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Deconstructing Iraq

By Claude Salhani
UPI International Editor
Washington (UPI) Jan 16, 2006
A number of political analysts believe that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was selected by the ruling theocracy in Tehran in order to aggressively push forward an agenda consisting of three action points.

First, to proceed full speed ahead with the nuclear program, enabling the Islamic republic to become a nuclear power. That is already underway.

Second, to revive the dream of the founder of the Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini, by exporting the revolution to other Muslim nations.

Third, to establish a foothold in neighboring Iraq, as a first step in accomplishing the above step, that of exporting the revolution. That, too, is already underway.

The southern two-thirds of Iraq have de facto become "the Islamic republic of Iraq," says Ken Joseph, an Assyrian who grew up in Japan, studied in the U.S., and who has been active in Iraq since the downfall of Saddam Hussein. "We call it 'Western Iran,'" says a demoralized Joseph.

The Reverend Ken Joseph is one of many Assyrians who returned to Iraq, along with Iraqis of different ethnicities, after the U.S. invasion, equipped with high hopes that a new democratic and secular Iraq would emerge from the ashes of the old regime. Instead, he and the approximate two million Assyrians, of which many are Christian, are seeing the country divided into what Joseph calls "Shiistan" in the south, "Sunnistan" in the center and Kurdistan in the north.

The Assyrians, who claim to be the original inhabitants of Iraq, are being marginalized and discriminated against.

Joseph said that once you head south of Baghdad Iraqi flags disappear. "All you see are the green flags of the Islamic parties." And the blatant Iranian influence that began surfacing soon after U.S. and coalition forces entered the country.

That was about the same time that an Iranian television channel broadcasting in Arabic went on the air -- roughly a week after liberation, according to Joseph.

The mild-mannered reverend said he "begged" the U.S. military to jam Iran's signal. The U.S. officer Joseph spoke to, told him it would be illegal to do so. "There are international treaties prohibiting jamming," replied the American officer.

"Sir," shot back Joseph, "since when were we so concerned with honoring international treaties?" Joseph pointed out that countless international laws were ignored in the invasion of Iraq, yet this officer was concerned with jamming an Iranian TV feed supporting radical Islam.

Then there was the issue of the borders, which according to Joseph, no real efforts were made to secure. Joseph relates a conversation he had with an American official in Baghdad regarding the porous borders. The official told Joseph he could not volunteer information, but would be able to answer questions.

"Why didn't you seal the borders?" asked Joseph.

"What happens if you don't seal them?" replied the official.

"Every nut, every terrorist, wanting to fight the United States, everyone who hates the U.S. will congregate here," said Joseph.

"And is that such a bad thing?" replied the American official.

It made me wonder, said Joseph, if there was not more to a phrase often repeated by President Bush in justifying going to war in Iraq: "We are fighting them there so that we don't have to fight them in the streets of New York."

Joseph who believed the demise of Saddam Hussein would usher in a new era of peace and prosperity is terribly disappointed. He questions the U.S.'s resolve in addressing the issues and is wary about Washington's long-term commitment to Iraq.

One of his major disappointments was the inclusion in the Iraqi constitution of Islam as the country's religion. Joseph recalls the hearing on Capitol Hill during which L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. pro-consul in Iraq at the time, was testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

When questioned by Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback as to why the Iraqis should include the words 'Islam is the religion of the State,' in their constitution, Joseph says Bremer replied, "That is for the Iraqis to decide -- after all the British constitution is 'Christian.' To which Sen. Brownback fired back that Britain does not have a constitution.

But now, Joseph says this is all water under the bridge. Like millions of other Iraqis, he is worried over the fracture of the country. The southern part, he insists, for all intents and purposes is 100 percent under Iranian influence.

He fears that if the situation persists -- and there are no reasons to expect sudden changes -- the economy in the Sunni areas will suffer greatly. "No one will invest in a country that says Islam is the religion of state,' says Joseph.

But there is still some hope left. "The north can still be what the dream was - a democratic Iraq. Contrary to the chaos of the Sunni-controlled areas of central Iraq and the "Iraqi Islamic Republic" of the south, the north has prospered under Kurdish rule.

"The Kurdish areas are doing incredibly well," says Joseph. "Internet cafes have popped up on every street corner and you can view over 100 different television channels."

If the Kurdish north has prospered and enjoyed relative calm, Iraq's 2 million Assyrians haven't fared nearly as well. Comprising about 10 percent of Iraq's population, they were only allowed a 3 percent representation in the new parliament. Joseph is not extremely optimistic for the future. It leaves him fretting that if Iraq fails as a country, the Assyrians will seek to emigrate en masse, with the majority trying to make it to the United States.

Meanwhile, amid the continuing chaos in Iraq, Iran's influence is growing.

Source: United Press International

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Outside View: Challenges Ahead In Iraq
Washington (UPI) Jan 15, 2006
Oil is the practical symbol of wealth and power. Control over oil revenues is control over some 85 percent of state earnings in Iraq, and control over the exploration and development of new and existing oil reserves is already a critical political issue.

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