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Social Engineering in Samarra - TCF
Some local Sunnis see eye to eye with the Shia security forces. Mohamed Izzat, a journalist at the privately owned Al Sharqiya television station, said that the Islamic State, and before it, al-Qaeda, cultivated a wide following among the governorate’s rural residents and police forces. Approximately 90 percent Samarra’s police officers, he said, were fired after 2014 for suspected Islamic State ties. “Uneducated rural people accept the ideas of al-Qaeda. They only trust religious leaders,” Izzat said. “Change should start from the early stages of elementary school.”34

Sadr’s gamble in Samarra is that it is possible to create new facts on the ground and new loyalties. Reformist and nationalist Iraqis, in turn, argue that the Sadrist experiment can create a blueprint for Iraq to move forward, regardless of whether that is Sadr’s true intention. Paralysis and consensus dominate national negotiations. On a local level, however, powerful figures are freer to act. In Samarra, a new authority has shaped a new local order, pushing aside some individuals and tribes that were accustomed to greater power, and investing in new alliances that are committed to cooling sectarian allegiances and forging new ideological and economic networks. As several Iraqis noted in interviews, corruption and violence aren’t problems for Sunnis, Shia, or Kurds: they are problems for all Iraqis. A mess of militia fiefdoms and political infighting—pushed to the breaking point by a generational crisis of politics, security, and the economy—has produced a raft of experiments in collaborative rule. New partnerships are forging new communities and identities, continuous with existing blocs and identities but diverging in significant ways. The nationalist and other trans-sectarian formations under development are precarious and deeply flawed; none are likely to transform Iraq. They do, however, suggest the shape of models for reversing the fragmentation and sectarian mobilization that began in 2003, and build a more inclusive and malleable political community of interests, rather than of identities.
Iraq  sectarianism  Sadr  Shia  Sunni  ISIS 
20 days ago by elizrael
Religious Authority and the Politics of Islamic Endowments in Iraq - Carnegie Middle East Center - Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Iraq moved after 2003 from a state policy of domination over the religious field to one granting religious actors and institutions more freedom from the state. MERA, the Baathi regime’s main tool to control religious affairs, was replaced by confessional offices of endowments. This was seen as a step toward decentralization, democratization, and a more equitable distribution of religious commodities. However, this shift created new conflicts and rivalries. First, between the newly created OSHE and OSE after they inherited MERA’s powers and some of its functions as they sought to identify what belonged to each one of them. Second, between the multiple religious and confessional players who recognized that gaining more authority in the management of religious sites and endowments would strengthen their positions vis-à-vis their rivals.

The confessionalization of Islamic endowments was part of a broader process of sectarianization, which entailed the solidification of boundaries between the two confessions and the formation of religious centers in each sectarian group. This process managed to assert the position of the marjiʿyya as the highest authority in the Shia religious field, formalizing and legalizing its role in the administration of Shia endowments and shrines. This is likely to assert the “Iraqi-ness” of the marjiʿyya and Najaf as the center of the Shia religious hierarchy while significantly reshaping the structure of this hierarchy and the process of legitimizing the authority of the future grand marjaʿ. In contrast, the new institutional arrangement for Sunni endowments has failed so far to overcome the fragmentation of authority in Sunnism. Evidently, the building of a Sunni authority similar to the Shia marjiʿyya, an objective propagated by some Sunni religious and political actors, is still far from being realized. The intra-Sunni rivalries are likely to continue and to revolve around ideological differences and patron-client networks, allowing the state to be a key arbiter in the restructuring of the Sunni religious field.
Shia  Sunni  clergy  Islam  Iraq 
7 weeks ago by elizrael
Iran Moves to Cement Its Influence in Syria - WSJ
Along with the charity come offers to join the ranks of the Iranian militia and convert to the Shiite sect of the Islamic faith, he said. In return for enlisting, the men are promised a guard corps ID card—allowing them to cross checkpoints without hassle—and $200 a month. “From every family you find one or two people who have become Shiite,” he said. “They say they do it so they can find jobs or they become Shiite so they can walk and no one bothers them.”

To incentivize Arab tribesmen in areas formerly controlled by Islamic State to convert to Shiism, Iran is granting cash subsidies, providing public services and free education, according to residents, a U.S. official and a person familiar with U.S. intelligence operations in the region.

In cities and villages across the country’s east and in parts of central Syria, the Iranian militia has taken over mosques and is sounding the Shiite call to prayer from the minarets. They set up shrines in places with religious historical significance, bought real estate under a contested property law and opened Persian-language schools.

