the hope of an appeasement between Shiites and Sunnis

the hope of an appeasement between Shiites and Sunnis

Iraq is no stranger to Iran-Saudi Arabia deals. Between 2021 and 2022, this country hosted five conferences aimed at restoring regional stability and ties between Tehran and Riyadh. A neighbor of the two rival powers, Iraq has directly suffered the consequences of their antagonism, with forty years of conflict between Shiites and Sunnis in the country. Four decades peppered with wars, revenge, segregation.

Tensions have been heightened between the two Muslim communities since the Islamic Revolution in Iran (1979) and the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988). Even more so since the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein (2003) and the rise of Al-Qaida. The first Iraqi civil war (2006-2009), the establishment of Daesh’s Sunni caliphate in Iraq (2014-2017) and the resumption of control of its territories with the help of the powerful Shiite militias of Hachd Al-Chaabi prolonged this spiral of mutual destruction. Periods marred by massacres between the two communities, accompanied by population displacements.

An agreement welcomed by the religious authorities

“In Iraq, for twenty years, the religious fact has been determined by the politicalassures the director of the French Center for Research on Iraq (CFRI), Adel Bakawan. Thanks to the agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia which reverses the balance of power,the political fact will intervene to appease religious tensions”.

“Until now, we could see the Sunnis adopting a discourse presenting the Shiites as religious deviants. Now, instead of pointing out discord, both sides will use religious resources like verses from the Quran to call for Islamic brotherhood and the Ummah. (the Islamic community, Editor’s note) »he adds.

A nuanced speech by Heiko Wimmen, director of projects in Iraq for the International Crisis Group, who does not expect major changes in the country. “The real lines of conflict today are more between different Shia groups and between established political parties and movements and their supporters. »

The deal was nonetheless welcomed by Iraqi religious elites. Reached by Zoom, the imam of the Great Mosque of Baghdad Abdel-Wahab Taha Al Sammerai recalls that “Peace is a basic human need, and an agreement that helps achieve this goal is welcomed by all.” But the member of the Bureau of Sunni Affairs remains on his guard: “Iran should not make a deal that only benefits the Iraqi Shia community. The agreement must preserve Iraq’s sovereignty and interests. »

“Sectarian attacks muted”

Powerful Shiite leader at the head of the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq from 2009 to 2017, Ammar Al Hakim recalled “the need to adopt a policy of moderation”, the only way in his view to achieve regional stability. Supreme religious authority for Shiites in Iraq, Ayatollah Al Sistani did not comment on the agreement, but called in December for “the promotion of a culture of peaceful coexistence, the reduction of violence and greater solidarity in Iraq”.

If the researcher specializing in Iraq Loulouwa Al Rachid sees only a rapprochement “politics that has no religious or ecumenical purpose”it nevertheless observes that in Iraq “sectarian attacks via sermons, media or social networks have been muted for a while”.

This is confirmed by Abdel-Wahab Taha Al Sammerai, who bears witness to a phase of “good cooperationand understanding” between Iraqi Sunni and Shiite clerics. Considered one of the most influential Sunni imams in Iraq, he is confident that Shia and Sunni scholars will play “an essential role in the promotion of peace and reconciliation between peoples”.

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