Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Daily Star - Opinion Articles - Najaf's growing influence is a key to Iranian moderation

The Daily Star - Opinion Articles - Najaf's growing influence is a key to Iranian moderation: "Najaf's growing influence is a key to Iranian moderation

By William O. Beeman

Tuesday, January 04, 2005
As the Iraqi election looms at the end of this month, the world is witnessing a growing epidemic of Shiite-phobia - fear of the Iraqi majority Shiite community and the role it might play in a future Iraqi state. These fears are overwrought.
The Sunni community is fearful because it realizes that it cannot have a significant role in a future Iraq if the Shiites dominate by voting in a bloc, as seems almost inevitable. The Kurds are afraid that a Shiite-dominated government will be unsympathetic to the continuation of their semi-autonomous entity in northern Iraq.
However, it is the Bush administration and its neoconservative members who are the most frightened of all. They have convinced themselves that a Shiite victory in the election will result in the unambiguous failure of their Iraqi adventure. This will supposedly come about because the victorious Shiites will ally themselves with Iran and start taking orders from Tehran. They will supposedly then establish a religious dictatorship, persecute the Sunnis, overrun the Kurds, and kick the American military out of their land.
All of these catastrophe scenarios are unwarranted - unless the attacks against the Shiites become so acute that they touch off a cycle of revenge, and an eventual civil war.
The Sunnis are mounting the most dramatic physical attacks on the Shiites. They started a year and a half ago on August 28, 2003, by assassinating the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Ayatollah Muhammad Baqer al-Hakim - significantly, in front of the shrine of Imam Ali, who was cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Mo"

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