Iraq 2008-2014

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Amnesty International Iraq Crisis

The crisis in Iraq: Was the rise of ISIL a surprise?
The legacy of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime facilitated the success of ISIL in Iraq.
(Al Jazeera) The fall of Mosul and the quick territorial expansion of ISIL in Iraq took some by surprise. What contributed to ISIL’s quick success was cooperation from local Sunni tribes and members of the traditionally secular and nationalist Baath party. This seemingly counterintuitive alliance has its rationale and deep roots in history.
The successful cooperation between radical Islamist factions, Sunni tribes and representatives of the former ruling party – currently commanders of paramilitary groups – can be traced back to the policies of Saddam Hussein in the early 1980s, which aimed to foster closer ties between those espousing the ideas of political Islam and the Baath party.
The historical preconditions for the advent of Islamist ideas in Iraq and their eager adoption by Sunni resistance forces are clearly discernible in the strategy proposed at the time by the then Iraqi president.
2 December
Iraqi Government and Kurds Reach Deal to Share Oil Revenues
(NYT) The agreement, which could unite Iraq against the Islamic State, covers the sharing of oil revenues with the autonomous Kurdish region.
30 November
Iraq uncovers 50,000 ‘ghost soldiers’
Prime minister reveals existence of 50,000 fictitious names crowding the payroll in the military.
(Al Jazeera) A parliament statement said the premier scrapped the 50,000 jobs, equivalent to almost four full army divisions.
Abadi’s spokesperson Rafid Jaboori said that the investigation started with a thorough headcount during the latest salary payment process. … Since taking office in September, Abadi has sacked or retired several top military commanders, and Sunday’s announcement suggests he wants to tackle the graft and patronage that prevailed under his predecessor Nouri al-Maliki.
16 September
World briefing on US-led coalition to defeat Isis in Iraq and Syria
(The Guardian) The US and its allies plan to ‘degrade and destroy’ Islamic State through air strikes in Iraq and Syria with the endorsement of almost 40 countries. The militants’ huge territorial gains and the murders of three hostages have galvanised efforts for an international coalition to defeat the radical group
26 August
Iraq and Syria Follow Lebanon’s Precedent
(Stratfor) As the Americans departed, the government that was created was dominated by Shia, who were fragmented. To a great degree, the government excluded the Sunnis, who saw themselves in danger of marginalization. The Sunnis consisted of various tribes and clans (some containing Shiites) and politico-religious movements like the Islamic State. They rose up in alliance and have now left Baghdad floundering, the Iraqi army seeking balance and the Kurds scrambling to secure their territory.
It is a three-way war, but in some ways it is a three-way war with more than 20 clans involved in temporary alliances. No one group is strong enough to destroy the others on the broader level. Sunni, Shiite and Kurd have their own territories. On the level of the tribes and clans, some could be destroyed, but the most likely outcome is what happened in Lebanon: the permanent power of the sub-national groups, with perhaps some agreement later on that creates a state in which power stays with the smaller groups, because that is where loyalty lies. …
The boundary between Lebanon and Syria was always uncertain. The border between Syria and Iraq is now equally uncertain. But then these borders were never native to the region. The Europeans imposed them for European reasons. Therefore, the idea of maintaining a united Iraq misses the point. There was never a united Iraq — only the illusion of one created by invented kings and self-appointed dictators. The war does not have to continue, but as in Lebanon, it will take the exhaustion of the clans and factions to negotiate an end.
11 August
Boris Johnson: We cannot abandon the Kurds
(Daily Telegraph via National Post) In the last few years the links between Britain and Kurdistan have been developing fast, with the first ministerial delegation from London arriving there two years ago. Standard Chartered Bank has established there, as well as many other firms. They are going not simply because Kurdistan has theoretically the sixth largest oil deposits in the world, but because the place is an oasis of stability and tolerance. They have a democratic system; they are pushing forward with women’s rights; they insist on complete mutual respect of all religions.
It would be an utter tragedy if we did not do everything in our power to give succor and relief to those who are now facing massacre and persecution, and to help repel the maniacs from one of the few bright spots in the Middle East.
11 August
Nouri al-Maliki forced out as Iraq’s political turmoil deepens
Coalition of Shia parties nominate Haider al-Abadi to replace defiant Maliki as prime minister in bid to end Baghdad deadlock
Things sometimes change fast.
Maliki rejects nomination of Al-Abadi for prime minister
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has resisted calls from the U.S. to relinquish power as three candidates, including President Fouad Massoum’s nominee, vie for the position. Maliki on Sunday threatened legal challenges against Massoum for not nominating him. Separately, countries are offering weapons to Iraqi Kurds, who retook two towns after U.S. airstrikes on Islamic State militants. The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (8/11), Bloomberg (8/11), The Associated Press (8/11)
Iraq conflict: Political crisis deepens as PM deploys militia
Shia militia forces loyal to Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki stepped up patrols around Baghdad on Sunday night after he delivered a tough televised speech indicating he would not cave in to pressure to drop a bid for a third term.
Political deadlock has prevented Iraqi politicians from uniting against Islamic State militants whose advance in the north has rattled the Baghdad government and its Western allies.
Who Are the Yazidis, the Ancient, Persecuted Religious Minority Struggling to Survive in Iraq?
The U.S. military delivers food and water to starving people and launches air strikes against the advancing militants
The Yazidis have inhabited the mountains of northwestern Iraq for centuries, and the region is home to their holy places, shrines, and ancestral villages. Outside of Sinjar, the Yazidis are concentrated in areas north of Mosul, and in the Kurdish-controlled province of Dohuk. For Yazidis, the land holds deep religious significance; adherents from all over the world—remnant communities exist in Turkey, Germany, and elsewhere—make pilgrimages to the holy Iraqi city of Lalesh. The city is now less than 40 miles from the Islamic State front lines.
8 August
The Last Pagans of Iraq
With US President Barack Obama belatedly ordering air strikes and humanitarian airdrops of food and relief supplies to refugees in northern Iraq, the world is finally taking action against the Islamic State. Within a few months, the jihadist group, which until recently called itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, has taken control of large parts of both countries, where it has proclaimed a “new Caliphate”. But the real reason to fear the Islamic State is not its lust for power; it is the systematic, cold-blooded way in which its members are erasing the region’s social, cultural, and demographic past.
Within a few weeks, the Islamic State has virtually eliminated the entire Shia Muslim and Christian populations from the lands that it controls. The city of Mosul, home to one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, no longer has any Christians left. Priceless Assyrian artifacts have been publicly destroyed in a campaign against idolatry.
Iraq must select a PM and form ‘inclusive government’ to halt ISIL, Kerry says
The only way to halt the ‘chaos, nihilism and ruthless thuggery’ of terrorist group ISIL is to form an inclusive government in Iraq, US Secretary of State John Kerry has said in a statement.
Iraq’s leaders must also select a new prime minister and confront the growing humanitarian and security crisis with the urgency it demands, Mr Kerry said.
He added: “ISIL’s campaign of terror against the innocent, including Yezedi and Christian minorities, and its grotesque and targeted acts of violence bear all the warning signs and hallmarks of genocide.
25 July
IS tightens its sectarian rule as Iraq taps new president
Fouad Massoum was elected as Iraq’s president while the jihadi group the Islamic State destroyed Christian shrines and imposed Islamic dress on women in the country’s north.
