Saudi Troops Mass at Border

by

Saudi Arabia has sent 30,000 soldiers to its 500-mile border with Iraq after claims that Iraqi soldiers had abandoned their positions along the frontier, though this is denied by Baghdad.

The Saudi-backed al-Arabiya channel said it had obtained video footage in which an Iraqi officer said 2,500 troops had been ordered to pull back from the border. The Iraqi army still appears to be dissolving after its retreat from the northern half of the country when Mosul was captured by Isis on 10 June.

A brief counter-offensive to retake Tikrit, north of Baghdad, on the day of the opening of parliament on 1 July failed to make any ground. Tikrit is without water and electricity and has been largely abandoned by its people.

Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region looks set to take advantage of the turmoil to declare an independent state. The region’s President, Massoud Barzani, asked the parliament prepare to hold a referendum on independence, saying “the time has come for us to determine our own fate”.

Meanwhile, Isis has been securing control of the territories it has conquered in Iraq and Syria and has declared them subject to a caliphate called the Islamic State. After two days of negotiations in Mosul it has told its militant allies, who had helped it to drive out the Iraqi army, that they must pledge allegiance to the Islamic State and give up their weapons.

As a result, tribal and Sunni militants who are not part of Isis are less likely to be able to oppose the jihadis or split from them, as happened in 2006-07 when the US-backed Sahwah movement divided the Sunni insurgency.

In declaring the Islamic State and demanding that all Muslims pledge allegiance to it, Isis has challenged the legitimacy of all Muslim rulers – including those of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey, who have fostered the opposition in Syria and been sympathetic to it in Iraq.

Studies show that where Isis takes over a district it can often recruit five or 10 times the number of fighters it used to secure control. It is offering about £400 a month for recruits with military experience, and Iraq is full of jobless young men of military age.

Iraq is also facing a political crisis as it tries to form a new government after the parliamentary election on 30 April. Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister, did well in these by presenting himself to Shia voters as a man who was tough on security and who knew how to cope with a Sunni counter-revolution. Discredited by military defeat and loss of control of most of the country north and west of Baghdad, Mr Maliki still clings to power.

He is helped by the deep divisions within the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish communities, which have not been able to pick which of their leaders should be chosen as candidates. The speaker of parliament is normally a Sunni, the president a Kurd and the prime minister a Shia, but no decision on choosing them is likely within the next three or four weeks, say MPs. After the 2010 election it took 10 months to choose a new government.

Talks on forming a national government will continue inside the heavily defended Green Zone.

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.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 01, 2015
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times