Archive for the ‘Iraq’ Category

Can Anyone Stop Iran From Taking Over Iraq? – New York Times

Ahead of next years general election, a large majority of Iraqs political forces are seeking to reinforce their independence from Iran. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who can take credit for the recent victories against the Islamic State, has long had strained relations with Iran. Now he has become a critic of lawless behavior in some elements of the security forces, including Iranian-backed groups. His governments position has been to strengthen state institutions and to reinforce the chain of command.

Meanwhile, Ammar al-Hakim, one of Iraqs leading politicians and the scion of one of the countrys most prominent Shiite families, announced in late July that he would leave the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, a political party that his family founded in Tehran with Iranian assistance in the 1980s. He has also formed his own party, from which he continues to establish his independence from Iran.

The Sadrist movement, which represents millions of poor Shiite Muslims in Baghdad and throughout southern Iraq, has also openly aligned itself in the anti-Iranian camp. The grass-roots movements leader, Moktada al-Sadr, paid a visit this summer to Saudi Arabia, Irans biggest regional rival. He also visited the United Arab Emirates, another Sunni state that opposes Iran. These trips were intended to help develop bilateral relations and, thus, Iraqs independence from Iran.

The only major political coalition to have formally adopted a pro-Iranian approach is led by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Since leaving office in 2014, Mr. Maliki has been tainted by the armed forces humiliating defeat by the Islamic State, for which he has rightly been blamed, and which has affected his popularity. He has since sought to reinvent himself as the patron saint of a pro-Iranian militant Iraq that is in confrontation with an ever-growing list of conspirators, including Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Kurds and the United States, among others.

With nearly all of Iraqs political forces lined up against Iran in 2018, it looks likely that the pro-Iranians will be trounced at the ballot. And yet it looks just as likely that this will have little effect on Irans influence in Iraq.

In Iraqs electoral system, its very difficult for any one alliance to take much more than 20 percent of the vote. This means the various alliances must engage in horse trading and coalition building to form a government. As parties try to secure lucrative ministries, they will lose sight of the goals that they campaigned on like Iraqi independence. Like every government formed since the invasion in 2003, the next one will be made up of parties pulling the country in different directions. It is a recipe for inaction and Iran will prey on this.

Neither the United States nor Saudi Arabia nor any other country will be able to have a decisive influence. Outside countries have consistently failed to positively influence Iraqi politics. If these parties really want to prevent Iranian influence, they should provide assistance to security units, like the Counter Terrorism Service, which has been by far the most effective force against the Islamic State. The continued success of professional security services, rather than Iran-backed paramilitary groups, will allow for Iraq to guarantee its own security.

Against this backdrop, there remains one wild card that could present a real challenge to Iranian domination: intervention by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraqs Shiite spiritual leader.

In 2014, Ayatollah Sistani issued a fatwa that called for Iraqis to defend the country against the Islamic State. In response, tens of thousands of Shiites joined the army and other groups, including pro-Iranian paramilitary forces. The fatwas unintended effect was to give these groups some form of religious legitimacy. Many commentators have speculated that Ayatollah Sistani may now be on the cusp of rescinding his fatwa, which could, in turn, force the Popular Mobilization Forces to dissolve.

For now, that seems unlikely. The Popular Mobilization Forces enjoy broad legitimacy for their contribution to the war effort, and many Iraqis prefer that they be maintained as part of the official security forces. Even Mr. Abadi has opposed any such dissolution for many of these same reasons.

But a new fatwa from Ayatollah Sistani, following the total liberation of Iraqi territories from the Islamic State, could redefine the obligations of those Iraqis who volunteered in 2014 as being to support Iraqs army and police which prohibits Iraqis from engaging in any actions that would undermine Iraqs national sovereignty. Mr. Abadi has already insisted that the Popular Mobilization Forces are prohibited from acting outside of Iraq. If the religious establishment supported the prime minister in this, it could nudge Iraq toward greater independence from Iran.

Since 2003, Ayatollah Sistani and the religious establishment have largely failed to control the worst tendencies in Iraqi politics. Now the stakes are so high that there is reason to hope for more decisive action. Iraqs future is in their hands. The margin for error is worryingly small.

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Can Anyone Stop Iran From Taking Over Iraq? – New York Times

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August 15, 2017   Posted in: Iraq  Comments Closed

Netanyahu Backs Partitioning Iraq for Kurdish State – teleSUR English

Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani recently warned about bids to break up Iraq, saying the partitioning of Arab countries serves the interests of Israel.

During a meeting with a U.S. delegation, Israels Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed interest in partitioning Iraq.

RELATED: Israels Netanyahu Faces Growing Legal Pressures Here’s Why

The Prime Minister told the group of 33 congressmen that he favored the establishment of an independent Kurdish state in the Arab country.Israel has a longstanding relationship with the Kurds, who remains one of its few non-Arab allies in the area.

The Jerusalem Post reported that a source who attended the meeting said Netanyahu referred to the Kurds as brave, pro-Western people who share our values.

Netanyahu previously spoke on the issue in 2014 when he said in a speech that Israel should support the Kurdish aspiration for independence.

Two months ago Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani warned about bids to break up Iraq, saying the partitioning of Arab countries serves the interests of Israel.”The Zionist regime seeks Iraq’s disintegration, Larijani accused during a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Tehran.

A report published in the New Yorker magazine in 2004 said Israeli military and intelligence operatives were active in Kurdish areas and providing training for commando units.

According to the report, Israel has been expanding its presence in Kurdistan and encouraging Kurds, its allies in the region, to create an independent state.

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Netanyahu Backs Partitioning Iraq for Kurdish State – teleSUR English

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August 14, 2017   Posted in: Iraq  Comments Closed

Sunni leader: You can’t rule Iraq by sword, Kurdish separation justified – Rudaw

BAGHDAD, IraqIraqi Sunni politician and leader of the Ummah Party Mithal al-Alusi says that Iraq has failed its people and that the Kurds are justified in their quest for separation and the establishment of a state of their own. This is a cardboard state, says al-Alusi in an interview with al-Iraqiya state television. The Kurds have the right to say: I dont want to be part of such a failed state. Al-Alusi, who describes himself as a secular politician from Anbar, cites the interference of regional countries as proof of Iraqs failure. Is Qasem Soleimani entering Iraq on a visa? Does he have residency permit? he asks. Iranian intelligence working as advisors is this sovereignty? Saudi money piling up with the Sunnis, is this Iraqi sovereignty and an intact state? Soleimani is the commander of Irans Quds Force who is said to have been hired by the Iraqi government as an advisor to the defense ministry. Al-Alusi who has been elected twice to the parliament and is a proponent of good relations with the West, including Israel, believes that Iraq has violated its own constitution which has given the Kurds a reason to seek a path of separation. We all voted for and agreed on this constitution that stipulates the unity of Iraq, but where has it got now and what democracy have we Iraqis got? he says. He argues that you cannot keep a nation together by force. A referendum is not against the nation of Iraq, and the nation you are talking about was created by sword and stick by Saddam Hussein, he tells the Iraqi news channel. If thats the nation you want then Im neither part of it nor represent it. Al-Alusi says that Iraqi politics, especially the structure of the government does not reflect the countrys diversity. Kurds, Yezidis, Christians, Sunnis and even some Shias cannot feel that this sectarian government represents them, he retorts. Bring me ten Iraqis who would say this has been working system. Ten ordinary people not politicians. When you say that the PM must be a Shiite I as a secular man wont accept that. When the speaker of the house must be a Sunni, I wont accept, he goes on to say. Why not a Yezidi or a Christian? Al-Alusi refers to a time when Iraqi politicians were seeking to change the former Iraqi regime from inside Kurdistan. We all Iraqi politicians used to fight on Kurdish soil under one slogan: democracy for Iraq and freedom for Kurds, he says. Have we given the Kurds any of their rights? He concludes that not only the Kurds, but all Iraqis have the right to choose their own path as he warns that that might be the case given todays reality. If the Kurds chose this path, are we going to fight them with an army? he says. With this situation there is going to be a hundred states.

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Sunni leader: You can’t rule Iraq by sword, Kurdish separation justified – Rudaw

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August 11, 2017   Posted in: Iraq  Comments Closed

Ending Iraq’s Humanitarian Crisis – Blogs – Jerusalem Post – The Jerusalem Post mobile website (blog)

Iraq, once the cradle of civilization, has and continues to experience one of the most horrific violent conflicts in modern history that defies any semblance of civilized humanity. It is hard to imagine the mammoth death and destruction that has been inflicted on the Iraqi people by foreign powers and domestic terrorism. Yet, the country can still overcome the horrors of the past 14 years, provided its leaders correctly reassess the changing regional and domestic dynamics and agree to allow all Iraqis, regardless of their sect and cultural orientation, to choose their own political and civil structure.

