• The Next Middle East War, Post-ISIS

    October 29, 2017 // 3 Comments »

    Iraqs-Prime-Minister-Nuri-al-Maliki

    Islamic State is in fatal decline. The Middle East will soon enter a new era, post-Islamic State, dominated by the Saudi-Iranian power struggle. The struggle will, as it has as it ran alongside the fight against Islamic State, involve shifting Sunni and Shiite allegiances. But the fight is not about religion. Religion this time has more to do with complicating choices in political bedfellows and where proxies are recruited than dogma. For behind that Sunni-Shiite curtain, this is a classic geopolitical power struggle — for control of Iraq and Syria, and for expanding diplomatic and strategic reach throughout the region.

    In the fight against Islamic State, it has been all too easy to cite expediency in putting complex issues aside, but as the alliances created for that struggle run their course, the new reality will force changes. With the strategic value of funding Islamic State as a bulwark against Iranian influence in Iraq gone, the Saudis appear to be pivoting toward building warmer relations with the Shiite government in Baghdad. That a Saudi airline is just now announcing the first return of direct service between the two countries since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990 is no coincidence, nor is it an isolated event

    The Saudis also appear willing to let a lot of religious water pass under the bridge to take advantage of a looming intra-Shiite power struggle in Baghdad among Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (above), and Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Sadr, the most religiously zealous Shiite of the group, has always been something of a nationalist, and unlike his rivals, is wary of Iranian influence. It is perhaps not surprising that he has made friendly trips to Sunni Riyadh and the United Arab Emirates, the first time in 11 years done under official invitation from Saudi Arabia.

    Sadr is an interesting choice for the Saudis to use to gain influence in Baghdad. Real progress for Riyadh means untangling years of close Iranian cooperation in Iraq, to include limiting the power of the Iranian-backed militias. Sadr has significant influence among the militias, and can use his religious credibility to sell Saudi cooperation to the vast numbers of his followers who remember well the Saudis funded al Qaeda in Iraq and Islamic State’s killing of so many Shiites over the years. Further enhancing Sadr’s Shiite religious status can thus further Sunni Saudi goals. During his visit, the Saudis gifted Sadr with $10 million for “rebuilding,” but also astutely threw in some special visas for this year’s Hajj pilgrimage for Sadr to distribute.

    One should not, however, sell Iran short. Its ties to officials in Baghdad are a tiny part of a deep relationship forged in the bloody fight against the American occupiers. Iranian special forces then helped defeat Islamic State, Iranian money continues to support Iraq, and the Shiite militias who will suddenly have a lot less to occupy their time post-Islamic State are still mostly under Iranian influence. In the absence of any effective national army, no government will stand long in Baghdad without militia support. At the moment, Iran is way ahead in Iraq.

    Iran is also likely to be a winner in Syria. Islamic State’s defeat will significantly lessen Sunni influence there, and Iran’s role as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s protector will only increase in value now that it appears Assad will remain in control of some portion of the country. The Saudis backed the wrong team and are left with little influence.

    In addition to a strong hand in Iraq and Syria, Iran is also probably the most stable Muslim nation in the Middle East. It has existed more or less within its current borders for thousands of years, and is largely religiously, culturally, and linguistically homogeneous (though keep an eye on the Kurdish minority.) While still governed in significant part by its clerics, the country has held a series of increasingly democratic electoral transitions since the 1979 revolution. And unlike the Saudis, Iran’s leaders do not rule in fear of an Islamic revolution. They already had one.


    Power struggles create flashpoints, and the Saudi-Iranian struggle post-Islamic State is no exception.

    The Saudi-Iranian proxy war in Yemen has settled into a version of World War I-style trench warfare, with neither side strong enough to win or weak enough to lose. In an ugly form of stasis, the conflict seems likely to stay within its present borders.

    A potential powder keg however lies in Kurdistan. The Kurds, a de facto state arguably since 2003, did the one thing they weren’t allowed to do, pull the tiger’s tale by holding a formal independence referendum. That vote required everyone with a stake to consider their next moves instead of leaving well enough alone.

    Iran, and the Iranian-backed government now in Baghdad, are clear they will not tolerate an actual Kurdish state. With Islamic State defeated, those governments will simultaneously lose the need to make nice to keep the Kurds in that fight and find themselves with combat-tested Shiite militias ready for the next task. Following a Shiite move against the Kurds, and stymied in Yemen, imagine the Saudis throwing their support into the fight, and a new proxy war will be underway right on Iran’s own western border.


