Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Lebanese Army is Untouchable- Unless it is February 1984

Amin Gemayel, President of Lebanon, 1982-1988

The Lebanese Army is the national army of all Lebanese. Currently the army seems to be engaged in conflict with one segment of the population. In a country like Lebanon, with 18 confessional groups, using the army to confront groups that belong to one confessional group is fraught with dangers- especially when that group’s perceived adversaries enthusiastically support the use of force. The modern history of Lebanon shows that different groups have at times questioned the army’s actions. Prime Minister Saeb Salam one time demanded the resignation of the army commander and when it did not happen, he himself resigned.

 Below is a refresher course on the army, the use of force and confessional implications and consequences- an excerpt from Rosemary Sayigh’s Too many Enemies: The Palestinian Experience in Lebanon (1994):

The February 1984 uprising
All through the autumn and winter the Lebanese Army continued intermittently to shell the southern suburbs from positions both east and west of the ‘Green Line”. Displaced Shi’ites piled into beach huts along the sea and shacks around Shateela and the Sports City. More than once Amal leader Nabih Berri gave warning of his power to shake the regime if the army persisted in destroying Shi’ite-inhabited areas. Feelings came to a head when General Tannous insisted on moving into positions vacated by a French unit of the multinational Forces in Shiyah, right on the edge of the southern suburbs. This was a ‘red line’ for Berri. On 4 February he called on all Muslims in the Lebanese Army to lay down arms. Since at least 60 percent of ordinary soldiers, as well as many officers, were Shi’ite his call had a devastating effect. The army in West Beirut melted, leaving only hard-core Maronites to fight their way out in two days of the worst shelling the city had seen since 1982. As a result, Beirut was divided along sectarian line into Maronite, Shi’ite and Druze battalions. The uprising of 6 February effectively ended President Gemayel’s hopes of extending his authority beyond the ‘Maronite enclave’.

p. 138

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Lebanese Sunni Community: Bombed into Communal Consciousness

Much of the literature on Lebanon has focused on the Christian and Shiite communities. There is not much written on the Sunni community.  Today much of the attention to the Sunni Lebanese community is within the context of the “threat” of the so-called Sunni Muslim fundamentalism. One of the few books to focus on the Sunni Lebanese, albeit the Beiruti Sunni Lebanese is Michael Johnson’s Class and Client in Beirut (1986). Johnson’s is a thorough study of the Beiruti Sunnis, their zaims and the clientelist system of a bygone era. Johnson had access to the Sunni zaims, in his book thanking the father of the current Prime Minister Tamam Salam, Saeb Salam.

An interesting observation/conclusion that Johnson makes as to the Lebanese Sunnis is the following excerpt:
 “The Sunnis, by contrast, had not developed a communal consciousness comparable to that of the other major confessions. They had always tended to look to Arab nationalism for their political inspiration; and though this was still an essentially confessional orientation, the Arab community with which they identified was much larger, and therefore more nebulous, than the concentrated and parochial communities of the Maronites and Druze. Even the Shi’ites, who were fragmented spatially (the northern Bekaa, South Lebanon and Beirut) and also divided over their degree of commitment to the Iranian revolution, were mainly influenced by a parochial communalism which emphasized their grievances as a deprived and disinherited, specifically Lebanese community. The attachment of the Sunni menu peuple to the values of Arabism had meant that the divisions of the Arab world had become replicated in the damaging intra-confessional conflicts between their various militias, thus leaving them with a weak sense of communal solidarity at a time when a confessional balance of military forces seemed to be the most likely framework for an end to the civil war. Thus, in a political sense, the Sunnis were the war’s main casualty among the larger Lebanese confessions, and they had to accept a decline in power and status similar to the one they had suffered with the imposition of Greater Lebanon in 1920. But their political and socio-economic resources had been much stronger during the French Mandate than they were in 1985. With the rise of the Shi’ites to a position of prominence, it was likely that they rather than the Sunnis would be the major partners of the Maronites in any new Lebanon which might conceivably emerge from the long nightmare of civil war.”
Pg. 213-214
Communal Consciousness. Imposed.
The Sunni community, given the upheaval that started with the Hariri assassination, is a changed community. It is not a radicalized community. But there is definitely a growing communal consciousness that is the outcome of a series of setbacks and challenges that began with the assassination of PM Hariri and did not end with the October 2014 clashes in Tripoli.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Jordanians, Palestinians & the Hashemite Kingdom

Adnan Abu Odeh

Jordanians, Palestinians & the Hashemite Kingdom in the Middle East Peace Process by Adnan Abu-Odeh (1999) is an excellent book on Jordan. Such an important book should have been translated and made required reading in Jordan, at least at the university level. Abu-Odeh makes an honest and frank assessment of the state of Jordan. However, unfortunately, the book has been treated as a divisive book. The book resulted in Abu odeh been ostracized by the Jordanian establishment for shedding light on inconvenient truths.

