Skip to main content

Home/ International Politics of the Middle East/ Group items tagged Iraq

Rss Feed Group items tagged

Ed Webb

How Biden Kept Screwing Up Iraq, Over and Over and Over Again - 0 views

  • Reviewing Biden’s record on Iraq is like rewinding footage of a car crash to identify the fateful decisions that arrayed people at the bloody intersection. He was not just another Democratic hawk navigating the trauma of 9/11 in a misguided way. He didn’t merely call his vote for a disastrous war part of “a march to peace and security.” Biden got the Iraq war wrong before and throughout invasion, occupation, and withdrawal. Convenient as it is to blame Bush—who, to be clear, bears primary and eternal responsibility for the disaster—Biden embraced the Iraq war for what he portrayed as the result of his foreign policy principles and persisted, most often in error, for the same reasons. 
  • “I think the vast majority of the foreign policy community thinks [my record has] been very good.” That will be important context should Biden become president. He’s the favorite of many in Democratic foreign policy circles who believe in resetting the American geopolitical position to what it was the day before Trump was elected, rather than considering it critical context for why Trump was elected. 
  • National Democrats embraced the war on terrorism with enthusiasm and, with few exceptions, were disinclined to challenge Bush on foreign policy even as that foreign policy became more militant and extreme
  • ...20 more annotations...
  • Biden’s hearings highlighted the dangers of occupation, such as the basic uncertainty around what would replace Saddam Hussein, as well as the bloody, long, and expensive commitment required to midwife a democratic Iraq. “In many ways, those hearings were remarkably prescient about what was to happen,” said Tony Blinken, Biden’s longtime aide on the committee and a deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration. “He and [GOP Sen. Richard] Lugar talked about not the day after but the decade after. If we did go in, they talked about the lack of a plan to secure any peace that followed the intervention.”
  • But the balance of expert testimony concerned guessing at Saddam’s weapons program, the pragmatic questions of invading, and the diplomatic legwork of an action whose justice—if not necessarily its wisdom—was presumed
  • the regnant foreign policy consensus in America: Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and had sealed his fate by doing so. It was an enormous factual mistake born out of an inability to see that Saddam believed that transparent disarmament would spell his doom at the hands of Iran. This misapprehension led advocates to accept that the U.S.—preferably with others, but alone if necessary—was justified or even obligated to get rid of Saddam
  • Bush’s secretary of state, Colin Powell, convinced the White House to attempt securing United Nations support for the war. It was a cynical maneuver: the Security Council could accept additional weapons inspections but not war; Bush could claim he tried for an internationalist solution before invading unilaterally. Its primary effect was to legitimize the war in the eyes of uncomfortable congressional Democrats who had made the tactical error of disputing the war for insufficient multilateralism rather than arguing it was wrong
  • For Biden, the critical point, “what this is about,” was America daring to “enforce” U.N. Security Council disarmament resolutions that the U.N. was saying did not justify war. When the world stood against America, in the forum Biden considered critical and Bush considered pretextual, America would simply act in the world’s name. He approvingly quoted the infamous Henry Kissinger: “As the most powerful nation in the world, the United States has a special, unilateral capacity, and indeed obligation, to lead in implementing its convictions, but it also has a special obligation to justify its actions by principles that transcend the assertions of preponderance of power.” America’s confidence in its nobility was, in the end, all the justification it required. 
  • Biden acknowledged that the “imminence and inevitability” of the threat Iraq posed was “exaggerated,” although that recognition was irrelevant to both his reasoning and his vote. He performed an end-zone dance over Bush advisers who favored what he called the doctrine of preemption—a euphemism for wars of aggression—as if his vote did not authorize exactly the preemptive war those advisers wanted. The trouble Biden saw was that elevating preemption to a foreign policy “doctrine” would grant “every nation an unfettered right of preemption.” Left unsaid was that it would be better for America to keep that unfettered right for itself.
  • Biden was unprepared to break from prevention, which is always the prerogative of hegemonic powers. Boxed in, he continued to argue that the trouble was Bush elevating preemption to centrality in foreign policy, and fretted that predatory states would cite that “doctrine” to prey on weaker ones. He neglected to see that all those states needed was the example of the Iraq war itself. Eleven years later, when Biden was vice president, Vladimir Putin cited Iraq as a reason the U.S. had no standing to criticize him for invading Ukraine. 
  • Iraq was an abstraction to Biden—as it was, ironically, to the neoconservatives Biden had criticized—a canvas on which to project theories of American power
  • Nothing that followed went the way Biden expected. Bush did not share Biden’s distinction between the U.N. weapons-inspection process and the invasion. Iraq did not passively accept its occupation. And Biden did not reap the political benefit of endorsing the war that seemed so obvious to the Democratic consultant class in the autumn of 2002. 
  • Biden praised the leadership of the Coalition Provisional Authority, a shockingly corrupt and incompetent organization. Its chief, Jerry Bremer, was “first-rate,” Biden said mere months after Bremer disbanded the Iraqi army, the greatest gift America could have given the insurgency
  • Rebuilding Iraq’s police force was left to former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik, whom Biden called “a serious guy with a serious team.” Iraq’s police would soon become indistinguishable from sectarian death squads; Kerik would soon plead guilty to tax fraud and other federal corruption charges
  • By the next summer, with Iraq in flames, Biden continued his misdiagnosis. The original sin wasn’t the war itself, it was Bush’s stewardship—the same stewardship Biden praised in 2002. “Because we waged a war in Iraq virtually alone, we are responsible for the aftermath virtually alone,” he thundered at the 2004 Democratic convention. The intelligence “was hyped to justify going to war,” Biden continued, causing “America’s credibility and security [to] have suffered a terrible blow.” Yet Biden made no call for withdrawal. It was easier to pretend that Bush was waging a different war than the one he empowered Bush to wage. 
  • The U.S., unable to win the war it chose, would be better off reshaping the map of Iraq into something that better suited it. The proposal was a natural outgrowth of viewing Iraq as an abstraction. Now that Iraq had undermined American power, Iraq would be subject to a kind of dismemberment, a theoretically cleaner problem to solve than a civil war or a weak client state. In September 2007, Biden prevailed upon his fellow senators to endorse his proposal on a staggering 75-23 vote. There was no support for the idea among actual Iraqis outside Kurdistan, but they were beside the imperial point.
  • 2007 saw Biden’s most valorous act on Iraq. With the war a morass, Biden secured $23 billion, far more than the Pentagon requested, to buy Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, whose hull design proved more survivable against the insurgency’s improvised bombs. Replacing insufficiently armored Humvees with MRAPs was “a passion,” he said. While the number of lives MRAPs saved over the course of the program’s $45 billion lifespan has been disputed, the Pentagon estimated in 2012 that over 2,000 service members are alive today because of the vehicle. Biden counted securing the funding for the MRAP among his greatest congressional achievements.
  • Barack Obama had opposed the Iraq war, but was hardly afflicted with the “distrust of the use of American power” that Biden feared in 2004. Selecting Biden as his vice president laundered Biden’s reputation. No longer was Biden the man whose faith in American exceptionalism had driven the U.S. into a morass. He was the lovable uncle in aviators who washed his metaphorical Trans Am on the White House lawn. Obama gave him responsibility for a three-year project of U.S. withdrawal, one that Biden considers an accomplishment. 
  • Biden and other U.S. officials appeared at times dangerously unconcerned about Maliki’s consolidation of power that once again marginalized Sunni Iraq, which the war had already proven would give jihadis the opportunity they needed
  • Biden reflected America’s schizophrenic attitude toward ending post-9/11 wars, in which leaving a residual force amidst an unsettled conflict does not count as continuing a war.
  • “I’ll bet you my vice presidency Maliki will extend the SOFA,” the Times quoted him. Instead, the following year, the Iraqi parliament did no such thing
  • Biden is the last of the pre-Obama generation of Democratic foreign policy grandees who enabled the Iraq war. John Kerry and Hillary Clinton both lost their presidential bids, saddled in both cases with the legacy of the war they supported
  • A President Biden is likely to find himself a man out of time. Writing in The Guardian, David Adler and Ben Judah recently described Biden as a “restorationist” in foreign policy, aiming at setting the American geopolitical clock back to what it was before Trump took office. Yet now an emergent China, a resurgent Russia, and the ascent of nationalism and oligarchy across Europe, India, and South America have fragmented the America-centric internationalist order that Biden represents. While Trump has accelerated these dynamics, he is far less responsible for them than is the martial post-9/11 course of U.S. foreign policy that wrecked itself, most prominently in Iraq.
Ed Webb

