L’Irak (…) pourrait être l’un des grands succès de cette administration. Joe Biden (10.02.10)
To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we are ready … would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda. It would mean that we’d be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It would mean we’d allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan. It would mean increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous. George Bush (2007)
A number of scholars and former government officials take strong issue with the administration’s warning about a new caliphate, and compare it to the fear of communism spread during the Cold War. They say that although Al Qaeda’s statements do indeed describe a caliphate as a goal, the administration is exaggerating the magnitude of the threat as it seeks to gain support for its policies in Iraq. NYT (2005)
More than 600,000 Iraqi children have died due to lack of food and medicine and as a result of the unjustifiable aggression (sanction) imposed on Iraq and its nation. The children of Iraq are our children. You, the USA, together with the Saudi regime are responsible for the shedding of the blood of these innocent children. (…) The latest and the greatest of these aggressions, incurred by the Muslims since the death of the Prophet (ALLAH’S BLESSING AND SALUTATIONS ON HIM) is the occupation of the land of the two Holy Places -the foundation of the house of Islam, the place of the revelation, the source of the message and the place of the noble Ka’ba, the Qiblah of all Muslims- by the armies of the American Crusaders and their allies. (…) there is no more important duty than pushing the American enemy out of the holy land. Osama Bin Laden (1996)
Le peuple comprend maintenant les discours des oulémas dans les mosquées, selon lesquels notre pays est devenu une colonie de l’empire américain. Il agit avec détermination pour chasser les Américains d’Arabie saoudite. [...] La solution à cette crise est le retrait des troupes américaines. Leur présence militaire est une insulte au peuple saoudien. Ben Laden
Tuer les Américains et leurs alliés, qu’ils soient civils ou militaires, est un devoir qui s’impose à tout musulman qui le pourra, dans tout pays où il se trouvera. Ben Laden (février 1998)
27 août 1992 : les Etats-Unis, la Grande-Bretagne et la France mettent en place une autre zone d’exclusion aérienne, au sud du 32eme parallèle, avec l’objectif d’observer les violations de droits de l’homme à l’encontre de la population chiite.
3 septembre 1996 : en représailles à un déploiement de troupes irakiennes dans la zone nord, les Etats-Unis et la Grande-Bretagne ripostent militairement dans le sud et étendent la zone d’exclusion aérienne sud, qui passe du 32eme au 33eme parallèle. La France refuse cette extension, mais continue à effectuer des missions de surveillance aérienne au sud du 32ème parallèle..
27 décembre 1996 : Jacques Chirac décide de retirer la France du contrôle de la zone d’exclusion aérienne nord. Il justifie cette décision par le fait que le dispositif a changé de nature avec les bombardements de septembre, et que le volet humanitaire initialement prévu n’y est plus inclus. La France proteste par ailleurs contre la décision unilatérale des Etats-Unis et de la Turquie (avec l’acceptation de la Grande-Bretagne) d’augmenter la zone d’exclusion aérienne sud. Michel Wéry
Les Etats-Unis n’ont pas envahi l’Irak mais sont intervenus dans un conflit déjà en cours. Kiron Skinner (conseillère à la sécurité du président Bush)
Since a wounded Saddam could not be left unattended and an oil-rich Saudi Arabia could not be left unprotected, U.S. troops took up long-term residence in the Saudi kingdom, a fateful decision that started the clock ticking toward 9/11. As bin Laden himself explained in his oft-quoted 1996 fatwa, his central aim was “to expel the occupying enemy from the country of the two Holy places.”… Put another way, bin Laden’s casus belli was an unintended and unforeseen byproduct of what Saddam Hussein had done in 1990. The presence of U.S. troops in the land of Mecca and Medina had galvanized al-Qaeda, which carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which triggered America’s global war on terror, which inevitably led back to Iraq, which is where America finds itself today. In a sense, occupation was inevitable after Desert Storm; perhaps the United States ended up occupying the wrong country. … If the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia sparked bin Laden’s global guerrilla war, America’s low threshold for casualties would serve as the fuel to keep it raging. … From bin Laden’s vantage point, America’s retreats from Beirut in the 1980s, Mogadishu in the 1990s and Yemen in 2000 were evidence of weakness. “When tens of your soldiers were killed in minor battles and one American pilot was dragged in the streets of Mogadishu, you left the area carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat and your dead with you,” he recalled. “The extent of your impotence and weaknesses became very clear. It was a pleasure for the heart of every Muslim and a remedy to the chests of believing nations to see you defeated in the three Islamic cities of Beirut, Aden and Mogadishu.” … Hence, quitting Iraq could have dramatic and disastrous consequences – something like the fall of Saigon, Desert One, and the Beirut and Mogadishu pullouts all rolled into one giant propaganda victory for the enemy. Not only would it leave a nascent democracy unprotected from bin Laden’s henchmen, it would serve to confirm their perception that America is a paper tiger lacking the will to fight or to stand with those who are willing to fight. Who would count on America the next time? For that matter, on whom would America be able to count as the wars of 9/11 continue? … Finally, retreat also would re-energize the enemy and pave the way toward his ultimate goal. Imagine Iraq spawning a Balkan-style ethno-religious war while serving as a Taliban-style springboard for terror. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaeda’s top terrorist in Iraq, already has said, “We fight today in Iraq, and tomorrow in the land of the two Holy Places, and after there the West.” Alan W. Dowd
De même que les progressistes européens et américains doutaient des menaces de Hitler et de Staline, les Occidentaux éclairés sont aujourd’hui en danger de manquer l’urgence des idéologies violentes issues du monde musulman. Les socialistes français des années 30 (…) ont voulu éviter un retour de la première guerre mondiale; ils ont refusé de croire que les millions de personnes en Allemagne avaient perdu la tête et avaient soutenu le mouvement nazi. Ils n’ont pas voulu croire qu’un mouvement pathologique de masse avait pris le pouvoir en Allemagne, ils ont voulu rester ouverts à ce que les Allemands disaient et aux revendiquations allemandes de la première guerre mondiale. Et les socialistes français, dans leur effort pour être ouverts et chaleureux afin d’éviter à tout prix le retour d’une guerre comme la première guerre mondiale, ont fait tout leur possible pour essayer de trouver ce qui était raisonnable et plausible dans les arguments d’Hitler. Ils ont vraiment fini par croire que le plus grand danger pour la paix du monde n’était pas posé par Hitler mais par les faucons de leur propre société, en France. Ces gesn-là étaient les socialistes pacifistes de la France, c’était des gens biens. Pourtant, de fil en aiguille, ils se sont opposés à l’armée française contre Hitler, et bon nombre d’entre eux ont fini par soutenir le régime de Vichy et elles ont fini comme fascistes! Ils ont même dérapé vers l’anti-sémitisme pur, et personne ne peut douter qu’une partie de cela s’est reproduit récemment dans le mouvement pacifiste aux Etats-Unis et surtout en Europe. Un des scandales est que nous avons eu des millions de personnes dans la rue protestant contre la guerre en Irak, mais pas pour réclamer la liberté en Irak. Personne n’a marché dans les rues au nom des libertés kurdes. Les intérêts des dissidents libéraux de l’Irak et les démocrates kurdes sont en fait également nos intérêts. Plus ces personnes prospèrent, plus grande sera notre sécurité. C’est un moment où ce qui devrait être nos idéaux — les idéaux de la démocratie libérale et de la solidarité sociale — sont également objectivement notre intérêt. Bush n’a pas réussi à l’expliquer clairement, et une grande partie de la gauche ne l’a même pas perçu. Paul Berman
Ce n’est pas parce qu’une équipe de juniors porte le maillot des Lakers que cela en fait des Kobe Bryant. Je pense qu’il y a une différence entre les moyens et la portée d’un Ben Laden, d’un réseau qui planifie activement des attaques terroristes de grande envergure contre notre territoire, et ceux de jihadistes impliqués dans des luttes de pouvoir locales, souvent de nature ethnique. Barack Obama (janvier 2014)
Who Lost Iraq? You know who. (…) The military recommended nearly 20,000 troops, considerably fewer than our 28,500 in Korea, 40,000 in Japan, and 54,000 in Germany. The president rejected those proposals, choosing instead a level of 3,000 to 5,000 troops. A deployment so risibly small would have to expend all its energies simply protecting itself — the fate of our tragic, missionless 1982 Lebanon deployment — with no real capability to train the Iraqis, build their U.S.-equipped air force, mediate ethnic disputes (as we have successfully done, for example, between local Arabs and Kurds), operate surveillance and special-ops bases, and establish the kind of close military-to-military relations that undergird our strongest alliances. The Obama proposal was an unmistakable signal of unseriousness. It became clear that he simply wanted out, leaving any Iraqi foolish enough to maintain a pro-American orientation exposed to Iranian influence, now unopposed and potentially lethal. (…) The excuse is Iraqi refusal to grant legal immunity to U.S. forces. But the Bush administration encountered the same problem, and overcame it. Obama had little desire to. Indeed, he portrays the evacuation as a success, the fulfillment of a campaign promise. Charles Krauthammer
