Wednesday, April 28

Alienating More Former Allies

...but this time, it's not France, Germany, the people of the UK, Spain or anyone else in Europe. We're losing friends in Iraqis who were completely on our side. That is, until we had no idea how to end this thing.

From Allied to Alienated
A Shiite cleric who fled Iraq for the U.S. returned, euphoric, after American troops invaded. Today, he just wants them gone.

Ayatollah Sayed Mortada Al-Qazwini should be one of America's best friends in Iraq.

A tall, turbaned man with a candid manner and commanding presence, Al-Qazwini was one of the first Shiite Muslim religious scholars to speak out against Saddam Hussein. He lost 15 relatives to Hussein's brutality, and in 1971 he fled Iraq to escape a death sentence.

He settled in Diamond Bar [a suburb of the L.A. area] and built Shiite religious, cultural and educational centers in Pomona, Irvine, San Diego and Detroit over the next 18 years. All the while, he marveled at the freedom he enjoyed to practice the faith of his persecuted sect. After U.S. forces toppled Hussein a year ago, Al-Qazwini was ecstatic and went home to help.

"Ninety-nine percent of the people are so happy that Saddam has been put down. The coalition forces saved us," he said then.

Now, a year after his emotional homecoming, Al-Qazwini, 75, is deeply disillusioned. U.S. forces have worn out their welcome by failing to fulfill their promises for democracy, political empowerment and reconstruction, the ayatollah said. He wants them to leave Iraq as soon as possible.

Prices have soared, the streets are filled with trash, gasoline lines remain long and blackouts are still common, he said in a recent interview at his son's home in Rowland Heights.

"The coalition forces are not doing anything about it," he fumed. "With all their power and authority, they're staying silent.

"If the U.S. doesn't improve the situation soon, it's possible that powerful Shia scholars might tell people to resist," Al-Qazwini said. "Right now the Shias are choosing to cooperate, but patience has a limit."