Sunday, December 05, 2004

Iraq's Karol Wojtyla?

"As Jerzy Urban, one of the last spokesmen for the Communist regime there [Poland], once remarked, it's either us or the Black Madonna of Czestochowa." The ever-insightful ">Ian Buruma writes on religion and democracy in Iraq, where Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani seems to be playing the same role as the Pope did in Poland in sheparding the country towards some form of representative pluralism.

I'm complacently optimistic about the prospects for Iraq, probably because I've found no information source on the country that I feel I can trust much. As far as I can understand, all the current unpleasantness seems to be coming from the Sunnis, who don't have the oil and are sandwiched among people who hate them - Kurds, Shias, Iranians and Syrians. There's probably too many of them to kill and nowhere that they could be driven out to like the Sudeten or Saarland Germans were after World War II. That would argue for intervention by the other Sunni states such as Jordan, Saudi and Egypt to tell them to cut their coat or whatever garment they want to wear out of the cloth on offer.

I wouldn't expect Sistani is going to be America's lap dog, but he seems to be the person with the most control and the most reasonable ideas for the country.

Needless to say, there was a conference on the "Iraqi resistance" at Birkbeck today, where one might hear that "Many even suspect that the occupation forces are somehow encouraging the likes of Zarqawi, or at least failing to prevent their crimes" in the words of one panelist and listen to the Italian "aid workers" who got "kidnapped".