Saturday, February 25, 2006

Wrong Swamp

Much was said at the start of the Iraq War that it would quickly degenerate into a Vietnam-style quagmire for the Americans.

Right now, it would appear to have more accurate parallels in an entirely different patch of soggy ground.

With sectarian violence threatening the rise of the democratic process, Iraq right now is more like Northern Ireland during the worst of the late 20th century 'Troubles'. The roles being played have startling general similarities.

In Northern Ireland, as in Iraq, violence between religious sects was actually the outer face of violent political disagreement over who should rule.

In Northern Ireland, Protestant paramilitaries sought to remain allied to the British and their government. In Iraq, the Shi'ites seek generally to follow a path forged by the Americans.

In Northern Ireland, the Catholic IRA wanted to break away from British influence and establish a 'united' Ireland. In Iraq, the Sunnis seek to destroy the American plan and return to ethnic 'unity'.

The American troops in Iraq may find themselves playing the role of British squaddies in Northern Ireland, trying to keep the two warring factions apart.

Ironically, the external influence in financing and enabling Sunni (Catholic) violence exerted by Al Qaida finds its Northern Ireland parallel in America where Irish-Americans openly supported the IRA with donations for years.

Fortunately, right now, a tense peace appears to be holding in Iraq.

-- Nick

Update: Spoke too soon:

Iraqi leaders held an emergency meeting overnight to control a surge in sectarian violence as tensions were further inflamed by a deadly car bomb in the Shiite holy city of Karbala.
Update II: Speak of the Devil:

Irish riot police clashed overnight with republican protestors who forced Protestant unionists from Northern Ireland to call off a march through central Dublin.

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