Iraq https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/6505/0 cached version 24/04/2018 13:05:58 en Gassing and selective applications of a ‘Red Line’: lest we forget https://www.opendemocracy.net/marijn-nieuwenhuis/gassing-and-selective-applications-of-red-line-lest-we-forget <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The gassing of people is considered exceptionally inhumane, officially a categorical “red line” dividing good from evil. This belief now threatens to trigger an escalation with unpredictable consequences.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/378dbc24dd67c8d14ec392f5f402ad84_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/378dbc24dd67c8d14ec392f5f402ad84_0.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="334" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Otto Dix, Assault Troops Advance under Gas (Sturmtruppe geht unter Gas vor). 1924. Tate Liverpool.</span></span></span>As new rockets fly into Syria, it is time to consider the legal grounds on which the bombing is legitimised. This is important because it threatens to destabilise the already precarious region and displace, yet again, thousands of victims that the west is reluctant to accommodate.</p> <p>The experience of chemical warfare in Britain has a complex history. British troops were one of the first to fall victim to chlorine gas attacks during the Battle of Ypres on January 2, 1915. Talented German chemists, among them the tragic Jewish Nobel Prize Winner Fritz Haber, were responsible for spearheading the chemicalisation of twentieth and twenty-first century warfare. <span class="mag-quote-center">British troops were one of the first to fall victim to chlorine gas attacks during the Battle of Ypres on January 2, 1915.</span></p> <p>The legacy of WWI continues to haunt present-day reactions to chemical warfare. It was not so much the case that German gas attacks caused many causalities or to deny that the deaths that did occur were excruciating; it is rather the case that they dealt a major psychological blow to army morale, whilst awakening dystopian nightmares among the general British public.</p> <p>The experiences of WWI would incentivise calls for laws against, what the German philosopher <a href="https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/terror-air">Peter Sloterdijk</a> calls, ‘atmospheric terror’. The Geneva Convention brought western countries together to formulate an international legal architecture on the prohibition of asphyxiating, poisonous and other gaseous and bacterial methods of warfare. This was not the first attempt to impose laws on gassing, but instead a continuation of a centuries-long effort to ban poison and gas from the battlefield. Some of the earliest proponents of international law, including Grotius, were keen to forbid poison in times of war.</p> <h2><strong>Signatories to the Geneva Convention</strong></h2> <p>Among the signatories at the time were France, the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States. What is striking, however, is that the United States waited until as late as 1975 to deposit the instrument of ratification. 50 long years of delay allowed the US to deploy herbicide and defoliant chemical weapons in Vietnam, Korea, Laos among other places barely investigated or mentioned in conventional studies on the history of chemical warfare. <span class="mag-quote-center">The United States waited until as late as 1975 to deposit the instrument of ratification… The US, however, was not the only country that ignored or contravened international laws.</span></p> <p>The US, however, was not the only country that ignored or contravened international laws. It took until the mid-1990s for the Italian government to admit that it had used chemical weapons in its lethal colonial wars in Ethiopia and Libya. France, the country currently with the longest pointing finger, actively used methods of asphyxiating in its nineteenth century colonial campaigns in Algeria and the French Caribbean. When the issue was recently brought up, by the French historian <a href="https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/7naqki/french_writer_claude_ribbe_claimed_that_140_years/">Claude Ribbe</a>, its leaders refused to even discuss the possibility of having crossed the proverbial “red line” that they now actively seek to impose.</p> <p>Hold no illusion, Britain is not an exception. Churchill thought of using chemical weapons against Nazi Germany and earlier was involved in their deployment in the 1917 battle of Gaza and the 1919 aerial attacks on Bolshevik soldiers. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/shortcuts/2013/sep/01/winston-churchill-shocking-use-chemical-weapons">He</a> was candid about his enthusiasm for the humanitarian potential of this new weapon: “Gas is a more merciful weapon than [the] high explosive shell, and compels an enemy to accept a decision with less loss of life than any other agency of war.” France, Britain, Germany, the US, none seemed very concerned when private companies helped Saddam Hussein to construct the chemical weapons arsenal used in the Halabja tragedy. <span class="mag-quote-center">France, Britain, Germany, the US, none seemed very concerned when private companies helped Saddam Hussein to construct the chemical weapons arsenal used in the Halabja tragedy.