Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Battle for Iraq and the Myth of Sectarian Divide

Ulson Gunnar 
April 8, 2014 

A battle rages across Iraq, forcing the government and the Iraqi people to make decisions, alliances, and policies that will have a long-lasting effect on the fate of the nation for many years to come. Articles by the BBC, including “Revisiting Baghdad: How bad are the sectarian tensions?” reveal that while broad strokes frequently paint a picture of a sectarian divide, the violence is in fact driven by a small minority of hardline extremists hailing from Al Qaeda’s various Iraqi franchises.

Iraq’s sectarian narrative has been so deeply engraved in the psyche of global audiences, few can scarcely remember the days when Sunnis and Shia’a stood shoulder to shoulder in the opening days of US occupation. In fact, it was because of the initial solidarity exhibited across Iraq’s diverse cultural and religious tapestry that necessitated the sectarian narrative in the first place.

Imperialism 101: Divide and Conquer 

Prominent Shia’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr had in 2006 proposed a united front, including both Shia’a and Sunnis, as well as members of Iraq’s smaller minority groups, in an attempt to speed up the withdrawal of US troops and diminish foreign influence over Iraq. It is clear that the “sectarian” strife sowed across Iraq and the US’ proposed “surge” to solve it was another case of “problem, reaction, solution” where as the US intentionally created a problem only they could solve. Thus the US and its coalition of collaborators, were able to continuously renew their lease on occupation while keeping the indigenous government weak and needy.

Such a narrative can also be seen utilized in neighboring Syria where in fact many of the extremists visiting havoc upon Iraqi territory have also spent time fighting and terrorizing the Syrian population. The goal of creating a “sectarian divide” is to explain the violence in terms global audiences can understand and accept, without needing a further in-depth explanation.