Below are excerpts:

On Communal relations:

"A survey conducted in September 1994 by the Center for Strategic Studies of Jordan University indicated that strong affinities still exist between Palestinian-Jordanians and Transjordanians. Among a nationwide sample, 64.9% of Transjordanians and 72.3 percent of Palestinian-Jordanians believed that the interaction between the two communities had molded them into one people. Interestingly, while the division of opinion among Palestinian-Jordanian opinion makers closely mirrored the opinions of Palestinian-Jordanian as a whole (62.5 percent of opinion makers considered the two groups to have been molded into one people), opinion makers in the Transjordanian community were significantly less likely than other Transjordanians to subscribe to this view (the figure for Transjordanian opinion makers was only 47.8%). This finding is not surprising when we consider that a large section of the Transjordanian elite has been involved for more than two decades in encouraging exclusivist attitudes toward Palestinian Jordanians." P. 274

De-Palestinianization of the public sector

"Trans-Jordanianization of the public sector developed in the late 1970s into de-Palestinianization- a process defended on the grounds that it constituted no more than an equitable division of labor, given Palestinian dominance of the private sector. The Transjordanian elite did not seem concerned about the long term ramifications of this unwritten policy- namely that it would aggravate and institutionalize the communal rupture.  Nor did they expect that they would lose control of Transjordanian nationalism." P. 276  

On Confederation between Palestine and Jordan:

"The confederal formula, which allows both Jordanians and Palestinians to maintain their identities, seems an ideal means of promoting mutual confidence and healing the rupture between Transjordanians and Palestinian-Jordanians.  Confederation would make it possible for a large number of Palestinian-Jordanians to vote for a Palestinian parliament while they are still residents of Jordan. Though each country would have its own head of state, the presidency of the confederation could alternate between the king of Jordan and the president of Palestine. (Should the king find such an arrangement unacceptable, the Hashemite supraregional monarch might assume the role of reigning head of the confederation.)" P. 281

Thursday, October 2, 2014

AHRC Expresses Concern Regarding the State of Human Rights in Egypt:

AHRC Expresses concern regarding the state of Human Rights in Egypt:
[Michigan, October 2, 2014]: The American Human Rights Council (AHRC) joins the US and international human rights groups expressing serious concerns regarding the state of human rights and the ongoing violations of basic rights for Egyptian citizens, visitors, journalists, NGOs, international human rights aid missions and groups compromising the basic foundation of democracy. In Egypt there is a pattern of ongoing violations of people's basic rights to live and function normally without fear, censorship, arrests, detentions and intimidation.

In a report published by Amnesty International on September 29, 2014, it noted, that   "According to official statistics, the Egyptian authorities continue to hold at least 16,000 detainees, in prisons and police stations since the ousting of former president Mohamed Morsi. Their conditions of detention frequently fall far short of international human rights standards and may amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Often the detainees face trumped up or politically motivated charges and trials that fall far short of international standards". 

According to media reports and several human rights groups as well as the US State Department and the European Union, the Egyptian government executed mass arrests against those who practiced their right of association and assembly.   The vast majority of these arrests involved peaceful citizens and activists.  Most of these detainees are being held against their will without any form or shape of due process and without any adequate legal assistant or facing any formal charges. Among the several human rights violation is the continued arrest of Mr. Mahmoud Abu Zied, A free-lancer journalist who has been held without any process for over a year.  The rise of mass arrests including children and torture is a growing challenge in Egypt. Thousands of detainees are still pending any formal process and face nothing but continued renewal of their detentions without any evidence of any crime or violation.

AHRC is deeply concerned with the situation in Egypt as to the rights of perceived opponents of the regime and the rights of Egyptian women. The Egyptian government continues its incessant campaign of persecution of peaceful protesters through the use harassment, violence and discredited military tribunals. As to women, the Egyptian government is failing at its obligation to counter the harassment of women and girls in public places.  Egypt still lacks laws that deal with the serious issue of domestic violence. This situation is intolerable.

AHRC calls upon the Egyptian government to respect human rights. As a UN member, Egypt has the legal obligation to respect the UN charter and the united declaration of human rights among other of Egypt's international obligations.  AHRC demands that the Egyptian government respect the Egyptian people's basic human rights.

"Egypt is the biggest Arab country and arguably the most important. The abuses the Egyptian government is inflicting on the Egyptian people, regardless of the pretexts, are inexcusable and should shock the conscience of the world, "said Imad Hamad AHRC acting director. "We call upon the Egyptian government to respect human rights and to obey international law and for the human rights community to engage in a sustained campaign to defend the victims of human rights violations in Egypt" continued Hamad.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Imam Musa Sadr in the Good Spy by Kai Bird

Imam Musa Sadr

Force 17 leader Abu Hasan Salameh

CIA agent Robert Ames

In 1978 the Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi invited the Lebanese Muslim leader Musa Sadr to visit Libya. As the late Fouad Ajami put it, the imam vanished on that trip. There were many theories put forth on what has actually happened. The Libyans claimed that the imam and his companions left Libya for Italy. This turned out to be a blatant lie. The fact remains that the imam entered Libya and never left. The Libyan regime and its successor regime never presented a convincing explanation to provide closure.

The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames by Kai Bird provides another story of what happened to the imam. Kai presents the findings of the CIA via the Palestinian leader of Force 17 leader Abu Hasan Salameh.  The CIA did not seem to have questioned the story as conveyed by Salameh to the CIA’s Ames. Below are excerpts from Kai’s excellent book, pages 204-206, the subheadings are mine:

Ames seeks Salameh for information regarding Sadr

Two weeks after Musa Sadr’s disappearance, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini – then still in exile in Iraq- sent a message to Yasir Arafat asking him to help “clarify the mystery.” At the same time, Ames decided to take an interest in the case. He did so for two reasons. First, he understood that Musa Sadr’s disappearance could exacerbate Lebanon’s smoldering civil war. And second, he knew the imam’s fate was of intense interest to millions of Shi’as not only in Lebanon but also in Iran, a country that was beginning to show signs of revolutionary turmoil in the streets of Tehran. Ames sent a message to Ali Hassan Salameh about the case and asked if he had any intelligence on the imam’s whereabouts. Salameh eventually replied with a detailed account.

Sadr and Beheshti
Arafat had learned that Qaddafi had agreed to host a meeting between Musa Sadr and one of his theological rivals, the imam Mohammed Beheshti. For some years, the latter had led in exile a Shi’a mosque in Hamburg, Germany. But Beheshti was also a close political ally of Ayatollah Khomeini. Like Musa Sadr, Beheshti was a scholar of some repute. But unlike Imam Sadr, Beheshti was an intellectual proponent of a theocratic Shi’ite state. Sadr disagreed, arguing that Shi’a theology prohibited clerics from directly exercising political power.
Both Sadr and Beheshti were recipients of Qaddafi’s largesse, and the Libyan dictator wanted the two men to set aside their theological disputes and cooperate on a common, anti-Western political agenda. (The eccentric Qaddafi was himself a Sunni Muslim and had no interest in the arcane merits of what was essentially a Shi’a theological dispute.)

Sadr in Libya: No meeting with Qaddafi or Beheshti
In any case, Musa Sadr and Beheshti were supposed to meet in Tripoli and iron out political differences under Qaddafi’s auspices. Musa Sadr arrived – but Beheshti and his delegation never came to Tripoli. Musa Sadr was an impatient man, and after several days of waiting in his hotel for a meeting with Qaddafi that never materialized, he announced that he was packing his bags and leaving Libya. Arriving at the Tripoli airport, Musa Sadr was escorted to the VIP departure lounge. In the meantime, Beheshti told Qaddafi over the phone to detain Musa Sadr by all means necessary. Beheshti assured Qaddafi that Imam Sadr was a Western agent. Qaddafi ordered his security force to delay Musa Sadr’s departure. Qaddafi instructed that the imam should just be persuaded to go back to his hotel. But Qaddafi’s security officers accosted Imam Sadr in the VIP lounge and addressed him disrespectfully. An argument ensued, and the imam was roughed up and thrown into a car. Things had gotten so out of hand that the imam was taken to a prison.

