Read this article at TPM for context. I agree on the conclusion, but probably not the process.
Most Muslims hate AQ. They stand in opposition to the way most of live. In fact, their very raison d’être is to stand in opposition to the way most Muslims live. As I ask constantly, what is AQ’s positive agenda other than to live the way their master OBL wants them to? I need to do a longer post on why they’ve had such success.
In any event, I’m not convinced a grand coalition between Shi’ah and Sunni will now arise to fight AQ in the absence of the US. I think that this would have happened had we not overstayed our “welcome.” Bush policy has been to buy into the master narrative, most forcefully propagated by the Saudis and to a certain extent by the Iranians, that Sunnis and Shi’ah’s have a long history of division that makes them forever divided. Essentially we magnified real theological differences, which generally don’t divide Muslims in their quotidian interactions, into insurmountable political differences. We marginalized Sistani for fear of creating another Khomeini, empowered Sadr, insulted every Sunni we could find, and demonized the secularists. Because of the lack of the expertise in this administration, we followed the plot drafted by our “enemy” Iran and our “friend” Saudia Arabia. We’ve been following this plot for so long that it is now the story in Iraq, so while AQ is hated, I’m not sure bridges will be rebuilt to fight AQ in a systematic matter. AQ is now a fourth power, with Kurds, Shi’ah Arabs, and Sunni Arabs, battling for the ability to define Iraq. The major difference is that there is no possible political solution with AQ.
[update]: Josh Marshall of TPM was kind enough to point out that I was being sloppy in my terminology. When I mention AQ in this context, I mean AQ in Mesopotamia. This group has borrowed some rough trapping from AQ – being opposed to Muslims and how they live and being opposed the US and being opposed to modernity unless it can kill people – but who otherwise have no connection to OBL’s AQ. This group is composed primarily of anti-colonialists (but not nationalist) fighters and “foreign elements” mostly from our “friends” Saudi Arabia. Since so many, up to half of the foreign fighters are from SA, they can easily push the divide between Sunni and Shi’ah, giving themselves additional breathing room.
related: What is Shi’ism?
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