Political talk from outside of the UK
By new puritan
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Probably about time Iraq had its own thread here. To start with, here's a very interesting analysis of Isis.

As the Scriptures remind us, “Do not believe the hype.” The hype of the moment is ISIS, the Sunni militia that just drove the so-called Iraqi Army out of Mosul, Tikrit, and other Iraqi cities.

This is one of those dramatic military reverses that mean a lot less than meets the eye. The “Iraqi Army” routed by ISIS wasn’t really a national army, and ISIS isn’t really a dominant military force. It was able to occupy those cities because they were vacuums, abandoned by a weak, sectarian force. Moving into vacuums like this is what ISIS is good at. And that’s the only thing ISIS is good at.

http://pando.com/2014/06/16/the-war-ner ... a-i-s-i-s/

Some useful stuff here also.

No understanding of today’s Iraq is complete without the background of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and ensuing Gulf war, and the 13 years of UN economic sanctions, all of which set the stage for the additional disasters that would befall Iraq with the US-led invasion of 2003.

In that year, the decentralization of the state in Baghdad was well underway; it would be accelerated by the policies of Washington and its Iraqi proxies. No doubt the state of Saddam Hussein could have used a little decentralizing, but the haphazard and often punitive manner in which it was done led to polarization and chaos. The economic fiefdoms set up by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant militias before they attacked Mosul earlier this week are but one manifestation of the war economy that germinated in the late 1980s and took root in the sanctions era. The sectarianism at fever pitch in today’s Middle East is not some timeless scourge, as so many talking heads would have it, but the sadly predictable outcome of conscious choices made by contemporary political actors, among them Saddam, for sure, but also two US presidents named Bush and a wannabe American viceroy named Bremer.

By new puritan
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So that war for democracy was well worth it.

Meanwhile, extremely concentrated political efforts are going on behind the scenes to get the politics in Baghdad right.

Only then would America wade in and start doing anything physical. There are urgent efforts to get parliament to meet on time on 1 July and to agree in advance who will be the new PM. Everybody I speak to says this will not be Nouri Maliki but one of about three other figures acceptable to Iran and America, which has a key role to play in trying to broker a deal.

By new puritan
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This is doing the rounds on Twitter. Great find by whoever originally rediscovered it.


Meanwhile, there's more here from Gary Brecher aka the War Nerd...

What the jihadis have accomplished is grim enough, but their showoff videos of beheadings and mass executions are minor surges in what is, like it or not, a rational process: The partition of Iraq into three, rather than the previous two, ethnic/sectarian enclaves. Before I.S.I.S made its big move, Iraq was an unstable, immiscible column divided into Kurdistan and “everything else,” with “everything else” ruled by a weak Shia army.

Now the natural three-term partition is in place again, with the Sunni of the center, Saddam’s tribe, back to doing what they do best. I don’t mean to minimize the brutality of the operation, but this is a fairly bloody part of the world, and we contributed rather significantly to that blood-mush ourselves.

http://pando.com/2014/06/23/the-war-ner ... l-process/

...and Michael Schwartz:

Underway are, in fact, “a series of urban revolts against the government,” as Middle Eastern expert Juan Cole has called them. They are currently restricted to Sunni areas of the country and have a distinctly sectarian character, which is why groups like ISIS can thrive and even take a leadership role in various locales. These revolts have, however, neither been created nor are they controlled by ISIS and its several thousand fighters. They also involve former Baathists and Saddam Hussein loyalists, tribal militias, and many others. And at least in incipient form they may not, in the end, be restricted to Sunni areas. As the New York Times reported last week, the oil industry is “worried that the unrest could spread” to the southern Shia-dominated city of Basra, where “Iraq’s main oil fields and export facilities are clustered.”

Under the seething ocean of Sunni discontent lies a factor that is being ignored. The insurgents are not only in a struggle against what they see as oppression by a largely Shiite government in Baghdad and its security forces, but also over who will control and benefit from what Maliki -- speaking for most of his constituents -- told the Wall Street Journal is Iraq’s “national patrimony.”

By new puritan
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Latest from Patrick Cockburn:

The meltdown of American and British policy in Iraq and Syria attracts surprisingly little criticism at home. Their aim for the past three years has been get rid of Bashar al-Assad as ruler of Syria and stabilise Iraq under the leadership of Nouri al-Maliki. The exact reverse has happened, with Mr Assad in power and likely to remain so, while Iraq is in turmoil with the government's authority extending only a few miles north and west of Baghdad.

By pretending that the Syrian opposition stood a chance of overthrowing Mr Assad after the middle of 2012, and insisting that his departure be the justification for peace talks, Washington, London and Paris have ensured that the Syrian civil war would go on. "I spent three years telling them again and again that the war in Syria would inevitably destabilise Iraq, but they paid no attention," the Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told me last week. I remember in the autumn of 2012 a senior British diplomat assuring me that talk of the Syrian war spreading was much exaggerated.