Sadr: Imprisoned in Libya
Qaddafi was angered when he discovered what had happened, but he felt he couldn’t release Imam Sadr without embarrassing himself politically. So Musa Sadr sat in a Tripoli prison for many months. Finally, Arafat directly asked Qaddafi for his release. By this time, Ayatollah Khomeini had returned to Tehran, where he and Beheshti were writing postrevolutionary Iran’s Islamic constitution. When pressed by Arafat, Qaddafi reportedly said he had to make a phone call. He called Beheshti, who told him Musa Sadr was a threat to Khomeini.

Sadr: Imprisoned then executed

Ames was told by his Palestinian sources that eventually Imam Sadr and his two traveling companions had been summarily executed and buried at an unmarked desert grave. Ames was shocked by Qaddafi’s wanton ruthlessness but also by Beheshti’s behavior. It gave him the first insight into the cruel character of the newly established Islamic Republic of Iran.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

AHRC: Defending the Human Rights of Arab and Muslim Americans

There are a number Arab and Muslim community organizations. They do good work for the community. Some of these organizations provide services such as ACCESS, or defend civil rights and civil liberties such as ADC. There are still unmet needs, an example is the issue is the human rights of Muslim prisoners. Many people are confused about human rights and prisoners and their rights. To educate and advocate for prisoners, as well as defend human rights generally, a number of Arab American and Muslim American leaders formed AHRC, the American Human Rights Council (,

Human rights are inclusive of civil rights and liberties but of bigger scope. It is great to finally have an organization that advocates for human rights in general and focuses on the forgotten segment of the Arab and Muslim community, the prisoners.
This is the information about AHRC from its webpage:

The American Human Rights Council (AHRC) was created as a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting, promoting, and defending human rights, as defined by the US Constitution and outlined in the United Nations’ 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) To that end, AHRC will serve the needs of all people whose rights are being denied or violated.

AHRC will collaborate with other civil and human rights organizations and maintain positive relationships with courts, social service agencies, and various governmental agencies. We intend to combine high-level legislative work, media outreach, and grassroots mobilization to shape and promote legislation to advance human rights and protect individuals who are at risk.


AHRC will be seeking out and intervening in situations where human rights are being violated or denied. We will provide advocacy and other related services wherever the restoration of human rights is essential to peoples’ well-being. Our primary focus will be on prisoners’ rights. The AHRC will work to ensure that the rights of prisoners, and their families, are recognized and defended. In doing so, we will also encourage cooperation between similar organizations in Michigan, and other states, as well as other co3284untries. We will collaborate to implement projects, programs, and activities for the benefit of our intended beneficiaries, utilizing all available synergies in order to maximize the benefits of our service. Although the AHRC will primarily focus on the United States, we will work in conjunction with any organization which can help us achieve our mission of protecting human rights around the world, regardless of geographical or other boundaries.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Forum and Link of Michigan Honors Veteran Community Activist and Leader Imad Hamad

Mr. Imad Hamad in the middle to his left is the former US attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan and former judge Honorable Jeff Collins

The Forum and Link of Michigan Honors Veteran Community Activist and Leader Imad Hamad
The Legend of Imad Hamad: Decades of Service

Imad Hamad is a legend.  It is not possible to meet anyone who is active in the Arab- American community or is connected to the Arab- American community who does not know Imad Hamad, the former Michigan director of the American Arab anti- Discrimination Committee. For decades Imad Hamad was a fixture at events, conferences and in the media. Over the years he helped so many people that it is not possible to meet anyone in Dearborn who does not know of someone who was helped by Imad. He helped individuals in need, Arab- Americans suffering from discrimination, reporters working on stories, scholars writing books, etc. This is Imad Hamad the legend.

The Forum and Link Honors Imad

The Forum and Link is a Michigan community newspaper that is published by Dr. Asad Dandashli, a tireless man who considers journalism a sacred mission, in the secular sense of the sacred, and not a business enterprise. During the banquet for the tenth anniversary of the Forum and Link, Dr. Dandashli honored Imad Hamad. The award read:

Dr. Assad Aldandachli
Editor in chief
Mr. Imad Hamad

For many years of selfless service of the Arab- American community- It is not possible to compile an exhaustive list of the achievements of Mr. Hamad in almost two decades.  This list includes starting enduring programs, helping individuals and creating a vision of a better community. The brightest light of his achievements remains the founding of BRIDGES, the law enforcement- community forum, which serves as a national and international model of community-law enforcement relations.

