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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Machiaveilli was right

War splits Iraqi emigres
Some in Southland favor a phased pullout while others urge a lot more U.S. troops.
By Teresa Watanabe, Times Staff Writer
November 19, 2006

The worsening conflict in Iraq is far more than a distant news story to Imam Moustafa Al-Qazwini, a Rowland Heights religious leader, and Muhannad Eshaiker, an Irvine construction executive.

Al-Qazwini's father, an ayatollah in the holy city of Karbala, was shot in June in a botched assassination attempt. Eshaiker said his business partner was kidnapped in Baghdad and forced to pay a $50,000 ransom for his release; both men have left the country amid the uncontrolled violence.

"It is total anarchy," said Al-Qazwini, who heads the Islamic Educational Center of Orange County. "We need a miracle to solve the problems."

As U.S. officials intensify debate on whether to change course on Iraq, the two men and other Iraqi Americans — who number about 50,000 in Southern California — paint a portrait of mounting chaos, fear and hardship facing their families back home.

But, reflecting the nation's own disparate views, those interviewed were strongly divided on the best way forward for their native land.

Some favored a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops, saying insurgents are using their presence to rally their forces and justify their violence. Others call for a massive increase in troops to crush the insurgency and patrol the borders with Iran and Syria to keep out other troublemakers.

Many believe federalism can work in Iraq, keeping the country united with a degree of autonomy for the various regions controlled respectively by Kurds, Shiite Muslims and Sunnis.

But Tahsin Atrushi, president of the Kurdish Community Center in San Diego, said partitioning Iraq would be best because of what he sees as unbridgeable divides among the three groups. "I don't think these wounds can be healed," he said.

One point of agreement among all those interviewed: With the exception of the Kurdish north, Iraq is sliding into almost uncontrollable chaos and desperately needs a new approach.

"The American occupation has been more of a burden," he said. "Talk of a pullout will give Iraqis some hope."

Al-Qazwini also said many Shiite Muslims such as him — who constitute Iraq's majority — think Sunni Muslims have too much influence on U.S. policy and on leaders in Jordan and Saudi Arabia and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad.

Eshaiker said he was shocked by the isolation he found on his return to Iraq in 2003 for the first time in 25 years after the U.S.-led "liberation," as he calls it.

Eshaiker says U.S. troops should pull out of the cities, heavily reduce their visibility and sufficiently arm Iraqi forces to manage their own defense.

But Hasan Alkhatib, a Silicon Valley software entrepreneur, said a U.S. pullback would be a "disaster of untold proportions." In a country where hand grenades sell at roadside stands for $7 each and AK-47 assault rifles are easily available, "the insurgents will be empowered by our withdrawal," he said.

Alkhatib said U.S. forces need to smash the insurgents with a doubling of troops, martial law and the installation of a strong but fair leader.

"Today Iraq has reached a point where the chaos is almost uncontrollable," said Alkhatib, who came to the United States for graduate school in 1976. "Somebody has to take charge. We can't afford to waffle."

Atrushi, the Kurdish community leader, also advocated a harder line against the insurgents. U.S. troops are too "soft" and should let Iraqi security forces handle terrorists with torture if needed, he said.

"They butcher people and cut their heads off. They kill fathers and mothers in front of their children," he said. "Whatever you do to them, they deserve it."

I wonder how many of their kids are serving in Iraq?

But Machiavelli was right about exiles, they will tell you what you want to hear.

What these people are calling for, basically, is a Shia progrom of the Sunnis, well the Kurd wants his own country, but Americans have to listen hard and think. If you let the Shia do what they want, it would be like unleashing the Serbian Army in Bosnia. Wholesale massacres will follow any Shia attempt to end the insurgency.

Which is why I find talk of splitting Iraq comical. Because the Shia will destroy the Sunnis and then turn on the Kurds. They aren't sharing oil or Kirkuk or anything else.

posted by Steve @ 8:23:00 AM

8:23:00 AM

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