Iraqi Shi`ites and Hizbullah
There seems to me to be a contradiction between the stated plans of the hawks in the Bush administration to establish a post-Saddam democracy in Iraq on the one hand, and other goals of the administration on the other. For instance, President Bush put Iran in the “axis of evil” and attacked the clerical hardliners there; and the Bush administration has also denounced Lebanon’s Hizbullah as a terrorist organization.
If you had one person, one vote, the likelihood is that once the Shi`ite community of Iraq became politically mobilized, it could always dominate an elected parliament if it liked. And, if you had a Shi`ite prime minister and a Shi`ite majority party, you would almost certainly have Shi`ite policies.
Among the organizations the U.S. hawks are courting in preparation for a strike on Iraq is the Iran-based Supreme Council for Islamic Resistance in Iraq. The son of its leader told Asharq al-Awsat a couple of weeks ago that SCIRI had been assured by Donald Rumsfeld that a post-Saddam Iraq would be a democracy (i.e. would be Shi`ite-dominated). SCIRI is a hardline Shi`ite chauvinist organization that wants to impose a good deal of Shi`ite law and practice on Iraq as a whole. I can’t imagine how there would not be extreme resistance to this move among the Sunni Kurds and the wealthy and powerful Sunni Arabs.
It seems a little unlikely to me that a Shi`ite-dominated democratic Iraq, especially if SCIRI were powerful in the government, would neglect to support the Lebanese Hizbullah. It would also likely have good relations with the Iranian leg of the ‘axis of evil,’ including the hardline clerics (the Hakims, who head up SCIRI, are not obviously different from Ali Khamenei in Iran).
The hope of some of Washington’s hawks that a Hashemite monarch might be imposed on Iraq and keep it conservative is illogical on many grounds. First, Shi`ites have mostly bought Khomeini’s argument that their religion is incompatible with monarchy. (Shi`ites were not particularly welcoming of the Hashemites in 1920, we should remember, and would be far more hostile today). Second, if Iraq is really going to be a democracy, the Iraqi parliament could not be stopped from voting money for Hizbullah by a constitutional monarch. Third, a monarchy powerful enough to over-ride the popular will would undermine democracy (as happens in all Middle Eastern monarchies), and make a mockery of one of the grounds for the US invasion.
Things are heating up on the Lebanese front, with continued Hizbullah shelling of the occupied Shibaa Farms region, and threats of reprisals against Syria from Lebanon’s southern neighbor.
I just don’t see how you get a genuinely democratic Iraq that does not increase Shi`ite power in the Levant and serve to bolster Hizbullah and Iran. On the other hand, if the Washington hawks secretly hope to prevent such an outcome, it could only be through non-democratic mechanisms, such as giving Iraq a powerful and interventionist monarch (i.e. another dictator) who was pliant toward Western interests.