After Soleimani | Newlines Magazine - 0 views

  • The Trump administration assassinated Soleimani to compel change in Iran’s behavior and to throw a wrench in the gears of Iran’s expansive regional influence. Twelve months is too short a period to measure its impact in the realms of longstanding policy and force posture. Outside of some signs of disunity among some of Iraq’s Shiite militias, not much has changed. The impact of Soleimani’s death is therefore impossible to accurately gauge. What we can say is that his death unleashed an emotional and political wave that has surged from his legacy. It is driven almost entirely by his benefactors in Tehran and clients across the region and it is fueled by their desire to shape the memory of the man, myth and legend they helped create.
  • To some, his death was small justice, an emphatic ending to the life of a man who served as the backbone of Assad’s brutal war against the Syrian people and facilitated the empowerment of corrupt, coercive militias in Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon. To others, particularly his supporters and patrons, Soleimani was a hero: a leader in the war against ISIS and a champion of the Shiite Muslim minority.
  • To appreciate the complexity threaded throughout varying perceptions of Soleimani, it’s essential to understand what he symbolizes to Iran, to his military, and to the foreign groups he worked so closely with.
  • ...20 more annotations...
  • The 1979 revolution was fueled by both desperate frustration and an abundance of hope. Across the various ideologies and sentiments that shaped the revolutionary movement, there was a common desire to break Iran’s subservience to foreign powers. This desire is often described as anti-Americanism or even anti-imperialism, and while that accurately reflects the language used by the revolutionaries at the time, it is also a reductive view.
  • under the stewardship of Khomeini, the architect of Iran’s theocracy and first supreme leader, justice was perceived much more broadly. It was primarily about two things: establishing an Islamic system at home and overturning the U.S. dominated status quo in the region, with an emphasis on countering Israel.
  • Prior to the revolution, the Shah had situated Iran as a bulwark to the Soviet Union and the spread of communism. Iran’s regional relations were driven by Cold War considerations and by the Shah’s desire to transform Iran into the predominant power in the Persian Gulf.
  • The 1953 coup d’etat was just one in a string of indignities that had been eroding the Iranian national character since the 18th century. It also marked the United States’ entrance into the Middle East, and the beginning of the love-hate relationship between Washington and Tehran.
  • When war came to Iran, IRGC units were among the first to deploy. With little training and spare resources, their response was sporadic and innovative.What they lacked in capabilities and training, they compensated with zeal and fearlessness. Eventually the IRGC began to use the tactic of “human wave” assaults that showcased those qualities on the battlefield. IRGC forces would charge en masse into Iraqi defenses, overwhelming the defenders by being able to absorb mass casualties without relenting the advance. Iraqis fired until they ran out of ammunition and then were forced to retreat. The IRGC used this tactic to impressive effect, winning battle after battle and eventually forcing a full-scale Iraqi retreat in the summer of 1982
  • Whereas much of the region and foreign powers were supporting Iraq, Iran was virtually alone in fighting the war, with only Syria providing it any meaningful political support. The war ended as a stalemate in 1988. Iran saw itself as up against the world and it could not overcome the vast amount of support buttressing Saddam Hussein’s Iraq
  • as Khamenei’s main support base, the IRGC grew into a formidable political actor within Iran, and the primary strategic arm of the regime. Many of the young men who joined the IRGC during the war also rose to become commanders and officers with it. This included Soleimani, who became a rising star in the IRGC’s Quds Force division, which was responsible for all foreign activities and operations
  • the IRGC shot down a passenger jet, killing everyone on board. The narrative of the assassination was instantly overtaken by the grief and shock of the everyday Iranians who struggled to make sense of a preventable tragedy. Iran’s leaders attempted to skirt blame and cover up the IRGC’s catastrophic error. Family members who spoke out and demanded answers were cruelly silenced. Soleimani’s image was everywhere, yet justice was nowhere to be seen.
  • Iran knew that both Israel and the United States had to factor in potential attacks by Hezbollah were they ever to strike Iran, and Syria was the lynchpin for Iran’s sustained influence on the Lebanese organization. Syria was therefore key to Iran’s larger deterrence strategy vis-à-vis the United States and Israel
  • The irony of Soleimani’s successes in Syria and Iraq is that they prepared the ground for the rise of ISIS. The Islamic State’s explosion into Iraq should have been recognized as the product of Soleimani’s myopic view of Iraq and Syria as simply battlegrounds for Iran’s advancement. Yet, Soleimani and the IRGC seized the moment and self-consciously rebranded their enterprise. Iran was the first outside state to support Iraq’s war against ISIS, and Soleimani let the whole world know of his role. What appeared on social media as authentic and spontaneous pictures of Soleimani on the frontlines with Iraqi troops and commanders, was actually a deliberate effort by the IRGC to recast Soleimani’s image. He was no longer a shadow commander, but a MacArthur-esque figure almost single-handedly fighting the dark forces of ISIS. A national hero in Iran, and the savior of Iraq and Syria.
  • He was killed because he was important. He was killed because Iran was important.
  • The IRGC increased their investment in Soleimani after his death, using his persona to rebrand themselves and the regime to a new generation. Soleimani became the archetype of the Islamic Republic’s self-conception. His figure symbolizes how the regime desires to be seen by the Iranian people and by the world. Soleimani has been cast as brave, selfless and humble; a warrior, a believer and a patriot. His is a transnational community that connects Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen with Iran. He justifies Iran’s regional activities by casting them as an essential part of Iranian patriotism and national identity. To be Iranian in the narrative promoted by the regime is to be part of a larger Islamic enterprise. Not the umma or global Islamic community, but rather, the resistance: the militant groups and personalities who share the Islamic Republic’s enemies and its political aspirations.
  • mythologizing of Soleimani has not only been aspirational, it has also been driven by concerns within the IRGC that the regime is losing support and legitimacy among the Iranian people. This is particularly true for the younger generations, which know nothing of the Shah’s brutality, the sense of injustice that enveloped Iran during its war with Iraq, or the hope that accompanied President Khatami’s reformist platform in the 1990s. Instead, what they know is Iran’s 21st century experience, which has been one of near-constant antagonism and increasing privation.
  • the explosion of protests across Iran in 2018 and 2019. Iran has experienced episodic protest movements in the past, but these protests were different
  • The IRGC confronted the protests head-on and with unrelenting brutality. Using machine guns, tanks, and direct fire to murder Iranian youths in the streets and hunt them down in alleyways.
  • There was indeed something personal about Soleimani’s death. No matter what he represented, he was an Iranian. That he was singled out and murdered by a foreign power sat uncomfortably with most of his compatriots, regardless of their politics
  • It wasn’t until the U.S.-led 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq that Iran was provided an opportunity to change its regional position. Soleimani, who had by then become the leader of the IRGC’s Quds Force, saw opportunity and peril in the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Iran’s allies benefited from the end of the Baathist regime, but a longstanding U.S. military presence in Iraq was also a threat to Iran. Soleimani championed a policy that sought to exploit both the political landscape and the shadows of the new Iraqi frontier. He encouraged political participation of Iran’s Shiite allies while also developing an insurgent network that waged war against the U.S. and coalition forces, killing or maiming hundreds of servicemembers in the process. The effort was largely effective. When U.S. forces departed Iraq in late 2011, Soleimani’s clients were among the most powerful political actors in Iraq and Iran was the most influential outside power in the country.
  • Just as Apple carried on without Steve Jobs, the IRGC will retain the ability to manage its proxies and exert influence beyond Iran’s borders without Soleimani at the helm. The law of inertia also applies. Unless the IRGC and its proxies are challenged directly, momentum will carry them forward.
  • Both Lebanon and Iraq have been hit by intense protest movements over the last year, with much of the anger of the younger generations being aimed at the political elite and their foreign backers. Even though Iran’s influence has helped empower Shiite elites in each country, an increasing number of younger Shiites appear to have soured on Iran and blame it for their country’s morass. This is especially true in Iraq, where young Shiites make up the vast majority of the protest movement that has railed against government corruption and the political power of Iran-backed militias
  • while Soleimani helped expand Iranian influence in the region, that influence rests on shaky ground. The height of Iran’s influence — at least as presently expressed through the IRGC — has probably passed.
Ed Webb

From Iraq to Lebanon, Iran Is Facing a Backlash - 0 views

  • Since the outbreak of the protests in early October, various security forces, including Iranian-backed Shiite militias, have killed more than 400 Iraqis and wounded some 20,000 others. Not only is there good reason to believe that much of the brutality has taken place at the behest of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Qassem Suleimani, the notorious commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force, but the available evidence seems to confirm it. Aware of the anti-Iranian mood on the Iraqi streets—exemplified by protesters beating their shoes against portraits of Khamenei, just as they had done with former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 2003—an unnerved Khamenei did not hesitate to intervene.
  • Suleimani called for a heavy-handed approach to deal with people on the streets, reportedly saying, “we in Iran know how to deal with protests,” an implicit reference to prior violent suppressions of peaceful demonstrations in Iran and, more aggressively, in Syria. The death toll in Iraq surpassed 100 the day after his departure, confirming the power of Iran’s word.
  • Tehran has invested heavily in hard and soft power tools to expand its influence in Iraq. This investment has eventually paid dividends. Some of the most prominent individuals in Iraq today—including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Hadi al-Amiri, former government officials and leaders of the most powerful Iranian-backed militias—were initially recruited by the IRGC in the early 1980s to spread the Islamic Revolution into Iraq
  • ...8 more annotations...
  • Tehran planned to replicate its “Hezbollah model” in Iraq: nurturing militancy to gain control of territory, while encouraging these militants to take advantage of a newly created democracy as a way to penetrate political institutions. These efforts were bolstered by close cross-border clerical and personal relationships.
  • Leaked Iranian intelligence cables shed light on the scale and nature of Iran’s systematic and deep-rooted interference in Iraq, from its network of militant agents to its oversight of political institutions. The cables confirm what protesters already knew: Tehran has been committing enormous resources to imposing a command-and-control structure on Baghdad. Viewed within the broader context of worsening economic conditions and unresponsive, corrupt governance, protesters see Iran as the source of their grievances, fuelling anti-Iranian sentiment on the streets.
  • The protests in Lebanon, which have been uniquely secular despite the fragile sectarian composition of its population, are driven by charges of corruption and a desire to replace a rigid and unresponsive establishment—of which Hezbollah has become an intrinsic part.
  • A recent Asda’a BCW survey suggests that two-thirds of young Arabs consider Iran an enemy of their country.
  • The soaring levels of public discontent in Iran have been consistently overlooked by policymakers and commentators. The most recent protests in Iran, which were brutally repressed by the regime, caught many in the West off guard—but signs of widespread discontent have been in place for many years.
  • In 2009, there was a genuine belief that the Islamic Republic could be reformed, expressed primarily in the demand that Mir Hossein Mousavi, the reformist presidential candidate, be installed as president. Now, the moderate pro-reform slogans that were heard on Iranian streets in 2009 have been replaced with more hostile chants, such as “Death to Khamenei” and “Mullahs have to get lost”—signaling a broader rejection of the entire Islamic revolutionary system.
  • as protesters in Iraq chant, “Iran out, Baghdad free,” in Iran they cry, “no to Gaza, no to Lebanon, I give my life only for Iran”—reflecting a growing desire in both countries for governments that put domestic interests above regional considerations
  • The IRGC and Iran’s Shiite proxies will not stand down without a fight. While the combination of pressure in Iraq, Lebanon, and Iran may help weaken the regime in Tehran, it will probably be a deadly affair.
Ed Webb

Syria Comment » Archives » "Bush White House Wanted to Destroy the Syrian Sta... - 0 views