(CSM) Fouad Massoum, a veteran Kurdish politician, was elected to replace President Jalal Talabani, also a Kurd. The presidential post is largely a symbolic one, Reuters notes, but putting someone in place is an example of the kind of consensus that has been in short supply since the April parliamentary election. The election could be a step toward a greater US military role in Iraq.
13 July
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country
A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany
(The Independent) How far is Saudi Arabia complicit in the Isis takeover of much of northern Iraq, and is it stoking an escalating Sunni-Shia conflict across the Islamic world? Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”
The fatal moment predicted by Prince Bandar may now have come for many Shia, with Saudi Arabia playing an important role in bringing it about by supporting the anti-Shia jihad in Iraq and Syria. Since the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) on 10 June, Shia women and children have been killed in villages south of Kirkuk, and Shia air force cadets machine-gunned and buried in mass graves near Tikrit.

BCA Research GPS June 2014
The mainstream media finally took notice of Iraq, probably about two years too late. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has taken control of the second largest city, Mosul, in the country’s
north which is about an hour drive from the Syrian border (more on that below). Over 500,000 refugees streamed across the border to neighboring Kurdistan Regional Government territory. Mosul is a city of over million people in the Sunni majority Nineveh Governorate and is now the third city in Iraq held by ISIS, along with Ramadi and Fallujah in the – also Sunni dominated – Al-Anbar Governorate. Put together, ISIS now controls about 10% of Iraq’s total population.
We have been cautioning clients about the sectarian risks in Iraq for well over two years now. … We expected the conflict in Syria to eventually cross the border into Iraq for three main reasons:
* Saudi Arabia cannot idly stand by and allow Iran to dominate Iraq through its proxy, current Premier Nouri Al-Maliki and his Shia dominated government;
* Most Islamist militants fighting in Syria are originally from Iraq anyway and are itching to bring the conflict home;
* Iraq is easy prey for well-organized and well-funded militants after a decade of occupation and insurgency.
As the fight against Syrian leader Assad has stalled, many Sunni Islamic insurgents have understandably decided to cross back into Iraq, where the action is just starting. We also suspect that these militants have the tacit support of wealthy donors in Saudi Arabia for three main reasons.
First, if Iraq becomes a proxy of Iran, it would place Iranian/Shia influence on Saudi Arabia’s unsecured northern border. Second, with the U.S. negotiating a deal with Iran in order to geopolitically
deleverage from the Middle East and thus focus on containing China, the Saudi Arabian leadership is convinced that it has been left alone to deal with a resurgent Iran.Third, a secure and peaceful Iraq is an Iraq that can potentially increase oil production to 8-10 million barrels per day, thus challenging Saudi Arabia’s staunch defense of the US$105 Brent price floor.

26 June
How the Fate of One Holy Site Could Plunge Iraq Back into Civil War
(TIME) U.S. officials are now anxiously focused … on a thousand-year-old sacred site in Samarra, a city 80 miles north of Baghdad now mostly controlled by ISIS.
“Clearly, everyone understands that Samarra is an important line,” Kerry said in Baghdad. “Historically, an assault on Samarra created enormous problems in Iraq. That is something that we all do not want to see happen again.”
Kerry was referring to the events of Feb. 22, 2006, when members of al-Qaeda in Iraq, a group that later morphed into ISIS, infiltrated Samarra’s al-Askari mosque. After tying up sleeping guards inside, the fighters planted bombs that destroyed its famous gilded dome. That savage act of religious vandalism “started Iraq’s slide into civil war,” a senior Obama Administration official said—one that U.S. officials fear could be re-ignited again today.
From the Economist newsletter: Fulfilling its constitutional requirement, the Iraqi parliament will convene on Monday to form a new government, 15 days after its highest court certified the results of the April 30 election. Western diplomats, political leaders, and Shiite clerics have urged the government, led by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, to include Sunnis and Kurds and build a credible bulwark against the Sunni extremists that have swept through the country.
Though some have called for Maliki to be replaced — he has already served two terms — such a turn seems unlikely. His Rule of Law party controls 92 of the 328 seats in parliament, and a 165 majority is required to form a new government. Both Sunni and Kurdish leaders have demanded concessions from Maliki in exchange for joining the government, which he has so far been hesitant to grant.
Meanwhile, the situation continues to deteriorate. In Baghdad, where sectarian tensions are growing, there has been a sharp rise in the murder and abduction of Sunnis living in the capital, as Shiite militias have begun patrolling the city, and their members have joined the army. There were at least 21 unidentified bodies delivered to the city’s morgue during the third week of June, most of whom were killed by a gunshot to the head.
24 June
Kerry urges Kurds to save Iraq from collapse
(Reuters) The 5 million Kurds, who have ruled themselves within Iraq in relative peace since the U.S. invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, have seized on this month’s chaos to expand their own territory, taking control of rich oil deposits.
Two days after the Sunni fighters launched their uprising by seizing the north’s biggest city Mosul, Kurdish troops took full control of Kirkuk, a city they consider their historic capital and which was abandoned by the fleeing Iraqi army.
The Kurds’ capture of Kirkuk, just outside the boundary of their autonomous zone, eliminates their main incentive to remain part of Iraq: its oil deposits could generate more revenue than the Kurds now receive from Baghdad as part of the settlement that has kept them from declaring independence.
21 June
Iraq militants take Syria border post in drive for caliphate
(Reuters) – Sunni fighters have seized a border post on the Iraq-Syria frontier, security sources said, smashing a line drawn by colonial powers a century ago in a campaign to create an Islamic Caliphate from the Mediterranean Sea to Iran.
The militants, led by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), first moved into the nearby town of al-Qaim on Friday, pushing out security forces, the sources said on Saturday.
Once border guards heard that al-Qaim had fallen, they left their posts and militants moved in, the sources said.
Dr. Charles Cogan — Iraq: Be Careful How You Mess With the Sunni World
There are two elements to keep in mind in assessing the sudden Sunni surge in Iraq. First, the Sunni-populated part of Iraq is virtually bereft of natural resources. The Kurdish and Shia parts in the northeast and south respectively are not. This is largely what renders partition problematic.
Secondly, the Sunni advance that began with the spectacular bloodless seizure of Mosul and moved south is not all the doing of the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). There are other Sunni groups in the mix of fighters: Sunni tribal elements, Baathist remnants of Saddam Hussein’s army, etc.
The U.S. must be careful not to be considered as coming to the rescue of the Shiite Maliki regime in Baghdad, as this could have repercussions on the wider Muslim world, which is 85 percent Sunni.
20 June
ISIS bribed its way to victory
As in 1996, when the (Clinton-backed) Taliban militia took over Kabul by the simple expedient of bribing rival commanders, the ISIS victory on the battlefield has been caused by bribing senior Iraqi military commanders, who ordered the forces under them to desist from resisting the extremists. Several of them paid for this folly with their lives afterwards, being killed in the most brutal way by ISIS. It would not be difficult to identify the money trail linking donors in Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to the ISIS battalions in the field in Iraq, nor would it be difficult to establish the provenance of the weapons and other supplies being used by the extremist militia to gain control of territory in Iraq.
