Tag Archives: Iraq

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
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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
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Persian Gulf: Local Powder Keg, Western Market Opportunity……..

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“In Yemen, “Saudi Arabia is using F-15 fighter jets bought from Boeing. Pilots from the United Arab Emirates are flying Lockheed Martin’s F-16″ in sorties in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, wrote the Times. U.S. arms manufacturers have opened up offices in several Arab capitals, and reportedly expect additional orders from regional countries for “thousands of American-made missiles, bombs and other weapons” to replenish “an arsenal that has been depleted over the past year,” according to The New York Times. In an earnings call leaked to The Intercept last month, Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson stressed the company’s goals to increase international sales, particularly in the Middle East. “A lot of volatility, a lot of instability, a lot of things that are happening” in the Middle East are potential “growth areas”………….”

In 1979, after the mullahs and their temporary secular allies overthrew the Shah of Iran, they made a nearly-fateful decision. They canceled all pending weapons contracts with the United States (that was before the Hostage Crisis). The decision was partly driven by ‘revolutionary’ zeal, and based on the naive assumption that they were safe from external attack and that they could influence the region with their revolutionary message and rhetoric.
Next year Saddam Hussein did something that quickly disabused them of that rosy view. Saddam saw an opportunity in the turmoil within Iran and made his own fateful decision by invading southwestern Iran. That war disappointed all expert predictions as it lasted eight years and bankrupted Iraq to the extent that Saddam invaded Kuwait to loot its wealth. We all know that story is still unfolding in Iraq and across the region (and to some extent within Iranian political circles).
Suddenly our once peaceful Gulf looked quite menacing. Meanwhile, with the two Persian Gulf superpowers, Iran and Iraq, otherwise occupied, the smaller countries started building up their own arsenals, to supplement the American Umbrella. Now Saudi Arabia, UAE and other GCC states are major weapons markets for the West (and the East). The Iranian mullahs probably salivate at the quality and quantity of state-of-the-art Western weapons that their smaller neighbors to the south can get. Only the Israelis get better weapons than the GCC states, and that is certainly deliberate American policy.

The mullahs will probably have to keep on salivating: Western weapons are unlikely to be available to Iran any time soon. That is not all bad. They have managed to develop their own vast weapons industry, as well as a credible space program. Which means they have locally mastered the sciences and technology needed. For a country the size of Iran, it makes sense to focus on domestic production. Besides, they have not done so bad in terms of regional influence, even without F-15 and F-16 warplanes and shared Western intelligence.

I am tempted to assert that it would be better for the other Gulf states to develop their own weapons industries. But there may be a small problem with that. Where would the princes and potentates, and their families, get the huge amounts of money that the weapons bribes commissions provide?

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
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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
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The War for MENA: Militias, Bombers, Cargo Cultists, and International Brigades……..

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“Unthinkable just a decade ago, the main government forces leading the battle are Shiite fighters—the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) that are under the control of militia leaders. These forces’ main partners are Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah. U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey has called the situation “the most overt conduct of Iranian support” since the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) began…………… The White House seems to view growing Iranian involvement in the war as a reality that cannot be wished away, which is probably true, but also as a step forward in U.S.-Iranian relations, which is arguably naive. Events on the ground in eastern Iraq suggest a different way of looking at the issue. If anything, the battle for Tikrit has shown that there is a whole side of the war from which the international community has been deliberately excluded. Iran and its Iraqi proxies have been carving out a zone of influence in eastern Iraq…………”

His title asks: “What to Do With Iraq’s Shia Popular Mobilization Units?”
Everyone, people of every faith and every sect are involved in this war: Wahhabi, Sunni, Shi’a, Christian, Jewish, possibly even Buddhist and Zoroastrian and Cargo Cultist. There are the Sunni and Wahhabi and Shi’a warplanes, which bomb targets in Syria and Iraq. There are also Christian, Jewish, and no doubt a few atheist bombers as well among them. I am not sure what the Caliph’s true faith is.

Those warplanes from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and possibly others? They are not flown by Shi’as: these are excluded from flying warplanes or doing sensitive military and security jobs. Not to mention that everybody on the other side, on the dark side, is Wahhabi, from the ISIS terrorists to their financiers to their female slaves and concubines.

