By Raed Jarrar, Foreign Policy in Focus. Posted March 24, 2008.
The Iraqi-Iraqi conflict is similar to the U.S. civil war: Iraqis who want a centralized government are fighting against those who favor secession.
While the majority of Iraqis know that the current Sunni-Shiites tension did not exist before 2003, no one can deny that after five years of U.S. occupation, sectarian tension is now a reality. Sectarianism is another disaster that was brought to Iraq by the war and occupation of Iraq.
The U.S.-led invasion did not only destroy the Baath political regime, it also annihilated the entire public sector including education, health care, food rations, social security, and the armed forces. The Iraqi public sector was a great example of how millions of Iraqis: Arabs and Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites, Muslims and Christians, religious and secular, all worked together in running the country. The myth that the former Iraqi government was a "Sunni-led dictatorship" was created by the U.S. government. Even the Iraqi political regime was not "Sunni-led," let alone the rest of the public sector. A good way to debunk this fairy tale is through a close look at the famous deck of cards of the 55 most wanted Iraqi leaders. The cards had the pictures of Saddam, his two sons, and the rest of the political leadership which most Iraqis would recognize as the heads of the political regime. What is noteworthy is that 36 of the 55 were Shiites. In fact, the two vice presidents were a Christian and a Shiites Kurd.
Sometimes I feel like Iraqis and Americans are analyzing two different wars happening in two different countries. In one narrative, there is a civil war based on ancient sectarian hatred where a U.S. withdrawal will cause the sky to fall. In the other, there is a country struggling under occupation to get its independence back where the occupation is not welcomed and it is causing political, not sectarian, splits and violence.
According to the Iraqi mainstream narrative, the foreign occupation is the major reason and cause for violence and destruction. Foreign intervention is not only destroying Iraq's infrastructure, but it is also splitting Iraq's formerly integrated society. In addition, Iraqis are fighting among each other over fundamental questions about the future of their country, but the central conflict is not between Sunnis and Shiites, it is between Iraqi separatists and nationalists. Unlike other countries in the region such as Lebanon, the Iraqi sectarian tension is still reversible, because it just started five years ago. More importantly, it isn't main driver fueling the Iraqi-Iraqi conflict. This "hidden" conflict is between separatists and nationalists. Read On