The Future of Iraq
By Joseph Puder
FrontPageMagazine.com | 8/23/2007
On September 15, 2007, General David Petraeus is scheduled to deliver his report on Iraq to the U.S. Congress. President Bush has stated that he would follow General Petraeus recommendations. According to the Times of London (8-16-07) Petraeus “would recommend troops reductions by next summer, but cautioned against a significant withdrawal.” The Times reported that Petraeus qualified his remarks, saying that the “U.S. footprint in Iraq would have to be a good bit smaller by next summer.” At the same time Petraeus also signaled “the surge would continue into next year” and, he gave warning against a quick and hefty withdrawal that “would surrender the gains we have fought so hard to achieve.”
The German weekly Der Spiegel reported on Aug. 18, 2007 that a new study released last Wednesday in Berlin on the Iraqi situation concluded that Iraq’s future is “not too bright,” and that “already today, the main priority is to prevent Iraq from breaking apart completely.” The study concluded that there is little hope of a centralized power in Iraq and that the country’s future depends on walking the fine line between decentralization of power and a civil war.” Guido Steinberg, a terrorism and Middle East expert authored the study titled Iraq Between Federalism and Collapse, published by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.
Steinberg’s basic assumption is “that a federalist solution will be the only possibility to maintain Iraq as a single country. The most important role (for) German and European policies should therefore be that of supporting steps toward a peaceful federalist solution.” If federalism fails, Steinberg asserts, “the result would be devastating, including the possibility of full scale civil war complete with foreign intervention.”
General Petraeus’ report notwithstanding, the current Iraqi government of Nuri al-Maliki is dysfunctional, and the likelihood that Maliki will be able to create a viable government is in doubt. The recent withdrawal of Sunni cabinet members has basically sealed the fate of the Mailiki government. Of the 18-benchmarks set up for the Iraqi government to act upon, key ones have been ignored or remain unfulfilled.
A unitary government in Iraq is a pipe dream that the Bush administration will be compelled to abandon sooner or later – preferably sooner. Like Humpty Dumpty, Iraq – once broken cannot be put together again. Under the cruel and punishing rule of Saddam and his Baathist predecessors, Iraq trudged through by force. The minority Sunni-Arabs lorded over a majority of Shiite and Kurds since 1932. And now the Iraqi Army is gone, as is the Baathist fear apparatus. No mechanism currently exists that could compel the Kurds and the Shiites to be subjugated once again to a Sunni minority rule. The Sunnis however, believe in their “right” to rule Iraq, and will never allow Iraq to be dominated by the Shiites – whom they consider heretical.
Winston Churchill contributed a great deal to the survival of democracy and the defeat of Nazism. He was perhaps the greatest statesman of the 20th century. But even Churchill made fatal errors. One of them being the arbitrary and irrational creation of Iraq – an inorganic mix of disparate and antagonistic groups that he hoped would allow British interests control over oil in the Kurdish north and the Shiite south.
The Kurds, who had sought independence from Ottoman/Turks, Arab, and Iranian rule, were promised autonomy in the Treaty of Sevres (1920), but had their rights to any form of self-determination squashed when the Allies signed the Treaty of Lausanne in1923. The British ignored their rights as well as those of the majority Shiite Arab population.
Today, the Kurds with their capital in Erbil, are conducting themselves as an independent state. The regional government of Kurdistan has its own assembly, flag, army, and constitution and serves as the best example of a functioning state and a nascent democracy. The Shiites in Southern Iraq are also building their own state institutions, albeit, an Islamic state modeled after the theocracy in Iran. The Sunni Arabs remain uncompromising in their quest for reversing reality. Arrangements for a fair distribution of oil revenues might help persuade the Sunnis to join in a federated Iraq, which might create a measure of stability and eventually end the current Sunni insurgency against the Shiite dominated government.
The argument for a multi-religious and/or multi-ethnic federalized Iraq is however weakened by the Yugoslav experience. Held together by its strongman Josip Broz Tito until 1980, the federation unraveled within a decade of his death, coinciding with the end of Soviet domination over the East/Central European states (former Soviet Bloc) and the emergence of nationalism and democracy. In Yugoslavia, it culminated in a series of wars between the Serbs (Orthodox Christians) and the Croats (Catholic), and between the Serbs, Croats, and Muslims in Bosnia. The wars led to the independence of all the components of former Yugoslavia.