Mosul: A city living on the edge
Isis issues orders enforcing regular prayer, outlawing smoking and drinking, and demanding that women respect stringent dress codes (Financial Times)
19 June
Christopher Hill: Iraq’s Sectarian Nightmare
What is happening today in Iraq is part of a broader pattern of sectarian violence across the region. Whether triggered by the US-led invasion of Iraq 11 years ago or by the often-misunderstood Arab Spring, sectarianism is alive and well, and, in the case of ISIS, it is accompanied by the kind of terrorism that the US has confronted so firmly since September 11, 2001. America and the West need a policy that addresses the sectarian struggle head-on – not just in Iraq but throughout the region.
With the apparent conquest of Iraq’s northwestern provinces – and maybe more – by the militant Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the country’s troubled history has opened a horrifying new chapter. In a matter of just days, ISIS’s fighters overran Anbar, Ninewa, and Salahaddin provinces – a victory that attests to the central government’s non-existent authority in Sunni-majority areas. And, given ISIS’s jihadi ideology, there is limited scope for “Sunni outreach” – the supposed panacea for all that ails Iraq’s sectarian political culture.
ISIS is not a group that is receptive to dialogue. Its leadership adheres to the view, expressed in many corners of the Arab Sunni world, that Shia Muslims are apostates and betrayers of Islam who rank among the worst of the worst (alongside Israel and the United States). This means that the US needs both a military response to ISIS and a political response that extends beyond Iraq. What is needed, above all, is a regional approach to the increasingly murderous Sunni-Shia rivalry. (19 June)
18 June
Christian Caryl: Mosul’s Christians Say Goodbye
(Foreign Policy) The jihadist takeover of northern Iraq is a disaster for Iraqis. But the destruction of an ancient Christian culture is a disaster for the world.
I’m glad that these believers have saved themselves and their faith, but their emigration comes at a cost — as they themselves are only too aware.
For the past 2,000 years, Iraq has been home to a distinct and vibrant culture of Eastern Christianity. Now that storied history appears to be coming to an end. Even if the ISIS forces are ultimately driven back, it’s hard to imagine that the Mosul Christians who have fled will see a future for themselves in an Iraq dominated by the current Shiite dictatorship of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which enjoys strong support from Iran.
It’s worth adding, perhaps, that Christians aren’t the only ones in this predicament. Iraq is also home to a number of other religious minorities endangered by the country’s polarization into two warring camps of Islam. The Yazidis follow a belief system that has a lot in common with the ancient Persian religion of Zoroastrianism; about a half a million of them live in northern Iraq. The Mandaeans, numbering only 30,000 or so, are perhaps the world’s last remaining adherents of Gnosticism, one of the offshoots of early Christianity. By tradition many Mandaeans are goldsmiths — a trade that has made them prominent targets for abduction in the post-invasion anarchy of Iraq. Losing these unique cultures makes the world a poorer place.
Who funds the ISIS Islamist militants in Iraq?
Bloomberg look into the Islamist militant group Isis and try to ascertain where they get their funding from
(The Telegraph) The organisation has gained most of its financing from smuggling, extortion and other crime. In Syria, the group has gained cashflows from oilfields and smuggling £21m of antiquities from the country.They’ve also reportedly extorted taxes from businesses in Mosul, Iraq, netting millions a month.
16 June
The People Who Broke Iraq Have A Lot of Ideas About Fixing It Now
(ThinkProgress) … That marked the end of a war that lasted nearly a decade in which a well-documented campaign to push for war against Saddam Hussein drowned out any criticism ahead of the launch of combat operations.
Now, those same architects are invited to write op-eds, speak on television panels, and generally give their opinion on today’s Iraq with little to no pushback on just how wrong they got it a decade ago. The situation as it stands in Iraq is not the same as in 2003 and the administration is now considering air strikes to slow the progress of ISIS. But so as to not allow the ones who broke Iraq in the first place to go entirely unchallenged, here are some of the top advocates for launching the war in 2003 — along with their misleading statements and incorrect predictions — and what they have to say about Iraq now.
7 Talking Points You Need for Discussing the Iraq Crisis
(Mother Jones) Especially if you’re talking to a Republican braying for US military action.
U.S. considers air strikes, action with Iran to halt Iraq rebels
(Reuters) Joint action between the United States and Iran to help prop up the government of their mutual ally would be unprecedented since Iran’s 1979 revolution, demonstrating the urgency of the alarm raised by the lightning insurgent advance. Iran has longstanding ties to Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other Shi’ite politicians. Meanwhile: Saudi rejects foreign interference in Iraq, blames ‘sectarian’ Maliki
13 June
Robert Fisk: The old partition of the Middle East is dead. I dread to think what will follow
(The Independent) The Lebanese Druze leader [Walid Jumblatt] – who fought in a 15-year civil war that redrew the map of Lebanon – believes that the new battles for Sunni Muslim jihadi control of northern and eastern Syria and western Iraq have finally destroyed the post-World War Anglo-French conspiracy, hatched by Mark Sykes and François Picot, which divided up the old Ottoman Middle East into Arab statelets controlled by the West.
The Islamic Caliphate of Iraq and Syria has been fought into existence – however temporarily – by al-Qa’ida-affiliated Sunni fighters who pay no attention to the artificial borders of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon or Jordan, or even mandate Palestine, created by the British and French. Their capture of the city of Mosul only emphasises the collapse of the secret partition plan which the Allies drew up in the First World War – for Mosul was sought after for its oil wealth by both Britain and France. (Reuters) ISIL seeks a caliphate ruled on mediaeval Sunni Muslim precepts in Iraq and Syria, fighting against both Iraq’s Maliki and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. It considers all Shi’ites to be heretics deserving death and has boasted of massacring hundreds of Iraqi troops who surrendered to its forces last week.
Obama’s Iraq dilemma: Fighting the ISIL puts US and Iran on the same side
(Al Jazeera) their strategic rivalry has prompted Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, among others, to back favored factions as proxies in their region-wide geopolitical contest.
ISIS, beheadings and the success of horrifying violence
(WaPost) The stories, the videos, the acts of unfathomable brutality have become a defining aspect of ISIS, which controls a nation-size tract of land and has now pushed Iraq to the precipice of dissolution. Its adherents kill with such abandon that even the leader of al-Qaeda has disavowed them. “Clearly, [leader Ayman] al-Zawahiri believes that ISIS is a liability to the al-Qaeda brand,” Aaron Zelin, who analyzes jihadist movements for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The Washington Post’s Liz Sly earlier this year. (NYT) Militants Claim Mass Execution of Iraqi Forces — Insurgents from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria boasted on Twitter that they had executed 1,700 people, posting gruesome photos to support their claim.
John Cassidy: The Iraq Mess: Place Blame Where It Is Deserved
(The New Yorker) The Iraq invasion and occupation was ill-conceived, ill-executed, and ill-fated. It had terrible consequences not just for Iraq but for many other countries. It illustrated the limits of American military power—the opposite of what it was intended to do—and it helped accomplish what Osama bin Laden could never have achieved on his own: drawing the United States and its allies into an open-ended global battle with militant Islam. When you hear Feith and other architects of the Iraq invasion criticizing Obama for cutting and running, it is well to remember that.
EthnoIRAQPeople have talked about Iraq breaking up for years. Now it may actually happen
(WaPost blog) In 2006, as Iraq descended into sectarian violence, two men wrote an op-ed for the New York Times. They argued that we could only “maintain a united Iraq by decentralizing it, giving each ethno-religious group — Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab — room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests.”
One of those two authors, Leslie H. Gelb, is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. The other was a U.S. senator for Delaware, Joe Biden. The idea stoked some controversy at the time, with critics describing it as a “partition.” But the logic was understandable.
Iraq broadly falls into distinct regions that line up with ethnic or religious groups: A Kurdish north, a Sunni middle, and a Shiite south. Iraq’s modern borders were defined by its time in the Ottoman Empire and subsequent years as a British mandate, and you can make an argument that they are “artificial.” Many felt that Saddam Hussein and his minority Sunni government had only been able to maintain a centralized, national government with repressive, dictatorial tactics. That wasn’t compatible with a modern democracy, and the fear was that if regions weren’t given more power, conflict was inevitable. …
Even if Biden and Gelb were hesitant to use the word “partition,” others were not. Peter Galbraith, writing in 2007, put it simply: “Let’s face it: partition is a better outcome than a Sunni-Shiite civil war.” Galbraith, a longtime U.S. diplomat, had long advocated an even further devolution of power than federalization. Asked about recent events, he was unequivocal. “It’s the end of Iraq,” Galbraith, now a state senator in Vermont, said. “It is the breakup of Iraq along the lines of three communities. It isn’t just that ISIS came into the Sunni areas with a small number of really dedicated fighters who were able to defeat a much larger and demoralized Iraqi army, it is that the population is increasingly hostile to the Iraqi army, seeing it as Shiite army..
What are the U.S.’s options in Iraq?
(PBS Newshour) President Obama said Friday that the U.S. will not send troops for combat purposes, and that he will weigh different options from his national security team over the next few days.
He said Iraqi leaders have been unable to overcome the sectarian differences in the country, so any action the U.S. takes must be accompanied by changes in the Iraqi government that ensure people can participate in politics without resorting to war. Also, Iraq needs to build up its security force, he said. “We can’t do it for them.”
(WSJ) Islamist Militants Aim to Redraw Map of the Middle East
Governments Under Siege as ISIS Seeks to Impose Vision of Single Radical Islamist State
12 June
Assisted Suicide — How two presidents and a band of jihadists killed Iraq.
(Politico Magazine) On Thursday, as ISIS threatened their northern region, Kurdish peshmerga paramilitary forces — believed to be the most effective fighting force in Iraq — marched into Kirkuk and took complete control of that oil-rich city without a firing a shot. Iraqi soldiers had abandoned their positions there, just as they had a few days earlier in Mosul. “A Kurdish state is on the way,” President Massoud Barzani of the Kurdistan Regional Government told Sky News Arabia in April. The occasion then for this forecast was the decision taken by the Kurdish government to ship oil directly to neighboring Turkey, bypassing Baghdad’s authority completely. Erbil, the Kurdish capital, also intends to complete construction of a KRG-Turkish pipeline—the backbone to what could be a major new alliance in the Middle East between Kurdistan and Turkey. Many of the half million refugees now fleeing Mosul are heading to the Kurdish region. And with the Kurds in complete control of Kirkuk, a city they called their “Jerusalem,” it may be that Barzani’s prophecy will be met sooner than even he anticipated. Iraq Kurds take Kirkuk; Sunni militants surge toward Baghdad
10 June
Isis insurgents seize control of Iraqi city of Mosul
Maliki seeks to declare state of emergency after Sunni militants with Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant overrun northern city
(The Guardian) Islamist extremists have seized control of much of Iraq’s second biggest city, Mosul, and the surrounding province, freeing more than 1,000 prisoners, sending troops and residents fleeing and crippling Baghdad’s efforts to quell a fast-spreading insurgency.
30 April
Iraqis head to polls as violence flares
(FT) This week’s election is largely seen as a referendum on the performance of Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, and many doubt he will be ousted
Sectarianism overshadows Iraq’s elections; the winner will be Iran
(The Guardian) Sunnis and Shias are on the brink of civil war, and Islamism is emboldened. Two years after US withdrawal, Iraq is unravelling
Iraq holds national elections on Wednesday, its first since the US left in December 2011. Relations between its Sunni and Shia communities have deteriorated and the country is on the brink of civil war as well as territorial disintegration.
The elections are likely to sustain and exacerbate these problems. The country has struggled to contain domestic instability and regional volatility since the US withdrawal, to the extent that many believe it is no longer a question of if, but when, the 2006 sectarian civil war is repeated.
6 January
Insight: Fuelled by Syria war, al Qaeda bursts back to life in Iraq
(Reuters) – Al Qaeda gunmen seeking to form a radical Islamic state out of the chaos of Syria’s civil war are fighting hard to reconquer the province they once controlled in neighboring Iraq, stirring fears the conflict is exporting ever more instability.
Exploiting local grievances against Baghdad’s rule and buoyed by al Qaeda gains in Syria, the fighters have taken effective control of Anbar’s two main cities for the first time since U.S. occupation troops defeated them in 2006-07.
Al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has a tough potential foe in Anbar’s well-armed tribes, fellow Sunnis ill-disposed to ceding power to al Qaeda even if they share ISIL’s hostility to the Shi’ite-led central government.
And the group’s goal of creating a hardline Islamic state reaching into Syria is still seen by many as far-fetched.
But its high-profile push into Ramadi and Falluja illustrates the dangers of conflict spreading from Syria’s three-year-old conflict, which is in part a proxy war between Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite rival Iran, analysts say.


Eyewitness to war RJG
21 March
Rodrigue Tremblay writes: This month marks the 10th anniversary of the decision by the Bush-Cheney administration to invade the country of Iraq and initiate what can be called a war of choice. This is a good time to briefly look back at this unsavory historical episode. The Iraq War Fiasco, Ten Years Later
Dr. Charles Cogan sums up the sad story: Triste anniversaire
(HuffPost) We reached this week the tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, and although there has been an embarrassed near-silence about the event in Washington, the fact is that nothing good has come out of this military adventure. Saddam Hussein didn’t need to be deterred; he had already been deterred in the first Gulf War in 1990-1991. All that can be described as an outcome is that the ethnic positions were upended, with the Shiites replacing the Sunnis as the dominant group, a development that is still, and arguably increasingly, being contested by the Sunnis, in a series of violent attacks that are ongoing.
Unfortunately, we can only say that this was a useless war, conceived under the mistaken pretext that Saddam was in possession of weapons of mass destruction and resulting in untold sacrifices of dead and wounded on all sides.
19 March
Iraq War Reflections Revisit Runup To Invasion 10 Years Ago
Ten years after the United States invaded Iraq, The Huffington Post has launched a series looking back at the war. David Wood reported on the human costs of the war, while Joshua Hersh and Chris Spurlock examined its dollar costs. Howard Fineman admitted he did not ask tough questions of the Bush administration in the runup to the war.
We’re far from alone in highlighting this milestone and using it as a moment to reflect on the tragic misadventure. Below are some of the best articles from around the web.
Iraq: A Ten-Year Anniversary We’d Rather Forget
Apologists for the war of aggression against Iraq that President George W. Bush launched ten years ago claim the United Nations and various European nations’ intelligence services “believed” Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction.” We constantly hear from former Bush officials that “everybody got it wrong” on Iraq when it came to whether or not Saddam Hussein possessed WMDs and we should therefore accept their sincerity in getting it “wrong” too. Yet they ignore the July 23, 2002 “Downing Street Memo,” which someone in Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government leaked to the public in the spring of 2005. The memo, (actually, the minutes of a British cabinet meeting), states that George W. Bush had already decided to go to war with Iraq and that the intelligence on WMD was being “fixed” to “fit the policy.”
