Two false assertions are being made these days about the Sunnis and the Shiites in Iraq. The first is that they have been fighting one another for ages. The second is that they are currently waging civil war upon one another.
Shiites and Sunnis have lived in rather remarkable proximity in many cities of Iraq, with not a few intermarriages, and for many generations. They have often boasted of being Iraqis first, before being Sunnis and Shiites.
The most influential Shiite Imam, Ayatollah Sistani, has been amazing for his peacekeeping and calming effect, urging the Shiites not to seek revenge and, instead, to turn to democracy and peaceful ways, rather than futile combat. In fact, Imam Sistani has been so successful at this preaching that, in desperation, al Qaeda dramatically changed strategy during 2005. They viciously destroyed the old, revered, beautiful “golden dome” of the mosque in Samarra. They stepped up their campaign to terrorize other Shiite mosques and the worshipers attending them.
Al Qaeda members are virtually all Sunnis, from foreign countries, and they care not a whit either for Iraqi Shiites or Iraqi Sunnis. Their strategy for 2006 was to commit horrible atrocities against Iraqi Shiites, so that the hotheads among them would unleash death squads against the Sunnis in retaliation. Then the Sunnis would retaliate against the Shiites. This was not real civil war. It was a contrived and phony ploy to bait each side into fighting the other, while the foreigners waited to pick up the spoils.
One has to remember that the foreigners who make up both al Qaeda and nearly all the (self-immolating) bombers are motivated by politics, not by faith in Islam. They have no hesitation about bombing mosques, murdering imams, or destroying hundreds of worshipers. They regard anyone who does not join their war of terror, even if they are Muslims, as infidels worthy of death. They will use any means necessary to keep their toehold in Iraq and to work to eventually take over Iraq for their own political purposes.
This is not civil war in Iraq; it is a limited, strategic, and tactical ploy whereby foreigners try desperately to inflame Iraqis against one another. The aim of these foreigners is to bring about such a cataclysm of murder and insecurity and fear that their tiny, tiny minority can then capture total power — just as the small minority of Bolsheviks did in the early rise of the Soviet Empire; just as the tiny bands of ruthless black shirts and brown shirts under Mussolini and Hitler spread social paralysis to launch the rise of Fascism. Mayhem requires only a ruthless few.
Those who falsely call this a “civil war” in Iraq are conferring on al Qaeda a success that al Qaeda has not been able to bring about itself. They are puffing up a phony, contrived civil war far beyond the bounds of reality.