FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Cracking of Iraq

by

The US Secretary of State John Kerry sounded upbeat after a 90-minute meeting with the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at the end of which he said: “That was good.” But if Mr Kerry is optimistic about the situation then he is about the only person in Baghdad feeling that way as news comes of fresh rebel victories and of sectarian massacres. Iraq is beginning to resemble India at the time of partition in 1947 when massacres propelled demographic change.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) has swept through the giant, overwhelmingly Sunni province of Anbar west of Baghdad without meeting much resistance. The Iraqi army abandoned the border with Jordan where Sunni tribes took over the Turaibal border crossing on the highway built by Saddam Hussein as a crucial supply route during the Iran-Iraq war. Tribes are negotiating to hand over Turaibal to Isis which captured the two main border crossings to Syria over the weekend. A tribal leader said he was mediating with Isis in a “bid to spare blood and make things safer for the employees of the crossing. We are receiving positive messages from the militants.”

The Jordanian army says its troops have been put in a state of alert in recent days along the 112-mile border with Iraq, to ward off “any potential or perceived security threats” in this scantily inhabited desert area. The Iraqi army spokesman said that troops have redeployed from towns and cities in Anbar for “tactical reasons”.

President Obama and Mr Kerry have called for a genuinely inclusive government with Sunni leaders as well as Shia and Kurds getting a share in power. They have implied that Mr Maliki cannot stay in power if such a government is to be created, but it may already be too late for a power-sharing solution since the Sunni have already displaced the government as the main authority in provinces where they are the majority. The Sunni politicians who met Mr Kerry, the parliament’s Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, have little authority in their own community. Events have passed them by and a bigger role for Sunni politicians like them is unlikely to break the momentum of the revolt.

Iraqi officials say Mr Maliki asked the US to launch air strikes against Isis positions in Iraq and Syria, targeting training camps and convoys. Mr Kerry replied that care had to be taken to avoid civilian casualties. Mr Obama earlier said Mr Maliki and the Iraqi leadership face a test as to whether “they are able to set aside their suspicions, their sectarian preferences for the good of the whole”.

Hopes of a power-sharing government  seem out-of-date as Isis closes in on the capital and has made it clear that it does not want to talk to Shia but to kill them or drive them out of Iraq. Isis regards Shia as apostates or heretics who have betrayed the faith and deserve death. Where Shia cannot defend themselves they have fled, in places such as Tal Afar, with a population of 300,000 Shia Turkoman, west of Mosul where fighting is still going on. Isis is primarily an anti-Shia movement in Iraq and Syria, its violent sectarianism so extreme that it was one of the reasons why it was criticised by al-Qa’ida. There are reports the few Shia who lived in Mosul and stayed have been given 24 hours to convert to Sunni Islam or die.

Iraq has gone a long way down the road towards a Sunni-Shia sectarian civil war over the last two weeks. In Salahuddin province insurgent fighters helped by local Sunni have advanced to drive out thousands of Shia Turkomans from  three villages. “You cannot imagine what happened, only if you saw it could you believe it,” Hassan Ali, a 52-year-old farmer, told AP as he sat in the al-Zahra Shia mosque, which is used to distribute aid in Kirkuk 50 miles to the north. He said: “They hit us with mortars, and the families fled, and they kept hitting us. It was completely sectarian: the Shia out.”

The attacks took place on 16 June in the neighbouring villages of Chardaghli, Brawchi and Karanaz, as well as in a fourth village, Beshir, some 30 miles to the north, refugees told the agency. The aim seems to be to create Shia-free zones in which Isis can establish its fundamentalist Sunni caliphate. Between 15 and 35 villagers were killed and the bodies dumped on the roadside for collection. “They called and said, ‘Send somebody to collect your dogs’,” a policeman from the village said. Survivors say Shia mosques were blown up, their houses burnt and their sheep stolen.

Unlike other massacres of Shia by Isis this one is well-authenticated. The Shia villagers say their Sunni neighbours took part in the attack. The inhabitants of Sunni villages nearby have already fled because they expect revenge attacks by the Shia.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of  Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 30, 2016
Russell Mokhiber
Matt Funiciello and the Giant Sucking Sound Coming Off Lake Champlain
Mike Whitney
Three Cheers for Kaepernick: Is Sitting During the National Anthem an Acceptable Form of Protest?
Alice Bach
Sorrow and Grace in Palestine
Sam Husseini
Why We Should All Remain Seated: the Anti-Muslim Origins of “The Star-Spangled Banner”
Richard Moser
Transformative Movement Culture and the Inside/Outside Strategy: Do We Want to Win the Argument or Build the Movement?
Nozomi Hayase
Pathology, Incorporated: the Facade of American Democracy
David Swanson
Fredric Jameson’s War Machine
Jan Oberg
How Did the West Survive a Much Stronger Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact?
Linda Gunter
The Racism of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima Bombings
Dmitry Kovalevich
In Ukraine: Independence From the People
Omar Kassem
Turkey Breaks Out in Jarablus as Fear and Loathing Grip Europe
George Wuerthner
A Birthday Gift to the National Parks: the Maine Woods National Monument
Logan Glitterbomb
Indigenous Property Rights and the Dakota Access Pipeline
National Lawyers Guild
Solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against Dakota Access Pipeline
Paul Messersmith-Glavin
100 in Anarchist Years
August 29, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary and the Clinton Foundation: Exemplars of America’s Political Rot
Patrick Timmons
Dildos on Campus, Gun in the Library: the New York Times and the Texas Gun War
Jack Rasmus
Bernie Sanders ‘OR’ Revolution: a Statement or a Question?
Richard Moser
Strategic Choreography and Inside/Outside Organizers
Nigel Clarke
President Obama’s “Now Watch This Drive” Moment
Robert Fisk
Iraq’s Willing Executioners
Wahid Azal
The Banality of Evil and the Ivory Tower Masterminds of the 1953 Coup d’Etat in Iran
Farzana Versey
Romancing the Activist
Frances Madeson
Meet the Geronimos: Apache Leader’s Descendants Talk About Living With the Legacy
Nauman Sadiq
The War on Terror and the Carter Doctrine
Lawrence Wittner
Does the Democratic Party Have a Progressive Platform–and Does It Matter?
Marjorie Cohn
Death to the Death Penalty in California
Winslow Myers
Asking the Right Questions
Rivera Sun
The Sane Candidate: Which Representatives Will End the Endless Wars?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia District Attorney Hammered for Hypocrisy
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Burkinis: the Politics of Beachwear
Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail