March 2003 – US/NATO invade Al Qaeda Iraq (AQI) begins war against US in Iraq
May 2006 – Nouri al-Maliki forms government under US auspice
Dec 2011–US troops complete their withdrawal
2012 – AQI changes name to ISI, Islamic State of Iraq
Dec 2012 – Major protest in Anbar against Maliki
April 2013 – ISI becomes ISIS, extends into Syria
Jan 2014 – Tribal groups take Falluja and Ramadi in Anbar province
June 10, 2014 – ISIS seizes the province of Nineveh and its capital Mosul
June 11, 2014 – ISIS takes Tikrit and Samarra
June 13, 2014 – ISIS advances towards Baghdad, threatening to take it over
June 13, 2014 – Kurdish autonomous force Peshmerga announces its control over Kurdistan
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, in an interview to the BBC, said regarding the military invasion of Iraq that it was ‘without UN approval and much broader support from the international community’. Replying to another question, he said, ‘it is not in conformity with the UN Charter; from our point of view and from the Charter point of view it was illegal’. Later Kofi’s sonKojo Annan was framed in a UN Oil-for-Food Programme Scandal, of which he was later acquitted and for which Kofi saidthat it was “a witch-hunt from day one as part of a broader Republican political agenda’. After this event, neither Kofi nor the UN ever mentioned the invasion of Iraq with a bad word.
All for the good, the real thing was to rid Iraq from a demonic tyrant and a butcher of his own people – a noble goal to accomplish, for which Bush lied in the UN General Assembly in 2002, saying, ‘United Nations’ inspections also revealed that Iraq likely maintains stockpiles of VX, mustard and other chemical agents… We know that Saddam Hussein pursued weapons of mass murder even when inspectors were in his country… The history, the logic, and the facts lead to one conclusion: Saddam Hussein’s regime is a grave and gathering danger… And Al-Qaeda terrorists escaped from Afghanistan and are known to be in Iraq’.
The fact was that the inspection teams had said before the invasion that Saddam was cooperating and that no evidence of WMD had been found sofar, and the same was reported in several reports after the invasion; and Iraq’s link with Al-Qaeda was later denied by the Pentagon itself. So, on November 5th, 2006, Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death by hanging for the killing of 148 Shiites from Dujail; not for having WMDs, nor for harboring Al-Qaeda, nor for killing tens of thousands of Iraqis as Bush had claimed in his speech. The Project Iraq Body Count has counted over 138,000 violent deaths after the invasion, and they are still counting, as hardly a day goes by in Iraq without a terror-attack.
Still, one must admit that Saddam was a dictator and we need to consider the moral reasons why he should have been removed, in the words of Bush, ‘Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause, and a great strategic goal. The people of Iraq deserve it; the security of all nations requires it. Free societies do not intimidate through cruelty and conquest, and open societies do not threaten the world with mass murder. The United States supports political and economic liberty in a unified Iraq’.
Now, is 148 a mass murder or 138,000! Has the free society of America not intimidated the Iraqi nation with cruelty and conquest! Had Saddam harbored more of Al-Qaeda in Iraq or has the US/NATO! And has the US left Iraq united!
Today, Iraq is bitterly divided into the Shia area around and below Baghdad which is tilted towards Iran; the Sunni area from Falluja to Mosul, which has faced the fiercest of sanctions and terror attacks since the inception of Maliki’s government; and the Kurdish area that has long been highlighted by western think tanks for its right to make a state on the basis of self-determination.
As for the Shia area, its being adjacent to Iran, and its sharing a religious culture with Iran for centuries, creates a natural acceptance between them for each other. The US-led invasion had brought in Nouri al-Maliki, who had been in exile in Damascus and Iran for 24 years before returning and had made close ties with both the Shia regimes and with Hezbollah and had supported Syria’s effort to topple Saddam’s regime. When placed in power, Maliki quickly alienated the Sunni population from government jobs and key positions, and terrorist outfits were allowed to spread terror in Sunni areas. The Sunni-Shia divide was made tobe highlighted with blood and fire, as never had been in the history of Islam; Shia Iraq was practically made another province of Iran, in terms of commerce, political alliance and defense.
The Sunni part of Iraq, labelled as the supporters of Saddam, and squashed by the center by all means, quickly became the hub of tribal outlaw groups that emerged as localized defensive forces where government writ was absent. These groups and the Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) soon became umbrellas for each other; the Sunni population looked upon them as their possible saviors and the AQI looked at the Sunni areas as their possible hideouts.
The Kurds, between all this mess, found a way to fulfill their long-dreamt dream of forming their own state. And the Kurds were never alone in dreaming this dream; just like Baluch nationalism is supported by many western think tanks, and the United Nations allows them to maintain special advocacy councils that are approved and heard by the UN – in the same way, the Kurd nationalism has a special voice under UN auspices. TheUN Security Council resolution 688 supports the Kurdish cause under SPECPOL, which backs them for their right of self determination as a nation and under the plea that their respective states, that have in effect ‘colonized’ them, should decolonize them.
Now, if we look at the maps of insurgency activity in both Syria and Iraq put together, we can easily see that the whole line of activity effectively cordons off the Kurd population of both the countries in such a way that both Baghdad and Damascus have no links with their Kurd territories at all.
The interesting fact is that in the whole time period of the US-led invasion of Iraq and the last three years of the Syrian uprising, the Kurdish territories have enjoyed relative calm; the reason being that the Kurdish leaders had been enjoying relations with the US and its heart-buddy Israel since many decades now. According to Israeli journalist Ksenia Svetlova, ‘the ties between Israel and the Kurds began in the early 1960s, when Israeli intelligence agents operated in Iraqi Kurdistan and helped local authorities. The level of cooperation increased significantly after the fall of Saddam Hussein, with Israeli contractors and companies entering Iraqi Kurdistan and routine reports in Iraqi media about Israeli commandos training the Kurdish peshmerga’.
But let us put the US and Israel aside, and observe how the Kurds have been acting like a state-within-a-state, since long. Of the two major parties of the Kurds, the leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party, Massoud Barzani, has always been tilted towards Iran. In 1975, in the Algiers Accord, Iran agreed to stop supplying the Kurds with arms in their struggle against Iraqi leadership. Following the agreement, Mustafa Barzani and over 100,000 followers crossed the border into Iran (and) thousands of other Iraqi Kurdish fighters surrendered to government forces (Source).
Yet again, in the Iran-Iraq War from 1980 to 1988, the KDP covertly sided with Iran, and helped it gain the territory of Hajj Umran from Iraq. When the war ended, Saddam issued the Anfa’al Campaign, wherein thousands of Kurds lost their lives and human rights violations were committed against them. The other major Kurdish party, the Patriotic Union Kurdistan, was established in Damascus, under the leadership of Jalal Talabani. Though Talabani had remained anti-Iran for a time, but by the end of the Iran-Iraq War, Iran had been successful to an extent to unite both the parties under its funding; Barazani and Talabani made their joint Kurdish Front.
Before the US-led invasion of Iraq, the US proposed to the Kurds to allow Turkish forces to enter Iraq via the Kurd region, but they refused. The US had asked the favor because ever since the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, when the US had led a coalition force of 34 countries to attack Iraq for its invasion of Kuwait, the US and its allies the UK, France, Australia, Netherlands and Turkey, had been permanently present in the Kurd region; first, till 1996 for Operation Comfort Provider and immediately after that for Operation Northern Watch, right until the 2003 invasion. In 2003, after bombing Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk were targeted, hundreds of paratroopers were alighted in Irbil and the northern front was established – the US and the Kurdish forces jointly took control of Kirkuk and Mosul.
So how does this relate to the ISIS?
The ISIS began as ISI in Iraq in as a representative of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, in 2004, under al-Zarqawi; after he was killed in 2006, al-Rashid al-Baghdadi became the ameer. In 2010, al-Rashid was killed and Abu Baker al-Baghdadi proclaimed the leadership of ISI. In April 2013, after the uprising in Syria, ISI extended its activities in Syria too, changing its name to ISIS or ISIL. In January 2014, in Syria, Jabhat-un-Nusrah and other rebel groups proclaimed ISIS as a most ruthless and brutal jihadist force and infighting against the ISIS began; most fighters were called back to Iraq, and the ISIS favoring tribal groups took Fallujah; in June, they took Mosul, Tikrit, Tel Afar, Al-Qaim, Rawah, Anah and Rutba – and proclaimed Caliphate.
Now, will the ISIS advance to take over Baghdad as they have threatened and give yet another blow to Iran’s influence in the region – squeezing Russian interest further into retreat? Will the ISIS chalk its activities in such a way that the Kurdish Governate will feel independent of any threat from the centre, and with technical and military support from US-led alliances, opt for immediate proclamation of independence and an establishment of a Kurdish state within former Iraq?
Or is this artificial Caliphate going to sustain for several months or years more, in a wishy washy manner – prolonging instability in the region to an extent that the Kurds can take away some parts of Syria, Turkey and Iran as well to make what would be a true Kurdistan – thus paving the way of not just a balkanized Iraq, but a balkanized Middle East?
So while the first ‘Altai tanker carrying crude oil from the Kurdish region docks in Ashkelon, Israel, on June 20’, via Turkey’s pipelines, and while Iran had funded the Kurds to weaken Saddam – they both will remain wary of their own Kurdish populations tying up with the other Kurds and trying to break away.
Discuss this topic on Defence.pk