The prospect of Iraq’s disintegration is already being spun by the Administration and its media friends as the fault of George W. Bush and Mr. Maliki. So it’s worth understanding how we got here. Iraq was largely at peace when Mr. Obama came to office in 2009. Reporters who had known Baghdad during the worst days of the insurgency in 2006 marveled at how peaceful the city had become thanks to the U.S. military surge and counterinsurgency. In 2012 Anthony Blinken, then Mr. Biden’s top security adviser, boasted that, « What’s beyond debate » is that « Iraq today is less violent, more democratic, and more prosperous. And the United States is more deeply engaged there than at any time in recent history. » Mr. Obama employed the same breezy confidence in a speech last year at the National Defense University, saying that « the core of al Qaeda » was on a « path to defeat, » and that the « future of terrorism » came from « less capable » terrorist groups that mainly threatened « diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad. » Mr. Obama concluded his remarks by calling on Congress to repeal its 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force against al Qaeda. If the war on terror was over, ISIS didn’t get the message. The group, known as Tawhid al-Jihad when it was led a decade ago by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was all but defeated by 2009 but revived as U.S. troops withdrew and especially after the uprising in Syria spiraled into chaos. It now controls territory from the outskirts of Aleppo in northwestern Syria to Fallujah in central Iraq. The possibility that a long civil war in Syria would become an incubator for terrorism and destabilize the region was predictable, and we predicted it. « Now the jihadists have descended by the thousands on Syria, » we noted last May. « They are also moving men and weapons to and from Iraq, which is increasingly sinking back into Sunni-Shiite civil war. . . . If Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki feels threatened by al Qaeda and a Sunni rebellion, he will increasingly look to Iran to help him stay in power. » We don’t quote ourselves to boast of prescience but to wonder why the Administration did nothing to avert the clearly looming disaster. Contrary to what Mr. Blinken claimed in 2012, the « diplomatic surge » the Administration promised for Iraq never arrived, nor did U.S. weapons. « The Americans have really deeply disappointed us by not supplying the Iraqi army with the weapons and support it needs to fight terrorism, » the Journal quoted one Iraqi general based in Kirkuk. That might strike some readers as rich coming from the commander of a collapsing army, but it’s a reminder of the price Iraqis and Americans are now paying for Mr. Obama’s failure to successfully negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement with Baghdad that would have maintained a meaningful U.S. military presence. A squadron of Apache attack helicopters, Predator drones and A-10 attack planes based in Iraq might be able to turn back ISIS’s march on Baghdad. WSJ
The president is in fact implementing the policy he promised. It was retrenchment by one word, retreat by another.[Obama’s policy is also what the American public showed in polls that it wants right now] ”It wants it, at least until it gets queasy by looking at the pictures they’ve been seeing tonight. George Will
Affirmer, au bout de onze ans, que ce à quoi on assiste actuellement est le résultat de ce qui s’est produit à l’époque est aussi simpliste qu’insultant. Dans ce qui s’assimile à une perspective néocolonialiste postmoderne, ceci revient à suggérer que les Irakiens ne sont toujours pas en mesure d’assumer la responsabilité de leur propre pays. Abstraction faite de toutes les autres conséquences, l’invasion de 2003 n’en a pas moins donné aux Irakiens une possibilité d’autodétermination démocratique qu’ils n’auraient jamais eue sous Saddam Hussein. C’est cette démocratie imparfaite qui est menacée ; il faut à présent la conserver et l’améliorer. The Observer
Mosul’s fall matters for what it reveals about a terrorism whose threat Mr. Obama claims he has minimized. For starters, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) isn’t a bunch of bug-eyed « Mad Max » guys running around firing Kalashnikovs. ISIS is now a trained and organized army. The seizures of Mosul and Tikrit this week revealed high-level operational skills. ISIS is using vehicles and equipment seized from Iraqi military bases. Normally an army on the move would slow down to establish protective garrisons in towns it takes, but ISIS is doing the opposite, by replenishing itself with fighters from liberated prisons. An astonishing read about this group is on the website of the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. It is an analysis of a 400-page report, « al-Naba, » published by ISIS in March. This is literally a terrorist organization’s annual report for 2013. It even includes « metrics, » detailed graphs of its operations in Iraq as well as in Syria. One might ask: Didn’t U.S. intelligence know something like Mosul could happen? They did. The February 2014 « Threat Assessment » by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency virtually predicted it: « AQI/ISIL [aka ISIS] probably will attempt to take territory in Iraq and Syria . . . as demonstrated recently in Ramadi and Fallujah. » AQI (al Qaeda in Iraq), the report says, is exploiting the weak security environment « since the departure of U.S. forces at the end of 2011. » But to have suggested any mitigating steps to this White House would have been pointless. It won’t listen. In March, Gen. James Mattis, then head of the U.S. Central Command, told Congress he recommended the U.S. keep 13,600 support troops in Afghanistan; he was known not to want an announced final withdrawal date. On May 27, President Obama said it would be 9,800 troops—for just one year. Which guarantees that the taking of Mosul will be replayed in Afghanistan. Let us repeat the most quoted passage in former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s memoir, « Duty. » It describes the March 2011 meeting with Mr. Obama about Afghanistan in the situation room. « As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his, » Mr. Gates wrote. « For him, it’s all about getting out. » Daniel Henninger
Avec Assad, on voit justement ce qui arrive quand on laisse un dictateur en place. Les problèmes ne disparaissent pas tout seuls. Tony Blair
L’un des arguments des adversaires de l’intervention de 2003 est de dire que, puisque Saddam Hussein ne possédait aucune arme de destruction massive, l’invasion de l’Irak était injustifiée. D’après les rapports des inspecteurs internationaux, nous savons que, même si Saddam s’était débarrassé de ses armes chimiques, il avait conservé l’expertise et les capacités d’en produire. En 2011, si nous avions laissé Saddam au pouvoir, l’Irak aurait été lui aussi emporté par la vague des révolutions arabes. En tant que sunnite, Saddam aurait tout fait pour préserver son régime face à la révolte de la majorité chiite du pays. Pendant ce temps, de l’autre côté de la frontière, en Syrie, une minorité bénéficiant de l’appui des chiites s’accrocherait au pouvoir et tenterait de résister à la révolte de la majorité sunnite. Le risque aurait donc été grand de voir la région sombrer dans une conflagration confessionnelle généralisée dans laquelle les Etats ne se seraient pas affrontés par procuration, mais directement, avec leurs armées nationales. Tout le Moyen-Orient est en réalité engagé dans une longue et douloureuse transition. Nous devons nous débarrasser de l’idée que » nous » avons provoqué cette situation. Ce n’est pas vrai. (…) Nous avons aujourd’hui trois exemples de politique occidentale en matière de changement de régime dans la région. En Irak, nous avons appelé à un changement de régime, renversé la dictature et déployé des troupes pour aider à la reconstruction du pays. Mais l’intervention s’est révélée extrêmement ardue, et aujourd’hui le pays est à nouveau en danger. En Libye, nous avons appelé au changement de régime, chassé Kadhafi grâce à des frappes aériennes mais refusé d’envoyer des troupes au sol. Aujourd’hui, la Libye, ravagée par la violence, a exporté le désordre et de vastes quantités d’armes à travers l’Afrique du Nord et jusqu’en Afrique subsaharienne. En Syrie, nous avons appelé au changement de régime mais n’avons rien fait, et c’est le pays qui se trouve dans la situation la pire. (…) Il n’est pas raisonnable pour l’Occident d’adopter une politique d’indifférence. Car il s’agit, que nous le voulions ou pas, d’un problème qui nous concerne. Les agences de sécurité européennes estiment que la principale menace pour l’avenir proviendra des combattants revenant de Syrie. Le danger est réel de voir le pays devenir pour les terroristes un sanctuaire plus redoutable encore que ne l’était l’Afghanistan dans les années 1990. Mais n’oublions pas non plus les risques que fait peser la guerre civile syrienne sur le Liban et la Jordanie. Il était impossible que cet embrasement reste confiné à l’intérieur des frontières syriennes .Je comprends les raisons pour lesquelles, après l’Afghanistan et l’Irak, l’opinion publique est si hostile à une intervention militaire. Mais une intervention en Syrie n’était pas et n’est pas nécessairement obligée de prendre les formes qu’elle a prises dans ces deux pays. Et, chaque fois que nous renonçons à agir, les mesures que nous serons fatalement amenés à prendre par la suite devront être plus violente. (…) Nous devons prendre conscience que le défi s’étend bien au-delà du Moyen-Orient. L’Afrique, comme le montrent les tragiques événements au Nigeria, y est elle aussi confrontée. L’Extrême-Orient et l’Asie centrale également.L’Irak n’est qu’une facette d’une situation plus générale. Tous les choix qui s’offrent à nous sont inquiétants. Mais, depuis trois ans, nous regardons la Syrie s’enfoncer dans l’abîme et, pendant qu’elle sombre, elle nous enserre lentement et sûrement dans ses rets et nous entraîne avec elle. C’est pourquoi nous devons oublier les différends du passé et agir maintenant pour préserver l’avenir. Tony Blair
Attention: une débâcle peut en cacher une autre !