Congratulations Mr. Hamad. Well deserved.

The Forum and Link banquet coverage of the banquet can be accessed at

On Muslim Reformer Mohammed Ibn Abdel Wahhab “Wahhabi Islam: From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad”- I

Natana de Long Bass

                            On Muslim Reformer Mohammed Ibn Abdel Wahhab
“Wahhabi Islam: From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad”- I
Good Muslims, Bad Muslims

In the post 9/11 period there was an intense focus on Muslims and Islam itself. A simplistic approach to Islam in the context of the war on terror sought to classify/pigeonhole Muslims into good Muslims and bad Muslims. This was not new but a permutation of the attitude toward Islam that prevailed in the post- Ayatollah Khomeini revolution.  The new Iranian regime’s “students,” violating long- held norms of diplomatic dealings, stormed the American embassy and took embassy employees hostages. This was followed by attempts to export the revolution to the rest of the Middle East disturbing the stability of American allies in the Arab Gulf region. In the West there were important voices that divided Islam into good Islam and bad Islam. Shia Islam was seen as bad, the Shia were seen as having a “penchant for martyrdom.” The 9/11 attacks inverted that model- Sunni Muslims became bad and Shia Muslims good. This simplistic thinking was partially responsible for the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 and turn it over to the Shia “majority.”

9/11 and Demonization of Sunni Muslims

In the post 9/11 world there is no group of Muslims that faced as harsh of a backlash as the Salafi Muslims followers of the Sunni Hanbali School, one of the 4 Sunni schools of jurisprudence. The segment of the Salafis that came under the harshest criticism was the Wahhabis who constitute the majority in Saudi Arabia and in Qatar.  But who are the Wahhabis? What do they believe? What explains the tensions between them and the Shia and the Sufis? Boston University’s Natana de Long- Bas, using the writings of Imam Abdel Wahhab, wrote Wahhabi Islam to help demystify the man and his ideas and challenge the unsubstantiated claims, driven by ignorance and/or sectarian animus, that demonized an important segment of the Muslim population. Over a number of columns excerpts from her book will be published.

Below are excerpts from her book. The headings are mine:

Post 9/11 period: Fear and Loathing of the Salafi Wahhabis

Post-9/11, Wahhabism has been identified by government, political analysts, and the media as the major “Islamic threat” facing Western civilization and the inspiration for Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network. It has become infamous for its negative influence on Islam, mosques, and madrasas globally. It is described as extremist, radical, puritanical, contemptuous of modernity, misogynist, and militant in nature. It has been characterized as Islamo-facism following in the traditions of communism and Nazism. It is accused of inspiring militant religious extremism in movements ranging from the Taliban of Afghanistan to the so-called Wahhabis of Central Asia and Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network. It is targeted as the most intolerant of all interpretations of Islam, seeking to impose itself alone as the expression of “true” Islam. Wahhabi teachings are often referred to as “fanatical discourse” and Wahhabism itself has been called “the most retrograde expression of Islam” and “one of the most xenophobous radical Islamic movements that can be.”

Osama Bin Laden and the teachings of Imam Ibn Abd al- Wahhab: Historically Accurate Connection?

In response to the demands for answer, many have asserted that the militant extremism of Osama bin Laden has its origins in the religious teaching of Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, who is believed to have legitimated jihad against non-Wahhabis and encouraged the forcible spread of the Wahhabi creed. According to this interpretation, Ibn Abd al-Wahhab is the godfather of modern terrorism and Islamic militance. Like his contemporaries, he is accused of being opposed to modernity, an extreme literalists in his interpretation of Muslim scriptures, a misogynist, and an admirer and imitator of past militant radicals, particularly the medieval scholar Ibn Taymiyya. Like Obama bin Laden, is believed to have had littler formal religious training, and his written works are generally dismissed as mere compilations of Quranic verses and hadith without any accompanying commentary or interpretation. Finally, both Ibn Abd al-Wahhab and the Wahhabis are often accused of being outside of the Sunni tradition due to their position as “heretical innovators” and extremists. Although this comparison makes for a simple and clean analysis, it is not faithful to the historical record.

