The demonstrations in Anbar and the events which unfolded thereafter provided an invaluable insight into a segment of the Iraqis misunderstood sometimes and misrepresented often.
Here are a few lessons:
Lesson 1 – No Connection
One lesson learned from Anbar demonstrations is that the so called “Sunni” leadership seems to be wildly out of touch with its “base”. The outrage, resentment and violent backlash to Saleh Al-Mutlaq’s mere presence and pelting him with stones and shoes is the starkest display of complete disintegration in relationships between
the Sunni populace and their representatives. Protestors shouted “Kill the traitor” and “get out of here” to Saleh Al-Mutlaq. So it did break his bones metaphorically speaking in Anbar at least, if not with his wider audience.
Lesson 2 – 1 Dead, 5 Injured .. No big deal!
The fact that at least 1 person killed with 5 others injured by Al-Multaq’s bodyguards seems to have gone completely un-noticed and swiftly off-radar. While Al-Sharqiya, the fiercely anti-government and mildly anti-Shia, channel went on for weeks about how Security forces were ready to use batons and water cannons against some 30 odd demonstrators back in July 2011.
Lesson 3 – There are some ..
The other lesson is that the “Sunnis” in Iraq do have some elders able to command respect and less provocative in their sectarian approach than the self-proclaimed Sunni representatives.
Finally some responsible voices are arising from the Sunni religious leaders. Individuals such as Shaikh Ahmed Al-Kubaisi who tried to speak in a moderate language despite being quite radical in his views was swept away soon after his return in 2003.
Shaikh Abdul-Malik Al-Sa’adi the 75 year old -who was born in an Anbar city called Hit and lived in Falluja- returned from Jordan and attempted to defuse the ultra-sectarian and divisive nature of the speeches in the demonstration. Shaikh Al-Sa’adi who was lecturer in Om Al-Qura University in Makkah (A
Wahabi controlled University in Saudi) and is also engulfed in the sectarian gloom but understands the dire situation his community will be in if the sectarian trend spirals downwards.
Although both may not have demonstrated a full understanding of the complexities on the ground having been away for long periods, having lived in Dubai and Jordan, but It is still a modest but welcomed step forward.
How able are they to mobilise the masses and command influence is yet to be tested, however it is clear that it would be no where near the amount of popularity and gravitas Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani has on the Shia Iraqis side.
Lesson 4 – Iraq’s Politics
The most important lesson is that Iraqi politics is by far one of most unpredictable and constantly changing dynamics. One fact is for sure and that is the previous equations of minorities ruling majority will never be permitted to return.