Iraq: We Have Met The Enemy, and they are us

Iraq: We Have Met The Enemy, and they are us, by James Dunnigan.

The Iraqi Sunni Arab minority had run Iraq for centuries and considered that domination as their right. Iranians have always seen Arabs as inferior and the Kurds as ungovernable.

These are ancient attitudes are not easily changed. Iraqis or Iranians who have migrated to a place like the United States find that it takes several generations to completely dilute enough of the religious and ethnic animosities that make the Middle East so toxic and hard to govern.

After centuries of Moslem cultural isolation, it came as a shock, in the mid-20 century, as Western films and TV became widely available in the Middle East. Suddenly there was exposure to a different way of doing things that did not depend on religion but did demand much less corruption and a lot more tolerance to other ethnic and religious groups. Watching these two systems for several generations has made it clear who has a better life. Even the popular Middle Eastern custom of blaming local problems on foreign influence is losing support. As the Western saying goes, “we have met the enemy and they are us.”

Cultural attitudes are slow to change because conservatives see such change as a disaster, not an opportunity. That is what has kept Islamic terrorism in support of Islamic fundamentalism alive for over a thousand years. Dealing with that beast is dangerous and frustrating as this is a stubborn belief that has a lot of support within the core teachings of Islam. Most Moslems now agree that some change is needed but that is not enough to solve the problem. It takes time and during that process, the violent religious conservatives will be doing what they have always done; kill and terrorize Moslems who disagree with them.

In Iraq and throughout the region reducing corruption is seen as an important goal as is suppressing Islamic extremism. There are more corruption and Islamic extremism at play in Iran and is why Iran is a major threat to Iraq. The collapse of the Iranian religious dictatorship is seen as a major goal in Iran and the rest of the world.

Dictatorships are difficult to remove from power because such governments threaten major destruction and loss of life for the entire nation if there is an uprising. The alternative is to wait, often for decades, for the corruption and mismanagement to anger even government loyalists. That’s how the Iranian monarchy lost power in the 1970s and the communist states of Europe in the 1980s. Waiting for the internal collapse can be painful to watch and even more painful to live within. That’s how these things work out and there is no known way to predict when the major changes will occur. In the meantime, the best you can do is deal with the expensive symptoms and side effects. Which is what most Iraqis and their Western allies are enduring. …

Iran is now openly at war with these Westerners, correctly seeing them as a major factor in supporting counter-corruption activities and upgrading the Iraqi security forces. Iraqi leaders protest that confronting Iranian forces inside Iraq is dangerous and Westerners point out that this comes with the job. You cannot just sit in the presidential palace of parliament and get rich via corrupt deals. …

Iran is hard hit by covid19, in part because the government dismissed the virus as a threat. Now the Iranians are claiming, along with China and Russia, that virus is actually a biological attack by the Americans. Such government sponsored conspiracy theories no longer gain a lot of popular support. …

While covid19 is not a major problem (compared to Iran) inside Iraq, the virus is just getting started. So far there have been several hundred confirmed cases but less than three percent are fatal and those victims tend to be elderly or someone already very weak from illness. The covid19 threat has not eliminated the anti-corruption protests but the crowds are smaller and dressed to resist spreading or catching the virus.