Who was Imam Abd al-Wahhab?

The real Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, as revealed in his written works, was a well-trained and widely traveled scholar and jurists, as well as a prolific writer. His extant written works fill fourteen large volumes, including a collection of hadith; a biography of the Prophet Muhammad; a collection of fatawa (judicial opinions); a series of exegetical commentaries on the Quran; several volumes of Islamic jurisprudence (figh), numerous theological treatises; and other varied works, including detailed discussions of jihad and the status of women. The scope of his scholarship stands in marked contrast to the few legal rulings (fatawa) issued by Osama bin Laden. More importantly, his insistence on adherence to Quranic values, like the maximum preservation of human life even in the midst of jihad as holy war, tolerance for other religions, and support for a balance of rights between men and women, results in a very different worldview from that of contemporary militant extremists. The absence of the xenophobia, militantism, misogyny, extremism, and literalism typically associated with Wahhabism raises serious questions about whether such themes are “inherited” to Wahhabism and whether extremists like Osama bin Laden are truly “representative” of Wahhabism and Wahhabi beliefs.

Delong- Bas’s  Nuanced view versus the Media and the Biased Caricature of the Man
Wahhabi Islam: From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad presents for the first time in a Western language the theme of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s writings that are of the greatest concern post-9/11: Wahhabi theology and worldview, Islamic law, women and gender, and jihad. Rather than reinforcing the standard image of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab as “an unsophisticated, narrow-minded wanderer” and a “disconnected, footloose son of the remote oases” who became “the archetype for all the famous and infamous  Islamic  extremists  of modern times,” it reveals a more moderate, sophisticated, and nuanced interpretation of Islam that emphasizes limitations on violence, killing, and destruction and calls for dialogue and debate as the appropriate means of prosetylization and statecraft. This new understanding is then compared to the writings of other scholars and activists, both past and present, on the controversial topic of jihad in order to assess Ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s influence, or lack thereof, on contemporary Islamic militants, most notably Osama bin Laden, and to explore the roots of the militant extremism inherent in their visions of global jihad.

Wahhabism and the Historical Context

Wahhabism was neither a historical aberration nor an isolated phenomenon. It did not arise in a vacuum. In fact, Wahhabism reflects some of the most important trends in eighteenth-century Islamic thought, underscoring the interactions and exchanges that took place between Muslims in cosmopolitan regions like the Hijaz. The fact that Wahhabism so clearly reflects major trends of thought apparent in other contemporary reform movements suggests that it was neither “innovative” nor “heretical.” Rather, it can more appropriately be viewed as part of mainstream eighteenth-century Islamic thought, although somewhat tailored to its specific context.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

On Iraq: a Sectarian Dictator Falsely Claims a War Against Terror

Al Anbar Sunnis protest for women held in Maliki's sectarian prisons 


Al Anbar Sunni protesters that the Maliki sectarian regime blood libeled as the "Camp of Yazeed"


Iraq is in the news again and not in a good way. The Al Anbar region, a Sunni majority area in Iraq, is again mired in violence. Al Anbar is a region that has seen a disproportionate amount of violence in the post 2003 invasion. There are a number of books written on the US military efforts in Al Anbar and how the US was able to win the confidence of the marginalized and victimized Iraqi Arab Sunni community in the post 2003 Iraq. The lesson of the American war in al Anbar is that it takes empathy, inclusion and strength to gain the trust of the clans of Al Anbar. Blunt force, humiliation and marginalization do not work.  Today Maliki is trying to subjugate Anbar under the false claim of fighting al Qaeda.

In fact, al Qaeda has no better friend that al Maliki and his bigoted and sectarian policies.

Calling the fight in al Anbar a fight with al Qaeda is inaccurate and misleading now just as it was inaccurate and misleading when American soldiers were doing the fighting. PM Maliki is a sectarian fanatic mired in sectarian hate and delusions. He called the Sunni protesters the "camp of Yazeed." That is the equivalent of a Christian politician calling his Jewish political opponents Christ killers. Maliki, a former Shiite clergy, is a sectarian bigot of medieval proportions.  Next time PM Maliki visits the US he should be sent to a psychiatric ward and not to the White House.

