The “Arab Spring” revolutions combined two sides: seeking freedom and toppling the authoritarian regime on one side, and the liberation of civil, sectarian, religious and ethnic contradictions from the grip of that same regime on another side. It seemed, and still seems, that the second side is the outrageous cost that the first one will have to endure.
In this context, we may say that Iraq instigated the “Arab Spring”: back then, it toppled the dictatorship and freedom was attained in 2003, when it overthrew Saddam. In 2006, the sectarian conflict broke out in Iraq without reaching the level of a civil war.
U.S. and Iraq
Discussing the U.S. role in changing Iraq will contribute in nothing but a demagogy: the change from the inside will not modify anything in the sectarian conflict, and the change without any external interference in other Arab countries, will not prevent the explosion of that sectarian conflict. We can probably say that the former U.S. role in Iraq has worked on slowing down and alleviating the mentioned conflicts; this was the biggest reason behind being cautious and afraid from the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.
Where would the current Iraqi explosion that is renewed at a high pace, be classified in comparison with the “Arab Spring” convergence between the freedom of the “people” and their liberation from their internal conflict?
In 2003, the Iraqi change displaced the Sunni figures in power and handed it to Shiite persons. This process has been accomplished through the completion of the U.S. withdrawal, which was accompanied by the expansion of the Iranian influence in Iraq. Thus, Iraq was considered as a late reward for the “Shiite Revolution” which was launched with the rule of Hafez al-Assad and topped by the Iranian revolution in 1979; since 1982, it has had “Hezbollah” as one of its most prominent regional outcomes.
However, the delay of the award for more than 30 years has made it coincide with the “Sunni uprising”. Given the great similarity between Syria and Iraq, it was normal for the outbreak of the Syrian revolution to leave a clear impact on the Sunnis of Iraq, lifting their moods and encouraging them to face the unacceptable “rule of Shiites”.
Today’s Iraqi conflict seems to be explicit, clear, and crude; it has a modern ideological cover that has fewer problems than any other conflict in the “Arab Spring” countries: they call a spade a spade here. Such clarity, though through much less bloodshed, draws the Arab-Kurdish conflict, where the “tomorrow there will be co-existence” is a lie that is infrequent, even for the most mystified among both sides’ ideologies.
However, the synchronization between the submission of the Shiite revolution reward and the Sunni Revolution throughout the region, has made Iraq a very sensitive and very dangerous region; it is difficult for one place to embrace two opposing loud parties at one time. If the blast that took off from Anbar expanded, it would have surely cost many lives and other things too. It is worth recalling that the Sunni-Shiite conflict in Mesopotamia, is close to the Iraqi Kurdistan in the north, near the growing Syrian upheaval, and not far from the fertile and conflicting preparations of Iran, Turkey and the Gulf at one time.
The worst is that the Iraqi political Shiites are trying today to sacrifice themselves for a non-Iraqi project, although it is based on a confessional partnership confessional with the Iraqi Shiites; Moreover, the Iraqi political Sunnis, who are obsessed with the restoration of the past, may introduce to the “Arab Spring” a huge deal of reactionary and bygone ideas.
*This article was published in Dar al Hayat newspaper on Jan. 19, 2013.
Lebanese journalist Hazem Saghieh is a senior columnist and editor at al-Hayat daily. He grew up in Lebanon during the golden age of pan-Arabism. Saghieh’s vision of a united Arab world was shattered when the Israelis emerged victorious from the 1967 war. Twitter: @HazemSaghieh