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Lebanon War Produces Repercussions in Iraq

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The Israeli war on Lebanon has shaken the sectarian pillar of the U.S.-Israeli regional plans, especially in the Iraqi launching pad of the U.S.-promoted "New Middle East," where major ethnic and sectarian minorities are being incited against their historical peaceful co-existence with the cultural Pan-Arab and Islamic heritage of the Arab majority as well as against each other.

The reverberations in Iraq of the U.S.-backed Israeli war on Lebanon have been so widespread and deep to shutter a three-year old political orientation of the Iraqis towards doing away with their Pan-Arab identity and isolating their country from its geopolitical Arab and Islamic incubator, in a massive sectarian brainwashing that has pushed Iraqis to the brink of an all out civil war.

Sectarian as well as Pan-Arab solidarity took hundreds of thousands of Iraqis into the streets "with yellow Hezbollah banners above their heads and U.S. and Israeli flags beneath their feet." (1)

The solidarity mass protests forced the Iraqi pro-U.S. ruling elite to publicly criticize the U.S.-backed war amid widespread anti-U.S. sentiment, led to accuse the Semite-to-the-bones Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of being an "anti-Semite" during his recent visit to Washington, and mobilized U.S.-led Iraqi forces to raid leaders of the anti-U.S. and Israeli protests in Baghdad.

The U.S.-backed Israeli war on Lebanon has resonated into cracks in the Iraqi political status quo:

First it shook the sectarian base of power of the ruling elites and questioned their pro-U.S. affiliation. The hundreds of thousands who poured onto the streets of the Shiite holy cities of Basra, Najaf, Karbala and Samarra as well as Baghdad were Iraqi Shiite Muslims whose majority was misled by their leading political hopefuls to distance themselves from the national resistance to the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of their country.

Second it showed a divide within this sectarian base of power between an Arab-oriented and an Iranian-influenced sectarian leaderships. The divide had in fact bloodily surfaced in the early stages of the U.S.-British invasion in fierce battles in the Shiite holy cities in southern Iraq. The political instinct for survival led the rebellious Arab-oriented Shiite leadership to accept being incorporated into the so-called "political process," thus rendering its anti-occupation slogans less credible, not to say hollow.

Third the war on Lebanon led to a hard-to-conceal diverging views, at least in public, between the U.S. occupying power and the Iraqi government, which the Americans are doing their best to secure in Baghdad.

When Al-Maliki addressed a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress on July 26 he condemned Israel's offensive, refused to condemn Hizbollah or to agree it was a "terrorist" organization, although many members tried to embarrass him, leading Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean to call him an "anti-Semite."

Similarly President Jalal Talabani and Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi made comments critical of the "horrible massacres carried out by Israeli aggression." (2)

Obviously the three of them were accommodating the public anti-U.S. sentiment to retain some political credibility, although there is no reason to doubt the credibility of the sectarian credentials of al-Maliki and Abdul-Mahdi to identify with a Shiite group like Hizbollah, in spite of the contradictory political agendas and alliances.

Accordingly the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice could not be fooled into a public dispute with them, played down their public rhetoric, and confirmed that the Iraqi prime minister and government remained assets "on the right side in the war on terror." (3)

Before al-Maliki's speech Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari, a Kurd, told U.S. lawmakers that Iraq had joined some other Arab League nations in criticizing Hizbollah's attacks on Israel.

Fourth the Iraqi mass protests have the potential to ignite a mass political movement against the US occupation, already bogged down in Iraq by the "armed resistance."

However the "cracks" cannot be exaggerated and leaders on both sides of the divide remain hostage to their sectarian loyalties, thus ruling out any imminent outbreak with their alliances that could make a difference in the Iraqi national resistance to the U.S.-led occupation.

The "Shiite" Hizbollah identifies more with the reportedly "Sunni" Iraqi national resistance and its Palestinian counterpart than with the reportedly "Shiite" collaboration with the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

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*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
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