Recently in Commentary on Iraq Category

U.S.’ Mid-East Allies Should Forge Own Destinies

Sarwar A. Kashmeri, an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Norwich University, and a fellow at the Foreign Policy Association, offers a logical suggestion for dealing with the military crisis in Iraq, which has brought Bush Administration neo-conservatives out of the woodwork to defend the mess they made with the U.S. and British invasion of Iraq in 2003. Former U.S. Vice-President Richard Cheney and other war advocates, who appear to be re-writing the history of their unjust war in Iraq, blame U.S. President Barack Obama for president_official_portrait_hiresthe rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They want him to send more than the 300 military advisors dispatched to Iraq to stiffen the spine of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s military. Numerous media reports say some of Iraq’s military units laid down their arms, doffed their uniforms and fled when confronted by ISIS forces.

Mr. Obama withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011, and has vowed not to commit troops to the current sectarian conflict. Will he change his mind? It remains to be seen.

The latest New York Times/CBS News poll, “suggests that most Americans back some of Mr. Obama’s approaches to the crisis in Iraq, including majority support for the possibility of drone strikes,” The Times reported on June 23, 2014. “But,” The Times noted, “the poll documents an increasing lack of faith in the president and his leadership, and shows deep concern that further intervention by the United States in Iraq could lead to another long and costly involvement there.”

Carrie Dann, a national political writer for, reported June 24, 2014, that:

A divided nation finally agrees on something overwhelmingly: the war in Iraq was simply not worth fighting.

Seventy-one percent of Americans now say that the war in Iraq “wasn’t worth it,” a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Annenberg poll shows, with skepticism about the lengthy war effort up substantially even in the last 18 months.

Just 22 percent now believe the 2003 war effort was worthwhile. See “Not Worth It: Huge Majority Regret Iraq War, Exclusive Poll Shows.”

So, how can Mr. Obama achieved his objectives, which is to halt ISIS’ impressive advances in Iraq, shore up the Iraqi government and keep the country from fragmenting along sectarian lines?

Mr. Kashmeri's suggestion in an article in the June 24, 2014, edition of The Huffington Post headlined “Time for America's Middle East Allies to Forge Their Own Destinies” deserves consideration. He notes:

Baghdad is 900 miles from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; 500 miles from Amman, Jordan; 300 miles from Kuwait, and 1000 miles from Ankara, Turkey, countries that are allies of the United States, and armed to the teeth with American weapons. With over 700,000 soldiers, 6000 tanks, 2000 warplanes, and some 5000 conventional and rocket launched artillery pieces between them they vastly outnumber and outgun the forces of the so-called Independent State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that is determined to set up a medieval brutal Caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq.

If these heavily armed American allies that are minutes away from the killing fields of Iraq choose not to step in and rectify the rapidly unfolding chaos in their midst, why should the United States, some 7000 miles from Iraq spill its blood and treasure in another futile quest to remake the Middle East for them? A futile quest that has over the last decade chewed up the minds and bodies of 56,000 brave American soldiers, including some 4,700 killed.

Mr. Kashmeri said, “Over a trillion dollars have been spent over the last 12 years in the disastrous 2003 American invasion of Iraq and its attempt to remake the Middle East. Estimates are that a similar amount will be required over the next two decades to care for the American soldiers who have thankfully survived the war in Iraq and returned to their anguished families.”

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Expediting U.S Access to Middle East Oil and Gas

“Following the bulk of western reporting on the Iraq crisis, you’d think the self-styled ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’ (ISIS) popped out of nowhere, took the West completely by surprise, and is now rampaging across the Middle East like some random weather event.” contends Dr. Nafeez Ahmed, investigative journalist, international security scholar and executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development in London, in a June 19, 2014, opinion piece in Al Arabiya News.

The author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization said, “The reality is far more complex, and less palatable. ISIS’ meteoric rise is a predictable consequence of a longstanding U.S.-led geo-strategy in the Middle East that has seen tyrants and terrorists as mere tools to expedite access to regional oil and gas resources.”

Mr. Ahmed perspective is thought-provoking. He notes that: “What is playing out now seems startlingly close to scenarios described in 2008 by a U.S. Army-funded RAND Corp report on how to win ‘the long war.’ Recognizing that “for the foreseeable future, world oil production growth and total output will be dominated by Persian Gulf resources,”

I highly recommend “The rise of ISIS in Iraq is a neocon’s dream.”

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Obama’s Instincts About Syria and Iraq

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson asserts in a June 16, 2014, column that, U.S. “President (Barack) Obama’s instincts about Iraq and Syria have been sound from the beginning: Greater U.S. engagement probably cannot make things better but certainly can make them worse, both for the people of the region and for our national interests.”