  •  
    Search Comment Search Poll Assad's statement with Ahmadinejad was appropriate and necessary over the top and asking for trouble View Results Polls Archive Categories announcement (28) Asad quotes (55) Authors (189) Book (20) Britain (4) Economics (189) Foreign Relations (2529) EU (32) France (78) Germany (6) Iran (112) Iraq (154) Israel (423) Lebanon (684) Hariri (96) Hizbullah (169) Palestine (110) Russia (26) Saudi (108) Turkey (87) UK (17) US (609) Golan (93) Jordan (8) nature (4) Omar Dahi (1) Politics (479) Religion and Ethnicity (134) Society & Culture (126) UN (48) Uncategorized (132) Weapons (113) Reading Syria Books Islam Books Middle East Books Greatest Hits Opposition Meeting Planned for Paris Collapses, August 25, 2005 Is Syria Ready for Democracy? March 12, 2005 Syria's Bourse - The Launch & Recommendations See All... Blogroll Creative Syria Juan Cole's Informed Comment Syrian History: Moubayed Thara - Womens Rights Ammar Abdulhamid Damascene Blog Nur al-Cubicle Innocent Criminal Syrian Diplomat in America Syria Planet (Aggregates Sy Blogs) Dove's Eye View Anthro in Dam Open Lebanon Lebanese Bloggers Mideast Policy Iraq Slogger POMED PostGlobal Syria News Wire by Sasa Rime Allaf abu muqawama Angry Arab Arabist Steve Clemons War in Context Levant Watch George Ajjan Patrick Seale Missing Links by Badger 'Just World News' by Cobban friday-lunch-club Wampum Col. Patrick Lang Yves Gonzalez Guide de Syrie-sur-Web All4Syria - Ayman Abdel Nour Lobelog - Jim Lobe and Friends China Matters LeftLink Mona Eltahawy Le Monde Diplo Blogs Syrian TV and Radio Forward - Sami Moubayed Rootless Cosmo by Karon Mondoweiss by Philip Weiss Marc Gopin Dreyfuss Report Qifa Nabki Belgravia - Greg Djerejian TurcoPundit Eighth Gate Toot - Choice M.E. Blogs One Region, One future Enduring America - Lucas et. al. Maghreb Blog Maghreb Blog - Daadaoui Syria Comment Bint Al-Beltway - Shana Marshall On Olives and Sake (Yazan Badran) Firas Azm
Ed Webb

Iran Using Iraqi Kurdistan Against the U.S. and Turkey - Newlines Institute - 0 views

  • A series of rocket strikes in Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital, Erbil, on Feb. 15 are the latest in a string of “resistance axis” activity that has undermined Iraq’s security, endangered civilians, rendered the central state weak and incapable, and added the possibility of a larger regional escalation between Iran-aligned groups and their rivals. The attacks sent a warning message to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the federal government of Iraq, and foreign actors including the U.S. and Turkey.
  • The Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) are an umbrella of Iraqi state-sponsored armed groups and militias under the command of Iraq’s prime minister. The PMF have incorporated within their ranks some of the most notorious Shiite militias, namely Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Kataib Hezbollah, which have been involved in human rights violations and organized crime. These militias overtly object to U.S. presence in Iraq in all forms and have boasted about attacking U.S. interests, referring to themselves as “the resistance” They answer to Iran despite being part of the Iraqi state’s security apparatus.
  • The attacks were designed to convey a clear message to both the U.S. and the Iraqi federal government: No corner of Iraq, however populated or secure it may seem, is safe from militia interference. 
  • ...8 more annotations...
  • while Iran denied the attack and its proxy militias have remained silent, Iran-linked militias like the Islamic Resistance Zulfiqar Forces endorsed the strikes.
  • Political and military elements of the resistance are looking to carve out further influence in Iraq, particularly ahead of parliamentary elections in October and pressure from Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
  • For Iran-aligned groups, attacks on urban centers like Erbil are a vehicle to weaken governmental control, exacerbating tensions between regional governments, imposing fear among citizens, and creating distrust in Baghdad’s ability to rein in “rogue” groups that threaten Iraqi security.
  • the first month of the Biden administration shattered Tehran’s hope for short-term sanctions relief, with President Joe Biden asserting that the U.S. would require Iran’s return to the negotiating table before Washington turned back the dial on sanctions. In the absence of an immediate shift in Washington, Iran turned back to its former strategy, twisting the coalition’s arm in Iraq through successive strikes on its positions and assets in an effort to pressure an American withdrawal and create leverage in nuclear negotiations.
  • Turkey, too, was a target audience of the Erbil attack. Coordinating with its campaign for influence in northern Syria, Ankara has sought to project influence in Iraqi Kurdistan through a series of military operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and by strengthening political and economic relations with the KRG. While Iran and Turkey have engaged in limited cooperation in countering Kurdish insurgents in the Qandil Mountains along the Iraqi-Turkish-Iranian border, the countries have divergent aims in Iraq.
  • The strikes in Erbil are an opportunity for Washington to recognize it is without a policy, let alone a long-term strategy, in Iraq. While the administration has vowed to continue coalition efforts against ISIS and re-approach the Iran nuclear deal, it has not constructed a comprehensive plan for Iraq. Reviving the policy of compartmentalizing security priorities – a tendency of the Obama administration – will fail to address the malign activity of these groups.
  • the U.S. should seek to work with the KRG and the Iraqi government to publicly spotlight these groups’ connections through investigations that can reduce their plausible deniability. By collecting evidence that links resistance militias to Tehran and attacks, the U.S. can wield significant leverage in future negotiations on the nuclear deal and compel Iran to reconsider its malign activities.  
  • The new pattern of militia behavior indicates that Iraqi Kurdistan – once widely thought of as the safest region in Iraq – will likely be the target of more strikes at the direct or indirect instruction of Tehran, complicating Washington’s strategy in Iraq, Ankara’s designs in Ninewa province, and Baghdad’s and Erbil’s ability to impose control.
Ed Webb

20 Years After Iraq War Began, a Look Back at U.S. Public Opinion | Pew Research Center - 0 views

  • The bleak retrospective judgments on the war obscure the breadth of public support for U.S. military action at the start of the conflict and, perhaps more importantly, in the months leading up to it. Throughout 2002 and early 2003, President George W. Bush and his administration marshaled wide backing for the use of military force in Iraq among both the public and Congress. The administration’s success in these efforts was the result of several factors, not least of which was the climate of public opinion at the time. Still reeling from the horrors of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Americans were extraordinarily accepting of the possible use of military force as part of what Bush called the “global war on terror.”
  • Two of the administration’s arguments proved especially powerful, given the public’s mood: first, that Hussein’s regime possessed “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD), a shorthand for nuclear, biological or chemical weapons; and second, that it supported terrorism and had close ties to terrorist groups, including al-Qaida, which had attacked the U.S. on 9/11.
  • Two decades after the war began, a review of Pew Research Center surveys on the war in Iraq shows that support for U.S. military action was built, at least in part, on a foundation of falsehoods.
  • ...8 more annotations...
  • The same month that Congress approved the use of force resolution against Iraq, 66% of the public said that “Saddam Hussein helped the terrorists in the September 11th attacks”; just 21% said he was not involved in 9/11. In February 2003, a month before the war began, that belief was only somewhat less widespread; 57% thought Hussein had supported the 9/11 terrorists.
  • by connecting Hussein to terrorism and the group that attacked the United States, administration officials blurred the lines between Iraq and 9/11. “The notion was reinforced by these hints, the discussions that they had about possible links” with al-Qaida terrorists, the late Andrew Kohut, founding director of Pew Research Center, told The Washington Post after the war was underway in 2003.
  • Powell’s address had a significant impact on U.S. public opinion, even among those who were opposed to war. Roughly six-in-ten adults (61%) said Powell had explained clearly why the United States might use military force to end Hussein’s rule; that was greater than the share saying Bush had clearly explained the stakes in Iraq (52%). Powell was particularly persuasive among those who were opposed to using force in Iraq: 39% said he had clearly explained why the U.S. may need to take military action, about twice the share saying the same about Bush.
  • millions of protestors took to the streets in numerous cities across the world and in the U.S. on Feb. 15. While the largest demonstrations were in London and Rome, several hundred thousand antiwar protesters crowded the streets of New York City
  • The share of Americans saying the U.S. military effort in Iraq was going well, which surpassed 90% in the war’s early weeks, fell to about 60% in late summer 2003.
  • Bush’s reelection as president in November underscored the extent to which the war in Iraq had divided the nation. Among the narrow majority of voters (51%) who then approved of the decision to go to war, 85% voted for Bush; among the smaller share (45%) who disapproved, 87% voted for his Democratic opponent, John Kerry, according to national exit polls.
  • In national exit polls conducted after Obama’s victory over McCain, 63% of voters cited the economy as the most important issue facing the country; just 10% mentioned the war in Iraq.
  • By 2018, the 15th anniversary of the start of the war, just 39% of Americans said the U.S. had succeeded in Iraq, while 53% said it had failed to achieve its goals.
Ed Webb

Saudi Arabia makes friends with an old enemy - Iraq - Middle East - Stripes - 0 views

  • With the extremist militants driven out of Iraq, Saudi Arabia is preparing to reopen the land crossing to trade this year because of the latest conflict that's dominating the region: its proxy war with Iran. In a stark reversal of policy, the kingdom has identified Iraq as a timely ally in curbing the influence of its Shiite enemy
  • Saudi Arabia has also employed other soft power tactics such as offering to build a sports stadium and government-backed broadcaster MBC recently announced a dedicated channel for Iraq. Clerics in the kingdom have been toning down their anti-Shiite rhetoric
  • Saudi Arabia's aim is to prop up a government in Baghdad whose authority has been challenged by Iran-sponsored militias and bring the nation back firmly into the Arab fold
  • ...8 more annotations...
  • Iraq has been dominated by non-Arab Iran after the majority Shiites took over power following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Saudi Arabia now considers Iraq as a potential bulwark against Iran rather than a puppet state controlled by Tehran
  • On a state visit to Riyadh last month, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi oversaw the signing of 13 agreements whereby Saudi Arabia pledged to pump a billion dollars into its neighbor's economy
  • As part of its outreach to Iraq, Saudi Arabia has also softened its position on Shiite Islam, long seen as antithetical to the official Wahhabi creed of the kingdom. In a nod to its often restive Shiite minority mainly in the east, Riyadh plans to open a consulate in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf, to which many Saudi Shiites travel for pilgrimage
  • The Islamic Republic exported more than $1.66 billion worth of tomatoes alone to Iraq in 2017 and is the country's top source of everything from pig lard to human hair. Iran jumped from the Arab nation's fifth biggest non-oil exporter in 2016 to its biggest in 2017, bypassing China. Iraqi supermarket shelves are often stocked with cheap Turkish and Iranian products
  • "I don't think there's any illusion in Riyadh that Iraq will sever relations with Iran,"
  • After Iran cut off power to Iraq because of payment disputes last year, Saudi Arabia offered to sell it to Baghdad at a fraction of Iranian prices
  • The Saudis "have been relatively successful" in Iraq, said James M. Dorsey, senior fellow at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and its Middle East Institute. "They need, however, to follow up on promises and capitalize on the fact that, unlike the Iranians, they have the cash to do so."
  • Still, Saudi Arabia continues to detain and even execute Shiites in large numbers on suspicion of spying for Iran, among other charges
Ed Webb

Protests in Lebanon and Iraq Show That Iran Is Losing the Middle East Through Bad Gover... - 0 views

  • For the Shiite communities in Iraq and Lebanon, Tehran and its proxies have failed to translate military and political victories into a socioeconomic vision; simply put, Iran’s resistance narrative did not put food on the table.
  • Today, Iran seems to be winning the long game. Its proxy in Lebanon prevailed in last year’s parliamentary elections. In Syria, Iran managed to save its ally, President Bashar al-Assad. In the past several years, Iran has also gained a lot more power in Baghdad through its proxies, including the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), the Shiite militias created to fight the Islamic State.
  • Hezbollah’s costly involvement in the Syrian war and pressure from U.S. sanctions on Iran have forced the party to cut salaries and services, widening the gap between the rich and the poor within its own community. Meanwhile, the party also drafted mostly Shiites from poor neighborhoods to go fight in Syria, while its officials benefited from the war riches, causing much resentment.
  • ...5 more annotations...
  • all these victories failed to translate into public well-being. Iran might have benefited, but Shiites in Lebanon got more isolated than ever. That is why it is so meaningful that the Shiite community, by joining the protests, is now attempting to claim its Lebanese identity rather than the religious one that has, so far, failed it
  • tens of thousands of Iraqis in Baghdad and other Shiite-majority parts of southern Iraq came out in protest over the failures of the Iraqi political class to provide basic services and reduce unemployment and corruption. The crackdown was swift and aggressive, resulting in the deaths of more than 100 protesters. Reuters published a story more than a week into the protests confirming that Iran-backed militias had deployed snipers on Baghdad rooftops to deliberately kill protesters
  • Some Sunnis and Kurds in Iraq have expressed support for the Shiite protesters but have hesitated to get involved in order to avoid having the protesters labeled as members of the Islamic State, an excuse that Iran has used in both Iraq and Syria to attack uprisings.
  • Hezbollah will try not repeat the Iraqi PMF’s mistake of responding with violence. That’s why its military units have been training a number of non-Hezbollah members to join what it calls the Lebanese Resistance Brigades. The role of these brigades is precisely to deal with domestic challenges and allow Hezbollah to deny responsibility. Already, in an attempt to create a counter-revolution, hundreds of young men carrying the flags of Amal and Hezbollah attacked the protesters in a number of cities. So far, the Lebanese Army has stopped them from getting too close to the protests, but they have managed to physically hurt and terrorize people outside Beirut, mainly in Shiite towns and cities
  • Shiism does not belong to Iran
Ed Webb

Peter Schwartzstein | Climate Change and Water Woes Drove ISIS Recruiting in Iraq - 2 views

  • With every flood or bout of extreme heat or cold, the jihadists would reappear, often supplementing their sales pitches with gifts. When a particularly vicious drought struck in 2010, the fifth in seven years, they doled out food baskets. When fierce winds eviscerated hundreds of eggplant fields near Kirkuk in the spring of 2012, they distributed cash. As farming communities limped from one debilitating crisis to another, the recruiters—all members of what soon became the Islamic State—began to see a return on their investment.
  • By the time the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) seized this swath of Iraq—along with most of the country’s west and north—in a brutal summer-long blitzkrieg in 2014, few locals were surprised to see dozens of former fertilizer market regulars among its ranks.
  • Across rural Iraq and Syria, farmers, officials, and village elders tell similar stories of desperate farmhands swapping backhoes for assault rifles. Already battered by decades of shoddy environmental policies, which had hobbled agriculture and impoverished its dependents, these men were in no state to navigate the extra challenges of climate change. And so when ISIS came along, propelled in large part by sectarian grievances and religious fanaticism, many of the most environmentally damaged Sunni Arab villages quickly emerged as some of the deep-pocketed jihadists’ foremost recruiting grounds.
  • ...13 more annotations...
  • ISIS appears to have attracted much more support from water-deprived communities than from their better-resourced peers
  • Hussein torched some of southern Iraq’s most bountiful date plantations for fear that Iranian saboteurs might use them as cover to attack oil facilities around Basra. Where once 12 million palm trees stood, there’s now just miles of dusty scrubland laced with oil spills
  • Years of below average rains in the Kurdish region and Nineveh governorate, the only parts of Iraq where rain-fed agriculture was historically possible, had increased the country’s dependence on the Euphrates and Tigris, the Fertile Crescent’s two great rivers. At the same time, upstream Turkey and Iran were relentlessly damming them and their tributaries. Turkey has built over 600 large dams, including dozens of major ones near the Iraqi and Syrian borders. The Tigris and Euphrates’ combined flow in southern Iraq has subsequently shrunk so much that the Persian Gulf now barrels up to 45 miles upriver at high tide (the rivers used to project freshwater up to 3 miles out to sea).
  • the jihadists expertly exploited the desperation in Iraq’s agricultural heartland by rationalizing its inhabitants’ woes. They spread rumors that the Shia-dominated government was delaying crop payments and cutting off water to Sunni farmers. In fact, the lack of rain wasn’t due to climate change, but really a man-made ploy designed to drive Sunni landowners from their rich fertile fields, their emissaries suggested. Broke and unable to deal with their fast changing environment, many farmers ate it up.
  • By 2011, much of the Iraqi countryside was in desperate financial straits. Some 39 percent of people in rural areas were living in poverty, according to the World Bank. That’s two and a half times the country’s urban rate. Almost half lacked safe drinking water. The problems were so devastating in 2012-13 that tens of thousands of villagers ditched their fields altogether, preferring to try their luck in the slum districts of nearby cities instead.
  • Some 39 percent of those polled in Salahaddin cited drought as a reason for their displacement. Studies from neighboring Syria, large parts of which enjoy similar conditions to northern and western Iraq, suggest that anthropogenic climate change has tripled the probability of long, debilitating droughts.
  • When severe water shortages killed off countless livestock in 2011-12, jihadists descended on the animal markets to size up the frantic farmers, many of whom were trying to sell off their remaining cows and sheep before they too succumbed to drought. “They just watched us. We were like food on the table to them,”
  • After several years of energetic groundwater extraction near the oil refining town of Baiji, Samir Saed’s two wells ran dry in early 2014, forcing him to lay off the two young men he employed as farm laborers. Jobless and angry, he suspects they soon joined ISIS
  • water was becoming a resource that in some parts of Iraq only wealthier landowners could afford
  • The jihadists adopted scorched earth tactics as they were beaten back, laying waste to hundreds of thousands of acres of prime farmland. And so for returning farmers, climate change and shoddy governance are now among the least of their worries. ISIS fighters ripped up buried irrigation pipes to mold makeshift mortars. They poisoned wells, blew up water canals, and carted off everything that was of any value, notably generators, tractors, and water pump parts.
  • More or less broke after the oil price crash, the Iraqi state can’t afford to pay farmers for crops they’ve delivered to state silos, let alone cover the multi-billion dollar agricultural clean up bill
  • Turkey has almost finished building the Ilisu Dam, which threatens to further cut the Tigris’ flow when it comes online, probably next year. Hotter temperatures are evaporating more and more surface water—up to six feet worth in Iraq’s lakes every year, according to Nature Iraq, a local NGO. As Baghdad’s relations with the upstream Kurdish region deteriorate, farmers might once more bear the brunt of the dispute. Kurdish authorities have cut off water to mostly Arab areas on several occasions in the past
  • If Iraq can’t get a grip on its crumbling environment, the next war might not be far off.
Ed Webb

Iraqis rise up against 16 years of 'made in the USA' corruption | openDemocracy - 1 views

  • Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi has announced he will resign, and Sweden has opened an investigation against Iraqi Defense Minister Najah Al-Shammari, who is a Swedish citizen, for crimes against humanity.
  • Out of 198 contracts reviewed by the inspector general, only 44 had documentation to confirm the work was done.
  • while Iran has gained enormous influence and is one of the targets of the protests, most of the people ruling Iraq today are still the former exiles that the US flew in with its occupation forces in 2003, “coming to Iraq with empty pockets to fill” as a taxi-driver in Baghdad told a Western reporter at the time.
  • ...6 more annotations...
  • The corruption of both US and Iraqi officials during the US occupation is well documented. UN Security Council resolution 1483 established a $20 billion Development Fund for Iraq using previously seized Iraqi assets, money left in the UN’s “oil for food” program and new Iraqi oil revenues. An audit by KPMG and a special inspector general found that a huge proportion of that money was stolen or embezzled by US and Iraqi officials.
  • According to Al Jazeera, “protesters are demanding the overthrow of a political class seen as corrupt and serving foreign powers while many Iraqis languish in poverty without jobs, healthcare or education.” Only 36% of the adult population of Iraq have jobs, and despite the gutting of the public sector under US occupation, its tattered remnants still employ more people than the private sector, which fared even worse under the violence and chaos of the US's militarized shock doctrine.
  • The US Congress also budgeted $18.4 billion for reconstruction in Iraq in 2003, but apart from $3.4 billion diverted to "security," less than $1 billion of it was ever disbursed. Many Americans believe US oil companies have made out like bandits in Iraq, but that’s not true either. The plans that Western oil companies drew up with Vice President Cheney in 2001 had that intent, but a law to grant Western oil companies lucrative “production sharing agreements” (PSAs) worth tens of billions per year was exposed as a smash and grab raid and the Iraqi National Assembly refused to pass it.
  • Ayad Allawi and the INA were the instrument for the CIA’s hopelessly bungled military coup in Iraq in 1996. The Iraqi government followed every detail of the plot on a closed-circuit radio handed over by one of the conspirators and arrested all the CIA’s agents inside Iraq on the eve of the coup. It executed thirty military officers and jailed a hundred more, leaving the CIA with no human intelligence from inside Iraq.
  • Allawi and the INA are still involved in the horse-trading for senior positions after every election, despite never getting more than 8% of the votes - and only 6% in 2018.
  • The cost of rebuilding Mosul, Fallujah and other cities and towns is conservatively estimated at $88 billion. But despite $80 billion per year in oil exports and a federal budget of over $100 billion, the Iraqi government has allocated no money at all for reconstruction. Foreign, mostly wealthy Arab countries, have pledged $30 billion, including just $3 billion from the US, but very little of that has been, or may ever be, delivered.
Ed Webb

