Just before mid-June 2014 the Iraqi Shite Government had almost reached the point of total collapse. Many of the soldiers holding the major city of Mosul threw down their weapons and their uniforms and deserted or fled. The Sunni rebel forces were 70 miles north of Bagdad. The Malaki Government seemed to be falling apart.
President Obama is examining the situation and has stated that all options are on the table but that he will not send troops back into the country. Senator John McCain is demanding that we send troops, which were withdrawn 2 1/2 year ago, and he does not want them to leave this time until we have won the war. Among other things he seems to have forgotten that it was President George W. Bush who signed a treaty with Iraq arranging for the withdrawal and he has not mentioned who we have to defeat in order to win the war.
(As a footnote: it seems the Republicans are willing to spend billions of dollars refighting Bush’s Iraq War but not one nickel on creating jobs in the United States or in rebuilding the U.S. infrastructure.)
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has essentially set up a Shite government, basically refusing to share power with the Sunnis. His “so called” democratic government, which was inadvertently set up under U.S. supervision, is a variation of the old Sunni dictatorship that Saddam Hussein ruled under. Maliki has and continues to rejected all U.S. attempts to reform his government and make it a real democracy.
Prior to World War I the entire Middle East was part of the Ottoman Empire, which eventually became Turkey. They were a decaying medieval monarchy on the losing side. Shortly after the end of World War I (1918) the kingdom was divided up by the European allies as mandates, an anachronism for the colonies these states would rule. The boundaries were set arbitrarily for their convenience by the European victors with no real consideration being given to the people within these colonial nations. Neither ethnicity nor religious differences were considerations.
Shortly after World War II, most of these colonial countries, gained their independence either peaceably or through revolts and became sovereign nations. Generally they were now ruled either by absolute kings or military dictators. The boundaries were still those that the Europeans had imposed some thirty years earlier and they continue to exist today.
Iraq became a British mandate (possession). It includes most of Mesopotamia, bounded on the north by Turkey, on the east by Iran, on the south by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and on the west by Jordan and Syria. It has extensive oil deposits.
The kingdom of Iraq was established in 1923, becoming independent in October 1932 under King Faisal I. Actually it became a semi-independent state in alliance with Great Britain and, interestingly, was admitted into the League of Nations. Between 1950 and 1952 Iraq signed oil agreements with foreign oil companies and received 50% of the oil profits. In 1953 Faisal II became the playboy king of the country. In 1958 Iraq became a republic and the monarch was killed. In 1979 Saddam Hussein became Iraq’s president, succeeding and earlier dictator. On August 2, 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait, an oil rich principality.
Prior to the Kuwait invasion President George H.W. Bush sent a plenipotentiary, a roving ambassador, to Iraq to meet with its president. Bush and his advisors had very little knowledge of Iraq and its culture or were overly arrogant. Bush sent a woman (presumably striking a blow for equal rights) and gave her general instructions but no real authority.
To Saddam Hussein the fact that a woman had been sent was both an insult and an indication that the mission was of little consequence to the United States. Apparently, obliquely he asked her what the U.S. response would be to an invasion of Kuwait. She equivocated giving Saddam the impression that there would be no real U.S. reaction. After she left the country Iraq invaded Kuwait. The U.N., under the leadership of the United States, engaged in operation Desert Storm. Bush was wise enough not to invade Iraq after the Iraqis had been pushed out of Kuwait.
Unfortunately his son did not inherit that same wisdom. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld must have wanted a positive victory for the American People after 9/11. They felt the United States should have a great moral and political triumph. With virtually no knowledge of the Middle East, its people, culture and values they decided that an invasion of Iraq would be a win, win situation; that if we served as an international sheriff and invaded Iraq and got rid of its evil dictator, Saddam Hussein, both the Iraqis and the Americans would cheer the greatness of the U.S. Government, their administration. Unfortunately they were wrong, it ended up being a lose, lose situation.
On March 20, 2003 the U.S. and Great Britain invaded Iraq. The Iraqis were never too pleased with having the United States occupy their country and wanted us to leave, eventually passing numerous resolutions in their Parliament to that effect and finally refusing to allow American forces to be exempt from their law and only under American law. On 2008 a “Status of Forces Agreement” was signed by Bush and Maliki. U.S. combat forces would withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009 and all U.S. forces would be completely out of Iraq by December 31, 2011. Also any soldiers committing felonies or other heinous crimes would be subject to Iraqi law.
Bush left it to President Obama to enforce this agreement, which he obviously did to all sort of derogatory comments from Senator John McCain and other Republicans blaming him for the withdrawal.
The Kurdish people, who make up about 32 to 37% of the population are located in the northeast along the Turkish border. The other half of their population is in Turkey north of Iraq. The W.W.I Europeans had split them into two roughly equal parts. On March 18, 1988 Iraq is believed to have used chemical weapons, poison gas, on the Kurds in a dispute with them. The Kurds have consistently wanted to form their own nation
Of the remaining population in Iraq there are two major Muslim groups. The Shi’a that makes up 60 to 65% of that population and the Sunni which consists of 32 to 37%. Both these groups came into existence in 632 A.D. when the religious founder, Mohamed, died. They spit over the question of political and religious succession. By and large the Shia live in the south of the country and the Sunni are in the north. Saddam Hussein was a Sunni Muslim while Nouri al-Maliki is a Shite.
ISIS, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has emerged as one of the major groups fighting the Assad regime in Syria. They want to set up a Sunni caliphate in both Syria and Iraq.
The group is one of the most violent if not the most violent of all the jihadists. It is considered one of the world’s most deadly and active terrorist organizations which frequently and indiscriminately attacks large public gatherings for maximum casualties. They are credited with kidnappings, disappearances, and torture of opponents. Their soldiers keep their faces covered at all times. Al Qaeda has expelled ISIS for being too violent.
To Western nations there is the fear that Syria could become the next Afghanistan, serving as a training ground for jihadists to operate all over the world.
The group has also cultivated support among ordinary Syrians by providing aid to needy people in the form of free medical services, bags of food for the needy and below market fuel. Their gifts are always branded with the group’s black flag.
On April 27, 2014 Iraq military helicopters attacked and destroyed an ISIS convoy of eight vehicles inside Syria. June 5, 2014 ISIS militants stormed the city of Samarra in Iraq before being ousted by Iraqi airstrikes. On June 6 ISIS carried out multiple attacks upon the mostly Sunni city of Mosul in Northern Iraq. June 9 Mosul fell to ISIS control giving them, among other things, the central bank that contained about $429 million. Shortly afterward the ISIS leadership declared that they would pay each man in their army $200 a month.
On June 11, 2014 ISIS seized the essentially Sunni city of Tikit. The victors began seeking out and killing police, soldiers, and civilians who they perceived as being associated with the Shite government. June 15 they captured the city of Tal Afar. ISIS claimed that 1,700 Iraqi soldiers who had surrendered had been executed. They released many images of mass executions on the internet.
What should the United States position toward Iraq be? It looks like a lose, lose situation. The Republican Hawks are demanding that President Obama act, do something. John McCain wants to send troops in to help the legitimate Iraqi government. Lindsey Graham wants to get rid of Nouri al-Maliki. Others are demanding immediate action. Shite Iran has offered to cooperate with the United States in a joint operation.
Shortly before and after the U.S. occupation of Iraq its Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki arrested important Sunni political leaders. A return of the U.S. troops, whose exit President George W. Bush negotiated, would place the U.S. in a subordinate position in deciding policy and place us in the middle of a civil war. What should be the policy of the United States? It’s an interesting and scary question.
Meanwhile ISIS has been successful in taking mostly Sunni dominated areas in Iraq. Will it be as successful in conquering mostly Shite held areas?
President Obama has sent in an additional military group to guard the American Embassy in Iraq. He has also sent in 300 elite forces to act as advisors to the Maliki Government. What does the future hold?
As of Wednesday, June 25, 2014 Maliki, denounced anyone who wants him to step down as going against their constitution. He has categorically refused to step down and allow an interim government to be set up regardless of the level of ISIS’ military successes. This even though an election is coming up and a new government will be formed in July of 2014.
President Obama has stated that Maliki’s retirement is necessary if the Shite Government is to become truly democratic and be able to stop and possibly defeat ISIS. Maliki, on the other hand, has stated that the losses to Iraq are the fault of the United States because they did not deliver all the airplanes that Iraq purchased from the U.S.
Former Sunni soldiers, from generals down who fought against Al Qaeda, when the United States was in Iraq have been decommissioned or expelled from Iraq’s military. I suspect, if they were called, that they would not fight in a Shite dominated state where they are second class citizens. Also if ISIS becomes a benevolent ruler they may split Iraq into two countries, particularly in regions where they are Sunni majorities. We are, after all looking at a civil war. It is important to remember that the Shite Government under Saddam Hussein was not friendly to the United States and that an ISIS run state will hold the same attitude.
What should President Obama do? What would you do if you were in his position?