Francis in Iraq – day 4

March the 8th marks the end of the papal visit. Regional press publishes two interesting comments.

Francis in Iraq – day 4 - Geopolitica.info

The Turkish press proposes an aggressive analysis by Prof. Özcan Hıdır published by Anadolu Ajansi. According to the Professor, almost every aspect of a visit made by a two thousands-years old theo-political institution shall be examined from different angles (“iki bin yıllık teo-politik kurum olunca, bu sürecin hemen her karesini farklı açılardan irdelemek gerekir”), although attributing it too extensive meanings may be useless (“büyütüp aşırı anlamlar yüklemenin gereksiz”). The Professor notes how in Mosul, pivotal for Iraqi Sunnis, the Pope made no mention is made of the Sunni tragedy(“Irak Sünnilerinin dramından söz edilmedi”). He adds that the Pope could at least have met a religious leader of the Iraqi Sunnis (“en azından, sembolik de olsa, Irak Sünnilerinden bir dini lider ile de görüşülebilirdi“), referring to the importance attributed instead to the Shiite side. Professor Hıdır notices how, amongst exhortations to “living in brotherhood”, no reference was done to those who brought Iraq and Syria to the state they are in or who killed hundreds of thousands of Muslims (“kardeşçe yaşamak”tan bahsedip “kimse öldürülmesin” demesi, ister istemez Irak’ı, Suriye’yi bu hale kimin getirdiği ve yüzbinlerce Müslümanı kimin öldürdüğüne dair soruları da hatırlara getirmedi değil”). The author emphasizes how in the Muslim world the greatest similarity with the papacy-Vatican, in terms of institutional and doctrinal structure, is with Shiism. The meeting between Sistani and the Pope is defined “remarkable” (as well as the physical proximity they kept and the fact that they were not wearing masks). The article continues remarking the political significance of the visit towards Iran and the questions about the possible existence of a US plan behind it: according to Professor Hıdır, the US will promote an ethno-sectarian rivalry between Shiites, which will effectively benefit Israel. Reference is done to the banner displaying the sentence “You are a part of us, we are a part of you”, shown during the visit to Sistani, whose general attitude towards the protection of Christians in Iraq during the visit is known. Prof. Hıdır considers his analysis as made of hypothesis.  He reports a comment by Hezbollah that is coincident with that of the Iranian analyst Huseyin Ruyveran, who does not express optimism about any positive outcomes of the Pope’s visit. The Professor then underlines how Biden is a Roman Catholic, the second President to be so after Kennedy, and that according to him the Pope’s relationship with Muslims may be used as a political tool. Biden’s goal would be that of creating a theo-political line in the Islamic world under the leadership of the Pope. This should be attributed to the fact that he (the Pope) “said no word about the invaders…who left Iraq in this state”(“Nitekim Papa…Irak’ın bu hale gelmesine sebep…hiçbir söz söylemedi”).

The core of the analysis is the question of which of Francis’s two identities, the religious and the political one, is the prevailing one in this visit. “Dinî mi, siyasî mi?” (“is it religion or politics?”) wonders the Professor.”Hem siyasi hem dini (teo-politik) misyon ya da kimlikle mi yaptığı tartışması da yapıldı“, “it can be both a political and a religious mission” is the answeer. The Professor then asserts that the theo-political aspect is more prominent, “theo-politik yönü daha ziyade öne çıkmaktadır“. So what is the message for Turkey? A subtle (“ince”) one, again according to the Professor who reads the visit as a message for Turkey and the whole region. A powerful Sunni country like Turkey shall take the message into due consideration. While the Sunnis “were besieged in Iraq” they are now on the verge of being completely finished or pacified (“şimdi ise tamamen bitirilme veya iyice pasifize edilme noktasına gelindi”). It is emphasized that the Pope’s meeting with the Hashdi Shabi terrorists (according to the Professor, collaborators of the PKK terrorists in Sinjar) can be read in this way. It is also underlined that the Pope gave his rosary to Reyyan Salim al-Keldani, the head of the Biblical Brigades (Babiliun), a Christian branch of Hashd al-Shaabi, linked to another organization (a terroristic one) whose head he declared to consider a system defense system acquired by the United States a tool to defend itself against Turkey (“bu örgüte mensup terör gruplarından birinin başının, ABD’den hava savunma sistemi alıp Türkiye’ye karşı kendilerini savunmaktan söz ettiği görüldü“). The analysis therefore adopts a profoundly different tone from that used in recent days by the Turkish newspapers.

Sozcu reports Francis’s meeting with the father of Alan Kurdi and the mass at the “Hariri” stadium in Erbil in front of ten thousand people. Hurryiet reports a simple chronicle of the last day of the visit and the thanks given by the Pope to Iraqi women.

The Iranian press publishes in the hiperconservative paper Kayhan an analysis by Hossein Shariatmadari, whose intent is that of minimizing the ideological distance between Qom and Najaf and proposing a unified vision of Shiism, of its mission and of its place in history. It is necessary to remember how Shiism is formally born from a strong idea of ​​rejection of prevarication, of which it feels itself a victim since its very origins. Ayatollah Sistani is proposed as that of an eminent Shiite clergy and no reference is done to the political and doctrinal differences existing with Iran’s mainstream. The cleric is compared to Gen. Soleimani, painted with him in a sort of diptych of protectors of the Iraqi people against the imperialism of the United States and “their” Takfiri terrorist groups, obtained with full support from the West and Israel. Sistani’s fatwa against these forces issued in 2014, that provoked an enormous mobilization against Daesh, is presented as the legal instrument that activated the action of Gen. Soleimani to protect the entire Iraqi people with no differences done between its Shiite, Sunni or Christian components. It is an attempt to present a unique line of command, obviously of great importance for a line that, starting from Tehran, does not want to lose strength in Iraq. The article equalizes today’s situation with 1979, when Imam Khomeini asks Archbishop John Paul II’s emissary Annibale Bugnini: ​​”if Jesus were here, a witness between us of the hostility and the crimes of the United States against Iran and its people, would it be with us or with the Americans?”. Shariatmadari points out that the question remained unanswered.