Over recent weeks and months, there has been debate over whether—or, more accurately, the degree to which—Islamic law should be enshrined in the new Iraqi constitution to be drafted by next month. Most Shiite leaders in Iraq want the country to become an Islamic state, not so different from the Iranian model. Iran wants this most of all.
Rather than waiting for the constitutional authority to enforce Sharia—or Islamic—law, however, the Shiite leadership has already succeeded in establishing it in parts of the country—largely through intimidation and militia enforcement, and, it seems, at the behest of Iran.
Back in February, the Telegraph reported that a “silent and largely undocumented social revolution has transformed the Shia-dominated south of Iraq into a virtual Islamic state in the two years since the U.S. Army invaded” (February 14).
Over the past couple weeks, several news sources have confirmed that Basra, Iraq’s main port city and oil production center, which borders Iran, is dominated by extremist Shiite Muslims and “steadily being transformed into a mini-theocracy” (New York Times, July 7).
Residents of Basra, once one of the more secular of the Shia cities, “describe the changes as an Iranian-style revolution, hesitant at first but rapidly building momentum” (Telegraph, op. cit.).
Tools for this transformation include instruction in the universities and mosques, and sometimes brutal enforcement. “Religious Shiites do not have to legally enshrine Sharia, or Koranic law, to exercise their will. Enforcement of Islamic practices is done on the streets, in the shadows” (New York Times, op. cit.). Shiite militias, directed by the controlling political parties and working in cooperation with the official security forces, enforce strict Shiite religious rulings involving dress standards, music, alcohol and the like. For instance, through intimidation and violence, within a year the militias have virtually put a stop to women being seen in public without the traditional Islamic head scarf and full-length black robe. These social changes are Iranian, comments one Basra resident. “Basra has really become an Iranian city. I no longer recognize it” (Christian Science Monitor, July 13).
The stamp of Iran is found everywhere. Posters of the father of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, are displayed in the streets. The rhetoric is the same also: A poster of Khomeini outside the governor’s office displays the words “All the problems of Islam stem from colonialism and the Great Powers.”
In addition, as the Telegraph reported, Sharia law is now routinely used instead of civil codes in Basra’s courts. Shiite rule has even changed which days constitute the weekend: To avoid including Saturday, which Jews celebrate as a day of rest, the official weekend in this part of the country is now Thursday and Friday.
The Shiite takeover of southern Iraq and the imposition of the strict code of Islamic law have been underway since Saddam Hussein was deposed. Since the Iraqi elections in January this year, however, this process has accelerated with more radical politicians coming to power and the consolidation of Shiite religious rule. Basra’s provincial council is dominated by Shiite politicians (35 out of 41) loyal to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (sciri), a Shiite political party with strong representation in the national government, and to Ayatollah Muhammed Yacoubi, a radical cleric associated with Moqtada al-Sadr, the notorious anti-American cleric supported by Iran. One official in Basra claims that half of the Governing Council members have ties to Iran.
Numerous small religious parties—such as God’s Vengeance and Master of Martyrs—have the backing of these major Shiite groups and are suspected of “being agents of the Iranian government” (New York Times, op. cit.). One such party was established in Iran by an Iraqi cleric seeking refuge there during Hussein’s reign.
Despite having differences, politicians composing Basra’s majority Shiite government agree on the future of the city: “Today, our society is changing, becoming more religious,” said its provincial governor. “We must reflect that Basra is becoming a purely Islamic city” (Christian Science Monitor, op. cit.). This, incidentally, is being accomplished at no small price: Iraqi officials estimate that nearly 1,000 people, mostly Sunnis, have been killed in the city in the past three months (ibid.). Sunnis accuse intelligence agents from Iran of masterminding these killings.
For over a decade, editor in chief Gerald Flurry has put forward that Iraq would come under the control of Iran in a bloc held together by radical Islam. For the strategic southern city of Basra, this has, for all intents and purposes, become reality.
Together with recent agreements on military cooperation and the impending energy deals between Iran and Iraq, the enforcement of Iranian-style Islamic law in Iraq heralds the fulfillment of a frightening prophecy. Read The King of the South to find out more on where Iran’s incursions into Iraq will lead. ▪