Iraq: Wheels Within Wheels



The internet has exploded with stories of the ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) taking Mosul in Iraq.  Most of the stories do not do justice to understanding the forces currently at work in Iraq.  One of my favorite websites Strategy Page is very helpful for those wishing to comprehend who the players in Iraq are currently, and their strengths and weaknesses:

June 11, 2014: In the north ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) have driven the security forces out of most of Mosul, the third largest city in Iraq. This is going to get interesting because the Kurds believe Mosul is theirs and have the military force capable of taking and holding it. What has stopped them thus far has been the Iraqi attitude that such a move would be an act of war. Mosul and Kirkuk have oil and until the 1980s were mainly Kurdish. Then Saddam began forcing Kurds further north and giving their homes, land and jobs to poor Sunni Arab families from the south. After 2003 the Kurds came back to reclaim the property Saddam had taken from them. The Sunni Arabs resisted, and continue to resist. The claims of all the Kurdish refugees have never been completely settled and the Kurdish government of the autonomous (since the 1990s when British and American warplanes and commandos aided Kurdish rebels in expelling Saddam’s troops and keeping them out) north threaten to take back Mosul and Kirkuk (and the surrounding oil fields) by force. This would trigger a civil war with the Arabs which would probably end in a bloody stalemate. The Kurds support the Kurdish militias in Mosul who keep Sunni Arab terrorist groups like ISIL at bay and since the Americans left in 2011 the two cities remained the scene of constant ethnic (the Kurds are not Arabs) warfare.  

Through all this the well-armed and organized Kurdish army in the north stayed on their side of the provincial border while the Sunni Arab Islamic terrorists fought the Shia dominated army and police force. In the last year Shia soldiers and police were joined by Shia terrorists and vigilantes carrying out “payback” attacks on Sunni mosques and civilians. This motivated the ISIL to put more armed men into the city and strive for a takeover. The radicals in the Sunni Arab community welcome more violence because they believed that if enough Sunni Arabs were killed by the Shia the Sunni governments in neighboring countries (especially Saudi Arabia and, once the Sunni rebels win, Syria) would intervene and restore the Iraqi Sunni Arabs to power. Most Iraqi Sunni Arabs understand that this would never work, but speaking up against the radicals (including ISIL, which has always been a Sunni supremacist outfit) can get you killed. Despite that threat many Iraqi Sunni Arabs do fight the radicals, but that’s a war they seem to be losing as the Shia are coming to believe that all Sunni Arabs are their enemy and all should be treated roughly. One thing most Sunni Arabs can agree on is the need to be united in dealing with the Shia dominated government. The growing violence led to calls for an autonomous Sunni Arab government in Anbar (the province that comprises most of western Iraq) and that is what ISIL is fighting for now. Mosul is the capital of Nineveh province which is adjacent and to the north of Anbar and has a 500 kilometer border with Syria. Taking control of Mosul gives ISIL another victory and even if it does not last it helps with recruiting and fund raising. ISIL is competing with al Qaeda for recognition as the most effective Islamic terrorist group in the world. Whoever holds that position gets most of the cash donations from the many wealthy Gulf Arabs who support Islamic terrorism and that means ISIL would also get most of the young Sunni men from the Gulf States looking to jihad a bit. ISIL has also made Iraq and Syria the main battleground for the continuation of the ancient battle between Shia and Sunni militants. Saudi Arabia leads the Sunni bloc and Iran the Shia. Overall, the Shia are winning in Syria and that is partly because ISIL has concentrated most of its manpower in eastern Syria and western Iraq in an effort to establish a Sunni Islamic State.

Go here to read the rest.  What may well be going on now is the long predicted three part division of Iraq:  Kurdistan in the North, a Sunni dominated state in Mosul and a Shia state dominated by Iran in the South.  The Shia, by far the most numerous of the factions in Iran, dominated the governments elected after the fall of Saddam.  They had a golden opportunity to mend fences with the Sunni and establish Iraq on a non-sectarian basis.  They failed miserably at this and may end up with a much reduced Iraq as a result, one that may or may not include Baghdad, and be forced to dance to the tune of Iran due to the unwillingness of their soldiers to fight.   As for American interests in Iraq and an increasingly chaotic Middle East, we need have no fear.  The hashtag diplomacy of the Obama administration will no doubt safeguard those.

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  1. There is one word which sums up all that is occurring domestically and internationally: “catastrophe.”

  2. “What may well be going on now is the long predicted three part division of Iraq: Kurdistan in the North, a Sunni dominated state in Mosul and a Shia state dominated by Iran in the South.” Except that Turkey will never tolerate an independent Kurdish state on its Eastern border and there are enough Kurds in the North-West of that country to give the Iranians concerns about it, too.

    Given that the Turkish officer corps is the most nationalist and the most secular element in Turkey, the Turkish armed forces would be more than willing to eliminate ISIL, given the opportunity.

  3. If the United States pulls out completely from Iraq, then will not Iran be tempted to sweep in to fill the void?
    The following analogy isn’t perfect, but history has a nasty way of repeating itself because the state of man does not change – from Daniel chapter 5:
    24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: mene, mene, tekel, and parsin. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; 28 peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
    30 That very night Belshaz′zar the Chalde′an king was slain. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.
    Again, the analogy isn’t perfect, but Obama with his hashtag diplomacy merits the words MENE MENE TEKEL PARSIN. Soon – very soon – the Iranians will have enough Uranium-235 enriched to weapons grade or perhaps even Plutonium-239 from its heavy water Arak nuclear reactor (in spite of Iranian assurances to the contrary). May God have mercy on both Iraq and the United States of America.
    PS, just one well-navigated gun boat having a small fissionable weapon come near a US carrier task force will be sufficient for Obama to utter the words of Augustus Caesar when the 17th, 18th and 19th legions were lost to Arminius:
    Quintili Vare, legiones redde!
    But I digress – again.

  4. I’ve never understood this three part idea? If someone from outside or inside were to effect a division why wouldn’t it just be separating the Kurds from the Arabs? Also the Sunni and the Shia seem to be distributed throughout both of theirs geographical “parts”…a mix. The Sunni and the Shia work together when they want to or in response to outsiders. Ultimately they have to work it out between themselves don’t they? I don’t see any imposed solutions working.
    Is the West (or is Israel) any safer when Islamic states are preoccupied internally, or with each other?

  5. No. In the first place because they can’t keep their domestic squabbles from spilling out into the yard for the neighbors to see. In the second because they only stop fighting with each other long enough to feud with those neighbors. Soon, the entire block is involved in some manner, which disturbs the peace of the rest of the neighborhood.

  6. These squabbles have a way of resolving themselves one way or another. The area of Turkey now referred to by the Kurds as “Northern Kurdistan” used to be known as “Western Armenia,” the Armenian inhabitants having been displaced by the Ottomans in 1894-6 and 1915.

    It is a great mistake to talk of these things in terms of “questions” or “problems,” for a question implies an answer and a problem a solution; conflicts have neither, merely outcomes.

  7. Yes Donald. I just became aware of the Armenian holocaust within the last couple of years. We have to take it upon ourselves to study history since some things are only very rarely mentioned in history classes or books.
    Michael P-S I don’t understand how we Christians can live with the idea that we can not work to solve or answer problems, that we don’t in fact influence the outcomes for good or for ill.
    We have responsibility because we love, and we believe in Good to help shape events. Otherwise it sounds pretty fatalistic. Fatalistic.

  8. Anzlyne wrote, “I don’t understand how we Christians can live with the idea that we can not work to solve or answer problems”
    I agree there are real problems, to which solutions can be found, in health, in agriculture and in many other fields where the human lot can be ameliorated. Politics is not one of them.
    The Catholic political philosopher Carl Schmitt argues that every realm of human endeavour is structured by an irreducible duality. Morality is concerned with good and evil, aesthetics with the beautiful and the ugly, and economics with the profitable and the unprofitable. In politics, the core distinction is between friend and enemy. That is what makes politics different from everything else.

    The political comes into being when groups are placed in a relation of enmity, where each comes to perceive the other as an irreconcilable adversary to be fought and, if possible, defeated. “Every religious, moral, economic, ethical, or other antithesis transforms itself into a political one if it is sufficiently strong to group human beings effectively, according to friends and enemy.”

    Of course, he denies the possibility of neutral rules that can mediate between conflicting positions (the Liberal fallacy); for Schmitt there is no such neutrality, since any rule – even an ostensibly fair one – merely represents the victory of one political faction over another and the stabilised result of past conflicts. Internal order is usually successfully imposed only to pursue external conflict

    “The peaceful, legalistic, liberal bourgeoisie is sitting on a volcano and ignoring the fact. Their world depends on a relative stabilization of conflict within the state, and on the state’s ability to keep at bay other potentially hostile states.”

    And, no, I don’t like it, but that’s the way it is.

  9. I hope the Kurds take Mosul. The Christians will be safe under them. They practice a secular form of Islam and are the most gentle and kind to Christians, however remain with their heads still attached to their bodies.

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