This is not a sectarian war for the Levant anymore. It is now a sectarian world war that has gone beyond the Levant. It is a Middle East and North Africa war. A MENA War that goes beyond what the West usually calls a Sunni-Shi’a war: it is Wahhabi terrorists against everyone else, be they Sunnis or Shi’as. It now stretches from Iraq and Syria through Egypt and Libya, all the way deeper into North Africa. With the possibility of other outlying fronts in remote areas of Asia and Africa. It has attracted the misguided faithful from all over the world. So, both sides, nay all sides, in ‘this war’, have their powerful “International Brigades“.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
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Fighters of ISIS: Soldiers, Wahhabis, Mullahs, and Crusaders………

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“He’s best known for bankrolling Republicans Rick Santorum and Scott Walker afloat, but Foster Friess has a new cause a long way from D.C. Republican megadonor Foster Friess is shifting his sights from political campaigns to a military campaign: to fight ISIS and save Kurdish lives. Behind the scenes, the conservative Christian has been traveling to the Middle East to support the vulnerable Kurdish minority in Iraq, and then coming back to the U.S. to lobby for arming and training their militias, known as the Peshmerga. These forces are on the front lines of the war with ISIS……………”

Media and many politicians here (in the USA) have barely lost the afterglow of their Washington orgy with Benyamin Netanyahu. Now it is back to business: now they profess to be terribly worried about Iraq again. No, not worried about ISIS controlling so much territory. Not about the continued terrorist suicide bombings against civilians that kill and maim every day. They are not worried about ‘the war’ itself or about the people of Iraq (or Syria).

They are worried about the reported Iranian help to Iraqis against ISIS, specifically around Tikrit. Even as Western boots are on the ground, many more of them than we know. Even as Arab Wahhabi air forces fly over Iraq and Syria, bombing ISIS. Even as Wahhabi Arabs start hosting training facilities for more Wahhabi rebels in Syria. Even as jingoists like John McCain and other Likudniks in Washington call for even more robust American intervention, like an effective invasion of Syria.

And where do they get their ideas that the ‘region is seething’ at Iranian ‘intervention’ in Iraq? Not from the real masses of Arabs that stretch all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. No, from the very same Wahhabi Arab potentates who created Al-Qaeda and ISIS and from where Arab money and volunteers still flow through Turkey, and from the former Baathists in Iraq. They get them from princes and potentates of what Field Marshal Generalissimo Al Sisi, their own creation, called ‘half-states’.

The terrorists of ISIS and others have always claimed that Western intervention is a continuation of the Crusades. That is not true, not completely, not on the policy-making level. Now they can point out to this rich Christian-Salafi man and possibly others as proof that the West has no respect for Muslims even as it claims to free them from Jihadist terror. People like him should stay away, they only serve the propaganda of the Caliphate. The politicians that he owns should also stay away: they don’t know Middle East issues from the proverbial hole in the ground.

What next? Owner of the Republican Party Sheldon Adelson will start his own militia to liberate Arabs and Muslims? He can start on the West Bank………….

Cheers

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

McCain’s Half-Empty Glass: Questionable Terms of Reference…….

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Saw John McCain on MSNBC (Morning Joe). It was predictable: he did not add anything new to my knowledge. He never disappoints (me or his interviewer):

  • When asked about the Iran nuclear talks (P5+1) talks: he quoted Netanyahu (always of questionable veracity to the world on the other side of the Atlantic or the Pacific), Arab allies (Wahhabi powers Saudi Arabia, Qatari, UAE……… all true democracies).
  • When asked about Syria: insisted on his old mantra of no-fly zones, train more dubious current or future Wahhabi recommendations. Roll the dice again and see what comes up, maybe something better will happen than in the past (Al-Nusra, ISIS, Al-Sham, etc). He did not mention that the main US trained opposition group just joined Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria today.
  • About Iraq. When asked about some towns freed from ISIS by Iraqi forces, he grumbled that there were also formerly-hostile Iraqi Shi’a militias who contributed. Always a half-empty glass.
  • He did praise Zbigniew Brzezinski, to his daughter, as a cold-warrior. He forgot to add that the Afghan campaign (against the Soviets and their Afghan allies) gave us modern Jihadism, then Al-Qaeda, then its ISIS offspring. That the Arab (and Turkish) intervention in Syria funded and enabled the growth of this new monstrous Caliphate.
  • Asked about Russia and Ukraine: send forces to Poland and the Baltic.
  • I didn’t hear anything about “liberated” Libya. Remember Libya that was liberated by McCain and Lieberman and Bernard-Henri Levy and Tony Blair (and NATO)? Or maybe I just subconsciously blocked it.

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
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Cross-Dressing Arab Leaders: Escape From Sanaa…….

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Reports tell us that Yemen’s former president General AbdRabuh Hadi escaped San’a dressed as a woman. This tale about “dressed as a woman” could be just an Arab urban legend. He escaped on the day his term as president expired, which is when the Houthis released him from house arrest. He went to Aden (South Yemen which is his native land) and promptly declared himself “the president”, although his term had expired and he had resigned. The UN mediator Binomar obligingly started to call him ‘president Hadi”.

This is not the first time an Arab leader reportedly escapes dressed as a woman. There have been others. For example, Nuri Al-Said (Pasha), former PM of Iraq once tried to escape from Baghdad dressed in an Abaya. In his case it was a real long shot: it didn’t work, he was caught and murdered by a mob. There have been past reports from Iraq that some Baathist leaders and generals may have escaped Baghdad in drag after the US invasion in 2003.

Anyway, what will happen now in his native south? The region around Aden is dominated by separatist South Yemenis (Al Hirak, or The Movement), Al Qaeda and other tribal elements. Will Yemen be divided de facto back to North and South now? In that case, Hadi will certainly not be the president of the South, he probably has no political base there. Al Hirak or Al Qaeda or both can eat him alive once they decide he is of no use. And he was VP of Salih in the North only because he was from the South. Besides, giving him the benefit of the doubt (just for today), nice guys don’t win civil wars……..

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

Divided They Stand: North to Kirkuk, North to Mosul……..

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“And hostilities with Shia Arabs are growing increasingly dangerous. Even though ISIS, the so-called Islamic State, is practically on the city’s doorstep, Masoud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, has opposed arming the city’s Arab and Turkmen population since Kurdish forces took control of the region from the Iraqi government last summer. The Kurdish advance came after ISIS took the city of Tikrit, which lies to the south between Kirkuk and Baghdad. In a recent interview with the London-based Arabic daily newspaper Al Hayat, Barzani said that “We will not allow any forces to enter Kirkuk,” in a message clearly directed at Iranian-backed Shia militias…………..”

The media makes it sound like a choice between Iranian-backed Shi’a militias and Wahhabi-backed Jihadists.
They always ignore the opportunistic former Baathists who have gone religious and are now part of this silly murderous Caliphate. The Baathist officers who would not defend Baghdad in 2003, changed into civilian attire and vanished as American forces closed in on Baghdad, long before Paul Bremer arrived in the city. Not a single shot fired to defend their capital. But they have Mosul, historically their most favorable city in Iraq, for now. That is where Uday and Qusay Saddam Hussein made their last stand in 2003. That is where the last of the Iraqi Baathists will probably make their stand.

American media are also reporting now that “certain Arab allies” have raised objections to possible details of the expected counter-attack to free Mosul from the ISIS Wahhabis now controlling it. These “certain Arab allies“, no doubt Saudi Arabia or its other sidekick on the Persian Gulf, have expressed concern that most the forces on the good side in the expected battle will be Shi’as (either Iraqi soldiers or militias). Odd, given that there is no practical way around Iraqi participation. Maybe the Saudis are willing to lend some of their own valiant forces for the battle? Or they could hire the usual Asian mercenaries.

Other ‘allies’ are also apparently doing their best to hamper any campaign to roll back the Jihadists, be that in Iraq or Syria. The Turks, whose government has an open door policy that allows Jihadists, their female groupies, and weapons to flow freely across the border into the war zone. The Turks are worried that not only the Kurds in Syria are being empowered but that the Assad regime is already gaining back territory as ISIS focuses on consolidating and holding its gains in the northern and border regions.
Such is the backdrop to the haggling going on before the expected battle for Mosul. As for Kirkuk, it is the one issue all other Iraqis (Shi’a, Sunni, Wahhabi, etc) and other Arabs agree on. But the Kurds have it now and I doubt they will give it up again. So, the battle for Kirkuk is over before it ever started……
Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

Caliphate Salafi Justice: Between the Fire and the Sword…….

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“Islamic State (ISIL) militants have burned 45 people to death in the western Iraqi town of al-Baghdadi, local police chief said Tuesday. According to Col. Qasim Obeidi, quoted by the BBC, some of those killed were security forces members……..”

The pattern seems to be emerging: Western hostages, Christians, Yazidis, and Shi’as are beheaded. Foreign or ‘enemy’ soldiers (like the Jordanian pilot and Iraqi security and soldiers) are burned alive. So the cutthroats of ISIS have most likely burned alive some 45 Iraqis recently.
The 45 Iraqis who were burned alive have not received much media coverage, yet, but that is probably because the king of Jordan did not done his “Mission Accomplished” uniform and hit the skies.
Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter