Engelhardt and Hiro on Iraq’s Fault Lines
Tom Engelhardt is a national treasure and always worth reading. Whenever I think that Russell Jacoby might have been right about the passing of the “last intellectuals,” I think of Tom and conclude “not yet.” This week he introduces veteran journalist Dilip Hiro’s essay on the way that the recent Iraqi elections exacerbated ethnic fault lines.
‘ After all, one can wonder how much we really know about the nature of the carnage in Iraq given that the insurgents, according to Patrick Cockburn of the British Independent, now control to one degree or another all the major routes into or out of Baghdad, where most Western reporters are posted; kidnappings are again on the rise; and, as Roger Cohen of the New York Times wrote last Sunday, “Today, no Westerner with any vestige of sanity would contemplate making… trips [by vehicle out of Baghdad], even in the aftermath of an election that was a remarkable success.” Rory McCarthy, Baghdad correspondent for the British Guardian, draws the necessary conclusion (no less applicable to our media), “Too often we have sat and listened to officials tell us what is happening in an Iraq that they themselves are barely able to visit.” ‘
Then Dilip Hiro weighs in:
‘ Overall, the poll has exposed and sharpened the sectarian and ethnic fault lines in Iraqi society. At the same time, bolstered by a popular mandate, the new government seems set on a collision course with the American occupiers regarding the presence of foreign troops in Iraq. Each of the three major communities has come to nurture a different scenario for the post-Saddam era. Shorn of their long-held power and yet not reconciled to powerlessness, Sunni leaders are still in disarray, focusing merely on expelling the Americans from their country. For minority Kurds, ethnically and linguistically set apart from Arabs, post-Saddam Iraq holds the promise of a sovereign state of Kurdistan with the oil-rich city of Kirkuk as its capital. ‘
The whole piece should be contemplated by anyone concerned with the Middle East.