Wednesday, August 18, 2004
What to do with the Shias?

It may be August, but there is news from Iraq - the Shias have kicked off again.

Thanks to Iraqi government (and American) blundering in Najaf the growing Shia following around Muqtada al-Sadr is up in arms. Their new ally Ahmad Challabi also seems to be lining up Iranian support which effectively means that Al-Sadr is bypassing the Shiite leader Al-Sistani (who is conveniently out of the way) and essentially in pole position to lead the Iraqi Shias.

Unfortunately almost all the British zone of Iraq is Shiite. The Shiites have kept more or less quiet because they think that they will the logical destination of the allied occupation is that their numbers will ensure that they control Iraq, get their hands on the oil wealth and knock ten bells out of the Sunni Muslims. Now this may not be how the Allies see it - but we have to recognise this is how the Shia see it.

This means that if the Shia think they will not get control of Iraq then they will rise (look at the trouble that the smaller Sunni Arab population is causing). If they rise then it will be hard to put down without either lots more troops or uncivilised methods. Will the British public stand for either?

The government should either prepare us for the ironic situation that we will leave Iraq to an Iranian-allied Shia theocracy or that we must have a second Iraq war. At the moment they are pretending that neither is likely to happen.


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