• What’s Next in Iraq?

    February 5, 2018 // 3 Comments »

    petraeus-crocker-sons-of-iraq

    The contours of Iraq post-Islamic State are becoming clearer. Did the strategy to defeat Islamic State succeed? Are the American wars in Iraq finally over? Who walks away the winner?


    Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over Islamic State on December 9, 2017. And while there will still be some fighting, the real war is over. Yet there were no parades, no statues pulled down, no “Mission Accomplished” moments. An event that might have once set front pages atwitter a few years ago in America wasn’t even worth a presidential tweet.

    That’s because in Washington there is little to celebrate. With the likelihood of spring elections in Iraq, what stands out is how absent American influence is. The two main candidates are current prime minister Abadi, and former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. Both come from the same Shi’ite Dawa party, and both have close ties to Iran. The names should be familiar. Maliki was the Great American Hope in 2006, and again in 2010, to unite Iraq across Sunni-Shi’ite-Kurdish lines as the bulk of American occupation forces withdrew, while Abadi was the Great American Hope in 2014 to do the same as American troops flowed back to Iraq to fight Islamic State.

    As prime minister Maliki didn’t follow-through on the Surge in the end years of the American occupation, leaving the Sunnis at the mercy of his Shi’ite supporters. Maliki’s first action post-occupation — the very day after the last American combat troops withdrew — was to try and arrest his own Sunni vice president. In 2014, Maliki unleashed his army in Sunni Anbar Province, a move which drew Islamic State in to Iraq. American manipulations then replaced Maliki with Abadi in 2014.

    Yet despite high (American) hopes, Abadi made few efforts to integrate Sunnis into the Shi’ite-dominated Iraqi judiciary, military, and police forces, the minimum groundwork for a united Iraq. He did not create economic opportunities for Sunnis or deliver public services. Instead, Abadi created new fault lines, ossified old ones by further embracing Tehran, and sent Iranian-lead Shi’ite militias numbering some 120,000 tearing through the Sunni heartlands. Both Presidents Obama and Trump worked closely with Abadi to ultimately destroy Islamic State in Iraq, at the expense of the Iraqi Sunnis.


    The Obama-Trump strategy was medieval: kill people until there was literally no Islamic State left inside Iraq, then allow the Iranians and Shi’ite Iraqis to do whatever they pleased with the Sunnis in the aftermath. This was the big takeaway from the Iraq war of 2003-2011: there would be no political follow-on this round, no nation building, between the end of the fighting and the exit. The United States would pay no mind to internal Iraqi politics, even if that meant an exclusionary Shi’ite government in Baghdad under Tehran’s wing.

    The walk-away policy was implemented, albeit less violently, to resolve for now the question of the Kurds. In September 2017, the Kurds voted for independence from Iraq, only to see their fate decided as Washington stood aside while Shi’ite militias pushed Kurdish forces from disputed regions, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. After decades of American promises of independence, the Kurds were left to salvage a small bit of pre-2003 autonomy from Baghdad where once full statehood stood within grasp. With American support, the Kurds blunted Islamic State in the darkest days of 2014. In 2018, in what some analysts call the “Twilight of the Kurds,” they no longer seem to have a place in Washington’s foreign policy.

    The American strategy against Islamic State worked. It should have; this was a war the American military knew how to fight, with none of that tricky counterinsurgency stuff. Retaking Ramadi, Fallujah, and Mosul were set-piece battles. City after Sunni city were ground into little Dresdens (since 2014, the United States spent more than $14 billion on its air campaign against Islamic State) before being turned over to the militias for ethnic cleansing of renegade Sunnis. The United Nations was appalled by the mass execution of Sunni prisoners and called for an immediate halt. There was no response from Washington.

    Unlike the 2003-2011 war, when it spent $60 billion on the task, the United States does not intend on trying to pay for the reconstruction of Iraq. Estimates suggest $100 billion is needed to rebuild the mostly Sunni areas destroyed, and to deal with the 2.78 million internally displaced Sunnis. Shi’ite Baghdad pleads lack of funds to help. Across two administrations Washington contributed only $265 million to reconstruction since 2014 (by comparison, America allotted $150 million in 2017 alone to financing arms sales to Iraq, one of the top ten global buyers of American weapons.) Other than plans for Kuwait to host a donors conference in February, the Sunnis are largely on their own, hanging on with the vitality of an abused shelter dog.


    President Trump is unlikely to pull troops out of Iraq entirely. A reduced force will stay to play Whack-a-Mole with any Islamic State resurgence, to act as a rear-guard against the political fallout that chased Obama in 2011 when he withdrew troops, and to referee among the disparate groups in western Iraq and Syria the United States armed willy-nilly to help defeat Islamic State. The armed groups mostly set aside differences dating from Biblical times to fight Islamic State, but with that behind them, about all they have in common is mutual distrust and lots of guns. American troops perma-stationed inside Iranian-allied Iraq are a bit of a geopolitical oddity, but one Iran has likely already at least passively agreed to. Tehran has little to gain from a fight over some American desert base real estate right now, when their prize is the rest of Iraq.


    Over five administrations and 26 years, the United States paid a high price – some 4,500 American dead and trillions of taxpayer dollars spent – for what will have to pass as a conclusion. Washington’s influence in Baghdad is limited and relations with Iran are in shambles under a Trump administration still focused backwards on the Obama-era Iran nuclear accords. The last quarter century of Iraq wars thrust the region into chaos while progressively erasing American dominance. Iran is picking up the pieces, creating a new Lebanon out of the shell of what was once Iraq. As long as the Trump administration insists on not opening diplomatic relations with Tehran, it will have few ways to exert influence. Other nations in the Middle East will diversify their international relationships (think Russia and China) knowing this.

    A long fall from the heady days of 2003, when America lit up the region like the Fourth of July to remake the Middle East. But the problems proved impossible to solve and so America washed its hands of that, for this. And if any of this does presage some future American conflict with an Iran that has gotten “too powerful,” then we shall have witnessed a true ironic tragedy.

     




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    Posted in Iraq, Trump

    Things Fall Apart: Iraq

    June 27, 2014 // 24 Comments »




    The mistakes of U.S. foreign policy are mostly based on the same flawed idea: that the world is a chessboard on which the U.S. makes moves, or manipulates proxies to make moves, that either defeat, counter or occasionally face setbacks from the single opponent across the table.

    The game held up for a fair amount of time; the U.S. versus the Nazis (D-Day = checkmate!), the U.S. versus Japan (Lose an important piece at Pearl Harbor, grab pawns island by island across the Pacific, and so forth). Most of the Cold War seemed to work this way.

    And so into Iraq in 2003. The Bush administration seemed to believe they could invade Iraq, topple Saddam and little would be left to do but put away the unused chessmen and move on to the next game. In reality, world affairs do not (any longer?) exist in a bipolar game. Things are complex, and things fall apart. Here is a quick tour of that new form of game in Iraq.

    Iran

    — Iranian transport planes are making two daily flights of military equipment into Baghdad, 70 tons per flight, to resupply Iraqi security forces.

    — Iran is flying Ababil surveillance drones over Iraq from Al Rashid airfield near Baghdad. Tehran also deployed an intelligence unit to intercept communications. General Qassim Suleimani, the head of Iran’s paramilitary Quds Force, visited Iraq at least twice to help Iraqi military advisers plot strategy. Iran has also deployed about a dozen other Quds Force officers to advise Iraqi commanders, and help mobilize more than 2,000 Shiite militiamen from southern Iraq.

    — As many as ten divisions of Iranian military and Quds Force troops are massed on the border, ready to intevene if Baghdad comes under assault or if important Shiite shrines in cities like Samarra are threatened, American officials say.

    — Suleimani was a presence in Iraq during the U.S. Occupation and helped direct attacks against American troops. In particular, Iraqi Shiite militias under the tutelage of Suleimani attacked American troops with powerful explosive devices supplied by Tehran. These shaped charges were among the very few weapons used toward the end of the U.S. Occupation that could pierce U.S. armor, and were directly responsible for the deaths of Americans.

    — General Suleimani is also the current architect of Iranian military support in Syria for President Bashar al-Assad. The U.S. calls for Assad to give up power, and was steps away from war in Syria to remove Assad only months ago.

    — Should America conduct air strikes in Iraq (some claim they are already stealthily underway), those strikes would be in direct support of Iranian efforts, and perhaps Iranian troops, on the ground.

    — The United States has increased its manned and unmanned surveillance flights over Iraq, and is now flying about 30 to 35 missions a day. The American flights include F-18s and P-3 surveillance planes, as well as drones.

    ISIS

    — ISIS, currently seen as a direct threat to both Iraq, Syria and the Homeland, is a disparate group of mostly Sunni-affiliated fighters with strong ties to Syria. The U.S. is now at war with them, though it appears that as recently as 2012 the U.S. may have had Special Forces arming and training them at a secret base in Safawi, in Jordan’s northern desert region. There are reports that the U.S. also trained fighters at locations in Turkey, feeding them into the Syrian conflict against Assad.

    — ISIS has been funded for years by wealthy donors in Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, three supposed U.S. allies. “The U.S. Treasury is aware of this activity and has expressed concern about this flow of private financing. But Western diplomats’ and officials’ general response has been a collective shrug,” a Brookings Institute report states.

    — ISIS itself is a international group, though added 1,500 Sunni Iraqis it liberated from a Shia prison near Mosul. A senior U.S. intelligence official said there are approximately 10,000 ISIS fighters — roughly 7,000 in Syria and 3,000 in Iraq. There are between 3,000 and 5,000 foreign fighters who have been incorporated into ISIS ranks.

    Turkey

    — The New York Times reports Turkey allowed rebel groups of any stripe easy access across its borders to the battlefields in Syria in an effort to topple President Bashar al-Assad. An unknown number of Turks are now hostages in Iraq, and Turkey continues its tussles with the Kurds to (re)fine that border.

    — “The fall of Mosul was the epitome of the failure of Turkish foreign policy over the last four years,” said Soli Ozel, a professor of international relations at Kadir Has University in Istanbul. “I can’t disassociate what happened in Mosul from what happened in Syria.”

    Iraq

    — With the official Iraqi Army in disarray, Prime Minister Maliki is increasingly reliant on Shiite militias primarily loyal to individual warlords and clerics, such as the Madhi Army. Despite nine years of Occupation, the U.S. never defeated the Madhi Army. Prime Minister Maliki never had the group surrender its weapons, and now, with the Baghdad government too weak to disarm them, they exist as the private muscle of Iraq’s hardline Shias. Once loosed onto the battlefield, Maliki will not be able to control the militias. The Mahdi Army has also sworn to attack American “advisors” sent to Iraq, believing them to be a vanguard for a second U.S. occupation. Many of the most powerful militias owe their ultimate loyalty not to the Iraqi state, but to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Sadr has much blood on his hands left over from the Occupation.

    Syria and Israel

    — Syrian government aircraft bombed Sunni targets inside Iraq on Tuesday, killing at least 57 civilians and wounding 120. Syrian warplanes also killed at least 12 people in the eastern Iraqi city of Raqqa Wednesday morning. A U.S. official said it was not clear whether the Iraqi government requested or authorized Syrian air strikes in Iraqi territory.

    Israeli warplanes and rockets struck targets inside Syria the same day as Syria struck Iraq.


    Checkmate

    It should be clear that there is no such thing as simply “doing something” in this crisis for the U.S. As with the 2003 invasion itself, no action by the United States can stand alone, and every action by the United States will have regional, if not global, repercussions apparently far beyond America’s ability to even understand.

    A chess game? Maybe, of sorts. While American interest in Iraq seems to parallel American interest in soccer, popping up when world events intrude before fading again, the other players in Iraq have been planning moves over the long game. In the blink of an eye, U.S. efforts in Syria have been exposed as fully-counterproductive toward greater U.S. goals, the U.S. has been drawn back into Iraq, with troops again on the ground in a Muslim war we thought we’d backed out of. The U.S. finds itself supporting Iranian ground forces, and partnering with militias well outside of any government control, with Special Forces working alongside potential suicide bombers who only a few years ago committed themselves to killing Americans in Iraq. What appears to be the U.S. “plan,” some sort of unity government, belies the fact that such unity has eluded U.S. efforts for almost eleven years of war in Iraq.

    In such a complex, multiplayer game it can be hard to tell who is winning, but it is easy in this case to tell who is losing. Checkmate.



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    Posted in Iraq, Trump

    Ten Reasons Airstrikes in Iraq are a Terrible Idea

    June 23, 2014 // 6 Comments »




    The smell of blood is once again in the air in Washington, this week for airstrikes and other forms of violent intervention in Iraq (reference: many of the same people– McCain and Graham in particular– were only recently calling for airstrikes or other military action in the Ukraine, and before that Syria, and before that…)

    Here are some of the many reasons airstrikes (or any other form of U.S. military action) in Iraq are just a terrible idea.


    1) Air strikes will not resolve anything significant.

    The short answer is through nine years of war and occupation U.S. air power in Iraq, employed on an unfettered scale, combined with the full-weight of the U.S. military on the ground plus billions of dollars in reconstruction funds, failed to resolve the issues now playing out in Iraq. Why would anyone think a lesser series of strikes would work any better?

    We also have a recent Iraqi example of the pointlessness of air strikes. The Maliki government employed them with great vigor against Sunnis in western Iraq, including in Fallujah, only six months ago, and here we are again, with an even more powerful Sunni force in the field.


    2) But air strikes now are crucial to buying the Iraqi government time to seek a political solution.

    See above about nine years of ineffectiveness. Today’s crisis is not new; Iraqi PM Maliki has been in power since 2006 and has done nothing to create an inclusive government. Indeed, he has done much to actively ostracize, alienate, jail and destroy his Sunni opposition. Maliki currently is his non-inclusionary own Minister of the Interior and Minister of Defense. Replacing Maliki, another regime change the U.S. now apparently supports, is no magic cure. Maliki’s successor will most likely come from his own majority party, and inherit his own ties to Iran and the many Shia groups needed to stay in power. Even with good intentions, a new Prime Minister will walk into office in the midst of a raging, open war against Sunni forces, not exactly the best place to start towards a more inclusive government. This argument of buying the Iraqis time is the same falsehood that fueled the unsuccessful Surges in Iraq (2007) and Afghanistan (2009). History matters, and it is time to accept that despite arguable tactical progress, in the longer view, the Surges did not work. And long views are what matter.

    Even David Petraeus, once America’s golden boy as architect of the Iraq Surge, warns against military intervention now in Iraq.


    3) John Kerry flying around the world diplomizing on Iraq is an air strike of its own.

    Worth noting is also the uselessness of American diplomacy. Since 2006 the U.S. has maintained its largest embassy in the world in Baghdad, with thousands of State Department and military personnel, alongside no doubt a healthy intelligence presence. It is clear that all those diplomats have not accomplished much in service to Iraqi reconciliation under even the more peaceful conditions in the past. It is unrealistic to expect more now.

    As for recruiting allies to intercede somehow with America in Iraq, that seems equally unlikely. The British, America’s former stalwart companion in global adventures, refused to get involved in American action last September in Syria. British involvement in the 2003 invasion remains controversial at home, and it is hard to see the Brits getting fooled again.



    4) Air strikes are surgical.

    Oh please. Check with the wedding parties in Yemen destroyed, and funeral gatherings massacred in Pakistan. Bombs and missiles are not surgical tools. They blow stuff up. It is impossible to avoid killing people near the other people you set out to kill, what the U.S. blithely refers to as collateral damage. And even that assumes you are aiming the weapons even close to the right place to begin with. Bad info that identifies the wrong house means you kill an innocent family, not a ISIS command cell.

    And even if you take the coldest American view possible that collateral damage is just an unavoidable cost of war, you fail to understand the real cost. Every innocent killed sets the population further against the U.S. and the people the U.S. seeks to support, both in Iraq and throughout the greater Middle East. Videos of dead children propagate well over social media.


    5) Air strikes are not a counterinsurgency tool.

    See nine years of war and occupation in Iraq, or forever years of war in places like Vietnam. You cannot bomb away a political movement. You cannot kill an idea that motivates millions of people with a Hellfire missile.


    6) Air strikes mean the U.S. is taking sides in a pit bull fight.

    The U.S. strikes would presumably be in an attempt to support the “Iraqi government and army.” The problem is that those entities are elusive. The Maliki government enjoys uneven public support, so supporting it alienates swaths of the Iraqi population and nearly requires them to take up arms against the U.S. and its puppets. The forces Maliki is putting into the field include a growing number of Shia militias under the control, such as that even is, of individual warlords and religious leaders. These are fighters who actively killed Americans just a few years ago, but somehow we’re on their side now. Maliki’s collection of forces are also bolstered in various ways by Iran. Somehow we’re on their side now too. Air strikes are part of a pattern of failed short-term thinking by the U.S.


    7) Air strikes are just more of “whack-a-mole” foreign policy.

    These entanglements are much more serious than to be dismissed as “well, politics makes for strange bedfellows” or “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Such trite phrases are typical of a U.S. foreign policy that only sees discrete crises within clear geopolitical borders. As long as the U.S. fantasizes that it can support Sunni fighters in Syria while striking them in Iraq, and as long as the U.S. believes it can bolster Iranian goals and credibility in Iraq while pushing back against it elsewhere in the Gulf, the worse things will get in the broader region.

    The same applies to the U.S.’ global “whack-a-mole” geopolitical strategy. Russia invades the Ukraine? A devoted by Washington to that. Boko Harem kidnaps girls? Ten days of Twitter memes. Iraq simmers for years? Let’s act now (and only now) before the next shiny object distracts our leaders.


    8 ) But air strikes are necessary because the U.S. must “do something.”

    Nope. There is nothing that says the U.S. must “do something” in response to all world events. There are many reasons to say even if we are compelled to do something, a military “solution” is not necessarily, or even often, the right thing to do. Imagine if you are outside a burning house, with a can of gasoline in your hand. With the compulsion to do something, is it better to throw the gas can into the flames, or stand back. Sometimes the best answer is indeed to stand back.

    9) ISIS is a threat to the U.S. and has to be air struck to stop another 9/11.

    ISIS is far from the Super Villains the U.S. media has seen necessary to depict them as. The groups fighting on the “Sunni” side, such as it is, are a collection of tribal, Baathist, religious, warlord and other conglomerations. Their loosely organized goal is to hold territory that criss-crosses the borders of Iraq and Syria. Absent some odd event, they are likely to withdraw or be chased out of central Iraq and hold on out west, where they have existed as a state-like thing for some time now. Central Iraq is way too far from their home base to retain supply lines (though they have been doing well capturing weapons from the retreating Iraqi forces), and Shia militia strength is more powerful the closer ISIS, et al, get to Baghdad.

    The threat line is most ardently espoused by who else, Dick Cheney, who brought out his own go-to scary thing, saying “One of the things I worried about 12 years ago – and that I worry about today – is that there will be another 9/11 attack and that the next time it’ll be with weapons far deadlier than airline tickets and box cutters.”

    ISIS and/or its Sunni supporters in Iraq have held territory in western Iraq for years without being a threat to the U.S. Homeland. Little changes if they hold a bit more, or less territory.

    ISIS is not a transnational terror group, and unless the U.S. drives them into an alliance with al Qaeda (as the U.S. did in the early years of the 2003 invasion with the Sunnis), they are unlikely to be. They fight with small arms in small groups under loose leadership. They will not be invading the U.S.

    10) Bottom line why air strikes are a terrible waste.

    The U.S. lost the war in Iraq years ago, probably as early as 2003. It is time to accept that.




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    Posted in Iraq, Trump

    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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    Follow Maliki on Twitter

    November 3, 2012 // 4 Comments »

    This has to be a sign of the Apocalypse or something worse. Iranian-backed American puppet democratic leader Iraqi strongman Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki now has a Twitter account you can follow at @IDawaParty.

    The US Embassy in Baghdad, following the Secretary of State’s clarion call into social media, has set up a Twitter account but so far nothing more than the usual happy talk generic Tweets. Probably still waiting for clearance on the first one from Washington. They “follow” the State Department Twitter account, though.



    Maliki’s Dawa party also has a wacky website, including a feature where you can email the PM. I already emailed him to see if he wants a free copy of We Meant Well, but so far no reply. The web page also includes a not-yet-functional link that would allow you to donate to the Dawa party charity, which would probably violate some sort of law. Follow the link above and send Maliki an email greeting!

    The US Embassy in Baghdad’s web site has a neat section on “hot topics,” which implies some sort of current events theme. When you click through to the hot topics for Iraq, however, the most recent posting is dated June 2011. One groovy “hot topic” quotes Secretary Clinton from 2010 congratulating Iraq, saying “Iraq’s political leaders have worked together to agree on an inclusive government that represents the will of the Iraqi people.” Oops.

    The really interesting thing is that all the web sites, Dawa included, are in English (the “Hot Topics” on the US site are also available in Arabic, but just as out of date). Kinda makes you wonder who the intended audience is.



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    Iraq all Obama’s Fault

    September 29, 2012 // 5 Comments »

    This article is hilarious, just LOL funny. I gotta catch my breath. OK, The piece is from the ultra-conservative Hoover Institute at Stanford (Motto: Opposing Whatever You Like), people who still think Condi Rice was a great leader and that George Bush had nothing at all– nothing– to do with the mess in Iraq.

    Ok, spoiler alert: It is all the black guy’s fault.

    Where to begin? The Hooverite says:

    Little more than two years ago, Iraq seemed headed on a sure path to stability. A new Iraqi state seemed to be emerging in which enduring U.S. interests—ensuring the stable flow of Iraq’s oil, denying Iraq as a base for terrorist groups, and preventing Iraq from destabilizing the broader region—would be secure.

    All true, as long as you also don’t believe in gravity (“just a theory”) and ignore the constant sectarian violence that has eaten Iraq alive since unleashed by the US invasion of 2003.

    Hooverville continues:

    The political pact among Iraq’s main parties—the accommodation that has guaranteed the dramatic reduction in violence since mid-2008—is unraveling. Whether driven by fear, or tempted by an opportunity not to be missed, or both, Prime Minister Nuri Maliki’s Da’wa party sparked a crisis on December 15 by moving to purge its top political rivals within hours of the ceremony marking the departure of the last U.S. forces.

    What political pact? The half-assed efforts wrought by the US, or the Shiite-dominated power structure put in place by the Iranians eight months after the last US-led election failures.

    More:

    Our troops have left Iraq because Prime Minister Maliki and his Da’wa party saw no compelling interest in our staying. Nor do Maliki and Da’wa see a compelling interest, at present, in securing the country against Iranian influence. This is because he and Da’wa are embarked on a project to consolidate power and permanently eliminate Baathism and former Baathists from public life, aims that our military presence tends to impede but that the Iranian regime and its Iraqi militant proxies often support.

    Where to begin. Removing the Baathists was America’s goal in 2003, dumbass. Maliki spent his Saddam years in exile in Iran, and came to power in 2010 through Iranian influence. Of course he will seek closer ties with Iran. Why could anyone possibly be surprised by this?

    Finally:

    Historians will puzzle over how a nine-year American military campaign resulted not in democracy, but in an Iraq led by a would-be strongman, riven by sectarianism and separatism, and increasingly aligned with America’s regional adversaries… Perhaps, in the end, this is what comes of having declared an end to a war that is not over.


    I am speechless. Hooverman, read my book if you want answers. If you don’t like my version, try Tom Rick’s Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. America got exactly the Iraq we created. The problems began in 2003, because of 2003. Don’t try now to blame it on Obama.



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    Now with More Victory Added: Hashimi to Die, Iran Supplying Syria via Iraq

    September 10, 2012 // 1 Comment »




    I was interviewed last night by BBC Radio regarding the sad news that an Iraqi court sentenced fugitive former Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi to death for his involvement in the killing of two people.

    The news is sad not because Hashimi is likely innocent; almost all of the Iraqi leaders have blood on their hands (anybody think Sadr hasn’t whacked a couple of guys in his time?) The sad side is that this move represent a clear marker point for when historians will acknowledge the unambiguous and utter failure of the US to establish the rule of law in Iraq despite nine years of playing at it. Prime Minister Maliki began consolidating his power literally within hours of the last US troops leaving Iraq and has never slowed down. Announcing his government’s intent to “legally” kill off his Sunni opponent is simply another step beyond hope for a peaceful solution in Iraq. Oh, and some 92 people were killed across the country this same day by various suicide bombers and what have you. As best anyone knows, Hashimi is hiding out in Turkey waiting for the Apocalypse.

    And just to make sure it remains a valid player in the rough and tumble world of Iraqi politics, on the day of Hashimi’s death sentence, and following the killings of 92 Iraqis, the US Embassy in Baghdad released this Tweet:


    The other news from Iraq involves Syria.

    The New York Times dutifully tells us that Iran is shipping military equipment to Syria over Iraqi airspace in a new effort to bolster the embattled government of President Assad of Syria. The Obama administration is pressing Iraq to shut down the air corridor, raising the issue with Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq. This has all been going on for some time now, with the US making its pleas quietly (“soft power”) but Obama, by going public, imagines he is turning up the heat.

    Why, this is so important that Joe Biden is in charge. Uncle Joe discussed the Syrian crisis in a phone call with Maliki in mid-August. The White House has declined to disclose details, but an American official who would not speak on the record told the NYT that Biden had “registered his concerns” over the flights.

    Ooooooooh you’re in trouble now. We’ve “registered our concerns.” Watch out, next we’ll “view you with increasing concern.”

    That yawning sound you hear is from Baghdad. The Iraqis in general and PM Malaki in particular could care less what America thinks. Might have something to do with those nine years of failed occupation and reconstruction that turned his country into a crappy version of a used car junk yard, but what do I know.

    So yes, yes, another round in the US-Iran proxy war. I wrote about this w-a-y back in November 2011.

    The US is only now starting to publicly admit one of the many costs of losing the Iraq war, an empowered Iran bordered by at best a passive Iraq, more likely an allied Iraq. Never one to consider secondary or tertiary effects of failed empire, the US now cannot back away. Whatever forms of quiet persuasion the US thought would be effective in separating Maliki from his Iranian support have clearly failed, hence the (first?) public denunciations. What’s left to lose?

    Once again the US kicked over another MidEast ant hill (Syria) without any clear idea what the end game would be. Sorry Syrian peoples! Iran has pushed into the gap, its efforts made easier with Iraq allowing transshipment of arms. Of course the US is only publicly talking about overflights, but there is an awful lot of Iranian truck traffic into Iraq and the Iraq-Syrian border is wholly porous.

    I think we are seeing the first public admittance of failure in Iraq, albeit with an anti-Iran twist. But as I wrote in November 2011, this is nothing new. It just stinks more now for the extra time out in the sunlight.



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    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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    Ryan Crocker, Please Shut Up

    April 17, 2012 // 4 Comments »

    America’s superhero Ambassador in Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker (pictured left with his senior adviser) just keeps the hits coming. After manfully mocking the Taliban for pulling off coordinated attacks all over the country, including just outside his own office windows, Crocker now turns his insightful gaze toward the future of terrorism.

    But first, a very brief history of our war in Afghanistan. 9/11 happened, with almost all of the terrorists being Saudi, using money from Saudi Arabia and having obtained their visas in Saudi Arabia courtesy of the US Department of State (not their fault, they did not have social media then). Following the Saudi-led horrors of that day, the US attacked a different country, Afghanistan, because the Saudi citizen behind some of 9/11 moved there (many other Saudi plotters went to Pakistan, which we did not attack). The stated purpose of invading Afghanistan was to find Osama bin Laden and deny al Qaeda a homey place to live and train. You can look that up on Wikipedia or something.

    So it is, well, curious, to read this quote from Crocker:

    Al-Qaeda is still present in Afghanistan. If the West decides that 10 years in Afghanistan is too long then they will be back, and the next time it will not be New York or Washington, it will be another big Western city. Al-Qaeda remains a potent threat despite suffering setbacks. We have killed all the slow and stupid ones. But that means the ones that are left are totally dedicated.


    Yeah, like, totally.

    The good news from Crocker is that he somehow knows that New York and DC will be safe next time. The bad news is that after almost eleven years of war, 100,000 troops deployed, some 2,000 dead Americans, trillions of dollars plus who knows how many dead Afghans, as well as the fact that the war has spread into Pakistan, the US has not accomplished much at all. We are in fact, Crock says, pretty much where we started and all that effort and all those American lives did nothing but lop off the slow and stupid bad guys.

    Afghans (Heart) Crocker

    Crocker also seems to have hit the executive minibar one too many times. When told by a reporter that “Some Afghans even argue that the US presence has done more harm than good in Afghanistan,” Crocker parried:

    The greatest concern that Afghans with whom we have regular contact express about the US military presence isn’t that we’re here but that we may be leaving. So it’s simply not the case that Afghans would rather have US forces gone. It’s quite the contrary.

    Of course the mind spins, wondering if the masses of Afghans upset over the US burning Quarans, peeing on their dead and of course turning wedding parties in red mush with “unfortunate” drone attacks really would love the Americans to stay– please– just a little bit longer. Maybe Crocker could put his theory to the test with a series of homestays in the homes of typical Afghans, asking each if they would like him in the particular to stay around longer? Everyone knows that foreigners want nothing more than an American Occupying Army to sit on them.

    Turks (Heart) Crocker

    In that same interview, just for laffs, Crocker also fired off a threat to the Iranians, saying mirthfully that:

    The Iranians would be making a terrible mistake to push Turkey too hard. Turkey definitely knows how to push back very, very effectively, and I think the Iranians are smart enough to understand that they had better stay within some pretty careful limits or they will pay a price they won’t like, shall we say.

    Yes, them Turks are bad asses, shall we say. Problem is in between Turkey and Iran lies Crocker’s out vacation home in Iraq, which would need to be overflown by the Turks when they go off huntin’ Iranian butt. Yeah, it’ll be cool. Crock’s got your back.

    Crocker, it is a bad idea to taunt people with weapons, especially when it is other people who will bear the burden of defending your taunts against the inevitable response.

    Maliki (Hearts) Crocker

    Lastly, Crocker wows his audience with a completely wrong retelling of reality, speaking now about Iraqi autocrat Maliki:

    Turkey knows better than anyone the deep divisions between Iraq and Iran in the aftermath of that awful eight-year ground war. Again, you understand that, as many in my country do not, that simply because the government is now led by a Shiite prime minister does not mean that he takes his direction from Tehran — quite the opposite. He is a very proud Arab and a proud Iraqi nationalist.


    Of course Crocker wouldn’t know that Maliki spent most of the eight years of the Iraq-Iran war in exile in Iran, and that Maliki owes his Prime Minister job to the Iranian-brokered deal with the Sadrists that concluded the March 2010 sham elections nine months after the voting ended. Crocker’s version of Iraq-Iran history also ends in 1990 and omits two US invasions of Iraq that followed.

    So, once again, Ryan Crocker, would you please just shut up?




    (Thanks to Ryan Crocker fan blogger Random Thoughts for the story idea)




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    4479 Reasons the Iraq War was a Waste

    January 23, 2012 // Comments Off on 4479 Reasons the Iraq War was a Waste


    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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    Ambassador Chris Hill: It Wasn’t Me

    January 20, 2012 // Comments Off on Ambassador Chris Hill: It Wasn’t Me

    Chris Hill was America’s Ambassador in Iraq for a year or so, 2009-2010, following his amazing success as chief negotiator to North Korea while they developed their nuclear arsenal. Chris oversaw the US actions in Iraq following the March 2010 elections, directing a robust US response that ended up as “Jesus H. Christ you guys, just form some sort of government so we can call it a democracy and get out of here!”

    That government-forming process, which ultimately required the Iranians to step in and broker a deal that led to a declared government only some seven months after the voting ceased, pasted together the lame coalition that Prime Minister Maliki has been furiously tearing back apart since the minute the US military departed Iraq (Note that Maliki was afraid enough of the US military to wait for their departure, but did not give a hoot that the World’s Largest Embassy (c) was squatting in town.)

    The New York Times noted that on his departure from Iraq, Chris “rejected criticism that the [election] deadlock reflected his own ineffectiveness or waning American influence.” Other media also laid blame on Chris for failing to represent America’s interests well in Iraq.

    But that’s all just water under the bridge, as Chris asserts in his new Op-Ed.

    About the nicest thing one can say about that Op-Ed is that it sounds like it was written by a grad student coming down off a Red Bull sprint (Chris is Dean of the Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver; founder Josef Korbel is the father of Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State and Chris’ old chum. Small world among the 1%.) In case you don’t care to read the whole Op-Ed thing, it can be summed up as follows: everything bad happening in Iraq is their own damn fault and America’s almost nine year occupation in general, and Chris’ tenure as Ambassador in the specific, had nothing to do with it. Now get off my lawn!

    But if you insist, we’ll poke a bit further.

    Chris tries to show off his intimate knowledge of Iraq. He says “spending time in Baghdad reveals that Sunni and Shia Iraqis have learned to live together, that intermarriage is common, and that the issues that concern people are more secular than sectarian.” R-i-g-h-t. Many Sunnis living in Sadr City? Any Sunni-Shia tensions in al-Doura? Duh.

    But it is OK because Chris knows that “the reality of Iraq is that most people, especially outside of cosmopolitan Baghdad, see themselves as Sunni or Shia. And that reality is further shaped by the following fact: for decades, Iraq was brutally and not very effectively ruled by the minority Sunnis, whose last leader was Saddam Hussein. The Shia, understandably, don’t want them back.” Now let’s check Wikipedia, just who disposed of Saddam and unleashed all those sectarian tensions without a plan on containing them?

    Chris just rambles on about how the two sides should just get along, reiterating the basic premise of US-Iraq policy, hoping that somehow things will just work out.

    Man up Chris:

    –The oft-stated US major accomplishment of getting rid of Saddam was all over in 2003. We called it regime “change” but in reality it was just regime “destruction,” only the first half of the change thing.

    –The US invasion and failure of the reconstruction left Iraq in horrific condition, setting the stage for additional years of suffering. Such suffering fuels insurgency and lack of support for any central government. It is a poor legacy.

    –The utter lack of US planning for postwar occupation unleashed sectarian violence and enabled sectarian conflict that is playing out long after the US went home. The US is responsible for letting the genie out of the bottle.

    I’m not the only one who thinks Chris’ Op-Ed is a bad joke. Read what Reider Visser has to say.


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In Iraq, war is the continuation of diplomacy by other means…

January 18, 2012 // Comments Off on In Iraq, war is the continuation of diplomacy by other means…

Only a day after Iraqi government officials summoned Turkey’s ambassador, complaining that comments made by Turkish officials amounted to meddling in its internal affairs, and warning that Turkey will “suffer,” a rocket hit the Turkish embassy compound in Baghdad.

Indeed, at least two rockets were fired from a vehicle at the embassy in northern Baghdad, outside the heavily fortified Green Zone complex. “There were two Katyusha rockets. The first one hit the embassy blast wall, and the second one hit the second floor of an adjacent bank,” the official said.

Maliki’s verbal attack on Turkey came after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urged him to reduce tensions in the war-torn country, regarding a series of bombings in Baghdad. Erdoğan spoke to Maliki on the phone and said his actions are moving Iraq away from democracy, referring to an arrest warrant last month for Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. Turkey has been trying to play a mediator role in Iraq between the rival Shiite and Sunni sects in the government.

The rocket attacks on the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad are the equivalent of the Mafia leaving a bloody horse’s head in your bed, capice?



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Don’t Get Fooled Again

January 5, 2012 // Comments Off on Don’t Get Fooled Again

State Department Undersecretary for Management guy Pat Kennedy said this recently on NPR, justifying the $3.5 billion a year maintaining the World’s Largest Embassy in Baghdad (c) costs:

This is a democracy in the Middle East. Is it perfect? No. A lot of people think our system isn’t perfect either. But this is a major oil producer, a friend of the United States, a potential market for American goods and now, I think, a very important symbol in the Middle East of what democracy in the Middle East could be.

Meanwhile, the US ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey said that an investigation into allegations against Iraq’s vice president appears to be proceeding fairly despite claims that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is pursuing a political vendetta against a rival.

This statement was made despite the fact that Hashemi is so confident in the fairness of the judicial system that he sought sanctuary in semi-autonomous Kurdistan. The charges against him are based in large part on “confessions” by his bodyguards made after their “interrogations” by security forces loyal to Maliki. Hashemi’s alleged crimes, uncovered by Maliki the very day US forces withdrew in 2011, took place in 2006. Just never got around to investigating them earlier I guess.

Meanwhile, in our universe:

A roadside bomb targeting Shia pilgrims killed 30 people on the outskirts of the southern city of Nasiriyah on Thursday. A total of 30 people were killed and 72 wounded in the attack, which occurred just west of Nasiriyah as pilgrims were walking to the holy shrine city of Karbala for Arbaeen commemorations.

The attack came on the same day two Shia neighbourhoods in Baghdad were targeted in bombings that left at least 23 people dead.

At least nine civilians have been killed and 35 others injured in two successive explosions and a motorbike blast in east Baghdad’s Sadr city on Thursday morning.

A female child has been killed and six civilians injured in five successive explosions in the city of Baaquba, the center of northeast Iraq’s Diala Province, on Wednesday morning.

A group of unknown armed men have killed two Iraqi soldiers in southern Mosul, the center of Ninewa Province, late Tuesday night.


We’ll assume officials like Kennedy and Jeffrey are not ignorant or uninformed. That leaves then the question as to why they would keep saying ridiculous things about Iraq, claiming it is a democracy somehow comparable to our own system, or that Maliki’s blatant power plays are following the rule of law.

“What we’re seeing is a new era in post-Saddam politics,” said Ramzy Mardini, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War. “Iraq’s stability is on really weak foundation. Maliki has gone too far in his campaign against political rivals, his only option is to keep going.”

So who are people like Kennedy and Jeffreys trying to fool?

Either themselves, or you. The Iraqis certainly know what is going on in their own country, watching 60 of their countrypeople blown up on a single all-too-typical Thursday. Maliki and Hashemi understand the game being played out. So the disingenuous statements by State Department officials are designed either to convince themselves that they are doing a robust job, or, to convince you that after all these years, all those lives and all that money, the US invasion and occupation of Iraq was still somehow worth it.

As the war drums beat over Iran, you decide, but don’t get fooled again.



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Biden to Iraq, MEK to Burger King

December 27, 2011 // Comments Off on Biden to Iraq, MEK to Burger King

Iraqiya bloc MP Mudhir al-Janabi told Aswat al-Iraq that Joe Biden will soon visit Iraq to try and bring the warring political parties to the table. It will be a tough sell, as Maliki has pretty much blown Biden off in recent days.

Biden is the latest in a parade of “best hits of the Iraq War” celebs to go to Iraq, following Odierno and Petraeus. It is also rumored that the World’s Largest Embassy (c) still exists and thus must be playing some role in all this negotiating.

Thanks to the UN (also not the State Department), residents of the anti-Tehran Mujahedin E-Khalq (MEK) Organization Asrah Camp in northeast Iraq shall move to what used to be Camp Liberty in Baghdad, in response to a Memo of Understanding, signed between Iraq and the United Nations. Once there, the UN will begin processing the MEKs for resettlement outside Iraq. Liberty was known during the American Occupation has having the largest PX in Iraq, a Burger King, Pizza Hut and a KFC, plus a large “mall” with over seventy Iraqi national vendors. Perhaps the MEK people will inherit the franchise rights to tide them over while waiting to be processed out as refugees?

Oh wait, here’s something State can do: “US Embassy officials in Baghdad shall carry out organized and repeated visits to the new MEK location, whilst we support the Iraqi government’s readiness to postpone the final closure of Ashraf Camp, in order to give enough time to implement this plan,” SecState Clinton said. At least she did not say “robust.” Seems reasonable in that the World’s Largest Embassy (c) comes with the World’s Largest price tag, some $3.8 billion (about $2.5 billion of that is for security) a year in operating costs, about a fourth of all State’s yearly costs.

The idea of US diplomats visiting MEK completes the circle: the US Dips will be surrounded by massive security to protect them from the Iraqis the US liberated while at the same time using their own presence to protect the MEKs from the liberated Iraqis. It all adds up to freedom somehow.

And as usual, Musings on Iraq has the final word on political events in Mesopotamia:

Whether the confessions were true or not, they point to Iraq’s dysfunctional government. Since Hashemi and the Iraqi Islamic Party have been implicated in using violence in the past, the arrest warrant could be based upon fact. That would just be the latest indictment against the country’s major parties almost all of which have relied upon militias at one time or another. At the same time, the prime minister could be manipulating the security forces and justice system to carry out his latest vendetta against his rivals. He has done similar things before, using the state apparatus to further his own political agenda. The truth of this story is likely never to be revealed, but it shows why Baghdad doesn’t work.




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How the Grinch Stole Iraq

December 23, 2011 // Comments Off on How the Grinch Stole Iraq

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

December 21, 2011 // Comments Off on (Sunni) Anbar Gives Notice to (Shia) Central Government

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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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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Calling BS on Biden in Iraq

December 1, 2011 // Comments Off on Calling BS on Biden in Iraq

Biden’s trip to Iraq had several components to it, all worth examining for their overflowing levels of bullshit.

Victory Lap

This is perhaps the slimiest part of the trip, as Biden sought to assign credit for the US military withdrawal from Iraq to his boss. Obama famously campaigned saying he would end the war in Iraq, and Biden said he did, carefully ignoring that the White House begged and pleaded Iraq to allow our troops to stay, and that the withdrawal took place only after talks over immunity broke down. The military got asked to leave more than anything. In addition, Biden’s claim that Obama kept his promise ignores the 16,000 person State Department occupation team which will replace the military. No victory lap, Joe, sorry.

We Won/Accomplished Something

Biden soft-played this, as well he should have. The US won not much, accomplished not much and even any meager gains that a meth-crazed neocon can come up with have to be weighed against the loss of lives and tremendous costs. Seeing vets without legs wheeling around Walmart having to use food stamps for Hamburger Helper does not represent any victory. Like all other VIPs, Biden had to sneak into Iraq unannounced and at night to avoid being killed. And, to drive home the irony, two separate attacks in northeastern Iraq killed 17 people on Thursday, the third day of Biden’s visit.

US Defense Contractors Made Out

Joe’s only sincere moments came when he pimped for US defense contractors to make even more money.

US Ambassador Jeffrey in Baghdad said that “We have about $8 billion, give or take some, of active (foreign military sales) cases with Iraq. That’s not counting the new one that just came out for the F-16s. That will send it up by a number of additional billions of dollars. This is one of the biggest programmes in the world.”

Biden talked military sales to Iraq, and some 200 uniformed military will remain in Iraq to oversee the sales and training.

Honoring the Iraq Army

Biden’s final point in Iraq is the most awkward stretch of reality to fit the US meme.

He and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki addressed about 120 U.S. service members and 100 Iraqi troops gathered at al-Faw Palace, Saddam’s old crib. Biden thanked the troops and recognized their “achievements” over the past eight+ years. “This palace, a grotesque monument to a dictator’s greed, is today filled with American and Iraqi warriors, bound together by shared sacrifice in service to their countries. Here in Iraq you became partners… and friends… and now, undeniably, you are brothers-in-arms.”

Few American troops see things that way, and even fewer Iraqis do. The US invaded Iraq in 2003, heartily killing Iraqi soldiers who picked no fight with America. We then kicked off a civil war that included mucho Iraqi-on-US violence. Now that we’re bored with Iraq as a battleground, we are leaving that mess for the Iraqis to clean up, mislabeling some coerced cooperation and staged joint ops into being brothers-in-arms.

Nobody but maybe Joe Biden believes that. Ask any American soldier if s/he would ever turn his back on an armed Iraqi, or walk into an Iraqi military compound unarmed voluntarily. Nobody did that when I was in Iraq and nobody would do that now. Even as Joe warbled at the palace, at joint training facilities like the former FOB Hammer/Besmiyah range, US personnel live on their own compound surrounded by their own security.

Hey, but if Joe Biden really believes what he says, let’s have him fly into Iraq on an announced visit, in the daytime, and spend a day without American security with some Iraqi soldiers.

Yeah, I didn’t think so. I call bullshit Joe.



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Maliki is Pissing on the Iraqi Constitution

November 1, 2011 // Comments Off on Maliki is Pissing on the Iraqi Constitution

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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It Begins: Apre US le Deluge?

October 26, 2011 // Comments Off on It Begins: Apre US le Deluge?

Iraq has arrested at least 240 former members of Saddam Hussein’s banned Baath Party and ex-military officers over what some senior officials described as a plot to seize power after U.S. troops withdraw at year’s end.