    While it may seem odd to write about the balance of power in the Middle East leaving out the United States, that may very well describe America’s range of options post-Islamic State.

    The United States, which did so much via its unnecessary invasion of Iraq and tragic handling of the post-war period to nurture the growth of Islamic State, seems the least positioned of all players to find a place in a post-Islamic State Middle East. American influence in Baghdad is limited, and with Washington having declared its opposition to the Kurdish independence referendum, likely limited in Erbil as well. Detente with Iran is in shambles under the Trump administration, leaving Washington with few options other than perhaps supporting the Saudis in whatever meddling they do in Iraq.

    Having followed his predecessor’s single minded “strategy” of simply “destroy Islamic State,” there are no signs the Trump administration has any ideas about what to do next, and with the military exhausted and the State Department apparently sitting out international relations at present, it is unclear if any will emerge. It will soon be mission accomplished for America with nothing much to follow. And if that sounds familiar, echoing back to 2003, well, then you understand how things got to where they are.




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    Happy Ninth Anniversary Iraq Invasion!

    April 1, 2012 // 2 Comments »

    (This article originally appeared on Huffington Post)

    Just like with my own wedding anniversary, I’m a few days late recognizing the ninth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War, but sincere in marking the occasion none the less.

    As with wedding anniversaries (I am really sorry honey, I thought you liked Denny’s and yes, in retrospect, a gift card for flowers is not the same as flowers ), another year having past is a good time to pause and take stock. Following the US invasion of March 2003, we cycled through excuses for the war like gluttonous Mr. Creosote, never really satisfied as we passed through no WMDs, blood for oil, ridding the world of yet another evil dictator (while supporting so many others in Yemen, Egypt, and at that time Syria and Libya), stopping terrorism and all the rest. As the clock ran out in Iraq, we settled on “creating a 1) stable, 2) democratic Iraq that is an 3) ally of the US.” And even that was like, whatever, two out of three maybe.

    Sad to say even after 4480 American deaths, 100,000+ dead Iraqis, trillions of greenbacks and all the rest, for most Americans wars are just another sporting event. We watch while it is going on, lose interest near the end and afterwards just declare it a victory (or a tie, we never lose) and change the channel to Syria.

    But before we do that, today at least in honor of the anniversary, let’s just have a quick look at Iraq.

    Stable
    Tuesday morning, at least 16 near-simultaneous explosions struck cities and towns (Baghdad+Karbala+Kirkuk+Ramadi+Mosul+Hilla+Tikrit+TuzKhurmatu+Daquq+Baiji+Dibis+AlDhuluiyah+Samarra+Baquba+Mahmudiyah) across Iraq, killing at least 45 people and wounding more than 200, despite a massive security clampdown ahead of next week’s Arab League summit. It was Iraq’s deadliest day in nearly a month, and the breadth of coordinated bombs showed an apparent determination by insurgents to prove that the government cannot keep the country safe ahead of the summit.

    Democratic
    Malaki still holds some senior cabinet positions for himself, and still has an arrest warrant out for his own VP, who is in hiding in Kurdistan where Baghdad’s law does not apply. On Monday, a million loyalists of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr rallied in south Iraq Monday decrying poor services and rampant graft. Demonstrators shouted: “Yes to rights! Yes to humanity! No to injustice! No to poverty! No to corruption!”

    Some protesters held aloft electrical cables, water canisters and shovels to symbolise the poor services that plague Iraq. Others carried empty coffins with words plastered on them such as “democracy”, “electricity,” “education” and “services”. Iraq suffers from electricity shortages, with power cuts multiplying during the boiling summer, poor clean water provision, widespread corruption and high unemployment. This is despite the US spending $44 billion on reconstruction in Iraq, the failure of which was the subject of my book, We Meant Well.

    Ally of the US
    Syria, America’s itch up its butt de jeur in the Middle East, is suddenly full of bad people (we used to support; in 2003 when the Iraq invasion started we were still rendering prisoners to Syria to torture on our behalf) and yet another regime America has unilaterally decided must change. OK, well enough, except that reports indicate that Iranian weapons are flowing through ally Iraq into Syria, and Iraq tells the US it won’t stop them. What are friends for, am I right?

    The ties between Iraq and Iran continue to strengthen, with Iraq serving as a money laundering stopover for sanctioned Iran, even as Iran sells electricity to Iraq (that darned failed reconstruction again). Indeed, with Iran now able to meddle in Iraq in ways it never could have with Saddam Hussein in power, the country will be more able to contest US-Israeli hegemony in the Middle East. The grim irony, notes Ted Galen Carpenter of the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute in an op-ed for the Washington Post, is that by invading Iraq in 2003, “the United States has paid a terrible cost – some $850 billion and more than 4,400 dead American soldiers – to make Iran the most influential power in Iraq.”

    Happy Anniversary honey, and I’ll be sure to remember it on the right day next year! After all, if you don’t learn from your mistakes, what’s the point, right? We’ll do something special next year, like maybe a trip to Tehran? Love ya’!



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    Financial Times: US Seeks to Keep Influence in Iraq

    January 22, 2012 // Comments Off on Financial Times: US Seeks to Keep Influence in Iraq

    The Financial Times interviewed me and others on the future of Iraq, based around the premise that “the political tensions in Baghdad have quickly raised questions about how much sway the US will retain in Iraq.” In other words, what were almost nine years, a trillion dollars and 4478 American lives worth?

    The article also focuses on the role of the World’s Largest Embassy (c):

    Some Iraqi political factions have already voiced alarm about the size of the embassy. Jawad al-Shahyli, a lawmaker who is close to Moqtada al-Sadr, the Iranian-backed Shia cleric, said the embassy “constitutes a major threat to the Iraqi political situation,” according to the country’s official news agency. “We have no doubt about that. The nature of task of the US embassy in Baghdad is an intelligence one.”

    Read the full piece at the Financial Times site.



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    Party’s Over in the Green Zone

    December 6, 2011 // Comments Off on Party’s Over in the Green Zone

    Back in what we’ll probably soon call the good old days in the Green Zone, the place was a party pit.

    Staff at the World’s Largest Embassy (c) could borrow a motor pool vehicle and cruise the Green Zone (the Embassy wants to push the meme that the place is now called the International Zone but everyone other than Embassy PR drones including the Iraqis still calls it the Green Zone), snapping tourist pics (like me, above left) in front of ex-Saddam architecture. At night, staff could summon up a motor pool shuttle bus to retrieve them from parties held all over the damn place– something sedate and mature at a Scandinavian embassy, or a full-blown orgy at one of the security contractors’ compounds. Take your pick, or hey, try both in one night!

    Well Sven and Svenettes, the party is over. As “security” returns to Iraqi control and the last remnants of the US Army retreat from Bull Run, the Green Zone is no longer such a happy place. Mirroring internal guidance and formalizing weeks’ worth of rumors, the World’s Largest Embassy (c) issued a fatwa to everyone in the Green Zone:

    Due to severe threats of kidnapping operations and terrorist attacks throughout Iraq, including the International Zone (IZ), the U.S. Embassy has greatly enhanced the security posture for U.S. Government employees. This enhanced security posture includes severely restricted movement within the IZ. The U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens in all areas of Iraq, including the IZ, maintain a heightened sense of security awareness and take appropriate measures to enhance personal and operational security at this time. U.S. citizens are advised to keep a low profile; vary days, times, and routes of travel; and exercise caution while driving and entering or exiting vehicles.



    While I don’t know the specifics behind that announcement, the usual play inside any Embassy is a) A threat is identified; b) The Political or Economic section wants to downplay it to keep good relations with the host government; c) The Consular section frets that Americans need to be warned; d) Much dithering is snapped when the security office announces the threat already circulating informally inside the Embassy community in an internal memo which e) Triggers the “no double standard rule” and forces/allows the Consular section to go public. It is not a process that takes place casually, so probably bad stuff is a’ brewin’ in the old Green Zone for it to get to this point.

    The New York Times noticed too:

    The embassy in Baghdad regularly warns American travelers and citizens of kidnapping threats, and the risk of terrorist attacks on trade fairs or at public demonstrations, a constant shadow over life in a place where about 200 Iraqi civilians are killed every month.

    But the announcement of tightened security measures is more unusual, coming less than a week after a suicide bomber managed to bring explosives into the International Zone and set off a bomb just outside the gates of Parliament. Iraqi officials called the blast a botched assassination attempt against either the speaker of Parliament or Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.



    And indeed so have the bad guys. In a piece cheerfully entitled “Sunnis and Shiites Head Toward a Showdown in Iraq,” one writer notes:

    All these Americans will be in the line of fire once the troops withdraw. Last month the fiery cleric Moqtada al-Sadr issued a blunt statement about American staff working at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad after the Dec. 31 deadline. “All of them are occupiers, and it is a must to fight them after the deadline,” Sadr wrote. That is no idle threat, given the Mahdi Army’s bloody history of attacks against the U.S. military.



    FYI: You can peer into the Green Zone from space via Google Maps. Note that per the State Department’s request, for security reasons Google has agreed not to update its satellite view to show the actual completed World’s Largest Embassy (c).

    Happy Holidays to everyone in Baghdad!




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    Sadr: US Embassy Employees Occupiers to be Fought

    October 24, 2011 // Comments Off on Sadr: US Embassy Employees Occupiers to be Fought

    Ruh roh. This won’t work out well.

    Muqtada Al Sadr, leader of the Sadrist militias and all around bad guy, said that he considers all US Embassy employees in Baghdad as “occupiers”, and stressed that resisting them after 2011 is an “obligation.”

    In response to a query of one of his followers about the increase of embassy employees from 5000 to 15000 after the US military withdraws at the end of 2011, Sadr said “they are all occupiers and resisting them after the end of the agreement is an obligation.”

    Almost all of the new employees of the World’s Largest Embassy (c) will be contract mercenaries hired to defend the building and protect the diplomats inside.




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    Occupy Baghdad

    October 17, 2011 // Comments Off on Occupy Baghdad

    I was wandering around the Seventh Floor of the State Department today looking for office supplies, when I overheard this conversation.

    Hillary: People, we need some new ideas. We’re taking a beating on Iraq. First, the US military is pulling out at the end of the year, and we’ll be reduced to being Fort Apache at the embassy. Our chosen main man in Iraq, Prime Minister Maliki, is acting more and more like just another dictator thug. What can we do?

    Staff Aide: What about holding another election in Iraq? Every time things went south on Bush, he threw together another election there and got great press.

    Hillary: No, no, we ran out of purple ink and besides, Jimmy Carter can’t do any observations, some kind of back and neck problem.

    Staff Aide: Could Bill go instead?

    Hillary: Maybe, I’ll ask Chelsea to ask Bono to Tweet him later but to tell the truth, no purple ink means no nice photos of “democracy.”

    (laughter in the room when Hillary uses ‘air quotes” around “democracy”)

    Staff Aide: I got it. We start telling the press that instead of having the World’s Largest Embassy in Baghdad (c), which is now seen less as a symbol of American power and more as a symbol of American excess and hubris, that all the people there are actually part of a new movement, Occupy Baghdad.

    Hillary: I like, I like. Occupy Baghdad. Instead of being seen as a money sink, the last remnants of a dead Bush-era policy, our people in Baghdad will seem cool and hip. Right now the whole mess in Iraq for State seems like a vestigial tail, but by taking the Occupy Baghdad label, we move to cutting edge.

    Staff Aide: Yes Ma’am. Occupy Baghdad. But what will we say are our goals and objectives?

    Hillary: That’s the beauty. Occupy Wall Street has vague goals. Same for us. Like those hippies, we can claim our lack of leadership and unclear purpose is actually a good thing, instead of getting beaten up over them.

    Staff Aide: I see now. I’ll try and get Michael Moore on the phone for you, and check if he’d like us to book him a flight to Baghdad.

    Hillary: Make sure he travels coach. No business class. And no double per diem like the Congressionals get.

    Staff Aide: Yes Ma’am.

    Hillary: Great, innovative. Now, how about some NYPD?

    Staff Aide: Ma’am?

    Hillary: We’ve dropped some $5 billion on training the Iraqi cops, but they are still useless. We’ll need to import NYPD to pepper spray some of our entry level officers in Baghdad to create controversy.

    Staff Aide: We could have the Sadr militia do it instead. They’d probably work for free.

    Hillary: Innovative again! Have Nides add this to his QDDR slides.

    Staff Aide: Anything else Madame Secretary?

    Hillary: Yeah, can you get me some more office supplies? One of those old Foreign Service guys I keep trying to get rid of keeps stealing all my yellow stickies.




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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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    If US forces Stay: A New Occupation – Sadr

    October 10, 2011 // Comments Off on If US forces Stay: A New Occupation – Sadr

    This won’t end well.

    Shiite militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr said today that the continued presence of occupying forces under the pretext of training is “an organized occupation in new attire.”

    The Iraqi political blocs agreed last week to an extension of U.S. trainers without granting them immunity, which was originally demanded by the United States. SecDef Panetta has said the US troops must have immunity from Iraqi law. Such immunity will allow the troops to assassinate people the US does not agree with, run through traffic circles and, if they want, shoplift.

    Luckily, all 10,000 State Department personnel in Iraq forever, including State’s own private army of 5,100 mercenary security people, with their own armored vehicles and armed helos, already do have immunity under existing diplomatic agreements. Thus, the mercs can kill freely in Iraq and, for the record, shop lift if they want to.

    Sadr has vowed to re-start his campaign to kill Americans if any troops remain in Iraq after the agreed-upon departure date of 1/1/2012.



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    Ayad Allawi Sums it Up: Iraq is So Screwed

    September 13, 2011 // Comments Off on Ayad Allawi Sums it Up: Iraq is So Screwed

    Ayad Allawi, a former prime minister of Iraq, leads the largest political bloc in Iraq’s Parliament. He won the popular vote in Iraq’s last (likely last ever) election in March 2010, but was out-maneuvered for the Prime Minister’s job by al-Malaki and al-Sadr, brought together by the Iranians as the US sat back and just watched it happen, 4474 soldier’s lives flushed away in a desperate act of a coward’s political expediency. State was ready to accept any deal that created any kind of government, hoping that “good news” would allow the US to finally claim victory in Iraq. Mission Accomplished Mr. Ambassador! And thanks for your service!

    Allawi, shown here with a deeply constipated George Bush, is no saint himself, but does sort of sum it all up for Iraq in this Op-Ed, originally in the Washington Post.

    As the Arab Spring drives change across our region, bringing the hope of democracy and reform to millions of Arabs, less attention is being paid to the plight of Iraq and its people. We were the first to transition from dictatorship to democracy, but the outcome in Iraq remains uncertain. Our transition could be a positive agent for progress, and against the forces of extremism, or a dangerous precedent that bodes ill for the region and the international community.

    Debate rages in Baghdad and Washington around conditions for a U.S. troop extension beyond the end of this year. While such an extension may be necessary, that alone will not address the fundamental problems festering in Iraq. Those issues present a growing risk to Middle East stability and the world community. The original U.S. troop “surge” was meant to create the atmosphere for national political reconciliation and the rebuilding of Iraq’s institutions and infrastructure. But those have yet to happen.

    More than eight years after Saddam Hussein’s regime was overthrown, basic services are in a woeful state: Most of the country has only a few hours of electricity a day. Blackouts were increasingly common this summer. Oil exports, still Iraq’s only source of income, are barely more than they were when Hussein was toppled. The government has squandered the boon of high oil prices and failed to create real and sustainable job growth. Iraq’s economy has become an ever more dysfunctional mix of cronyism and mismanagement, with high unemployment and endemic corruption. Transparency International ranks Iraq the world’s fourth-most-corrupt country and by far the worst in the Middle East.

    The promise of improved security has been empty, with sectarianism on the rise. The Pentagon recently reported an alarming rise in attacks, which it blamed on Iranian-backed militias. The latest report to Congress by the U.S. special inspector general for Iraqi reconstruction notes that June was the bloodiest month for U.S. troops since 2008 and concludes that Iraq is more dangerous than it was a year ago. Regrettably, Iraq’s nascent security forces are riddled with sectarianism and mixed loyalties; they are barely capable of defending themselves, let alone the rest of the country.

    Despite failing to win the most seats in last year’s elections, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki clung to power through a combination of Iranian support and U.S. compliance. He now shows an alarming disregard for democratic principles and the rule of law. Vital independent institutions such as the election commission, the transparency commission and Iraq’s central bank have been ordered to report directly to the office of the prime minister. Meanwhile, Maliki refuses to appoint consensus candidates as defense and interior ministers, as per last year’s power-sharing agreement.

    The government is using blatant dictatorial tactics and intimidation to quell opposition, ignoring the most basic human rights. Human Rights Watch reported in February on secret torture prisons under Maliki’s authority. In June, it exposed the government’s use of hired thugs to beat, stab and even sexually assault peaceful demonstrators in Baghdad who were complaining about corruption and poor services. These horrors are reminiscent of autocratic responses to demonstrations by failing regimes elsewhere in the region, and a far cry from the freedom and democracy promised in the new Iraq.

    Is this really what the United States sacrificed more than 4,000 young men and women, and hundreds of billions of dollars, to build?

    The trend of failure is becoming irreversible. Simply put, Iraq’s failure would render every U.S. and international policy objective in the Middle East difficult to achieve, if not impossible. From combating terrorism to nuclear containment to energy security to the Middle East peace process, Iraq is at the center. Our country is rapidly becoming a counterweight to all positive efforts to address these issues, instead of the regional role model for democracy, pluralism and a successful economy that it was supposed to be.

    It is not too late to reverse course. But the time to act is now. Extending the U.S. troop presence will achieve nothing on its own. More concerted political engagement is required at the highest levels to guarantee the promise of freedom and progress made to the Iraqi people, who have suffered and sacrificed so much and are running out of patience.

    It is necessary, and achievable, to insist on full and proper implementation of the power-sharing agreement of 2010, with proper checks and balances to prevent abuse of power, and full formation of the government and its institutions on a nonsectarian basis. Malign regional influences must be counterbalanced. Failing these steps, new elections free from foreign meddling, and with a truly independent judiciary and election commission, may be the only way to rescue Iraq from the abyss. This solution is increasingly called for by Iraqi journalists and political leaders and on the street.

    The invasion of Iraq in 2003 may indeed have been a war of choice. But losing Iraq in 2011 is a choice that the United States and the rest of the world cannot afford to make.



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    Another Win for Iran, in Iraq

    July 28, 2011 // Comments Off on Another Win for Iran, in Iraq

    All-around Bond-villain Muqtada Sadr has won pardons for at least 50 prisoners jailed for crimes including murder, kidnapping and, oh yes, attacks on US troops. Among those pardoned are prisoners who were convicted under anti-terrorism laws, crimes for which the Iraqi Constitution specifically forbids granting a pardon. At least three prisoners were serving life sentences; some were arrested by the US military.

    One Iraqi lawmaker, Amir Kinani, defended the “legitimacy of the work” of Sadr followers who were jailed “for hitting foreign forces.” Sadr pledges to continue attacks on any US troops/trainers left in Iraq by year’s end. In fact, his group now requires members to sign pledges of conduct which include the note that yhey must consider “as enemies only the United States, Britain and Israel.”

    The pardons were granted by Prime Minister Malaki, Washington’s man in Baghdad.

    For those too stoned to understand what this means, it means Iran wins again. Sadr spent his years on the US hit list “studying” in Iran. Malaki is also deep into Iran’s butt, having spent time in exile there himself under Saddam and of course owing Iran for putting together the current coalition. This allowed Malaki to steal the Last Election That Will Ever Be Held in Iraq, last March. Of course, Sadr is part of that coalition, and thus Malaki owes him.

    In related news, June was the deadliest month for Americans in Iraq in two years, with 14 troops killed in attacks. The Sadr movement’s Promised Day Brigade claimed responsibility for 53 attacks against Americans last month, according to the US military. In the south, local governments in Basra, Maysan and Nasiriya have passed decrees banning US military personnel from entering cities.

    Wanna meet the Iranian now in charge of Iraq? He’s a well-known guy in Baghdad, even if his name is not commonly used in the West.


    For every parent, brother, sister, spouse and child who lost someone in the eight year’s war in Iraq, this is what your loved one’s sacrifice has been given for. As the US concedes we just plain lost another war, Iranian influence in Iraq will remain ascendant.

    The State Department will call this democracy for a few years until we realize how fucking stupid we have been.



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    Panetta in Iraq: You Do the Math

    July 11, 2011 // Comments Off on Panetta in Iraq: You Do the Math

    Since new SecDef “I suffer from a permanent hound dog face” Panetta dropped by Iraq this week to beg for US permanent bases and to invigorate the new rationale for the war, or more precisely, for continuing the war (hint: it’s all about Iran now), a few things to review:

    Before 2003 (per the 9/11 report and others) there were zero al Qaeda in Iraq. Panetta now says there are 1000 members.

