The Bush Blunder Is Now Back-lashing: The United States Not In A Comfortable Position
22 June 2014
By Saeed Qureshi
The mindless blunder of invading Iraq
in 2003 by the then American President G. W. Bush is
now boomeranging in the form of a renewed civil war
between Shias and Sunnis; the two irreconcilable
Islamic sects? Excepting Iran and Lebanon, in most of
the Islamic countries, Sunnis are a majority sect
while Shias are in minority.
Historically since the demise of the founder of Islam
prophet Muhammad, these two sects have been at
daggers-drawn decimating and killing each other
mercilessly. The destruction, sack and plunder by the
Mongol army under Hilaku Khan' command in 1258 was the
result of the conflict between a Sunni caliph Al-Mustaasim
and his Shia advisor and grand vizier, Ibn al-Alkami.
The entire city of Baghdad, an abode of learning,
research and advancement in all branches of knowledge
for seven centuries, was razed to the ground and burnt
in six weeks with massacre of 1.5 million inhabitants.
Historically, the Shia or the Sunni dynasties
alternating in power have been routing each other with
rare abandon since they deem each other infidels and
out of the pale of Islam or apostates. The Shia-Sunni
unbridgeable rivalry has spilled over to many other
Muslim countries most notably in Pakistan.
Pakistan is predominantly a Sunni state and Shias have
been on the receiving end from the Sunni fanatics by
way of target killings their abductions or group
massacres.In many instances Shias were caught,
beheaded or slain that can be watched in hideous video
clips on the YouTube. The Shia caravans of pilgrims
going from Pakistan to Iran or to the Arab lands are
waylaid and killed en-masse.
Such is the level of ideological rift between these
two sects whose most of the beliefs are common barring
the question of succession after the death of Prophet
Muhammad. Shias believe it was only Hazrat Ali the
cousin brother and son of law of the prophet to be the
legitimate successor because he was from his
bloodline. The Sunnis believe that the four successors
were the rightful caliphs as they were elected and
were pious and virtuous.
Saudi Arabia is the sacred center for the Sunnis
because of several holy places out of which are two
most venerated. One is the holy Ka'aba or the house of
God in whose direction the Muslims pray. The other is
the mosque of the prophet adjoined by the burial place
or tomb of Prophet Muhammad.
For Shias too these are sacred and venerated religious
places but in addition to those they go to Iran where
most of their Imams or the spiritual successors of
their religious creed are buried. They are all from
the progeny of Hazrat Ali and idolized as spiritual
guides because of being from the lineage of the
Baghdad and Syria have most of the sacred shrines of
the Shias. But the rulers here are mostly from the
Sunni sect. Any caliph or the head of the Islamic
state in these regions would invariably use extreme
coercive power to subdue either Sunnis or Shias
However, these are the Shias who have been mostly
suppressed. Like fanatic Sunnis they also believe that
embracing martyrdom was pre-destined for them a kind
of faith based obligation because most of their
spiritual and religious guides were also martyred by
The Bush blunder was that after overpowering Taliban
Militants in Afghanistan, president Bush and his war
mongering aides including his defense secretary Donald
Rumsfeld, Vice president Dick Cheney, deputy secretary
of defense Paul Wolfowitz and other Republican
neoconservative hawks wanted to replay the same gamble
in another Islamic country where an obdurate tyrant
Saddam Hussain was ruling that sectarianism infested
land for 24 years.
However, in their misplaced brimming propensity to
invade Iraq, they lost sight of the historical
sectarian divide that resurfaces from time to time in
that perennially strife torn country. The American
forces occupied Iraq, and later got hanged Saddam
through a Shia head of State. Thus a Shia regime has
been at the helm in Iraq for over a decade now. But
this regime was of the minority sect and not brought
about through a veritable democratic process. Maliki
has been more a surrogate of the United States than
the true and popular head of the government.
Now the "Arab spring" has also its fallout on Iraq.
Syria is like Iraq where another minority Alavi Shia
regime has been in power for decades. The rebellion
against Syrian Bashar al Assad was kept at bay by
Iran, Hezbollah and other Shia forces. But while Syria
was kept on the life support by her allies one of
which is Russia, the regime and country has turned
into a wasteland with hundreds of thousands people
killed in that horrendous civil war still raging.
While the western and particularly the American
support for both these factions has not been even
handed, in Saudi Arabia they supported a Sunni regime,
in Iraq they were behind a Shia minority dispensation.
By supporting Saudis they antagonized Iran and by
supporting Malki regime and half way Shia Syrian
regime they soured their relationship with Saud
This was an inherent contradiction in the American
policy in dealing with these two countries of Saudi
Arabia and Iran spearheading two colliding faiths.
Their mutual relations have always been dogged by
simmering and incessant religious feud and also
because of being Arab and non-Arab respectively. This
hostility goes back in the history ever since the
passing away of the prophet.
Presently the United States is not in a comfortable
position to intercede militarily in the fast
deteriorating inferno of civil war in the Middle East.
The U.S. policy in the Middle East seems to be held up
in a closed alley. Of late, America seems to be
softening her posture towards Iran for help in case of
Iraq or even Syria.
But the surge of the new Jihadist force ISIS (Islamic
State in Iraq and Levant), consisting of Sunnis, and
other Islamic militant groups, the coming days seems
to be extremely frightening. If ISIS assails Baghdad
their victory might come over the piles of the dead
bodies of Shia defenders. Same could be predictable in
case of Syria.
We have seen that the military interference and
occupation by America and western power of the
countries in Far East to stem communism has resulted
in physical and conceptual division of those
countries. Now Hanoi and Saigon are two centers with
communist and capitalist ideologies. North Korea and
South Korea too have, irreconcilably, drifted apart.
Same bleak and baleful situation could reshape the
There are visible signs that Iraq faces the
probability of being divided into three independent
regions. These could be one for Sunnis, one for Shias
and the third for Kurds. How the situation in Syria
would emerge can be anybody's guess.
Yet it could prove to be a blessing in disguise for a
durable peace in this volatile region. Confined to
their aspired independent geographical units, these
warring factions within Iraq and Syria may not remain
mutually annihilating and destructive as they have
been all along. May be with re-demarcation and
division along sectarian or ethnic lines, the peace
that has been elusive in these lands for ages descends
finally and permanently.
The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of
Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat writing mostly
on International Affairs with specific focus on
Pakistan and the United States. You can read this and
other articles of the writer at his blog