Sunnis of Iraq “Apprehensive, Defiant”
A British reporter recently in Baghdad kindly sent me the following impressions:
“1. I didn’t get out of the city at all because of the security situation, and I concentrated mainly on talking to Sunnis. The ones I met were both apprehensive and defiant: apprehensive about “what the Americans are planning” — one cleric told me they want to hand Iraq over to the Shi’a, because an Israeli study has proved that it’s easier to persuade the Shi’a to do what the West wants. He also denied that the Shi’a are in a majority in Iraq. He told me the Sunnis suffered just as much under Saddam as everyone else (and I met a woman whose husband and brother had been summarily executed by Saddam’s people for allegedly over-charging in their candy store). Yet on the walls of the Islamic university in Adamiya there are freshly drawn pro-Saddam slogans …
2. The educated middle-class Sunnis (and indeed one highly articulate Shi’a doctor) I met were deeply apprehensive about this thing called democracy. They didn’t at all like the idea that one day a government might be chosen by ill-educated people who knew nothing of what might be at stake. “We are not ready for this” was the refrain — and I had the impression that these were people who had learned to cope, even to thrive, under Saddam, and who now fear that their privileged position is about to be washed away.
3. A former Iraqi army officer told me that he and a small group of colleagues had spent months discussing what they would do if the US attacked, and all agreed that they wanted Saddam to be overthrown. (No way of checking, of course, if this is true!) But he did say that the army was a genuinely non-sectarian institution, and was bewildered that it had been swept aside in the post-war Iraq. He said some former generals are now talking about going into politics, and perhaps presenting themselves if/when elections are held as representing the possibility of a non-sectarian Iraqi future.”