BUT…

The crackdown will further alienate Sunnis, many of whom are deeply suspicious of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shi’ite-led government. The Iraqiya political bloc, a secularist group that is supported by many Sunnis and has joined Maliki’s coalition government, condemned the arrest campaign.

BUT…

On October 23, Ahmadinejad laid out Tehran’s strategy to CNN: “The government of Iraq, the parliament, we have a very good relationship with all of them… And we have deepened our ties day by day.”

AND…

And the person deepening those ties day by day? Likely Qods Force Commander, Qassem Soleimani, the man responsible for all of the Iranian regime’s covert activities in Iraq. He oversees Tehran’s relations with its militant proxies there, as well as Hezbollah and Hamas in neighboring states. He reports directly to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and his budget comes directly from the Supreme Leader’s office.

MEANWHILE…

Turkish tanks entered northern Iraq‘s Kurdistan border areas to attack a camp of the anti-Ankara Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the area on Monday, according to Turkish security sources on Tuesday. The Turkish tanks entrance into the area took place in the background of an attack by PKK forces that killed 24 Turkish soldiers last week.

SO…

The Kurdish government today donated one million dollars to Turkey to help in the recovery effort following the quake, official sources said today.

AND OF COURSE…

A number of persons have been killed or injured in a Katyusha rocket attack targeting the headquarters of the Baghdad Police Academy on Monday, a security source reported. “A number of Katyusha rockets fell on Monday afternoon on the headquarters of the Police Academy, close to the Interior Ministry building east of Baghdad, killing and wounding several people,” the security source told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.




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Can It Be True? US to Really Leave Iraq?

October 16, 2011 // Comments Off on Can It Be True? US to Really Leave Iraq?

I’ve read the story twice, three times, and still can’t believe it. It may be a bargaining tool, a threat to force the Iraqis back to the table, or to obtain a concession from the US die, or simply a premature statement, or… or… it may be… true.

The Associated Press reports the U.S. is abandoning plans to keep troops in Iraq past a year end withdrawal deadline. The decision to pull out fully by January will end more than eight years of U.S. occupation of Iraq, despite ongoing concerns about its security forces and the potential for instability. The decision ends months of hand-wringing by officials over whether to stick to a December 31, 2011 withdrawal deadline that was set in 2008 or continue to occupy Iraq with less boots on the ground.

AP goes on to say a senior Obama official in Washington confirmed all American troops will leave Iraq except for about 160 active-duty soldiers attached to the U.S. Embassy. A senior U.S. military official confirmed the departure and said the withdrawal could allow future but limited U.S. military training missions in Iraq if requested. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The deal breaker was that Iraqi leaders adamantly refused to give U.S. troops immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts, and the Americans have refused to stay without it. Prime Minister al-Maliki told the U.S. that he does not have the votes in Iranian-influenced parliament to provide immunity to the American liberators.

The immunity issue is indeed a big deal, as a continuing American occupation would have to allow for future Abu Ghraib atrocities, the occasional gunning down of innocent Iraqis as in Haditha, the once in a while incidents where tanks ran over kids and of course the off-base rapes of teenagers that characterize American troops abroad.

An advisor close to al-Maliki said the Americans suggested during negotiations that if no deal is reached in time, U.S. troops could be stationed in Kuwait, where immunity against crimes like torture and rape happily exists.

As for the World’s Largest Embassy (c), the State Department’s palace by the Tigris, which was supposed to be a seat of empire, a symbol of American power, better hang up a new sign: Fort Apache. Gonna be some hot times to come in the old Green Zone without the US military there protecting our diplomats’ soft hands and tender sensibilities. Better hope the $5 billion the State Department will spend training Iraqi cops pays off quickly.

If this is indeed true– that all U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by 12/31/2011– then find me on New Year’s Eve, because the drinks are gonna be on me!



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Something Is Rotten in the State of Iraq

October 14, 2011 // Comments Off on Something Is Rotten in the State of Iraq

Kenneth Pollack, in The National Interest, has a very interesting article titled “Something Is Rotten in the State of Iraq,” on the sad state of Iraq’s “democracy,” describing things as follows:

The government itself, including the prime minister’s own staff, acts extraconstitutionally, unconstitutionally, illegally or downright dangerously from time to time…

Meanwhile, the Iraqi economy remains a basket case…

The big losers are the Iraqi people. They got exactly the opposite of what they voted for. They wanted an effective, technocratic government free of sectarianism and warlords. They wanted leaders who would concentrate on rebuilding Iraq and improving their lives. They got none of that…

Iraq’s biggest winners? Violent extremists. In return for backing al-Maliki’s return to the prime ministership, the Sadrists got control of a number of important social ministries and a free hand in southern Iraq…

For nearly a year, Iraqi politics came to a complete halt. All of the provisions in the constitution regarding the timetables for forming a new government were ignored. It set a terrible precedent, undermining the nascent effort to foster rule of law. It derailed the momentum of Iraqi democracy. And it established a dangerous standard: that what matters most is not how the people vote but rather how the parties politick afterward…

This de facto national-unity government simply took all of Iraq’s political differences and brought them into the government itself, paralyzing the cabinet and much of the bureaucracy…


Pollack somehow oddly concludes that all of this can be overcome by US engagement with Iraq, without offering much evidence or explanation. Even with that said, the picture he paints is dark, with more clouds on the horizon.

Read the entire article at The National Interest.



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MidEast Govt. Fires on Own Citizens

April 18, 2011 // Comments Off on MidEast Govt. Fires on Own Citizens

No, it's pronounced "Boehner," not "Boner."Alert NATO to schedule another bombing run against a corrupt Middle Eastern government that uses foreign-equipped paramilitary police forces to fire into crowds of protesters outside their own homes.

Oops. It was Iraq. Iraqi police shot seven people in Sulaimaniya yesterday. At least nine protesters have been killed since Feb. 17 in antigovernment demonstrations in the semiautonomous Kurdish region. No official reaction from NATO or the US for the same government actions that result in bombing runs and sanctions in neighboring countries.

You can see a clippet of video from the protests on America’s prime news source, YouTube.

American Idol Prime Minister Maliki met in Baghdad on Saturday with orange-colored circus freak John A. Boehner (R – Tears of a Clown), and said that “The Iraqi armed and security forces are able to handle the responsibility of maintaining security and work in a professional way.” Boehner issued no statement but no doubt will encourage Republicans to oppose weather, daylight and the force of gravity.

 

 

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