June 20, 2014 Opinion & Analysis
Yuram Abdullah Weiler
With militants controlling Mosul, Tikrit and Fallujah, and lobbing mortar rounds into Baghdad International Airport, the US is preparing its Baghdad embassy personnel for rapid evacuation in a manner reminiscent of the hasty departure from Saigon in 1975. Meanwhile, Iran has seized the initiative with offers of military assistance to Iraq, and suddenly, the US finds itself aligned with the Islamic Republic fighting against the takfiri tide.
Washington seems incapable of learning from history. After arming militant extremists to fight a proxy war against the legitimate government of Syria, the United States and its axis of aggression partners should not be surprised to see their induced violence spilling over into neighbouring Iraq.
The continuing carnage in Iraq is what the late Professor Chalmers Johnson referred to as blowback, a CIA term for the unanticipated consequences of covert actions in other people’s countries: in other words “a nation reaps what it sows,” and that is precisely what is happening in Iraq. Unfortunately, it is the Iraqis who are suffering the most.
There is no boasting now by US officials of a “mission accomplished” in Iraq, only nervous speculation about possible US airstrikes, increased intelligence sharing and expedited delivery of military supplies. US President Obama, while denying that he is considering armed intervention in Iraq, said, “What we’ve seen over the last couple of days indicates the degree to which Iraq’s going to need more help.”
Meanwhile, extremists from the Al Qaeda offshoot Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) have sworn to take Baghdad, and push southward toward the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf. Some US-trained Iraqi security forces have retreated, abandoning their vehicles, weapons and uniforms, and reportedly have even knocked on doors of local residents and begged them for civilian clothing in which to flee.
The predecessor to the ISIL was established in Iraq shortly after the US invasion in March 2003 under the name of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). By October 2006, the group had united with a number of other militant factions and proclaimed Abu Umar al-Baghdadi as its “Emir,” and after his death, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi assumed the leadership.
Continuing to recruit members and expand operations under his direction, the extremist group entered the conflict in Syria, first collaborating with the western-backed militants such as the Free Syrian Army. Then in April of 2013, ISI merged with its Syrian subsidiary, Jabhat al-Nusra, to form the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, after which Jabhat al-Nusra split off to pursue its western-endorsed mission of regime change in Syria, while the ISIL concentrated on destabilising debauchery in Iraq.
Comparing the policies of the Washington regime in Iraq and Syria reveals hypocrisy that is truly breathtaking: In Syria, the US has actively supported the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad with funding and firepower, while in Iraq it has similarly supported the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki. Now, the two leaders find themselves under attack by an intensifying, possibly uncontrollable, international force of extremists funded by the western-aligned Saudi and Kuwaiti monarchies. Putting this Anglo-American engineered Levantine lunacy in piercing perspective, journalist Robert Fisk writes, “Thus does Saudi power both feed the monster in the deserts of Syria and Iraq and cozy up to the Western powers that protect it.” This is while the White House proclaims the opposite, insisting that “Saudi Arabia has been a strong US counter-terrorism (CT) partner, particularly on disrupting Al Qaeda (AQ) elements.”
In any event, without outside military assistance, it would appear that journalist Patrick Cockburn is correct in writing, “Iraq is breaking up.” The prospect of the ISIL overrunning the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala has been enough to motivate the normally quietist-leaning Ayatollah Sistani first to issue a statement in support of the Iraqi government forces, and later a call to arms to fight against the takfiris. “Citizens who are able to bear arms and fight terrorists, defending their country and their people and their holy places, should volunteer and join the security forces to achieve this holy purpose,” announced a representative of the Ayatollah at Friday prayers in holy city of Karbala. As a result of his call, thousands of Iraqis have enlisted at Army recruiting centres to fight the terrorists, while the ISIL has issued death threats against Ayatollah Sistani.
Iran’s secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, placed the blame for the Iraq debacle squarely on Washington due to its history of using extremists to fight its proxy wars. Alluding to Washington’s policies, he warned that those who support terrorists would not remain safe from the fire of terrorism, adding “The continuation of this mistake will cause their supporters to be affected.” An unnamed US intelligence official apparently agreed, admitting off the record, “Baghdad is going to be overrun. The Green Zone is going down.”
The US government and its misguided policies are to blame for the deteriorating situation in Iraq. First supporting former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein from the 1960s through the 1980s and the bloody war against the Islamic Republic of Iran, Washington turned against him after the invasion to repatriate Kuwait. But instead of toppling Saddam in 1991, Washington slapped cruel economic sanctions on Iraq causing the deaths of some half million Iraqi children. Finally invading the country in 2003, the US maintained a substantial military presence until Obama pulled out most US troops on December 31, 2011.
President of Iran Rouhani emphasised, “As the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, we will not tolerate the (acts of) violence and terror and we fight violence and terrorism in the region and in the world.” Possibly, much in the same way that Hezbollah stepped in to help defend the embattled government in Syria, Iran may offer assistance in Iraq’s battle against the Saudi-funded extremists. According to Fox News, in a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki, Commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards Qassem Soleimani reportedly has offered two brigades for the defence of Baghdad against the ISIL militants.
China, with three large oil projects in Iraq, has also offered the al-Malaki government “whatever help it is able to,” according to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
Obama, however, is still mulling over his response, insisting that “all options” are open short of the deployment of US troops. This is while US citizens in Iraq affiliated with the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme are being evacuated, according to the State Department.
This brings up an interesting question: if Obama decides to deploy US air power in strikes against the ISIL would Washington co-ordinate with Tehran in a joint war against the takfiris? Possibly the ISIL feels the answer is yes, and, given the takfiri organisation’s track record of quickly adapting to the fluid situation on the ground in Syria, perhaps they sensed that the time was ripe for a pre-emptive attack to gain as much ground as possible before facing a united Iran-US offensive.
Supporting this view that the US is changing its ways are remarks published in the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar by President Assad, who stated, “The United States and the West have started to send signs of change. Terrorism is now on their soil.” He also indicated that “current and former US officials are trying to get in touch with us.”
Alternatively, the ISIL may be following US directives to break up Iraq and ensure its inability to pose a threat to the Zionist regime or the Saudi monarchy. As a side benefit, the current ISIL attack may also be payback for Prime Minister al-Malaki’s failure to go along with the US desire for regime change in Syria.
Supporting this latter view is the acknowledgement by an unnamed senior US official that Iraq had been under drone surveillance, but, “It’s not like it did any good.” The blitz-like ISIL advance supposedly has taken everyone by surprise. Really?
Recall that it was the US that supplied Iraq with intelligence data from satellites on Iran’s troops during the Iraq-imposed war in the 1980s. Satellites detected the buildup of Saddam’s troops on the Kuwait border in 1990. Today, up to eight satellites, four Lacross and four advanced KH-11, crisscross Iraq and Iran yielding imagery updated almost hourly. Are we then to believe that the CIA and the Pentagon did not know the precise locations of the ISIL forces?
As Chalmers Johnson stated, “A revolution would be required to bring the Pentagon back under democratic control, or to abolish the CIA,” and I agree.
In the meantime, perhaps if the clearer heads in those US institutions would allow Iran to take the lead in combatting the takfiri multitudes in Iraq and Syria, hopes for peace and stability in the Middle East would be brighter.