Amazingly, the Egyptian President has managed the impossible, and it only took a matter of minutes. Eat your heart out Condi and Jack! Hosni Mubarak has actually succeeded in uniting members of the Iraqi government-in-waiting with his civil war comments on Dubai s Al-Arabiya network.
In fact, in comparison to top Iraqi officials, who have recently been opining on this very subject, Mubarak s comment was fairly circumspect. His actual words were civil war has almost started among Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds and those who are coming from Asia.
Contrast this with a recent statement by former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who told the BBC that Iraq is in the middle of civil war. We are losing each day an average 50 or 60 people throughout the country, if not more. If this is not civil war then God knows what civil war is.
Allawi could well have an axe to ground after his hopes of being re-appointed were dashed during Iraq s last elections, but should we also cavalierly dismiss the words of the Iraqi Deputy Interior Minister Hussein Ali Kamal, who told reporters that Iraq has been in an undeclared civil war for the past 12 months ?
Okay, so let s suppose for the sake of discussion that Kamal, holed up for most of the time behind the high fortified walls of Baghdad s so-called Green Zone, doesn t know his eggs from his tomatoes or, in this case, civil wars from sectarian strife. Perhaps, then, the words of a top Iraqi military official might resonate with greater credibility.
Major General Hussein Kamal confirmed to the Associated Press on Sunday that an undeclared civil war had been raging for a year or more. All those bodies that are discovered in Baghdad, the slaughter of pilgrims heading to holy sites, the explosions, the destruction, attacks against the mosques are all part of this.
So while their colleagues are blathering about an ongoing civil war, we must, therefore, surely wonder why the Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari and President Jalal Talibani are so surprised by Mubarak s analysis, which, they say, is based on incorrect information.
The source of this so-called incorrect information wasn t Mubarak but rather their own circle, so why aren t they busy sacking such purveyors of disinformation or dressing down their pal Allawi, instead of fuelling diplomatic incidents over semantics.
Such double standards could, of course, be attributed to human nature. After all, if our spouse hints we should head for the gym to unload a few kilos it is one thing. But if a neighbor were to say the same, his advice would probably receive a frosty reception.
A cynic could even contextualize their public indignation as a smokescreen for their failure to form a government some four months after Iraqis bravely displayed their purple fingers for the cameras in the hopes that democracy was finally about to pay off.
Jack Straw, who popped into Baghdad last week with his new best friend, the U.S. Secretary of State, disagreed with Mubarak over Iraq s civil war status, with the caveat It is a high level of slaughter, so I understand why people are saying this.
The dictionary says a civil war is a war between opposing groups within a country, a term that appears to be confusing Iraqi politicians. Let s then look at what ordinary Iraqis have to say on the subject. They don t have an agenda to pursue. They re not caught up in a political power struggle and they don t have any foreign masters to please.
This from Riverbend, the Girlblog from Iraq:
The real fear is the mentality of so many people lately. The rift that seems to have worked its way through the very heart of the country, dividing people. It is disheartening to talk to acquaintances that are sophisticated, civilized people, and hear how Sunnis are like this, and Shiites are like that . to watch people pick up their things to move to Sunni neighborhoods or Shiite neighborhoods. How did this happen?
A post on the Mesopotamian blog reads:
Are we in a civil war situation already? Unfortunately, I must tell you that the situation is very tense and things are on the brink . another incident like the Samarra shrine bombing will almost certainly trigger a mass uprising that will be impossible to contain even by religious leaders.
So, there is little doubt that Al Jaafari and Talibani are feigning incredulity vis-à-vis the Egyptian President s straight talking. Mubarak has simply called a spade a spade, unlike so many others who prefer to hang on to their rose-colored spectacles and pussy foot around the truth.
Mubarak may have gone a step too far, however, in suggesting Most of the Shiites are loyal to Iran, and not to the countries they are living in.
While it is true that Iraq s Shiite communities are ideologically close to the Iranian mullahs, no-one can know what their true allegiances will be when push comes to shove. After all, Iraq s Shiites fought alongside their Sunni brethren during the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq War, and until recently inter-marriage between Shiites and Sunnis was the norm.
It should also be pointed out, for the sake of fairness, that Mubarak s opinion on this didn t emerge from the blue. Here we should remember how the Pentagon s former blue-eyed boy Ahmad Chalabi was once accused of spreading disinformation over Iraq s WMD capabilities at the behest of Iran. A headline on the Fox News Web site reads Did Iran use Chalabi to lure the U.S. into Iraq?
We might also recall how Ibrahim Jaafari took refuge in Iran during Saddam s tenure and the fact that Iraq s most influential Shiite, the Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, has Iranian antecedents. In fact, Sistan is a place in Iran.
Indeed, one of Iraq major Shiite parties, The Supreme Council for Islamic Resistance in Iraq (SCIRI), headed by the Ayotalloh Mohammed Baqir Al Hakim, has its head office in Iran, while its militia, the Badr Brigades, were militarily equipped by Iran s Revolutionary Guard.
Nevertheless, only a telepathic can know for sure what s going on in people s heads or where their true loyalties stand. So in this case, Mubarak would perhaps have been prudent to abide by the old adage, silence is golden.
Linda S. Heard is a British columnist specializing in Mid-East affairs and co-author of a book titled An Enemy called Apathy.