Saturday, June 14, 2014

INSIDE SCOOP ON CRISIS IN IRAQ

Iraq in Hell: Blame the Necons!
The secret history of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi 

By Joseph Cannon
June 13, 2014 "ICH" - The ISIS phenomenon is as bizarre as it is horrifying. The Iraq/Syrian jihadists -- led by a mystery man named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a.k.a. Abu Dua, a.k.a. "The Ghost" (about whom, much more below) have achieved sudden, dramatic success, even though nearly everyone detests them.

Although ISIS is often described as an offshoot of Al Qaeda, ISIS has alienated even Ayman al-Zawahiri (the current leader of Al Qaeda). Even fighters for the rival Nusra front -- the Syrian rebels who eat hearts and desecrate churches -- temporarily broke with ISIS, on the grounds that ISIS is too extreme.

As you know (if you've been paying any attention to the news) ISIS took over Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, which thousands of people have fled. They have also reportedly taken Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, although some accounts hold that government forces have retaken the city.

The situation is so dire that even Iran has offered to help their one-time foes in Iraq. Of course, Shi'ite Iran does not want to see Iraq ruled by ultra-radical Sunnis.

From the Washington Post:
 

Meanwhile in Mosul, one of Iraq’s most important cities, ISIS set about asserting its control, issuing an 11-point charter spelling out the creation of an Islamic state along with new laws, punishments and incentives. Alcohol, cigarettes and drugs are outlawed, citizens will henceforth be required to pray five times a day, thieves will have their hands amputated and women must stay indoors except in cases of emergency, the charter said.

“To those of you who ask, who are you? The answer: We are the soldiers of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria . . . who took it upon ourselves to bring back the glory of the Islamic Caliphate and turn back injustice and indignity,” the charter announced.
Never forget who is responsible for this disaster: The neoconservatives. They are the ones who remain addicted to delusions of empire. They are the ones who decided to change the entire Middle East.

Predictably, Slate tries very hard to point the finger elsewhere...
 
If jihadists control Iraq, blame Nouri al-Maliki, not the United States.
Fred Kaplan's Slate article is pretty damned infuriating, although he stumbles toward sanity at the end:
 
But this could be yet another sign of a breakdown in the entire Middle East. The war in Syria, which can be seen as a proxy war between the region’s Sunnis and Shiites, is now expanding into Iraq.
This is semi-accurate, broadly speaking, but the details are wrong. ISIS is an incarnation of Al Qaeda in Iraq; thus, ISIS expanded from Iraq into Syria, not the other way round. And I don't see how we can call this conflict a "proxy" war. It's war, plain and simple -- an old school sectarian bloodbath.

So I say screw Kaplan and screw Slate. Blame the neocons. Of course, Maliki has much to answer for -- but who put him in charge of Iraq in the first place? Who created this situation, if not George W. Bush?

At this moment, hundreds of propagandists are working on stories designed to convince the populace to place fault with anyone and everyone except Bush, Cheney and their minions. If you want to see a truly vomit-inducing example, go here.

But if you want reality, go here:
 
Islamic Jihadis Take Over Second-Biggest City In Iraq...But Al Qaeda Wasn’t Even IN Iraq Until the U.S. Invaded
Understand? There was no Al Qaeda in Iraq before we invaded. Americans stupidly believed that we invaded Iraq to punish the perpetrators of 9/11. In fact, Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with that atrocity, and nothing to do with Al Qaeda.

And now Al Qaeda -- or rather, an even more insane successor movement -- may soon conquer Iraq.
 
Al Qaeda wasn’t even in Iraq until the U.S. invaded that country. And U.S. policy in Libya is partly responsible for sending an influx of Al Qaeda terrorists – and heavy weapons – into Iraq.

And now things are getting a whole lot worse...

You may not have heard, but Al Qaeda allies took over the Iraqi city of Fallujah 6 months ago.

And today, Al Qaeda-linked extremists in Iraq captured Iraq’s second-biggest city, the major oil center of Mosul.

(The jihadis call themselves “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria”. The fact that the U.S. is backing Al Qaeda in Syria is probably a continuing factor).

To make matters worse, the army fled, so the militants seized huge caches of U.S. supplied weapons, including humvees...
How did this happen?

Was it engineered? Was this planned? Or did we blunder into an accidental catastrophe?

As I see it, the "elephant in the living room" here is the not-quite-covert effort to create and fund a fighting force capable of toppling Syria's Bashar Assad, whom Israel had wanted removed from power. As we have seen in earlier posts, the United States insured that weaponry from Libya went to jihadist groups.
 
'The White House and senior Congressional members,' the group wrote in an interim report released Tuesday, 'deliberately and knowingly pursued a policy that provided material support to terrorist organizations in order to topple a ruler [Muammar Gaddafi] who had been working closely with the West actively to suppress al-Qaeda.'

'Some look at it as treasonous moves,' said Wayne Simmons, a former CIA officer who participated in the commission's research. 'And our men and women had to follow what many purport as, qualify as treasonous moves.'

