running into a lot of problems as it attempts to turn Iraq into an "Islamic
Republic." While there are two (Badr Brigade and various Sadr led groups) major
pro-Iranian Shia militias in Iraq, most Iraqis are not enthusiastic about
adopting the Iranian model of government. Neither are most (about 80 percent)
of Iranians. The Iraqis have noted this, as well as how the Iranian clergy use
force to impose their will. Transplanting this model to Iraq has run up against
several obstacles that are not present in Iran.
First, there is the fact that,
while most Iraqis practice the same form of Islam (Shiism) as nearly all
Iranians, they are also acutely aware that they are Arabs, and the Iranians are
not. The Iranians belong to the Indo-European culture that stretches from
Ireland to eastern India (not to mention the Americas, which are primarily
populated by Indo-Europeans.) The Arabs and Iranians have never gotten along
well, despite thousands of years of trade, and some inter-marriage. Let's just
say there's not a lot of mutual trust and respect.
But the most formidable
obstacle to a Shia religious dictatorship in Iraq is the hundreds of tribal
leaders that, even under Saddam, often operated as a separate government. The
tribal chiefs and elders were often called on to settle commercial and family
disputes. The courts could be corrupted, but this was much less likely with the
elders of your tribe. In other words, it's easier to screw a stranger, than a
kinsman. Iraqis depend on their tribal leadership.
The Iraqi Shia clergy are the
big proponents of a religious dictatorship in Iraq. Many of these clergy have
set themselves up as local leaders. Some religious leaders mediate disputes,
but they do so without the deep understanding of everyone's family background. Moreover, there
has long been tension between tribal and religious leaders. The tribal chiefs
tend to be more flexible, while the religious leaders are hung up on
theological absolutes. Over the past few years, the pro-Iranian militias have
backed religious leaders intent on forcing everyone to live the strict life.
This has not been popular, and now tribal leaders are marshalling that
resentment into armed resistance to the Islamic conservatives and pro-Iranian
groups. A showdown is approaching between the tribal chiefs and radical
religious leaders. The smart money is on the chiefs.