- juan cole's informed comment
- Flashback: All the Ways the Neocons were Wrong about Iraq
- How US Hawks Created an Arc of Instability in the Middle East
- Is Iraq Actually Falling Apart? What Social Science Surveys Show
- Pakistan Needs Regional and Global Alliances to Fight the Extremists
- Obama Prepares for Drone War in Iraq
Posted: 19 Jun 2014 10:35 PM PDT
via Bernie Sanders US Senator
Related video added by Juan Cole:
Sam Seder: “Here Come the Clowns: Designers of Iraq War Debacle Have New Ideas!”
Posted: 19 Jun 2014 10:13 PM PDT
By Tom Engelhardt via Tomdispatch
As Iraq was unraveling last week and the possible outlines of the first jihadist state in modern history were coming into view, I remembered this nugget from the summer of 2002. At the time, journalist Ron Suskind had a meeting with “a senior advisor” to President George W. Bush (lateridentified as Karl Rove). Here’s how he described part of their conversation:
“The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’”As events unfold increasingly chaotically across the region that officials of the Bush years liked to call the Greater Middle East, consider the eerie accuracy of that statement. The president, his vice president Dick Cheney, his defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and his national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, among others, were indeed “history’s actors.” They did create “new realities” and, just as Rove suggested, the rest of us are now left to “study” what they did.
And oh, what they did! Their geopolitical dreams couldn’t have been grander or more global. (Let’s avoid the word “megalomaniacal.”) They expected to pacify the Greater Middle East, garrison Iraq for generations, make Syria and Iran bow down before American power, “drain” the global “swamp” of terrorists, and create a global Pax Americana based on a military so dominant that no other country or bloc of countries would ever challenge it.
It was quite a dream and none of it, not one smidgen, came true. Just as Rove suggested they would — just as in the summer of 2002, he already knew they would — they acted to create a world in their image, a world they imagined controlling like no imperial power in history. Using that unchallengeable military, they launched an invasion that blew a hole through the oil heartlands of the Middle East. They took a major capital, Baghdad, while “decapitating” (as the phrase then went) the regime that was running Iraq and had, in a particularly brutal fashion, kept the lid on internecine tensions.
They lacked nothing when it came to confidence. Among the first moves of L. Paul Bremer III, the proconsul they appointed to run their occupation, was an order demobilizing Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein’s 350,000-man army and the rest of his military as well. Their plan: to replace it with a lightly armed border protection force — initially of 12,000 troops and in the end perhaps 40,000 — armed and trained by Washington. Given their vision of the world, it made total sense. Why would Iraq need more than that with the U.S. military hanging around for, well, ever, on a series of permanent bases the Pentagon’s contractors were building? What dangers could there be in the neighborhood with that kind of force on hand? Soon enough, it became clear that what they had really done was turn the Iraqi officer corps and most of the country’s troops out onto unemployment lines, creating the basis for a militarily skilled Sunni insurgency. A brilliant start!
Note that these days the news is filled with commentary on the lack of a functional Iraqi air force. That’s why, in recent months, Prime Minister Maliki has been calling on the Obama administration to send American air power back into the breach. Saddam Hussein did have an air force. Once it had been one of the biggest in the Middle East. The Bush administration, however, came to the conclusion that the new Iraqi military would haveno need for fighter planes, helicopters, or much of anything else, not when the U.S. Air Force would be in the neighborhood on bases like Balad in Central Iraq. Who needed two air forces?
Be Careful What You Wish For
It was all to be a kind of war-fighting miracle. The American invaders would be greeted as liberators, the mission quickly accomplished, and “major combat operations” ended in a flash — as George Bush so infamously announced on May 1, 2003, after his Top Gun landing on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. No less miraculous was the fact that it would essentially be a freebie. After all, as undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz pointed outat the time, Iraq “floats on a sea of oil,” which meant that a “liberated” country could cover all “reconstruction” costs without blinking.
The Busheviks entered Iraq with a powerful sense that they were building an American protectorate. So why wouldn’t it be a snap to carry out their ambitious plans to privatize the Iraqi economy, dismantle the country’s vast public sector (throwing another army of employees out of work), and bring in crony corporations to help run the country and giant oil companies to rev up the energy economy, lagging from years of sanctions and ill-repair? In the end, Washington’s Iraq would — so they believed — pump enough crude out of one of the greatest fossil fuel reserves on the planet to sink OPEC, leaving American power free to float to ever greater heights on that sea of oil. As the occupying authority, with a hubris stunning to behold, they issued “orders” that read as if they had been written by officials from some nineteenth-century imperial power.
In short, this was one for the history books. And not a thing — nothing — worked out as planned. You could almost say that whatever it was they dreamed, the opposite invariably occurred. For those of us in the reality-based community, for instance, it’s long been apparent that their war and occupation would cost the U.S., literally and figuratively, an arm and a leg (and that the costs to Iraqis would prove beyond calculating). More thantwo trillion dollars later — without figuring in astronomical post-war costs still to come — Iraq is a catastrophe.
And $25 billion later, the last vestige of American Iraq, the security forces that, in the end, Washington built up to massive proportions, seem to be in a state of dissolution. Just over a week ago, faced with the advance of a reported 800-1,300 militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the opposition of tribal militias and local populations, close to 50,000 army officers and troops abandoned their American weaponry to Sunni insurgents and foreign jihadis, shed their uniforms by various roadsides, and fled. As a result, significant parts of Iraq, including Mosul, its second largest city, fell into the hands of Sunni insurgents, some of a Saddamist coloration, and a small army of jihadis evidently funded by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, both U.S. allies.
The arrogance of those occupation years should still take anyone’s breath away. Bush and his top officials remade reality on an almost unimaginable scale and, as we study the region today, the results bear no relation to the world they imagined creating. None whatsoever. On the other hand, there were two dreams they had that, after a fashion, did come into existence.
Many Americans still remember the Bush administration’s bogus pre-invasion claims — complete with visions of mushroom clouds rising over American cities — that Saddam Hussein had a thriving nuclear program in Iraq. But who remembers that, as part of the justification for the invasion it had decided would be its destiny, the administration also claimed a “mature and symbiotic” relationship between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and al-Qaeda? In other words, the invasion was to be justified in some fashion as a response to the attacks of 9/11 (which Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with). Who remembers that, the year after American troops took Baghdad, evidence of the nuclear program having gone down the toilet, Vice President Dick Cheney, backed by George W. Bush, doubled down on the al-Qaeda claim?
“There clearly was a relationship. It’s been testified to,” said the vice president on CNBC in June 2004. “The evidence is overwhelming. It goes back to the early ’90s. It involves a whole series of contacts, high-level contacts with Osama bin Laden and Iraqi intelligence officials.” Based on cherry-picked intelligence, such claims proved fraudulent, too, or as David Kay, the man assigned by the administration to hunt down that missing weaponry of mass destruction and those al-Qaeda links, put it politely, “evidence free.” By then, however, 57% of Americans had been convinced that there was indeed some significant relationship between Saddam’s Iraq and al-Qaeda, and 20% believed that Saddam was linked directly to the 9/11 attacks.
Be careful, as they say, what you wish for. More than a decade after its invasion and occupation, after Cheney made those fervent claims, no administration would have the slightest problem linking al-Qaeda to Iraq (or Syria, Yemen, or a number of other countries). A decade later, the evidence is in. Sunni Iraq, along with areas of neighboring Syria, one of the countries that was supposed to bow down before American might, now houses a rudimentary jihadist state, a creature birthed into the world in significant part thanks to the dreams and fantasies of the visionaries of the Bush administration. Across the Greater Middle East, jihadism and al-Qaeda wannabes of every sort are on the rise, while terror groups are destabilizing regions from Pakistan to northern Africa.
Creating an Arc of Instability
In the period before and after the invasion of Iraq, top Bush officials and their neocon supporters spoke with relish about taming an area stretching from northern Africa through the Middle East and deep into Central Asia that they termed an “arc of instability.” In a February 2006 address to the American Legion focused on his Global War on Terror, for instance, President Bush typically said, “Slowly but surely, we’re helping to transform the broader Middle East from an arc of instability into an arc of freedom. And as freedom reaches more people in this vital region, we’ll have new allies in the war on terror, and new partners in the cause of moderation in the Muslim world and in the cause of peace.”
By then that “arc,” which in the period before 9/11 had been reasonably stable, was already aflame. Today, it is ablaze. Almost 13 years after the launching of the Global War on Terror and the first bombing runs in Afghanistan, 11 years after a global antiwar protest went unheard and the invasion of Iraq was launched, and three years after Americans gathered in front of the White House to cheer the death of Osama bin Laden, that arc has been destabilized in a stunning way.
As things recently went from bad to worse in Iraq, jihadist militants in Pakistan attacked Karachi International Airport, an assault that stunned the country and suggested that the reach of the Pakistani Taliban was growing. At the same time, after a six-month pause, the Obama administrationresumed its CIA drone assassination campaign in the Pakistani tribal borderlands, a deeply unpopular program that has been a significant destabilizing factor in its own right. Meanwhile, in Yemen, where the U.S. has for years been conducting a special operations and drone war against a growing al-Qaeda wannabe outfit, unknown militants knocked out the electricity in Sanaa, the capital, for days. The Syrian bloodbath, of course, continues with estimates of 160,000 or more deaths in that multi-sided conflict, while in Libya, now an essentially ungovernable and chaotic land of jihadist and other militias and ambitious generals, tensions and fighting increased.
Think of this as George W. Bush’s nightmare and Osama bin Laden’s wet dream. On September 11, 2001, a relatively small, modestly funded organization with a knack for planning terror surprises every couple of years had a remarkable stroke of televised luck. From those falling towers, everything followed, thanks in large part to the acts of the fundamentalists of the Bush administration, whose top officials thought they had spotted their main chance, geopolitically speaking, in the carnage of the moment.
Almost 13 years later, there is a jihadist proto-state, a fantasy caliphate, in the heart of the Middle East. Now a dime a dozen in the region, jihadists of an al-Qaedan bent are armed to the teeth with cast-off American weaponry. In northern Africa, other jihadists are using weaponry from the former arsenals of Libyan autocrat Muammar Gaddafi, looted in the aftermath of President Obama’s can’t-miss 2011 intervention in that country. The jihadists of ISIS now have hundreds of millions of dollars stolen from the Mosul branch of the Iraqi central bank for funding and have advanced toward Baghdad. Even Osama bin Laden might not have assumed things would go quite so swimmingly.
The Guns of Folly
In the wake of Mosul’s fall, ISIS advanced even more rapidly than the American army heading for Baghdad in the spring of 2003. In some Sunni-dominated cities and towns, the takeovers were remarkably bloodless. In Baiji, with a power plant that supplies electricity to Baghdad and Iraq’slargest oil refinery (now under attack), the insurgents reportedly called the police and asked them to leave town — and they complied. In Kirkuk, a city in northern Iraq that the Kurds have long claimed as the natural capital for an independent Kurdistan, Iraqi troops quietly abandoned their weaponry and uniforms and left town, while armed Kurdish forces moved in, undoubtedly permanently.
All in all, it’s been a debacle the likes of which we’ve seen only twice in our history. In China, when in 1949 Chiang Kai-shek’s largely American armed and trained military disintegrated before the insurgent forces of Communist leader Mao Zedong and a quarter-century later, when a purely American military creation, the South Vietnamese army, collapsed in the face of an offensive by North Vietnamese troops and local rebel forces. In each case, the resulting defeat was psychologically unnerving in the United States and led to bitter, exceedingly strange, and long-lasting debates about who “lost” China and who “lost” Vietnam.
Early signs of an equally bizarre debate over the “loss” of Iraq are already appearing here. This should surprise no one, as the only thing left to pass around is blame. Senator John McCain, a fervent supporter of the 2003 invasion and occupation, launched the most recent round of the blame game. He pinned fault for the onrushing events on the Obama administration’s decision to pull U.S. forces out of Iraq in 2011 (thanks to an agreement negotiated by the Bush administration) without leaving a significant presence behind. Citing himself as if he were someone else, he said, “Lindsey Graham and John McCain were right. Our failure to leave forces in Iraq is why Senator Graham and I predicted this would happen.”
Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri was typical of the Republican politicians who began promoting this line. “It’s a desperate situation,” he said. “It’s moving quickly. It appears to me that the chickens are coming home to roost for our policy of not leaving anybody there to be a stabilizing force.” In a similar blast, the Wall Street Journal editorial page wrote, “In withdrawing from Iraq in toto, Mr. Obama put his desire to have a talking point for his re-election campaign above America’s strategic interests. Now we and the world are facing this reality: A civil war in Iraq and the birth of a terrorist haven that has the confidence, and is fast acquiring the means, to raise a banner for a new generation of jihadists, both in Iraq and beyond.”
And so it goes. In this case, however, none of it may matter much. In a country visibly sick of our wars of this century in which even many elite figures find further intervention in Iraq distasteful, “Who lost Iraq?” may never gain the sort of traction the other two “lost” debates did.
In the meantime, however, the world of the Middle East is being turned upside down. Take the example of Iran. Once upon a time, Iraq was thought to be just a way station. As neocons of that moment liked to quip, “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.” As it happened, the neighborhood around Baghdad quickly grew so ugly and the Bush administration soon found itself so bogged down in unwinnable minority insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan that it never put the U.S. military on that road to Tehran.
Today, the Iranians, it seems, are riding to Washington’s rescue in Iraq. It’s already rumored that they may be sending, or considering sending, elements of the Republican Guard in to protect Baghdad. As a result, the U.S. finds itself in a tacit alliance with Iran in Iraq, while still in opposition to it in Syria. At the same time, it’s still allied with Saudi Arabia in Syria against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, while facing the disastrous fruits of Saudi funding of the brutal newborn jihadi state at least temporarily coming into existence in the Sunni borderlands of Iraq and Syria.
The Middle Eastern system as once known has, with the singular exception of Israel, largely evaporated and where it was, there is now increasingly chaos. In all likelihood, it will only get worse. “We” may not have “lost” Iraq, but can there be any question that Washington lost in Iraq? American goals in the region went down in flames in a fashion so spectacular, so ignominious, that today nothing is left of them. To the question, “Who won Iraq?” there may be no answer at all, or perhaps just the grim response: no one. In the end, Iraqis will surely be the losers, big time, as Syrians are just across the now nonexistent border between what until recently were two countries.
As for the future Washington has on offer, the Obama administration is, it seems, considering responding to the crisis in Iraq in the only way it knows how: with bombs, cruise missiles, and drones. The geopolitical dreams of the Bush era are buried somewhere deep in the rubble of Iraq, while the present White House has neither visionaries nor global dreams, grandiose or otherwise. There are only managers and bureaucrats desperately trying to handle an uncooperative planet. The question that remains is: Will they or won’t they send American air power back into Iraq? Will they or won’t they, that is, loose the guns of folly and so quite predictably destabilize a terrible situation further?
In the meantime, a small footnote to future history: given what we’ve just seen, it might be worth taking with a grain of salt the news out of Afghanistan about the increasingly impressive abilities of the Afghan security forces, another gigantic crew set up, funded, trained, and armed by the U.S. military (and associated private contractors). After all, haven’t we heard that somewhere before?
Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War,The End of Victory Culture. He runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.
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Copyright 2014 Tom Engelhardt
Mirrored from Tomdispatch.com
Related video added by Juan Cole:
ABC News: “Militants Take Iraq’s Largest Oil Refinery”
Posted: 19 Jun 2014 09:37 PM PDT
By Mansoor Moaddel
Several nationally representative surveys carried out in Iraq between 2004 and 2013 provide important facts about Iraqi orientations toward secular politics, basis of identity, Americans, and Iranians. These facts have serious implications for the territorial integrity of Iraq, support for an Islamic government, and the U.S. policy toward the country. These surveys have shown evidence of:
(1) Support for Secular Politics: A much higher percentage of the Sunnis, even higher than the Kurds in some years, believe that Iraq would be a better place if religion and politics were separated. This support has increased from 60% in 2004 to more than 81% in 2013. By contrast, support for secular politics among the Shia has an inverted U-shape between 2004 and 2013. It went up from 44% in 2004 to 63% in 2011, and then dropped to 34% in 2013.
From the standpoint of public opinion, this evidence implies that the cooperation between the Sunni tribes/groups with ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) may not indicate mass conversion to religious extremism. Rather, it is driven by a common hatred of the Shia sectarian government ruling the country.
(2) Recognition of Iraq (and not religion) as the basis for identity: The Sunnis and Shia converge in defining selves as Iraqi, rather than Muslim or Arab, above all. This support rose from 22% in 2004 to 80% in 2008, and then dropped to 60% among the Sunnis. Among the Shia, it was 28% in 2004, increased to 72% in 2007, and then dropped to 62% in 2013. There is not much support for Iraqi identity among the Kurds. Among the Kurds, on the other hand, there has been a shift from predominantly Kurdish identity to religion.
Reinforcing attachment to the nation rather than to the religion of Islam in politics is the fact that both the Sunnis and Shia (1) prefer politicians who are committed to the national interests over politicians who have strong religious convictions by at least a factor of 4 to 1, and (2) consider a good government one that makes laws according to the wishes of the people over the one that implements only the sharia by at least a factor of 3 to 1.
These findings indicate that neither the Shia nor the Sunnis would be interested in the partition of Iraq or in the implementation of a religious state, and the current sectarian struggle is for political supremacy rather than division. Iraq may converge to the Lebanese model of sectarian strife.
(3) American Unpopularity: Well over 90% of the Sunnis and 86% of the Shia do not wish to have Americans as neighbors, with these figures remaining largely stable over the last decade.
(4) Iranian Unpopularity: Iranians have become quite unpopular among the Sunnis. Fully 88% of the Sunnis in 2011 did not wish to have Iranians as neighbors. Among the Shia, Iranians were not as popular as might be expected, however. Those Shia who did not wish to have Iranians as neighbors fluctuated between 44% and 73% between 2004 and 2011.
These figures have implications for the U.S. efforts to combat terrorism in Iraq and assist Iraqis in maintaining territorial integrity of their country. There is certainly a unity of purpose between U.S. policy makers and the Iraq public. Neither side wants an Islamic government nor wishes the partition of the country. The U.S., however, is facing two ruthless enemies with proven capacity to murder Americans; ISIL and other Sunni terrorist groups, on one extreme, and the Quds Force of the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guards, on the other. Given the U.S. unpopularity, evidenced in part by the consistently negative opinion of Americans as neighbors, whatever the U.S. does is suspect from either the Sunni or Shia standpoint.
The US must pursue a three-pronged strategy which: (1) weakens the ties between ISIL and the more moderate Sunni groups, (2) weakens the ties between Iraqi Shia and the sectarian Islamic regime in Iran, and (3) strengthens ties between moderate Sunnis and Shia within Iraq.
SUPPORT FOR SECULAR POLITICS
Between the 2004 and 2013 surveys, the Sunnis expressed much more support for secular politics than the Shia or, recently, even the Kurds. The percentage of the Sunnis who strongly agreed or agreed that Iraq would be a better place if religion and politics were separated was 60% in 2004, 86% in April 2006, 80% in October 2006, 74% in 2008, 82% in 2011, and 81% in 2013. These values for the Kurds were similar to the Sunnis; 69%, 86%, 68%, 77%, 63%, and 75%, respectively. Among the Shia, however, support for secular politics were much lower, having an inverted U-shape; 44%, 42%, 60%, 63%, 62%, and 34%, respectively.
NATIONAL IDENTITY: ALLEGIANCE TO IRAQ RATHER THAN TO RELIGION AS THE BASIS OF IDENTITY
Since the 2004 survey, the percentage of the Sunnis who defined themselves as Iraqis, rather than Muslims or Arabs, above all, has increased considerably. This percentage was 22% in 2004, 24% in 2006, then 53% in March 2007, 58% in July 2007, 80% in 2008, 68% in 2011, and 60% in 2013. Among the Shia, support for Iraqi identity has also increased since 2004; it increased from 28% to 32%, 62%, 72%, 67%, 64%, and 62%, respectively. Iraqi identity, however, is much lower among the Kurds; the percent Kurds who defined themselves as Iraqi above all fluctuated between a low point of 5% in 2006 and a high point of 20% in March 2007.
Iraqis were asked to choose between two definitions of a good government (1) one that implements only the law of the sharia, and (2) one that makes laws according to the people’s wishes. A great majority of the respondent opted for the second option. That is, 86% versus 14% among Sunni Arabs, 75% versus 25% among the Shias, and 91% versus 9% among the Kurds in the 2011 Iraqi survey demonstrated support for a secular rather than religious government.
GOOD POLITICIANS: STRONG RELIGIOUS CONVICTION VERSUS COMMITTMENT TO NATIONAL INTERESTS
Given the choice between the two statements that (1) it would be better for Iraq if more people with strong religious view held public office, and (2) it would be better for Iraq if people with strong commitment to national interests hold public office. Here again, national interest trumps religion, with 89% versus 11% among Sunni Arabs, 81% versus 19% among Shia Arabs, 60% versus 40% among Kurds in 2011 Iraqi survey showing support for secular politicians.
UNPOPULARITY OF AMERICANS
Americans have remained quite unpopuar in Iraq. Among the Sunnis, the percentage of those who did not wish to have Americans as neighbors fluctuated between 92% in 2011 and 99% in 2006; among Shia between 86% in 2011 and 98% in 2006; and among the Kurds between 46% in 2006 and 69% in 2011.
UNPOPULARITY OF IRANIANS
Iranians have also grown unpopular among the Sunnis, as the percentage who did not wish to have Iranians as neighbors grew from 72% in 2004, to 91% in April 2006, 97% in October 2006, and then dropped to 88% in 2011. These values for the Kurds were 53%, 46%, 84%, and 69%, respectively. Among the Shia Iranians were not as popular as might be expected. Those Shia who did not wish to have Iranians as neighbors fluctuated between 50% and 73% between 2004 and 2011.
Mansoor Moaddel is Professor of Sociology, University of Maryland
Posted: 19 Jun 2014 09:24 PM PDT
By Muqtedar Khan
Pakistan on Sunday launched another military operation — Zarb-e-Azb — against the extremists in Waziristan. The name of the operation means sharp and cutting or surgical. This is not the first such operation and perhaps will not be the last of its kind. But if this one is executed well, it may not warrant one for some time and it may give the beleaguered country an opportunity to recoup from the persistent terror attacks it faces nearly everyday.
This operation was inevitable given the public outrage at the dastardly attacks on Jinnah International airport in Karachi, which not only killed 26 military personnel and civilians but also underscored the dangerously fragile condition of security in Pakistan. The attack on Karachi airport clearly was a tipping point and the Nawaz Sharif government, which until now was willing to give diplomacy a chance, had to respond with use of force. Rhetoric aside, it remains to be seen how serious this military venture really is.
The military hopes to seriously damage the many extremist groups that operate out of this area.
Counter-Insurgency is Fraught with Peril
As Americans have discovered in Iraq and elsewhere popular insurgencies are hard to suppress. It is difficult to separate the civilian from the enemy; the innocent from the malignant and every misstep increases the intensity of the insurgency and undermines public support for use of force. Counter insurgency strategies, specially when employed at home also destroys the infrastructure of the nation, causes unemployment, slows the economy, exacerbates sectarianism, frightens away foreign investors and destroys internal and international trade.
Prolonged use of force also generates internally displaced refugees who will move away from the battle areas, towards Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad in search of safety. They will provide cover for flee militants and will bring the war to the very cities whose protection is the impetus for the military operation.
There are two fundamental problems with this operation. One, it assumes that the problem is geographically confined to Waziristan. The militancy has now infiltrated into urban areas and according to some reports a significant section of Karachi has been Talibanized. Action in Waziristan alone will not contain or roll it back.
Secondly Pakistan has undertaken this operation unilaterally. While Pakistani army has perhaps the best intelligence on the militants and most experience dealing with them and the power to hurt them, it will be much better if Pakistan works to developing a regional and a global coalition to fight this insurgency. Groups such as the Taliban (all varieties of them), Boko Haram, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and the Al Qaeda are all manifestations of the same cancer that is eating away at the moral core of Muslim societies. While the damage they cause is local they do present a global threat and must be fought in concert rather than by host states alone.
A Global Coalition
That Pakistan has America’s support is obvious. The U.S. has been pushing Pakistan to launch such a measure for quite sometime now. Military and economic aid will flow and with it will come electronic intelligence and the inexorable reach of the dreaded drones. But limited international support will make it appear as if the Pakistani military is doing this for the US and will undermine the legitimacy of the operation and provide more ammunition for Taliban sympathizers to divert public anger towards the U.S.
But a global alliance that also includes EU, China and maybe even Turkey can strengthen the hand of the Pakistani government and impress upon the extremists and their supporters that they have the world to contend with and not just the weak political will of Nawaz Sharif. Many of these nations share Pakistan’s interest in curbing Muslim extremists everywhere and will not hesitate to support. A little diplomacy from Islamabad and a quiet word from Washington can crystallize such a coalition to help Pakistan.
A Regional Coalition against the Taliban
The Waziristan region in Pakistan has become a watering hole for extremists who threaten many countries. Besides Pakistan, India, Iran, and Afghanistan have strong interests in eliminating threats that emanate from this area. The problem is that most countries in the region feel that Pakistan is hunting with the hound and running with the hare at the same time.
Pakistan’s intelligence is suspected of nurturing many of the same groups for geopolitical reasons even as they threaten its own stability. This perception prevents Pakistan from developing closer relations with its neighbors who have the resources, the will, and the interest to help Pakistan become terror free.
A regional coalition will make the struggle against extremism more potent, more durable and less expensive, but it will take more than deft diplomacy to achieve. Pakistan must convince its neighbors that the alleged ties between the Pakistani state and the Taliban have been severed irreparably.
Perhaps the current operation will achieve that first step and help build the coalitions necessary to make the region safe.
Dr. Muqtedar Khan is Associate Professor at the University of Delaware and a Fellow of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. His website is www.ijtihad.org. His academic research can be found at https://udel.academia.edu/ MuqtedarKhan
Mirrored with author’s permission from HuffPo .
Related video added by Juan Cole:
AFP: “Tens of thousands flee Pakistan offensive against Taliban”
Posted: 19 Jun 2014 09:05 PM PDT
By Juan Cole
President Barack Obama announced on Thursday that he will send 300 Green Beret Army special operations soldiers to Iraq.They will be detailed to Iraqi National Army Headquarters and brigade HQs and their primary task will apparently be intelligence-gathering and helping with the Iraqi National Army response to the advances of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL). Likely the intelligence-gathering in turn is intended to allow the deployment in Iraq of American drones. At the moment, the US has no good intelligence on the basis of which to fly the drones.
Obama underlined that no combat troops will be sent to Iraq.
These steps are in part obviously a political response to the Republican War Chorus that has blamed him for doing nothing (they can’t any longer say ‘nothing’) about the Iraq crisis. To the extent the moves are political, they are frankly craven. Obama should just have said no. If he needed covert intelligence, that is what the CIA and the NSA are for. (By the way, if the NSA surveillance program was really doing its job, how come northern and western Iraq could take Washington by surprise by seceding from the country in favor of a would-be al-Qaeda affiliate? Maybe they should be paying less attention to guys in Texas selling dime bags and more to like, actual al-Qaeda?)
To the extent that Obama is likely paving the way to US drone strikes on ISIS in Iraq, he is mysteriously failing to take his own advice. He has already admitted that the Iraq crisis is political and not military, and said that there are no military solutions. The Sunni Iraqis of Mosul, Tikrit and other towns of the west and north of the country have risen up and thrown off the government and the army of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The uprising was coordinated with ISIS, but was made up of many groups and to some extent was the spontaneous act of townspeople. Droning some ISIS commanders to death isn’t going to change the situation in Mosul, a city of 2 million that is done out with the Maliki government.
For Obama to associate himself with an attempt to crush this uprising in favor the the highly sectarian ruling Da’wa Party (Shiite ‘Call’ or ‘Mission’), which is allied with Iran is most unwise. If it had to be done, it should have been done as a covert operation and never spoken of publicly.
Ominously, the administration is even talking about a sort of aerial hot pursuit, of droning ISIS in Syria. Obama is not old enough to remember the ways that ‘advisers’ in Vietnam turned into armies and hot pursuit into and bombing of Cambodia laid the ground for genocide. I am.
Meanwhile, the ISIS takeover of Sunni Iraq provoked comment from key players in the Middle East. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal responded forcefully to al-Maliki’s charge that Saudi Arabia is behind ISIS and all the violence it is committing in Iraq, intimating that the real problem is the sectarian way al-Maliki is governing the country. (That is rich, given that few countries in the world are governed in a more sectarian way than Saudi Arabia). Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari criticized Saudi Arabia for not issuing a condemnation of the massacres committed by ISIS. Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan warned against US air strikes that would kill large numbers of innocents. Muslim televangelist Yusuf al-Qaradawi of the Muslim Brotherhood, based in Qatar, defended the revolt of the Sunnis of northern and western Iraq. Usually al-Qaradawi condemns al-Qaeda. Iraqi Sunni speaker of the parliament, Usama Nujayfi, said that the aid being received by the Iraqi army should not be turned into a political football.
Likely that aid will eventually include drones. Obama says he believes the drone program produces few civilian casualties, but in Pakistan they appear to be 15% or so of deaths. Pictures in the Iraqi press of women and children droned to death are a propaganda bonanza for al-Qaeda.
In the end, of course, Obama is doing very little about a situation regarding which very little can, practically speaking, be done. And as Will Rogers would have said, that is what the American people elected him to do.
The White House: “President Obama Speaks on the Situation in Iraq”