Insurgents Again: The Islamic State's Calculated Reversion to Attrition in the Syria-Ir... - 0 views

  • since losing Mosul, its most sizeable and symbolic territorial possession, the Islamic State has not fought to the last man to maintain control of any other population center.
  • While a loss of morale after the fall of Mosul, the desire by less ideologically driven fighters to save themselves, and the degradation of command and control structures all contributed to some Islamic State fighters fleeing on certain fronts,7 the available evidence suggests the withdrawals were part of calculated strategy by the group to conserve its forces and pivot away from holding territory to pursuing an all-out insurgency
  • despite its supposed significance, Mayedin fell almost abruptly and with little fighting in October 2017. Local sources speaking to Deirezzor24,37 a grassroots organization specializing in documenting violations by both the regime and jihadis, denied the city was retaken by forces loyal to Assad. The regime, uncharacteristically, produced little footage to prove it recaptured a key city. The local skepticism was an indication that the sudden withdrawal from the city was surprising to locals,38 who, along with U.S. officials, had reported that the city had become a center for the group after it came under attack in Raqqa
  • ...11 more annotations...
  • Al-Naba, the weekly newsletter issued by the Islamic State’s Central Media Department, hinted at a major change of strategy in a series of articles published between September and October 2017 on the topic of dealing with the U.S. air campaign. In a series of two reports in September 2017,42 the newsletter explained that Islamic State militants, having suffered heavy losses, especially in Kobane, were debating how to evade the “precision” of U.S. air forces in the face of ground assaults on multiple fronts. These fronts included the disguising of weaponry and engaging in military deception. The article concluded that it would be a mistake for the Islamic State to continue engaging forces that enjoy air support from the United States or Russia because the function of these forces was not to serve as conventional fighting forces, but mainly to provoke the militants and expose their whereabouts and capabilities for drones and aircraft to strike them. In order to prevent the depletion of its forces by air power, the article pushed for the Islamic State to adopt a counter-strategy in which it would refrain from sustained clashes in urban centers with its enemies as it did formerly
  • In another report, issued in Al-Naba on October 12, 2017,45 the Islamic State suggested that it had again been forced to switch to insurgency tactics like in the spring of 2008 under the leadership of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and his war minister Abu Hamza al-Muhajir. The article related how the group’s predecessor, the Islamic State of Iraq, had been forced to dismantle its fighting units in March 2008 and pursue a different strategy to preserve what was left of its manpower. Providing details never before disclosed, it described how the Islamic State of Iraq had become exhausted and depleted after two years of fierce fighting against U.S. and Iraqi troops to the point that it was no longer able to stand and fight for long. “In early 2008, it became clear that it was impossible to continue to engage in conventional fighting. That was when Abu Omar Al Baghdadi said: ‘We now have no place where we could stand for a quarter of an hour.’”46 The article argued the situation was now comparable and that this justified a switch of approach.
  • The Islamic State’s apparent decision to conserve forces for insurgency in the region stretching from Deir ez-Zor Governorate in Syria to Anbar Province in Iraq makes strategic sense given it has frequently highlighted the area as key to its survival and best suited for the base of a guerrilla war. For the Islamic State, rural- and desert-based insurgency is no less important than urban warfare to deplete its enemies, recruit members, and lay the groundwork for a comeback. The geographic and human terrain of the region provides the jihadis with an area in which they can regroup, run sleeper cells, rebuild finances through extortion, and plot attacks.
  • The Islamic State’s reversion to insurgency tactics increased as it lost more territory. Hit-and-run attacks and notable assassinations returned to newly liberated areas, such as in Salah ad-Din, Diyala, Anbar, and Raqqa,53 although such attacks were rarely accounted for in official and public statements related to progress against the group.
  • Reverting back to the old insurgency and terror tactics enabled the Islamic State to penetrate otherwise well-secured areas. Previous attempts to attack them through conventional fighting units had failed, even while the group was at the height of its power
  • Territorial demise, he made clear, was merely the beginning of a new chapter in which the process of depleting the enemy does not get disrupted but persists in different forms. If and when a new opportunity for another rise presented itself, his logic went, the process of depletion will have laid the groundwork for a deeper influence than the previous round.
  • defeat is the loss of willpower and desire to fight
  • the Islamic State began to talk about the desert as a viable place to launch its post-caliphate insurgency. Its propaganda has since prominently featured desert combat. Through such messages, the group hopes to show it can still inflict damage on government forces in remote areas and on critical highways linking Syria and Jordan to Iraq and to draw parallels to the fact that the last time the organization was deemed defeated in Iraq, in the late 2000s, it came back stronger than ever
  • It appears that a key target for the Islamic State as it reembraces insurgency are Sunnis opposing its worldview. In its recent propaganda, the Islamic State has focused on the role of fellow Sunni collaborators in its demise in the late 2000s and has vowed to keep up the pressure against emerging ones. It is interesting that “Sahwat” was originally restricted to the tribal Awakening Councils68 established in Iraq to fight al-Qa`ida during the 2007 troop surge,69 but the group has since broadened the reference to mean opponents and collaborators from within Sunni communities writ large
  • Headquartered in the desert or hidden in populated areas, the Islamic State aims to run a far-reaching and ceaseless insurgency in rural areas and urban centers to deter and stretch thin its opponents and to abrade any emerging governance and security structures in areas it previously controlled
  • This contiguous terrain in Iraq and Syria is akin to the region along the Afghan-Pakistani border that previous U.S. administrations dubbed “AfPak” and treated as a single theater requiring an integrated approach. The “Syraq” space, which stretches from the areas near the Euphrates and Tigris river valleys in northern and western Iraq to Raqqa and Palmyra, looks set to be to the Islamic State what AfPak has been to the al-Qa`ida and Taliban factions, providing a hospitable environment and strategic sanctuaries. And by conserving fighters rather than fighting to the death in the battles that followed Mosul, the Islamic State still has significant manpower to sustain a campaign of terrorism and insurgency in the area
Ed Webb

Why the Iraq milestone matters | Marc Lynch - 1 views

  • Given how central Iraq has been to the great foreign policy debates of the last decade, it's somewhat surprising how little attention has been paid to the steady drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq.  Skeptics on all sides have dominated what little discourse there's been:  many on the left point to the continuing presence of nearly 50,000 troops and many more civilian contractors to mock the notion that the war is over;  many on the right mutter about Obama's refusal to give Bush credit for the surge;  and many serious analysts on all sides worry about the continuing political gridlock in Baghdad and the seemingly shaky security situation.  But Obama's meeting his self-imposed deadline of drawing down to 50,000 troops by this month --- 90,000 fewer than were in Iraq when he took office --- really does matter.
  • Iran, despite its massive investments in Iraqi politics, has proven no more able to dictate the outcomes of Iraqi politics than has Washington, a key development which gets too little attention
  • There are plenty of things which I would have liked to have seen done differently, including a continuation of former Ambassador Ryan Crocker's quiet dialogues with the Iranians and more of an effort to deal with Iraq within its broader regional context.   But overall, meeting the campaign commitment to draw down U.S. forces in Iraq is a real accomplishment which should be acknowledged. 
Ed Webb

The Uncounted - The New York Times - 0 views

  • one in five of the coalition strikes we identified resulted in civilian death, a rate more than 31 times that acknowledged by the coalition
    • Ed Webb
       