According to Mr. Robinson,“What’s happening in the Middle East is the erasure of artificial borders drawn by French and British diplomats almost a century ago. Engagement seems to mean that today’s great powers, led by the United States, should enforce those old borders or impose new ones. Why should anyone think this is a recipe for stability?”

For more, please see “Obama got it right on Iraq.”

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What’s Behind Middle East Conflicts?

On June 12, 2014, Think Progress contributors Hayes Brown and Adam Peck made the following observation about the state of affairs in the Middle East:

What started as a crackdown against democratic protests three years ago, has become a region-wide conflict that now has Iraq descending back into chaos. The countries of the region — along with the United States and various non-state actors — all have a hand in creating this moment, as money, fighters, weapons, and a desire to control the Middle East have come together to produce an extremely volatile and terrifying situation.”

Please see “Why The Middle East Is Now A Giant Warzone, In One Terrifying Chart” to read more of their analysis.

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Iraq War Veteran: We Did What Was Asked of Us

Alex Horton, who writes about military and veterans affairs and “served for 15 months as an infantryman in Iraq with the Third Stryker Brigade, Second Infantry Division,” contends in a June 15, 2014, post in the Guardian headlined “Iraq veterans: learn to stop worrying about Isis and love life at home already:

Iraq veterans should not beat themselves up by attaching their ideas of sacrifice – of worth to a nation – to that broken government we left behind (in Iraq). We did what was asked of us. We held up our end of the bargain. Maliki did not, and many Iraqi troops similarly betrayed their own people when they chose not stand between extremists and their own countrymen. It has always been their fight, but that is especially true now.

Mr. Horton said, “The American public and its Congress allowed the war to happen, and it was the US military's job to help Maliki create the security necessary to establish a functional government. The march of Isis to Baghdad shows how spectacularly they have failed.”

Mr. Horton’s article generated considerable commentary

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Blogger Riverbend Finally Leaves Iraq and Settles in Syria

Riverbend, the Iraqi blogger behind the widely popular Baghdad Burning blog, which was launched on August 17, 2003, and became known around the world, has finally left Iraq. She blogged about it on September 6, 2007. Before then, her last post was on April 26, 2007, and was headlined "The Great Wall of Segregation..."

River's September 6 post is headlined "Leaving Home..." and is an account of her family's escape to Syria after  living under U.S. occupation since March 2003. The car bombings, kidnappings and living with the constant fear that death could come at any moment took its toll on her family. She writes:

There was one point, during the final days of June, where I simply sat on my packed suitcase and cried. By early July, I was convinced we would never leave. I was sure the Iraqi border was as far away, for me, as the borders of Alaska. It had taken us well over two months to decide to leave by car instead of by plane. It had image taken us yet another month to settle on Syria as opposed to Jordan. How long would it take us to reschedule leaving?

It happened almost overnight. My aunt called with the exciting news that one of her neighbors was going to leave for Syria in 48 hours because their son was being threatened and they wanted another family on the road with them in another car- like gazelles in the jungle, it’s safer to travel in groups. It was a flurry of activity for two days. We checked to make sure everything we could possibly need was prepared and packed. We arranged for a distant cousin of my moms who was to stay in our house with his family to come the night before we left (we can’t leave the house empty because someone might take it).

It was a tearful farewell as we left the house. One of my other aunts and an uncle came to say goodbye the morning of the trip. It was a solemn morning and I’d been preparing myself for the last two days not to cry. You won’t cry, I kept saying, because you’re coming back. You won’t cry because it’s just a little trip like the ones you used to take to Mosul or Basrah before the war. In spite of my assurances to myself of a safe and happy return, I spent several hours before leaving with a huge lump lodged firmly in my throat. My eyes burned and my nose ran in spite of me. I told myself it was an allergy.

As Wikipedia notes, River's "weblog entries were first collected and published as Baghdad Burning, (with a foreword by investigative journalist James Ridgeway), and Baghdad Burning II,  (also with an introduction by James Ridgeway and Jean Casella). They have since been translated and published in numerous countries and languages. In 2005, the book, Baghdad Burning, won third place for the Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage and in 2006 it was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson prize.

According to Wikipedia, "Baghdad Burning has also been made into several dramatic plays, mostly produced in New York City. BBC Radio 4 broadcast a five-episode dramatisation of her blog, "Baghdad Burning", on the "Woman's Hour" Serial, on each day from the 18th of December, 2006 until the 22nd of December, 2006."

Hopefully, River will blog more about Iraq now that she is in a relatively safe place.

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