Al Sadr: A European in Baghdad

Article published on June 28, 2004
community published
Article published on June 28, 2004

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

What are the connections between terrorism in Iraq and Iran, and the European ‘clients’ of the latter?

Despite the successful military operation carried out by the multinational coalition just one year ago, peace and pacification in the region still haven’t been achieved.

Washington’s mistakes

Danielle Pletka from the American Enterprise Institute has pointed out the biggest mistakes made on Iraq’s difficult path to democratization. The first one? The so-called ‘Interim government’ which came into effect today is led by a person like Iyad Allawi, a former exile with close links to the US who receives little support from the Iraqis. What was preventing the handover from taking place on 10th April 2003? Did the coalition need an entire year to find the miraculous Council of fifteen women and men which has minimum representation of Iraqis?

The second error concerns the credibility of the coalition’s policy in the eyes of Iraqis. The coalition cannot announce the dismantling of Saddam’s regime and condemn Muqtada al Sadr for homicide, in order to send the ex-generals (who are the smaller versions of Saddam) to handle wild criminals. They cannot neglect the Kurds – the best allies of the West and the worst enemies of Saddam, before, after and during the conflict. All these put the federal nature of the new state of Iraq into question.

The third error is about the nature of the general strategy. All too often the ample American administrative sectors, in particular the State Department, have underestimated the ‘Iranian Hand’ – as it is called by Michael Ledeen in a column of the Wall Street Journal. By now it is clear that the war in Iraq is actually a regional war in which the members in the region, from Syria to Iran, are attempting to play their own games as the internal debate within the Iraqi Governing Council, reported on April 6th in the London-based paper Al-Hayat, demonstrates. Recently, the dreadful Muqtada al Sadr met Hashemi Rafsanjani in Iran and other officials of the ‘Islamic revolution’. He is also directly financed by Ayatollah al-Haeri, one of the most important allies of the revolution’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.

The Credibility of Europe has been ruined

Thank goodness all these mistakes, despite their gravity, can be worked out and can bring a successful conclusion to regime change in Iraq. Thank goodness George Bush and his administration still have faith in Iraq, together with other politicians of the Democratic Party led by senators Joe Lieberman, Evan Bayh and Joe Biden who are fighting against the isolationist fringe of the Republican right. Unfortunately, the solutions favoured by European leaders seem to be out of sense rather than out of pretext, as Robert Kagan claims.

The irony of the pretext is that the return of Zaparato’s last troops from Spain to Iraq had to take place unanimously at least 20 days before the approval of resolution 1546 on the transition in Iraq. The Spanish PM’s decision was announced in advance with haste and fury, before the official announcement of the election results, without any public or institutional debate – it would please the pacifists who all too often crowd parliaments in Europe, but it did not increase Spain’s weight in Europe, nor did it solve any of the problems that are causing the Iraqis to suffer.

An NGO called the European Union

Simultaneously, the European Commission published a document concerning relations between the EU and the New Iraq. It claimed that during Saddam’s regime, ‘official’ relations did not exist between the EU and Iraq, only significant ‘commercial exchanges’. Such incredible verbal diplomacy has hidden years of connivance with the most bloodthirsty and the most ‘Jacobean’ of dictators in the Middle East. In any case, beyond the objectives that are as much banal as foreseen – Europe’s interests in a secure, stable, democratic and prosperous Iraq – the actions which the EU intend to follow immediately do not concern anything more than support for the upcoming elections, dialogue with the new Iraqi governor, and the opening of an office in Baghdad. A series of activities has brought the EU’s foreign policy closer to the normal administration of a large and disorganised NGO rather than an entity of minimum vitality and political efficiency.

After the agreement signed at UN’s headquarters over the transition of power to the Interim Government in Baghdad, the EU cannot be satisfied with its marginal role. It is necessary to construct a genuine ‘civil society’ in Iraq if there are going to be elections in January next year. This can be done by setting up real political parties and associations and educating the Iraqis about the rules of the democratic game. The current political divisions in Iraq are derived from the previous regime of Saddam. Moreover, about ten of the radical divisions have now become the tools of the ‘hands’ of Iran and Wahabi to destabilise a feasible, fragile and yet dangerous democracy at ‘zero cost’.

More European intervention in the Middle East is needed

In order to eliminate the risk of Iran’s radical influences over the new Iraq, the EU must understand that the war in Iraq can be won and can be concluded in Teheran. Every hand given to the so-called reformists in Iran from Europe has been an act of sabotage of the moderate elites in Iraq who are anti-Saddam and anti-Al-Sadr. Each hand given to the conservatives in terms of nuclear energy is a commitment to future stability in the region. Every hand from Europe that has signed the Trade and Co-operation Agreement with Iran has strengthened the power of those who have led terrorist actions against peace keepers from America and Europe in Falluja, Nassirija, Najaf and Baghdad. Every step towards a rapid regime change in Teheran will shorten the difficult path towards democracy in Iraq. And today a regime change in Iran is at hand. There is no need to employ military forces as Europe is not ready to provide any, just as other countries. In Iran there is a critical majority of pro-democracy citizens who need a Europe which co-operates with the oppressors. This help could be two or three TV channels broadcasting in Farsi without being censored by the regime. It could be this invisible hand from Europe which until now has been indeed too invisible.