So if “everybody got it wrong” why did the intelligence agencies report to Blair that the WMD story was being “fixed?” And if getting it “wrong” mattered so much to U.S. policy makers why did most journalists in the United States greet the Downing Street revelations with a collective yawn when in the U.K. and throughout Europe it was a major scandal?
It’s worth remembering that the New York Times subsequently dumped Judith Miller, who was the Bush administration’s chief stenographer at the Times, and in early 2004 even offered the unprecedented gesture of a mea culpa for its terrible reportage on the WMD controversy. The Washington Post followed with its own acknowledgement of its flawed coverage of the WMD story and even had its media reporter, Howard Kurtz, pen a lengthy critique of the Post’s coverage. Official sources lied repeatedly and some of the most prestigious members of the Fourth Estate eagerly lapped it up. That phenomenon is a far cry from “getting it wrong.”
Never Forget: Our Invasion of Iraq Was a Breach of Trust
Richard A. Clarke, Former Advisor to the President on Cyber Security
One of America’s great strengths is that it looks to the future, not the past. It may also be one of our greatest weaknesses. We often pay a price for our collective amnesia or ignorance of our own history. Instead, we must remember, we must teach the history, not cover it up, and never forget it.
On Tuesday, at this 10th anniversary of the American Invasion of Iraq, we would do well to remind ourselves about some painful facts.
Keeping those facts in our collective memory may make it easier for us as a nation to prevent future mistakes. So, let us recall five unfortunate facts about the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
First, the leaders of the Bush administration were intent on invading from the beginning of their time in the White House. When the 9-11 attacks occurred, Bush cabinet members immediately discussed how that tragedy could be used to justify an invasion.
John Moore on the Iraq War: Told you it was a bad idea
Those who seem to think war is always the better option were determined to invade Iraq. They ginned up the case, and blindly launched a plan so badly designed and executed that it was doomed to fail. (Even former deputy Pentagon chief, Paul Wolfowitz, an invasion architect, now admits as much.)
In a recent interview, former Canadian foreign affairs minister Bill Graham called the invasion arguably “one of the most serious foreign policy blunders, certainly of this century.” He added: “The deaths in Iraq, the destruction of the Iraqi Christian community, and the Americans delivered Iraq to Iran. How much bigger a miscalculation can you make?”
1 March
James Fallows: As We Near the 10th Anniversary of the Iraq War
As I think about this war and others the U.S. has contemplated or entered during my conscious life, I realize how strong is the recurrent pattern of threat inflation. Exactly once in the post-WW II era has the real threat been more ominous than officially portrayed. That was during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when the world really came within moments of nuclear destruction.
(The Atlantic) This month marks ten years since the U.S. launched its invasion of Iraq. In my view this was the biggest strategic error by the United States since at least the end of World War II and perhaps over a much longer period. Vietnam was costlier and more damaging, but also more understandable. As many people have chronicled, the decision to fight in Vietnam was a years-long accretion of step-by-step choices, each of which could be rationalized at the time. Invading Iraq was an unforced, unnecessary decision to risk everything on a “war of choice” whose costs we are still paying.


See also
Iraq 5 years later
U.S. Foreign Policy ;
Iraq news on ;
(The Guardian) Iraq
(BBC) Iraq Profile

Iraq on the brink of ‘devastating civil war’: Former PM Allawi

The head of the Sunni-backed Iraqiya political bloc said Iraq ‘stands on the brink of disaster’ and issued a list of demands on (National Post) Wednesday in a political crisis triggered by charges against a Sunni leader
Iraqiya leader Iyad Allawi, in an editorial for The New York Times, said Iraq was heading towards a “sectarian autocracy that carries with it the threat of devastating civil war.”
21 December
Rodrigue Tremblay: The End of the Bush-Cheney Disaster in Iraq
This was a neo-conservative imperial project that became officially the “Bush Doctrine”. Its goal was to project, as far as possible into the future, the “unipolar advantageous position” that the United States inherited after the break-up of the Soviet Union, in December 1991.
It was really a hubristic and bare-knuckle strategy of world hegemony, based upon unilateral interventionism—militarily, economically and politically—by the U.S. It was an “America First” doctrine, based not upon modern international law, but rather on a solipsistic approach to American interests and the elementary principle of brute force. In fact, it was a giant step backward that could have consequences for decades to come.
Charles Cogan: A War to End All Misbegotten Wars
(HuffPost) A war begun under a number of flawed pretexts — from non-existent weapons of mass destruction to “he tried to kill mah Daddy” — has now ended, with 4,487 American soldiers dead and 32,226 wounded, not to speak of Allied casualties and the more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians who died.
President Obama, during a press conference at the White House with Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki on December 12 to mark the end of America’s military involvement, stated that, “History will judge the original decision to go into Iraq.” This is a tough message to send to the thousands of American troops returning from Iraq. Left with this implicit message of a flawed conflict, the American military can only draw on their own heroism and devotion to country to find a meaning to what took place during these nearly nine years in Iraq.
19 December
George Friedman — The Iraq War: Recollections
(Stratfor) The war in Iraq is officially over. Whether it is actually over remains to be seen. All that we know is that U.S. forces have been withdrawn. There is much to be said about the future of Iraq, but it is hard to think of anything that has been left unsaid about the past years of war in Iraq, and true perspective requires the passage of time. It seemed appropriate, therefore, to hear from those at STRATFOR who fought in the war and survived. STRATFOR is graced with seven veterans of the war and one Iraqi who lived through it. It is interesting to me that all of our Iraq veterans were enlisted personnel. I don’t know what that means, but it pleases me for some reason. Their short recollections are what STRATFOR has to contribute to the end of the war. It is, I think, far more valuable than anything I could possibly say.
Arrest warrant for Vice President Hashemi sparks political turmoil in Iraq
Shortly after the departure of the last convoy of U.S. troops from Iraq, the country has fallen into heightened political turmoil and escalated sectarian tension. On Monday, Iraq’s Shiite-led government under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a warrant for the arrest of Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on charges of terrorism … Hashemi, who denied the charges as a “political attack”, fled to the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, saying that if tried there he would be “ready to face trial.”
19 December
As the troops pull out, what kind of Iraq has America left behind?
(The Independent) Iraq has turned into a back-burner issue, but there’s still plenty to worry about in a country that remains far from stable.
The level of violence has gone down hugely from the days when we would wake up to and go to bed in Baghdad to the sound of gunfire and bombs. The economy is taking steps, albeit faltering, towards recovery. And a non-theocratic government has been voted in. This last point is of particular importance as elections bring Muslim fundamentalists, of varying hues, into power in the region following the Arab Spring.
18 December
Last U.S. troops leave Iraq, ending war
(Reuters) – The last convoy of U.S. soldiers pulled out of Iraq on Sunday, ending nearly nine years of war that cost almost 4,500 American and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives, and left a country grappling with political uncertainty.
The war launched in March 2003 with missiles striking Baghdad to oust President Saddam Hussein closes with a fragile democracy still facing insurgents, sectarian tensions and the challenge of defining its place in an Arab region in turmoil.
As U.S. soldiers pulled out, Iraq’s delicate power-sharing deal for , Sunni and Kurdish factions was already under pressure. The Shi’ite-led government asked parliament to fire the Sunni deputy prime minister, and security sources said the Sunni vice president faced an arrest warrant.
16 December
Bernd Debusmann: As soldiers leave, U.S. diplomats face huge Iraq challenge
(Reuters) There is a certain symmetry to the beginning and the end of the war. At the beginning, there was little or no planning for the post-combat phase. At the end, there is no post-withdrawal planning to get U.S.-affiliated Iraqis to safety quickly if the need arises. There are precedents for such operations
4 November
Bernd Debusmann: After U.S. departure, a bloodbath in Iraq?
(Reuters) As the clock ticks towards the end of America’s military presence in Iraq, there are increasingly dire warnings of a humanitarian disaster unless steps are taken to protect more than 3,000 Iranian dissidents living in a camp in Iraq. How closely is Washington listening?
Gloomy forecasts for the fate of the exiles at Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad near the border with Iran, have come from Amnesty International, a long string of prominent former U.S. government officials, retired generals, and members of the European Parliament. One of them, Struan Stevenson, predicts “a Srebrenica-style massacre,” a reference to the 1995 killing of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims during the Bosnian War.
21 October
Obama announces end of Iraq war, troops to return home by year end
(CBS News) U.S. and Iraqi officials have spent months debating whether to honor a planned December 31 deadline for troop withdrawal, set in 2008, amid concerns that the full withdrawal of U.S. forces could put the country at risk. Many U.S. officials wanted to leave a few thousand military trainers in the country past the end of the year, but, as the Associated Press reported Sunday, “Iraqi leaders have adamantly refused to give U.S. troops immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts, and the Americans have refused to stay without it.”
America has already withdrawn nearly 100,000 troops from Iraq already as part of the current draw-down; nearly 40,000 “non-combat” troops remain. Mr. Obama said Friday that “Iraqis have taken full responsibility for their country’s security” and said that the relationship between the United States and Iraq going forward will be one of equals.
20 August
As U.S. Prepares To Leave, Iraq Remains A Flash Point
by Alan Greenblatt, NPR
Iraq has turned into a back-burner issue, but there’s still plenty to worry about in a country that remains far from stable.
Attacks across the country this week raised a host of questions about the ability of Iraq’s security forces to maintain control. There are still nearly 50,000 American troops stationed in the country. But their primary mission now is to train Iraqi soldiers, and most of the U.S. forces are scheduled to leave by Dec. 31 under an agreement between the U.S. and Iraqi governments.
Monday was the country’s most violent day in more than a year, with nearly 90 people killed around the country in 42 separate attacks, including car bombings, shootings and suicide bombers. The killings have continued through the week, with at least 16 more dead and dozens wounded in attacks around the north and central sections of the country.
Iraq faces several other deep challenges. They include the question of how to divide profits from oil, who should control parts of the Kurdish north, and the ability of the political system to govern effectively. Each is like a thread which, if pulled, could lead at least to a partial unraveling of the country’s security.
Iraqi prewar intelligence provider admits lies
The Iraqi defector who provided intelligence on Iraqi weapons sites that the U.S. used as part of its justification for invading Iraq says he provided false information. Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, code-named in intelligence circles as “Curveball,” says lying about Iraq’s weapons programs was the only way he saw to bring about the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. The New York Times (free registration) (2/15)


27 December
States of Conflict: An Update
(NYT) This was the year of two big developments in Iraq: the major reduction in American combat forces and a protracted election in which voting in March was followed by a nine-month delay in forming a new government. Despite the political confusion, violence did not escalate, and the economy continued to make slow progress. Still, Iraq cannot afford as much stalemate in the coming year as it experienced in 2010, and the new government will need to deliver security, public services and economic growth.
Leaked U.S. reports detail Iraq abuses
Nearly 400,000 secret documents about the Iraq war show that the United States handed over detainees to an Iraqi torture squad, and covered up the deaths of Iraqi civilians. U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the alleged killings, torture and abuse detailed in the documents released by WikiLeaks “are very, very serious allegations of a nature which I think everybody will find quite shocking.” The Guardian (London) (10/24) , The Independent (London) (10/23)
Leaked Reports Detail Iran’s Aid for Iraqi Militias
(NYT) Scores of documents made public by WikiLeaks, which has disclosed classified information about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, provide a ground-level look — at least as seen by American units in the field and the United States’ military intelligence — at the shadow war between the United States and Iraqi militias backed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
… the field reports disclosed by WikiLeaks, which were never intended to be made public, underscore the seriousness with which Iran’s role has been seen by the American military. The political struggle between the United States and Iran to influence events in Iraq still continues as Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has sought to assemble a coalition — that would include the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr — that will allow him to remain in power. But much of the American’s military concern has revolved around Iran’s role in arming and assisting Shiite militias. WikiLeaks Defends Release of US Iraqi War Documents
22 October
Wikileaks Iraq War Diaries
At 5pm EST Friday 22nd October 2010 WikiLeaks released the largest classified military leak in history. The 391,832 reports (‘The Iraq War Logs’), document the war and occupation in Iraq, from 1st January 2004 to 31st December 2009 (except for the months of May 2004 and March 2009) as told by soldiers in the United States Army.
17 October
Pentagon braced for the release of 400,000 Iraq files on Wikileaks
The Pentagon is braced for its biggest-ever security breach of classified information as Wikileaks, the website that publishes leaked official documents, prepares to release 400,000 intelligence files related to the Iraq war.
19 August
U.S. mission in Iraq switches from combat to assist
(Reuters) – The U.S. military is on track to cut numbers in Iraq to 50,000 by end August, when the 7-1/2-year combat mission launched by former President George W. Bush ends and operations switch to assisting Iraq’s armed forces.
The 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, the last brigade mainly focused on combat, handed over to Iraqi forces on August 7 and pulls out this week. Its 100-strong “trail party” will leave in three days after turning over facilities.
3 August
Iraq violence flares as US begins to draw down troop levels
(CSM) The killing of five policemen in Baghdad on Tuesday came as President Barack Obama vowed again to fulfill an agreement with the Iraqi government to lower US troop levels from 80,000 to 50,000 by the end of August.
(Foreign Policy) Obama didn’t get us into Iraq, and he’s doing the right thing to get us out more-or-less on the schedule that the Bush adminstration negotiated back in 2008. But it’s now clear that the much-vaunted “surge” was a strategic failure, and Iraq could easily spin back out of control once U.S. forces are gone. Even in the best case, Iraq can only be judged a defeat for the United States: we will have spent trillions of dollars and lost thousands of lives in order to bring to power an unstable government that is sympathetic to Iran and unlikely to be particularly friendly to the United States. Americans don’t like losing, however, and Obama is going to get blamed for this outcome even though it was entirely his predecessor’s fault.
2 August
In Speech on Iraq, Obama Reaffirms Drawdown
(NYT) President Obama on Monday opened a month-long drive to mark the end of the combat mission in Iraq and, by extension, to blunt growing public frustration with the war in Afghanistan by arguing that he can also bring that conflict to a conclusion.