A l’heure où, suite au refus du premier ministre Maliki de tenir ses engagements pour l’intégration des Sunnites à la gestion du pays comme à la précipitation du président Obama d’évacuer les troupes américaines, l’Irak est sur le point de rebasculer dans la plus violente des guerres civiles voire de passer sous la coupe de djihadistes qui, pour plus de 400 millions de dollars, viennent de se faire les banques de la deuxième ville du pays …
Et où, dans la logique de racisme caché qui leur est habituelle (certains peuples, on le sait, n’ont pas droit à la démocratie), nos belles âmes et stratèges en fauteuil ont bien sûr pour l’occasion ressorti leurs arguments contre l’option changement de régime qu’avaient il y a 11 ans choisie le président Bush et ses alliés britanniques ainsi qu’une coalition d’une quarantaine de pays …
Et que les différents pays occidentaux commencent à recevoir les premières fournées de diplômés du bourbier syrien …
Remise des pendules à l’heure avec Tony Blair …
Qui rappelant à juste titre tant l’impéritie irakienne qu’américaine …
Mais ni la situation irakienne d’avant 2003 (les mêmes Alliés contraints d’assurer seuls de leurs bases en Arabie saoudite un embargo que personne, France comprise, ne respectait et fournissant de ce fait le prétexte aux attentats du 11/9) …
A le mérite de mettre le doigt sur le noeud du problème …
A savoir, outre l’évident raté libyen, la Syrie qui justement avec Assad montre parfaitement ce qui arrive quand on laisse un dictateur en place …
Iraq, Syria and the Middle East
Office of Tony Blair
Jun 14, 2014
The civil war in Syria with its attendant disintegration is having its predictable and malign effect. Iraq is now in mortal danger. The whole of the Middle East is under threat.
We will have to re-think our strategy towards Syria; support the Iraqi Government in beating back the insurgency; whilst making it clear that Iraq’s politics will have to change for any resolution of the current crisis to be sustained. Then we need a comprehensive plan for the Middle East that correctly learns the lessons of the past decade. In doing so, we should listen to and work closely with our allies across the region, whose understanding of these issues is crucial and who are prepared to work with us in fighting the root causes of this extremism which goes far beyond the crisis in Iraq or Syria.
It is inevitable that events in Mosul have led to a re-run of the arguments over the decision to remove Saddam Hussein in 2003. The key question obviously is what to do now. But because some of the commentary has gone immediately to claim that but for that decision, Iraq would not be facing this challenge; or even more extraordinary, implying that but for the decision, the Middle East would be at peace right now; it is necessary that certain points are made forcefully before putting forward a solution to what is happening now.
3/4 years ago Al Qaida in Iraq was a beaten force. The country had massive challenges but had a prospect, at least, of overcoming them. It did not pose a threat to its neighbours. Indeed, since the removal of Saddam, and despite the bloodshed, Iraq had contained its own instability mostly within its own borders.
Though the challenge of terrorism was and is very real, the sectarianism of the Maliki Government snuffed out what was a genuine opportunity to build a cohesive Iraq. This, combined with the failure to use the oil money to re-build the country, and the inadequacy of the Iraqi forces have led to the alienation of the Sunni community and the inability of the Iraqi army to repulse the attack on Mosul and the earlier loss of Fallujah. And there will be debate about whether the withdrawal of US forces happened too soon.
However there is also no doubt that a major proximate cause of the takeover of Mosul by ISIS is the situation in Syria. To argue otherwise is wilful. The operation in Mosul was planned and organised from Raqqa across the Syria border. The fighters were trained and battle-hardened in the Syrian war. It is true that they originate in Iraq and have shifted focus to Iraq over the past months. But, Islamist extremism in all its different manifestations as a group, rebuilt refinanced and re-armed mainly as a result of its ability to grow and gain experience through the war in Syria.
As for how these events reflect on the original decision to remove Saddam, if we want to have this debate, we have to do something that is rarely done: put the counterfactual i.e. suppose in 2003, Saddam had been left running Iraq. Now take each of the arguments against the decision in turn.
The first is there was no WMD risk from Saddam and therefore the casus belli was wrong. What we now know from Syria is that Assad, without any detection from the West, was manufacturing chemical weapons. We only discovered this when he used them. We also know, from the final weapons inspectors reports, that though it is true that Saddam got rid of the physical weapons, he retained the expertise and capability to manufacture them. Is it likely that, knowing what we now know about Assad, Saddam, who had used chemical weapons against both the Iranians in the 1980s war that resulted in over 1m casualties and against his own people, would have refrained from returning to his old ways? Surely it is at least as likely that he would have gone back to them.
The second argument is that but for the invasion of 2003, Iraq would be a stable country today. Leave aside the treatment Saddam meted out to the majority of his people whether Kurds, Shia or marsh Arabs, whose position of ‘stability’ was that of appalling oppression. Consider the post 2011 Arab uprisings. Put into the equation the counterfactual – that Saddam and his two sons would be running Iraq in 2011 when the uprisings began. Is it seriously being said that the revolution sweeping the Arab world would have hit Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, to say nothing of the smaller upheavals all over the region, but miraculously Iraq, under the most brutal and tyrannical of all the regimes, would have been an oasis of calm?
Easily the most likely scenario is that Iraq would have been engulfed by precisely the same convulsion. Take the hypothesis further. The most likely response of Saddam would have been to fight to stay in power. Here we would have a Sunni leader trying to retain power in the face of a Shia revolt. Imagine the consequences. Next door in Syria a Shia backed minority would be clinging to power trying to stop a Sunni majority insurgency. In Iraq the opposite would be the case. The risk would have been of a full blown sectarian war across the region, with States not fighting by proxy, but with national armies.
So it is a bizarre reading of the cauldron that is the Middle East today, to claim that but for the removal of Saddam, we would not have a crisis.
And it is here that if we want the right policy for the future, we have to learn properly the lessons not just of Iraq in 2003 but of the Arab uprisings from 2011 onwards.
