• Whither Iraq? What’s Happening Had to Happen

    June 13, 2014

    Tags: , , , , , , ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Embassy/State, Iraq, Military




    The events unfolding now in Iraq are inevitable. They are the latest iteration of all the good we failed to do from day one of America’s ill-fated invasion in 2003.

    Some History

    Iraq before our invasion was three separate pseudo-states held together by a powerful security apparatus under Saddam. If you like historical explanations, this disparate collection was midwifed by the British following WWI, as they drew borders in the MidEast to their own liking, with often no connection to the ground-truth of the real ethnic, religious and tribal boundaries.

    That mess held together more or less until the U.S. foolishly broke it apart in 2003 with no real understanding of what it did. As Saddam was removed, and his security regime dissolved alongside most of civilian society, the seams broke open.

    The Kurds quickly created a de facto state of their own, with its own military (the pesh merga), government and borders. U.S. money and pressure restrained them from proclaiming themselves independent, even as they waged border wars with Turkey and signed their own oil contracts.

    Sunni-Shia Rift

    The Sunni-Shia rift fueled everything that happened in Iraq, and is happening now. The U.S. never had a long game for this, but never stopped meddling in the short-term. The Surge was one example. The U.S. bought off the Sunni bulk with actual cash “salaries” to their fighters (the U.S. first called them the Orwellian “Concerned Local Citizens” and then switched to “Sons of Iraq,” which sounded like an old Bob Hope road movie title.) The U.S. then also used Special Forces to assassinate Sunni internal enemies– a favored sheik need only point at a rival, label him al-Qaeda, and the night raids happened. A lull in the killing did occur as a result of the Surge, but was only sustained as long as U.S. money flowed in. As the pay-off program was “transitioned” to the majority Shia central government, it quickly fell apart.

    The Shias got their part of the deal when, in 2010, in a rush to conclude a Prime Ministerial election that would open the door to a U.S. excuse to pack up and leave Iraq, America allowed the Iranians to broker a deal where we failed. The Sunnis were marginalized, a Shia government was falsely legitimized and set about pushing aside the Sunni minority from the political process, Iranian influence increased, the U.S. claimed victory, and then scooted our military home. Everything since then between the U.S. and Iraq– pretending Maliki was a legitimate leader, the billions in aid, the military and police training, the World’s Largest Embassy– has been pantomime.

    Post-America Iraq

    But the departure of the U.S. military, and the handing over of relations to the ever-limp fortress American embassy, left Iraq’s core problems intact. Last year’s Sunni siege of Fallujah only underscored the naughty secret that western Iraq had been and still is largely under Sunni control with very little (Shia) central government influence. That part of Iraq flows seamlessly over the artificial border with Syria, and the successes of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in a war zone that now takes in both countries should not be a surprise.

    The titular head of Iraq now, Nuri al-Maliki, is watching it all unravel in real-time. He has become scared enough to call for U.S. airstrikes to protect his power. It is highly unlikely that the U.S. will comply, though covert strikes and some level of Special Forces action may happen behind the scenes. That won’t work of course. What the full weight of the U.S. military could not do over nine years, a few drone killings cannot do. It’s like using a can opener to try and catch fish.

    What Might Happen Next

    Things are evolving quickly in Iraq, but for now, here are some possible scenarios. The Kurds are the easy ones; they will keep on doing what they have been doing. They will fight back effectively and keep their oil flowing. They’ll see Baghdad’s influence only in the rear-view mirror.

    The Sunnis will at least retain de facto control of western Iraq, maybe more. They are unlikely to be set up to govern in any formal way, but may create some sort of informal structure to collect taxes, enforce parts of the law and chase away as many Shias as they can. Violence will continue, sometimes hot and nasty, sometimes low-level score settling.

    The Shias are the big variable. Maliki’s army seems in disarray, but if he only needs it to punish the Sunnis with violence it may prove up to that. Baghdad will not “fall.” The city is a Shia bastion now, and the militias will not give up their homes. A lot of blood may be spilled, but Baghdad will remain Shia-controlled and Maliki will remain in charge in some sort of limited way.