Iraq’s Central Bank targeted in bomb attack
At least 15 people died and dozens more were wounded in a coordinated attack outside Iraq’s Central Bank on Sunday, the latest in a string of attempted and successful robberies of financial and business institutions across the country. Iraqi security officials believe the attack was an attempt by al-Qaida operatives. The Washington Post (6/14
26 April
Election Ruling in Iraq Favors Prime Minister
(NYT) A parliamentary candidate was disqualified by a special elections court, most likely reversing the defeat of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s alliance, in a move that could delay the formation of a new government. The machinations over the results have also cast doubt on the ultimate fairness of an election that was seen as a test of Iraq’s nascent democracy and the United States’ ability to withdraw. The political impasse has revived sectarian tensions that are never far from the surface and has raised the specter of even more violence. (Al Jazeera) Iraq politicians struck from poll
29 March
Iraq election: Victorious candidates may be purged, boosting Maliki
(CSM) As part of a de-Baathification purge, six candidates who won seats in the Iraq election may be removed. That would cost Iyad Allawi’s bloc its narrow victory over incumbent Nouri al-Maliki.
Uphill Coalition-Building Battle for Winners Unfolds
(IPS) – Iraq’s major political forces are beginning what is likely to be a lengthy and uncertain process of talks to form a government. A key question is whether Iraq’s politically diverse groups will join forces together based on ideological, ethnic, sectarian or merely pragmatist considerations.
Party official among 6 killed by bombs in Iraq
FALLUJA, Iraq, March 28 (Reuters) – A series of explosions in western Iraq killed six people on Sunday, including an official of a political faction in former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s electoral coalition, police said.
27 March
Iraq’s Allawi open to all in coalition talks
(Reuters) – Iraq election winner Iyad Allawi said on Saturday he was open to alliances with any faction and wanted quickly to form a government that would build strong relationships with its regional neighbours.
Allawi’s secular, cross-sectarian Iraqiya bloc won by a two-seat margin in preliminary results released on Friday over the State of Law coalition led by Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who said he would challenge the results.
22 March
Maliki seeks recount in Iraq elections

The prime minister, in a narrow race with Iyad Allawi, alleges fraud and demands a recount, invoking his power as commander in chief. Fears of turmoil rise as the election commission rejects the call.
8 March
Defiant Iraqis – Counting begins after Iraq’s modestly hopeful general election
(The Economist) DESPITE a wave of violent attacks, millions of voters took part on Sunday March 7th in the second full parliamentary election in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. In a country slowly emerging from years of bloody fighting, voters faced a choice between a Shia-dominated government and a non-sectarian one. Neither option offers an obvious path to full peace and prosperity.
7 March
Candidate claims victory, but voting is just the first step
The last time Iraqis voted on a new Parliament, it took leaders over four months to decide on the makeup of government
(Globe & Mail) Within a couple of hours of the polls being closed Sunday evening, several of Mr. Allawi’s district campaign managers gave Iraqi television their projected results in almost all the country’s governates.
Court overrules Iraqi candidates’ ban

In a decision that will have major ramifications for the upcoming parliamentary elections, an Iraqi appeals court overturned a ban on some 500 political candidates — mostly Sunni and largely rivals to a bloc led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The court said it would reconsider the ban on the candidates, who are accused of having ties with Iraq’s Baath Party, after the elections, raising the prospect of candidates being removed from office after being elected March 7. The decision follows weeks of sustained diplomacy by Iraqi, U.S. and UN diplomats looking to navigate the political impasse. The New York Times (2/3)


11 December
Iraq eyes huge oil capacity rise
(BBC) Iraq could produce 12m barrels of oil per day in 2015, the oil minister says, making it the world’s second-largest producer.
25 October
Baghdad bombings death toll rises to 155
(Reuters) Despite a drop in overall violence in the country, insurgents, militants and others still carry out bombings and shootings, which observers say may increase in the lead up to a national election in January. Sunday’s bombings, near the Justice Ministry and the Baghdad provincial government building, ripping through cars and people, was the bloodiest in Iraqi capital since mid-2007.
17 October
U.S. Diplomatic Adviser’s Troubling Role in Oil Politics
(IPS) – In 2003, U.S. diplomatist Peter Galbraith resigned at the end of a distinguished, 24-year government career. Over the years that followed, he worked as a contract-based adviser to leaders in Iraq’s Kurdish community, while also arguing passionately in public media that Iraq’s Kurds should be given maximum independence from Baghdad – including full control over any new sources of oil. But in June 2004, more quietly, Galbraith also established a small, U.S.-registered company, Porcupine, that held a five percent stake in a newly exploited oilfield in Iraqi Kurdistan, a Norwegian daily revealed last Saturday.
19 August
Two contrasting items
Blasts bring carnage to Baghdad
(BBC) Truck bombs and a barrage of mortars have killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 500 in Baghdad, in the deadliest attacks in months. One vehicle exploded outside the foreign ministry near the perimeter of the heavily guarded government Green Zone, leaving a huge crater. Another blast went off close to the finance ministry building. While Baghdad is often hit by attacks, it is unusual for them to penetrate such well-fortified areas of the city. Since Iraqi forces took over responsibility for security in the city in late June, most attacks have targeted poor Shia neighbourhoods.
Only Time Can Heal Some Iraqi Wounds
(Truthdig) Don’t let the bombings fool you: The American military withdrawal stabilizes Iraq to a degree never admitted by protagonists of the original invasion. Foreign occupation deepened sectarian and ethnic hatreds because the three main Iraqi communities took radically different attitudes towards it. The Kurds supported it (though Kurdistan was not occupied), the Sunni fought it, and the Shia co-operated with it, just so long as they needed to do so to take power through winning elections and forming a government.
The American occupation destabilised Iraq in a second way because it frightened Iraq’s neighbours. This is scarcely surprising since the neo-cons in Washington openly sought regime change in Tehran and Damascus, as well as Baghdad. So long as an American land army was in Iraq, they were always going to foster Sunni and Shia guerrilla groups attacking US troops.
As the Americans depart, there are several dangers for Iraq. One is that the Sunni states will refuse to accept the first Shia-dominated government in the Arab world since Saladin overthrew the Fatimids, and that they will support Sunni resistance to it. The second danger is that the victors, in this case the Arabs and Kurds who make up the present coalition government in Baghdad, will fall out and come to blows.
The Iraqi Kurds’ quarrel with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is over control of the disputed territories, including Kirkuk, captured by the Kurds in 2003.
10 July
Kurds Defy Baghdad, Laying Claim to Land and Oil
The new constitution, approved by Kurdistan’s parliament two weeks ago and scheduled for a referendum this year, underscores the level of mistrust and bad faith between the region and the central government in Baghdad.
8 July
(FP Morning brief) Iraq had its worst day of violence since the withdrawal of U.S. troops from major cities last weeks with multiplesuicide bombings in killing at least 41 people.
