FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Iraq Near Implosion

by RAMZY BAROUD

As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hurried to his helicopter ready to take off at the end of a visit to Iraq last year, it was becoming clearer that the Americans have lost control of a country they wished to mold to their liking. His departure on March 24, 2013 was the conclusion of a ‘surprise’ visit meant to mark the 10th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. Ten years prior, the US had stormed Baghdad, unleashing one of the 20th century’s most brutal and longest conflicts. Since then, Iraq has not ceased to bleed.

Kerry offered nothing of value on that visit, save the same predictable clichés of Iraq’s supposedly successful democracy, as a testament to some imagined triumph of American values. But it was telling that a decade of war was not even enough to assure an ordinary trip for the American diplomat. It was a ‘surprise’ because no amount of coordination between the US embassy, then consisting of 16,000 staff, and the Iraqi government, could guarantee Kerry’s safety.

Yet something sinister was brewing in Iraq. Mostly Muslim Sunni tribesmen were fed up with the political paradigm imposed by the Americans almost immediately upon their arrival, which divided the country based on sectarian lines. The Sunni areas, in the center and west of the country, paid a terrible price for the US invasion that empowered political elites purported to speak on behalf of the Shia. The latter, who were mostly predisposed by Iranian interests, began to slowly diversify their allegiance. Initially, they played the game per US rules, and served as an iron fist against those who dared resist the occupation. But as years passed, the likes of current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, found in Iran a more stable ally: where sect, politics and economic interests seamlessly align. Thus, Iraq was ruled over by a strange, albeit undeclared troika in which the US and Iran had great political leverage where the Shia-dominated government cleverly attempted to find balance, and survive.

Of course, a country with the size and history of Iraq doesn’t easily descend into sectarian madness on its own. But Shia and Sunni politicians and intellectuals who refused to adhere to the prevailing intolerant political archetype were long sidelined – killed, imprisoned, deported and simply had no space in today’s Iraq-  as national identity was banished by sect, tribe, religion and race.

Currently, the staff of the US embassy stands at 5,100, and American companies are abandoning their investments in the south of Iraq where the vast majority of the country’s oil exists. It is in the south that al-Maliki has the upper hand. He, of course, doesn’t speak on behalf of all Shia, and is extremely intolerant of dissidents. In 2008, he fought a brutal war to seize control of Basra from Shia militias who challenged his rule. Later, he struck the Mehdi Army of Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr in a Baghdad suburb. He won in both instances, but at a terrible toll. His Shia rivals would be glad to see him go.

Maliki’s most brutal battles however have been reserved for dissenting Sunnis. His government, as has become the habit of most Arab dictators, is claiming to have been fighting terrorism since day one, and is yet to abandon the slogans it propagates. While militant Sunni groups, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, have indeed taken advantage of the ensuing chaos to promote their own ideology, and solicit greater support for their cause, Iraq’s Sunnis have suffered humiliation of many folds throughout the years long before al-Qaeda was introduced to Iraq – courtesy of the US invasion.

Iraq’s Sunni tribes, despite every attempt at negotiating a dignified formulation to help millions of people escape the inferno of war, were dismissed and humiliated. The likes of former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was notorious for his targeting of Sunni tribes and mercilessness with any community that in any way supported or tolerated the resistance. Due to strong support by Shia militias, which served as the core of today’s Iraqi army, and Kurdish militias in the north, the resistance was isolated and brutalized.

That history is not only relevant, but it is not history to begin with. It is the agonizing reality. When the last US military column snaked out of Iraq into Kuwait in Dec. 2011, the US was leaving Iraq with the worst possible scenario: a sectarian central government that was beyond corrupt, plus many ruthless parties vying for power or revenge and sectarian polarization at its most extreme manifestation.

Nonetheless, Iraq is still very important to the Americans. It is perhaps a failed military experiment, but it is still rich of oil and natural gas. Moreover, Iraq is getting richer, the draft of the Iraqi budget for 2014 “anticipates average exports of 3.4m barrels/day (b/d), up 1m b/d from the previous year,” according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. “Radical shifts are certainly on the horizon,” reported Forbes on the future of the oil market. Something is driving speculation and that “something is Iraq.” (Jan 31) Iraq’s prospected oil production potential “dwarfs everything else”, reported Canada’s Globe & Mail, citing Henry Groppe, a respected oil and gas analyst. “It’s the thing that everybody ought to be watching and following as closely as possible,” he said.

