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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

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August 13, 2004

I returned from Canberra last night glad to be away from living in the shadowland of federal Parliament where nothing of substance was happening in the debates on the issue of free trade. It was all a game of charade and it is continuing through today. The fortnight's sitting was like being in Plato's cave where all one can see are the flickering shadows. Parliament is a cave where the reality is the news headlines.

I awoke this morning in Adelaide to lots of news feeds and commentary about the Olympics and the conflict in Iraq:


It would appear that the American marines have surrounded Najaf and cut off all the roads leading into the shrine of Imam Ali whilst US planes and artillery have been bombarding positions in the Valley of Peace cemetery. It would appear that the US are determined to strangle Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi Army, and force it out of Najaf in an attempt to eliminate its homegrown challenge to the caretaker Allawi Iraqi Government.

The Allawi Government is becoming increasingly dictatorial. It has reintroduced the death penalty, closed down the al-Jazeerah satellite news service, authorized an American invasion of the shrine of Ali, and is marginalizing its potential rivals via the courts. The US, Britain and Australia have put Allawi in power, continue to support him, and are turning a blind eye to this unelected government torturing its own people.

Would not the US attack in the cemetry and around the shrine of Imam Ali create even more political disturbance in the region? All this is cannot be going to go down well with Iran. As Juan Cole says:

"The US military actions in the holy city of Najaf are deeply offensive to Muslims throughout the world. Although many might also criticize Sadr and his militia for using the holy sites as cover, the strongest condemnation inevitably is reserved for the foreign troops, seen as imperialists."

Najaf is a holy city that is sacred to Muslims and to Shiites in particular. So what are the Americans doing? Trying to pick a fight with Iran?

None of this is a concern in Australia. The discussion over foreign policy is reduced to these shadows. What we now have are the outrageous misrepresentations of an election campaign that get up people's noses.

14 August
Nicolas Rothwell has a featured article in The Australian on the tensions between Iran and Iraq. He says that:

"Though Iraqi politicians from Saddam's era onwards have always suspected Iran of territorial ambitions, the situation is more complex. Iran, as the central nation of Shia Islam, believes it has a duty of care towards the holy sites of Karbala and Najaf, but it may not wish for a separate Arab Shia state to be formed. Any break-up of Iraq into ethnic states would destabilise the region further and threaten vital oil exports that form the lifeblood of the Iranian economy....The theocratic regime in Tehran, ideologically hostile to the US and Israel, looks out on a disquieting regional landscape, with its potent foe, the "Great Satan", camped on its border and a westernising, secular client state in place in Baghdad."

Rothwell concludes by saying that Iran's chief aim is to raise the costs of the US occupation and perhaps even to persuade the Americans into withdrawal. This can be done most effectively, and most deniably, by discreet activities, sufficiently tactful to avoid provoking US response.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:23 AM | | Comments (0)