What do Iraq observers think of the conflict in al Anbar? I have chosen an excerpt from Fouad Ajami’s column in the Wall Street Journal and a column by an Iraqi American of Sunni Arab descent, attorney Mohammed Alomari. Fouad Ajami is an American political science professor of Shiite Iranian and Lebanese descent. Both are helpful in understanding Iraq and Maliki.

Fouad Ajami, Wall Street Journal, January 9, 2014

Obama and the Sunni-Shiite War

Having quit Iraq, the Obama administration developed a vested interest in the narrative that all was well in that country. What influence the U.S. still had was tethered to the rule of Mr. Maliki, even as he drifted away from the Sunnis and the Kurds. Borrowing from the book of the Arab authoritarians of old, Mr. Maliki depicted his bid for dominion as part of a campaign against terror. When he turned up in Washington last October, he came to ask for weapons and diplomatic support, but above all to convey to his rivals that he had Washington’s blessing for his campaign for a third term as prime minister.

The Obama administration played along when it would have been the better part of wisdom to deny him the visit in the midst of a political campaign. Mr. Maliki is a lucky man. His political bid for yet another term has the endorsement of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and that of Mr. Obama and Mr. Assad.

The U.S. tilt to Iran is upsetting allies and disrupting the Middle East

Iraq’s Real Problem: A US Occupation legacy of Sectarian Politics by Attorney Mohammed Alomari

Violence in Iraq is again in the news. The biggest problem we face about what is going on in Iraq is the disinformation campaign to which we have been subjected since the 2003 invasion and occupation.

Iraq, which had its infrastructure and institutions demolished in 2003, was rebuilt on political and sectarian lines. Originally Iraq’s army had been based on a nation-wide forced conscription (in which all sects and ethnicities were represented according to their percentages in society). All that was abolished in 2003 in favor of a militia-based structure. Iraq’s current military and security forces are made of former Chalabi-led Iraq National Congress militiamen, Iran-based Badr militia, Mahdi Army militia and other sectarian based militias.

It is as though the President of the U.S. were to abolish the Armed Forces and form a new military force from recruits from extremist groups. Imagine the racial and sectarian killings that would happen here

The recent issue with Anbar province (and the other 5 provinces) is a result of ignoring the year-long demonstrations/protests and sit-ins in Anbar, Salahadeen, Diyala, Mosul, Kirkuk, and Samarra. Tens of thousands of people have been demonstrating in these provinces for over a year to free thousands of political prisoners, stop the mass expulsions of families from their homes, and other similar demands.

Thousands of Sunni families have been expelled from their homes in Diyala province by government-sanctioned militias this past year (in Miqdadiya, Baquba, other towns) with complete silence from most of the media outlets.

Additionally tens of thousands of Sunni young men have been rotting in jail for years or are being tortured and executed under provision 4 of the Terror Law. Army units like the infamous Muthana brigade march into predominantly Sunni towns and neighborhoods swearing and cursing anti-Sunni insults (using expletives against Sunni religious symbols like Aisha, the wife of the Prophet Mohammed, or Omar, the Prophet’s brother-in-law).

About two weeks ago, the Iraqi government decided to move against the peaceful protestors using military force, claiming there were “terrorists” protesting with the demonstrators.

In fact, the people of Anbar and other provinces have had enough of the sectarian repression, mass expulsion of families, mass arrests, hit squads, torture, and executions. The people of Anbar and the other provinces reacted to the attempt of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to take over cities like Ramadi and Fallujah by rebelling and establishing the Tribal forces.

Theses tribal forces are the same groups (Awakening councils) which fought the extremists back in 2007 and expelled them from the cities. But they don’t want the sectarian government forces either.

Supporting the Baghdad government with arms is big mistake; instead, the White House should open talks with the Tribal leaders in these provinces, with the Sunni leaders in the Parliament and pressure the Iraqi government to reform their military and security apparatus and keep the commitment to the April 2014 elections. Unfortunately the media is still playing the old movie of supporting the central government to “fight the bogeyman.”

If this failed policy continues, of blindly supporting the central government without looking beyond the headlines to see what is really going on, Iraq will boil over worse than Syria.

Peace will only come to Iraq if the institutions of power and military/security apparatus are reformed to include all segments of society, and not allowed to be monopolized by one group. Otherwise continuing this failed policy is like throwing gasoline on a burning fire; Iraq will as a result remain a bloody mess for years to come.

Attorney Alomari’s article originally appeared on University of Michigan professor Juan Cole’s website: