Category Archives: Iraq

Raqqa as Berlin: Is the Myth of Islamic Caliphate about to Crash Down?…..

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Al Raqqa in Syria is not exactly Berlin circa 1945. That was when the Soviet (Russian) armies were about to enter Berlin, while Dwight Eisenhower’s forces were speeding to join them. It was almost like a race, which the Russians won.

Al Raqqa is the chosen temporary capital of ISIS (DAESH), pending the capture of Damascus or Baghdad. But Al Raqqa faces a similar situation that Berlin faced in early 1945. At least two armies are racing towards it. The most substantial one is the alliance that supports the Syrian regime (Syrian Army, Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, etc). Then there is an alliance that is armed and supported by the United States, dominated by Syrian Kurds in the north.

Then there are the Iraqi military and their Iranian and local militia allies moving steadily if slowly towards Mosul. If Mosul falls, the Iraqis could find themselves tempted to join the race towards Al Raqqa as well.

The Saudis and their putative Turkish allies have been reduced to repeated futile threats by Adel al Jubeir, the Saudi Foreign Minister, that Al Assad must go. Al Jubeir adds: by peaceful or by military means. He must be waiting for Hillary Clinton to save his bosses nuts from the Syria fire.

This is how it stands now. Mosul and Al Raqqa might well fall this year. At the latest they will fall no later than 2017.


My Fatwa (humble but almost certainly accurate) on the violent gruesome brief reign of the Wahhabis of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ( or the Levant).


Cheers
M Haider Ghuloum

A Dummy’s Guide to Managing Arab Turmoil: from Iraq to Libya and Syria and Yemen………

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A few Arab governments, and their controlled media, spent several years criticizing the way the United States handled Iraq. The Saudi and Qatari potentates especially seemed to think they could have done better.
They dabbled in Iraq, but got their real chance, both of them and others, in places like Libya, Syria, Egypt, and Yemen.

  • In Libya they talked the Western powers through NATO into bombing the installations controlled by the Gaddafi regime. The West essentially won the civil war in Libya for “the opposition”. People like Senator McCain, Hillary Clinton and French pop-philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy thumbed their chests (and breasts) and declared a victory in Libya for democracy and tolerance. Allegedly with some Arab help, no doubt token help. It turns out the Libyan opposition was not what they thought it was. Libya is now divided among tribal elements and Jihadist terrorists. It is suffering from Al Qaeda affiliates as well as ISIS (DAESH) branches.
  • These two Persian Gulf , er, “powers”, ruled by absolute tribal Wahhabi potentates, also thought they could do better in Syria than the West did in Iraq. Of course they had a strong hand in the failure of Western intervention in Iraq and the growth of Wahhabi terrorist enclaves in that country.
  • Having messed up Libya, the Saudis and Qataris started, along with Senator McCain and, yes, French pop-philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy to push for the Western powers to follow their same advise in Syria. From the spring of 2011 they flooded Syria with money, weapons, and Salafi Jihadists. With logistic and trafficking help from the Muslim Brotherhood regime of Caliph Erdogan of Turkey. That was when the non-sectarian original Syrian uprising ended and was replaced with sectarian Salafi Jihadist groups many of whom eventually joined ISIS or Al Nusra. Close to a quarter million Syrians from both sides have died, millions are roaming the shores of Europe seeking refuge. Meanwhile, the Arab potentates who started it all refuse to take in the refugees they helped create.
  • Now the current options for the West in Syria range between accepting Al Assad or one of his allies in power or allowing the intolerant sectarian Wahhabis to take over. There might be a quasi-Wahhabi option somewhere in between, but that may have been co-opted by the new Russian intervention.
  • In Yemen, the Gulf potentates allowed former vice president Generalissimo Abd Rabuh Hadi to win a rigged election with 99.8% of the vote in 2012. Not a very subtle form of democracy is it? Hadi allied himself with the corrupt quasi-Islamist Muslim Brotherhood-ish Islah (ironically Islah means Reform in Arabic). He lost out in Sanaa to an alliance of tribal Houthis and former dictator Ali A Saleh supporters in the army. He fled to Aden, but he was chased out to a hotel in that other bastion of Arab democracy and freedom, Riyadh. The war in Yemen became a struggle between the Houthi-army alliance and Southern secessionists and Al Qaeda. And American drones.
  • Now the Saudis have managed to hire, rent, and buy a bunch of Arab and impoverished African allies ranging from Jordan to Sudan and possibly Mauritania and others. There are unconfirmed reports that the UAE is also sending its mercenary army of hired Colombians to Aden. Yemen is now a war among various groups and proxies. The Saudis and their allies are bombing the country indiscriminately, as do some of their local enemies. Thousands have died, and many displaced in the second poorest Arab country after Somalia. Speaking of which, many Yemenis have fled to Somalia, which tells you how bad things are in that country.

Together, these princes and potentates can write a best-seller: A Dummy’s Guide to Managing Arab Turmoil………
So much for an ‘Arab solution‘. I had thought the idea of an ‘Arab solution’ for any regional problem was laid to rest in 1990/91. Apparently not yet, but no doubt soon enough.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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The Empire of Qatar to Invade Syria and Iraq: O’ Gulliver, O’ Lilliput……..

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“Qatar, a major supporter of rebels in Syria’s civil war, suggested it could intervene militarily following Russia’s intervention in support of President Bashar al-Assad but said it still preferred a political solution to the crisis. The comments by Qatar’s foreign minister, made in a CNN interview on Wednesday, drew a swift reply from Assad’s government with a senior official warning that Damascus would respond harshly to such “direct aggression”……….”

Last month, as the Russian air campaign over the terrorist Islamic State of ISIS escalated the Qatari government threatened to intervene militarily. Yes, militarily. Now Qatar has a population of about 2 million, 90% of whom are temporary foreign laborers, mostly from from south Asian countries. Which means its citizens are about, what, a quarter of a million?
A few years ago, when the father of the current Emir ruled Qatar, some Qatari officials threatened military intervention in Iraq, if the domestic political power was not altered. At that time the citizen population of Qatar was almost certainly less than 200 thousand people.
It is true, Qatar has huge monetary reserves, and its ruling family and their tribal allies can and do buy the best Western weapons. But a statelet of a quarter of a million people intervening in Syria or Iraq? They’d need a nuclear arsenal, which their money can’t buy. It is best to stick to buying exclusive French and British hotels and real estate, and a few soccer clubs. And bribing international football/soccer FIFA officials.

An absolute tribal Wahhabi regime claiming to seek freedom for the Syrian people? Just leave Syria and Iraq to the grown-ups, will you?

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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Iraq’s Ahmed Chalabi: Death of a Convenient Western Alibi……..

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Ahmed Chalabi died this week. His death has allowed the Western media to re-iterate, and almost certainly exaggerate again, his singular role in pushing the American-British, Bush-Blair, 2003 invasion of Iraq.

We are to believe that one man, an Iraqi exile with possible unsavory connections, fooled the huge American intelligence community (remember when CIA chief George Tenet said finding WMD in Iraq was a Slam Dunk). He also supposedly fooled the less-massive British intelligence machine: MI6 and James Bond and George Smiley and the rest of the possible characters.
Gone are Donald Rumsfeld’s snarky comments about Old and New Europe. Gone are Dick Cheney’s claim of fictional meetings between Saddam Hussein agents with Al-Qaeda operatives in Czecho-Slovakia. Gone are the silly allegations of “mushroom cloud” and “smoking gun”. Gone are the allegations of Yellow Cake from Niger and the outing of uncooperative CIA agents.

Gone are the huge no-bid contracts for well-connected U.S companies and Persian Gulf contractors. Gone is any talk about millionaire American private military and building contractors who made their fortunes in the Iraq war, on the backs of dead and crippled American boys and girls and Iraqi victims. Gone is the talk about a billion-dollar Baghdad embassy that was used as a cash cow for corrupt Americans and their Gulf partners.

Chalabi was one exaggerator, perhaps one liar among many in the early years of this century. Not all of them were Arabs. Chalabi’s death seems convenient for many in the West.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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The Iranian Genesis of Wahhabi ISIS, the Baathist Roots of Salafi DAESH………..

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This week is the 35th commemorative of a watershed event that is still shaping the Middle East. Baathist Iraq under Saddam Hussein, worried about the message of the new Khomeini revolution, saw an opportunity and invaded Iran, which was weakened by continued revolutionary turmoil and internal divisions. That war did not turn out as expected, and its consequences are still unfolding in our region:

  • Saddam Hussein started the Iran-Iraq war this week in 1980. That war lasted eight years (1980-1988) and split the Arab world into those who supported the Baathist invasion (mainly some in the Gulf region) and those who opposed it (mainly Syria, Libya, Algeria, and some Palestinian groups).
  • That war did not achieve any of the declared goals set by Saddam, but it led to the bankruptcy of Iraq. I opined at an event at KISR after the war that Iraq went from a healthy supply of foreign exchange reserves before the war to a total net foreign debt that well exceeded US $100 billion (for obvious reasons I don’t have my exact original estimates now).
  • Which led a desperate Saddam to invade Kuwait in 1990 in order to plunder its wealth. That invasion led to what Americans call the “Persian Gulf War” of 1990/91. The Baathists were defeated and blockaded and kept within Iraq.
  • After the September 11 Wahhabi terrorist attacks in the USA, the Bush-ies refocused on Iraq (although not a single Iraqi was involved in that mainly-Saudi attack). It was followed by the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Later the results of the first Iraqi elections created a worsening of the sectarian tensions in the Arab world. Al Qaeda and the Wahhabi terrorists entered into Iraq in force, backed by outside Arab financing.
  • Eventually, as the Arab uprisings of the Spring of 2011 spread eastward toward the Gulf, a local Iraqi branch of Al Qaeda morphed into ISIS (ISIL, DAESH), an alliance dominated by foreign Arab Salafi Jihadis and former Baathist henchmen of Saddam.
  • The intervention of foreign Arabs, including some regimes, and the growth of local militias of both Muslim sects, have had a lot to do with the bloody sectarian turn of events across the region.
  • ISIS or DAESH now controls large parts of Iraq and Syria, mostly through sectarian exhortation and a medieval-style bloody reign of terror. It has been largely supported by the flow of foreign money and weapons facilitated through Turkey.
  • Some of those Arab potentates who helped create ISIS or DAESH are now feeling the heat and claiming to be fighting to destroy it. But apparently not seriously enough, NOT in Syria or Iraq.
  • The consequences of that fateful decision of September 1980 are still unfolding across the region. The beat goes on………..

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

Caliph in the Wind: Norma Jeane Baker Al Baghdadi………….

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I noticed the birthday of Caliph Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi is approaching in early August. The Salafis pretend they don’t cotton up much to birthdays for ordinary mortals. But the Caliph is not deemed a mortal. He is more like a celebrity, a hairy Norma Jeane Baker. A real inner and outer beast compared to a real inner and outer beauty. Not exactly a candle in the wind, but one air raid away from wherever it is he will go for good. He won’t expect a tribute by Elton John, but here goes anyway:——>  Candle in the Wind………..

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Iraqi Federalist Papers? It’s the Economy, Publius………

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“Their lingering hostility reflects a widespread mistrust of military leadership among Iraqi troops, one of a host of problems hampering U.S.-backed efforts by Iraq’s central government to revive the security forces after a meltdown last year as Islamic State advanced. “It’s a common thing for us to see our commanders abandoning us,” said Sgt. Adwani. He recounted an experience last year in Ramadi—the provincial capital of Anbar, which Islamic State seized in May—where his captain retreated during a close firefight. Ammar Mohamad, an explosives specialist receiving new training from Spanish, Portuguese, and American soldiers at this Iraqi base some 50 miles south of Baghdad, remembered getting orders to withdraw from Mosul as Islamic State assaulted the city in early June last year…………”


Years ago, during the sectarian mini civil war in Iraq, the issue of the division of Iraq was widely discussed inside and outside that country. The issues of federalism and confederation was also discussed by Iraqi factions and famously suggested by then Senator Joe Biden and Leslie Gelb. That was when the Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus’ab Al Zarqawi and other foreign uninvited Wahhabi ‘guests’ set to provoke Iraqi Shi’as against Iraqi Sunnis and vice versa. At some point the issue faded as Iraq became engulfed in a complex multi-faction conflict that went beyond sect and geography.

Now, as Al Qaeda in Iraq ( AQI ) has morphed into the Caliphate of ISIS (DAESH) that threatens Iraqis across their publicized “identities” you would think the issue of some form of political division would be on the back burner. Apparently it is not: it is being fed by sectarian violence among the various “good Iraqis”. It is also being fed by some Westerners, including many in the U.S. House and Senate who apparently think they have no urgent domestic American issues to deal with. But ISIS have already created their own division, their own Caliphate, and unless Iraqis can solve their sectarian issues, DAESH will not go anywhere.
Often economic forces usually trump political ambitions and passions, in the end. Economic forces draw the boundaries and limits of political action. In Iraq, that is the case in the end, if there is to be a viable situation. The distribution of economic resources in Iraq, either oil or agriculture, are tilted toward the southern regions, the mainly Shi’a lands and to a lesser extent the northern mainly Kurdish lands. The Kurds now have Kirkuk, courtesy of the blitzkrieg of ISIS into Mosul in 2014. They probably believe their borders are mostly set, subject to developments in Baghdad and the vagaries of the ruling Turkish Islamists under their neighbor Caliph Erdogan. That leaves much of the Euphrates basin and the vast desert of southwestern Iraq. That is where “it is the economy, stupid” comes in.


Al Anbar province and the rest of what the media and pundits call the “Sunni” areas are economically handicapped. Some agriculture and ranching, with little oil, do not create a viable political entity, especially for a landlocked region. Al Anbar is not Switzerland or Austria: it has even less natural resources than landlocked Afghanistan. If the western regions of Iraq can’t depend on Baghdad, they will have to rely on the “outside”.

An independent western Iraq will have to rely mainly on Saudi Arabia and maybe Qatar or UAE to support its economy. It is unlikely that these countries want to carry the burden of these millions, no matter how much sympathy they have and how tempting politically. Besides, just think of the disputes over the borders, with Baghdad and with the Kurds. That would set Iraq up for continued internal conflict, then as now financed and fueled by outside money and volunteers. It would be outside Salafi influence trying to sway Iraqi Sunnis who are mostly moderates and are averse to Wahhabism.


Federalism with an American-style system (or even a German system) that protects the rights of the regions and their peoples seems the best solution. But not a feasible solution now. Alas, Iraq is not like America or Germany. Nobody there that remotely seems as capable of the task as a Hamilton or a Madison. No Iraqi Publius……….

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Death of Tariq Aziz: Last Evocation of a Bygone Potemkin Arab Order…….

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Tariq Aziz died in prison in his homeland, Iraq.

The significance of remembering the old Iraqi Baathist is not related to Tariq himself and his achievements. It is that he reminds us, me and most others, of a bygone era in Arab politics and history. Aziz was one of the last survivors of the old Arab post World War II order that almost lasted fifty years. An order that saw the rise of militarized secular Pan-Arabism through the messages of Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, the Baathists of Syria and Iraq, and the leftist young revolutionary rulers of Libya and Algeria. There was a period of hope in the fifties and sixties, but it did not last. That movement also gradually degenerated into tribal and family dynasties. A stagnant Arab order followed that was seen as stability.

That old Arab order unravelled with the Iraqi Baathist invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. The 1990-91 invasion of Kuwait and the consequent war was a direct consequence of the financial bankruptcy of the Baathist regime after the invasion of Iran in 1980 and the war that lasted eight years. The Arab order had begun to crack with the war of 1980, as Syria and other Arab states, including Libya and Algeria and some Palestinian factions, refused to support Saddam Hussein.

The Salafi terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001 and the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and their consequences formalized the collapse of the old Arab regime. The West is now back in the region in force. Even the old British colonials are establishing a military base in little Bahrain (now if they can only take it over again and rebuild its political system back to 1971).

The Arab uprisings of 2011 have mostly failed, but they showed a positive development: it underlined a new disrespect to their ruling oligarchs and dictators and a willingness by Arabs to express it. Then along came AQI, ISIS, Al Nusra, Army of Islamic Conquest, Al Tibin, Al Zift and other Salafi groups. They make even the old Al Qaeda look tame. The horrendous mass atrocities by various armed factions in Syria and Iraq and Libya and Egypt are clear signals that the old Arab order is effectively buried. What we have now is a Potemkin Order: all front but no substance behind it.