    The U.S. will almost certainly pour arms and money into Iraq in the same drunken fashion we always have. Special Forces will quietly arrive to train and advise. It’ll be enough to keep Maliki in power but not much more than that. Domestically we’ll have to endure a barrage of “who lost Iraq?” and the Republicans will try and blast away at Obama for not “doing enough.” United States is poised to order an evacuation of the embassy, Fox News reported, but that is unlikely. “Unessential” personnel will be withdrawn, many of those slated to join the embassy out of Washington will be delayed or canceled, but the embarrassment of closing Fort Apache down would be too much for Washington to bear. The U.S. will use airstrike and drones if necessary to protect the embassy so that there will be no Benghazi scenario.

    What is Unlikely to Happen

    The U.S. will not intervene in any big way, absent protecting the embassy. Obama has cited many times the ending of the U.S. portion of the Iraq war as one of his few foreign policy successes and he won’t throw that under the bus. The U.S. backed off from significant involvement in Syria, and has all but ignored Libya following Benghazi, and that won’t change.

    The U.S. must also be aware that intervening to save Maliki puts us on the same side in this mess as the Iranians.

    Almost none of this has to do with al Qaeda or international terrorism, though those forces always profit from chaos.

    The Turks may continue to snipe at the Kurds on their disputed border, but that conflict won’t turn hot. The U.S. will keep the pressure on to prevent that, and everyone benefits if the oil continues to flow.

    The Iranians will not intervene any more than the Americans might. A little help to Malaki here (there are reports of Iranian Revolutionary Guard in the fighting), some weapons there, but Iran is only interested in a secure western border and the Sunni Surge should not threaten that significantly enough to require a response. Iran also has no interest in giving the U.S. an excuse to fuss around in the area. A mild level of chaos in Iraq suits Iran’s needs just fine for now.

    Lost

    There are still many fools at loose in the castle. Here’s what Fawaz Gerges of the London School of Economics said: “There is hope… that this really scary, dangerous moment will serve as a catalyst to bring Iraqis together, to begin the process of reconciliation.”

    Brett McGurk, the State Department’s point man on Iraq, brought out a tired trope, on Twitter no less: “The U.S. has a permanent Strategic Framework Agreement with Iraq. We have suffered and bled together, and we will help in time of crisis.”

    The war in Iraq was lost as it started. There was no way for America to win it given all of the above, whether the troops stayed forever or not. The forces bubbling inside Iraq might have been contained a bit, or a bit longer, but that’s about all that could have been expected. Much of the general chaos throughout the Middle East now is related to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and how that upset multiple balances of power and uneasy relationships. The Iraq war will be seen as one of the most significant foreign policy failures of recent American history. That too is inevitable.



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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...

      1

      06/13/14 1:42 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      2

      Dick Cheney’s epitaph for all those lost in the Iraq War:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOXtWxhlsUg&list=RDzOXtWxhlsUg&index=1

      06/13/14 1:44 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...

      3

      Would be interesting to hear from JEdgar Hoover, if he’s about, and JTM McPhee …

      This has to be one of the most convoluted and unavoidable wars in modern times. That is the other tragedy — this could have been avoided. It’s the price we pay for allowing the invasion to occur on the basis of very false and terrible propaganda perpetuated by the Neo Cons, who are still in denial. This is their product.

      You have a strengthened Iran, a stronger bunch of radical Islamist groups, too many countries in military conflict in the region, the outing of our building a weaker, more decrepit and impotent state – harking back to our invasion based on false premises.

      It’s also June. Fall is not far off — we stand the likelihood of continued war in Ukraine and Iraq and Afghanistan really burning up — yes I’m alluding to oil and gas, which could very well spike in prices.

      Both Ukraine and Iraq are poster children for foreign policy failures of the neo-cons, made worse by the continuation of some of their poor policies. It’s nice the Washington Post has run articles by Kristoff on the foreign policy successes of Mrs Clinton but he omitted a number of critical and glaring foreign policy crises. Maybe Kristoff is not familiar with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars??

