Saturday, April 30, 2016

Shiite protesters storm green zone and parliament in Iraq.

Protesters inside the Iraqi parliament building. Reuters. 

Hundreds of Shiite Muslim protesters have stormed the Green Zone in Iraq and entered and ransacked the Parliament building there. Reuters. Protesters had gathered near the heavily defended area that houses many of Iraq's military and political leadership. The protesters are followers of notorious Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. They are upset at Iraqi Prime Minster Haider al-Abadi wants to replace political appointees with technocrats due to widespread corruption. These ministers have in the past been appointed along sectarian lines. Hundreds of protesters entered Parliment and even more gathered on the walls of the Green Zone and outside. 

My Comment:
Want to make an enemy? Try and change something. That's what Prime Minster Abadi did. He wanted to do something about the massive corruption that is plaguing Iraq. To do so he would have had to fire political appointees and replace them with people that are actually capable of doing the job without engaging in truly heroic amounts of graft.  

It's a strategy that makes sense. Corruption is huge problem in Iraq and it has been ever since Saddam Hussein was overthrown, and even before then. Not only does corruption have a major impact on the level of trust the people have in their government, it also has a major effect on the battlefield. One of the reasons many Sunni Iraqis actually kind of like ISIS is because they don't trust the Shiite led government to not take them to the cleaners. Of course ISIS is doing the same thing, but from the Iraqi's point of view at least it is going to other Sunni Muslims. This sympathy for ISIS partially explains the groups success in the country and why there hasn't been as much resistance against them as you would expect. 

Corruption also hurts the troops fighting against ISIS or other insurgents. Weapons, equipment and supplies often end up being diverted from the front lines. Those weapons are often sold on the black market and may even end up in the hands of the enemy the Iraqi soldiers are fighting. It must be an incredibly demoralizing thing to face weapons and equipment that was earmarked for you. Even soldier's pay is effected by corruption. There would be more money to give to front line troops if there weren't so many "ghost" soldiers on the payroll. These soldiers are dead, wounded or lazy and are not involved with the fighting but they are still getting paid. Well, they aren't but someone is, and that leaves less for everyone else who is actually fighting. 

Since corruption is such a huge problem, Abadi decided to take action. And by doing so he angered one of the most powerful men in Iraq. Moqtada al-Sadr. You may remember Sadr from the bad old days of the Iraq War where he lead a Shiite rebellion that fought against US troops as well as Sunni groups. The man is not a good person and he is responsible for the deaths of many Americans. He's out de-facto ally now, since he is fighting ISIS, but there is a lot of bad things that he did that he should be brought to justice. 

Since Sadr is a respected and powerful cleric, he was able to arrange this protest. Why? I am sure he is upset that some of the minsters that are slated to be replaced are his hand picked men. Sadr is a powerful man and he does not want to lose one bit of that power. It's really that simple.

Why do his supporters go along with it, besides the fact that he's powerful and respected? Well, for one thing, they don't want to share power with the Sunnis. Though it isn't guaranteed that the new minsters will be Sunni Muslims, whoever is going to be picked is at risk of putting their country first and not their coreligionists. Plus there is the fact that there is a major civil war between Sunni led ISIS and the Shiite led militias, with the Iraqi Army made up of members of both groups is caught in the middle.  

I am starting to think that Iraq isn't going to be salvageable. The differences between the Sunnis and the Shiites are too strong. Far too much blood has been spilled between both parties for them to ever truly reconcile. Especially with foreign powers interfering. Remember, Sadr is also a Iranian pawn and he reflects their interest in Iraq as well. The Saudis and the other Gulf States are trying to do the same thing with the Sunnis further complicating the situation

In the end it might just be better to split the country in three pieces. First the Kurds can have the north. This would anger Turkey, which isn't a problem with me, but could make a deal harder to come by. Second, the Shiites can have the eastern half of the country, and the capital of Baghdad. Finally, once ISIS is kicked out of Iraq, the Sunnis can have what is left of the country in the West, with Mosul as a possible capital. These could be three separate countries or perhaps one in a very loose federal system. How likely is this? I think Iraq is heading that way anyways since the Kurds are basically independent now, so in the end it may be the best solution. Who knows what the future holds though? 

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