1. The mother of Iraq
"I don't for a moment doubt that the final authority must be in the hands of the Sunnis, in spite of their numerical inferiority," Bell once wrote in a letter to her father. "Otherwise you will have a mujtahid-run, theocratic state, which is the very devil."
- Gertrude Bell in 1920.
This to me this is amazing. Many scholars have suggested that the clerical class for the Shia was molded after the structural authority of the Catholic Church. Perhaps this is what Bell saw: a large institution that would likely try to take power, like the Vatican over the years.
Since Islam never had a secular enlightenment, it would have seemed plausible that Islamist theocrats would compete for power in 1920’s Shia Iraq. If this is really what Bell thought then this, of course, turned out to be profound insight. This is why she and the British handed Baghdad to the Sunnis, only 20% of the Iraqi population.
A secular and modern Iraq (according to Bell) was given to the Sunnis because they do not have the same institutional religious establishment as the Shia, and therefore, would be more likely to build a secular state.
2. Hats off to Iran
They continue to try and take leadership by promoting “Islamic issues” of unity (like anti-West and anti-Israel). Although this unity may not particularly be in the best interest of all Middle Easters, it seems that Iran is positioning itself to unite Sunni and Shia, Arab and Persian.
Lebanon has been the perfect example. Iran has shown that it can make order from chaos. In the 1980’s when Amal and Hezbollah kept the Shia of Lebanon in conflict, Iran, instead of blindly supporting its protégé, Hezbollah, worked with Amal to forge a tight relationship.
And today, Iran is using their skill to unite the Shia in Iraq. When Prime Minister Maliki went after the Sadderists in the 2007 Basra siege, it was Iran that brokered a deal that allowed Muqtata al-Sadr to escape with both face and the many lives of his Mahdi Army militia. This not only prevented the mass loss of life of Iraq Shia, but gave esteem to Iran as being a clear broker of Iraqi Shia politics.
Iran is good at this game; this is why the West should shift policy as not to stoke Iran’s power. Much of this means playing it smart vis-à-vis the Israel-Palestine calamity.
3. How do you say al-Nakba in Hebrew?
It will be hard for the Israeli Government to secure a definitive victory with the latest air strikes in Gaza. They haven't been able to stop these homemade Qassam rockets, and perhaps never will.
But apart from trying to stop the rockets, the second reason for this current clash is to boost the perceived lethal threat of Israeli force. To be frank, Israel’s performance in the 2006 Lebanon campaign was not anything like the convincing victory of 67'.
It’s hard to see how Israel will boost its deterrence against the non-conventional guerrilla forces of Gaza. And besides, how much left is there to destroy? Israel needs Hamas--whether it likes to admit it or not--otherwise we might as well rename Gaza City, Mogadishu. And that, is in nobody's interest.
I’m afraid the current Israeli aerial assault will not stop the rockets or give a clear and decisive victory in the Hamas controlled Gaza strip.
And for the Palestinians, what can you say? —al-Nakba.
May 2009 bring a greater respect for human life and peace, inshallah.