      A remarkable and alarming discrepancy. We must treat military claims with great skepticism, unfortunately.
  • a consistent failure by the coalition to investigate claims properly or to keep records that make it possible to investigate the claims at all
  • the result simply of flawed or outdated intelligence that conflated civilians with combatants
  • ...31 more annotations...
  • “In the middle of the night,” he wrote, “coalition airplanes targeted two houses occupied by innocent civilians. Is this technology? This barbarian attack cost me the lives of my wife, daughter, brother and nephew.”
  • two direct hits. “O.K., this is my house, and this is Mohannad’s house,” he recalled. “One rocket here, and one rocket there. It was not a mistake.”
  • in 2003, the United States invaded. One night just a few months afterward, the Americans showed up at the Woods and took over a huge abandoned military barracks across the street from Basim’s property. The next morning, they started cutting down trees. “They said, ‘This is for our security,’ ” Basim recalled. “I said, ‘Your security doesn’t mean destruction of the forest.’ ” Walls of concrete and concertina wire started to appear amid the pine and chinar stands.
  • When the Americans withdrew in 2011, Basim felt as if almost everyone he knew harbored grievances toward the occupation.
  • “Radical Islamists grew as a result of this war, and many ideas grew out of this war which we have never seen or heard before,”
  • During the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, war planners began to focus more seriously on condolence payments, seeing them as a way to improve relations with locals and forestall revenge attacks. Soon, American forces were disbursing thousands of dollars yearly to civilians who suffered losses because of combat operations, for everything from property damage to the death of a family member.
  • In 2003, an activist from Northern California named Marla Ruzicka showed up in Baghdad determined to overhaul the system. She founded Civic, now known as the Center for Civilians in Conflict, and collected evidence of civilians killed in American military operations. She discovered not only that there were many more than expected but also that the assistance efforts for survivors were remarkably haphazard and arbitrary. Civic championed the cause in Washington and found an ally in Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont. In 2005, Ruzicka was killed by a suicide blast in Baghdad, but her efforts culminated in legislation that established a fund to provide Iraqi victims of American combat operations with nonmonetary assistance — medical care, home reconstruction — that served, in practice, as compensation.
  • not a single person in Iraq or Syria has received a condolence payment for a civilian death since the war began in 2014. “There really isn’t a process,” a senior Central Command official told us. “It’s not that anyone is against it; it just hasn’t been done, so it’s almost an aspirational requirement.”
  • While assisting civilian victims is no longer a military priority, some authorities appear to remain concerned about retaliation. About a year after the strike on Basim’s house, his cousin Hussain Al-Rizzo, a systems-engineering professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, received a visit from an F.B.I. agent. The agent, he said, asked if the deaths of his relatives in an American airstrike made him in his “heart of hearts sympathize with the bad guys.” Hussain, who has lived in the United States since 1987, was stunned by the question. He said no.
  • Because there was no established mechanism for Iraqi victims to meet American officials, his appointment was at the American Citizen Services section. He pressed against the window and showed the consular officer his dossier. One page contained satellite imagery of the Razzo houses, and others contained before-and-after photos of the destruction. Between them were photos of each victim: Mayada sipping tea, Tuqa in the back yard, Najib in a black-and-white self-portrait and a head shot of Mohannad, an engineering professor, his academic credentials filling the rest of the page. The most important issue, Basim had written, was that his family was now “looked at as members of ISIS” by the Iraqi authorities. This threatened to be a problem, especially after the city’s liberation. The consular officer, who spoke to us on the condition of anonymity, was moved. “I have people coming in every day that lie to me, that come with these sob stories,” the officer remembered telling him, “but I believe you.”
  • when Basim’s case was referred to a military attorney, the attorney replied, “There’s no way to prove that the U.S. was involved.”
  • we wrote to the coalition ourselves, explaining that we were reporters working on an article about Basim. We provided details about his family and his efforts to reach someone in authority and included a link to the YouTube video the coalition posted immediately after the strike. A public-affairs officer responded, “There is nothing in the historical log for 20 SEP 2015,” the date the coalition had assigned to the strike video. Not long after, the video disappeared from the coalition’s YouTube channel. We responded by providing the GPS coordinates of Basim’s home, his emails to the State Department and an archived link to the YouTube video, which unlike the videos on the Pentagon’s website allow for comments underneath — including those that Basim’s family members left nearly a year before.
  • Over the coming weeks, one by one, the coalition began removing all the airstrike videos from YouTube.
  • An alarm blares occasional high-temperature alerts, but the buildings themselves are kept so frigid that aviators sometimes wear extra socks as mittens
  • Most of the civilian deaths acknowledged by the coalition emerge from this internal reporting process. Often, though, watchdogs or journalists bring allegations to the coalition, or officials learn about potential civilian deaths through social media. The coalition ultimately rejects a vast majority of such external reports. It will try to match the incident to a strike in its logs to determine whether it was indeed its aircraft that struck the location in question (the Iraqi Air Force also carries out strikes). If so, it then scours its drone footage, pilot videos, internal records and, when they believe it is warranted, social media and other open-source information for corroborating evidence. Each month, the coalition releases a report listing those allegations deemed credible, dismissing most of them on the grounds that coalition aircraft did not strike in the vicinity or that the reporter failed to provide sufficiently precise information about the time and place of the episode.
  • They speak of every one of the acknowledged deaths as tragic but utterly unavoidable. “We’re not happy with it, and we’re never going to be happy with it,” said Thomas, the Central Command spokesman. “But we’re pretty confident we do the best we can to try to limit these things.”
  • Airwars, a nonprofit based in London that monitors news reports, accounts by nongovernmental organizations, social-media posts and the coalition’s own public statements. Airwars tries to triangulate these sources and grade each allegation from “fair” to “disputed.” As of October, it estimates that up to 3,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in coalition airstrikes — six times as many as the coalition has stated in its public summaries. But Chris Woods, the organization’s director, told us that Airwars itself “may be significantly underreporting deaths in Iraq,” because the local reporting there is weaker than in other countries that Airwars monitors.
  • the coalition, the institution best placed to investigate civilian death claims, does not itself routinely dispatch investigators on the ground, citing access and security concerns, meaning there has not been such a rigorous ground investigation of this air war — or any American-led air campaign — since Human Rights Watch analyzed the civilian toll of the NATO bombing in Kosovo, a conflict that ended in 1999
  • we selected three areas in Nineveh Province, traveling to the location of every airstrike that took place during ISIS control in each — 103 sites in all. These areas encompassed the range of ISIS-controlled settlements in size and population makeup: downtown Shura, a small provincial town that was largely abandoned during periods of heavy fighting; downtown Qaiyara, a suburban municipality; and Aden, a densely packed city neighborhood in eastern Mosul. The sample would arguably provide a conservative estimate of the civilian toll: It did not include western Mosul, which may have suffered the highest number of civilian deaths in the entire war. Nor did it include any strikes conducted after December 2016, when a rule change allowed more ground commanders to call in strikes, possibly contributing to a sharp increase in the death toll.
  • In addition to interviewing hundreds of witnesses, we dug through the debris for bomb fragments, tracked down videos of airstrikes in the area and studied before-and-after satellite imagery. We also obtained and analyzed more than 100 coordinate sets for suspected ISIS sites passed on by intelligence informants. We then mapped each neighborhood door to door, identifying houses where ISIS members were known to have lived and locating ISIS facilities that could be considered legitimate targets. We scoured the wreckage of each strike for materials suggesting an ISIS presence, like weapons, literature and decomposed remains of fighters. We verified every allegation with local administrators, security forces or health officials
  • During the two years that ISIS ruled downtown Qaiyara, an area of about one square mile, there were 40 airstrikes, 13 of which killed 43 civilians — 19 men, eight women and 16 children, ages 14 or younger. In the same period, according to the Iraqi federal police, ISIS executed 18 civilians in downtown Qaiyara
  • in about half of the strikes that killed civilians, we could find no discernible ISIS target nearby
  • By the time the information made its way to the coalition and it decided to act, the mortar had been moved. Such intelligence failures suggest that not all civilian casualties are unavoidable tragedies; some deaths could be prevented if the coalition recognizes its past failures and changes its operating assumptions accordingly. But in the course of our investigation, we found that it seldom did either.
  • On the evening of April 20, 2015, aircraft bombed the station, causing a tremendous explosion that engulfed the street. Muthana Ahmed Tuaama, a university student, told us his brother rushed into the blaze to rescue the wounded, when a second blast shook the facility. “I found my brother at the end of the street,” he said. “I carried him.” Body parts littered the alleyway. “You see those puddles of water,” he said. “It was just like that, but full of blood.” We determined that at least 18 civilians died in this one attack and that many more were grievously wounded. News of the strike was picked up by local bloggers, national Iraqi outlets and ISIS propaganda channels and was submitted as an allegation to the coalition by Airwars. Months later, the coalition announced the results of its investigation, stating that there was “insufficient evidence to find that civilians were harmed in this strike.” Yet even a cursory internet search offers significant evidence that civilians were harmed: We found disturbingly graphic videos of the strike’s aftermath on YouTube, showing blood-soaked toddlers and children with their legs ripped off.
  • Human rights organizations have repeatedly found discrepancies between the dates or locations of strikes and those recorded in the logs. In one instance, the coalition deemed an allegation regarding a strike in the Al-Thani neighborhood of Tabqa, Syria, on Dec. 20, 2016, as “not credible,” explaining that the nearest airstrike was more than a kilometer away. After Human Rights Watch dispatched researchers to the ground and discovered evidence to the contrary, the coalition acknowledged the strike as its own
  • The most common justification the coalition gives when denying civilian casualty allegations is that it has no record of carrying out a strike at the time or area in question. If incomplete accounts like these are standard practice, it calls into question the coalition’s ability to determine whether any strike is its own. Still, even using the most conservative rubric and selecting only those 30 airstrikes the Air Force analysts classified as “probable” coalition airstrikes, we found at least 21 civilians had been killed in six strikes. Expanding to the 65 strikes that fell within 600 meters — for example, the strikes on the home of Inas Hamadi in Qaiyara and the electrical substation in Aden — pushed that figure to at least 54 killed in 15 strikes. No matter which threshold we used, though, the results from our sample were consistent: One of every five airstrikes killed a civilian
  • “We deeply regret this unintentional loss of life in an attempt to defeat Da’esh,” Scrocca wrote, using another term for ISIS. “We are prepared to offer you a monetary expression of our sympathy and regret for this unfortunate incident.” He invited Basim to come to Erbil to discuss the matter. Basim was the first person to receive such an offer, in Iraq or Syria, during the entire anti-ISIS war.
  • “This situation of war,” he continued, “big corporations are behind it.” This is where the real power lay, not with individual Americans. He’d come to believe that his family, along with all Iraqis, had been caught in the grinder of grand forces like oil and empire, and that the only refuge lay in something even grander: faith. He had rediscovered his religion. “There was some bond that grew between me and my God. I thanked him for keeping my son alive. I thanked him that my operation was successful. Now I can walk.”
  • In the effort to expel ISIS from Iraq and Syria, the coalition has conducted more than 27,500 strikes to date, deploying everything from Vietnam-era B-52 bombers to modern Predator drones. That overwhelming air power has made it possible for local ground troops to overcome heavy resistance and retake cities throughout the region. “U.S. and coalition forces work very hard to be precise in airstrikes,” Maj. Shane Huff, a spokesman for the Central Command, told us, and as a result “are conducting one of the most precise air campaigns in military history.”
  • The coalition usually announces an airstrike within a few days of its completion. It also publishes a monthly report assessing allegations of civilian casualties. Those it deems credible are generally explained as unavoidable accidents — a civilian vehicle drives into the target area moments after a bomb is dropped, for example. The coalition reports that since August 2014, it has killed tens of thousands of ISIS fighters and, according to our tally of its monthly summaries, 466 civilians in Iraq.
  • Our own reporting, conducted over 18 months, shows that the air war has been significantly less precise than the coalition claims. Between April 2016 and June 2017, we visited the sites of nearly 150 airstrikes across northern Iraq, not long after ISIS was evicted from them. We toured the wreckage; we interviewed hundreds of witnesses, survivors, family members, intelligence informants and local officials; we photographed bomb fragments, scoured local news sources, identified ISIS targets in the vicinity and mapped the destruction through satellite imagery. We also visited the American air base in Qatar where the coalition directs the air campaign. There, we were given access to the main operations floor and interviewed senior commanders, intelligence officials, legal advisers and civilian-casualty assessment experts. We provided their analysts with the coordinates and date ranges of every airstrike — 103 in all — in three ISIS-controlled areas and examined their responses. The result is the first systematic, ground-based sample of airstrikes in Iraq since this latest military action began in 2014.
Ed Webb