While Iraq’s prospects as a federal state are still unclear, there are visible indications that the Kurds and the Shiites are opting for independence. Justice requires that the Kurds be granted the right of self-determination. America owes the Kurds much more than the Palestinians (the Bush administration is currently pushing for an independent Palestinian state), and a free and democratic Kurdistan would leave the Bush administration with a proud legacy.
As hopeful as General Petraeus’ report might be, it will not change the political realities in Iraq. Neither the U.S. government nor General Petraeus will be able to accommodate the demands of the three main groups that make up the current Iraq: Shiite Arabs, Sunni Arabs, and non-Arab Kurds. To prevent an Iranian takeover (perhaps unavoidable in the Shiite south) of Iraq or interference by outside forces, the U.S. might consider stationing its reduced troop levels in friendly and pro-America Kurdistan (despite the fact that the Bush Sr. administration abandoned them to Saddam Hussein’s genocide after encouraging them to rebel).
The Kurds would welcome American bases in Kurdistan as protection from the Turks (who have threatened invasion if they declare their independence) and for economic reasons. U.S. bases in Kurdistan would keep our troops safe while within striking distance of all points in Iraq, Iran and Syria.
High Stakes Game in Northern Iraq
By Kenneth R. Timmerman
FrontPageMagazine.com | 8/23/2007
Over the past week, with Iranian shells raining down on Iraqi villages in Kurdish areas along the border zone in the north, Iran’s leaders have engaged the United States in a high stakes game that has gone virtually unreported in the elite media.
Iran has massed thousands of troops along its northwestern border in preparation for a ground assault against Iranian Kurdish fighters who have sought refuge in the rugged Qanbil mountains in northwestern Iraq.
On Tuesday, villagers found leaflets bearing the official Islamic Republic of Iran logo, ordering them to leave the area or face the consequences.
“Our enemies, mainly the Americans, are trying to plant security hurdles in our country (Iran),” the leaflets said. “They achieve this through using agents in the areas of Qandil and Khanira inside the Kurdish region. ‘The authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran will work on cleansing this area.”
Hundreds of Iraqis from the villages of Qandoul and Qal’at Diza, close to the Iranian border in the province of Sulaymanyah, fled as a result of the Iranian shelling, according to wire service accounts.
Should Iran be allowed to carry out its planned attack, it would amount to an overt aggression against its neighbor. But the potential damage is far worse, because of the deep U.S. engagement in Iraq.
A successful Iranian attack against opposition Kurds from the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (known as PJAK) based in Iraq, will strike a triple blow against America.
Not only will the Iranians have violated Iraq’s sovereignty, guaranteed until now by the United States; they will have shown that despite the presence of 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, the United States “can do nothing” against Iran, as the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, liked to say.
Even worse: if the United States sits this one out, we will send a terrible message to Iranian opponents of the regime in Tehran that despite all our calls for “freedom” and “democracy” in Iran, we will not intervene to prevent them from being massacred, even when we have the opportunity and the forces in place to save them from certain death.
And yet, unless Congress and the White House react immediately, that is precisely what is going to happen.
An Iranian victory in northern Iraq will have far-reaching consequences, and will further embolden president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is engaged in political, military, and intelligence hardball with the United States on multiple fronts, including inside Iraq.
Just last week, U.S. forces arrested another “high-priority” Iranian Revolutionary Guards officer in Baghdad, and accused him of funneling aid to Iraqi insurgents.
U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver announced the arrest on August 15, and said that coalition forces “will continue their focused operations against unhelpful Iranian influence interfering in Iraq.”
An unnamed U.S. official said that the Iranian Guardsman was responsible for smuggling explosively-formed penetrators, Katyusha rockets and other weapons into Iraq, and “had direct ties to senior militant leaders and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force.”
Another U.S. military spokesman. Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, told reporters in Iraq on Aug. 14 that Iran had recently provided 240 mm long-range rockets to insurgents in Iraq for attacks on U.S. forces.
“The 240 mm rocket is a large-caliber projectile that has been provided to militia extremists groups in the past along with a range of other weapons from Iranian sources,” Bergner said.
Similar Iranian-made rockets I examined last summer in Haifa and in other northern Israel towns and cities had been fired against Israeli civilian targets by Hezbollah with warheads containing thousands of miniature ball-bearings, designed to kill and maim.
On May 25, PKK guerillas in Turkey derailed a train bound for Syria for Iran, ostensibly carrying construction materials. When prosecutors went through the wreckage they found an Iranian-made rocket launcher and 300 rockets bound for Hezbollah in Syria, according to Turkish press reports.
There is no way those weapons could have transited Turkey on the Turkish national railroad without someone in the Turkish government knowing what was going on.
Iran is banking on its secret “entente” with Turkey – to supply Hezbollah through Syria, and to smash the bases of each other’s opposition Kurds in Iraq – to deter the United States from any military intervention in northern Iraq.
The Turks have been threatening for months to go after the PKK, who have tens of thousands of fighters training in camps inside Iraq, along the Turkish border.
And so the Iranians have spread the rumor, which until now has been accepted at face value, that its own Kurdish dissidents (PJAK) are actually the Iranian branch of the PKK, which the U.S. has designated as an international terrorist organization.
The State Department took Turkey’s insistence that PJAK was allied with the PKK seriously enough that it refused to meet earlier this month with visiting PJAK leader, Rahman Haj Ahmadi, despite his open support for the U.S. military presence in Iraq and his identification with U.S. goals in the region.
Both the PKK and PJAK have training camps in the Qanbil mountain range in northern Iraq. But because of the difficult geography, and their different needs, they inhabit “different sides of the mountains,” Rahman Ahmadi told me in Washington.
“The PKK doesn’t need us,” he said. “They have tens of thousands of fighters, and hundreds of thousands of sympathizers.”
But Ahmadi acknowledges that PJAK and the PKK cooperate to a certain degree, if only to prevent clashes between their own fighters.
“The president of the Iraqi Kurdish Regional government, Massoud Barzani, also has an agreement with the PKK,” he told me. “Does that make Barzani a supporter of the PKK?”
This is not the first time the Turks have played us in Iraq. In 2003, on a flimsy pretext of domestic opposition, they successfully prevented the 4th Infantry Division from crossing Turkey to join coalition forces that liberated Iraq from Saddam Hussein.
We can sit by and allow Iran to violate Iraq’s sovereignty, defy the U.S. military, and smash a significant Iranian opposition group on the slim pretext that Iran is “merely” seeking to punish its own rebels, just as Turkey.
Or we can extend protection to the Iranian Kurds who have established training camps in the rugged mountains of northeastern Iraq, and inflict a double blow on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Clearly, the Iranians believe they can thumb their noses at the U.S. military. For more than a week, they have conducted intermittent shelling of Iraqi Kurdish villages in the general vicinity of suspected PJAK bases.
My Iranian sources tell me that the Iranians are hoping to expel PJAK from the area and replace them with Ansar al-Islam, the precursor group to al Qaeda in Iraq,
“They want to send Saad Bin Laden, who is currently in Iran under Iranian government protection, into a new base inside Iraq,” one source told me.
Saad Bin Laden is Osama Bin Laden’s eldest son, who is widely viewed as the heir to his terrorist empire, should his father die. He was given refuge in Iran shortly after al Qaeda evacuated its bases in Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks.
PJAK is a natural ally of the United States. They seek to unite Iranians to overthrow the dictatorship of the clergy in Iran, and to work together to build a future secular democracy.
We don’t have to provide them weapons, or money, or training. But if we allow Iranian Revolutionary Guards troops to attack PJAK inside Iraq with impunity, we may as well pack up and leave – not just Iraq, but the entire region. Because we will have no credibility left.
If instead, if we seize this opportunity to smash an Iranian Revolutionary Guards offensive with massive force, we could send a message that will make Iran’s leaders think twice before messing with us again.
It’s about time we made Iran’s leaders pay a price for killing Americans and undermining America’s allies. Here is a terrific opportunity to get that job done.
Baghdad – Voices of Iraq
Wednesday , 22 /08 /2007 Time 9:11:33
Baghdad, Aug 22, (VOI)- Iraqi security forces killed 56 gunmen on Wednesday during a security crackdown in al-Fadhel area, central Baghdad, the spokesman for the Interior Ministry said.
“Iraqi security forces launched a military operation, today, in al-Fadhel area in hunt for the Qaeda militants in the area, killing 56 of them,” General Abdul Karim Khalaf told a news conference.
The spokesman added “the operation has been the outcome of the cooperation between the local residents in al-Fadhel and the Iraqi security forces.”
“The forces clashed with the Qaeda militants, killing 56 of them while others who survived the operation fled the area,” General Khalaf also said.
Over the past months, Iraqi and U.S. forces have launched many military operations in hunt for the militants based in Al-Fadhel area.
The Surge Straddle
By Jacob Laksin
FrontPageMagazine.com | 8/22/2007
As an exercise in counterintuitive reasoning, see if you can identify the authors of these recent quotes:
“More American troops have brought more peace to more parts of Iraq. I think that’s a fact.”
“The military aspects of President Bush’s new strategy in Iraq … appear to have produced some credible and positive results.”
“We’ve begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in Al Anbar Province, it’s working.”
A White House spokesman? General Petraeus? A Fox News talking head or a FrontPageMag.com columnist?
None of the above. All three quotes come courtesy of top Democratic senators. The first is from Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois; the second is from Michigan’s Carl Levin; and the third is from none other than Hillary Clinton.
That may come as a surprise. Despite his newly discovered appreciation for the armed forces, Sen. Durbin is best known for sliming American troops at Guantanamo Bay as the effective heirs of “Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings.” Still, Durbin is apparently willing to acknowledge that these savages, coldly indifferent to human suffering, are bringing “peace” to Iraq.
Likewise, his colleague Carl Levin has been one of the loudest anti-war voices in the Senate. It was only last month that Levin drafted a failed bill that would have forced the U.S. to begin withdrawing troops in the next four months, a deliberate attempt to scuttle the same strategy to which Levin now ascribes “credible and positive results.”
As for Clinton, she has worked tirelessly in the past year to distance herself from her initial support of the war effort. In May, she went so far as to vote against funding for the war so long as the United States remained committed to the “surge.” That would be the same surge that she now believes is “working.”
To conclude from this that the senators are willing to support American war policy is to underestimate the depths of cynicism in the Democratic Party. No sooner had Sen. Clinton praised the surge in her Monday speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention than she insisted that the surge was a failure after all. “We’re just years too late changing our tactics,” Clinton averred.
But the prize for least logical transition should properly go to Clinton’s rival Barack Obama, who used the occasion of his Tuesday appearance at the convention to laud the troops in Iraq for having “performed brilliantly and bravely,” only to conclude that the surge was… a failure undeserving of continued support. “No military surge, no matter how brilliantly performed, can succeed without political reconciliation and a surge of diplomacy in Iraq and the region,” Obama intoned.
Such bracketed indictments of the surge may sound better than Harry Reid’s reckless claim that “this war is lost, and this surge is not accomplishing anything.” Substantively, however, they amount to the same thing.
How to account for the senators’ rhetorical schizophrenia? The most parsimonious answer is that Democrats want to have it both ways. By acknowledging the success of the surge, they are bowing to a hopeful and cresting empirical consensus — buttressed by a recent op-ed in the New York Times by Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack, of the left-of-center Brookings Institution — that the added troop strength of the surge has measurably increased security in the country and, more optimistically, that Iraq is a winnable war. By insisting that the surge is nonetheless a failure, they are telling their anti-war supporters precisely what they want to hear. Whether this contradictory position — call it the “surge straddle” — is smart politics remains to be seen. That it represents a failure of leadership is undeniable.
It would be no easy task to explain why a successful military strategy should be aborted mid-course — and, indeed, Democrats have declined to offer a coherent explanation. Instead, they have sought to move the goal posts of debate. Their argument runs something like this. True, the surge is showing signs of progress. But the Iraqi government has heretofore proved a failure. Therefore, the surge is a failure.
Lest you think this a caricature, consider that it is just a paraphrase of Carl Levin’s recent statement. Conceding that the “level of violence has been reduced in a number of areas” as a consequence of the surge, Levin maintained that it must still be considered a failure: “The purpose of the surge, by its own terms, was to…give the opportunity to the Iraqi leaders to reach some political settlements. They have failed to do that. They have totally and utterly failed.” In other words, we’re winning, but we can’t win. That’s the surge straddle in a nutshell.
It suffers from one obvious flaw. A principal reason for the Iraqi government’s (admitted) failure is the persistence of terrorist violence and sectarian strife. It was this violence that the surge was intended to stem and, by Levin’s admission, it is doing so. It follows, then, that prematurely withdrawing troops from Iraq all-but-guarantees that the Iraqi government will never gain control of the country. Thus do the Democrats’ declarations of failure become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In her remarks before the VFW this week, Sen. Clinton dwelled at length on her desire to restore America’s image overseas. “People have to root for America,” she said. It’s a fine sentiment. But what a pleasant change it would be if the senator and her party would occasionally lead by example.