• The Dumbest Article You’ll Read This Week About Iraq

    October 31, 2013 // 26 Comments »

    Smell that?

    Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is in the US this week, meeting with officials in hopes of getting more US assistance, including lots of weapons he says he needs to fight terrorism, or Syria, or whatever (whatever=killing more Sunnis.) You can expect lots of dumb, uninformed comment about this visit.

    To save readers valuable time and as a public service, I have searched the web for the dumbest article you’ll encounter about Maliki’s visit, and present it here, with some explanatory comment.

    The winner is Douglas A. Ollivant, writing for the really, really important blog-thingie War on the Rocks. Ollivant is certainly a smart apple about Iraq; indeed, he is responsible in part for the disaster there.

    Ollivant served as Director for Iraq at the National Security Council during both the Bush and Obama administrations. He is now the Senior Vice President of Mantid, a “consulting firm” with offices in Washington, Beirut and Baghdad. He was also a member of now-disgraced idiot warrior-poet-flim flam man David Petraeus’ “brain trust” of “warrior-intellectuals.”

    But enough about Google. Let’s see what this warrior intellectual has to tell us now about Iraq.

    Iraq Did This to Themselves

    First, it is important to note, Ollivant says, that “Iraq is, quite simply, on the receiving end of a major al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) offensive. AQI remains one of the most capable of the al Qaeda affiliates or regional franchises. As a percentage of the population, Iraq has lost more of its citizens to al Qaeda explosives in each of the past three months than the United States did on September 11, 2001.” Not that any of that has anything to do with the United States’ invasion and inept occupation of Iraq.

    No, no, the al Qaeda “issue” in Iraq is actually Iraq’s own fault. We learn:

    AQI has experienced a resurgence. As I have written elsewhere, this is largely due to the release of AQI-affiliated detainees, spill-over from the Syria conflict, passive support from elements of the Sunni population, and the simple fact that the Iraqi security forces fall far short of JSOC, particularly with respect to training and equipment.

    Ollivant’s solution?

    To defeat this sophisticated terrorist network, the Iraqis must acquire more JSOC-like capabilities

    (JSOC– Joint Special Operations Command, is a super-secret special forces entity that the US used for years in Iraq as a high-tech assassination squad, killing off a long whack-a-mole string of “senior al Qaeda leaders.” JSOC now continues its filthy work pretty much everywhere in the world following its success in Iraq.)

    Of course, one cannot just order up some JSOC-like Iraqi guys on the internet or something for speedy delivery. Or can one? Ollivant has the answer:

    Perhaps a more feasible answer is for the United States to facilitate the Iraqi contracting of private U.S. firms that specialize in intelligence analysis, many of them formed and/or staffed by JSOC, and other military intelligence, veterans.

    That’s it, the solution to Iraq’s problem is for the nation to hire some of the US’ out-of-work mercenaries, from Blackwater or whomever, to return to Iraq and return to killing Iraqis. We all know how much Iraqis loved American mercs stampeding over their country during the Occupation, so this makes perfect sense.

    After the Mercs, Weapons

    Ollivant also knows that the Iraqis need weapons, lots of weapons. But why?

    The frustration with the delays in fighter jets, air defense equipment, helicopters, and armored vehicles has moved beyond the staff level and become a Prime Ministerial issue. This should be of interest to the United States, as the reason Iraq needs this equipment is to stand up to—among others—its perennial rival, Iran.

    C’mon man, this borders on warrior intellectual satire! Rival Iran? For the love of Allah, Maliki is an Iranian stooge. He was put into power by Iran, uses Iranian thugs to capture, imprison or kill his political rivals and visits Tehran as necessary to maintain a robust cross-border trade. Iranian planes overfly Iraq freely, on their way to Syria to deliver weapons to some version of whatever count as “rebels” nowadays (Ollivant says “Iraq lacks the Air Force and Air Defense system to stop this.”) And of course fighter jets and armored vehicles are exactly what you need for counter-insurgency work, right? I mean, that’s what the US used so fruitfully for nine years in Iraq so it must be right.

    That Sunni-Shia Thing

    Ollivant is also aware of that nasty Sunni-Shia thing. He does skip over Maliki’s arrest threats that drove his own Sunni Vice President into exile days after the US pulled out, and the systematic disenfranchisement of Sunni voters, and the abandonment of the Sahwa, Sunni fighters promised jobs in return for putting down their arms and all that. But Ollivant is a realist and so adds:

    Maliki is no doubt expecting—with some resignation—a lecture on Sunni inclusion and reconciliation. This is a delicate issue and one that does not lend itself to easy solutions. But the reasonable Sunni issues can be reduced to de-Baathification reform, inclusion in Iraqi society, and an end to persecution by the security forces.

    The de-Baathification thing is just a hoot, given that it was done by the US in 2003 and in many respects was the tipping point of the whole disaster, destroying Iraq’s civil service and thus functional government, throwing millions of Sunni’s out of work, and essentially creating the groundwork for the next nine years of insurgency. Hi-larious.

    Security forces (Shia controlled) killing Sunnis? Just a typo: “Regarding the alleged persecution of Sunnis, there is no doubt that some innocent Sunni are caught in the raids that the security forces engage in to try to discover the AQI cells.”

    Inclusion into Iraqi society? A statistical anomaly. “Sunni do not appreciate what they do have. While there has been no census in many decades, the Sunni Arabs of Iraq are no more than 25% of the population, and the CIA Factbook estimates they could be as little as 12%. Yet most Sunnis believe they comprise at least 50% of the Iraqi population. If the 12% is correct, Sunnis may well be over-represented…”

    Maliki is Actually Thomas Jefferson

    At this point you’d think that Ollivant would have sobered up, realized how he had embarrassed himself, and hit the delete key, just like he might do with those Facebook photos that seemed fun when posted last night but now don’t seem like resume material. Instead, he doubles-down for a big conclusion:

    Maliki is not coming to the United States with hat in hand—he has his own money, and plenty of it. He does not want Iraq to be a ward of the U.S. military, but, rather, a customer of U.S. business. Iraq doesn’t need the U.S. to give it anything other than goodwill. It just wants the U.S. to deliver on sales of goods and services.

    And in this, the Prime Minister will be echoing the sentiment, if not the words, of Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural address: “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”

    So there you have it. The democracy the US failed to implement in Iraq after nine years of Occupation, trillions of dollars and thousands if not hundreds of thousands of lives, is in hand. Thomas Jefferson is now Prime Minister of Iraq.

    If the US gives Maliki anything on his trick-or-treat visit but a cold shoulder it has learned nothing in defeat. Huzzah!




    Update: We now have a runner-up. Psychotic microcephalic James Jeffrey, former US ambassador in Baghdad, said Iraq desperately needs teams of US advisers, trainers, intelligence and counterterror experts to beat back al-Qaeda.

    “They could mean all the difference between losing an Iraq that 4,500 Americans gave their lives for,” said Jeffrey.

    So heads up American military reservists, for the recall order to ship back to Iraq for some more war. We’re getting the old band back together!



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    Posted in Iran, Iraq

    Fmr. US Amb to Iraq Jim Jeffrey: Now Gasping for Lameness

    May 14, 2013 // 8 Comments »

    Oh my! Retired, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey has turned into a real tiger.

    Now at the Washington Institute, a “think” tank, Jeffrey surveyed the current crumbling scene in Iraq from his office window (May is already boiling, and April was the bloodiest month there since 2008, with 712 killed, 1,633 wounded in sectarian violence) and wildly uncorked this remark:


    Obama should also signal his willingness to consider new approaches to Iraq if the Maliki government continues its campaign against the Sunni Arab and Kurdish populations.