30 June
(BBC) US troops have withdrawn from towns and cities in Iraq, six years after the invasion, having formally handed over security duties to new Iraqi forces. A public holiday – National Sovereignty Day – has been declared, and the capital, Baghdad, threw a giant party to mark the eve of the changeover. More
Bidding war for Iraq’s huge oil contracts sputters into life
(The Independent) Iraq is locked in a struggle with the world’s largest oil companies over contracts that would see “Big Oil” return to the Iraqi oilfields for the first time in almost 40 years. The award of contracts began in Baghdad yesterday and was broadcast live on television to show there were no secret corrupt deals. But the process was immediately in trouble as some of the 32 international oil companies involved baulked at the low level of fees they would be paid by Iraq. What happens to Iraq’s oil will determine the future shape of the world’s energy supply. Iraq and Iran are the only countries in the world which are believed to have huge reserves of undiscovered crude, but war and sanctions have prevented exploration. Beneath Iraq’s western and southern deserts may be a further 100 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Decades of under-investment, limited expertise and poor management means that Iraq’s oil output is falling and at 2.4 million barrels a day is below what it was in the final days of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Iraq celebrates as U.S. troops are withdrawn from cities
The Iraqi government launched fireworks to celebrate the official pullout of U.S. forces from Baghdad and other urban areas today, while nationalists proclaimed their readiness to undertake security responsibilities. “We think they are ready,” said U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill, although he acknowledged there are lingering concerns regarding the nation’s continued inability to reconcile its Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish populations. The Toronto Star/The Associated Press (6/29) , The New York Times (6/30)
6 June
Thomas Friedman: After Cairo, It’s Clinton Time
The most valuable thing that Mrs. Clinton could do right now is to spearhead a sustained effort — along with the U.N., the European Union and Iraq’s neighbors — to resolve the lingering disputes between Iraqi factions before we complete our withdrawal.
11 April
Julian E. Barnes: Cost of Iraq war will surpass Vietnam’s by year’s end
(LATimes) If Congress approves the latest funding request, as expected, the Iraq war will have cost about $694 billion, making it the second most expensive conflict in U.S. history behind World War II.
27 February
Barack Obama’s pragmatic plan for withdrawal from Iraq
(The Economist) AMERICA’S new president has been promising to find a way to get soldiers out of Iraq and to end the war “responsibly”. On Friday February 27th Barack Obama announced more details of how and when this is supposed to happen. … All this points to a pragmatic approach to withdrawal. Mr Obama has long qualified his promises to leave Iraq, conceding that soldiers may either be forced to stay (for example to fight against terrorists) or to return to prevent any incipient genocide.
Big political issues remain unsolved. The Shia parties that rival Mr Maliki’s, such as the Iranian-backed Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, and the parties (and militias) that belong to Muqtada al-Sadr, a firebrand cleric, are unlikely to accept being peacefully consigned to the democratic sidelines. The broader Sunni-Shia war has subsided, but it has not disappeared. And Arab-Kurdish disputes, especially over Kirkuk and its oil, persist.
Doctors in Hiding Treat as They Can
By Dahr Jamail
BAGHDAD, Feb 21 (IPS) – Seventy percent of Iraq’s doctors are reported to have fled the war-torn country in the face of death threats and kidnappings. Those who remain live in fear, often in conditions close to house arrest.


22 December
IRAQ: It Could be More Than Three Years to US Departure
CAIRO, Dec 22 (IPS) – Washington and Baghdad signed a security agreement earlier this month allowing the U.S. to maintain a military presence in Iraq for another three years.
15 July
Now for the Hard Part: From Iraq to Afghanistan
(Stratfor) The Bush administration let it be known last week that it is prepared to start reducing the number of troops in Iraq, indicating that three brigades out of 15 might be withdrawn before Inauguration Day in 2009.
Iraq oil contracts awarded to top Western oil companies
Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP look to score no-bid contracts for oil production in Iraq, potentially lucrative awards that are rarely available to energy firms. Non-Western nations such as China and Russia, as well as other observers, have sounded alarm that only Western nations were given contracts. It remains uncertain what role the U.S. played in assigning the no-bid awards. The New York Times (6/19)
Nuri al-Maliki, a dogged survivor
Apr 24th 2008 | BAGHDAD AND CAIRO
From The Economist print edition
Recent military and political developments offer a gleam of hope that Iraq’s government can start building a stronger consensus towards an eventual peace
In a reversal of fortune, Iraqi government troops took control of districts of Basra that had been held by militias loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, which had given Iraqi forces a bloody nose only a few weeks ago. Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, a Shia, seemed to gain popularity among Sunni Arabs and Kurds.
April 10
Bush Defies Calls for Faster Withdrawal of Iraq Troops
(NYT) WASHINGTON — Declaring that the United States had averted failure in Iraq, President Bush said on Thursday that the senior commander there could “have all the time he needs” before reducing troops further. Mr. Bush ordered shorter tours for troops, but defied calls by Democrats in Congress to withdraw more troops more quickly.
Mr. Bush defended the costs of the war, in lives and money, and said that withdrawing from Iraq would be catastrophic to the national interests. He signaled that an American force nearly as large as at any point in the last five years would remain in Iraq through his presidency, leaving any significant changes in policy to the next president.
April 8
Petraeus urges Iraq pull-out pause
(Al Jazeera) The senior US commander in Iraq has called for a pause in troop withdrawals from the country after July in order to assess last year’s so-called troop “surge”. Testifying in front of US Congress, General David Petraeus warned on Tuesday that “significant” military gains from the “surge” were “fragile and reversible”.
Still hopeful, broadly, about Iraq
GENERAL David Petraeus, America’s most senior general in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, its ambassador to Baghdad, went before the Senate on Tuesday April 8th to review the state of affairs in Iraq. The last time the two men were called to offer such testimony, in September, they were generally optimistic. A surge of troops, begun early in 2007, had shown measurable progress in diminishing violence said General Petraeus previously. Mr Crocker had added that he believed that this would open the door to political reconciliation.
This time around General Petraeus managed to sound hopeful again: the decline in violence that he had reported in September had continued.
Sadr threatens to end Iraq truce
Muqtada al-Sadr, the Iraqi Shia leader who has been told to disband his Mahdi army or be barred from politics, has threatened to lift a ceasefire that he put in place last August.
An statement from al-Sadr on Tuesday demanded the Iraqi government protect the public from “the booby traps and American militias” or he would end the truce.
April 6
Generally Speaking
(NYT Week in Review) WASHINGTON — Iraq may be President Bush’s war, but Gen. David H. Petraeus has become its front man: a clear-speaking, politically savvy, post-Vietnam combat veteran with a Ph.D. from Princeton. Given the failures that have plagued the mission from the start, he may yet be Mr. Bush’s best hope for sustaining public support for an unpopular war once his presidency ends.
February 16
The door to Iraq’s oil opens
(Asia Times Online) Iraq’s proven reserves of oil are only smaller than those of Saudi Arabia and Iran – and Iraq is only about 30% explored. Experts are generally of the view that Iraq’s actual oil reserves could well turn out to be at least double the 115 billion barrels of proven reserves. Beyond that, it is anybody’s guess as to the scale of Iraq’s as-yet-untapped gas reserves.
And [Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani] is visibly getting ready to negotiate the contracts for Iraq’s “super giants”. In the idiom of Big Oil, “super giants” are fields with at least five billion barrels of oil in reserve. Iraq’s super giants are Kirkuk (in Kurdistan), Majnoon (bordering Iran), Rumaila North and South (in the south), West Qurna (west of Basra) and Zubair (in the southeast) fields, and, possibly, the Nahr Umr and East Baghdad fields. In addition, Iraq is estimated to have 22 “giant” fields, each having more than 1 billion barrels of oil.
In fact, Iraq may host the largest untapped reserves in the world. There is a strong likelihood that Iraq’s reserves may turn out to be exponentially higher than the current estimations, which are based on old-style seismic surveys. All said, unsurprisingly, the world oil market is in a tizzy when Shahristani says something, anything. He is about to sign the contracts for these and many other large Iraqi oil-producing fields.

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