Now the bills are beginning to come in, with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), declaring a caliphate in northern Iraq and Syria. He has called on all Muslims to pledge allegiance to the Islamic state and effectively denied the legitimacy of Muslim rulers throughout the world. No wonder Saudi Arabia has moved 30,000 troops to guard its 500-mile-long border with Iraq. There is a certain divine justice in this, since until six months ago the Saudis were speeding jihadists in the general direction of Syria and Iraq but is now dreading their return.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/com ... 87043.html
By new puritan
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Cockburn's latest on Isis.

As the attention of the world focused on Ukraine and Gaza, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) captured a third of Syria in addition to the quarter of Iraq it had seized in June. The frontiers of the new Caliphate declared by Isis on 29 June are expanding by the day and now cover an area larger than Great Britain and inhabited by at least six million people, a population larger than that of Denmark, Finland or Ireland. In a few weeks of fighting in Syria Isis has established itself as the dominant force in the Syrian opposition, routing the official al-Qaida affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, in the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor and executing its local commander as he tried to flee. In northern Syria some five thousand Isis fighters are using tanks and artillery captured from the Iraqi army in Mosul to besiege half a million Kurds in their enclave at Kobani on the Turkish border. In central Syria, near Palmyra, Isis fought the Syrian army as it overran the al-Shaer gasfield, one of the largest in the country, in a surprise assault that left an estimated three hundred soldiers and civilians dead. Repeated government counter-attacks finally retook the gasfield but Isis still controls most of Syria’s oil and gas production. The Caliphate may be poor and isolated but its oil wells and control of crucial roads provide a steady income in addition to the plunder of war.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n16/patrick-co ... nsolidates
By Big Rob
To be frank, unless I have heard falsehoods, I have no problem slamming missiles into ISIS. As long as it's them and them only.
By new puritan
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It's going to take far more than air strikes to get a grip on the Middle East - the entire region is a disaster, in no small part due to the 2003 invasion and subsequent events. Also worth noting that this isn't just about ISIS (or IS, as it now calls itself). It's a broader Sunni rebellion against Maliki's sectarian Shia-dominated government. By intervening on one side of a civil war - which is what the US is effectively doing - Washington may, again, find it very hard to extricate itself from this quagmire of its own making.

This article is a few weeks old but contains some useful context.


By the way, the Iraqi government is currently being armed by the Russians - so that puts Moscow and Washington on the same side...

Russia’s military assistance to Iraq does not appear to be stopping at the sale of Su-25 fighter jets reported in June. Within a week after Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu met with his Iraqi counterpart Saadun Al-Dulaimi and declared that improving relations with Baghdad was a “strategic priority,” the Russian newspaper Vedomosti reported over $1 billion in new arms deals, including mobile multiple rocket launchers, 152 mm howitzers and mortars.

Shoigu explained Russia’s support for Iraq in simple terms, saying, “We support your effort in fighting terrorism.” Indeed, from Shoigu’s perspective, this might be both a necessary and a sufficient reason to supply weapons to Iraq’s government as it combats the so-called Islamic State (IS) group. Nevertheless, Moscow may have grander aims — and the multiple opportunities inherent in Iraq’s violence and instability could hardly have come at a more convenient time for Russia’s government.

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/origina ... -jets.html
Last edited by new puritan on Sat Aug 09, 2014 4:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
By Littlejohn's brain
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I'm going to stick the knife into Stop the War but once again their demonstrate what a bunch of morally corrupt cunts they actually are.

http://stopwar.org.uk/news/us-intervent ... -Y4qfldWMP

Fuck you stop the war, you bunch of fucking hypocrities you'll happily turn a blind eye to what these murderous bastards will do the Yezidi and Christian communities why don't you just go and rename yourselves the Hate the West Coalition and be done with it, you Trot bastards.
By new puritan
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In the last two weeks alone, Isis has fought on five fronts: against the Iraqi army, the Kurdish peshmerga, the Syrian regime, the Syrian opposition and the Lebanese army. In Syria the group has all but consolidated control of the eastern provinces of Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, as it made advances against government forces in Raqqa and subdued most of the rebel forces in Deir Ezzor. It is also advancing into Aleppo, reaching the city's eastern outskirts, and in Hasaka, and is battling the Kurdish militias in the north-east. In Iraq it has advanced to a point only half an hour's drive from Irbil, the Kurdish capital.

Yet these advances appear to be only the tip of the iceberg. Away from the publicised gains, Isis is quietly making progress on other fronts. Perhaps the most worrying is the fact that armed groups backed by the US have been co-opted by Isis.

According to Samer al-Ani, an opposition media activist from Deir Ezzor, several fighting groups affiliated to the western-backed Military Council worked discreetly with Isis, even before the group's latest offensive. Liwa al-Ansar and Liwa Jund al-Aziz, he said, pledged allegiance to Isis in secret, with reports that Isis is using them to put down a revolt by the Sha'itat tribe near the Iraqi border.

He warned that money being sent through members of the National Coalition to rebels in Deir Ezzor risks going to Isis. Another source from Deir Ezzor said that these groups pledged loyalty to Isis four months ago, so this was not forced as a result of Isis's latest push, as happened elsewhere. Such collaboration was key to the takeover of Deir Ezzor in recent weeks, especially in areas where Isis could not defeat the local forces so easily.

This is not the first, or the only, time in which groups affiliated to the military structures backed by the US and the Gulf states have worked with Isis. Saddam al-Jamal, a top commander for the Free Syrian Army's eastern front, pledged allegiance to Isis in November and fought in its ranks, wreaking a grisly carnage in his hometown of Abu Kamal in April. Other groups affiliated to the western-backed military councils that have pledged allegiance to Isis include Liwa Fajr al-Islam in Homs.

Moderate religious groups that had been established mostly to fight jihadists are now working closely, if quietly, with Isis. Liwa Ahl al-Athar, for example, has discreetly pledged allegiance to Isis. The Salafi-leaning rebel alliance, which has a strong presence in many areas in Deir Ezzor and beyond, is financially backed by private donors from the Arab Gulf states, but is said to be in the "good guys" list by governments that back the Syrian opposition.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/a ... airstrikes

Once again, 'my enemy's enemy' turns back to bite Washington (and, more importantly, the poor sods caught in the middle of all this devastation) on the arse.
By new puritan
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Meanwhile, in Syria...

The Islamic State is creating an army that can wage conventional warfare against weak militaries like Iraq's, while employing the guerrilla tactics favored by the likes of al Qaeda. Although American officials say they believe Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is based in Syria, U.S. airstrikes are limited to northern Iraq, underscoring how limited the military campaign will be on the extremist group.

"They know that the U.S. won't attack them in Syria," a European diplomat based in the Middle East said in June, as he watched the Islamic State continue to take territory in Iraq while moving most of the weapons it seized from the Iraqi military to Syria. "But for the Americans, Iraq is different and [the Islamic State] knows that."

For the U.S., striking the militants as they advance on Erbil, in northern Iraq, is a clear policy decision to protect minorities including Christians and Yazidis from slaughter while aiding its allies in Baghdad.

But in Syria, U.S. strikes against the Islamic State would inadvertently help the regime of President Bashar al-Assad militarily and politically legitimize Damascus at the expense of the opposition there. The U.S. may be holding off on striking the Islamic State in Syria until it can create a more comprehensive plan to settle the three-year revolution-turned civil war, said analysts and opposition members.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/islamic- ... 1407715192

IS/al-Nusra atrocities in Syria - including large-scale murder, persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, torture etc - have been going on for the last three years. But the US will allow IS to run riot in Syria because, quietly, it prefers IS to Assad. Which, again, makes it all the more baffling that anyone can take Washington's humanitarianism at face value.

Also, it appears that Maliki is being forced out.

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/08/11/world ... index.html
By new puritan
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A senior Pentagon planning officer expects the current US air strikes in Iraq to have minimal and fleeting impact on the forces of the Islamic State (Isis) that have overrun much of the country.

“In the immediate areas where we have focused our strikes, we’ve had a very temporary effect and we may have blunted some tactical decisions to move in those directions, further east to Irbil,” Army Lt Gen William Mayville told reporters on Monday, providing a dour view of the “limited strikes” president Barack Obama authorized on Thursday.

“What I expect Isil to do is to look for other things to do, to pick up and move elsewhere. So I in no way want to suggest that we have effectively contained or that we are somehow breaking the momentum of the threat posed by Isil.” Isil is the acronym for Isis favored by the US government.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/a ... t-pentagon

WSWS isn't always the most reliable source but this is quite a useful piece on the political manoeuvring in Baghdad.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/08 ... q-a12.html
By new puritan
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More from Cockburn.

However deep the differences between Washington and Tehran, they were equally horrified by the prospect of Isis advancing on Baghdad and Erbil. Saudi Arabia has openly or covertly opposed Iran and Shia Islam since the overthrow of the Shah in 1979, but is seriously threatened by Isis, whose ideology is not much different from Saudi Wahhabism but challenges the legitimacy of the house of Saud. Last Friday in Mecca, the influential imam and preacher at the Grand Mosque, Sheikh Abdul-Rahman al-Sudais, called for a code of conduct to stop leaders, scholars and young people supporting violence and “terror”. An implication of this is that Saudi Arabia will suppress pro-jihadi propaganda on the internet and satellite television which it has previously encouraged.