The reality is that the whole of the Middle East and beyond is going through a huge, agonising and protracted transition. We have to liberate ourselves from the notion that ‘we’ have caused this. We haven’t. We can argue as to whether our policies at points have helped or not; and whether action or inaction is the best policy and there is a lot to be said on both sides. But the fundamental cause of the crisis lies within the region not outside it.
The problems of the Middle East are the product of bad systems of politics mixed with a bad abuse of religion going back over a long time. Poor governance, weak institutions, oppressive rule and a failure within parts of Islam to work out a sensible relationship between religion and Government have combined to create countries which are simply unprepared for the modern world. Put into that mix, young populations with no effective job opportunities and education systems that do not correspond to the requirements of the future economy, and you have a toxic, inherently unstable matrix of factors that was always – repeat always – going to lead to a revolution.
But because of the way these factors interrelate, the revolution was never going to be straightforward. This is the true lesson of Iraq. But it is also the lesson from the whole of the so-called Arab Spring. The fact is that as a result of the way these societies have developed and because Islamism of various descriptions became the focal point of opposition to oppression, the removal of the dictatorship is only the beginning not the end of the challenge. Once the regime changes, then out come pouring all the tensions – tribal, ethnic and of course above all religious; and the rebuilding of the country, with functioning institutions and systems of Government, becomes incredibly hard. The extremism de-stabilises the country, hinders the attempts at development, the sectarian divisions become even more acute and the result is the mess we see all over the region. And beyond it. Look at Pakistan or Afghanistan and the same elements are present.
Understanding this and analysing properly what has happened, is absolutely vital to the severe challenge of working out what we can do about it. So rather than continuing to re-run the debate over Iraq from over 11 years ago, realise that whatever we had done or not done, we would be facing a big challenge today.
Indeed we now have three examples of Western policy towards regime change in the region. In Iraq, we called for the regime to change, removed it and put in troops to try to rebuild the country. But intervention proved very tough and today the country is at risk again. In Libya, we called for the regime to change, we removed it by airpower, but refused to put in troops and now Libya is racked by instability, violence and has exported vast amounts of trouble and weapons across North Africa and down into sub- Saharan Africa. In Syria we called for the regime to change, took no action and it is in the worst state of all.
And when we do act, it is often difficult to discern the governing principles of action. Gaddafi, who in 2003 had given up his WMD and cooperated with us in the fight against terrorism, is removed by us on the basis he threatens to kill his people but Assad, who actually kills his people on a vast scale including with chemical weapons, is left in power.
So what does all this mean? How do we make sense of it? I speak with humility on this issue because I went through the post 9/11 world and know how tough the decisions are in respect of it. But I have also, since leaving office, spent a great deal of time in the region and have studied its dynamics carefully.
The beginning of understanding is to appreciate that resolving this situation is immensely complex. This is a generation long struggle. It is not a ‘war’ which you win or lose in some clear and clean-cut way. There is no easy or painless solution. Intervention is hard. Partial intervention is hard. Non-intervention is hard.
Ok, so if it is that hard, why not stay out of it all, the current default position of the West? The answer is because the outcome of this long transition impacts us profoundly. At its simplest, the jihadist groups are never going to leave us alone. 9/11 happened for a reason. That reason and the ideology behind it have not disappeared.
However more than that, in this struggle will be decided many things: the fate of individual countries, the future of the Middle East, and the direction of the relationship between politics and the religion of Islam. This last point will affect us in a large number of ways. It will affect the radicalism within our own societies which now have significant Muslim populations. And it will affect how Islam develops across the world. If the extremism is defeated in the Middle East it will eventually be defeated the world over, because this region is its spiritual home and from this region has been spread the extremist message.
There is no sensible policy for the West based on indifference. This is, in part, our struggle, whether we like it or not.
Already the security agencies of Europe believe our biggest future threat will come from returning fighters from Syria. There is a real risk that Syria becomes a haven for terrorism worse than Afghanistan in the 1990s. But think also of the effect that Syria is having on the Lebanon and Jordan. There is no way this conflagration was ever going to stay confined to Syria. I understand all the reasons following Afghanistan and Iraq why public opinion was so hostile to involvement. Action in Syria did not and need not be as in those military engagements. But every time we put off action, the action we will be forced to take will ultimately be greater.
On the immediate challenge President Obama is right to put all options on the table in respect of Iraq, including military strikes on the extremists; and right also to insist on a change in the way the Iraqi Government takes responsibility for the politics of the country.
The moderate and sensible elements of the Syria Opposition should be given the support they need; Assad should know he cannot win an outright victory; and the extremist groups, whether in Syria or Iraq, should be targeted, in coordination and with the agreement of the Arab countries. However unpalatable this may seem, the alternative is worse.
But acting in Syria alone or Iraq, will not solve the challenge across the region or the wider world. We need a plan for the Middle East and for dealing with the extremism world-wide that comes out of it.
The starting point is to identify the nature of the battle. It is against Islamist extremism. That is the fight. People shy away from the starkness of that statement. But it is because we are constantly looking for ways of avoiding facing up to this issue, that we can’t make progress in the battle.
Of course in every case, there are reasons of history and tribe and territory which add layers of complexity. Of course, too, as I said at the outset, bad governance has played a baleful role in exacerbating the challenges. But all those problems become infinitely tougher to resolve, when religious extremism overlays everything. Then unity in a nation is impossible. Stability is impossible. Therefore progress is impossible. Government ceases to build for the future and manages each day as it can. Division tears apart cohesion. Hatred replaces hope.
We have to unite with those in the Muslim world, who agree with this analysis to fight the extremism. Parts of the Western media are missing a critical new element in the Middle East today. There are people – many of them – in the region who now understand this is the battle and are prepared to wage it. We have to stand with them.
Repressive systems of Government have played their part in the breeding of the extremism. A return to the past for the Middle East is neither right nor feasible. On the contrary there has to be change and there will be. However, we have to have a more graduated approach, which tries to help change happen without the chaos.
We were naïve about the Arab uprisings which began in 2011. Evolution is preferable to revolution. I said this at the time, precisely because of what we learnt from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sometimes evolution is not possible. But where we can, we should be helping countries make steady progress towards change. We should be actively trying to encourage and help the reform process and using the full weight of the international community to do so.
Where there has been revolution, we have to be clear we will not support systems or Governments based on sectarian religious politics.
Where the extremists are fighting, they have to be countered hard, with force. This does not mean Western troops as in Iraq. There are masses of responses we can make short of that. But they need to know that wherever they’re engaged in terror, we will be hitting them.
Longer term, we have to make a concerted effort to reform the education systems, formal and informal which are giving rise to the extremism. It should be part of our dialogue and partnership with all nations that we expect education to be open-minded and respectful of difference whether of faith culture or race. We should make sure our systems reflect these values; they should do the same. This is the very reason why, after I left office I established a Foundation now active in the education systems of over 20 different countries, including in the Middle East, promoting a programme of religious and cultural co-existence.
We should make this a focal point of cooperation between East and West. China, Russia, Europe and the USA all have the same challenge of extremism. For the avoidance of doubt, I am neither minimising our differences especially over issues like Ukraine, nor suggesting a weakening of our position there; simply that on this issue of extremism, we can and should work together.
We should acknowledge that the challenge goes far further afield than the Middle East. Africa faces it as the ghastly events in Nigeria show. The Far East faces it. Central Asia too.
The point is that we won’t win the fight until we accept the nature of it.
Iraq is part of a much bigger picture. By all means argue about the wisdom of earlier decisions. But it is the decisions now that will matter. The choices are all pretty ugly, it is true. But for 3 years we have watched Syria descend into the abyss and as it is going down, it is slowly but surely wrapping its cords around us pulling us down with it. We have to put aside the differences of the past and act now to save the future.
The 2003 invasion of Iraq is not to blame for the violent insurgency now gripping the country, former UK prime minister Tony Blair has said.
15 June 2014
Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr, he said there would still be a « major problem » in the country even without the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Mr Blair said the current crisis was a « regional » issue that « affects us all ».
And he warned against believing that if we « wash our hands of it and walk away, then the problems will be solved ».
« Even if you’d left Saddam in place in 2003, then when 2011 happened – and you had the Arab revolutions going through Tunisia and Libya and Yemen and Bahrain and Egypt and Syria – you would have still had a major problem in Iraq, » Mr Blair said.
« Indeed, you can see what happens when you leave the dictator in place, as has happened with Assad now. The problems don’t go away.
« So, one of the things I’m trying to say is – you know, we can rerun the debates about 2003 – and there are perfectly legitimate points on either side – but where we are now in 2014, we have to understand this is a regional problem, but it’s a problem that will affect us. »
Syria is three years into a civil war in which tens of thousands of people have died and millions more have been displaced.
In August last year, a chemical attack near the capital Damascus killed hundreds of people.
In August, UK MPs rejected the idea of air strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government to deter the use of chemical weapons.
Writing on his website, the former prime minister warned that every time the UK puts off action, « the action we will be forced to take will be ultimately greater ».
He said the current violence in Iraq was the « predictable and malign effect » of inaction in Syria.
« We have to liberate ourselves from the notion that ‘we’ have caused this, » he wrote. « We haven’t. »
He said the takeover of Mosul by Sunni insurgents was planned across the Syrian border.
« Where the extremists are fighting, they have to be countered hard, with force, » Mr Blair said.
The Sunni insurgents, from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), regard Iraq’s Shia majority as « infidels ».
After taking Mosul late on Monday, and then Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, the Sunni militants have pressed south into the ethnically divided Diyala province.
On Friday, they battled against Shia fighters near Muqdadiya – just 50 miles (80km) from Baghdad’s city limits.
Reinforcements from both the Iraqi army and Shia militias have arrived in the city of Samarra, where fighters loyal to ISIS are trying to enter from the north.
US deploys warship amid Iraq crisis
Mr Blair also told the BBC that the UK and its allies had to « engage » and try to « shape » the situation in Iraq and Syria.
« If you talk to security services in France and Germany and the UK, they will tell you their single biggest worry today are returning Jihadist fighters, our own citizens, by the way, from Syria, » he said.
« So, we have to look at Syria and Iraq and the region in context. We have to understand what’s going on there and we have to engage ».
Civil war in Syria was « having its predictable and malign effect » and there was « no doubt that a major proximate cause of the takeover of Mosul by ISIS » was the situation in the country, Mr Blair said.
He said the operation in Mosul was planned and organised from Raqqa across the Syria border.
« The fighters were trained and battle-hardened in the Syrian war, » he said.
Members of Iraqi security forces and tribal fighters take part in an intensive security deployment on the outskirts of Diyala province June 13, 2014. Thousands of Shias are reported to have volunteered to help halt the advance of ISIS
Iraqi policemen stand guard at a railway station in the capital Baghdad on June 14, 2014 The capital Baghdad is a tense place following the reverses for Iraqi government forces
The 2003 invasion of Iraq by British and US forces, on the basis that it had « weapons of mass destruction », has come back into focus as a result of the insurgency in the country.
The Iraq War has been the subject of several inquiries, including the Chilcot inquiry – which began in 2009 – into the UK’s participation in military action against Saddam Hussein and its aftermath.
Last month, the inquiry said details of the « gist » of talks between Tony Blair and former US president George Bush before the Iraq war are to be published.
Mr Blair has said he wants the Chilcot report to be published and he « resented » claims he was to blame for its slow progress.
Blair: Don’t blame me for meltdown in Iraq: Astonishing ‘essay’ by ex-PM: he says Obama quit too soon… and the UK should launch attacks
Former PM claims bungling Iraqi government has allowed Al Qaeda return
Blair said the alternative to not intervening in Iraq was a far worse option
Blair said West was wrong to topple Gadaffi instead of Bashar al-Assad
Mail On Sunday Reporter
14 June 2014
Tony Blair last night attacked ‘bizarre’ claims that his decision to go to war with Iraq in 2003 caused the current wave of violence in the country – and blamed everyone but himself for the crisis.
The former Prime Minister insisted he was right to topple Saddam Hussein with the US and said things would have been worse if the dictator had not been ousted from power a decade ago.
Mr Blair ended a week-long silence after mounting claims by diplomats and Labour MPs that his and Mr Bush’s handling of the Iraq War sowed the seeds of the attempt by the Al Qaeda-backed ISIS terror group to conquer Iraq. In a 2,800-word ‘essay’ on the new Middle East conflagration, Mr Blair refused to apologise and argued:
Barack Obama ordered US troops to leave Iraq too soon.
Britain and America must launch renewed military attacks in Iraq and Syria.
Al Qaeda was ‘beaten’ in Iraq thanks to the Blair-Bush war, but the bungling Iraqi government let them back in.
‘But every time we put off action, the action we will be forced to take will ultimately be greater. Instead of re-running the debate over Iraq from 11 years ago, we have to realise that whatever we had done or not done, we would be facing a big challenge today.
‘It is bizarre to claim that, but for the removal of Saddam, we would not have a crisis. We have to re-think our strategy towards Syria and support the Iraqi government in beating back the insurgency.
‘Extremist groups, whether in Syria or Iraq, should be targeted. However unpalatable this may seem, the alternative is worse.’
Mr Blair hit back at critics who say false claims that Saddam had deadly chemical weapons fatally undermined the Blair-Bush justification for the Iraq War. Turning the argument on its head, he said it was essential to picture Iraq with Saddam still in power: he had used chemical weapons before and would have done so again.
And, confronted by the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011, Saddam would have provoked ‘a full-blown sectarian war across the region with national armies’. ‘We have to liberate ourselves from the notion that “we” have caused this – we haven’t,’ said Mr Blair.
And he pointed the finger of blame at Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki – and more pointedly at Mr Obama – for leaving Iraq defenceless.
‘Three or four years ago, Al Qaeda in Iraq was a beaten force. The sectarianism of the Maliki government snuffed out a genuine opportunity to build a cohesive Iraq. And there will be debate about whether the withdrawal of US forces happened too soon.’
Mr Blair poured scorned on the West’s decision to topple Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi who ‘gave up WMDs and co-operated in the fight against terrorism’ while letting Syria’s President Assad, who ‘kills his people on a vast scale including with chemical weapons’, off the hook.
‘There is no easy or painless solution. The Jihadist groups are never going to leave us alone. 9/11 happened for a reason.
‘This is, in part, our struggle, whether we like it or not.’
Obama was ‘right to put all options on the table in Iraq, including military strikes. The choices are all pretty ugly, but Syria is slowly but surely wrapping its cords around us, pulling us down with it. We have to act now to save the future.’
Reg Keys, whose ‘Red Cap’ soldier son Tom was killed in the Iraq War, told The Mail on Sunday last night: ‘I wondered when Blair would surface to try to justify himself. Before he and Bush kicked down the door on Iraq, Sunnis and Shias lived side by side. Now there is a power vacuum, which allows terrorists to walk into the country.
‘Saddam may have been an evil dictator, but Iraq needs a strong leader to keep the tensions in check. Blair installed a weak puppet government. When Tom was killed, the Iraqi police meant to be protecting the Red Caps’ position dropped their guns and ran. That is what the Iraqi forces did this week.’
Mr Keys added: ‘It is lamentable that Blair is still banging the WMD drum. He and Bush must take ultimate responsibility.’
Christopher Meyer, Former British Ambassador To Washington
14 June 2014
Last year, on the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by American and British forces, Tony Blair sought to justify his decision to go to war by arguing that Iraq was a far better place for the removal of Saddam Hussein. ‘Think,’ he said ‘of the consequences of leaving that regime in power.’
In an echo of his former master’s voice, Alastair Campbell added for good measure: ‘Britain… should be really proud of the role we played in changing Iraq from what it was to what it is becoming.’
Today, neither Mr Blair nor Mr Campbell could utter such things without arousing the world’s bemusement and incredulity. Iraq is descending into such violence and disorder that its very existence as a sovereign country is under threat.
A savage, battle-hardened group of Sunni fundamentalists called ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) have seized great swathes of territory in northern and central Iraq and are threatening Baghdad itself. By the time you read this, they may be inside the city walls. They have driven through the Iraqi army – trained and equipped by the US at vast expense – like a knife through butter.
At Friday prayers last week, the most senior Shia cleric in Iraq issued a call to arms. The scene is therefore set for outright civil war. Meanwhile, the Kurdish people of the north have exploited the chaos to seize the oil-producing city of Kirkuk and take another step forward in their ambition to become an independent nation.
There are many reasons for this disastrous state of affairs. Perhaps the most significant is the decision taken more than ten years ago by President George W Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair to unseat Saddam Hussein without thinking through the consequences for Iraq of the dictator’s removal.
Like the entire Islamic world, Iraq is divided between two historic branches of the Muslim faith, the Sunni and the Shia. Though there have been periods of relative harmony, today the two denominations are in brutal competition with each other around the world, especially in the neighbouring Syria, where civil war has been raging for the past three years. The Syrian dictator, Bashar Al Assad, is Shia. The Syrian rebels are Sunni. In Iraq the government is Shia-dominated.
Underwriting the violence in both countries is the intense struggle for advantage between the two Middle Eastern superpowers, Saudi Arabia (Sunni) and Iran (Shia).
The situation is not unlike the violent rivalry of the 17th Century between Catholics and Protestants, which led to the ravaging of central Europe in the bloody 30 Years’ War.
ISIS have emerged from the cauldron of civil war in Syria where they control much of the east of the country. Their declared aim is to create from this territory and the neighbouring Sunni areas of northern and central Iraq a single fundamentalist state or ‘caliphate’, lying athwart the frontier between Iraq and Syria.
ISIS have proved so violent that they have been disowned even by Al Qaeda, the Sunni terrorist group from which they have sprung. But it is not through fanaticism and violence alone that they have been able to scatter the Iraqi army with such ease. ISIS have been operating in fertile territory.
For years, the Sunni provinces of Iraq have become increasingly disaffected from the Shia-controlled central government in Baghdad. The authoritarian Prime Minister al-Maliki has trampled on Sunni sensitivities and denied them the spoils of government. This has gone down very badly, given that under Saddam and the old Ottoman empire it was the Sunni who were on top.
Without the world really noticing, ISIS and its Sunni allies had already seized the town of Fallujah (scene of epic battles between the US Marines and insurgents ten years ago).
ISIS have benefited also from something that takes us back to the earliest days of the US/UK occupation – and to one of its greatest blunders. It appears that ISIS are fighting alongside, or even partly comprise, former members of Saddam Hussein’s army.
In the summer of 2003, the American Paul Bremer, who ran Iraq as President Bush’s representative and head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, issued two orders: The first sacked 50,000 members of Saddam’s ruling Ba’ath Party from their jobs as civil servants, teachers and administrators.
This made Iraq well-nigh ungovernable since it had been impossible under Saddam to hold a job of any responsibility without being a member of the Ba’ath party. Bremer’s order went further than de-Nazification in Germany after World War II.
The second order disbanded the Iraqi army, throwing 400,000 angry men on to the streets with their weapons. The order directly fuelled the eight-year insurgency against American and allied troops.
Some of the former Iraqi soldiers were recruited by the Iraqi branch of Al Qaeda, have been fighting in Syria and have now returned to Iraq with ISIS.
As the ISIS army marches south towards Baghdad, young men from the city scramble aboard a military truck to enlist in the army to help defend their homes
So, we are reaping what we sowed in 2003. This is not hindsight. We knew in the run-up to war that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein would seriously destabilise Iraq after 24 years of his iron rule.
For all his evil, he kept a lid on sectarian violence. Bush and Blair were repeatedly warned by their advisers and diplomats to make dispositions accordingly.
But, as we now know, very little was done until the last minute; and what was done, as in the case of Bremer’s edicts, simply made things far worse.
The White House and Downing Street were suffused with the naïve view that the introduction of parliamentary democracy would solve all Iraq’s problems. But you can’t introduce democracy like a fast-growing shrub. It takes generations to embed. Because political parties in Iraq have tended to form along ethnic and religious lines, democracy has, if anything, deepened the sectarianism.
The situation is full of ironies. The UK went along with the neocon claim after 9/11 that Saddam and Al Qaeda were collaborating, though there was not a shred of proof. Now an offshoot of Al Qaeda controls perhaps a third of the country and may yet enter Baghdad.
The unintended consequence of our invasion was to give Iran, a member of Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil’, dominant influence in Baghdad. Yet, on the principle that my enemy’s enemy is my friend, we in the West should welcome any efforts by Iran to halt the advance of ISIS.
None of this is nostalgia for Saddam Hussein (though women and religious minorities like Christians might take a different view). But, if the past 13 years have taught us anything, it is that we mess in other countries’ internal affairs at our peril.
Even with meticulous preparation, deep local knowledge and proper articulation between political goals and military means – all absent in Iraq and Afghanistan – military intervention will usually make things worse and create hatreds which are then played out in our own streets.
In 1999, in a speech in Chicago, Blair proclaimed his doctrine of intervention abroad in the name of liberal values. It became the philosophical underpinning for Britain’s invasion of Iraq.
The time has surely come to consign the Blair doctrine to the dustbin of history.
Voir de plus:
Iraq: Isis can be beaten and democracy restored
The Maliki government must win back the trust of its Sunni population to see off the threat of Islamic militants
15 June 2014
The security situation in the northern half of Iraq is grave and worrying, but its wider dangers should not be exaggerated. Last week’s rapid advance of Sunni Muslim fighters of the hardline Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) jihadist militia took Iraq’s army, politicians and western governments by surprise. In this fragile neighbourhood, surprises are always unnerving. The fall of Mosul, Iraq’s second city, undoubtedly dealt a body blow to the authority of the Baghdad government. The ensuing humanitarian problems are alarming, as are UN reports of atrocities committed by the Islamists. US weapons supplied to the Iraqi army have been seized by the militants, more cities and towns closer to the capital are under threat, and Kurdish forces are exploiting the turmoil to extend their territorial control around Kirkuk. The spectre of renewed sectarian warfare has been raised as Iraq’s majority Shia Muslim population is urged to take up arms. Beyond Iraq’s borders, national leaders from Tehran to Washington have begun to talk of direct military intervention, spurred by fears that Iraq may disintegrate – and by a sharp rise in the international oil price.
All serious stuff, for sure. Yet this is a moment to pause and think, not rush blindly in. On the ground, the Isis forces have made significant gains. But in total they are said to number no more than 7,000 men. They have no heavy weapons, no fighter aircraft, no attack helicopters. The further south they advance, the stiffer the resistance and the more stretched their lines of supply. They do not enjoy unanimous support among Sunnis, let alone Iraq’s other minorities. The city of Samarra, well to the north of Baghdad and a holy place for Shia Muslims, has become a first rallying point for government forces and volunteers. Iraq’s army, humiliated last week, nevertheless numbers more than 250,000 active service personnel. Once they recover from their Mosul funk, they should be more than a match for Isis. Despite what Isis says, Iraq is not Syria. With determination and the right kind of leadership, its always delicate balance of power may be restored in time.
In terms of the bigger picture, the suggestion that Iraq is about to implode as a unified nation state appears similarly overcooked. After the usual 48-hour delay while America caught up with events, Barack Obama signalled strong, albeit conditional, support for embattled Baghdad. So, too, did Iran, briefly raising the quixotic fantasy of a Tehran-Washington axis. Iran has its own interests to protect, of course, including its close alliance with the Shia-led government of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. But like the US, it views the prospect of an unchecked Sunni insurgency raging through Iraq and Syria with alarm. China, often absent from the stage during international crises, also swiftly voiced its backing. As the biggest investor in Iraq’s oil industry, Beijing knows instability is bad for business. Even Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival and foremost supporter of Syria’s armed Sunni opposition, could not abide the chaos that would follow an Iraqi implosion.
All these powers have a stake in holding Iraq together. In all probability, they will succeed. Efforts to keep events in Iraq in perspective have been further handicapped by overheated attempts in newsdesks far removed from the frontlines of Samarra and Tikrit to settle old scores. With barely disguised glee, some who opposed the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq now claim to see in the Isis phenomenon the final, cast-iron proof that George W Bush and Tony Blair were both reckless and wrong. Many who supported the war at the time have since changed their minds about the wisdom of that decision, including this newspaper.
But to claim, 11 years on, that what is happening now can be attributed to what was done then is both facile and insulting. It suggests, in a sort of inverted, postmodern neo-colonialism, that Iraqis remain incapable of assuming responsibility for their own country. The invasion, whatever else it did, gave Iraq the chance of democratic self-governance that it would never have experienced under Saddam Hussein. It is this imperfect democracy that is now under threat – and which must now be improved, even as it is preserved.
Iraq faces three immediate challenges. The first is how to win back the trust of Iraq’s Sunni population, largely alienated by the divisive, sectarian politics of the Maliki government. Isis did not succeed in Mosul and elsewhere by military superiority alone. It succeeded because it had the approval, or at least the temporary acquiescence, of Sunni tribal leaders and communities marginalised by Baghdad. In many cases, these are the same people who switched sides in 2007 to help the US defeat al-Qaida in Anbar province, during General David Petraeus’s « surge ». Now they have switched back. But generally speaking, they do not support the extreme forms of Islamist rule advocated by Isis. To beat the jihadists, Baghdad’s Shia bosses must regain the Sunnis’ confidence.
A second challenge is to prevent Iraq’s Kurds discarding the post-Saddam agreements that facilitated the creation of the semi-autonomous Kurdish regional government in the north. Their bloodless takeover of Kirkuk, a city and oil-rich territory disputed through the ages by various ethnic and religious groups, represents a giant if unpremeditated step towards full independence for Kurdistan. That may or may not be a desirable long-term goal. But the way to achieve it is through negotiation and the ballot box, not via backdoor landgrabs. Third, as Obama made brutally clear, Iraq’s government can no longer rely upon an American or western security umbrella. Help may be forthcoming but, first, Iraq’s political leaders must help themselves.
A traumatic week has thus presented Iraq with an opportunity. It must defuse the time-bomb Isis has placed under the Iraqi state. This wholly attainable task should be undertaken primarily by Iraq’s armed forces. International security assistance should be offered, as well as humanitarian help – but immediate, direct western military intervention would be unwise. Iraq is also entitled to demand support from its regional neighbours, including improved co-operation in tackling the terrorist threat they all face. Most of all, however, Iraqis must seize this opportunity to renew, strengthen and broaden the country’s political leadership in order to end further destructive sectarian schisms. In this process, Maliki, as prime minister, has a key role to play. If he cannot do so, he should stand aside.
Voir par ailleurs:
Who’s to blame for Iraq crisis
Derek Harvey and Michael Pregent
June 12, 2014
Editor’s note: Derek Harvey is a former senior intelligence official who worked on Iraq from 2003-2009, including numerous assignments in Baghdad. Michael Pregent is a former U.S. Army officer and former senior intelligence analyst who worked on Iraq from 2003-2011, including in Mosul 2005-2006 and Baghdad in 2007-2010. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors.
(CNN) — Observers around the world are stunned by the speed and scope of this week’s assaults on every major city in the upper Tigris River Valley — including Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city — by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. But they shouldn’t be. The collapse of the Iraqi government’s troops in Mosul and other northern cities in the face of Sunni militant resistance has been the predictable culmination of a long deterioration, brought on by the government’s politicization of its security forces.
The politicization of the Iraqi military
For more than five years, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his ministers have presided over the packing of the Iraqi military and police with Shiite loyalists — in both the general officer ranks and the rank and file — while sidelining many effective commanders who led Iraqi troops in the battlefield gains of 2007-2010, a period during which al Qaeda in Iraq (the forerunner of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) was brought to the brink of extinction.
Al-Maliki’s « Shiafication » of the Iraqi security forces has been less about the security of Iraq than the security of Baghdad and his regime. Even before the end of the U.S.-led « surge » in 2008, al-Maliki began a concerted effort to replace effective Sunni and Kurdish commanders and intelligence officers in the key mixed-sect areas of Baghdad, Diyala and Salaheddin provinces to ensure that Iraqi units focused on fighting Sunni insurgents while leaving loyal Shiite militias alone — and to alleviate al-Maliki’s irrational fears of a military coup against his government.
In 2008, al-Maliki began replacing effective Kurdish commanders and soldiers in Mosul and Tal Afar with Shiite loyalists from Baghdad and the Prime Minister’s Dawa Party, and even Shiite militia members from the south. A number of nonloyalist commanders were forced to resign in the face of trumped up charges or reassigned to desk jobs and replaced with al-Maliki loyalists. The moves were made to marginalize Sunnis and Kurds in the north and entrench al-Maliki’s regime and the Dawa Party ahead of provincial and national elections in 2009, 2010 and 2013.
The dismantling of the ‘Awakening’
It’s no accident that there exists today virtually no Sunni popular resistance to ISIS, but rather the result of a conscious al-Maliki government policy to marginalize the Sunni tribal « Awakening » that deployed more than 90,000 Sunni fighters against al Qaeda in 2007-2008.
These 90,000 « Sons of Iraq » made a significant contribution to the reported 90% drop in sectarian violence in 2007-2008, assisting the Iraqi security forces and the United States in securing territory from Mosul to the Sunni enclaves of Baghdad and the surrounding Baghdad « belts. » As the situation stabilized, the Iraqi government agreed to a plan to integrate vetted Sunni members of the Sons of Iraq into the Iraqi army and police to make those forces more representative of the overall Iraqi population.
But this integration never happened. Al-Maliki was comfortable touting his support for the Sons of Iraq in non-Shiite areas such as Anbar and Nineveh provinces, but he refused to absorb Sunnis into the ranks of the security forces along Shiite-Sunni fault lines in central Iraq.
In areas with (or near) Shiite populations, al-Maliki saw the U.S.-backed Sons of Iraq as a threat, and he systematically set out to dismantle the program over the next four years. As this process played out, we saw its effects firsthand in our interactions with Iraqi government officials and tribal leaders in Baghdad, where it was clear the Sons of Iraq were under increasing pressure from both the government and al Qaeda. By 2013, the Sons of Iraq were virtually nonexistent, with thousands of their sidelined former members either neutral or aligned with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in its war against the Iraqi government.
The disappearance of the Sons of Iraq meant that few Sunnis in western and northern Iraq had a stake in the defense of their own communities. The vast system of security forces and Sunni tribal auxiliaries that had made the Sunni provinces of Iraq hostile territory for al Qaeda was dismantled.
The militant gains in Mosul and other cities of the north and Anbar are the direct result of the removal of the Iraqi security forces commanders and local Sons of Iraq leaders who had turned the tide against al Qaeda in 2007-2008. Those commanders who had a reason to secure and hold territory in the north were replaced with al-Maliki loyalists from Baghdad who, when the bullets began to fly, had no interest in dying for Sunni and Kurdish territory. And when the commanders left the battlefield this week, their troops melted away as well.
What can be done?
The problem will only get worse in the coming months. Now that the Iraqi government’s weakness in Sunni territories has been exposed, other Sunni extremist groups are joining forces with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to exploit the opening. The Baathist-affiliated Naqshbandi Army and the Salafist Ansar al-Sunna Army are reportedly taking part in the offensive as well, and they are drawing support from a Sunni population that believes itself persecuted and disenfranchised by al-Maliki’s government and threatened by Shiite militias that are his political allies.
For six months, Shiite militants have been allowed or encouraged by the government to conduct sectarian cleansing in mixed areas around Baghdad, particularly in Diyala province between Baghdad and the Iranian border. These events contributed to the motivation of Sunnis who have taken up arms or acquiesced in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s offensive.
Even as the ISIS tide rolls southward down the Tigris, there is probably little danger of Baghdad and other Shiite areas falling into Sunni insurgent hands. The Shiite troops unwilling to fight to hold onto Mosul will be far more motivated to fight to protect Shiite territories in central and southern Iraq and to defend the sectarian fault line. This is their home territory, where they have the advantage of local knowledge, and where they have successfully fought the Sunni insurgency for years.
In the north, however, al-Maliki now has two military options. He can reconsolidate his shattered forces along sectarian fault lines to defend Shiite territories in central Iraq, ceding Sunni areas to the insurgency, or he can regroup his security forces at their bases north of Baghdad and mount expeditions to conduct « cordon and search » operations in Sunni areas lost to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
If al-Maliki chooses to regroup and move on Sunni population centers controlled by the ISIS, we are likely to see Shiite troops unfamiliar with Sunni neighborhoods employing heavy-handed tactics, bluntly targeting Sunni military-age males (12-60) not affiliated with the insurgency and further inflaming sectarian tensions as they do so — reminiscent of the situation in many parts of Iraq in 2005-2006.
The problem at its core is not just a matter of security, but politics. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and its allies would not have had the opportunity to seize ground in the Sunni Arab-dominated provinces of Salaheddin, Nineveh and Anbar if there had been more inclusive and sincere political outreach to the mainstream Sunni Arab community.
In the end, the solution to the ISIS threat is a fundamental change in Iraq’s political discourse, which has become dominated by one sect and one man, and the inclusion of mainstream Sunni Arabs and Kurds as full partners in the state.
If al-Maliki truly wishes to restore government control to the Sunni provinces, he must reach out to Sunni and Kurdish leaders and ask for their help, and he must re-enlist former Sons of Iraq leaders, purged military commanders and Kurdish Peshmerga to help regain the territory they once helped the Iraqi government defend.
But these are steps a-Maliki has shown himself unwilling and unlikely to take. At this point, al-Maliki does not have what it takes to address Iraq’s problem — because he is the problem.
While Obama Fiddles
The fall of Mosul is as big as Russia’s seizure of Crimea.
June 11, 2014
The fall of Mosul, Iraq, to al Qaeda terrorists this week is as big in its implications as Russia’s annexation of Crimea. But from the Obama presidency, barely a peep.
Barack Obama is fiddling while the world burns. Iraq, Pakistan, Ukraine, Russia, Nigeria, Kenya, Syria. These foreign wildfires, with more surely to come, will burn unabated for two years until the United States has a new president. The one we’ve got can barely notice or doesn’t care.
Last month this is what Barack Obama said to the 1,064 graduating cadets at the U.S. Military Academy: « Four and a half years later, as you graduate, the landscape has changed. We have removed our troops from Iraq. We are winding down our war in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda’s leadership on the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been decimated. »
That let-the-sunshine-in line must have come back to the cadets, when news came Sunday that the Pakistani Taliban, who operate in that border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, had carried out a deadly assault on the main airport in Karachi, population 9.4 million. To clarify, the five Taliban Mr. Obama exchanged for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl are Afghan Taliban who operate on the other side of the border.
Within 24 hours of the Taliban attack in Pakistan, Boko Haram’s terrorists in Nigeria kidnapped 20 more girls, adding to the 270 still-missing— »our girls, » as they were once known.
Then Mosul fell. The al Qaeda affiliate known as ISIS stormed and occupied the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, population 1.8 million and not far from Turkey, Syria and Iran. It took control of the airport, government buildings, and reportedly looted some $430 million from Mosul’s banks. ISIS owns Mosul.
Iraq’s army in tatters, ISIS rolled south Wednesday and took the city of Tikrit. It is plausible that this Islamic wave will next take Samarra and then move on to Baghdad, about 125 miles south of Tikrit. They will surely stop outside Baghdad, but that would be enough. Iraq will be lost.
Now if you want to vent about » George Bush’s war, » be my guest. But George Bush isn’t president anymore. Barack Obama is because he wanted the job and the responsibilities that come with the American presidency. Up to now, burying those responsibilities in the sand has never been in the job description.
Mosul’s fall matters for what it reveals about a terrorism whose threat Mr. Obama claims he has minimized. For starters, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) isn’t a bunch of bug-eyed « Mad Max » guys running around firing Kalashnikovs. ISIS is now a trained and organized army.
The seizures of Mosul and Tikrit this week revealed high-level operational skills. ISIS is using vehicles and equipment seized from Iraqi military bases. Normally an army on the move would slow down to establish protective garrisons in towns it takes, but ISIS is doing the opposite, by replenishing itself with fighters from liberated prisons.
An astonishing read about this group is on the website of the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. It is an analysis of a 400-page report, « al-Naba, » published by ISIS in March. This is literally a terrorist organization’s annual report for 2013. It even includes « metrics, » detailed graphs of its operations in Iraq as well as in Syria.
One might ask: Didn’t U.S. intelligence know something like Mosul could happen? They did. The February 2014 « Threat Assessment » by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency virtually predicted it: « AQI/ISIL [aka ISIS] probably will attempt to take territory in Iraq and Syria . . . as demonstrated recently in Ramadi and Fallujah. » AQI (al Qaeda in Iraq), the report says, is exploiting the weak security environment « since the departure of U.S. forces at the end of 2011. » But to have suggested any mitigating steps to this White House would have been pointless. It won’t listen.
In March, Gen. James Mattis, then head of the U.S. Central Command, told Congress he recommended the U.S. keep 13,600 support troops in Afghanistan; he was known not to want an announced final withdrawal date. On May 27, President Obama said it would be 9,800 troops—for just one year. Which guarantees that the taking of Mosul will be replayed in Afghanistan.
Let us repeat the most quoted passage in former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s memoir, « Duty. » It describes the March 2011 meeting with Mr. Obama about Afghanistan in the situation room. « As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his, » Mr. Gates wrote. « For him, it’s all about getting out. »
The big Obama bet is that Americans’ opinion-polled « fatigue » with the world (if not his leadership) frees him to create a progressive domestic legacy. This Friday Mr. Obama is giving a speech to the Sioux Indians in Cannon Ball, N.D., about « jobs and education. »
Meanwhile, Iraq may be transforming into (a) a second Syria or (b) a restored caliphate. Past some point, the world’s wildfires are going to consume the Obama legacy. And leave his successor a nightmare.
The Daily signal
June 11, 2014
James Phillips is the senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. He has written extensively on Middle Eastern issues and international terrorism since 1978.
The sudden rout of Iraqi security forces in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, is a humiliating defeat for the Iraqi government, a severe blow to U.S. policy in Iraq, and a strategic disaster that will amplify the threat posed by al-Qaeda-linked terrorists to the United States and its allies.
The swift victory of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), formerly known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, demonstrates the growing threat posed by Islamist militants in the region and the risks inherent in the Obama Administration’s failure to maintain a residual U.S. military training and counterterrorism presence after the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011.
Iraqi security forces collapsed and retreated from Mosul in the face of ISIS militants recruited from Iraq, Syria, and foreign Sunni extremist movements. The defeat underscored the weakness of Iraq’s armed forces, which was apparent long before the U.S. withdrawal.
The insurgents not only captured significant amounts of arms and equipment abandoned by the demoralized security forces; they also seized about 500 billion Iraqi dinars (approximately $429 million) from Mosul’s central bank. This will make ISIS the richest terrorist group ever and enable it to further expand its power by buying the support of Sunni Iraqis disenchanted with the sectarian policies of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shia-dominated government.
Although the resurgence of ISIS has been enabled by Maliki’s heavy-handed rule and the spillover of the increasingly sectarian civil war in Syria, the Obama Administration also played a counterproductive role in downplaying the prospects for an al-Qaeda comeback in Iraq.
The Administration early on made it clear to Iraqis that it was more interested in “ending” rather than winning the war against al-Qaeda in Iraq. As Heritage Foundation analysts repeatedly warned, the abrupt U.S. troop withdrawal in 2011 deprived the Iraqi government of important counterterrorism, intelligence, and training capabilities that were needed to keep the pressure on al-Qaeda and allowed it to regain strength in a much more permissive environment.
Now ISIS, whose leader in 2012 threatened to attack the “heart” of America, poses a rising threat to U.S. security. The bottom line is that the Obama Administration’s rush to “end” the war in Iraq has helped create the conditions for losing the war against al-Qaeda.