Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Iraq Study Group Report’s Cautious Appraisal

 

The cautious words of the Baker-Hamilton report stand in sharp contrast to the savagery and terror that dominate everyday life in Baghdad. Many of the terrible disasters it fears may occur in future are in fact already happening. It states that there is a risk of “a slide towards chaos”, but with almost 4,000 Iraqis being killed every month, the chaos is already here.

“Ethnic cleansing could escalate,” the report warns but, in reality, it does not have to for Iraq to fragment into three hostile homelands for Sunni, Shia and Kurds. Baghdad and central Iraq has already broken up into heavily armed and hostile Sunni and Shia townships.

Some 170 individuals spoke to the Iraqi Study Group, including Tony Blair, President George Bush, Iraqi leaders and numerous ambassadors and senior officials. But the conclusions of the report at times give the alarming impression that Republicans and Democrats on the panel never really understood Iraqi politics.

The report says: “The United States should work closely with Iraq’s leaders to support the achievement of specific objectives – or milestones – on national reconciliation, security and governance.” The problem here is that Iraq has already fallen apart as a political entity. Supposedly national institutions such as the police, army and government ministries have been divided up between Shia, Sunni and Kurds.

These three communities are not going to come together again and can only be reconciled by specific agreements defining each other’s power.
Iraq remains so divided that any supposed progress towards national security will remain an illusion. The US and Britain are training and equipping the army and police. But the real problem for the Iraqi security forces is that its units will not act against their own communities.

The report looks towards Iraqi control of its army by next April, control of the provinces by September and Iraqi security self-reliance by next December. That sounds reasonable but does not answer the question of which Iraqis will be in control.

The report says it is doubtful “whether they will carry out missions on behalf of national goals instead of a sectarian agenda”. That sounds innocent but gently torpedoes Tony Blair’s oft-repeated mantra that the US and British mission is to build up the Iraqi security forces.

Myths systematically promulgated by US civil and military spokesmen at a thousand press briefings in Baghdad and Washington are quietly dumped by Mr Baker and his group. Again and again, the spokesmen emphasized the role of foreign fighters in the war in Iraq but the report cites US military officials as saying that al-Qa’ida in Iraq is responsible for only a small portion of the violence. It says there are only 1,300 foreign fighters in the country. It notes that the Mehdi Army of the nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr numbers at least 60,000 men.

There is a further blind spot in the report. The US is in part responsible for the weakness of the Iraqi government. It never wanted an Iraqi administration dominated by the Shia parties with possible sympathies with the regime in Tehran. Such an outcome was a political nightmare for Washington. The US helped create a political system in which each community can paralyse united action. It has also tried to split the Shia alliance which won the most votes in the two elections in 2005.

In terms of domestic Iraqi politics, the most positive aspect of the report is that it exposes the hollowness of claims by the White House and Downing Street that victory in Iraq is still feasible and it is all a matter of staying the course.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of The Occupation (Verso).

 

 

More articles by:

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

October 17, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
When Saudi Arabia’s Credibility is Damaged, So is America’s
John Steppling
Before the Law
Frank Stricker
Wages Rising? 
James McEnteer
Larry Summers Trips Out
Muhammad Othman
What You Can Do About the Saudi Atrocities in Yemen
Binoy Kampmark
Agents of Chaos: Trump, the Federal Reserve and Andrew Jackson
David N. Smith
George Orwell’s Message in a Bottle
Karen J. Greenberg
Justice Derailed: From Gitmo to Kavanaugh
John Feffer
Why is the Radical Right Still Winning?
Dan Corjescu
Green Tsunami in Bavaria?
Rohullah Naderi
Why Afghan Girls Are Out of School?
George Ochenski
You Have to Give Respect to Get Any, Mr. Trump
Cesar Chelala
Is China Winning the War for Africa?
Mel Gurtov
Getting Away with Murder
W. T. Whitney
Colombian Lawyer Diego Martinez Needs Solidarity Now
Dean Baker
Nothing to Brag About: Scott Walker’s Economic Record in Wisconsin:
October 16, 2018
Gregory Elich
Diplomatic Deadlock: Can U.S.-North Korea Diplomacy Survive Maximum Pressure?
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Andrew Bacevich
Unsolicited Advice for an Undeclared Presidential Candidate: a Letter to Elizabeth Warren
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail