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What Now Iraq?
Israel - Middle East
Friday, January 06, 2012
Alf Cengia

Just before the old year petered out six civilians and four policemen were killed while another thirty four people were injured in a suicide bombing of the Iraq interior ministry. According to news media, it was only one incident in a wave of violence since a crisis erupted between the Shia-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Sunni leaders.

On the previous Thursday at least seventy two people were killed while another two hundred and seventeen were injured by suicide car bombs detonated by Sunni extremists. According to theguardian:

“The bombers were able to reach all corners of the city, bypassing a network of concrete checkpoints manned by war-weary police holding bomb detectors that were once again found wanting. "It's become a distinguishing feature of Baghdad," said [Dr Lubna] Naji. "In Paris they have the Eiffel tower, in London they have Big Ben. And all that we have in Baghdad are our car bombs.”

This was despite the Iraqi security forces’ use of British-made bomb detectors.  They don’t work as well as expected and the Sunni extremists are exploiting that weakness.

The anti-war group Iraq Body Count - which gathers data relating to confirmed deaths from violence in Iraq - has estimated that, since the beginning of the war to the end of 2011, approximately 162,000 people have been killed.  The Christian Science Monitor (TCSM) extrapolated some of that data thus:

“Since the start of the war, the group found that "60,024 of the civilian dead were reported killed by small arms gunfire; 37,840 by explosive weapons (such as IEDs, suicide attacks, and aerial bombardment); and 5,648 by airstrikes (including cannon-fire, bombs and missiles)." The IBC said at least 9,019 Iraqi police have been killed since 2003, "by far the largest toll of any professional group." The group said that "14,705 (13%) of all documented civilian deaths were reported as being directly caused by the US-led coalition."” (Emphasis mine)

However, TCSM also notes that, because of the manner in which the IBC database is compiled, it is impossible to determine who, exactly, was responsible for most killings.  If that’s the case then the database is also open to manipulation.  TCSM also noted that the violence increased after the US troop withdrawal.  But that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

I’ve said it before – perspective is a highly subjective activity.  One thing that never fails to confound me is the convenience of lapsed memory as it pertains to politics and history.

This brings me to an opinion piece by China’s XinhuaNews.  The writer took issue with the claim by the United States that they left behind "a stable and sovereign Iraq."  Shuai Anning took note of the recent spate of Iraqi violence and used that as an affirmation “against further military action in [the] Middle East.”

Given Iraq’s past and the current “Arab Winter” circulating in the Middle East, I’d be surprised if no one expected the rise in violence as the US troops phased out.  Yet, almost predictably, Anning’s narrative regurgitated the same often repeated lines which ring like a simplistic slogan:

“More than eight years ago, without the consent of the UN Security Council, the United States invaded Iraq on the grounds that the country possessed weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons were ever found, but the brutal war has already caused irreparable damage to the nation.”

No weapons of “mass destruction” were found but the intention was clearly there and may have been realized sooner if not for Israeli intervention in 1981.  Leaving aside the moral arguments regarding the invasion of Iraq - what people like Anning conveniently omit is that Iraq’s so-called pre-US invasion stability was maintained by the iron fist of a Sunni tyrant called Saddam Hussein.

MSNBC writer Richard Walker called Hussein, “...the dictator of Iraq whose brutality and appetite for expansion ultimately drew his nation into direct conflict with the U.S. superpower...”

We might also pause to reflect upon past Chinese hegemony while we’re at it.  Like Israel, America seems to have attracted a strict standard of requirements for international policy and conduct in internal affairs that isn’t applied to other nations.  China’s interest in Pakistan, Myanmar and North Korea are some examples.

Middle East Forum produced a 2005 report outlining China’s past interest in the Middle East.  That interest has included Iraqi oil.  While taking the view that China shares US concerns about terrorism in the region it acknowledges that:

“The age of Chinese passivity in the Middle East is over. Beijing will play an increasingly active role in the region with the goal of securing its own energy security.”

The increased production of Iraqi oil will attract further Iranian attention, along with China and Russia.  Iran has always had an interest in Iraq and now it has opportunity.  In the shifting sands of politics, the US is rightly concerned that its former ally against Saddam Hussein will “menace” Iraq once the US reduces its presence.

Gareth Porter of Asia Times thinks the US has been outsmarted by Iran:

“The real story behind the US withdrawal is how a clever strategy of deception and diplomacy adopted by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in cooperation with Iran outmaneuvered Bush and the US military leadership and got the US to sign the US-Iraq withdrawal agreement...A central element of the Maliki-Iran strategy was the common interest that Maliki, Iran and anti-American Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr shared in ending the US occupation, despite their differences over other issues.”

I’m not convinced with Porter’s assessment that the US had ambitious plans to use Iraq as a method to “dominate the Middle East militarily and politically.”  In fact I think it’s naïve to suppose that the US was “clueless”.  America was reluctantly drawn into Iraq to begin with.  Had it wanted to dominate the region, it probably would have maintained a strong presence there, despite economic conditions back home.

But whatever the case, I can see how Iran will manipulate a Shia-led Iraqi government.  Iraq’s demographics break down to approximately 97% Muslim and 3% Christian or other.  Of the Muslim population, 60-65 % is Shia and the balance Sunni.

As a side note, reports indicate that the Iraqi Christian population may have dropped by as much as 50 % since Saddam Hussein’s fall.  Many Christians have fled to Northern Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.  That none of these Muslim dominated locations are Christian-friendly is an indication of how bad things are in Iraq if you’re not a Muslim.

In conclusion, as the US moves out, we should expect to see increasing Iranian influence.

Considering Iran’s current nuclear aspirations and that Israel felt the need to bomb Osirak in 1981, we must also ask the question - what will all this mean for Israel in the near future?

About Alf Cengia

Last article: Where Did It All Go?



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