I’ve mentioned this a few times before, but when I was in Iraq and had some downtime to talk with Iraqi soldiers that we were working with, I found that they almost as quickly asked me if I knew about the great Al-Sistani, spiritual leader of Shi’ites in Iraq, as they asked me if I was open to the ideas of Islam. Al-Sistani was their guide, their restraint, their hope.
Well, Al-Sistani just gave up. What he basically said was that he had lost the ear of his people in restraining them from resorting to violence against Sunnis and in protecting their neighborhoods. Instead of being ignored, he gave up his role of politically calming his people down and instead will only deal with religious matters.
Keep in mind that both he and Al-Sadr, the other main figure in Iraq, are not represented in the Iraqi government.
I’ve read conflicting reports about Al-Sadr, about how he failed in all his recent attempts to gain political power. At the same time, it seems like he’s getting some credibility at least in Baghdad because his Shi’ite followers are exacting revenge against Sunnis and filling a security role that the police and army have failed to provide.
While I doubt Al-Sistani will just give up on his people altogether and endorse violence, his lack of leadership in that area will lead to a stronger perception of lawlessness and anarchy. Vigilantism and gang-style neighborhoods will become more of the norm.
Personally I think anyone who believes that Iraq is on the way to becoming a safe, free state is plainly ignorant. The government is a sham and it only exists because we’re supporting it. It is not representative of the country. Security, no matter how good it gets, is only protecting something people do not believe in. I still believe our attempts to train forces there will come back and bite us in the ass in the next decade or two. It’s the proverbial vicious cycle of American foreign policy.
And have you seen these Kurdistan ads on CNBC, FOXNews, etc.? It’s blatant propaganda for encouraging investment in the “other Iraq”. You know, the civilized one. At least, I think that’s the message they’re trying to send…