      One of the many issues that never got addressed is that State under Mrs Clinton didnt fight the fight of de-militarizing our foreign policy and instead succeeded the ground to lucrative contractors and ‘policy experts’ who probably could not identify the location of the major cities of Iraq, even with a wall-sized map pasted in front of them.

      But as I’ve often overheard on the red line metro in DC, thank goodness these ‘wonks’ have been able to close on pricey homes in the Washington area. The subject of their American constituents losing their homes meanwhile can be saved for another article.

      It is surprising that the ‘experts’ can’t imagine, still, or perhaps don’t read analysis of surveys conducted of the Iraqi population (are we still funding such programs??) that there may be Sunni Iraqis just as worried as our policy ‘experts’ of Iranian influence or that Iranian revolutionary guardsmen are fighting with Maliki’s troops. Perhaps the ‘experts’ forgot about the Iraq-Iran war. Perhaps the ‘experts’ forgot there was no AL Qaeda in Iraq before we invaded, in spite of the manufactured claim other ‘experts’ had made — until now.

      JTM raised this and it’s essential, because it will sow the seeds for the next conflict — and what about the arms transfers taking place in the region? Multiple sources and countries are providing weaponry to these radical groups and it is impossible to track the flow of who is getting what. During the Bush-Cheney admin, stores of weapons went from Iraq to other parts of the region and that story was allowed to die. The region is being flooded with weapons that will come back to haunt us.

      In spite of all the rhetoric on tracking the flow of money and weaponry to these radical groups, there has been no substantive progress and looking at the results and all the crises taking place, it appears there is no good intel and we’ve lost billions of dollars down the intel-rabbit hole that should have been better managed, including better tracking of resource transfers to these groups rather than tracking of innocent Americans. It’s just a free-for-all blood-sucking profit-gorging session. Is that supposed to be the idea?

      06/13/14 2:45 PM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...

      4

      The consequence of all this will be that it will be blamed on Obama and the Democrats, and consequently in 2016 America will elect someone even worse than Hillary Clinton, some kind of nationalist hawk lunatic who will make even Sarah Palin look relatively sane in comparison.

      Half of the responsibility for that will belong to the American “Left” for wanking themselves senseless over trivia like gay marriage while the world broke into flames.

      06/13/14 5:49 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...

      5

      quote” It’s just a free-for-all blood-sucking profit-gorging session. Is that supposed to be the idea?”unquote
      Yes.
      Ya know, it’s taken me most of my adult life to finally see the exact nature of what, as a kid, I used to think was the United States as a sort of “good guy” who had won WW11, only to evolve into a macho policeman of the world. As a poor Navy kid, with no higher education, and little access to political information other than TV and newspapers, I was a typical DUMB AMERICAN for a good portion of my life. It was only during Vietnam that my eyes started to open, but for the most part, my insight into world affairs were still pretty limited. However, over time, things caught my attention. Like the Indonesian boondoggles, the Central America boondogles. And South American boondoggles. And then, the Middle East boondoggles. All the while, I’m thinking the US was simply getting caught up in emerging power struggles and doing it’s best to straighten out the bad guys. Oh sure, I knew the MIC was happening, greed, neoConservative war mongering, and all that shit. But I never did come to grips with the depth of the evil until GWB came along, and we went into Iraq/Afghanistan and Pakistan.
      And to a certain extent..I really never saw the pattern emerge..until tonight. Tonight, I finally saw it. The ruling class use of the Department of State in it’s push to suck the blood from the resources of the planet. Now I FULLY understand the nature of the DOS. All it took was a movie, that I didn’t understand, and a half hour of research to find the answer. And find it I did. And now it’s clear as day.

      Back in the mid 70′s, I was just becoming a working class schmuck, with 2 kids, self employed working 20hr days, so I really didn’t really have time to connect with the worlds political stages and battles..other than the Mideast OIL shit. Hey, gotta have gas to get to work..right? Right. But every once in a while, things would pop up in the news. At least for a week or two..and then disappear. Oh well, there was always next weeks world debacle to grasp my attention for a few days. And there was always some OTHER nations wars that would make headlines for a few days and then magically disappear never to be heard from again. God was I dumb. I mean really really dumb.

      My point. Tonight I watched a movie that blew me away. BALIBO.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balibo_%28film%29

      Didn’t have a clue what it was going to be about. Within 20 minutes..I HAD to find out a little background to understand what was going on. I did. Fuck. Now it’s all clear. The whole US foreign policy DOS ruling class clusterfuck bullshit. And it’s name is GENOCIDE. US supported fucking GENOCIDE. Hence Iraq. Hence Afghanistan. Hence Pakistan. Hence Africa. Hence Syria. Hence you fucking name it.

      http://www.chomsky.info/articles/199910–.htm

      quote”The guiding principles were articulated in 1978, three years after Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor, by Washington’s ambassador to the UN, Daniel Patrick Moynihan. His words should be committed to memory by anyone with a serious interest in international affairs, human rights, and the rule of law. In his memoirs, Moynihan wrote: “The United States wished things to turn out as they did, and worked to bring this about. The Department of State desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook. This task was given to me, and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success” (13).”unquote

      Moynihan was wrong. It wasn’t the “United States” that wanted this. It was a RULING CLASS CABAL IN the United States. An evil, moral free, pyschopathic Corporate CABAL. That’s who. And they are still HERE.

      I can’t go on now. I now know the truth. The complete, unmitigated, undeniable truth. The UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT is a barbaric, sadistic fucking WAR CRIMINAL of biblical proportions working at the behest of the Corporatacracy. I no longer care if a WMD blows this nation off the face of the planet. It’s the only thing that will stop the madness.

      EAST TIMOR. Barely heard of it back then. At the beginning of the movie..a narrator tells why we didn’t hear any more about it for 10 FUCKING YEARS. Now I know why. We Meant Well. not.

      Excuse me now..I feel sick.

      ps. sorry for the long post. I just had to get it out somewhere relevant.

      06/14/14 12:10 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      6

      Another lost lesson learned in speaking TRUTH to POWER:

      “Knight Ridder, later purchased by McClatchy, reported that there was no support among the CIA’s professional class for the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. But those who dissented or raised questions were drowned out.”

      At the CIA they will always value Career before country.

      06/14/14 11:02 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      7

      Speaking of inevitable, “Wrong Way Kerry-again” cited evidence of plots that the Islamic State of Iraq has built against the United States and the West, but he did not provide any details. Kerry described ISIL as a “terrorist enemy” that has threatened the U.S. and West. He said the insurgent network, which is inspired by if not directly linked to al-Qaida, “has been plotting and looking for opportunities to take on the West.”

      If at first you don’t succeed, fail, fail Wrong Way Kerry-again.

      06/14/14 11:47 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      8

      Fail, fail “Wrong Way Kerry-again”

      ISIS is a direct result of the U.S. launching of the Iraq War. Before the American invasion, nothing like it existed—not in Iraq anyway, but only in the fevered minds of war-makers eager to find themes to use as selling points to get public support for the war.

      06/14/14 12:17 PM | Comment Link

    • jim hruska said...

      9

      WMW,
      Why are you not mentioning the Saudi part in this invasion of Iraq.
      Is it an insurgency or a invasion?
      Do we ,or anybody know for sure.
      But to me it is not an insurgency, nor is it a classic civil war.
      Maybe it’s smarter to focus on facts and do less personal attacks.
      jim hruska

      06/15/14 3:38 PM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...

      10

      Point taken Jim, but I’ll go you a step further. America’s wars in the MidEast exist in a media-fueled fantasy land that imagines Blue Forces fighting Red Forces, saving Private Ryan but with more sand. As folks like you know, it is much more complex. In Iraq right now, there are multiple levels of war going on.

      On the surface you have our media-view war: Jihadists vs. The Iraqi Government. Another layer down you have one group dominated by Sunnis vs. another Shiite one fighting a civil war. Below that are in intra-Sunni and intra-Shiite struggles for turf and power. Laying under it all is the proxy war, Iran’s support for the Shiites and Saudi support for the Sunnis.

      Dumb ass America meanwhile is supporting the Iranian side, adding to Iran’s regional power with every drone flight and SOF action.

      Just because we Americans don’t see/know this, the people in the region sure do.