Why is US repeal of Iraq war authorisation still relevant? | Conflict News | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • United States President Joe Biden’s administration as well as many bipartisan US legislators and advocates have said they want the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq (AUMF) repealed. The authorisation was signed by former President George W Bush in 2002, enabling the US invasion and occupation of Iraq as the US’s two-decade “war on terror” went into full swing. It has increasingly been condemned by critics for giving the US executive branch broad and menacingly vague military powers.
  • The repeal of the 2002 AUMF – along with reformation of the geographically broader and more politically fraught 2001 AUMF, which allows the US executive to pursue military action against individuals or groups deemed connected to the 9/11 attacks – have been at the centre of efforts to restructure the legal architecture that has guided US military action abroad in recent decades.
  • The US Congress, which has the sole constitutional power to declare war, has not done so since 1941 when it approved declarations against Japan in the wake of the Pearl Harbour attacks and, days later, against Nazi-controlled Germany and axis-allied Italy.
  • ...8 more annotations...
  • presidential administrations have relied on Article 2 of the US Constitution, which grants limited war powers to the executive branch, and legislation passed by Congress – usually the so-called Authorizations of Use of Military Force (AUMFs).
  • the administration of Former President Donald Trump used the 2002 Iraq AUMF, in part, to justify the deadly drone strike on Iranian General Qassem Soleimani on the outskirts of the Iraqi capital Baghdad in early 2020.
  • Iraq remains a particularly significant arena when it comes to the potential for wider escalation. That is largely due to the presence of Iran-aligned militias in Iraq, Iran’s outsized involvement in its neighbour and ongoing political and economic crises. The US has 2,000 troops in Iraq, operating in advisory roles. Foreign forces are regularly targeted by armed groups calling for their removal.
  • Repeal of the 2002 AUMF has had uniquely bipartisan support in Congress in recent years, with a standalone bill introduced in 2021 by Representative Barbara Lee passing the Democrat-controlled House with the support of 49 Republicans.
  • Past congressional efforts have made for some interesting bedfellows, with several Trump-aligned legislators in the Republican Party’s farthest-right reaches – including Representatives Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert – joining the Democratic majority in pursuit of repeal.
  • a Senate floor vote on the standalone repeal never came to pass, likely due to concerns over how much limited floor-time debate over the legislation would eat up, according to analysts
  • In the Senate, all 11 Republican co-sponsors of the 2022 repeal bill remain in office, while 40 of the 49 Republicans who supported the House bill in 2021 have kept their seats.
  • large portions of the Republican Party remaining opposed
Ed Webb

How Many Guns Did the U.S. Lose Track of in Iraq and Afghanistan? Hundreds of Thousands... - 0 views

  • In all, Overton found, the Pentagon provided more than 1.45 million firearms to various security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, including more than 978,000 assault rifles, 266,000 pistols and almost 112,000 machine guns. These transfers formed a collage of firearms of mixed vintage and type: Kalashnikov assault rifles left over from the Cold War; recently manufactured NATO-standard M16s and M4s from American factories; machine guns of Russian and Western lineage; and sniper rifles, shotguns and pistols of varied provenance and caliber, including a large order of Glock semiautomatic pistols, a type of weapon also regularly offered for sale online in Iraq. Advertisement Continue reading the main story Many of the recipients of these weapons became brave and important battlefield allies. But many more did not. Taken together, the weapons were part of a vast and sometimes minimally supervised flow of arms from a superpower to armies and militias often compromised by poor training, desertion, corruption and patterns of human rights abuses. Knowing what we know about many of these forces, it would have been remarkable for them to retain custody of many of their weapons. It is not surprising that they did not.
  • the Pentagon said it has records for fewer than half the number of firearms in the researchers’ count — about 700,000 in all
  • Overton’s analysis also does not account for many weapons issued by the American military to local forces by other means, including the reissue of captured weapons, which was a common and largely undocumented practice.
  • ...10 more annotations...
  • In April, after being approached by The New York Times and reviewing data from Armament Research Services, a private arms-investigation consultancy, Facebook closed many pages in the Middle East that were serving as busy arms bazaars, including pages in Syria and Iraq on which firearms with Pentagon origins accounted for a large fraction of the visible trade
  • The American arming of Syrian rebels, by both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Department, has also been troubled by questions of accountability and outright theft in a war where the battlefield is thick with jihadists aligned with Al Qaeda or fighting under the banner of the Islamic State.
  • One point is inarguable: Many of these weapons did not remain long in government possession after arriving in their respective countries. In one of many examples, a 2007 Government Accountability Office report found that 110,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles and 80,000 pistols bought by the United States for Iraq’s security forces could not be accounted for — more than one firearm for every member of the entire American military force in Iraq at any time during the war. Those documented lapses of accountability were before entire Iraqi divisions simply vanished from the battlefield, as four of them did after the Islamic State seized Mosul and Tikrit in 2014, according to a 2015 Army budget request to buy more firearms for the Iraqi forces to replace what was lost.
  • many new arms-trading Facebook pages have since cropped up, including, according to their own descriptions, virtual markets operating from Baghdad and Karbala
  • According to its tally, the American military issued contracts potentially worth more than $40 billion for firearms, accessories and ammunition since Sept. 11, including improvements to the ammunition plants required to keep the cartridge production going. Most of these planned expenditures were for American forces, and the particulars tell the story of two wars that did not go as pitched. More than $4 billion worth of contracts was issued for small arms, including pistols, machines guns, assault rifles and sniper rifles, and more than $11 billion worth was issued for associated equipment, from spare machine-gun barrels to sniper-rifle scopes, according to Overton’s count. A much larger amount — nearly $25 billion — was issued for ammunition or upgrades to ammunition plants to keep those firearms supplied. That last figure aligns with what most any veteran of ground combat in Iraq and Afghanistan could tell you — American troops have been involved in a dizzying number of gunfights since 2001, burning through mountains of ammunition along the way.
  • The data show large purchases of heavy-machine guns and barrels. This is a wink at the shift in many American units from being foot-mobile to vehicular, as grunts buttoned up within armored trucks and needed turret-mounted firepower to defend themselves — a matériel adaptation forced by ambushes and improvised bombs, the cheaply made weapons that wearied the most expensive military in the world.
  • a startlingly risky aspect of the Pentagon’s arming of local forces with infantry arms: the wide distribution of anti-armor weapons, including RPG-7s, commonly called rocket-propelled grenades, and recoilless weapons, including the SPG-9. Each of these systems fires high-explosive (and often armor-piercing) projectiles, and each was commonly used by insurgents in attacks. After the opening weeks of each war, the only armor on either battlefield was American or associated with allied and local government units, which made the Pentagon’s practice of providing anti-armor weapons to Afghan and Iraqi security forces puzzling. Why would they need anti-armor weapons when they had no armor to fight? All the while rockets were somehow mysteriously being fired at American convoys and patrols in each war.
  • a portrait of the Pentagon’s bungling the already-awkward role it chose for itself — that of state-building arms dealer, a role that routinely led to missions in clear opposition to each other. While fighting two rapidly evolving wars, the American military tried to create and bolster new democracies, governments and political classes; recruit, train and equip security and intelligence forces on short schedule and at outsize scale; repair and secure transportation infrastructure; encourage the spread or restoration of the legal industry and public services; and leave behind something more palatable and sturdy than rule by thugs.
  • The procession of arms purchases and handouts has continued to this day, with others involved, including Iran to its allies in Iraq and various donors to Kurdish fighters. In March, Russia announced that it had given 10,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles to Afghanistan, already one of the most Kalashnikov-saturated places on earth. If an analysis from the United States’ Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or Sigar, is to be believed, Afghanistan did not even need them. In 2014 the inspector general reported that after the United States decided to replace the Afghan Army’s Kalashnikovs with NATO-standard weapons (a boon for the rifles’ manufacturer with a much less obvious value for an already amply armed Afghan force), the Afghan Army ended up with a surplus of more than 83,000 Kalashnikovs. The United States never tried to recover the excess it had created, giving the inspector general’s office grounds for long-term worry. “Without confidence in the Afghan government’s ability to account for or properly dispose of these weapons,” it noted, “Sigar is concerned that they could be obtained by insurgents and pose additional risks to civilians.” Write A Comment
  • What to do? If past is precedent, given enough time one of the United States’ solutions will be, once again, to ship in more guns.
Ed Webb

A Thousand Hezbollahs: Iraq's Emerging Militia State - Newlines Institute - 1 views

  • This intelligence briefing provides extensive, never before reported details on how Iran-linked Iraqi militias are creating a new order to dominate a strategic region of the country that connects Iraq and Syria. Iranian-linked militia groups are taking advantage of the vacuum caused by the collapse of ISIS’s caliphate to begin building security, social, political, and economic structures to dominate this strategic area of Iraq.
  • Local and provincial politicians cooperate with some of the militias
  • get their preferred academics put in charge of some of the more important colleges
  • ...13 more annotations...
  • demographic engineering
  • Militia fighters from central and southern Iraq have registered as residents of Ninewa Plain and Mosul in order to legitimize the seizure of property there
  • took control of more than 72 oil fields in the Qayyarah area south of Mosul that ISIS had previously controlled, and the factions pilfer around 100 tanker trucks of crude oil daily
  • hundreds of thousands of dollars every day through extortion at illegal checkpoints they have set up across the country.
  • The January 2020 U.S. decision to assassinate a top leader of the PMF, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, along with the top Iranian commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani – the architect of the Iran’s Iraqi Shiite proxy network – did strike a major blow to these militias but also emboldened them, and as a result they remain deeply rooted in the country. 
  • infiltration into police and security forces has allowed militias to control Iraqi citizens’ movements, trade, occupation, and other aspects of private life
  • context for future conflict and disorder
  • Iran moved to cultivate Shiite militias as a key instrument through which it could transform a state that represented a threat into a one that is weak and subordinate to its wishes
  • Through the critical role it played in the dismantling of the ISIS caliphate in Iraq, the Shiite militia coalition known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) established itself as a major force. By 2017, and as a consequence of its heavy involvement in the liberation of areas that had been taken over by ISIS, the Shiite militia alliance emerged as a power center rivaling Baghdad and a threat to human security in the country
  • this report shows how these nonstate actors have become a parallel state by creating their own political economy, which is riddled with corruption. Additionally, these Shiite militias have coerced their way into Iraq’s national security apparatus and have been recipients of official state funds
  • Frictions have escalated among the militias: between the militias loyal to Iran and those loyal to the Iraqi shrines, and between the Shiite militias and the Sunni and tribal militias, who receive fewer positions of authority and less effective weaponry and equipment than their Shiite counterparts
  • these militias have also begun to threaten Turkish forces trying to project influence into northern Iraq
  • consolidating their grip in northwestern Iraq and are enabling Iran’s broader regional strategy extending through the Levant to the Mediterranean
Ed Webb