The Iranians are also facing a more menacing future as Isis fighters tighten their grip on Diyala province in Iraq, which is on the Iranian border. A year ago a senior member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps explained how necessary it was for Iranian security to fight in Damascus although it is 870 miles from Tehran; but last week Isis, which considers Shia to be heretics worthy of death, captured the town of Jalawla, 25 miles from Iran. No wonder Iran was willing to say goodbye to Mr Maliki, whom it had so long defended, to end the political crisis in Baghdad.

By new puritan
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Very interesting interview with Vijay Prashad on the origins of IS and the conflict in Iraq/Syria.

VIJAY PRASHAD: Well, it’s interesting that he talked about boots on the ground. Yes, I agree: You need boots on the ground. The question is, who is going to wear those boots? John McCain assumes it’s going to be American troops. American troops have already tried to defeat, you know, the ancestor of the Islamic State, which was al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia. There’s a very dangerous game going on here, both from Hillary Clinton, from the Republicans, from Tony Blair. They want to make the case that the Islamic State is a child of the Syrian war. They want to deny the fact that the Islamic State has its roots fundamentally in the destruction of the Iraqi state by the American invasion in 2003. You know, it’s very easy to destroy a state. It took the Iraqi people over a hundred years to build institutions; that was destroyed by the Americans in an afternoon. Once you destroy the state, you create a vacuum. For the first time on Iraqi soil, one saw al-Qaeda groups come in, and that was in 2004, when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was a Jordanian militant, comes into Tal Afar and creates al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia. You know, even bin Laden found him to be a bit unpalatable, because he was deeply sectarian and extraordinarily violent. The Americans tried to crush al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, but by 2006, despite the big surge, despite the bombing of Fallujah, Ramadi—you know, names that the American public now are quite familiar with—despite the razing of these cities, the Islamic State was born in 2006. It’s not yesterday’s creation. This was a product of the Iraq War.

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/8/25/b ... amic_state

Meanwhile, on Mount Sinjar...

For the US and its allies, Mount Sinjar is a success story: a humanitarian disaster alleviated by US air power. But hundreds, if not thousands, of Iraqis – mostly sick and old – remain atop the mountain, with no relief on its way.

Satellite images taken on 21 August by the firm ImageSat International and interviews with members of the Yazidi religious minority still on the mountain indicate a humanitarian emergency continuing to unfold. While thousands have fled down the mountain’s north face, making a dangerous trek into Iraqi Kurdistan through Syria, those on the southern side remain in crisis.

There has not been a US airdrop of food, water or medicine since 13 August, after a reconnaissance team of US special operations forces that had briefly been on the mountain reported that conditions were not as dire as Washington initially thought.

Survivors of the Islamic State (Isis) siege describe leaving behind their elderly and infirm relatives. The younger Yazidis who have stayed behind talk of fighting Isis until they either liberate Sinjar city below or they die.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/a ... ite-images
By Big Rob
The Islamic state is simply doing the same thing Al Qaeda did with 9/11. They are trying to bait the Western ego into starting a fight with them, which costs a lot of money and wastes Western lives.

For fuck's sake. You think we would have learned.
By new puritan
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Good article here from Yassamine Mather, who's always worth reading on Middle Eastern matters.

It is true to say that the destruction of Iraq started with the 2003 invasion. However, it is also true that Maliki’s sectarianism, his refusal to incorporate Sunni militias in the regular army, his intolerance of tribal leaders in northern Iraq all contributed to the ensuing chaos. Iraq, a country where religious and national minorities had lived in relative peace side by side for centuries, has become the scene of vicious battles between Sunni jihadists and Shia military sects, of Kurdish peshmergas driven out of their homes, refugees in no man’s land, and victims of ‘humanitarian’ air strikes aimed at stopping Isis’s advance. According to the most conservative estimates, currently there are three million internally displaced persons in Iraq.

Anyone who last year fostered illusions in the potential of air raids to halt Assad’s atrocities, just like anyone who is fooled by US air attacks today, should be thoroughly ashamed. Nothing could be further from the minds of American and British politicians. It is all about safeguarding their interests in the region (remember Gaza).

And what about the IS itself? Who has been financing it over the last few years? How did it gain the prominence it has? According to Charles Lister of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, “There is no publicly accessible proof that the government of a state has been involved in the creation or financing of Isis as an organisation.”4 However, the Iraqi government, Iran’s Islamic Republic and a number of independent observers have made accusations that the governments of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Persian states financed Isis in 2013 and early 2014. There is credible information about wealthy members of ruling families from the Persian Gulf countries funding it over the last two years. So, for all the Saudi and Qatari denials, there can be little doubt that, before it gained access to oilfields in north Syria and later banks in Mosul, Isis was the recipient of financial support from states in the Persian Gulf region.

http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1024/t ... -islamic-/
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