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June 26, 2009

The Quran Doesn't Mention Democracy

Roy Meachum

Most media eyes-and voices-have been devoted to Iranians this week and they deserve the attention. However, Iraq simply cannot be ignored. Both countries are Muslim and bereft of any democratic tradition; that's what the fighting is about in Baghdad and Teheran.


The Washington debate over the past week consisted of yelling by those who have no responsibility for foreign policy at the White House. Hawkish members of both houses of Congress, and both parties, grew publicly impatient with Barack Obama. He was called coward repeatedly.


Fortunately for the country and the world, the president kept his tongue under control. For the days of protest marches, Iran blamed a slew of countries, including the U.S. But they could not offer proof, in deeds or in words. That's what our domestic rabble-rousers wanted. They hoped for a Mossadeq-like ending.


If the name Muhammad Mossadeq means nothing to you, it is thoroughly engraved in Iranian hearts. The nation's prime minister, he sent the Shah into exile the first time. He was ousted in a famous coup executed by the CIA, at the instigation of international oil corporations. As a direct result, America emerged from the coup as the majority owners of Iranian wells; it was English before. BP (British Petroleum) was started in that country. (The past dominates everything in the Middle East; ordinary people remember the bloody massacres of the Crusades and still call Western foreigners French (franzowi, in Arabic) after the Franks who led the march on Jerusalem.)


Furthermore, Washington sponsored and supplied Saddam Hussein in his eight-year war against Teheran. Iranians seized the U.S. embassy in November, 1979. Saddam Hussein attacked across the border the following September, right before the voting that elected Ronald Reagan. Nobody questions America was supplying weapons to Iraq; there's the famous picture of the dictator with Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney. The conflict lasted until August 1988, as Mr. Reagan was about to leave office. Muslims do not believe in coincidence.


Mr. Obama has the advantage that the Iranian population is loaded with young people: they formed the mass marches protesting the election. Unfortunately, the power is exercised absolutely by the older generation for whom the notion of "civil rights" remains very foreign. That's the same problem Mr. Obama faces in next-door Iraq.


The hope of instilling a Western government in Baghdad has always struck me as more than idiotic. American forces are scheduled to withdraw from cities before Wednesday. The uptick in violence began weeks ago. With franzowi out of the way, I expect wholesale blood-shedding in the streets eventually if not by Thursday.


Insha'Allah (God willing) the Kurds will miss the worst of it because they live mostly among themselves in their own "republic." There can be trouble in the communities where Saddam Hussein tried to dilute his enemies' strength by moving Arabs among them. Maybe not.


For the rest of the nation, do not expect anything as neat as Sunnis against Shiites. I look for al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia to go after their kinsmen who joined the Awakening. Among the Shi'a, there are pro-Iran and anti-Iran elements that will fight for control. We already are familiar with Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi army; he's served notice that he means to become a major factor when the Americans evacuate – whenever. Fellow Shiites began assembling their private bands months ago, we learned.


Representative government is not an American idea; the Revolution happened, in part, because Englishmen here were not allowed governmental access there. The British Empire's 70-year presence in Egypt could not prevent a dictator in Cairo; the people have had three since the monarchy was overthrown. And the country has the highest educated population in the Muslim world.


The existential dilemma faced by this country and President Barack Obama comes from the Quran, which I have read and respect. No where do I remember anything about democracy, but that's strictly a human invention – as demonstrated on the streets of Iran this week.


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