“If you’re a student, they offer a scholarship. If you’re poor, they give you aid,” said an aid worker in Qamishli, in northeast Syria, whose friend was offered a chance to study in Iran. “Whatever your need is they fill it, just so you become Shiite.”

“Just like ISIS gave religious lessons to children after prayers, they are doing the same thing,” said a father of two school-aged children, who said his village is now under control of Iranian militias.

“Just like ISIS gave religious lessons to children after prayers, they are doing the same thing,” said a father of two school-aged children, who said his village is now under control of Iranian militias.

Tehran’s push for converts and loyalists has encountered some resistance from residents who objected to mosques being changed from Sunni to Shiite. In some cases, the call to prayer has reverted back to the Sunni script. Followers of the two sects have some differing religious beliefs and use somewhat different prayers and rituals.

As Mr. Assad’s regime struggles to provide basic services in areas it has recaptured, the Iranians and their affiliated militias and charities have filled the void. The Hussein Organization, an Iranian charity, has brought in generators and water pumps and distributed food and school supplies in cities and villages in Deir Ezzour, said a security analyst consulting with the U.S. government on eastern Syria.
Iran  mar15  aid  Shia  patronage  recruitment  Hizbollah 
8 weeks ago by elizrael
Everyday Experiences of Sectarianism in Kuwait and Bahrain - Maydan, Aug 2018
Most academic literature focusing on sectarianism suggests that key (and often elite) agents, so-called ‘sectarian entrepreneurs,’ use sectarianism to form alliances, play a game of divide and rule, or claim legitimacy vis-à-vis others. One of the most important contributors to the study of sectarianism in the Gulf, Toby Matthiesen, the author of Sectarian Gulf, defines the ‘sectarian identity entrepreneur’ as a particularly strong individual who ‘capitalizes on certain forms of identity [seeing how] collective identities can be used as a political resource.’ This perspective certainly grasps a key issue in regards to sectarianism, which shows how central agents use it to gain power. But while I also explore sectarian experiences in my research, I rather focus primarily on what may be termed ‘sectarian non-entrepreneurs.’ Thus I zoom into how ‘ordinary’ people – rather than particularly strong individuals –  experience, accept, and reproduce sectarian dichotomies in their everyday interactions. While they might do so unwillingly, these quotidian experiences still reveal the importance of sectarian identifications and imaginaries in the society, particularly in the  contemporary Gulf. Bahrain and Kuwait may be low-conflict zones compared to Iraq and Syria, but still sectarian identification forms a key part of the structure of these societies.
Kuwait  Bahrain  Shia  sectarianism  poli-sci  identity 
december 2018 by elizrael
The Shi'a of Busra al-Sham: Interview :: Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, Dec 24, 2018
Q: Of course Busra remained under the control of the Syrian government between 2012 and 2015, while most of the eastern countryside fell.

A: The town centre, yes. Though the [Syrian] army remained, it did not have influence. The party [Hezbollah- and likewise all references hereafter to 'the party'] was more active.

Q: "Though the army remained, it did not have influence. The party was more active." Can you clarify this? Do you mean Hezbollah entered the town to protect it?

A: Yes.

Q: When did the party enter approximately?

A: Around the fifth month of 2012. At first it entered secretly. There were just a few people who were bearing arms with us.

Q: Yes. But later the party's presence increased?

A: Very much so, as all the districts were closed off, and the youth began going and registered. And also some youth from the Sunnis registered with the party.

Q: Yes. So there was a formation affiliated with the party in the town.

A: Yes.

Q: How many people registered in the formation approximately? And when was the formation established approximately?

A: Around 500. It began in early 2012 and began gradually growing till the end of 2012 as the party imposed its control over the area.

Q: Yes, so when the party secretly entered at first in May 2012, they set up the formation.

A: Yes. It remained secret for around two months.

Q: And the youth recruited into the formation, and it became more active than the army by 2013, right?

A: Yes. The name became for the party [i.e. Hezbollah became the main force]. As for the channels and television, they would speak in the name of the army and say with the assistance of the popular forces.

Q: Yes. Was there a name for the local formation in Busra?

A: No.

Q: Just Hezbollah, you mean.

A: Yes. It was just the party.

Q: But during all these years there were no more than a few guys from the Lebanese brothers in the town?

A: Actually there were around twenty. For each speciality two or three came for assistance and training.
Shia  Daraa  Hizbollah  Mar15  Iraq  ForeignFighters  IranianProxy 
december 2018 by elizrael
How to Encourage Shiites and Sunnis to Get Along? Lessons from a Study in Lebanon. – Political Violence at a Glance, Nov 1, 2018
The study took place in Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, and entailed interactions between 360 Shia and Sunni residents of the city in 60 small mixed-sect groups. We wanted to establish whether cooperation across sectarian lines might increase as a result of exposure to an appeal to cooperate from experts and, separately, as a consequence of debating the benefits of cooperation in mixed-sect groups.

We found that a pro-cooperation appeal by experts does indeed increase cross-sectarian cooperation but only of the unconditional, selfless variety, whereby participants become more willing to transfer financial resources to a person from a different sect and to support candidates from the opposite sect in simulated elections. Conditional cooperation—that is, cooperation that entails calculations about the likelihood of reciprocal action—is unaffected by expert appeals. This is probably because trust is a pre-requisite for expectations of reciprocity, and expert appeals fail to increase cross-sectarian trust, as we demonstrate in the study.

Surprisingly, participation in a mixed-sect discussion about the benefits of cooperation does not increase either conditional or unconditional cooperation.
coexistence  poli-sci  Lebanon  Shia  Sunni  sectarianism 
december 2018 by elizrael
Hazaras in Damascus: Interview :: Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, OCt 27, 2018
Q: Approximately how many Hazara families were living in Damascus before the beginning of the war?

A: A year before the war began 200 families approximately.

Q: Yes. And how was life in Syria before the war? A lot better than Afghanistan?

A: Very much so: from the realm of education, work and quality of life.

Q: Currently how many Hazara families remain in Damascus approximately?

A: Around 75.

Q: And most of them are of the Hazaras who came to Syria in 2010.

A: Yes most of them.

Q: Yes. And there is no possibility that the Syrian government will give Syrian nationality to the Hazaras in Damascus?

A: No. From the outset, they [the Hazaras] have a problem in Afghan nationality. All of them: their passports are old. There is no Afghan embassy in Syria.

Q: Yes. And they don't want Syrian nationality?

A: No.

Q: Is this because Syrian nationality imposes military service?

A: This is one [part] of the problem. But they must firstly resolve the problem of their passports.

Q: Yes. You don't have a passport?

A: We are 8 people on one passport. We can't resolve this problem. We can't travel to any country. Now an old passport is not given a visa. Even Hazaras who have travelled to Iraq have remained for two days in Najaf airport.
Shia  Mar15  Afghanistan 
december 2018 by elizrael
Exclusive: Iran moves missiles to Iraq in warning to enemies | Reuters, Aug 31, 2018
Iran has given ballistic missiles to Shi’ite proxies in Iraq and is developing the capacity to build more there to deter attacks on its interests in the Middle East and to give it the means to hit regional foes, Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources said.

According to three Iranian officials, two Iraqi intelligence sources and two Western intelligence sources, Iran has transferred short-range ballistic missiles to allies in Iraq over the last few months. Five of the officials said it was helping those groups to start making their own.
Iran  Iraq  IRGC  militia  Shia  missile 
november 2018 by elizrael
Iran’s influence in Iraq is declining. Here’s why. - The Washington Post
The findings from recent surveys reveal genuinely striking changes. The percentage of Iraqi Shiites who have favorable attitudes toward Iran decreased from 88 percent in 2015 to 47 percent in the fall of 2018. During the same period, those who have unfavorable attitudes toward Iran increased from 6 percent to 51 percent. This means that the majority of Iraqi Shiites currently have negative attitudes toward Iran.

At the same time, the percentage of Shiites who believe that Iran is a reliable partner in Iraq has decreased sharply, from 76 percent to 43 percent, over the same period. Those who believe that Iran is not a reliable partner increased from 24 percent to 55 percent. There is a significant increase in the percentage of Iraqi Shiites who believe that Iran is a real threat to Iraqi sovereignty. This number has jumped from 25 percent in 2016 to 58 percent in 2018.

The same trend among Sunni Iraqis’ public opinion toward Islamic fundamentalists could be seen in my surveys over the past four years. Because of the barbarism of the Islamic State occupation in Sunni areas of Iraq, it is not surprising the Sunnis in Iraq have soured on Sunni Islamist fundamentalism. The new survey leaves no doubt that Iraqi Shiites are showing the same trend toward Iran.
polls  Iran  Iraq  Shia  Sunni  public_opinion 
november 2018 by elizrael
How Corrupt Party Bosses Chose Iraq's New Leaders - Foreign Affairs, Oct 17, 2018
Following his victory, instead of waiting for the largest bloc in parliament to select a candidate for prime minister, Saleh announced in less than two hours that he had chosen Abdul Mahdi. In fact, Abdul Mahdi had arrived at the parliament while presidential voting was still under way, in order to be in place for the announcement. This strongly suggests that Saleh’s victory and Abdul Mahdi’s appointment were the results of yet another muhasasa backroom deal orchestrated among party bosses. By ignoring the constitutional procedure for choosing the prime minister, Saleh has further undermined the precarious role of the Council of Representatives and raised questions about whether Iraq can legitimately call itself a parliamentary democracy.