Since the invasion of Iraq by the US and its allies in 2003, up to 500,000 civilians have been killed. From 2006, there have been 40,000 recorded terrorist attacks averaging more than 7,100 deaths per year. Nearly 225,000 have become refugees, and 3.1 million are internally displaced. The destruction of infrastructure and socio-economic dislocation created widespread hunger and disease, especially among the tens of thousands of children who are vulnerable and suffering from malnutrition. All this human and material devastation culminated with the rise of ISIS that has ravaged the country, while the internal indiscriminate terrorism between Sunnis and Shiites continues unabated.

This tragedy is unfolding as the Iraqi government and people are still languishing in the shadow of death and ruin, wandering about the political wilderness in search of ways to piece the country back together in the wake of ISIS eventual defeat. These efforts, however, may well prove to be an exercise in futility.

The Abadi government ignores the fact that the Iraqi Kurds are on the verge of establishing their own independent state following the upcoming mid-September referendum, and that the Sunnis will reject the status quo ante and never again subjugate themselves to the whims of a Shiite government in Baghdad.

Having suffered intense discrimination, oppression, and wanton violence perpetrated against them, especially during the eight years of the Maliki government, the Sunni community has long since concluded that their future wellbeing depends on their will and ability to govern themselves. They are determined to follow the footsteps of their Kurdish counterparts by establishing autonomous rule as a prerequisite to ending Sunni-Shiite bloodshed.

The carnage between the two sides that started immediately following the 2003 Iraq war continues to rage, claiming the lives of hundreds each week, and is unlikely to abate as long as: a) the Iraqi government and outside powers, including the US, are still absorbed by the illusion of maintaining Iraqs geographical unity; and b) Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia are waging a proxy war in Iraq to secure their geostrategic interests to become the regions hegemon.

In many ways, the rise of ISIS and its control over much of the Sunnis three provinces further deepens the Sunnis resolve to fight for their independence from any internal or external power. In addition to the egregious mistreatment they have suffered under the Maliki government, the Sunnis endured the brunt of ISIS brutality and horrific ruling methods.

Children were affected the most, as they were witnessing the unspeakable cruelty of ISIS in real time. Children were recruited to commit the most heinous crimes; hundreds of thousands have been traumatized as they were forced to watch beheadings and the gruesome treatment of innocent bystanders suspected of committing petty crimes.

The liberation of Mosul offers a new beginning to build a promising future for Iraq. In that regard, I maintain that Iraqs strength rests on the three main sects becoming first politically independent from one another. The central government must support the establishment of an independent Sunni entity and amend the constitution to reflect the new political and territorial divisions.

Internally, the Iraqi government must address the endemic corruption which consumes nearly one third of the countrys revenue, establish a fair and impartial judiciary, engage in economic development, and refrain from infringing on the Kurds and Sunnis internal or external affairs as they put their own houses in order.

Given that the Sunnis three provinces have no oil, their economic development depends on securing their share of revenue by passing the long-anticipated oil law. In addition to that, the new Sunni entity would need the financial support from the Gulf states, the US, and the EU to become a viable entity.

The central Shiite-led government in Baghdad must not hold them hostage by denying them their legitimate share, thereby preventing them from establishing their own state. This would be the recipe for continuing bloodshed and destruction that will only deepen the gulf between them, to the detriment of the countrys future.

The benefits of this roadmap are enormous, as it will first impact directly on the future stability of Iraq, and bring an end to the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran as they come to realize that neither can change the reality of Sunni-Shiite coexistence, both in Iraq itself and as neighbors. This arrangement would also mitigate the Iranian threat, which the Gulf states and Israel view as the source of regional tension and violent conflict.

Moreover, it would significantly reduce militant activities, enhance regional security, and start a process of peace and reconciliation to end the revenge and retribution that would inevitably ensue, given the horrifying violence that they have inflicted on one another for the past fourteen years.

It is only when the Sunnis establish their own entity and build the infrastructure of an independent state will they feel empowered and confident to work closely with the Kurds and the Shiites as equals, which will pave the way for a functioning confederation between them at a later date.

The role of the US at this early stage is critically important. The US must support the establishment of an independent Sunni entity, maintain residual forces throughout the transitional period, train and equip security personnel, rein in extremist groups, and guide the Sunnis in the development of a political structure consistent with their beliefs, culture, and aspirations.

To be sure, the death and destruction from which the Iraqis have suffered during the past 14 years must come to an end. Children have been affected the most; they have suffered from malnutrition, disease, and dislocation, with enduring psychological scars that will last a lifetime. Tens of thousands have been killed, and as many became orphaned, not knowing what happened to them and why.

It is time to end the Iraqi tragedy. Much of the healing and prospects for a better and more promising future is in the hands of the Iraqi people themselvesit is they who must rise above sectarianism, and it is they who must chart their own destiny.

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Ending Iraq’s Humanitarian Crisis – Blogs – Jerusalem Post – The Jerusalem Post mobile website (blog)

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August 3, 2017   Posted in: Iraq  Comments Closed

NYT rewrites history of Iraq War, painting US as democracy-lover, Iran as sinister imperialist – Salon

This article originally appeared on AlterNet

TheNew York Times Tim Arango took what could have been an interesting topic for war journalism Irans increased role in Iraq and morphed it into a cynical revisionist history of American and Saudi involvement in the Middle East. In doing so, Arango paints the U.S. as a noble, freedom-loving nation on a mission to improve the lives of average Iraqis, and Iran as a sinister imperial force working to expand its sphere of influence across the region.

Arango sets the table by citing examples of Iranian influence in Iraq, framing the disparate motives at work. He suggests that the U.S. invaded Iraq for pro-democratic purposes, while Irans response to this unilateral invasion (which its government, of course,vehemently opposed) is portrayed as sinister and plotting:

When the United States invaded Iraq 14 years ago to topple Saddam Hussein, it saw Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East, and vast amounts of blood and treasure about 4,500 American lives lost, more than $1 trillion spent were poured into the cause.

From Day 1, Iran saw something else: a chance to make a client state of Iraq, a former enemy against which it fought a war in the 1980s so brutal, with chemical weapons and trench warfare, that historians look to World War I for analogies. If it succeeded, Iraq would never again pose a threat, and it could serve as a jumping-off point to spread Iranian influence around the region.

Theres so much unmitigated ideology at work in these two passages, we need to take a minute to break it down. Lets begin with the controversial assertion that the [U.S.] saw Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East.

This was the public relations talking point the U.S. gave for invading Iraq, but was it true? Does Arango provide any evidence or link to an analysis that shows it to be true? For some reason, Arango thinks the same administration that repeatedly lied about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and Saddams links to al Qaeda was on the up-and-up about the pro-democracy motives behind its devastating invasion.

If one wants to know what role democracy played in Bush administration officials decision, perhaps Arango could have asked Condoleezza Rice, Bushs national security advisor, secretary of state and key architect of the war. In an interview withABC in 2011, Rice was crystal clear that we didnt go to Iraq to bring democracy to the Iraqis. And I try in the book to really explain that that wasnt the purpose.

So, did the U.S. see Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East? Or did it really not care either way?

As Inoted in FAIR last month, nominally down-the-middle reporters are allowed to mind-read U.S. policy makers motives so long as they conclude that those motives were noble and in good faith. Never are reporters allowed to ascribe sinister motives to U.S. officialsthis is only permissible when covering Americas enemies which Arango does in the next paragraph, insisting that from Day 1, Iran saw something else: a chance to make a client state of Iraq.

Note that the U.S. did not seek to make Iraq a client state, but rather a democracy. Big bad Iran however (which not only had nothing to do with the invasion but openly opposed it), was plotting all along to exploit the U.S. invasion to establish a puppet regime. Its a masterful work of 180-degree reality inversion.

The second thing wrong with the opening frame is that Arango mentions the 4,500 American lives lost and the $1 trillion spent but makes no mention of the 500,000 to 1 million Iraqis killed. He mentions the use of chemical weapons but doesnt say who used them it was Iraq, not Iran. He also omits the country that supplied them to Saddam: the United States.

Throughout the piece, Arango couches subjective opinions on Irans sinister motives as something analysts say or believe. Yet the only analyst he actually interviews, Ali Vaez, works at theU.S-government-fundedInternational Crisis Group and provides a vague quote about the Iran-Iraq war shaping Irans leadership.

Everything Iran does is painted as proactive, sinister aggression and everything the U.S. and Sunni monarchies do is done in reaction to this aggression. Take this dubious passage: [Iran]s dominance over Iraq has heightened sectarian tensions around the region, with Sunni states, and American allies, like Saudi Arabia mobilizing to oppose Iranian expansionism.

So here we have Sunni states, and American allies, like Saudi Arabia mobilizing to oppose Iranian expansionism. There is no Sunni expansionism or American expansionism or Saudi expansionismexpansionism (whatever that means) is the purview of Iranian aggressors. Saudi Arabia floodingSalafist fightersinto post-invasion Iraq is never mentioned.SaudiandQataribacking of Salafist militias in Syria since at the very least 2011 is never mentioned. The U.S. invasion is not framed as expansionism. Iran always draws first blood, while Gulf monarchies, painted as the besieged victims of the Shia empire, are always reacting, mobilizing to oppose Iran expansionism.

TheTimesflubbed analysis has to be seen within the wider context of American designs in the region. Arangos article serves primarily to advance the Shia crescent concept pushed by Gulf monarchies, neocons, Israel, and liberal foreign policy hawks. This narrative conjures a specter of Iranian influence from Tehran to Beirut, with total regional domination on the horizon. Stopping this sinister plot is the primary pretext for increased military involvement of the U.S. in eastern Syria, where American special forces have set up a de facto base and attacked Syrian and Iranian military assets. Its also Israels justification for its stepped-up military activity in Syria, where it has beenbackinganti-Hezbollah, anti-government rebels in Southern Syria. TheTimesarticle, whether by accident or intent, props up the entire moral and political framework for increased U.S. militarism in Syria and Iraq as territorial ISIS faces its final months.

The problem with Arangos analysis is not that Irans increased role in Iraq isnt a story; it certainly is. Its the revisionist notion that Iran had hatched a devious plot from day one of the U.S. invasion rather than react to shifting forces on the ground from an instinct to survive especially after watching its two neighbors get invaded by the U.S. and its arch regional enemy, Saudi Arabia, fund and arm Salafist mercenaries throughout the Middle East. Throw in the absurd, debunked notion the U.S. was motivated by a desire to spread democracy and what you have is a deeply cynical piece of pro-Pentagon myth-making, instead of an informative look at Irans increased regional influence.

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NYT rewrites history of Iraq War, painting US as democracy-lover, Iran as sinister imperialist – Salon

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July 21, 2017   Posted in: Iraq  Comments Closed

NY Times Rewrites History Of Iraq War, Painting US As Noble Democracy-Lover, Iran As Sinister Imperialist – The National Memo (blog)

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

TheNew York Times Tim Arango took what could have been an interesting topic for war journalismIrans increased role in Iraqand morphed it into a revisionist history of American and Saudi involvement in the Middle East. In doing so, Arango paints the U.S. as a noble, freedom-loving nation on a mission to improve the lives of average Iraqis, and Iran as a sinister imperial force working to expand its sphere of influence across the region.

Arango sets the table by citing examples of Iranian influence in Iraq, framing the disparate motives at work. He suggests that the U.S. invaded Iraq for pro-democratic purposes, while Irans response to this unilateral invasion (which its government, of course,vehemently opposed) is portrayed as sinister and plotting:

When the United States invaded Iraq 14 years ago to topple Saddam Hussein, it saw Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East, and vast amounts of blood and treasure about 4,500 American lives lost, more than $1 trillion spent were poured into the cause.

From Day 1, Iran saw something else: a chance to make a client state of Iraq, a former enemy against which it fought a war in the 1980s so brutal, with chemical weapons and trench warfare, that historians look to World War I for analogies. If it succeeded, Iraq would never again pose a threat, and it could serve as a jumping-off point to spread Iranian influence around the region.

Theres so much unmitigated ideology at work in these two passages, we need to take a minute to break it down. Lets begin with the controversial assertion that the [U.S.] saw Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East.

This was the public relations talking point the U.S. gave for invading Iraq, but was it true? Does Arango provide any evidence or link to an analysis that shows it to be true?Dove beauty products tells me their mission is to empower women, but it seems far more likely its really to sell soap and that this line is marketing pablum. This is a distinction a freshman PR student can make, but evidently not Arango who, for some reason, thinks the same administration that repeatedly lied about Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction and Saddams links to al Qaeda was on the up-and-up about the pro-democracy motives behind their devastating invasion.

If one wants to know what role democracy played in Bush administration officials decision, perhaps Arango could have asked Condoleezza Rice, Bushs national security advisor, secretary of state and key architect of the war. In an interview withABC in 2011, Rice was crystal clear that we didnt go to Iraq to bring democracy to the Iraqis. And I try in the book to really explain that that wasnt the purpose.

So, did the U.S. see Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East? Or did it really not care either way?

As Inoted in FAIR last month, nominally down-the-middle reporters are allowed to mind-read U.S. policy makers motives so long as they conclude that those motives were noble and in good faith. Never are reporters allowed to ascribe sinister motives to U.S. officialsthis is only permissible when covering Americas enemies which Arango does in the next paragraph, insisting that from Day 1, Iran saw something else: a chance to make a client state of Iraq.

Note that the U.S. did not seek to make Iraq a client state, but rather a democracy. Big bad Iran however (which not only had nothing to do with the invasion and openly opposed it), was plotting all along to exploit the U.S. invasion to establish a puppet regime. Its a masterful work of 180-degree reality inversion.

The second thing wrong with the opening frame is that Arango mentions the 4,500 American lives lost and the $1 trillion spent but makes no mention of the 500,000 to 1 million Iraqis killed. He mentions the use of chemical weapons but doesnt say who used themit was Iraq, not Iran. He also omits the country that supplied them to Saddam: the United States.

Throughout the piece, Arango couches subjective opinions on Irans sinister motives as something analysts say or believe. Yet the only analyst he actually interviews, Ali Vaez, works at theU.S-government-fundedInternational Crisis Group and provides a vague quote about the Iran-Iraq war shaping Irans leadership.

Everything Iran does is painted as proactive, sinister aggression and everything the U.S. and Sunni monarchies do is done in reaction to this aggression. Take this dubious passage: [Iran]s dominance over Iraq has heightened sectarian tensions around the region, with Sunni states, and American allies, like Saudi Arabia mobilizing to oppose Iranian expansionism.

So here we have Sunni states, and American allies, like Saudi Arabia mobilizing to oppose Iranian expansionism. There is no Sunni expansionism or American expansionism or Saudi expansionismexpansionism (whatever that means) is the purview of Iranian aggressors. Saudi Arabia floodingSalafist fightersinto post-invasion Iraq is never mentioned.SaudiandQataribacking of Salafist militias in Syria since at the very least 2011 is never mentioned. The U.S. invasion is not framed as expansionism. Iran always draws first blood, while Gulf monarchies, painted as the besieged victims of the Shia empire, are always reacting, mobilizing to oppose Iran expansionism.

TheTimesflubbed analysis has to be seen within the wider context of American designs in the region. Arangos article serves primarily to advance the Shia crescent concept pushed by Gulf monarchies, neocons, Israel, and liberal foreign policy hawks. This narrative conjures a specter of Iranian influence from Tehran to Beirut, with total regional domination on the horizon. Stopping this sinister plot is the primary pretext for increased military involvement of the U.S. in eastern Syria, where American special forces have set up a de facto base and attacked Syrian and Iranian military assets. Its also Israels justification for its stepped-up military activity in Syria, where it has beenbackinganti-Hezbollah, anti-government rebels in Southern Syria. TheTimesarticle, whether by accident or intent, props up the entire moral and political framework for increased U.S. militarism in Syria and Iraq as territorial ISIS faces its final months.

The problem with Arangos analysis is not that Irans increased role in Iraq isnt a story; it certainly is. Its the revisionist notion that Iran had hatched a devious plot from day one of the U.S. invasion rather than react to shifting forces on the ground from an instinct to surviveespecially after watching its two neighbors get invaded by the U.S. and its arch regional enemy, Saudi Arabia, fund and arm Salafist mercenaries throughout the Middle East. Throw in the absurd, debunked notion the U.S. was motivated by a desire to spread democracy and what you have is a deeply cynical piece of pro-Pentagon myth-making, instead of an informative look at Irans increased regional influence.

Adam Johnson is a contributing analyst at FAIR and contributing writer for AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter@AdamJohnsonNYC.

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

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NY Times Rewrites History Of Iraq War, Painting US As Noble Democracy-Lover, Iran As Sinister Imperialist – The National Memo (blog)

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July 19, 2017   Posted in: Iraq  Comments Closed

The Battle For Iraq Doesn’t End With MosulOr ISIS – The National Interest Online (blog)

As the battle of Mosul reaches its end, President Trump must decide how to proceed in Iraq. Both the U.S. and Iraqi governments rhetoric indicate American troops will withdraw after Mosul has been recaptured. However, that would leave the country vulnerable to Iranian influence. U.S troops should remain in Iraq to secure its territory and government from external threats.

Iran has tried to increase its influence in Iraq since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011. Tehran has extended its reach through Shia militias loyal to the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei. These militias have fought alongside Iraqi security forces and Kurdish troops against ISIS to claim territory, not help civilians, and many of them have political wings that seek to align Iraqs government with Irans political and religious structure.

Since 2016, the U.S. has invested over $10 billion and an additional $4.83 billion in the fiscal year 2017 budget to combat ISIS. Currently, there are more than 5,000 U.S. troops and 3,500 coalition advisers to train 65,000 Iraqi soldiers, police, Kurdish troops, and Sunni tribal fighters. The U.S. should continue to support the Iraqi government as it rebuilds. This will help regional partners and the U.S. protect their interests. If the U.S. withdraws, Baghdad may become a puppet of Tehran, making the rest of the region susceptible to Iranian control.

Irans funding and logistical support of Iraqi Shia militias commonly referred to as the Popular Mobilization has aided in the effort to defeat ISIS. However, the Popular Mobilizations involvement has also led to increased sectarian violence in recaptured areas. In addition, it has delegitimized Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadis sovereignty over the security forces. These militants refuse to take orders from the Iraqi government, and only respond to directions given by Irans Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The U.S. withdrawal of troops from Iraq would be an invitation for Iran to create a base of control to threaten U.S. partners in the region. Currently, Iraqi security forces lack the manpower and resources to secure recaptured territory. Troops are centered in Mosul, leaving the rest of the country vulnerable and unprotected. This not only makes Iraq vulnerable to an ISIS resurgence, but also allows the Shia militants free reign over unfortified areas. Iran could take control of recaptured areas through its militias and implement its own rule of law on the inhabitants. Fighting between the Iraqi security forces and the militants would likely cause a drastic surge in sectarian violence, risking civilian lives and worsening the refugee crisis.

A number of groups in Iraq, including from the prime ministers party, support a closer relationship with Tehran. Some powerful Shia political parties receive funding and support from Iran and aim to bring the two countries closer together. They are seeking a leader who will distance the country from U.S. influence. One such individual is Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqs former prime minister. Maliki insisted on the withdrawal of U.S. troops in the late 2000s and gave top government and military positions to favored Shiites, denying rights and representation to other communities in Iraq.

Without U.S. support, the Iraqi government will lose the limited control and legitimacy it has, placing U.S. security and economic interests in jeopardy. A pro-Iran leader in Iraq would hurt U.S. efforts to combat terrorism in the region and strain its economic relationship with Iraq. Much like Iran is able to threaten Israel via its proxy, Hezbollah, in Lebanon, establishing a hold over Iraq would aid its wars in Yemen and Syria against U.S. partners like Saudi Arabia, and further destabilize the region.

During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly stated his commitment to combatting Irans influence in the Middle East. In an interview with the Washington Post, then-candidate Trump remarked, Iran is taking over Iraq as sure as youre sitting there. In a campaign speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee last March, Trump stated Iran is a problem in Iraq, a problem in Syria, a problem in Lebanon, a problem in Yemen and will be a very, very major problem for Saudi Arabia. U.S. policy needs to reflect the accuracy of Trumps assessment.

The Trump Administration must renew its presence in Iraq to prevent a resurgence of conflict and protect the country from Iranian influence. Two programs provide funding for the U.S. to advise and assist in Iraq and Syria: the Iraq Train and Equip program and the Counter ISIL fund. Congress needs to renew these programs in 2018 to fund the security forces. President Trump should also encourage other members of the Counter-ISIS coalition to commit more funding and logistical support for security forces.

The administration should also increase funding for the Air Forces F-15 and F-16 fighter jet programs, which have been highly effective in targeting ISIS. If President Trump is to follow through in his pledge to stand up to Iran’s aggressive push to destabilize and dominate the region, he must commit to securing territories and the U.S. relationship with Iraq.

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The Battle For Iraq Doesn’t End With MosulOr ISIS – The National Interest Online (blog)

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July 12, 2017   Posted in: Iraq  Comments Closed

Hobby Lobby to Return Ancient Artifacts Believed Stolen From Iraq – Wall Street Journal (subscription)


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Hobby Lobby to Return Ancient Artifacts Believed Stolen From Iraq
Wall Street Journal (subscription)
There was one problem: The items appeared to have been stolen from Iraq, federal authorities alleged, then smuggled into the U.S. from the United Arab Emirates and Israel, bearing labels identifying them as ceramic tiles and Tiles (Sample)..

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Hobby Lobby to Return Ancient Artifacts Believed Stolen From Iraq – Wall Street Journal (subscription)

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July 6, 2017   Posted in: Iraq  Comments Closed

Hobby Lobby fined $3 million for artifacts smuggled from Iraq – Washington Post

Hobby Lobby has agreed to forfeit thousands of illegally smuggled ancient Iraqi artifacts, the company and the Department of Justice said on July 5. (Amber Ferguson/The Washington Post)

The arts-and-crafts retailer Hobby Lobby has agreed to pay a $3 million fine for illegally importing thousands of ancient clayartifacts smuggled into the United States from Iraq, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

In addition to the fine, Hobby Lobby will forfeitthousands of clay bullae, cuneiform tablets and cylinder sealsthat were falsely labeled andshipped to the companythrough the United Arab Emirates and Israel,according toa civil complaint and settlement agreement in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Cuneiform is an ancient writing system that involvedcarving inscriptions into clay or stone. Cylinder seals were used to roll impressions into clay. Clay bullae are balls of clay with seals imprinted on the surface, used toshow a documents authenticity.

The Oklahoma-based company bought more than 5,500artifacts for $1.6 million in December 2010 from an unidentified dealer in an acquisition prosecutors said was fraught with red flags. According to the complaint, Hobby Lobby got conflicting information about where the artifacts had been stored and never met or communicated with the dealer selling them. When it came time to pay, the company wired money to sevenseparate bank accounts.

American collectors and importers must ensure compliance with laws and regulations that require truthful declarations to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, so that Customs officers are able to scrutinize cultural property crossing our borders and prevent the inappropriate entry of such property, acting U.S. attorney Bridget M. Rohde said in a statement.

Hobby Lobby, whose owners are evangelical Christians, said it began collectinga variety of Bibles and other artifacts several years ago with the goal of preserving them for future generations. In a statementWednesday, the company said it did not fully appreciate the complexities of the acquisitions process and relied on dealers who did not understand how to properly ship the items.

We should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled, Hobby Lobby President Steve Green said in the statement.

Hobby Lobbys ownersportray their companyas a Christian business and are known for supporting Christian causes. Green is one of the driving forces behind the Museum of the Bible,a 430,000-square-foot facility in Washington, D.C., that is set to open in the fall and will reportedly house thousands of biblical artifacts and texts.

In 2014, Hobby Lobby becamea symbol in debate over religious freedom after it prevailed in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that found family-owned corporations donot have to pay for contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act if it violates their sincerely held religious beliefs.

According to the complaint, Hobby Lobby begancollecting a range of historically significant manuscripts and other antiquities in 2009. The following July, Green traveled with a consultant to the United Arab Emirates, where they inspecteda large cache of cuneiform tablets and other artifacts.

Two Israeli antiquities dealers and one from the United Arab Emirates attended the July 2010 inspection with Hobby Lobbys president and consultant.At the meeting, the complaint says,the artifacts were displayed informally, spread on the floor, arranged in layers on a coffee table, and packed loosely in cardboard boxes, in many instances with little or no protective material between them.

The dealers said the items were from the family collection ofa third dealer who was not present, according to the complaint. They later sent Hobby Lobby a provenance statement a guarantee of authenticity indicating that the artifacts were legally acquired in the 1960s from local markets.

After returning to the United States, the complaint says, Hobby Lobbys president and in-house lawyer spoke with an expert on cultural property law who warned them that antiquitiesfrom ancient Iraqmay have been looted from archaeological sites. In a memo, the expert told them that any items of Iraqi originthat were not properly declared could be seized by customs officials.

Hobby Lobby proceeded with the sale. Starting in late 2010, a United Arab Emirates-based dealer sent 10 packages to three different Hobby Lobby addresses in Oklahoma City, with shipping labels reading ceramic tiles or clay tiles (sample), according to the complaint. No formal entries were made for theshipments. Prosecutors said the use of multiple addresses was consistent with methods used by cultural property smugglers to avoid scrutiny by Customs.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection later intercepted five additional packages, all of them falsely declaring that the artifacts inside came from Turkey when they in fact came from Iraq. A final shipment containing about 1,000 clay bullae arrived at one of Hobby Lobbys addresses from Israel in September 2011. That one also misrepresented the artifacts country of origin, according to the complaint.

Angel M. Melendez, aU.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent, said in a statement Wednesday: While some may put a price on these artifacts, the people of Iraq consider them priceless.

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Can Anyone Stop Iran From Taking Over Iraq? – New York Times

Ahead of next years general election, a large majority of Iraqs political forces are seeking to reinforce their independence from Iran. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who can take credit for the recent victories against the Islamic State, has long had strained relations with Iran. Now he has become a critic of lawless behavior in some elements of the security forces, including Iranian-backed groups. His governments position has been to strengthen state institutions and to reinforce the chain of command. Meanwhile, Ammar al-Hakim, one of Iraqs leading politicians and the scion of one of the countrys most prominent Shiite families, announced in late July that he would leave the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, a political party that his family founded in Tehran with Iranian assistance in the 1980s. He has also formed his own party, from which he continues to establish his independence from Iran. The Sadrist movement, which represents millions of poor Shiite Muslims in Baghdad and throughout southern Iraq, has also openly aligned itself in the anti-Iranian camp. The grass-roots movements leader, Moktada al-Sadr, paid a visit this summer to Saudi Arabia, Irans biggest regional rival. He also visited the United Arab Emirates, another Sunni state that opposes Iran. These trips were intended to help develop bilateral relations and, thus, Iraqs independence from Iran. The only major political coalition to have formally adopted a pro-Iranian approach is led by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Since leaving office in 2014, Mr. Maliki has been tainted by the armed forces humiliating defeat by the Islamic State, for which he has rightly been blamed, and which has affected his popularity. He has since sought to reinvent himself as the patron saint of a pro-Iranian militant Iraq that is in confrontation with an ever-growing list of conspirators, including Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Kurds and the United States, among others. With nearly all of Iraqs political forces lined up against Iran in 2018, it looks likely that the pro-Iranians will be trounced at the ballot. And yet it looks just as likely that this will have little effect on Irans influence in Iraq. In Iraqs electoral system, its very difficult for any one alliance to take much more than 20 percent of the vote. This means the various alliances must engage in horse trading and coalition building to form a government. As parties try to secure lucrative ministries, they will lose sight of the goals that they campaigned on like Iraqi independence. Like every government formed since the invasion in 2003, the next one will be made up of parties pulling the country in different directions. It is a recipe for inaction and Iran will prey on this. Neither the United States nor Saudi Arabia nor any other country will be able to have a decisive influence. Outside countries have consistently failed to positively influence Iraqi politics. If these parties really want to prevent Iranian influence, they should provide assistance to security units, like the Counter Terrorism Service, which has been by far the most effective force against the Islamic State. The continued success of professional security services, rather than Iran-backed paramilitary groups, will allow for Iraq to guarantee its own security. Against this backdrop, there remains one wild card that could present a real challenge to Iranian domination: intervention by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraqs Shiite spiritual leader. In 2014, Ayatollah Sistani issued a fatwa that called for Iraqis to defend the country against the Islamic State. In response, tens of thousands of Shiites joined the army and other groups, including pro-Iranian paramilitary forces. The fatwas unintended effect was to give these groups some form of religious legitimacy. Many commentators have speculated that Ayatollah Sistani may now be on the cusp of rescinding his fatwa, which could, in turn, force the Popular Mobilization Forces to dissolve. For now, that seems unlikely. The Popular Mobilization Forces enjoy broad legitimacy for their contribution to the war effort, and many Iraqis prefer that they be maintained as part of the official security forces. Even Mr. Abadi has opposed any such dissolution for many of these same reasons. But a new fatwa from Ayatollah Sistani, following the total liberation of Iraqi territories from the Islamic State, could redefine the obligations of those Iraqis who volunteered in 2014 as being to support Iraqs army and police which prohibits Iraqis from engaging in any actions that would undermine Iraqs national sovereignty. Mr. Abadi has already insisted that the Popular Mobilization Forces are prohibited from acting outside of Iraq. If the religious establishment supported the prime minister in this, it could nudge Iraq toward greater independence from Iran. Since 2003, Ayatollah Sistani and the religious establishment have largely failed to control the worst tendencies in Iraqi politics. Now the stakes are so high that there is reason to hope for more decisive action. Iraqs future is in their hands. The margin for error is worryingly small.

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August 15, 2017   Posted in: Iraq  Comments Closed

Netanyahu Backs Partitioning Iraq for Kurdish State – teleSUR English

Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani recently warned about bids to break up Iraq, saying the partitioning of Arab countries serves the interests of Israel. During a meeting with a U.S. delegation, Israels Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed interest in partitioning Iraq. RELATED: Israels Netanyahu Faces Growing Legal Pressures Here’s Why The Prime Minister told the group of 33 congressmen that he favored the establishment of an independent Kurdish state in the Arab country.Israel has a longstanding relationship with the Kurds, who remains one of its few non-Arab allies in the area. The Jerusalem Post reported that a source who attended the meeting said Netanyahu referred to the Kurds as brave, pro-Western people who share our values. Netanyahu previously spoke on the issue in 2014 when he said in a speech that Israel should support the Kurdish aspiration for independence. Two months ago Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani warned about bids to break up Iraq, saying the partitioning of Arab countries serves the interests of Israel.”The Zionist regime seeks Iraq’s disintegration, Larijani accused during a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Tehran. A report published in the New Yorker magazine in 2004 said Israeli military and intelligence operatives were active in Kurdish areas and providing training for commando units. According to the report, Israel has been expanding its presence in Kurdistan and encouraging Kurds, its allies in the region, to create an independent state.

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August 14, 2017   Posted in: Iraq  Comments Closed

Sunni leader: You can’t rule Iraq by sword, Kurdish separation justified – Rudaw

BAGHDAD, IraqIraqi Sunni politician and leader of the Ummah Party Mithal al-Alusi says that Iraq has failed its people and that the Kurds are justified in their quest for separation and the establishment of a state of their own. This is a cardboard state, says al-Alusi in an interview with al-Iraqiya state television. The Kurds have the right to say: I dont want to be part of such a failed state. Al-Alusi, who describes himself as a secular politician from Anbar, cites the interference of regional countries as proof of Iraqs failure. Is Qasem Soleimani entering Iraq on a visa? Does he have residency permit? he asks. Iranian intelligence working as advisors is this sovereignty? Saudi money piling up with the Sunnis, is this Iraqi sovereignty and an intact state? Soleimani is the commander of Irans Quds Force who is said to have been hired by the Iraqi government as an advisor to the defense ministry. Al-Alusi who has been elected twice to the parliament and is a proponent of good relations with the West, including Israel, believes that Iraq has violated its own constitution which has given the Kurds a reason to seek a path of separation. We all voted for and agreed on this constitution that stipulates the unity of Iraq, but where has it got now and what democracy have we Iraqis got? he says. He argues that you cannot keep a nation together by force. A referendum is not against the nation of Iraq, and the nation you are talking about was created by sword and stick by Saddam Hussein, he tells the Iraqi news channel. If thats the nation you want then Im neither part of it nor represent it. Al-Alusi says that Iraqi politics, especially the structure of the government does not reflect the countrys diversity. Kurds, Yezidis, Christians, Sunnis and even some Shias cannot feel that this sectarian government represents them, he retorts. Bring me ten Iraqis who would say this has been working system. Ten ordinary people not politicians. When you say that the PM must be a Shiite I as a secular man wont accept that. When the speaker of the house must be a Sunni, I wont accept, he goes on to say. Why not a Yezidi or a Christian? Al-Alusi refers to a time when Iraqi politicians were seeking to change the former Iraqi regime from inside Kurdistan. We all Iraqi politicians used to fight on Kurdish soil under one slogan: democracy for Iraq and freedom for Kurds, he says. Have we given the Kurds any of their rights? He concludes that not only the Kurds, but all Iraqis have the right to choose their own path as he warns that that might be the case given todays reality. If the Kurds chose this path, are we going to fight them with an army? he says. With this situation there is going to be a hundred states.

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Ending Iraq’s Humanitarian Crisis – Blogs – Jerusalem Post – The Jerusalem Post mobile website (blog)

Iraq, once the cradle of civilization, has and continues to experience one of the most horrific violent conflicts in modern history that defies any semblance of civilized humanity. It is hard to imagine the mammoth death and destruction that has been inflicted on the Iraqi people by foreign powers and domestic terrorism. Yet, the country can still overcome the horrors of the past 14 years, provided its leaders correctly reassess the changing regional and domestic dynamics and agree to allow all Iraqis, regardless of their sect and cultural orientation, to choose their own political and civil structure. Since the invasion of Iraq by the US and its allies in 2003, up to 500,000 civilians have been killed. From 2006, there have been 40,000 recorded terrorist attacks averaging more than 7,100 deaths per year. Nearly 225,000 have become refugees, and 3.1 million are internally displaced. The destruction of infrastructure and socio-economic dislocation created widespread hunger and disease, especially among the tens of thousands of children who are vulnerable and suffering from malnutrition. All this human and material devastation culminated with the rise of ISIS that has ravaged the country, while the internal indiscriminate terrorism between Sunnis and Shiites continues unabated. This tragedy is unfolding as the Iraqi government and people are still languishing in the shadow of death and ruin, wandering about the political wilderness in search of ways to piece the country back together in the wake of ISIS eventual defeat. These efforts, however, may well prove to be an exercise in futility. The Abadi government ignores the fact that the Iraqi Kurds are on the verge of establishing their own independent state following the upcoming mid-September referendum, and that the Sunnis will reject the status quo ante and never again subjugate themselves to the whims of a Shiite government in Baghdad. Having suffered intense discrimination, oppression, and wanton violence perpetrated against them, especially during the eight years of the Maliki government, the Sunni community has long since concluded that their future wellbeing depends on their will and ability to govern themselves. They are determined to follow the footsteps of their Kurdish counterparts by establishing autonomous rule as a prerequisite to ending Sunni-Shiite bloodshed. The carnage between the two sides that started immediately following the 2003 Iraq war continues to rage, claiming the lives of hundreds each week, and is unlikely to abate as long as: a) the Iraqi government and outside powers, including the US, are still absorbed by the illusion of maintaining Iraqs geographical unity; and b) Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia are waging a proxy war in Iraq to secure their geostrategic interests to become the regions hegemon. In many ways, the rise of ISIS and its control over much of the Sunnis three provinces further deepens the Sunnis resolve to fight for their independence from any internal or external power. In addition to the egregious mistreatment they have suffered under the Maliki government, the Sunnis endured the brunt of ISIS brutality and horrific ruling methods. Children were affected the most, as they were witnessing the unspeakable cruelty of ISIS in real time. Children were recruited to commit the most heinous crimes; hundreds of thousands have been traumatized as they were forced to watch beheadings and the gruesome treatment of innocent bystanders suspected of committing petty crimes. The liberation of Mosul offers a new beginning to build a promising future for Iraq. In that regard, I maintain that Iraqs strength rests on the three main sects becoming first politically independent from one another. The central government must support the establishment of an independent Sunni entity and amend the constitution to reflect the new political and territorial divisions. Internally, the Iraqi government must address the endemic corruption which consumes nearly one third of the countrys revenue, establish a fair and impartial judiciary, engage in economic development, and refrain from infringing on the Kurds and Sunnis internal or external affairs as they put their own houses in order. Given that the Sunnis three provinces have no oil, their economic development depends on securing their share of revenue by passing the long-anticipated oil law. In addition to that, the new Sunni entity would need the financial support from the Gulf states, the US, and the EU to become a viable entity. The central Shiite-led government in Baghdad must not hold them hostage by denying them their legitimate share, thereby preventing them from establishing their own state. This would be the recipe for continuing bloodshed and destruction that will only deepen the gulf between them, to the detriment of the countrys future. The benefits of this roadmap are enormous, as it will first impact directly on the future stability of Iraq, and bring an end to the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran as they come to realize that neither can change the reality of Sunni-Shiite coexistence, both in Iraq itself and as neighbors. This arrangement would also mitigate the Iranian threat, which the Gulf states and Israel view as the source of regional tension and violent conflict. Moreover, it would significantly reduce militant activities, enhance regional security, and start a process of peace and reconciliation to end the revenge and retribution that would inevitably ensue, given the horrifying violence that they have inflicted on one another for the past fourteen years. It is only when the Sunnis establish their own entity and build the infrastructure of an independent state will they feel empowered and confident to work closely with the Kurds and the Shiites as equals, which will pave the way for a functioning confederation between them at a later date. The role of the US at this early stage is critically important. The US must support the establishment of an independent Sunni entity, maintain residual forces throughout the transitional period, train and equip security personnel, rein in extremist groups, and guide the Sunnis in the development of a political structure consistent with their beliefs, culture, and aspirations. To be sure, the death and destruction from which the Iraqis have suffered during the past 14 years must come to an end. Children have been affected the most; they have suffered from malnutrition, disease, and dislocation, with enduring psychological scars that will last a lifetime. Tens of thousands have been killed, and as many became orphaned, not knowing what happened to them and why. It is time to end the Iraqi tragedy. Much of the healing and prospects for a better and more promising future is in the hands of the Iraqi people themselvesit is they who must rise above sectarianism, and it is they who must chart their own destiny. To listen to an audio version of this article, click here. Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin Think others should know about this? Please share | |

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August 3, 2017   Posted in: Iraq  Comments Closed

NYT rewrites history of Iraq War, painting US as democracy-lover, Iran as sinister imperialist – Salon

This article originally appeared on AlterNet TheNew York Times Tim Arango took what could have been an interesting topic for war journalism Irans increased role in Iraq and morphed it into a cynical revisionist history of American and Saudi involvement in the Middle East. In doing so, Arango paints the U.S. as a noble, freedom-loving nation on a mission to improve the lives of average Iraqis, and Iran as a sinister imperial force working to expand its sphere of influence across the region. Arango sets the table by citing examples of Iranian influence in Iraq, framing the disparate motives at work. He suggests that the U.S. invaded Iraq for pro-democratic purposes, while Irans response to this unilateral invasion (which its government, of course,vehemently opposed) is portrayed as sinister and plotting: When the United States invaded Iraq 14 years ago to topple Saddam Hussein, it saw Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East, and vast amounts of blood and treasure about 4,500 American lives lost, more than $1 trillion spent were poured into the cause. From Day 1, Iran saw something else: a chance to make a client state of Iraq, a former enemy against which it fought a war in the 1980s so brutal, with chemical weapons and trench warfare, that historians look to World War I for analogies. If it succeeded, Iraq would never again pose a threat, and it could serve as a jumping-off point to spread Iranian influence around the region. Theres so much unmitigated ideology at work in these two passages, we need to take a minute to break it down. Lets begin with the controversial assertion that the [U.S.] saw Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East. This was the public relations talking point the U.S. gave for invading Iraq, but was it true? Does Arango provide any evidence or link to an analysis that shows it to be true? For some reason, Arango thinks the same administration that repeatedly lied about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and Saddams links to al Qaeda was on the up-and-up about the pro-democracy motives behind its devastating invasion. If one wants to know what role democracy played in Bush administration officials decision, perhaps Arango could have asked Condoleezza Rice, Bushs national security advisor, secretary of state and key architect of the war. In an interview withABC in 2011, Rice was crystal clear that we didnt go to Iraq to bring democracy to the Iraqis. And I try in the book to really explain that that wasnt the purpose. So, did the U.S. see Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East? Or did it really not care either way? As Inoted in FAIR last month, nominally down-the-middle reporters are allowed to mind-read U.S. policy makers motives so long as they conclude that those motives were noble and in good faith. Never are reporters allowed to ascribe sinister motives to U.S. officialsthis is only permissible when covering Americas enemies which Arango does in the next paragraph, insisting that from Day 1, Iran saw something else: a chance to make a client state of Iraq. Note that the U.S. did not seek to make Iraq a client state, but rather a democracy. Big bad Iran however (which not only had nothing to do with the invasion but openly opposed it), was plotting all along to exploit the U.S. invasion to establish a puppet regime. Its a masterful work of 180-degree reality inversion. The second thing wrong with the opening frame is that Arango mentions the 4,500 American lives lost and the $1 trillion spent but makes no mention of the 500,000 to 1 million Iraqis killed. He mentions the use of chemical weapons but doesnt say who used them it was Iraq, not Iran. He also omits the country that supplied them to Saddam: the United States. Throughout the piece, Arango couches subjective opinions on Irans sinister motives as something analysts say or believe. Yet the only analyst he actually interviews, Ali Vaez, works at theU.S-government-fundedInternational Crisis Group and provides a vague quote about the Iran-Iraq war shaping Irans leadership. Everything Iran does is painted as proactive, sinister aggression and everything the U.S. and Sunni monarchies do is done in reaction to this aggression. Take this dubious passage: [Iran]s dominance over Iraq has heightened sectarian tensions around the region, with Sunni states, and American allies, like Saudi Arabia mobilizing to oppose Iranian expansionism. So here we have Sunni states, and American allies, like Saudi Arabia mobilizing to oppose Iranian expansionism. There is no Sunni expansionism or American expansionism or Saudi expansionismexpansionism (whatever that means) is the purview of Iranian aggressors. Saudi Arabia floodingSalafist fightersinto post-invasion Iraq is never mentioned.SaudiandQataribacking of Salafist militias in Syria since at the very least 2011 is never mentioned. The U.S. invasion is not framed as expansionism. Iran always draws first blood, while Gulf monarchies, painted as the besieged victims of the Shia empire, are always reacting, mobilizing to oppose Iran expansionism. TheTimesflubbed analysis has to be seen within the wider context of American designs in the region. Arangos article serves primarily to advance the Shia crescent concept pushed by Gulf monarchies, neocons, Israel, and liberal foreign policy hawks. This narrative conjures a specter of Iranian influence from Tehran to Beirut, with total regional domination on the horizon. Stopping this sinister plot is the primary pretext for increased military involvement of the U.S. in eastern Syria, where American special forces have set up a de facto base and attacked Syrian and Iranian military assets. Its also Israels justification for its stepped-up military activity in Syria, where it has beenbackinganti-Hezbollah, anti-government rebels in Southern Syria. TheTimesarticle, whether by accident or intent, props up the entire moral and political framework for increased U.S. militarism in Syria and Iraq as territorial ISIS faces its final months. The problem with Arangos analysis is not that Irans increased role in Iraq isnt a story; it certainly is. Its the revisionist notion that Iran had hatched a devious plot from day one of the U.S. invasion rather than react to shifting forces on the ground from an instinct to survive especially after watching its two neighbors get invaded by the U.S. and its arch regional enemy, Saudi Arabia, fund and arm Salafist mercenaries throughout the Middle East. Throw in the absurd, debunked notion the U.S. was motivated by a desire to spread democracy and what you have is a deeply cynical piece of pro-Pentagon myth-making, instead of an informative look at Irans increased regional influence.

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July 21, 2017   Posted in: Iraq  Comments Closed

NY Times Rewrites History Of Iraq War, Painting US As Noble Democracy-Lover, Iran As Sinister Imperialist – The National Memo (blog)

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet. TheNew York Times Tim Arango took what could have been an interesting topic for war journalismIrans increased role in Iraqand morphed it into a revisionist history of American and Saudi involvement in the Middle East. In doing so, Arango paints the U.S. as a noble, freedom-loving nation on a mission to improve the lives of average Iraqis, and Iran as a sinister imperial force working to expand its sphere of influence across the region. Arango sets the table by citing examples of Iranian influence in Iraq, framing the disparate motives at work. He suggests that the U.S. invaded Iraq for pro-democratic purposes, while Irans response to this unilateral invasion (which its government, of course,vehemently opposed) is portrayed as sinister and plotting: When the United States invaded Iraq 14 years ago to topple Saddam Hussein, it saw Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East, and vast amounts of blood and treasure about 4,500 American lives lost, more than $1 trillion spent were poured into the cause. From Day 1, Iran saw something else: a chance to make a client state of Iraq, a former enemy against which it fought a war in the 1980s so brutal, with chemical weapons and trench warfare, that historians look to World War I for analogies. If it succeeded, Iraq would never again pose a threat, and it could serve as a jumping-off point to spread Iranian influence around the region. Theres so much unmitigated ideology at work in these two passages, we need to take a minute to break it down. Lets begin with the controversial assertion that the [U.S.] saw Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East. This was the public relations talking point the U.S. gave for invading Iraq, but was it true? Does Arango provide any evidence or link to an analysis that shows it to be true?Dove beauty products tells me their mission is to empower women, but it seems far more likely its really to sell soap and that this line is marketing pablum. This is a distinction a freshman PR student can make, but evidently not Arango who, for some reason, thinks the same administration that repeatedly lied about Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction and Saddams links to al Qaeda was on the up-and-up about the pro-democracy motives behind their devastating invasion. If one wants to know what role democracy played in Bush administration officials decision, perhaps Arango could have asked Condoleezza Rice, Bushs national security advisor, secretary of state and key architect of the war. In an interview withABC in 2011, Rice was crystal clear that we didnt go to Iraq to bring democracy to the Iraqis. And I try in the book to really explain that that wasnt the purpose. So, did the U.S. see Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East? Or did it really not care either way? As Inoted in FAIR last month, nominally down-the-middle reporters are allowed to mind-read U.S. policy makers motives so long as they conclude that those motives were noble and in good faith. Never are reporters allowed to ascribe sinister motives to U.S. officialsthis is only permissible when covering Americas enemies which Arango does in the next paragraph, insisting that from Day 1, Iran saw something else: a chance to make a client state of Iraq. Note that the U.S. did not seek to make Iraq a client state, but rather a democracy. Big bad Iran however (which not only had nothing to do with the invasion and openly opposed it), was plotting all along to exploit the U.S. invasion to establish a puppet regime. Its a masterful work of 180-degree reality inversion. The second thing wrong with the opening frame is that Arango mentions the 4,500 American lives lost and the $1 trillion spent but makes no mention of the 500,000 to 1 million Iraqis killed. He mentions the use of chemical weapons but doesnt say who used themit was Iraq, not Iran. He also omits the country that supplied them to Saddam: the United States. Throughout the piece, Arango couches subjective opinions on Irans sinister motives as something analysts say or believe. Yet the only analyst he actually interviews, Ali Vaez, works at theU.S-government-fundedInternational Crisis Group and provides a vague quote about the Iran-Iraq war shaping Irans leadership. Everything Iran does is painted as proactive, sinister aggression and everything the U.S. and Sunni monarchies do is done in reaction to this aggression. Take this dubious passage: [Iran]s dominance over Iraq has heightened sectarian tensions around the region, with Sunni states, and American allies, like Saudi Arabia mobilizing to oppose Iranian expansionism. So here we have Sunni states, and American allies, like Saudi Arabia mobilizing to oppose Iranian expansionism. There is no Sunni expansionism or American expansionism or Saudi expansionismexpansionism (whatever that means) is the purview of Iranian aggressors. Saudi Arabia floodingSalafist fightersinto post-invasion Iraq is never mentioned.SaudiandQataribacking of Salafist militias in Syria since at the very least 2011 is never mentioned. The U.S. invasion is not framed as expansionism. Iran always draws first blood, while Gulf monarchies, painted as the besieged victims of the Shia empire, are always reacting, mobilizing to oppose Iran expansionism. TheTimesflubbed analysis has to be seen within the wider context of American designs in the region. Arangos article serves primarily to advance the Shia crescent concept pushed by Gulf monarchies, neocons, Israel, and liberal foreign policy hawks. This narrative conjures a specter of Iranian influence from Tehran to Beirut, with total regional domination on the horizon. Stopping this sinister plot is the primary pretext for increased military involvement of the U.S. in eastern Syria, where American special forces have set up a de facto base and attacked Syrian and Iranian military assets. Its also Israels justification for its stepped-up military activity in Syria, where it has beenbackinganti-Hezbollah, anti-government rebels in Southern Syria. TheTimesarticle, whether by accident or intent, props up the entire moral and political framework for increased U.S. militarism in Syria and Iraq as territorial ISIS faces its final months. The problem with Arangos analysis is not that Irans increased role in Iraq isnt a story; it certainly is. Its the revisionist notion that Iran had hatched a devious plot from day one of the U.S. invasion rather than react to shifting forces on the ground from an instinct to surviveespecially after watching its two neighbors get invaded by the U.S. and its arch regional enemy, Saudi Arabia, fund and arm Salafist mercenaries throughout the Middle East. Throw in the absurd, debunked notion the U.S. was motivated by a desire to spread democracy and what you have is a deeply cynical piece of pro-Pentagon myth-making, instead of an informative look at Irans increased regional influence. Adam Johnson is a contributing analyst at FAIR and contributing writer for AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter@AdamJohnsonNYC. This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

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July 19, 2017   Posted in: Iraq  Comments Closed

The Battle For Iraq Doesn’t End With MosulOr ISIS – The National Interest Online (blog)

As the battle of Mosul reaches its end, President Trump must decide how to proceed in Iraq. Both the U.S. and Iraqi governments rhetoric indicate American troops will withdraw after Mosul has been recaptured. However, that would leave the country vulnerable to Iranian influence. U.S troops should remain in Iraq to secure its territory and government from external threats. Iran has tried to increase its influence in Iraq since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011. Tehran has extended its reach through Shia militias loyal to the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei. These militias have fought alongside Iraqi security forces and Kurdish troops against ISIS to claim territory, not help civilians, and many of them have political wings that seek to align Iraqs government with Irans political and religious structure. Since 2016, the U.S. has invested over $10 billion and an additional $4.83 billion in the fiscal year 2017 budget to combat ISIS. Currently, there are more than 5,000 U.S. troops and 3,500 coalition advisers to train 65,000 Iraqi soldiers, police, Kurdish troops, and Sunni tribal fighters. The U.S. should continue to support the Iraqi government as it rebuilds. This will help regional partners and the U.S. protect their interests. If the U.S. withdraws, Baghdad may become a puppet of Tehran, making the rest of the region susceptible to Iranian control. Irans funding and logistical support of Iraqi Shia militias commonly referred to as the Popular Mobilization has aided in the effort to defeat ISIS. However, the Popular Mobilizations involvement has also led to increased sectarian violence in recaptured areas. In addition, it has delegitimized Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadis sovereignty over the security forces. These militants refuse to take orders from the Iraqi government, and only respond to directions given by Irans Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The U.S. withdrawal of troops from Iraq would be an invitation for Iran to create a base of control to threaten U.S. partners in the region. Currently, Iraqi security forces lack the manpower and resources to secure recaptured territory. Troops are centered in Mosul, leaving the rest of the country vulnerable and unprotected. This not only makes Iraq vulnerable to an ISIS resurgence, but also allows the Shia militants free reign over unfortified areas. Iran could take control of recaptured areas through its militias and implement its own rule of law on the inhabitants. Fighting between the Iraqi security forces and the militants would likely cause a drastic surge in sectarian violence, risking civilian lives and worsening the refugee crisis. A number of groups in Iraq, including from the prime ministers party, support a closer relationship with Tehran. Some powerful Shia political parties receive funding and support from Iran and aim to bring the two countries closer together. They are seeking a leader who will distance the country from U.S. influence. One such individual is Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqs former prime minister. Maliki insisted on the withdrawal of U.S. troops in the late 2000s and gave top government and military positions to favored Shiites, denying rights and representation to other communities in Iraq. Without U.S. support, the Iraqi government will lose the limited control and legitimacy it has, placing U.S. security and economic interests in jeopardy. A pro-Iran leader in Iraq would hurt U.S. efforts to combat terrorism in the region and strain its economic relationship with Iraq. Much like Iran is able to threaten Israel via its proxy, Hezbollah, in Lebanon, establishing a hold over Iraq would aid its wars in Yemen and Syria against U.S. partners like Saudi Arabia, and further destabilize the region. During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly stated his commitment to combatting Irans influence in the Middle East. In an interview with the Washington Post, then-candidate Trump remarked, Iran is taking over Iraq as sure as youre sitting there. In a campaign speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee last March, Trump stated Iran is a problem in Iraq, a problem in Syria, a problem in Lebanon, a problem in Yemen and will be a very, very major problem for Saudi Arabia. U.S. policy needs to reflect the accuracy of Trumps assessment. The Trump Administration must renew its presence in Iraq to prevent a resurgence of conflict and protect the country from Iranian influence. Two programs provide funding for the U.S. to advise and assist in Iraq and Syria: the Iraq Train and Equip program and the Counter ISIL fund. Congress needs to renew these programs in 2018 to fund the security forces. President Trump should also encourage other members of the Counter-ISIS coalition to commit more funding and logistical support for security forces. The administration should also increase funding for the Air Forces F-15 and F-16 fighter jet programs, which have been highly effective in targeting ISIS. If President Trump is to follow through in his pledge to stand up to Iran’s aggressive push to destabilize and dominate the region, he must commit to securing territories and the U.S. relationship with Iraq.

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July 12, 2017   Posted in: Iraq  Comments Closed

Hobby Lobby to Return Ancient Artifacts Believed Stolen From Iraq – Wall Street Journal (subscription)

Wall Street Journal (subscription) Hobby Lobby to Return Ancient Artifacts Believed Stolen From Iraq Wall Street Journal (subscription) There was one problem: The items appeared to have been stolen from Iraq , federal authorities alleged, then smuggled into the U.S. from the United Arab Emirates and Israel, bearing labels identifying them as ceramic tiles and Tiles (Sample)..

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July 6, 2017   Posted in: Iraq  Comments Closed

Hobby Lobby fined $3 million for artifacts smuggled from Iraq – Washington Post

Hobby Lobby has agreed to forfeit thousands of illegally smuggled ancient Iraqi artifacts, the company and the Department of Justice said on July 5. (Amber Ferguson/The Washington Post) The arts-and-crafts retailer Hobby Lobby has agreed to pay a $3 million fine for illegally importing thousands of ancient clayartifacts smuggled into the United States from Iraq, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. In addition to the fine, Hobby Lobby will forfeitthousands of clay bullae, cuneiform tablets and cylinder sealsthat were falsely labeled andshipped to the companythrough the United Arab Emirates and Israel,according toa civil complaint and settlement agreement in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Cuneiform is an ancient writing system that involvedcarving inscriptions into clay or stone. Cylinder seals were used to roll impressions into clay. Clay bullae are balls of clay with seals imprinted on the surface, used toshow a documents authenticity. The Oklahoma-based company bought more than 5,500artifacts for $1.6 million in December 2010 from an unidentified dealer in an acquisition prosecutors said was fraught with red flags. According to the complaint, Hobby Lobby got conflicting information about where the artifacts had been stored and never met or communicated with the dealer selling them. When it came time to pay, the company wired money to sevenseparate bank accounts. American collectors and importers must ensure compliance with laws and regulations that require truthful declarations to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, so that Customs officers are able to scrutinize cultural property crossing our borders and prevent the inappropriate entry of such property, acting U.S. attorney Bridget M. Rohde said in a statement. Hobby Lobby, whose owners are evangelical Christians, said it began collectinga variety of Bibles and other artifacts several years ago with the goal of preserving them for future generations. In a statementWednesday, the company said it did not fully appreciate the complexities of the acquisitions process and relied on dealers who did not understand how to properly ship the items. We should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled, Hobby Lobby President Steve Green said in the statement. Hobby Lobbys ownersportray their companyas a Christian business and are known for supporting Christian causes. Green is one of the driving forces behind the Museum of the Bible,a 430,000-square-foot facility in Washington, D.C., that is set to open in the fall and will reportedly house thousands of biblical artifacts and texts. In 2014, Hobby Lobby becamea symbol in debate over religious freedom after it prevailed in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that found family-owned corporations donot have to pay for contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act if it violates their sincerely held religious beliefs. According to the complaint, Hobby Lobby begancollecting a range of historically significant manuscripts and other antiquities in 2009. The following July, Green traveled with a consultant to the United Arab Emirates, where they inspecteda large cache of cuneiform tablets and other artifacts. Two Israeli antiquities dealers and one from the United Arab Emirates attended the July 2010 inspection with Hobby Lobbys president and consultant.At the meeting, the complaint says,the artifacts were displayed informally, spread on the floor, arranged in layers on a coffee table, and packed loosely in cardboard boxes, in many instances with little or no protective material between them. The dealers said the items were from the family collection ofa third dealer who was not present, according to the complaint. They later sent Hobby Lobby a provenance statement a guarantee of authenticity indicating that the artifacts were legally acquired in the 1960s from local markets. After returning to the United States, the complaint says, Hobby Lobbys president and in-house lawyer spoke with an expert on cultural property law who warned them that antiquitiesfrom ancient Iraqmay have been looted from archaeological sites. In a memo, the expert told them that any items of Iraqi originthat were not properly declared could be seized by customs officials. Hobby Lobby proceeded with the sale. Starting in late 2010, a United Arab Emirates-based dealer sent 10 packages to three different Hobby Lobby addresses in Oklahoma City, with shipping labels reading ceramic tiles or clay tiles (sample), according to the complaint. No formal entries were made for theshipments. Prosecutors said the use of multiple addresses was consistent with methods used by cultural property smugglers to avoid scrutiny by Customs. U.S. Customs and Border Protection later intercepted five additional packages, all of them falsely declaring that the artifacts inside came from Turkey when they in fact came from Iraq. A final shipment containing about 1,000 clay bullae arrived at one of Hobby Lobbys addresses from Israel in September 2011. That one also misrepresented the artifacts country of origin, according to the complaint. Angel M. Melendez, aU.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent, said in a statement Wednesday: While some may put a price on these artifacts, the people of Iraq consider them priceless. More from Morning Mix The Bronx mourns a good cop, a neighbor and mother of three Tupac told Madonna he broke up with her due to race, newly surfaced letter reveals Comedian organizing man-free music fest until they learn how to behave

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July 6, 2017   Posted in: Iraq  Comments Closed


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