguous - and effective; if we... Read More
More than seven years after the United States invasion vowed to bring "democracy" to Iraq, the neo-conservative who inspired the project may at least relish the guilty pleasure of watching sectarianism win this month's elections - and seeing former prime minister and Central Intelligence Agency asset Iyad Allawi and current Iran-aligned Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki... Read More
WASHINGTON - The Iraqi parliament has its date with destiny this Wednesday, after dozens of its 375 members nearly came to blows debating the proposed US-Iraqi Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). And that's not counting an even higher percentage that's not familiar with the final text because they simply had no time to digest it.... Read More
WASHINGTON - The big bang is not that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's majority Shi'ite/Kurdish 37-member cabinet in Baghdad has approved the draft of a security pact with the George W Bush (and Barack Obama) administrations allowing the US military to stay in Iraq for three more years; it's that the 30-strong Sadrist bloc will move... Read More
"Operation Peace" in Sadr City in Baghdad is and will continue to be spun by the Nuri al-Maliki government - and by America corporate media - as a resounding "success" in controlling Iraqi militias, in this case the Mahdi Army of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Meanwhile, under the global radar, an invisible war in Mosul... Read More
Five Ways to Think about Iran under the Gun
It's like old times in the Persian Gulf. As of this week, a second aircraft carrier battle task force is being sent in -- not long after Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Michael Mullen highlighted planning for "potential military courses of action" against Iran; just as the Bush administration's catechism of charges against the... Read More
In a make-believe world where the green, green grass of the "surge" is alive with the sound of music, the George W Bush administration and US counterinsurgency ace General David Petraeus - not to mention presidential candidate Senator John McCain - keep assuring American public opinion the "surge" (now reconverted into a "pause") is working.... Read More
The battle of Basra may be virtually over. But nobody's talking about the invisible Battle of Mosul. President George W Bush's self-described "defining moment" in Iraq amounted to this: General Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) , brokered a deal in Qom, Iran, between Shi'ite cleric... Read More
Future non-biased historians may well regard March 19, 2003, as a crucial mark in the annals of Western imperial arrogance. Five years later, the pre-emptive war celebratory fireworks have turned to dust. For months now Iraq has been an invisible American war. It's seldom on TV. It does not "sell". Thus, it does not exist.... Read More
It's no secret that a great deal of the alleged success of the George W Bush administration's "surge" - or at least the way it's being spun in the US - is related to a diminished flow of Iranian-made weapons towards militias in Iraq. The weapons anyway were being sold by Iranian and or Gulf... Read More
I say this to the evil Bush - leave my country. We do not need you and your army of darkness. We don't need your planes and tanks. We don't need your policy and your interference. We don't want your democracy and fake freedom. Get out of our land. - Muqtada al-Sadr, Iraqi Shi'ite leader... Read More
"... the literature on counter-insurgency is so enormous that, had it been put aboard the Titanic, it would have sunk that ship without any help from the iceberg. However, the outstanding fact is that almost all of it has been written by the losers." - Martin van Creveld, in The Changing Face Of War, 2006... Read More
The United States Senate in 2003 authorized President George W Bush to illegally invade and destroy Iraq. A horrendous quagmire and more than half a trillion dollars later, the Senate in 2007 wants - by 75 to 23 - to split Iraq into a (very) loose, three-region sectarian federation. And the senators - Democrats plus... Read More
Tony Blair is no more. The now-former British prime minister, a neo-con soulmate, was destroyed by the war on Iraq. Before tendering his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II, maybe with echoes of Oasis' "Don't Look Back in Anger" ringing in is mind, Blair at least had the decency to apologize publicly for the times he... Read More
BAGHDAD - There's a graffiti war going on in Baghdad. In Sunni neighborhoods the champions are "Saddam Hussein is a martyr" and "Muqtada [al-Sadr] is the leader of the thieves". In Shi'ite neighborhoods the favorite used to be "From Fallujah to Kufa Iraq won't be beaten down"; now "Fallujah" has been erased from the script.... Read More
BAGHDAD - This was once the pinnacle of world culture. Al-Mustansariya University is older than the Sorbonne. During Saddam Hussein's time, even with United Nations sanctions, it was still churning out the best and the brightest in Iraq. Sons of wealthy families in Lebanon, Jordan, the Emirates and North Africa were still being sent by... Read More
BAGHDAD - Popular wisdom in Iraq rules that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, with a simple fatwa, or even a single word, could bring the US occupation to an abrupt end. So why doesn't he? In the impossibility to pose this half-trillion-dollar question to the grand ayatollah himself (he does not grant interviews to foreigners, and... Read More
BAGHDAD - He is a former Sunni Arab mujahid from Ramadi who until recently was fighting the US occupation. He has only a secondary education and is married with two wives. Now he is praised even by urban, secular, highly educated Shi'ites as a "conscious man", or "the kind of man we need now in... Read More
BAGHDAD - Muqtada al-Sadr is not at the conference on Iraq that opened on Thursday in Sharm-al-Sheikh, Egypt, even though he is, hands down, the most popular, and certainly the most charismatic, political leader in Iraq, with his ears finely tuned to the Shi'ite - and even Sunni - street. Nasr al-Roubaie is the leader... Read More
There must be some way to get out of here Said the joker to the thief There's too much confusion I can't get no relief - Bob Dylan, All Along the Watchtower BAGHDAD - It's noon on Sunday right in front of the Adhamiyah wall - the now infamous symbol of the Pentagon-devised Baghdad gulag.... Read More
BEIRUT - "You are in heaven and those who killed you will go to hell," reads a poster in a middle-class, predominantly Sunni neighborhood in north Beirut. Those depicted in heaven include Saddam Hussein, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri (killed in a car bombing in 2005), and Sheik Ahmed Yassin... Read More
DAMASCUS - There are three overlapping wars in Iraq: the Sunni Arab guerrilla struggle against the US; strands of Sunni Arab guerrillas against assorted Shi'ite militias/death squads; and al-Qaeda in Iraq against the puppet, US-backed Iraqi government in the Green Zone. Make it four wars: the Sunni Arab guerrilla war against the government inside the... Read More
"Security is a shared destiny. If we are secure, you might be secure, and if we are safe, you might be safe. And if we are struck and killed, you will definitely - with Allah's permission - be struck and killed." - Ayman al-Zawahiri, in the new al-Qaeda video The Correct Equation. US President George... Read More
Saddam Hussein shouts "Down with Bush" in the heart of the Green Zone, British soldiers beat up barefoot Iraqi teenagers and US Vice President Dick Cheney is out shooting people (not Iraqis; a fellow American, and a campaign contributor to boot). Cutting right across this theater of the absurd, Iraqi politicians have manufactured their own,... Read More
First, a quick look at the environment ahead of Thursday's elections in Iraq. Political assassinations, party headquarters burned, abductions (all largely unreported by Western corporate media). A former prime minister, Iyad Allawi - widely known in Baghdad as "Saddam without a moustache" - saying on the record that human rights in President George W Bush's... Read More
Iraqis desperately need security, electricity, water, food rations, health care, education, jobs. Instead they get a referendum on a constitution few of Iraq's theoretical 15.7 million voters have debated and fewer still have even seen. Why? Because the occupying power said so. So forget about the real priorities needed to make life liveable. No constitution... Read More
TEHRAN - Syria, Lebanon and Iraq are crucial protagonists in the specter of a Shi'ite crescent, according to the Saudi royal family, King Abdullah of Jordan and conservative American think tanks. Once again, the facts on the ground are much more complex than a simplistic formula. Syria, although 86% Muslim, is a multiethnic and multiconfessional... Read More
TEHRAN - A specter haunts the Middle East - at least in the minds of Sunni Arabs, especially Wahhabis, as well as a collection of conservative American think tanks: a Shi'ite crescent, spreading from Mount Lebanon to Khorasan, across Mesopotamia, the Persian Gulf and the Iranian plateau. But facts on the ground are much more... Read More
Undeclared civil war in Iraq has been raging for months. Now it's "official": using the customary audio clip on a website, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi - who may or may not be a cipher, but is certainly the leader of Monotheism and Holy War, or al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers - has declared... Read More
"Iran is the country of Imam al-Mahdi." - Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, father of the Islamic revolution in 1979 (For Part 1 of this report, see Sistani.Qom: In the wired heart of Shi'ism) QOM - Shi'ism is an eschatological religion that has codified its own, complex (happy) end of history. Intellectually, from a non-Shi'ite point... Read More
QOM - Secular voices in Tehran are adamant: Ninety percent of the political power in Iran is in Qom. One may be tempted to add that at least 70% of the political power in Iraq is also situated in Qom. It's only a small room, one of its walls plastered with blue cabinet files containing... Read More
Iraq now has 275 bright, beaming members of a new parliament. Flushed with victory, many are already shedding their virtual shells to meet their flesh-and-blood voters - thus running the risk of being obliterated by a suicide bombing or a drive-by shooting. Some parts of the world say this is an exercise in democracy. Other,... Read More
In Najaf, the holy Shi'ite city, the grand ayatollahs are busy advancing a religious agenda: Ali al-Sistani, Mohammad Ishaq al-Fayad, Bashir al-Najafi and Mohammad Said Hakim compose the al-marja' iyyah (source of infallible authority on all religious matters). They are unanimous: the Shi'ite religious parties, the big winners in the elections, must implement Sharia (Islamic)... Read More
In Najaf, the holy Shi’ite city, the grand ayatollahs are busy advancing a religious agenda: Ali al-Sistani, Mohammad Ishaq al-Fayad, Bashir al-Najafi and Mohammad Said Hakim compose the al-marja’ iyyah (source of infallible authority on all religious matters). They are unanimous: the Shi’ite religious parties, the big winners in the elections, must implement Sharia (Islamic)... Read More
Shi'ites will be in power in the Arab world for the first time in 14 centuries. So Iraqi elections are indeed historic. But it's not for US President George W Bush to proclaim Sunday's elections "a success", even before the results are known: it's for the Iraqi people, those who did and also those who... Read More
"Elections are the best way to expel the occupier from Iraq." - Banners in Shi'ite mosques in Baghdad, Najaf, Karbala and Samarra "I anticipate a grand moment in Iraqi history." - US President George W Bush, January 26 Iraqi Shi'ites, the Pentagon, the Sunni Iraqi resistance, the rest of the world, even Henry Kissinger: everybody... Read More
"And to George W Bush, we say, 'You have asked us to bring it on, and so have we. Like never expected. Have you another challenge'?" - Message from the Sunni Iraqi resistance, January 12 History will salute it in kind: the US administration of George W Bush, parts 1 and 2, has introduced to... Read More
No matter what the spin from Time magazine's "man of the year", US President George W Bush, or defense chief Donald Rumsfeld, there's one overarching question facing the 83 entities - nine coalition lists, 47 political parties and 27 individuals, totaling more than 5,000 candidates - now competing for the 275 seats in Iraq's interim... Read More
The Iraqi elections won't happen on January 30 because the Bush administration wants them: they will happen because Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani wants them. The Shi'ite leader knows it's now or never for the Shi'ite majority in the country to take power. The majority of Sunnis - because of the Fallujah offensive - won't vote:... Read More
Iraqis are not fighting one another - at least not yet: they are fighting the occupying power, although with different strategies. After Fallujah, this situation is about to change. For the average Iraqi, Sunni or Shi'ite - and Americans underestimate Iraqi national pride at their peril - there's no question: the current Sunni resistance morally... Read More
"In Fallujah, [the Americans] have created a new vague target: [Abu Musab] al-Zarqawi. Almost a year has elapsed since they created this new pretext and whenever they destroy houses, mosques, restaurants, and kill children and women, they said: 'We have launched a successful operation against al-Zarqawi.' The people of Fallujah assure you that this person,... Read More
Nearly 100 Iraqis have been killed in less than 24 hours in two suicide bombings in Iskandariya and Baghdad. Most of them were poor and unemployed and were trying to find a job with the new, American-approved Iraqi police and army. They were Shi'ites in Iskandariya, and mostly Sunnis in Baghdad. But for the anti-occupation... Read More
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The Shaping Event of Our Modern World
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