The death of Tariq Hanna Aziz, one survivor of the older order, came as a symbolic event at a convenient moment, with ISIS expanding in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and possibly the Arabian Peninsula. His death is a reminder of how much has changed and the uncertainty of the future.
That is why it is a sad occasion. Not because the old Baathist died, but because of what it reminds us of.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

U.S. Congress Playing Sykes-Picot: Meddling in Iraq, Neglecting America………

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“An influential Shiite cleric threatened Wednesday to attack U.S. interests in Iraq and abroad over a congressional provision to send arms directly to Sunni and Kurdish fighters. The proposed measure in the House Republicans’ defense authorization bill for next year would distribute a quarter of the $715 million authorized to train and equip the Iraqi army outside the government’s control. It’s unclear if the provision will survive the months-long legislative process. “In the event of approving this bill by the U.S. Congress, we will find ourselves obliged to unfreeze the military wing and start targeting the American interests in Iraq — even abroad, which is doable,” said the statement on Muqtada al-Sadr’s website. In a rare turn of events, both al-Sadr and President Barack Obama signaled their opposition to the provision by House Republicans………….”

Iraqis are rightly pissed at the U.S. Congress for meddling in their internal politics. Come to think of it many Iraqis have been pisssed at the U.S. Congress for meddling in their affairs for years. Come to think of it, the American people should be pissed at the U.S. Congress for not achieving much domestically, but they are not: they keep re-electing the same putzes.

Now the Republican Congress is discussing supplying weapons directly to some regional parts of Iraq without consent of the central government in Baghdad. Or the elected Iraqi parliament. Sort of like Russia or China offering to sell weapons to Texas or Vermont directly. Or like Iran offering to sell weapons to Qatif in Saudi Arabia without the consent of Riyadh. Or like the Mexican Cartels selling weapons back to Arizona without the consent of Senator John McCain.

In recent months, nay in recent years, the U.S. Congress has shown that it can act decisively only in matters related to meddling in the Middle East (and especially on issues of concern to Israel’s Likud). Maybe it is time for them to keep their grubby hands off the internal affairs of other countries and focus on matters at home. Rather than try to re-enact the era of Sykes-Picot without the deep knowledge and experience of that era…..

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Fog of War: Iraqi Militias, American Militias, Mercenary Militias……..

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Militias have suddenly retaken the center stage in media and in public official discussions of recent developments in Iraq. Apparently Shi’a ‘militias’ are now taking an important role in the Iraqi counteroffensive against the terrorists of the so-called Islamic State, ISIS.

There is no denying that some of the Iraqi Shi’a militias can be as nasty as the other armed factions in Iraq. The experience of the mini-civil-war of 2006-2008 showed that. But they are in no way comparable to the Wahhabi cutthroats of Al Qaeda or ISIS, regardless of the nonsensical stuff Gen. Petraeus said recently. Yet there is now a bigger storm of foreign criticism of Iraqis hiring or allowing ‘militias’ to fight government battles. This is especially true in the United States.

Yet hiring and/or using private militias is a worldwide phenomenon in this era of war-for-profit. Apparently there is no stigma on hiring private militias if the militias are Westerners and those who hire them are Western governments. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have been known and reported  to rely on private contractors (the Western equivalent of militias) in battle zones. We have read about the American millionaires that were made in Iraq. So, the complaints about Iraqis using militias when they have an army of 200 or 300 thousand sound hypocritical and hollow. The United States has a standing military of millions, yet there is increased dependence on contractors in military zones and even in protecting diplomats and high military officials (as reportedly happened in Iraq).

I shall not speak extensively here about those other hired foreign militias down the Persian Gulf. They are hired by the princes and potentates from humorless places like Jordan, often through the government and certainly with its approval, as well as from Pakistan and other distant lands. These are used to keep the people repressed in such places, and to conduct thorough and ‘enhanced interrogations’ of the restive ones among the native populations. So it can be irksome that princes and potentates who hire foreign mercenaries (essentially militias) to torment their own people complain about Iraqi militias.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com