Friday, February 18, 2005

The Ashoura Attacks Part 2

But aside from being the time of Ashoura, recent days in Iraq were filled with negotiation to form a government after the elections held on January 30. Although the Sunni party finished the election with only 5 seats it held the trump card of intransigence. The desirability of creating an 'inclusive' Iraq led Prime Minister Iyad Allawie to suggest that the Sunnis be mollified in part through concessions. This is a code word for spoils in exchange for desisting from violence.

Allawi told The Associated Press that the alliance must change its platform of purging Sunnis who were members of Saddam's Baath Party from government positions if it wants national unity. ''The alliance talks about de-Baathification. I hope if they get control and they're chosen to be the ones running the country, I sincerely hope that they revisit these issues in their program and re-discuss it with a view of having reconciliation and national unity,'' Allawi said. ''We cannot afford in this country, for now, to go on a route different to that of national unity,'' said Allawi, who spoke English in the interview. Otherwise, ''it will throw the country into problems, severe problems.'' The key challenge for the new government will be ending the insurgency that kills dozens of people every week. Most Iraqis say only negotiations will end the attacks.

What Allawi fears is that the currently elected politicians take their mandate at face value. The recent assassination of Lebanese politician Rafiq Hariri -- which interestingly enough may involve 12 Australians -- and the attack on Shiite worshipers during their holy days are reminders of the alternative Ba'athist method of bombing one's way into power. Even though the Ba'athists have no chance whatsoever of prevailing against the US militarily, they could plausibly hope to convince the Shi'ites and Kurds that attacks on them will not stop until Americans are evicted from Iraq; after which of course there will be even less to stop the Ba'athists from redoubling their onslaughts on these formerly subjugated peoples. Yet this tactic of intimidation has worked time and again: on Madrid; on Clinton and Carter by Kim Jong Il; on Manila by the Abu Sayyaf, so there is no reason to suppose it will not be tried again. John Lucaks book Five Days in London, May 1940 describes how Hitler came within an ace of intimidating Britain into submission without landing a single soldier on its shores. What he had not counted on was Winston Churchill -- his sheer obstinacy and singular inability to accept peace with a tyrant in preference to extinction in defiance. "Even as a quarter of a million British troops were being evacuated from Dunkirk, Churchill struggled to reverse the British government's policy of appeasement. In this, he faced opposition from several quarters, including prominent figures within his own Conservative Party." Samizdata argues that Britain was defeated  in the summer of 1940 and that Churchill, to his everlasting credit, tricked it into believing otherwise by holding up a mesmeric vision of itself. He snatched victory from defeat; let us hope that our generation will not find a way to do the reverse.