    — Before 2003, Iraq and Iran were sworn enemies (photo above is the “Victory Over Iran” Memorial), and had fought a bitter war. Now Panetta frets about Iranian weapons flooding into Iraq, and Iran and Iraq are good friends. Commerce and social intercourse between the two nations is at an all-time high.

    — Saddam hated Iran and had nothing to do with them politically. After 2003, Iran played a very significant role in brokering the agreement that led to the current Iraqi government’s formation. The current Iraqi government shares close ties to Iranian leadership.

    — Before 2003, the number of American soldiers who died at the hands of Iranian special forces was quite small, possibly limited to a few of our own special forces troops. Since 2003, Iraq’s Shia militias have benefited from Iranian weapons, training and likely direct action from Iranian Qods Force SOF present in Iraq.


    Despite these obvious realities, Panetta in his alternate universe “aimed at urging the Iraqi military to take stronger action against Shiite militias and to see Iran as the Obama administration does — not just as a threat to American troops, but as a potential cancer in the country.” Panetta is the third top American official to raise an alarm about Iranian influence in Iraq in recent days. The Iraqis seem unconcerned, as one might expect. Iran is at war with the US, not Iraq.

    Panetta’s visit to Iraq also coincided with the death of another American soldier in Iraq, bringing the total killed since 2003 to 4471.

    One final note: Number of Americans who will be killed by Sadr militia, Iranian weapons and other sources if the US keeps troops in Iraq after 12/31/2011: Unknown but significant.

    Number of Americans who will be killed after 12/31/2011by Sadr militia, Iranian weapons and other sources if the US departs Iraq on schedule: Zero.


    Which alternative seems the best course for America? You do the math.



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    Mahdi Army in Baghdad an “Increased Inconvenience”

    May 26, 2011 // Comments Off on Mahdi Army in Baghdad an “Increased Inconvenience”

    Dear Mrs. Robert “SecDef” Gates: Does begging work with you? I’m just asking because your husband is basically going around sort of begging the Iraqis to “invite” the US to continue to occupy their country.

    You’ll recall we invaded Iraq in 2003 to get the WMDs, er, to get rid of Saddam. Saddam of course was gotten rid of in every practical way by summer 2003, and executed in 2006, but we just stayed on after that for some reason and hey presto, here it is mid-2011 already. Your hubby keeps asking Iraq to let us stay longer, even though they keep saying no thanks. He has to have learned that kind of behavior somewhere, so I thought I’d check with you. If needed, I can also recommend a good couples’ therapist in the DC area.

    While Bob still can’t get any love, the al Sadr experience cast its vote against further US occupation today, with a march of some 2000 Mahdi Army guys through scenic Sadr City, watched by some 70,000 spectators. The marchers represented 15 out of Iraq’s 18 provinces.

    During the rally, the Mahdi Army showed off new uniforms bearing the Iraqi flag to “express the unity of Iraqis.” The Mahdi Army, formally Jaish al-Mahdi or JAM, was formerly known by their black pajama-like attire. Some caring Americans at the Embassy thus referred to them as the “JAMies.”

    Muqtada Sadr himself (who takes the creepiest photos ever, total Bond super villain) spent a few years as a student in Iran while the US noodled around wrecking things and then trying to reconstruct them in Iraq, returning home for an extended spring break this year. The Mahdi Army, who had been at war with the US, had melted back into the population following an ass-kicking/cease fire in 2008. Sadr has promised to set his Army back to killing Americans full-time if US forces do not withdraw by December 31, 2011, as both Presidents Bush and Obama have promised with their finger crossed behind their backs.

    One bright note: the always optimistic US Embassy (what do those guys take?) did issue a notice to Americans in Iraq about the march today, not that a whole lot of Americans hang out in Sadr City anyway. The notice said:

    The Embassy of the United States in Iraq is following reports of possible protests that may take place throughout Baghdad from May 23 to May 27, 2011. There may be increased inconveniences and security risks to US citizens throughout Iraq on these days.

     

    Ah yes, the magic of words: the arrival of the Mahdi Army on the streets of Baghdad may cause “increased inconvenience” for Americans. Stick around for the inconveniences commencing January 1, 2012 if the US does not pack up and just leave Iraq.



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