Is Iran expanding its influence in Iraq? - 0 views

  • Well-known Iranian activist and journalist Roohollah Zam was captured Oct. 14 in Iraq and deported to Iran. The details surrounding his arrest and deportation have raised questions about the magnitude of Iran’s influence in Iraq. BBC Persian, Saudi-funded Alarabiya and many other Persian and Arabic media outlets reported that Zam had been captured by the Iraqi National Intelligence Service on an arriving flight from France at the Baghdad airport and immediately handed to Iranian agents, who sent him to Tehran the same day.
  • the Iraqi National Intelligence Service has been widely known for being independent from Tehran's influence in Iraq
  • Al-Monitor has learned from a senior adviser for the Iraqi National Security Council that Zam was actually arrested by Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, a pro-Iranian Shiite military faction in the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) and handed to the Iranians at the Baghdad airport. The source said the Iraqi National Security Council had been in contact with Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq and the Iranians about the arrest and had facilitated the operation for Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq. Zam, who has been critical of Iran in his journalistic works, was kept in the airplane until all the passengers had disembarked and then transferred to another airplane for transport to Tehran. It would appear that Persian and Arabic media were incorrect in attributing the Zam operation to the Iraqi National Intelligence Service instead of the Iraqi National Security Council.
  • ...5 more annotations...
  • The Zam arrest indicates that Iranian influence now extends beyond the pro-Iranian militias and parliamentary blocs and has established a foothold in the security organizations of the Iraqi government. It also seems that there is a clear conflict between bodies in the Iraqi government that are pro-Iran and others seeking to remain independent of Iranian influence.
  • Anti-Iran slogans were prevalent at the latest protests.
  • Iraqi President Barham Salih has expressed support for the protesters and criticized the forces that have targeted demonstrators and that have arrested journalists and activists. Salih described these forces — which he did not specifically identify — as “enemies of Iraq” and outlaws. He said the Iraqi government has not ordered its forces to shoot protesters
  • Reuters has quoted anonymous Iraqi security officers supporting the position of Salih and Sistani that the snipers belong to a militia close to Iran, working under the PMU umbrella but acting separately from the Iraqi government. The PMU consists of a number of military factions, including pro-Iranian militias, that are supposed to be under the command of the prime minister.
  • All this suggests that Iranian influence has penetrated deep inside the Iraqi government, which is still confronting challenges in the institutions established under the US occupation, including the army and the Counter-Terrorism Service. The dismissal of popular Counter-Terrorism Service commander Abdel-Wahab al-Saadi was one of the factors that ignited the protests. It appears what are supposed to be independent Iraqi bodies are being targeted and weakened by and in favor of Iranian proxies behind the scenes.
Ed Webb

Accountability for Islamic State Fighters: What Are the Options? - Lawfare - 1 views

  • Trump’s sudden announcement that the U.S. would withdraw forces from along the Syria-Turkey border has already had dramatic consequences. Turkish armed forces launched an invasion into northern Syria dubbed “Operation Peace Spring,” in response to which the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the predominantly Kurdish military backed by the U.S.-led coalition, has warned that it will be forced to withdraw some of its guards from the Islamic State detention centers and camps to deal with the invasion
  • both the Islamic State and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are taking advantage of the Turkish invasion to launch their own attacks within Syria: On Oct. 9, the Islamic State attacked an SDF position in Raqqa, the former de facto capital of the Islamic State, and Assad’s Russian-backed forces moved further into Manbij and Idlib. The same day, the U.S. reportedly helped move some of the “most dangerous” Islamic State detainees out of SDF custody but subsequently ordered a halt to any further operations against the Islamic State
  • By some estimates, the SDF is currently holding more than 10,000 Islamic State fighters—including at least 8,000 Iraqis and Syrians and 2,000 foreign fighters—in overflowing temporary detention centers in northeastern Syria. Thousands of family members of detainees are being held in camps for internally displaced persons in the same region
  • ...12 more annotations...
  • The SDF has consistently asserted that it has limited capabilities to guard these facilities and has continually called for support from the coalition countries. Even before Trump’s announcement on Sunday, the head of the Kurdish forces expressed concern that the camp was at risk of falling under the control of the Islamic State. Despite the general consensus that the status quo was not sustainable, coalition countries have done little to address the problem and there has been no agreement on how to handle these fighters and their families.
  • Iraq reportedly intends to execute at least seven French nationals who were convicted under charges of being members of the Islamic State. There has been little clarity about exactly how these French citizens who had been fighting in Syria ended up in Iraqi detention centers, but experts suspect that they were transferred to Iraq by the SDF at the request of the French government after the French refused to allow them to return home
  • The situation may depend on who—among the SDF, Turkey, Syria and Russia—gains control of the northeastern territory. But if the security surrounding the detainees deteriorates, the Islamic State will likely exploit the situation and create a further opportunity for its ongoing resurgence
  • Although national courts in a conflict region usually provide the most obvious mechanism for criminal proceedings, neither Iraq nor the Kurds controlling territory in Syria have courts that are capable of achieving a just and fair form of accountability
  • a small subset of European governments—along with the SDF—have been calling for some sort of tribunal to deal with the detainees
  • Some see local prosecutions in Syria and Iraq as unrealistic options for foreign fighters, arguing instead for active repatriation followed by possible prosecution in the fighters’ home countries. This is also the option being urged by the U.S. government. Some practitioners even argue that European countries have an obligation to bring foreign fighters to justice under certain international legal instruments (specifically under U.N. Security Council resolutions 2178 [2014] and 2396 [2017]).
  • Countries outside of western Europe, including Kosovo, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have demonstrated the most initiative in repatriating their nationals. Kosovo, the country that had the highest number of its citizens per capita leave to join the caliphate, has made particularly notable repatriation efforts. In April, for example, the Balkan republic brought back 32 women, 74 children, and four men from SDF custody in Syria. The male returnees were immediately placed in detention, pending prosecution, while the women and children were allowed to return home.
  • some western European examples of the successful handling of returned foreign fighters:
  • European Union has also recently set up a counterterrorism register meant to facilitate prosecutions of returning foreign fighters from Iraq and Syria. The database is intended to be a repository for information from all EU countries about ongoing investigations and prosecutions of terrorist suspects who fought in Iraq and Syria so that all 28 member states have access to the same data and evidence
  • a growing number of calls for the establishment of some sort of ad hoc international criminal tribunal to deal with Islamic State fighters. Leaders from relevant U.N. agencies, Sweden, the Netherlands and the SDF have raised the idea of an international tribunal located in the region to deal with the detainees
  • President Trump maintains that Turkey will take control of the Islamic State prisoners, but it is unclear whether any Turkish officials agreed to assume this responsibility and the detainees are located further inside Syria than Turkey is expected to occupy during the current phase of their offensive. Even if the Turkish forces did start to police the camps, there is concern that Turkey’s security would be inadequate given the country’s past failures to crack down on and contain Islamic State cells within its own borders.
  • Russian-backed Syrian forces may end up in control of the detainees since the U.S. withdrawal from Syria has created an opening for Assad to strike a deal with the SDF. Given Assad’s history of putting thousands of Syrians into “filthy dungeons” to be “tortured and killed,” the Islamic State detainees would potentially be subjected to severe conditions with no prospect of a fair trial
Ed Webb

The weaponisation of water and Iraq's climate catastrophe - 0 views

  • From a population of half a million in the 1950s, half a century later saw approximately 20,000 remain. In the 1990s, Saddam Hussein drained the marshes to punish its inhabitants, whom he accused of betrayal during the Iraq-Iran war between 1980-1988. One of his tactics was to build dams, destroying the livelihoods of residents by withholding water. Hundreds of thousands of residents were displaced, and by the year 2000, it was estimated that 90% of the marshes had disappeared.
  • the United Nations ranked Iraq as the fifth most vulnerable country to climate change on earth
  • Residents of the marshes have stated that being granted UNESCO world heritage status has done nothing to improve their quality of life. They cite broken promises and negligence from the central government towards their plight, in regard to the constant worsening of their living conditions. These issues have provided predicaments for those whose descendants have inhabited this region for thousands of years.
  • ...2 more annotations...
  • With the majority of Marsh Arabs having already been displaced, one's choices lie between preserving history and heritage while facing debt and danger or abandoning the land in search of survival. The southern part of Iraq could end up becoming uninhabitable within our lifetime.
  • Refugees from war will become refugees once again, this time from the climate crisis.
Ed Webb

Iran strengthens political, economic hold over Iraq - Al-Monitor: Independent, trusted ... - 0 views

  • Sanctions-hit Iran is consolidating its hold over neighbouring Iraq, an economic lifeline where pro-Tehran parties dominate politics
  • During a visit to Tehran late last month, Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani and Iranian officials urged greater bilateral cooperation in all fields.He thanked Iran which provides gas and electricity -- around one-third of Iraq's needs -- and added this would continue until Iraq was self-sufficient.His country is already the number one importer of Iranian goods.
  • "Iraq is contested by the United States and Iran, with Turkey in third place in the north,"
  • ...5 more annotations...
  • Iran's influence can also be seen through its links with Iraq's Hashed al-Shaabi, a former paramilitary force made up mainly of pro-Iran militias that have since been integrated into the regular forces.
  • Last month, Iraq's government handed the Hashed control of a new public company, endowed with around $68 million in capital.The Al-Muhandis firm's mission in oil-rich but war-ravaged Iraq is "provincial rehabilitation and development: infrastructure, housing, hospitals, factories",
  • In November, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said it was "not fair" to consider his coalition government "an attachment" to Iran's.The Iraqi Kurdish diplomat pointed to its multi-party and multi-confessional make-up as showing "balance" between the different forces.But pro-Iran parties appear to now have free rein, after rival Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr tried for months to name a prime minister and prevent Sudani's appointment.
  • the United States still remains present, with around 2,500 US troops stationed in Iraq as part of ongoing efforts to combat the Islamic State group.
  • Washington monitors Iraq's banking system to ensure Iran is not using it to evade existing restrictions, and US influence is present via "the threat of financial sanctions"."The United States is staying in Iraq so as not to totally abandon the country to Iran,"
1 - 20 of 432 Next › Last »
Showing 20 items per page