      Not to get too deep into comparisons, but peak back at your war, Vietnam. The Chinese and the Russians fought a proxy war while the U.S. could not decide whether it was fighting a counterinsurgency, or supporting a rotten at the core government, or flirting with the edges of its own proxy war.

      In Beijing, I visited the People’s Army Museum. Interesting place. They had HUGE sections devoted to their victories over America, in Korea and especially in Vietnam. I could read some of the signs and the focus was on political victories (war is politics by other means). You could also see and touch a U-2 the Chinese shot down. The museum is open to the public, though off the beaten path. The staff said other than school groups on field trips almost no one comes by, foreign or Chinese.

      06/15/14 5:09 PM | Comment Link

    • Jhoover said...

      11

      Chelsea Manning breaks silence, accuses U.S. of lying about Iraq

      http://edition.cnn.com/2014/06/15/us/nyt-chelsea-manning/

      06/16/14 9:03 AM | Comment Link

    • Jhoover said...

      12

      Why are you not mentioning the Saudi part in this invasion of Iraq.?

      Ayatollah D’Souza

      06/16/14 9:05 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      13

      “Why are you not mentioning the Saudi part in this invasion of Iraq?”

      “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT, and other terrorist groups, including Hamas, which probably raise millions of dollars annually from Saudi sources, often during Hajj and Ramadan,” Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said in one cable sent in December 2009.

      Having spawned Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 suicide killers of 9/11, the Islamist Sunni caliphate of Iraq and the Levant, conquerors of Mosul and Tikrit – and Raqqa in Syria – and possibly Baghdad, and the ultimate humiliators of Bush and Obama maybe it’s time to take Johnny McCain’s advice and “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Saudi Arabia”:

      http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/us-iran-reportedly-near/1164762.html

      06/16/14 11:33 AM | Comment Link

    • jim hruska said...

      14

      WMW,
      A dubious friend is not a friend. An ally that is not a friend is not an ally.I just don’t get US policy; we pretend that both India and Pakistan are allies. The same myth exists in SA/IRQ/Egypt and all the other out houses of the world. Every one is not a friend , even if you pay for the girl friend experience They are all pimps and whores and the American taxpayer and soldiers carry the water.
      I predict a fissure with SA , and soon.
      To quote Fleetwood Mac they are gonna go their own way, and soon.
      They do not share interests of a strategic nature with the US.
      As for IRQ and RVN comparisons this is now the 2014 version of Easter 1972.
      jim hruska

      06/16/14 3:16 PM | Comment Link

    • Jhoover said...

      15

      A dubious friend is not a friend.

      Let read what’s your ally doing?
      (they doing well what inside dreams about getting New World Order)

      ‘Fake Beards’

      “We recognize that all terrorist-related groups are a threat, including ISIL,” al-Turki said in an interview yesterday. “But our security forces are very well prepared to handle any terrorism threat.”

      The leaflets showed up on cars on back streets in two residential neighborhoods in Riyadh in May, according to a Saudi security official, who asked not to be identified because police are still investigating the incident. It’s also unclear if those responsible had direct contact with ISIL or were acting on their own, the official said.

      In the leaflets, the group warned against Muslims with “fake beards,” or those who pretend to be followers of Islam but are really its enemy, according to copies posted on Twitter by residents of the capital.

      Such language has often been used by jihadi groups to criticize the Saudi monarchy, which enforces Islamic law at home and yet has also cultivated an alliance with the U.S., seen as enemies by most Islamists.

      06/16/14 8:19 PM | Comment Link

    • Jhoover said...

      16

      06/16/14 8:19 PM | Comment Link

    • Jhoover said...

      17

      One very important question please can someone volunteer to answer:

      Those Islamists jihadist why they lost their direction to kill and go jihad in Islamic land?

      Is it Quds under Occupation?
      Is those Islamists keep the slogan of enemy of Zion or Jews why they don’t go and fight in Palestine?
      No Single fight or mission inside Israel from 2003 but we heard a lot of Islamists jihadist activities around the world
      Very real question here.

      06/16/14 8:25 PM | Comment Link

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