    [Jon Stewart-type mug face to camera look now]

    OMG! A willingness, really? And to consider? And the stinger, a new approach?!?

    Hard hitting.

    Insightful.

    Utter bullshit. All the impact of a David Bowie-Justin Bieber slap fight.

    Heavens me, Prime Minister Maliki must be a’ quaking in his sandals. Maliki watched in 2010 as the U.S. stood aside and allowed Iran to broker the election that put him in power. He tried to arrest his Sunni VP practically hours after the last US troops left Iraq. He has seen the U.S. do nothing as he seeks to crush violently the Sunni and Kurd minorities over an extended period of time, including during Ambassador Jeffrey’s own lame tenure. Maliki has allowed Iran to tranship weapons into Syria across Iraq while the U.S. dithered from some dark corner.

    Maliki knows a defeated nation when he sees one. This is how America loses wars, former Ambassador Jeffrey.

    Grrrr!




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    Posted in Iran, Iraq

    The Bush Legacy, Iraq and Reality

    April 29, 2013 // 30 Comments »

    There is a school of physics, or maybe science fiction, it doesn’t matter, that posits if matter and anti-matter collide it will be the end of the universe. Collapse of the time-space continuum, regression of the speed of light, that sort of thing. We can say now that such theories are wrong, having witnessed a great collision of reality and anti-reality at the Bush Library opening and lived to tell the tale.



    Anti-Reality

    Last week found us wallowing in the opening of the Bush Library in Texas, a monument to George W. and his eight year reign of terror in America. The library opening also signified the opening shots of Bush revisionism, the signal that all loyal or ignorant (perhaps loyal and ignorant?) pundits should start trying to make up a new version of reality to replace the evil, horrible crap that really happened between 2000-2008.

    Leading the pack was Charles Krauthammer (the name is somehow not a punchline of its own), who reminded us of how wonderful the Iraq War really was. Krauthammer fapped:

    Finally, the surge, a courageous Bush decision taken against near-universal opposition, that produced the greatest U.S. military turnaround since the Inchon landing. And inflicted the single most significant defeat for al-Qaeda (save Afghanistan) — a humiliating rout at the hands of Iraqi Sunnis fighting side-by-side with the American infidel.

    As with Lincoln, it took Bush years of agonizing bloody stalemate before he finally found his general and his strategy. Yet, for all the terrible cost, Bush bequeathed to Obama a strategically won war.


    Wow. That’s enough to make an old man proud. Out of breath here, gimme a minute, OK…

    Reality

    Meanwhile, in the real Iraq, last week saw the deaths of some 200 people, mostly those perky Sunnis Krauthammer writes about, in combat against the dominate Shia regime (Krauthammer at least got it right that it was a civil war.) The fighting escalated to the point where Sunni fighters briefly took over a town and had to be killed by the Iraqi army to restore Shia order.

    Also among the Sunni dead last week were two Sahwa (“Sons of Iraq”) leaders, gunned down with silenced pistols in a classic assasination. The Sahwa of course were America’s creation, the Sunnis willing to fight on our side for money.

    The killings noted above were preceded by a series of pre-election bomb blasts across Iraq that killed at least 42 people and wounded more than 257 others. Suck on that Boston!

    The whimpering U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was roused from its absinthe-fueled haze to issue a bland statement that “raised concerns” about the Sunni-Shia clashes, without of course assigning blame. It again called for an “urgent and transparent investigation.” And get this line, delivered without irony: “The United States stands firmly with the Iraqi people who seek to live in peace after so many decades of war.” Hah hah, it’s funny because it was the U.S. that created those decades of war! It’s like SNL, the good years!

    But the most significant sign of Iraq’s state of democracy was that Iraqi authorities announced Sunday they revoked the operating licenses of pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera and nine other satellite TV channels, alleging that they are promoting a “sectarian agenda.” That agenda seems to include reporting on more than the wonderfulness of the Shia Maliki government, hence the censorship.

    Now if you want to be sad, read this bit of revisionism, as one American soldier continues to imagine his time in Iraq “made a difference.” You understand the politicians and the pundits say their stupid things for gain or money, but this soldier is just plain sad trying to make his sacrifice seem worthwhile. My heart goes out to him in his ignorance of how he was used.

    So, that all clearly justifies 4,462 American and 122,000 Iraqi dead under Bush’s war. Moving on…



    Bonus: Condi Rice explains why Bush-era torture was OK (Turns out it was all nice and legal)

    Extra Bonus: Handy guide, “How to Debunk George W. Bush’s Attempts at Revisionism,” neatly destroys the “but he kept us safe” myth.

    Super Bonus: Read 50 Reasons You Despised George W. Bush’s Presidency: A Reminder on the Day of His Presidential Library Dedication




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    Posted in Iran, Iraq

    Iraqi Freedom Major Freedom Bomb Summary

    July 21, 2012 // 5 Comments »

    Tracking for your convenience the value of our sacrifices for a free Iraq!

    January 5, 2012 – Four bombs in mainly Shi’ite Muslim areas of Iraq kill at least 73 people with about 150 people wounded. The biggest attack takes place beside a police checkpoint west of Nassiriya, where a suicide bomber targeting Shi’ite pilgrims kills 44 people.


    January 14 – A suicide bomber disguised as a policeman kills at least 53 people and wounds 130 more in an attack on Shi’ite pilgrims at a police checkpoint in Basra, southern Iraq.


    January 27 – A suicide bomber explodes his vehicle near a Shi’ite funeral procession in the Zaafaraniya neighbourhood of Baghdad, killing at least 31 and wounding more than 60.


    February 23 – About 60 people are killed in bomb blasts across Iraq. Thirty-two people die in Baghdad where 10 explosions tear through mainly Shi’ite neighborhoods.


    March 20 – At least 30 explosions strike cities and towns across Iraq, killing at least 52 people and wounding 235, despite a security clampdown for an Arab League meeting. Al Qaeda’s Iraq wing claimed responsibility.
    April 19 – More than 20 bombs hit cities and towns, killing at least 36 people and wounding almost 150. In Baghdad, three car bombs, two roadside bombs and one suicide car bomb hit mainly Shi’ite areas, killing 15 people and wounding 61. Again Iraq’s al Qaeda wing claims responsibility.


    May 31 – Six explosions hit neighbourhoods across Baghdad, killing at least 17 people. Attacks include a truck bomb blast at a market, a car bomb and several roadside bombs on mixed neighbourhoods.


    June 4 – A suicide car bomber detonates his vehicle outside a Shi’ite religious office in central Baghdad, killing at least 22 people and wounding more than 100 more in an attack officials say bears the hallmarks of Iraq’s al Qaeda affiliate.


    June 13 – More than 75 people are killed in bombings and attacks in Baghdad and other cities. At least 30 people are killed when four bombs hit pilgrims in Baghdad. Another Baghdad blast kills 16 people as pilgrims passed through a checkpoint in Karrada district. In Hilla at least 22 people are killed when two bombs explode.


    June 16 – At least 26 people are killed and more than 60 wounded when double car bombs strike at Shi’ite pilgrims in Baghdad, in the third day of violence during the major religious festival in the capital.


    July 3 – A bomb in a truck kills 40 people and wounds 75 others in a market in Diwaniya. The blast was near a mosque where pilgrims were gathering for a Shi’ite celebration. Another blast kills four more people near Karbala.



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    Posted in Iran, Iraq

    Iraqi PM Maliki Sucks Iranian: This is Important

    April 30, 2012 // 7 Comments »

    Here’s a story worth repeating in its whole, as it will be one of those articles you wish you had read a few years from now when everyone is wondering how Iraq ended up a vassal state of Iran.

    Note the important parts in bold, particularly the final paragraph which reminds again that the US failure to reconstruct Iraq will continue to have far-reaching consequences for the US in the Middle East.

    A pubic relations stumble between Tehran and Baghdad has intensified speculation that one of Iran’s most senior clerics is about to extend his power – and Iran’s theocratic system – into Iraq.

    On his return from a visit to Tehran, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s office released statements on his meetings with several senior Iranian officials – but it was silent on Mr Maliki’s encounter with 63-year-old Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi.

    Despite a Baghdad blackout on what is understood to have been their third meeting in recent months, Iran’s government-run news agency IRNA released a photograph of Mr Maliki and Ayatollah Shahroudi – who is Iraqi by birth – greeting each other warmly. An accompanying report on the visit barely mentions Mr Maliki, but quotes Ayatollah Shahroudi urging Baghdad to support the ”Islamic Awakening” currently under way in the Middle East.

    Ayatollah Shahroudi, a powerful member of Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei’s inner circle, is positioning himself to become the next spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shiite Muslim majority, a move observers say would be impossible without Tehran’s blessing and funding. The Iraqi religious establishment, based in Najaf, south of Baghdad, opposes religious intervention in day-to-day government. But in Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s theory that God’s authority is vested in the supreme leader and senior religious scholars is law.

    Speaking privately, a senior official in Baghdad described the meeting as ”extremely significant”, revealing at least tacit support by Mr Maliki for an Iranian plan to have Ayatollah Shahroudi replace the ailing Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani as spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shiites.

    Reidar Visser, an Oslo-based analyst of Iraqi affairs, sees formidable obstacles to the Shahroudi bid, but warned: “By visiting Shahroudi, Maliki did nothing to kill the rumours about some kind of Iranian design on the holiest centre of Iraqi Shiism. “If Shahroudi should succeed … those arguing that Maliki is moving towards even greater co-ordination with the Iranian clergy would feel vindicated – and rightly so.”

    The plan seems to be inspired, in part, by a breakdown in relations between Mr Maliki’s government and religious authorities in Najaf. Despite remaining aloof from day-to-day politics, the ayatollahs wield significant power in their real or perceived endorsement of the government and its policies.

    For months now, all the senior clerics in Najaf have been abiding by an edict from Ayatollah Sistani that they not meet with politicians or government officials. Referring to the cloak-like robe worn by Arab men, a spokesman for one of the senior ayatollahs in Najaf told The Saturday Age: “We will not continue to cover their mistakes with our abaya.”

    Ayatollah Sistani’s surrogates have recently become even more confrontational, openly attacking the Baghdad government during Friday prayers. One cleric widely linked to Ayatollah Sistani, Ahmed al-Safi, blamed government corruption for the failure to restore Iraq’s electrical generation system.

    “When patriotism is absent, officials sell themselves to foreigners for their kickbacks,” he said while preaching at the holy city of Karbala.



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    Posted in Iran, Iraq

    Deadliest Iraq Attacks since US Pullout

    March 8, 2012 // Comments Off

    Iraq has been free for about two months now. As idiots debate whether or not “it was worth it,” the Agency France Press (AFP) cuts to the money shot with a terse summary of the deadliest attacks in Iraq since only January:

    January 5: Attacks against Shiite Muslims in Baghdad and south Iraq kill 68 people and wound more than 100.

    January 14: A suicide bomber kills 53 people and wounds 137 in an attack on Shiite pilgrims on the outskirts of the southern port city of Basra.

    January 27: A suicide bomber detonates an explosives-packed car at a funeral procession outside a Baghdad hospital, killing 31 people and wounding 60 others.

    February 19: A suicide bomber detonates a car bomb in front of a Baghdad police academy, killing 15 people and wounding 21.

    February 23: A wave of attacks nationwide, blamed on al Qaeda, kill 42 people and leave more than 250 wounded.

    March 5: Suspected al Qaeda gunmen, some wearing police uniforms, and rage through the western city of Haditha in a pre-dawn shooting spree that leaves 27 policemen dead.


    Even as the AFP posted this macabre list, violence in Iraq continued.

    A recent wave of violence in Iraq has resulted in the kidnapping, torture, and killing of about 40 people perceived to be gay or lesbian, with the murder weapon sometimes being a concrete block to the head. The killings began in early February after an unidentified group put up posters with death threats against “adulterous individuals” in largely Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad and Basra, reports the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. The threats listed the targets’ names and ages, and gave them four days to change their behavior or face divine retribution.

    On March 7 a car bomb attack in the Mansour neighborhood of Baghdad left three dead as the capital prepared for the Arab League summit. The same day, a suicide blast killed 14 in the predominantly Shia Turkmen city of Tal Afar. Al Jazeera summed up the continuing violence in a photo essay.




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    Posted in Iran, Iraq

    4479 Reasons the Iraq War was a Waste

    January 23, 2012 // Comments Off


    In December 2011, President Obama paid tribute to the more than one million Americans who served in Iraq, the 4,479 fallen Americans and thousands wounded, as well as Iraqis who gave their lives. “They are the reason that we can stand here today and we owe it to every single one of them, we have a moral obligation to all of them, to build a future worthy of their sacrifice,” he said.

    He lied.

    As the war drums beat again (Iran this time), we must remember how little politicians actually value our lives. Let us start making a list in relation to what Iraq has become:

    4479: General Qassim Sulaimani, head of the Iranian Qods force for Iraq and scenic Lebanon, saying “Iraq is under the will of Tehran.”

    David Hickman, 23, of Greensboro was the last of the 4479 Americans killed during the Iraq War and Occupation. According to an Associated Press analysis of casualty data, the average age of Americans who died in Iraq was 26. Nearly 1,300 were 22 or younger, but middle-aged people fought and died as well: some 511 were older than 35.

    “I used to watch all the war stories on TV, you know,” said Needham, Hickman’s old coach. “But since this happened to David, I can’t watch that stuff anymore. I just think: That’s how he died.”



    4478: 1st Lt. Dustin D. Vincent, 25, of Mesquite, Texas, died November 3, 2011.
    No statement denying the Qods statement from the Iraqi Government.


    4477: Sgt. 1st Class David G. Robinson, 28, of Winthrop Harbor, Ill., died October 25.
    Iraq is falling back into authoritarianism and headed towards becoming a police state, despite US claims that it has helped establish democracy in the country, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday.


    4476: Capt. Shawn P. T. Charles, 40, of Hickory, N.C., died October 23.
    Iraq cracked down harshly during 2011 on freedom of expression and assembly by intimidating, beating and detaining activists, demonstrators and journalists.


    4475: Pfc. Steven F. Shapiro, 29, of Hidden Valley Lake, Calif., died October 21. Iraq remains one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, that women’s rights remain poor and civilians have paid a heavy toll in bomb attacks.


    4474: Staff Sgt. James R. Leep Jr., 44, of Richmond, Va., died October 17.
    Human Rights Watch discovered a secret prison run by forces controlled by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s office, the same troops who ran Camp Honour, another facility where detainees were tortured.


    4473: Spc. Adrian G. Mills, 23, of Newnan, Ga., died September 29.
    Prime Minister Maliki’s security services have locked up more than 1,000 members of other political parties over the past several months, detaining many of them in secret locations with no access to legal counsel and using “brutal torture” to extract confessions, his chief political rival, Ayad Allawi, has charged.


    4472: Sgt. Andy C. Morales, 32, of Longwood, Fla., died September 22.
    Iraq remains consumed by violence.


    4471: Staff Sgt. Estevan Altamirano, 30, of Edcouch, Texas, died September 18.
    Even the State Department thinks “violence and threats against U.S. citizens persist [in Iraq] and no region should be considered safe from dangerous conditions.”


    4470: Cmdr. James K. Crawford, 50, of East Concord, N.Y., died September 7.
    Security remains a primary concern nearly nine years after the U.S. invasion, with bombings a daily occurrence, and most foreign companies hire personal security teams. Bank HSBC spends around $3,000-$6,000 a day on security. Ground Works Inc, an engineering, construction and logistics firm, said security for housing and business compounds can run at $14,000-$18,000 a month, while a local bodyguard costs $1,500 a month and a foreign guard $4,000 per month. Electricity is intermittent and having a generator is a necessity. Businessmen say fuel for generators can cost around $3,000-$8,000 a month.


    4469: Sgt. Mark A. Cofield, 25, of Colorado Springs, Colo., died July 17.
    A scandal unfolding in Denmark over the transfer of Iraqi prisoners by Danish forces to Iraq authorities, even as they knew they would be tortured, threatens to implicate the current Secretary General of NATO.


    4468: Spc. Daniel L. Elliott, 21, of Youngsville, N.C., died July 15.
    On the day the last US combat troops left the country, Maliki turned against his vice-president Tariq al-Hashimi, accusing him of what he has himself long been suspected of – ordering the bombings and assassinations of his political opponents. Mr Hashimi was not just a leading Sunni Muslim in a Shia-dominated government. He was the linchpin of the political deal stitched together by the US last year, under which the Iraqiya coalition, which won the largest number of votes in the last election, agreed to participate in government. Hashimi fled to the relative safety of Kurdistan, before denouncing the charges as a coup, but he joins a growing list of internal exiles – all of them Sunni.


    4467: pc. Marcos A. Cintron, 32, of Orlando, Fla., died June 16.
    At least 30 people connected to the leader of Iraqiya, Ayad Allawi, had been arrested in recent weeks by security forces under Mr Maliki’s personal control.


    4466: Sgt. Steven L. Talamantez, 34, of Laredo, Texas, died July 10.
    For five years Iraq was the most important item on policy-makers’ agenda. That meant we allowed China to steal a march on the United States. It gained economically, militarily and perhaps even diplomatically as the United States demonstrated it was not the unquestionable superpower that many believed it was at the start of 2000s.


    4465: Spc. Nathan R. Beyers, 24, of Littleton, Colo. died July 7.
    Iraq likely played a role in the export of banned US-made internet surveillance equipment to Syria.


    4464: Spc. Nicholas W. Newby, 20, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, also died July 7.
    The State Department continues to refuse to cooperate in an audit of its multi-billion dollar Iraqi police training program.


    4463: Capt. David E. Van Camp, 29, of Wheeling, W.Va. died June 29.
    Even though they often are housed on-base at Department of Defense facilities and within secure perimeters for embassies operated by the State Department, many of these [third country national] TCN workers live in sub-human conditions, are subjected to sexual abuse and even prostitution, have wages stolen by subcontractors, and have passports stolen in order to prevent them from leaving,” said Gerry Connolly (D-VA) referring to widespread human trafficking committed by US government contractors in Iraq.


    4462: Capt. Matthew G. Nielson, 27, of Jefferson, Iowa also died June 29.
    Percentage of Iraqis who lived in slum conditions in 2000: 17%; in 2011: 50%


    4461: Spc. Robert G. Tenney Jr., 29, Warner Robins, Ga. also died June 29.
    Rank of Iraq on Corruption Index among 182 countries: 175.




    To be continued, and repeated…


    (All names of the deceased and the dates of their deaths are from Antiwar.com)



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    Posted in Iran, Iraq

    Sunni v. Shia in Police Station Gunbattle

    January 16, 2012 // Comments Off

    Finally, an Iraq narrative in simple enough terms for the average American (Rick Perry) to grasp, Cowboys versus Indians style!

    As part of the democratic process still unfolding in Iraq, Sunni insurgents have attacked an Iraqi police station manned by Shia cops, in Sunni Ramadi. The cops work for the Iraqi government, widely seen as being dominated by Shia and used as a tool of control over the Sunni’s in Ramadi. Cowboys and Indians.

    In Ramadi, two initial car bombs exploded at around 11:30 am near Dawlah Kabir Mosque in the center of the city, before a third car bomb went off in the same area. A short time later, a fourth car bomb detonated near a police compound in Ramadi, followed quickly thereafter by two suicide bombers blowing themselves up inside. Then, about 10 insurgents stormed the compound, which houses the police’s investigations and intelligence directorate and a building under construction that is to be the new office of the mayor of Ramadi. The gunmen, who apparently did not take hostages, were holed up in the latter facility and clashes were ongoing as of 1:30 pm.

    The violence was reminiscent of a siege at a police station in the nearby town of Al-Baghdadi, also in Anbar province, three months ago, in which the local police chief and four others were killed when gunmen disguised in police uniforms set off explosions, clearing the way for them to overrun the building.

    In June, at least three explosions near provincial government offices in Ramadi killed 10 people and wounded 15 others.

    In January 2011, a suicide bomber blew up an explosives-packed car carrying Anbar governor Qassim Mohammed Abid, but he was unhurt.

    Anbar Provincial government offices were also targeted by attackers three times in 2010, and, on December 30, 2009,

    Of course, Sunday’s violence in Ramadi came a day after a suicide attacker targeting Shiites killed 53 people on the outskirts of the southern city of Basra, the latest in a series of attacks that have killed nearly 200 people.



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    Posted in Iran, Iraq

    How the Grinch Stole Iraq

    December 23, 2011 // Comments Off

    As holiday carols ring in little Who ears, the Grinches in DC still play to our fears. The US continues to downplay events in Iraq, but it is a hard meme to maintain even given much holiday slack.

    Following some of the worst car bombings in some time in Baghdad, the Grinches high atop Mount Crumpit at the White House and State Department mumbled:


    Vice President Biden has spoken to several senior Iraqi leaders over the past week. Today he called Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to offer our full support for his efforts, and those of other Iraqi leaders, to foster dialogue that will allow all Iraqi blocs to work through their differences together. The Vice President also reiterated the need for actions to be guided by the rule of law and Iraq’s Constitution. At this difficult time, the United States stands with Iraq as a strategic partner and a close friend.

    Happy messaging from Washington, but they are fooling no one except perhaps the American people, and of course the easily distracted American media. Most US outlets perked up momentarily to report on the Baghdad bombings, but otherwise events in Iraq lost in their competition with Rudolph, Lingerie Football and “It’s a Good Life” marathons.

    Meanwhile in Whoville, it was like a Greatest Hits of the Iraq War show, with both Generals Odierno and Petraeus (now CIA head for some reason) dropping by the old neighborhood to chat with Maliki while Biden worked the phones. US Ambassador James Jeffrey, who had read too many of his own press releases and left Baghdad early for the Christmas holidays, was also back and went straight to Duhok in Kurdistan to meet with Kurdish President Barzani. They would try to stop the Grinch from stealing Christmas they would.

    The New Yorker shares that “For those who may have briefly, vainly wished for a “decent interval” following the American departure from Iraq, the moment of illusion is over” and notes that while American voices talk of standing together and all that Rainbow Connection stuff, Maliki’s “public statements regarding the future of the Iraqi-American relationship have been unsettlingly parsimonious, along the lines of ‘one chapter ends, a new one begins; we look forward to the future.’”

    The Sunnis continue to vote with their feet. Several thousand Iraqis protested on Friday against Maliki in Samarra and other Sunni strongholds after he moved to sideline Sunni leaders from his power-sharing government. After Friday prayers, with Sunni imams warning Maliki was seeking to foment sectarian divisions, protesters took to the streets of Samarra, Ramadi, Baiji and Qaim, many waving banners in support of Hashemi, and criticising the government.

    Baghdad is once again under guard, much as it was during the American occupation. Media reports the movement of the vehicles is limited, and the streets are semi-empty, in addition to strict security precautions. “The BOC has banned press photographers to shoot photos of the explosion site in Karrada, targeted against the office of the Integrity Commission, killing and wounding dozens of civilians and completely destroying the building,” an Iraqi press photographer told Aswat al-Iraq news agency. Parliament speaker Nujaifi’s spokesperson told Agence France-Presse News that crisis talks have been postponed indefinitely because Iraq MPs can’t visit Baghdad due to the security situation.

    The US Consulate in Kirkuk was again hit by rockets.

    So, this holiday season, please do take efforts from the White House and the State Department to downplay the events in Iraq with a grain of salt dear Cindy Lou Who. Or two. Pass the roast beast, please.

    Three thousand feet up! Up the side of Mount Crumpit,
    He rode to the tiptop to dump it!
    “Pooh-pooh to the Whos!” he was grinch-ish-ly humming.
    “They’re finding out now that no Christmas Democracy is coming!
    “They’re just waking up! I know just what they’ll do!
    “Their mouths will hang open a minute or two
    “The all the Whos down in Who-ville will all cry BOO-HOO!”


    (If it is stuck in your head now like it is in mine, read the whole of How the Grinch Stole Christmas online)






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    Posted in Iran, Iraq

    Iraq Heading Downhill Faster than a Tumbling Drunk

    December 22, 2011 // 1 Comment »

    Hear that? That’s the sound of nine years worth of American bullshit about Iraq falling apart. It smells… like… victory!

    For those who were napping, literally a freaking day (this war’s “decent interval”) after the last US troops left Iraq, PM Maliki drops an arrest warrant on his Sunni VP, pops three of the guy’s bodyguards into jail, and then rolls them out on the TV to announce their boss, VP Hashemi, is a terrorist. Tanks appear in the Green Zone, with their tubes pointed inward at various Sunni leaders’ homes. Hashemi runs for the protection of Kurdistan, nominally part of Iraq but pretty much autonomous, at least as declared so by Exxon, who signed oil contracts up there without the seal of approval of PM Maliki.

    To make things more intense, Maliki threatened on Wednesday to abandon the American-backed power sharing government created a year ago.

    Hashemi remains in exile with the Kurds. “Unfortunately I cannot go to Baghdad right now, my office is occupied, all of my computers have been seized by authorities loyal to Maliki,” he told the Daily Beast. “My house is being investigated and all my computers and papers have been seized there. My office staff has been asked to leave.”

    Maliki also issued a warning to his rivals from Iraqiya, the largely Sunni bloc of lawmakers that includes Hashemi: if it does not end its boycott of Parliament and the Council of Ministers, he would move to form a majority government that would, in essence, exclude Sunnis from power. If Iraqiya’s ministers do not show up at future sessions, he said, “we will appoint replacements.”

    And as a final punctuation point, a wave of at least 14 bombings ripped across Baghdad Thursday morning, killing at least 60 people in the worst violence Iraq has seen for months.


    Oh, now don’t go acting all surprised at this.

    The US has signaled several times to the Shia majority that it was willing to trade Sunni lives for the appearance of democracy, and then to trade that appearance of democracy for anything in Iraq that is not overtly seen as an Iranian win.

    The key to the lessening of violence during the Surge in 2007 was the US buying off the Sunnis, the so-called Anbar Awakening. The US paid Sunnis not to kill us, helped them eliminate rivals (all labeled “al Qaeda” to make it nice and legal looking) and claimed publicly that this was all to buy time for some sort of Sunni-Shia reconciliation. Instead, even as early as 2009 when I was involved with such Sunnis, the US made little more than happy sounds to try and get the Shias to uphold their promises to take over the payoffs and provide real jobs for the Sunnis. The US sat idle in the face of obvious fraud in the payoffs and sat idle when Sunnis were never offered meaningful jobs in the new Shia government. That bought-and-paid-for lapse in violence was good enough to start the troop pullouts that ended a few days ago. With honor.

    The real sign that the appearance of a democracy alone was good enough for the US took place after the contested March 2010 elections. Though it appeared Sunni-backed elements won the majority of votes, without the support of the Iranian-backed Shias, especially the Sadrists, they could not form a government. The Iranians brokered a deal that created a Shia majority government with the Sadrists, throwing a few bones to the Sunnis and leaving the Kurds alone as they wished to be. The US, desperate to see some government, any government, be formed to allow us to finally leave Iraq, fluttered around Baghdad frantically, advising this and suggesting that, until nine lousy months later the Iranians proclaimed it finished and a government was formed, December 2010.

    With one eye on the exit, the US then sat quietly while Maliki failed to fill the critical government posts of Defense and Interior, the later controlling internal security. Maliki instead put himself into both jobs. Meanwhile, the daily news in Iraq was filled with stories of assassinations of Sunni government officials, with the regular whacking of Sunni Sons of Iraq leaders. Any violence directed at Shias was quickly labeled, again, “al Qaeda,” which enabled the US to look the other way as Maliki spent a year arranging the chess board for this week’s moves.

    Of course a coincidence, but Maliki announced today that instead of the number zero previously trumpeted in two capitals, the US is leaving behind 700 US soldiers as “trainers.” He also extended the MEK grace period another few months. Thus the US is handed a Scooby treat or two to ensure it keeps shut up about Maliki’s political moves.

    The World’s Largest Embassy (c) in Baghdad returned the favor. The Embassy web site features a puff piece on Maliki’s visit with Obama and an article on “Using Sports as a Means to Empower Women and Girls.” No mention of the current dramatic events in Iraq among the “emergency messages” for American Citizens either. Nothing to see here folks, move along now.


    So, stop acting so surprised that 24 and a quarter hours after the US pulled out Maliki pulled off his rubber George Washington face mask to reveal himself instead to be just another crappy Middle East dictator running roughshod over his own country.

    America made it very, very clear it would sacrifice democracy in Iraq for pretty much whatever it could get in order to pull the troops out, and America got exactly what it said it wanted, not much more than 24 hours later.

    There’s yer legacy, boys, there’s what ya’ll died for. Photo above of PM Maliki and Obama laying a memorial wreath at Arlington National Cemetery last week.



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    Posted in Iran, Iraq

    (Sunni) Anbar Gives Notice to (Shia) Central Government

    December 21, 2011 // Comments Off

    Sunni Anbar province sent twenty demands to the central government to be implemented within 14 days, otherwise, the province will be declared as independent region, according to a decision taken by the Provincial Council.

    The demands concentrated on allocating enough funds, withdrawal of the Iraqi army , stopping random arrests and raids and transforming Habbaniyah military airport to a civilian.

    Meanwhile, with Sunni VP Hashimi still “visiting” Kurdistan, a Kurdish Alliance MP described the charges leveled against Hashimi by the Shia-dominated central government as “political, not criminal”. MP Shwan Mohammed told Aswat al-Iraq that though the arrest warrant is judicial, the case is “political.”

    In Mosul, the (Shia) Iraqi military force arrested a leader from Hadba’ List, an advisor to Ninewa governor for sports affairs. Hadba’ List is an affiliate within the Iraqiya bloc.

    This represents another round fired in the current Sunni-Shia battle now unfolding throughout Iraq.

    As Western media outlets close up shop in Iraq, following the blog Musings on Iraq remains a good way to keep up with events.




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    Posted in Iran, Iraq

    Well, That Didn’t Take Long

    December 19, 2011 // 3 Comments »

    As all the false statements by Obama, Panetta and the neocon stenographers who tried to justify the war by claiming Iraq is a democratic, stable society drifted off into space, a day later Iraq’s Sunni-backed bloc suspended its participation in parliament accusing Prime Minister Maliki’s Shi’ite-led government of concentrating power. The move by the Iraqiya parliamentary bloc, headed by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, intensifies political jostling among the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs who form Iraq’s fragile power-sharing government.

    Iraqiya said in a statement it was “suspending its participation in parliament … until further notice,” accusing Maliki of stalling on promises to form a partnership government.

    The bloc complained Maliki is delaying filling key positions such as the ministries of defense and security, posts which have been empty for a year because of political squabbling. Supported strongly by minority Sunnis, Iraqiya won the largest number of seats in the March 2010 national election but failed to muster a governing majority. Maliki put together a coalition with Iranian help that included the Sadrists.

    “We think there are new indications of a new attempt to create a dictatorship,” said Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. “We are really worried that the country is being led into chaos and division and the possibility of civil war is there.”


    It gets better, or maybe worse.

    A brewing confrontation in the province of Diyala underscored the risk that violence could erupt. After the mostly Sunni leadership of the province declared last week that it intends to seek regional autonomy under the terms of Iraq’s constitution, Shiite militiamen surrounded the provincial council headquarters and set fire to the Sunni governor’s home.

    The governor and most members of the provincial council have fled to northern Kurdistan, and on Saturday, the main highway linking Baghdad to the northern city of Kirkuk was blocked for a third day by Shiite militiamen who, residents said, belong to Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.

    And finally….

    An arrest warrant was issued for Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi for being the mastermind behind the recent bombing targeting the parliament. He has been banned from leaving the country, and three of his body guards have been arrested on terror charges related to the car bombing which took place on November 28.

    According to the Iraqi government, evidence pointed at al-Hashimi’s embroilment in the parliament blast incident after deriving confessions from four arrested Islamic Party members.

    So…

    “As difficult as [the Iraq war] was,” and the cost in both American and Iraqi lives, “I think the price has been worth it, to establish a stable government in a very important region of the world,” said Leon Panetta.

    But wait…

    There are new stories from Iraq that the Maliki government is no longer issuing passes for journalists to enter the Green Zone. If true, that, plus the general withdrawal of Western media from Iraq now that the “big story” of the troop withdrawal is over, will limit what the world knows about events. Sorry.

    And thus…

    Gonna be an interesting 2012 in Iraq. What is most significant here is not the events– though they are shattering in scope and negative potential– but the timing. Both sides barely waited for the last US soldier to cross the border before beginning the unraveling. No decent interval here, just a contemptuous display of how little the US accomplished.



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    Posted in Iran, Iraq

    Freedom War Update: Post-Black Friday Edition

    November 27, 2011 // Comments Off

    Because many people have been tied up with shopping, over eating and leftovers, here is a quick war update. Please put down your forks and over-extended credit cards for a moment. We won’t be long.

    Iraq continues to represent the vision of two American presidents who apparently had nothing better to do than invade and occupy the place because, hey, why not? On Saturday, seven people were killed and 28 others wounded when three roadside bombs exploded mid-morning in the busy Bab al-Sharji commercial district of central Baghdad. Another six men died and 10 others were injured when a roadside bomb hit a minibus carrying young laborers and construction workers in al-Annaz area in eastern Falluja. Both area were primarily Sunni.

    But don’t worry, because earlier in the week 50 people were killed and more than 50 others were hurt when three explosions hit a commercial district in Basra, an oil-rich, predominantly Shiite city. The universe of sectarian killing in Iraq remains in balance.

    America firmed up ties with its best buddy and ally Pakistan by gunning down at least 26 Pakistani troops. NATO helicopters opened fire on two Pakistani military checkpoints near the border with Afghanistan early Saturday, killing 24 soldiers. Another 13 soldiers were wounded in the attack in the Mohmand Agency area. But it’s OK– Marine General John R. Allen offered his “sincere and personal heartfelt condolences” to the families of any Pakistan Security Forces members killed or injured. OK, that’s settled!

    Elsewhere in Afghanistan, six children were among seven civilians killed in a NATO airstrike. A spokesman for the governor of Kandahar said that a NATO reconnaissance aircraft spotted five militants planting mines in the village of Siacha. The plane targeted the insurgents, killing two and wounding a third, and then pursued the other two suspects as they carried their wounded comrade away. “The plane chased them, the insurgents entered a street where children were playing and, as a result of its shooting, seven people have been killed, including six children, and two girls also have been injured.”

    There is more, but my stomach can only handle so much loaded down with turkey and stuffing, so I’ll leave it to your imagination and Google. Americans, thank you, and please now return to your shopping and over-eating.



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    Posted in Iran, Iraq

    Same as it Ever Was: US Commander Predicts Violence Ahead in Iraq

    November 21, 2011 // Comments Off

    Here’s some good news on a Monday– The top US general in Iraq predicted a level of upheaval in the country as militant groups jostle to fill the vacuum left behind by the withdrawal of all American forces in the coming weeks.

    Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said the threat from the Sunni extremist organization, al-Qaeda in Iraq, could grow at the same time that Iranian-backed Shiite militias are also seeking to assert themselves.

    “Al-Qaeda will continue to do what it’s done in the past, and we expect that it’s possible they could even increase their capability,” he said. Meanwhile, Shiite militias based mostly in the south will pursue their efforts to expand their capabilities, Austin said.

    But, he added, “I’m hopeful that the right things will continue to happen.”

    Wait, according to a million email signature lines, “hope” is not a strategy. Has that changed?

    So, quick summary: almost nine years after the invasion of Iraq, $63 billion in reconstruction, so many elections and of course the Surge/Awakening that was supposed to have helped settled the Sunni-Shia civil war, as the US withdraws the best view the Army’s main guy can offer is a revived al Qaeda and renewed Sunni-Shia violence?

    That sort of seems like… after everything… we… did… not… accomplish… much.

    See you on the Embassy rooftop for the ride home. Last person out of the compound shut off the lights in Baghdaddy’s!



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    Posted in Iran, Iraq

    Who won the war in Iraq? (Here’s a hint: It wasn’t the US)

    November 10, 2011 // 2 Comments »

    (This article, written by me, originally appeared on Foreign Policy.com)

    When wars end, usually there is a winner and a loser. Greeks burn down the city for the win; Trojans accept a dummy horse for the epic loss, like that. As we near the end of the U.S. military campaign in Iraq, and note the beginning of the State Department occupation, it is a good time to decide who lost and who won, and what that means for the future of Iraq.

    For the minority, all-around Washington guy (now stopping off briefly to be Secretary of Defense) Leon Panetta thinks we and the Iraqis sort of won. Leon said, “But the bottom line is, whether it’s diplomatic or whether it’s military, we’ve got a long-term relationship with Iraq. We’ve invested a lot of blood in (Iraq). And regardless of whether you agree or disagree as to how we got into it, the bottom line is that we now have, through a lot of sacrifice, established a … relatively stable democracy that’s trying to work together to lead that country.”

    Tune into your favorite right-wing blog, and there is lots of mumbo-jumbo about the surge and sacrifices and all that false patriotism stuff that no longer even makes for a good country and western song.

    On firmer ground, it is less clear that the United States or Iraq won anything.

    The United States lost 4484 soldiers (and counting), with thousands more crippled or wounded, spent a couple of trillion dollars that helped wreck our economy at home, and did not get much in return. Blood for oil? Only in the sense that one of out of every eight U.S. casualties in Iraq died guarding a fuel convoy. Iraqi oil output is stuck at pre-war levels and will be for some time. A drop in world oil prices would wreck the Iraqi economy. Despite Panetta’s patter about Iraq being a country willing to work with the United States, Iraq as a political entity follows its own path, virtually allied with Iran and unsupportive of American geopolitical dreams. The U.S. government will sell some military gear to the Iraqis and make some money, but in the end George Bush went to war and all we got was a low-rent dictatorship turned into a low-rent semi-police state. As this is written, it is even unclear if the United States will snag any permanent bases in Iraq, and whether any troops will be allowed to stay on past the end of this December.

    As for Iraq being any sort of winner after being stomped on by the U.S. military, no. Iraq had its civil society shredded, underwent eight years of sectarian civil war, saw over 100,000 killed and is home now to a small but bustling al Qaeda franchise. The United States left without brokering a deal between the Kurds and the Arab Iraqis, leaving that kettle on full boil. The United States also failed to establish stable borders for the Kurds, such that the Iranians shell “Kurdistan” from the east, while Turkish jets drop bombs in the west. Turkey is part of NATO — imagine the U.S. government sitting silently if Germany bombed Poland next week.

    What many people do not know is that one reason for the drop in sectarian violence in 2008 was that both sides had done much of the killing they needed to do. The fighting then was a civil war, Shia versus Sunni, and the death toll was high enough on both sides to achieve the level of segregation and redistribution of power desired at that time-they ran out of reasons for the war to continue at that level of intensity. Ominously, however, the Sunnis and Shias did not fully settle the score and so that pot sits bubbling on the stove as well.

    Sectarian tensions do still run high in Iraq, and the United States has been left powerless to do anything about it. Except for some technical assistance and perhaps some very low-key special operations help, the U.S. government has taken a sideline seat to the sectarian violence over the last few months, leaving the fight to the Iraqis. Whether zero or 3,000 or 10,000 U.S. troops stay on in Iraq, it is unlikely that such a smaller U.S. force will intervene, given that a larger one declined to do so.

    The tinderbox nature of things is such that the Iraqi government is seeking to ban a television drama about events leading up to the historic split in Islam into Sunni and Shiite sects hundreds of years ago. The Iraqi parliament asked that the Communication and Media Commission, a media regulator, ban “Al Hassan and Al Hussein” on the grounds it incites sectarian tensions and misrepresents historical facts. “This TV serial includes sensitive issues in Islamic history. Presenting them in a TV series leads to agitated strife,” said Ali Al Alaq, a politician who heads the religious affairs committee.

    Needless to say, a glance at the daily news from Iraq will reveal the ongoing steady low hum of suicide bombings and targeted killings that is now all too much a normal part of life. The occasional spectacular attacks (instantly blamed on al Qaeda by the United States) make headlines, but every Iraqi knows it is the regular nature of these killings as much as the death toll itself that is most disruptive to society. Iraq is hardly a winner.

    Who won the war? Iran…

    Iran sat patiently on its hands while the United States hacked away at its two major enemies, Saddam, and the Taliban, clearing both its east and west borders at no cost to Tehran. (Iran apparently reached out to the U.S. government in 2003, seeking some sort of diplomatic relationship but, after being rebuffed by the engorged Bush Administration, decided to wait and watch the quagmire envelope America). The long slog both wars morphed into dulled even the reliably bloodthirsty American public’s taste for another war, and cooled off plans in Tel Aviv and Washington for airstrikes against Iran’s nukes (if Cheney couldn’t edge the United States into that fight, who can?).

    The Iranians also came to see that Iraq, like Lebanon, made for a nice proxy battleground. By the time my tour in Iraq was wrapping up, the mine resistant vehicles we traveled in could take a solid hit from pretty much anything out there and get us home alive, except for one thing: Iranian-made roadside bombs ealled EFPs. These shaped “explosively formed penetrating devices” fired a liquefied white hot slug of molten copper that was about the only weapon that really scared us. The Iranians were players in all parts of Iraqi society post-2003, including the daily violence. (Iranian proxy warfare in Lebanon is well documented in Robert Baer’s excellent book, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, which also advances the United States vs. Iran proxy theory in general.)

    Iran not only lost an enemy when Saddam was hanged, it gained an ally in the new Iraq. When the United States’ last election surge withered away with the failure of the March 2010 Iraqi contest to produce a government, Iran stepped in to broker a settlement involving current PM Malaki (Malaki also serves as Minister of Defense and Minister of the Interior but is not a dictator) and the jolly Sadrists. Malaki, a Shia, happily recalls his days in exile in Iraq during the Saddam reign while Sadr hid out as a religious “student” in Qom when he was on the U.S. military’s capture or kill list post-2003. Both men remain beholden to Iran and continue to shift Iraq closer and closer to Tehran’s policy positions. Iran has its own proconsul in Baghdad, well-known locally but not discussed much in the west. The guy moved into the job after a tour as head of the Iranian special ops Qods Force.

    Yet while strategic and political relationships are very important between Iraq and Iran, it is the growing economic and social-religious ties that cement the relationship and signify Iran as the real winner of the U.S. invasion. The raw numbers tell a big part of the story: the two countries’ current annual trade is valued at $4 billion to $5 billion and growing, with much more money changing hands on the black market.

    On more formal terms, Iranian First Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi kicked off the most recent round of goodwill on July 6, when he traveled to Baghdad to join the Iran-Iraq Joint Supreme Economic Committee. Better yet, Iran agreed to supply 9,400 barrels of “gasoil” a day to Iraq for power generation. Iraq also signed a $365 million agreement to install a pipeline network to import natural gas from Iran for power stations in the country. The pipelines will eventually supply 25 million cubic meters of Iranian natural gas a day to the Sadr, al-Quds and South Baghdad power stations in the Iraqi capital.

    Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Hoshiar Zibary said that Iran and Iraq would soon sign an agreement to overcome “all the suspended problems between both countries.” “Iran is playing a positive role in Iraq and there is no objection for the strengthening of relations between the two countries,” Zibary said.

    But while trade is good, and oil is necessary, real money is in tourism. More specifically, religious tourism. Iranian Shia pilgrims traveling to previously off-limits shrines in Iraq, is a huge source of economic exchange. It also creates significant people-to-people ties that Iran will be able to exploit long into the future.

    Iranian travel agencies control religious tourism to the Shia holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. The Iranian companies are associated with local hotels, also owned by Iranians. The control by Iranian companies extends to tourists from Lebanon who combine a visit to Iraq with one to the religious site Mashhad, in Iran. The Iranian domination also extends to security arrangement for protecting the tourists. That role is filled by one company owned by one of the religious parties in Karbala.

    Business is booming. Najaf is in the midst of a hotel building frenzy in a bid to ramp up the number of visiting pilgrims. While thousands of mostly Iranian religious tourists already pass through Najaf every day on what are marketed as nine-day tours of Iraq’s holy Shiite sites, hoteliers and business groups in the city expect hotel capacity, currently at breaking point, to double in the next three years.

    Elsewhere, markets in rural Iraq are filled with Iranian goods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. While the knitwear market is dominated by cheap Chinese stuff, other household goods are conspicuously marked “Made in Iran” and are snapped up by consumers.

    I saw a little slice of this during my own time in Iraq. My Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) covered an area that included the city and mosque of Salman Pak. Once a center for chemical weapons production and secret police training under Saddam, Salman Pak is better known to most Iraqis and Iranians as a historical and recreational area, approximately 15 miles south of Baghdad near a peninsula formed by a broad eastward bend of the Tigris River. It is named after Salman the Persian, a companion of Mohammad, who is buried there.

    Salman Pak is also site of the Arch of Ctesiphon, the remains of the once majestic Persian Sassanid capital. Ctesiphon is one of the largest and oldest freestanding arches in the world. Before the US invasion of 2003, the area was a popular day trip out of Baghdad, and even sported a floating casino and villas for select friends of Saddam. My translator recalled family trips to the area the way my daughters remember a visit to Disney, leaving me a bit nostalgic for a time and place I never knew. The attraction now for Iranian pilgrims is the mosque, once a well-known Shia shrine, converted to a well-known Sunni shrine by Saddam and now once again a well-known Shia shrine after sectarian violence post-2003 blew away most of the Sunnis in the area.

    On routine patrols through the area, my PRT and Army would frequently see giant tour buses with Iranian license plates and markings hauling tourists around the city. The Iranian tourists would take pictures of our military vehicles and gesture at us as we drove past, even as our soldiers scowled at them and pantomimed “no photos.” Nothing weirder than to be spending one’s days freeing Iraq only to run into Iranian tour agencies being the most obvious beneficiaries of that freedom. We didn’t know it then, but our tourists were offering us a glimpse of the future, a picture of who the winners, and losers, were to be in our war.

    As for Iraq, add it up:

    –no resolution to the Arab-Kurd issue,

    –no resolution to the Sunni-Shia issue,

    –no significant growth in the oil industry,

    –a weakened U.S. presence more interested in a Middle East land base and profitable arm sales than internal affairs,

    –and an increasingly influential Iran seeking a proxy battleground against the United States and a nicely weak buffer state on its formerly troublesome western border.

    None of that tallies toward a stable Iraq. Indeed, quite the opposite. Worst case scenario might look a lot like the darkest days in Lebanon, with many of the same players at the table.



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    Posted in Iran, Iraq

    Maliki is Pissing on the Iraqi Constitution

    November 1, 2011 // Comments Off

    Hold your emails– the title is not another grievance-inducing off-the-ranch remark by me, but instead comes from scholar and usually urbane analyst Reider Visser. Visser, on his blog and in his articles, is one of the more secular and steady believers that Iraq still functions under an organized set of laws (a Constitution) and that representative government is still a possibility for Iraq.

    I guess until now. The next phase of the unraveling of Iraq, it seems, isn’t even going to have the good manners to wait for the US troop withdrawal at year’s end.

    Maliki’s Shia-dominated, Tehran-friendly government (aka, the reason the US sacrificed 4479 lives and trillions of dollars) is on an anti-Sunni rampage rivaling your favorite fictional zombie apocolypse.

    Iraq’s prime minister said Saturday that 615 people have been detained in a security sweep targeting so-called members of the former ruling Baath party. Arrests on this scale terrify Sunnis, who consider use of the term “Baathists” by Iraq’s Shia-dominated government to be a coded way to refer to Sunni politicians, army officers, and other prominent members of their community. Sunnis say that Maliki uses crackdowns on Baathists as a tool to exert political pressure. The arrests coincide with a recent autonomy push by Salahaddin, a mostly-Sunni province in north-central Iraq, the latest bone of contention between Sunni political blocs and the Baghdad government.

    In other words, ethnic cleansing, the latest act in the Sunni-Shia civil war the US birthed in our 2003 invasion of Iraq.

    Visser writes:


    Maliki clarifies that what Salahaddin is not really a declaration of a federal region, since this is not legally possible… But what follows is complete nonsense. Maliki says the government will reject the request for a referendum because it “is based on a sectarian grounds, intended to offer protection of Baathists, and on other unclear grounds”!

    This comment by Maliki is tantamount to pissing on the constitution. As long as they stay faithful to the procedures laid down in the law for forming regions, Iraqis can create federal regions for whatever reasons they want. No one has the right to enquire about the motives as long as the modalities are done correctly. If Maliki wants to change that – and there are good reasons for restricting federalism options so as to avoid a constant string of useless federalism attempts – he must work to change the constitution.

    It is a sorry sign of the state of play in Iraq that both opponents and proponents of the Salahaddin federal region are now making up their own laws.



    I’ll leave this space available for the State Department declaration criticizing Maliki’s actions: _______

    Welcome to your Malikistan, America. Trouble a’ brewing up ahead, better circle the wagons around Fort Apache, formerly known as the World’s Largest Embassy (c).



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    Posted in Iran, Iraq

    Checking In: Bunch More Killing in Iraq

    September 17, 2011 // Comments Off

    We do check in on Iraq from time to time, just to keep tabs on the endless violence there.

    In case you missed it, some Sunnis killed 22 Shitte pilgrims out in Anbar. A day or so later a sticky bomb attached to a senior traffic police official’s car detonated while he was driving in the al-Ameen neighborhood of southeastern Baghdad, killing him. Then two Iraqi soldiers died and 10 others were wounded when a bomb attached to a military bus exploded inside a base in al-Habaniya, about 90 kilometers west of Baghdad, also in Anbar province. South of Baghdad, five people died and 41 others were wounded when a car bomb exploded outside a restaurant in Hilla, which is frequented by Iraqi security forces. In Baghdad’s al-Qahira neighborhood, gunmen opened fire at a police checkpoint, killing two officers and wounding a bystander. In addition to these attacks, a raid on a house by a military counterterrorism unit left a man dead in al-Habaniya. Three of his family members were wounded during the raid. About 13 persons were killed, and 43 injured, in a Babel blast.

    Some idiots seem to think such things create an argument that the US needs to keep military forces in Iraq for, well, forever.

    The thing is no matter how many troops we put in Iraq, we can’t stop terrible things like this. Even at the height of our involvement, these incidents took place regularly. It only stops when the Iraqis want to stop it, and they at this time clearly do not want to stop. Their war is not over, no matter what we say or do. The demons we unleashed in 2003 when we destroyed civil society in Iraq and upset the balance of power among the tribes and religions are not settled yet. A lot more people are gonna die I am afraid, no matter what the US does with its troops.

    We can pretend it is all al Qaeda’s fault to placate the Fox news crowd, but this is civil war friends.




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    Posted in Iran, Iraq

    Good News! Kidnappings in Iraq Now for Money, Not Terrorism

    August 12, 2011 // 1 Comment »

    This one goes out to all the cynics, who claim there is never any progress in our war of terror in Iraq.

    AFP reports that the number of kidnappings for ransom in Iraq has multiplied in the past two years.

    In the lawless aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, sectarian abductions became rampant, especially during the high times of the bloody Sunni-Shiite civil war, 2005-2007.

    Here’s the good news: “It is a far increasing percentage now where the objective of kidnapping is money,” said Major General Jeffrey Buchanan, spokesman for US forces in Iraq.

    Foreigners, as well as important Iraqis, live behind blast walls with security guards. But Iraqi small businessmen who cannot afford bodyguards, and whom kidnappers can count on to cough up large sums for ransom, have become the fave targets.

    Between April and June, six to seven Iraqis were kidnapped each month, according to UK-based private security firm AKE. The average ransom paid to kidnappers was $50,000. “Kidnap remains a regular occurrence in the country, with many incidents going unreported,” AKE said.

    So there it is, another sectarian evil defeated by the surge, or Navy SEALs, or whatever, replaced by an even more evil thing, albeit motivated by greed, not ideology, so it is progress.



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    Posted in Iran, Iraq

    America Now Even Freer; Two More Soldiers Die in Iraq

    July 7, 2011 // Comments Off

    Two more American soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb outside the main US base in Baghdad today. Military officials said the bomb at a checkpoint outside Victory Base Camp used armor-piercing explosives known as EFPs, a trademark of Iranian-backed Shiite militia.

    Thursday’s deaths bring to 4471 the number of American troops who have died in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. Enjoy your freedom, citizens.



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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!

    Posted in Iran, Iraq

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