Zero Days

It took exactly zero days following the U.S. pullout for Iraq to begin the descent into sectarian political conflict. Nouri al Malaki wasted no time in putting pressure on Sunni cabinet officers by way of arrest warrants and tanks stationed at the gates to their homes. Reports hold that ammunition re-supply trucks are lined up outside the Green Zone, dark portents at best.

It took exactly zero days for the al Malaki government to give voice to the worst of the predictions surrounding a precipitous U.S. pull out of Iraq. It will only get worse from here. Al Malaki was apparently waiting for the balancing effect of the U.S. presence to disappear. His agenda is now clear.

It took two days for 14 bombs to explode in Baghdad killing dozens. As the U.S. is gone, it is safe to assume those explosions were sectarian. Can Shiite Marshall Law be far away?

Perhaps it can be argued that Iraq would go the way of sectarian conflict sooner or later; considering the likelihood of Islamist control of the ‘Arab Spring’ in North Africa, violence in Syria, a recalcitrant Turkey, and Iran approaching the nuclear red line. Later would clearly have been better than sooner.

The administration has, consistently, demonstrated a view of Middle Eastern Islam that can only be described as willful blindness. That blindness will inexorably result in the Shiite majority moving to remove the Sunni minority from political power in Iraq; by way of violence if necessary. Iraq will move into the Iranian sphere of influence and Shiite control of energy resources will escalate. Saudi Arabia will view al Malaki’s moves with alarm, as will Egypt.

Middle Eastern politics is first and foremost about religion. It is the dominating force in all areas of life, social, educational, legal and political. There is no separation of church and state, the ‘church’ is, in essence, the state. Politics exist in the context of religious belief. Adding to the potential for chaos is the fact that there is no central religious authority in Islam. The deadly insurgency in Iraq was as much about Sunni and Shiite as it was about the U.S. presence. One need only revisit the writings of the late al Qaeda in Iraq’s leader Zarqawi for proof of the premise.

It is not difficult to visualize Iraq, absent the normalizing U.S. presence, quickly descending into sectarian violence and political chaos. The rest of the Middle East will do little to stop it beyond carefully constructed rhetoric. Neither we nor others will be in a position to impact events.

Our noble warriors home for the holidays is deserved beyond measure. However, what they accomplished did could disappear quickly.