It was against this backdrop that the Shiite Islamist party bosses put Abdul Mahdi forward as a compromise candidate for prime minister. Once a central figure in Iraqi politics, Abdul Mahdi had withdrawn from his leadership roles and kept a low profile since 2016. His former party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, is weak and fractured. Without a support base, party, or militia of his own, Abdul Mahdi posed no threat to any of the party bosses and hence no threat to the muhasasa system, making him an ideal compromise candidate (similar to Saleh).
Iraq  politics  corruption  Shia  AbdulMahdi  BarhamSaleh 
november 2018 by elizrael
Iran and Shia Islam Spread in Old Damascus - al-Hal, Aug 15, 2018
Residents of the capital Damascus have witnessed many Iranian sectarian practices, beginning with the expansion of Shia shrines through its so-called Committee for the Reconstruction of Holy Sites, and the establishment of “coordination offices” that include a number of religious institutions, most prominently the Al-Sham Institute for Sharia Studies, as well as sheikhs from the Ummayad Mosque and representatives from the Shia Howza in Damascus. Its base is in the Al-Amin district, where it formulates religious sermons that accord with Iran’s policies, and dictate how to deliver Friday sermons and other activities which it oversees.

In addition, a store owner in the Al-Amara district of Old Damascus said that “Iranians are working constantly in the tombs and old districts to excavate any shrine belonging to Ahl Al-Beit, and make it into a major pilgrimage site. They then buy the land and the surrounding houses, and establish a Husseiniyah, making the area owned almost entirely by them.”

The source said, “In the Bab al-Saghir tomb in Damascus, they have set up a new shrine called the Karbala Martyrs shrine. In the burial site there are a group of graves for the wives of the prophet, which they have taken a great deal of care with and spend large sums to impress the Iranian pilgrims who see them. The Iranians believe that it is actually a place set up hundreds of years ago and only discovered recently.”

According to area’s residents, the establishment of these seminaries and religious schools serve a number of purposes. The first is to establish their presence in these areas and expand their Shia base, as these institutions are not limited to education, but also have social and service aspects and spread Shia Islam among residents of the area as well as mobilizing young men and incorporating them into their militias by offering money and weapons generously. One resident of the Al-Amara district says, “Money and food are continuously distributed in the Old Damascus area, and Iran follows a policy of enticement to bring young men — especially teenagers — and incorporate them into their militias. They thereby fulfill two aims: First they win supporters from among the young men and establish control over their minds by providing money and weapons, and secondly they ensure there are no opponents to their presence in the area and that there are no security breaches in these areas.”
Iran  Shia  Damascus  Mar15 
august 2018 by elizrael
Recruited by Iran to fight for Syrian regime, young Afghans bring home cash and scars - WaPo, July 29, 2018
Even more than religion, these Afghan recruits seem mainly driven by necessity, reenlisting again and again to take home another few hundred dollars in military pay — even as they risk injury or death in front-line battles where few Iranian troops are sent. Although they can vividly recount specific battles, they have limited knowledge of the wider causes and complex international roles in the war.
ForeignFighters  refugees  Afghanistan  Shia  IranianProxy  Mar15 
august 2018 by elizrael
Life in Sayyida Zainab: Interview with Jaafar Fadily :: Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, Aug 2018
Q: When did mortars and rockets start to fall on Sayyida Zainab?

A: In September or August 2012.

Q: When did people start to mobilise in Sayyida Zainab to defend the shrine?

A: In late 2012, and thanks to Hezbollah for that.

Q: But also some of the Iraqis living in Sayyida Zainab were involved, right?

A: No, not at the beginning, but when they lost their jobs, they found out their duty is to defend till the end.

Q: I mean did they not get involved in efforts to mobilise to defend the shrine in 2012?

A: A few of them.

Q: Like Ahmad Haji al-Sa'adi.

A: A lot of them travelled to Iraq because they didn't have a lot of possessions in Syria.

Q: So a lot of them initially fled back to Iraq.

A: Yes.

Q: But some stayed behind and mobilised to defend the shrine.

A: Yes, the young people. Because there were a lot of elderly people- Iraqis- and they had some sickness and could not afford that situation.
Shia  Damascus  Mar15  poverty  protests  recruitment  militia  IranianProxy 
august 2018 by elizrael

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