Drawing its conclusions for the 2012 Iraq Energy Outlook, the International Energy Agency reported that Iraq could be “reaching output in excess of 9 mb/d by 2020”, which “would equal the highest sustained growth in the history of the global oil industry.”

And many are indeed watching. Kerry and the US administration are hardly fond of Maliki, for the latter is too close to Tehran to be trusted. But he is Iraq’s strongest man commanding about 930,000 security personnel “spread across the army, police force and intelligence services,” according to the BBC, and that for the Americans must count for something.

However, Iraq’s riches cannot be easily obtained. Sure, the country’s strong parties are comforted by the fact that the army crackdown on Sunni tribes, al-Qaeda affiliated militias and other groups in al-Anbar and elsewhere is happening outside the country’s main oil field. But they shouldn’t discount just how quickly civil wars spiral out of control. The death toll in 2013 was alarmingly high, over 8,000, mostly civilians, according to the UN. It is the highest since 2008.

Iraq’s ‘bad years’ seem to be making a comeback. This time the US has little leverage over Iraq to control the events from afar. “This is a fight that belongs to the Iraqis,” Kerry said in recent comments during a visit to Jerusalem. Indeed, with little military and diplomatic presence, the US can do very little. In fact, they have done enough.

Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London).

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Obama Said Hillary will Continue His Legacy and Indeed She Will!
Jeffrey St. Clair
She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Rob Urie
Long Live the Queen of Chaos
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Evolution of Capitalism, Escalation of Imperialism
Vijay Prashad
The Iraq War: a Story of Deceit
stclair
It Wasn’t Just the Baton Rouge Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
Brian Cloughley
Could Trump be Good for Peace?
Patrick Timmons
Racism, Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Guns at Universities in Texas
Gary Leupp
The Coming Crisis in U.S.-Turkey Relations
Pepe Escobar
Is War Inevitable in the South China Sea?
Margot Kidder
My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools
Norman Pollack
Clinton Incorruptible: An Ideological Contrivance
Robert Fantina
The Time for Third Parties is Now!
Andrew Tillett-Saks
Labor’s Political Stockholm Syndrome: Why Unions Must Stop Supporting Democrats Like Clinton
Andre Vltchek
Like Trump, Hitler Also Liked His “Small People”
Serge Halimi
Provoking Russia
Andrew Stewart
Countering The Nader Baiter Mythology
Ron Jacobs
Something Besides Politics for Summer’s End
David Swanson
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
Erwan Castel
A Faith that Lifts Barricades: The Ukraine Government Bows and the Ultra-Nationalists are Furious
Steve Horn
Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?
Robert Fisk
How to Understand the Beheading of a French Priest
Colin Todhunter
Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Franklin Lamb
“Don’t Cry For Us Syria … The Truth is We Shall Never Leave You!”
Frederick B. Hudson
Well Fed, Bill?
Harvey Wasserman
NY Times Pushes Nukes While Claiming Renewables Fail to Fight Climate Change
Uri Avnery
The Orange Man: Trump and the Middle East
Marjorie Cohn
The Content of Trump’s Character
Missy Comley Beattie
Pick Your Poison
Joseph Grosso
Serving The Grid: Urban Planning in New York
John Repp
Real Cooperation with Nations Is the Best Survival Tactic
Binoy Kampmark
The Scourge of Youth Detention: The Northern Territory, Torture, and Australia’s Detention Disease
Kim Nicolini
Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red In It
Cesar Chelala
Gang Violence Rages Across Central America
Tom H. Hastings
Africa/America
Robert Koehler
Slavery, War and Presidential Politics
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
Jeffrey St. Clair
Night of the Hollow Men: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Renee Parsons
Blame It on the Russians
Herbert Dyer, Jr.
Is it the Cops or the Cameras? Putting Police Brutality in Historical Context
Russell Mokhiber
Dems Dropping the N Word: When in Trouble, Blame Ralph
Howard Lisnoff
The Elephant in the Living Room
Pepe Escobar
The Real Secret of the South China Sea
Ramzy Baroud
Farewell to Yarmouk: A Palestinian Refugee’s Journey from Izmir to Greece
John Laforge
Wild Turkey with H-Bombs: Failed Coup Raise Calls for Denuclearization
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail