They shall reap what they sow
Posted by Charles II on June 17, 2014
DemocracyNow had an interview with Iraqi blogger Raed Jarrar, one of Riverbend’s cohort:
AMY GOODMAN: … Why don’t you respond first to what the former prime minister of Britain said, that it [the nascent civil war in Iraq] has nothing to do with the U.S. invasion and occupation, and the British, as well, of Iraq?
RAED JARRAR: Oh, I think it has everything to do with the U.S.-, British-led invasion and occupation. The idea of destroying the strong central government and creating three or more partitions in Iraq was heavily promoted at that time. It was promoted sometimes on the political level, but many times on the demographic level. We saw, during the occupation of Iraq, millions of Iraqis were displaced inside the country. …what’s happening in these few weeks of, you know, like an uprising in these Sunni-dominated provinces in Iraq can be directly traced to the divisions that were installed by the U.S.-led occupation in 2003.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Raed, I’m reminded of that very mundane, but prophetic, warning of Colin Powell to George Bush—if you break it, you own it—that in reality, the invasion of the United States and of Britain in 2003 really, it appears, has created instability still unresolved.
RAED JARRAR: Correct. And in addition to that, the U.S. is still interfering in Iraq.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Raed Jarrar, I’d like to ask you about not only the role of Iran right now and the potential for greater cooperation between the United States and the Iranian government, but also the role of Saudi Arabia and its relationship to ISIS.
RAED JARRAR: Let me start by saying the armed uprising in six Iraqi provinces has many other players from the Sunni side or the local population side. There has been a lot of focus on ISIS because it makes a good media story. It’s this crazy group. Everyone is an expert now on ISIS and where it came from. And it tells a compelling story for a U.S. intervention: There is an extremist terrorist group that is threatening a legitimate central government that is our friend. That is the narrative now. I think that is important to unpack and deconstruct, because, on the one hand, ISIS is one of many players in this uprising. It’s really naive to believe that one crazy terrorist group can take 50 percent of Iraq’s territory in a week. There are many other players, including—I think the most important players are tribal leaders in all of these provinces, and their armed militias, and former Iraqi officials from the Saddam Hussein government, led by the former vice president, Izzat al-Douri, who runs a group called al-Naqshbandi, a group. There are other smaller players like the Iraqi Islamic Army, the Mujahideen Army, the 1920 Brigades. There are, I would say, at least 12 other players. So it’s more indigenous. The vast majority, I would say, maybe almost everyone who’s fighting, is an Iraqi, unlike what the image that is being drawn by the Iraqi authorities.
On the other hand, there is a central government, of course, that is being supported by the United States. It’s mostly comprised of Shiite parties, and the army is almost exclusively Shia. And it’s surrounded by many local and foreign militias and forces, which is a good leeway to answer your question. The last few days witnessed an actual military participation by Iran. According to The Guardian, there are a couple thousand Iranian troops that entered Iraq. They’re most likely from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The first images of the first Iranian to be killed in Iraq from this Iranian Revolutionary Guard surfaced a couple of days ago online, and it seems that his funeral is held today in northern Tehran. From reading the captain’s biography online, the one who died in Iraq, it seems that he’s younger. He’s been sent to Syria before. So, it seems that there is an actual military involvement by Iran.
Saudi Arabia and other players have been involved very much in Iraq, as well. Saudi Arabia maintains strong relationships with the former Iraqi officials, including Izzat al-Douri, the vice president. And there are some rumors about Saudi Arabia supporting some other militant groups in Iraq. Let me take one step back and say that this regional intervention, whether it came from Iraq or—excuse me, from Saudi Arabia or Iran or Turkey or Jordan or whatever, these are also consequences of the destruction of the Iraqi central government in 2003, when Iraq had a legitimate, strong government. All of these neighbors existed around Iraq, but they were never able to manipulate the country and use their proxies for civil war inside the country before. And now, of course, with the new realities, this is how Iraq looks. I think everyone from the region has their hand in Iraq supporting one horse in that race.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Raed, how do you explain the breathtaking collapse of the Iraqi army in the face of what is not really a large guerrilla force lined up against them?
RAED JARRAR: It is surprising for an outsider, I think, to see how fast it fell. But in reality, it did not really fall in a week. It fell in a long time. Some people argue a decade; some people argue a few months. If we just go back to January of this year, the Iraqi forces attacked two unarmed, peaceful protest sites in Iraq—one in Hawija near Kirkuk and one in Fallujah. And this created a huge backlash against the Iraqi government in Sunni-dominated areas. There has been attacks against and, you know, by the Iraqi army and the militias supporting it in Fallujah and Anbar for at least the last four months.
AMY GOODMAN: Raed, I wanted to ask about what’s happening with the Kurdish pershmerga forces, what role they’ve been playing in the wake of the ISIS insurgency, what’s happened with the takeover of Kirkuk by the Kurds. This is Brigadier General Sherko Fatah speaking Saturday.
BRIG. GEN. SHERKO FATAH: [translated] Because of the security situation in Kirkuk, peshmerga forces have taken over the positions of the 12th Infantry Brigade, who abandoned their posts, and soldiers abandoned their positions and fled. Because of the collapse of the morale, they could not defend themselves, and therefore they fled. In order to prevent the Islamic militants from taking over these positions and threaten Kirkuk city, higher orders were issued, first to move and take these positions.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the significance, Raed Jarrar, of the Kurds taking over Kirkuk in this oil-rich city in northern Iraq?
RAED JARRAR: It’s very interesting to see the dynamic now between the uprising forces in the six Sunni provinces and the Kurdish authorities, because the Iraqi central government’s media have been criticizing the Kurdish authorities in the last couple of days, saying that they betrayed their relationships with al-Maliki, that they have been coordinating with the rebels, with the former Baathists, with the—like this type of accusations. Things on the ground actually suggest that there might be some coordination between the uprising forces and the Kurdish forces, because there were very minor clashes between the two sides, and so there might be actually some sort of political coordination. Keep in mind that the former Iraqi vice president of this regime, Mr. Tariq al-Hashimi, who fled to Turkey a few years ago, came out yesterday in support of the uprising in these six provinces. He called it the Iraqi Spring—very romantic, you know, for how destructive the situation has been. But Mr. al-Hashimi maintains very strong relationships with the Kurdish side. So, many people were reading that as maybe ha [he] has been leading these coordinations between what’s going on in the six Sunni provinces and Kurdistan.
If you want to negotiate with someone, I would say we have to reach out to the other side, people who are involved in the uprising, whether they are tribal and youth leaders in these six provinces or former officials who are flooding back to the country, former army officers who are running these operations—running fighter jets, for God’s sake. There are two fighter jets that were seen yesterday attacking current Iraqi army, flying out of the—you know, out of Mosul. So it just gives you a hint of how there is real institution behind the uprising.
We long ago blogged about how the US used death squads in Iraq. While that seems to have evolved somewhat into a broader-based repression against Sunnis, repression doesn’t work over the long run. The US government has been complicit in, indeed very likely causative of that repression. The government of al-Maliki is reaping what it–and we–sowed.
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