Retired Rear Admiral Chuck Kubic, one of the commission's sources, told reporters Tuesday that those weapons are now 'all in Syria.'
Obama's decision to go along with the neocon plan to topple Assad was almost as foolish as Dubya's decision to topple Saddam Hussein. The enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend -- especially when the enemy of your enemy is a gang of bloodthirsty fundamentalist zealots.

Isn't it strange...? Obama's many foes on the right have never hesitated to make absurd claims about this president. Yet the right-wingers have (mostly) refused to criticize the president for sending Libyan arms to the Syrian jihadis.

Dexter Filkins, writing in the New Yorker, carries the story further:
 
As I detailed in a recent piece for the magazine, Iraq’s collapse has been driven by three things. The first is the war in Syria, which has become, in its fourth bloody year, almost entirely sectarian, with the country’s majority-Sunni opposition hijacked by extremists from groups like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, and by the more than seven thousand foreigners, many of them from the West, who have joined their ranks. The border between the two countries—three hundred miles long, most of it an empty stretch of desert—has been effectively erased, with ISIS and Nusra working both sides. As the moderates in Syria have been pushed aside, so too have their comrades in Iraq.
The second factor is Maliki...
 
In the two and a half years since the Americans’ departure, Maliki has centralized power within his own circle, cut the Sunnis out of political power, and unleashed a wave of arrests and repression. Maliki’s march to authoritarian rule has fueled the reĆ«mergence of the Sunni insurgency directly. With nowhere else to go, Iraq’s Sunnis are turning, once again, to the extremists to protect them.
Fred Kaplan would have stopped writing at this point, but Filkins isn't afraid to get to the heart of the matter...
 
Which brings us to the third reason. When the Americans invaded, in March, 2003, they destroyed the Iraqi state—its military, its bureaucracy, its police force, and most everything else that might hold a country together.
The trouble is, as the events of this week show, what the Americans left behind was an Iraqi state that was not able to stand on its own. What we built is now coming apart. This is the real legacy of America’s war in Iraq.
Many have speculated that the real purpose of regime change in Iraq, Egypt and Syria was to surround Israel with failed states run by sectarian warlords. Nations embroiled in perpetual civil strife aren't likely to challenged Israel.

Was there such a plan? I don't know. But current events seem to buttress that theory.

Who is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi? Born Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai, he received a doctorate from the Islamic University in Baghdad. In 2003, he is said to have formed a short-lived militant group in response to the American invasion.

Interestingly, he was reported killed by an American strike near the Syrian border in October of 2005. (Over the years, a few Al Qaeda leaders have survived their reported "deaths.") Most news accounts hold that he was captured in 2005 -- presumably after his "death" in October. But...just when and how was Abu Bakr captured? So far, our journalists have given us little but mist.

Note that the WP says that he got out of prison in 2009, while the Daily Mail gives the year as 2007.

That discrepancy is potentially important. If he got out after Obama took office, the Fox Newsers will make predictable use of that fact.

I've been trying to find out why, when and how Abu Bakr slipped out of prison. Did he escape? Was he freed? Was there a trial? Did rich friends on the outside supply a bounty? Available accounts of the man's life leave this key period veiled in fog. Even Wikipedia gives us nothing.

The paucity of data makes me suspicious.

We're talking about the years he spent in U.S. custody, the one period of the man's life which ought to be well documented. Surely the military can humor us with a few dates? I'd also like to know why this man was allowed to walk when so many less threatening prisoners remain locked up at Gitmo.

At any rate, Abu Bakr assumed control of Al Qaeda in Iraq in 2010, when the force was at its lowest ebb. From the WP:
 
But then Syria happened. The civil war there, which left a vacuum of authority in large tracts of the country, fueled a resurgence of the group. The upheaval gave rise to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Over the following years, as many as 12,000 militant Islamists — 3,000 of whom were from Western countries — flocked to the region to fight, according to the Soufan Group, an intelligence consultancy...
Emphasis added. (Soufan is an interesting fellow in his own right -- but his story must wait for another time.)

Abu Bakr, the man who survived being "killed" in 2005, was also reportedly captured for a second time in 2012. It's a strange story...
 
"It's not known whether Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the man who is said to have taken over the al-Qaeda organisation here is actually Iraqi, or, in fact, even exists or is a composite of several people," said Arraf.
"Arraf" is a reporter for Al Jazeera, which later said that the captured individual was actually another commander.

As we contemplate Abu Bakr's role in the anti-Assad uprising, we must never forget that the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel are largely responsible for creating the Syrian rebellion.
 
Saudi Arabia is reportedly training foreign-backed militants in Syria as part of a new push to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The kingdom has teamed up with Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and France in adopting the new policy to bolster the militants in Syria, the Foreign Policy magazine reported.

Other reports also said that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as well as Saudi Arabia and Jordan have supplied about 600 tons of weapons in 2013 alone to the militants in Syria.
Will Congress have the guts to look into the hidden history of the effort to oust Assad of Syria? Any such inquiry will also uncover the hidden history of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
This article was originally published at Cannonfire -