</span></p> <p>The OPCW, the institution responsible for upholding the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), is only the latest effort to regulate and ban chemical warfare. Its role in gas attacks, sometimes misunderstood, is not to point a blaming finger, but rather to analyse and identify the kinds of weapon that have been used. The issue of responsibility, instead, is shared by the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism, an organisation that was set up in 2015 in response to chemical warfare in Syria. It was prevented from continuation in late 2017 when the Russian UN delegation blocked its mandate. The organisation, however, even with a mandate, seems relatively powerless. </p> <p>The state of Israel, one of the biggest offenders of chemical warfare, never ratified the CWC, allowing it to deploy phosphorus in its 2014 Gaza campaign. It is ludicrous to imagine that the west would bomb Israel, or Saudi Arabia, another state known for its use of chemical weapons in Yemen. Only last year, the US-led coalition used phosphorus in the <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2017/06/13/532809626/u-s-led-coalition-has-used-white-phosphorous-in-fight-for-mosul-general-says">Battle for Mosul</a>.</p> <p>The image of poisonous gas clouds and its terrifying effect on respiratory failures historically has played a major role in placing chemicals and poisonous weapons central to laws on warfare. The gassing of people is considered exceptionally inhumane and officially is presented as a categorical “red line” dividing good from evil. </p> <p>This belief now threatens to trigger an escalation with unpredictable consequences. What is often forgotten, however, is that many of the governments that historically have deployed chemical weapons are the same that now try to uphold this truth. </p><p>The need to ban chemical weapons, both nationally and internationally, should not be posed as a question. However, neither should a ban be used selectively to provoke new wars.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-barnett/otto-dix-and-robot-soldiers">Otto Dix and the robot soldiers </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/ron-g-manley/iraq-and-chemical-weapons-view-from-inside-0">Iraq and chemical weapons: A view from the inside</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/bob-rigg/syrias-chemical-weapons-is-un-exceeding-its-mandate">Syria&#039;s chemical weapons: is the UN exceeding its mandate? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/dan-smith/syria-cw-disarmament-enters-critical-phase-as-hell-breaks-loose">Syria: CW disarmament enters critical phase as hell breaks loose</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Italy </div> <div class="field-item even"> France </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> Israel </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Saudi Arabia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Russia Saudi Arabia Israel Iraq France Italy United States Germany UK Syria Conflict International politics Marijn Nieuwenhuis Wed, 18 Apr 2018 06:31:01 +0000 Marijn Nieuwenhuis 117362 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How the 2003 US-led invasion changed Iraq forever https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/shatha-al-juburi/how-2003-us-led-invasion-changed-iraq-forever <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Fifteen years&nbsp;after&nbsp;the US and its allies invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003, the country is still entrenched in a cycle of sectarian violence and rampant corruption.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="western"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-33839595.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-33839595.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Destroyed house with a buried car in Mosul on November 22, 2017. Picture by Noe Falk Nielsen/NurPhoto/Sipa USA/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>No one knows how many Iraqis have died. Some estimates put the number of deaths at more than one million. But, it is undeniable that the fifteen years of war have divided Iraqis along sectarian lines, turned Iraqi cities, such as Ramadi, Fallujah and Mosul, into ruins and caused instability in the region.</p><p class="western">The United State unleashed a widespread violence when it decided to dismantle the Iraqi state, such as throwing thousands of Iraqi troops and civil servants out of work, replacing it with a dysfunctional and corrupt semi-state.</p><p class="western">Shortly after the invasion, "Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia" led by Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi emerged in the country. &nbsp;The&nbsp;extremist group carried out wide-scale violent sectarian attacks in the name of the establishment of the&nbsp;<em>Khilafa</em>&nbsp;(Caliphate). While the formerly Iran-exiled Shiitefactions like the "Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq" (SCIRI) with its military wing "Badr Brigade"&nbsp; returned to Iraq intending to establish a theocracy based on the Shiite doctrine of&nbsp;<em>wilayat al-faqih</em>, which &nbsp;allows a cleric to have ultimate say over the foreign and domestic policy of a nation. The removal of Saddam's regime also encouraged the emergence of native Shiite factions like&nbsp;the "Sadr Movement" of Moqtada al-Sadr who formed&nbsp;the Jaish al-Mahdi militia. &nbsp;Consequently, this triggered infighting against fellow sectarian factions over state resources and dominance.&nbsp;</p><h3><strong>The rise of sectarian Shii</strong><strong>te</strong><strong>and Sunni identities</strong></h3><p class="western">With the fall of Saddam's regime, Shiite political Islam used sectarian identity to increase its power, especially given the support it received from most Iraqi Shiite population which was seeking to secure its survival in the post-invasion stateless Iraq.&nbsp;The freedom that Shiite factions were enjoying after the invasion helped these factions build their networks that they used to remold the political culture of Shiism into communal themes focused on Shiite identity through performing Shiite public mass rituals such as Ashura and the Arbai’niyya visitation.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-right">The rise of political Islam did not only cause cleavage between Shiite and Sunni communities</p><p class="western">The formation of the Governing Council on July 15, 2003, not only politicised Shiism but also empowered Shiite Islamic groups. This, in turn, encouraged armed rivalry within these groups and triggered a fierce responsive Sunni identity. Most leaders of these Shiite factions became powerful politicians dependent on mass mobilisation of the Shiites and they enhanced their power by associating themselves with paramilitaries.</p><p class="western">The rise of political Islam did not only cause cleavage between Shiite and Sunni communities but also increased the rivalries and fragmentation within Shiite Islamic factions.&nbsp; The inclusion of the Shiite exiled and Najaf-based factions (such as the al-Hakims) in the US-led sponsored Governing Council empowered these factions at the expense of the native and non-Najaf based groups such as al-Sadr and triggered infighting between them.</p><h3>Maliki’s sectarian policy and dictatorial tendencies&nbsp;</h3><p class="western">A great number of Shiite militiamen, mainly from&nbsp;the "Badr Brigade", were integrated into&nbsp;theIraqi weak security forces in 2005 following the two general elections. They were accused of forming death squads that committed appalling crimes against Iraqis including killings, torture and kidnappings in addition to non-politically motivated criminal activities, particularly between 2006-2008.&nbsp; The bombing of the Shiite holy shrines of Al-Askriyyain in Samarra north of Baghdad in February 2006 exacerbated the sectarian violence leading the country into a civil war.</p><p class="mag-quote-left">By the end of 2011, al-Qaeda was almost defeated in Iraq</p><p class="western">The US-led Surge implemented by the US Army Gen David Petraeus during 2007-2008 along with the formation of the US-sponsored&nbsp;<em>Sahwa</em>, or the "Awakening", movement&nbsp;composed ofSunni tribesmen in the western parts of Iraq to dislodge al-Qaeda restored a reasonable level of stability in the country. However, this US strategy increased the power of the&nbsp;<em>Sahwa&nbsp;</em>protagonists and led to an intense rivalry between them and the Sunni parties participating in the political process such as the "Islamic Party". The&nbsp;<em>Sahwa&nbsp;</em>experience, tempted the former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to mimic it and form similar forces&nbsp;composed of Shiite tribesmen giving them the name “Majalis al-Isnad”, in an attempt to enhance his power base and expand his constituency.</p><p class="western">By the end of 2011, al-Qaeda was almost defeated in Iraq. Yet, the relative victory over the extremist group evaporated because Maliki’s sectarian policy against the Sunni Arabs promptedthe rise of the "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) from the ashes of al-Qaeda. Shortly after the withdrawal of US troops, al-Maliki launched a crackdown campaign on Sunni politicians and figures and put down Sunni peaceful protests. He undermined Iraqi security forces by reinstating several Iraqi commanders who had proved to be corrupt and brutal. In June 2014, Iraqi forces in Mosul were even incapable of facing ISIS fighters who conquered the city in a few hours despite the Iraqi forces outnumberingthem.</p><h3><strong>The Popular Mobilisation Forces</strong><strong>and the prospects of May’</strong><strong>s</strong><strong>elections</strong></h3><p class="western">Despite the current Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declaring last year that the military offensive against ISIS had succeeded in routing the extremist group, a new Jihadist group calling itself “The White Banner” seems to have re-emerged in the outskirts of Baghdad and in several parts of&nbsp;theAnbar province such as&nbsp;in&nbsp;Ramadi.</p><p class="western">The re-emergence of this militant group is attributed to the rise of the Iranian-sponsored Shiite militias in Iraq in recent years. Shortly after ISIS had taken over the northern city of Mosul, these militias regrouped within "al-Hashd al-Shaabi", or Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), an umbrella of militias heeded the fatwa (religious edict) against ISIS&nbsp;bythe most senior Shiite cleric in Iraq and the world, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.</p><p class="western">Iran has succeeded in bringing together&nbsp;the PMF and legalising them to&nbsp;aparallel&nbsp;forceto the state army. Earlier this month, Abadi issued a decree formalising the inclusion of these militias in the Iraqi security and military forces despite human rights abuses accusations against them, such as persecution of&nbsp; Sunni Arabs and political dissidents including Shiite Arabs. &nbsp;Some PMF elements still take their orders from Tehran, thus their full integration into the Iraqi military will help further consolidate Iran’s long-term influence in Iraq.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The United State unleashed a widespread violence when it decided to dismantle the Iraqi state</p><p class="western">Earlier this month, Naim al-Abudi, the spokesman of "Asai’b Ahl al-Haq"&nbsp;(AAH), a militia unit within&nbsp;thePMF with close ties&nbsp;toIran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)<a href="http://www.mei.edu/content/io/iran-backed-group-says-hashd-al-shaabi-will-not-merge-iraq-s-security-institutions">&nbsp;rejected&nbsp;</a>that PMF would be merged into any of&nbsp;theIraqi security institutions. The AAH commander argued that PMF forces needed to remain in Mosul and surrounding areas to deal with ISIS remnants. “We do not agree to&nbsp;the Hashd being merged into the ministries of interior and defence because this would mean weakening and abolishing it. And this is not appropriate.”</p><p class="western">Despite spending a few months promising plans to cut back any militias and forcingthem to stay out of politics,&nbsp; in a shocking move, Abadi had declared an electoral alliance with PMF leaders before the latter withdrew suddenly in less than 48 hours.</p><p class="western">With the approach of the May 12 elections, the leaders of PMF argue that their influence in the next parliament will be essential to further strengthening their militias and paving the way for the exit of the American troops from Iraq, threatening that they will use violence if Washington decides to keep its troops in the country. The long-term consequences of PMF’s exploitation of the democratic system will be a manipulation of the political system to perpetuate power in their hand and serve Iran’s military agenda of converting Iraq into a vassal state.</p><p class="western">The PMF leaders are confident that their electoral bloc, dubbed as the "Fatah Alliance" which includes "Iraqi Hezbollah", "Harakat al-Nujaba" and "Badr Organization (formerly "Badr Brigade"), will perform well in the next elections and win a significant number of seats.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">It is unlikely that the Shiite Islamic blocs&nbsp;will win a landslide victory</p><p class="western">However, there is no indication who will win the &nbsp;May elections, given the internal fragmentations within the major factions. Most certainly, the next elections will not dramatically change Iraq’s&nbsp;ethno-sectarian&nbsp;politics, despite there&nbsp;beingvibrant factions carrying nationalist and cross-sectarian slogans which cannot be altogether discounted such as&nbsp;the "Sadr Movement". Despite huge the ideological differences, some secularists and liberals have made an alliance with&nbsp;theSadr Movement to benefit from the former’s material resources and vast network.</p><p class="western">It is worth mentioning that the popularly of political Islam&nbsp;whichdominated Iraqi politics in&nbsp;the post-invasion period,has decreased because of attempts to impose strict Islamic ideologies that undermine human rights, in particular, the rights of women and children. For example, in late 2017, some Shiite Islamists in the Iraqi parliament tabled motions to change the Personal Status Law introducing laws that would allow men to marry 9-year-old girls. This triggered&nbsp;many criticisms and condemnations from Iraq's civil societies and the majority&nbsp;ofIraqis.&nbsp; If the elections will be fraudulence-free, it is unlikely that the Shiite Islamic blocs&nbsp;will win a landslide victory, given the flagrant display of their militias' power and the strict Islamic ideology they attempt to impose on Iraqis,&nbsp;and because,&nbsp;most importantly, they proved to be very corrupt.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/zayd-alisa/will-iraq-s-pm-embrace-trump-inspired-saudi-sponsored-drive-to-cur">Will Iraq’s PM embrace a Trump-inspired Saudi-sponsored drive to curb Iranian influence?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/fazil-moradi/in-search-of-cardinal-virtues-in-iraq">In search of cardinal virtues in Iraq</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mieczys-aw-p-boduszy-ski-christopher-k-lamont/challenges-of-building-shared-i">The challenges of building a shared Iraqi identity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/beverley-milton-edwards-alexander-brammer/iraq-security-mosul-coalition-US-PMF">Iraq’s security dilemma and the intractable problem of the PMF</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/rijin-sahakian/what-we-are-fighting-for">What we are fighting for</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iraq Conflict Democracy and government Shatha Al Juburi Mon, 09 Apr 2018 07:37:55 +0000 Shatha Al Juburi 117046 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Counter-terrorism: new UK strategy must learn obvious lessons https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/larry-attree/counter-terrorism-new-uk-strategy-must-learn-obvious-lessons <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Since 2001, Britain has compromised its passion for the rights of people in the name of counter-terrorism, thereby undermining its national security and winning enemies faster than they are eliminated.<ins datetime="2018-02-11T19:56" cite="mailto:Rosemary%20Bechler"></ins></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-29909125.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-29909125.jpg" alt="lead lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yemeni man walks by painting of US drone on the wall in Sanaa, Yemen,shortly after 25 civilians were killed in latest US counter-terror raid, January, 2017. Xinhua/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Five terror attacks in the UK made 2017 an <em>annus horribilis</em> for those defending the nation against terror. The UK government is about to publish an update to its counter-terror strategy, <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/counter-terrorism-strategy-contest">CONTEST</a>. </p> <p>At the recent Westminster counter-terrorism conference, a top security official affirmed that the heightened terror threat in the UK is strongly connected to conflicts overseas – especially the situation in Syria and Iraq and those inspired by Islamic State (ISIS).&nbsp; </p> <p>The new strategy needs to ensure coherent UK support for peace overseas if it is to reduce the threat at home. The <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/counter-terrorism-strategy-contest">2011 version of CONTEST</a>, however, placed no emphasis on bringing conflicts overseas to a lasting end. The new strategy must instead strongly promote effective UK engagement in peacebuilding, and break with policies that have been proving highly counter-productive. </p> <h2><strong>One job well done isn’t enough</strong></h2> <p>It isn’t possible to defend against all threats, and terror tactics are evolving to make defence harder. Despite the 2017 attacks, the UK security establishment leads the world in detecting terror plots, and taking down the individuals and networks planning them. It gets insufficient credit for a job well done.&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps because domestic counter-terror structures are so strong, the country hasn't yet elaborated a very strategic approach to the international dimensions of the terror problem. </p> <p>Yet the global picture is not pretty: from 2000 to 2016, <a href="http://visionofhumanity.org/app/uploads/2017/11/Global-Terrorism-Index-2017.pdf">global casualties from terror attacks</a> increased seven-fold. The ranks of violent Islamist movements are thought to have <a href="http://publications.armywarcollege.edu/pubs/3323.pdf">more than tripled</a> from 2000 to 2013. Britain’s role in the international war on terror during this period, and the evidence from very sobering British experiences in <a href="https://www.saferworld.org.uk/resources/publications/1031">Afghanistan</a>, <a href="http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20171123124621/http:/www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/247921/the-report-of-the-iraq-inquiry_executive-summary.pdf">Iraq</a>, <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/foreign-affairs-committee/inquiries1/parliament-2015/libya-policy/">Libya</a>, <a href="https://www.saferworld.org.uk/resources/publications/1032-barbed-wire-on-our-heads">Somalia</a>, <a href="https://www.saferworld.org.uk/resources/publications/1141-syria-playing-into-their-hands">Syria</a>, <a href="https://www.saferworld.org.uk/resources/publications/1033-blown-back">Yemen</a> and elsewhere, should be shaping the UK's outlook. </p> <p>Two tendencies have prevented the UK from improving its international approach. The first is the way the UK domestic debate revolves around the idea that ‘there can be no excuse for terrorism.’ This vein of thinking appears to make the very idea that better foreign policy could reduce the threat to the UK a treasonable offence. Witness the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/how-global-britain-is-helping-to-win-the-struggle-against-islamist-terror">contortions</a> Boris Johnson recently had to muster to make the simple observation that dictators are making the terror problem worse. </p> <p>Yet it is surely obvious to the British public, as to most experts, that the threat in the UK <em>is</em> deeply connected to conflicts overseas and the grievances that underpin them. Terror attacks <a href="http://visionofhumanity.org/app/uploads/2017/11/Global-Terrorism-Index-2017.pdf">overwhelmingly</a> occur in conflict zones and repressive environments, and the threat faced by the UK is increasingly connected to what is happening in these places. </p> <p>Whether we like it or not, the Palace of Westminster, Manchester Arena, London Bridge and Parsons Green attackers – and indeed the July 7 bombers – were either connected to or inspired by groups fighting in wars in which Britain has played an important role overseas –people who probably believed their actions were either part of or vengeance for these struggles. </p> <h2><strong>Improving our response strategy</strong></h2> <p>No one is claiming that the violent acts of such people can be excused. Policymakers must, however, remain open to improving their response strategy. Part of this has to be understanding conflicts that are connected to the terror threat in the UK, and working with the international community to address what drives them in a logical and principled way that actively learns from past experience.</p> <p>The second tendency is that pressure to avert domestic attacks pushes policymakers into taking short-term actions that add up to long-term failure. This underpins both attempts to eliminate violent groups without a coherent strategy for preventing their rebirth, and backing for problematic ‘allies’ to curb violent groups and stop them crossing borders. </p> <p>When the UK supports other states to build stability and fight terrorists, it often strengthens the hand of abusive, corrupt and repressive ‘allies’ whose behaviour is at the heart of the problem – and who often misuse assistance for their own ends. If they make the problem worse, they may well gain yet more assistance. </p> <h2><strong>Lessons in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Somalia</strong></h2> <p class="story-body-text">As the US tragically learnt in Vietnam, a local ally that lacks the will and integrity to get the public on board will struggle to win public support and overcome its opponents. The failure of the US, UK et al in Afghanistan rests substantially on the failure to learn this lesson. A recent New York Times <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/23/world/asia/afghanistan-military-abuse.html">article</a> reported that: ‘On 5,753 occasions from 2010 to 2016, the United States military reported accusations of “gross human rights abuses” by the Afghan military, including many examples of child sexual abuse. If true, American law required military aid to be cut off to the offending unit.’ Yet, on no occasion did that happen. </p> <p>Although for years it has been clear that the Afghan public is deeply concerned by the corruption and abuse of the post-Taliban order, foreign assistance has continued to flow into government coffers at a rate that the Afghan state could never hope to sustain in future years. It is perhaps too late to speculate on what could have been achieved with a policy of tougher love: less resources might have flowed to the state; foreign powers might have been more willing to challenge and withdraw support for abusive, corrupt individuals; civil society and communities might have been offered a greater role in challenging and shaping the post-Taliban state. But it is not too late for the UK to learn from <a href="https://www.saferworld.org.uk/resources/publications/1031">Afghanistan</a>.</p> <p>After years of stabilisation and counter-terror assistance, Somalia’s 2017 elections were <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/07/world/africa/somalia-election-corruption.html">described</a> by analysts, investigators and some western diplomats as ‘a milestone of corruption, one of the most fraudulent political events in Somalia’s history’. This was some feat, in that Somalia is ranked by Transparency International as the world’s most corrupt country. ‘This election has been awesome for the Shabab’, as one Somali anti-corruption campaigner <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/07/world/africa/somalia-election-corruption.html">explained</a>. After the US-backed Ethiopian invasion to prevent Somalia becoming a hot bed for terrorists in 2007, the Somali government was put together and propped up with external backing. To this day, shaped with only limited public input, beset with corruption and delivering little to Somalia’s long suffering people, it ‘has no authority, no popular support’. </p> <p>Resting on such a shaky political foundation, Somalia’s security forces have again and again proved a fragile repository for the equipment and capacity support lavished on them. A senior official familiar with the matter told me recently that Somali security forces trained by the African Union have been deserting in large numbers with their weapons. Many of them had probably joined armed groups fighting the government and foreign forces, such as al-Shabaab.&nbsp;</p> <p>What is staggering is that this pattern occurred in <a href="https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/legacy_files/files/publication/130819_Bryden_SomaliaRedux_WEB.pdf">both of the previous decades</a>, putting thousands of weapons and other equipment into the hands of Somalia’s armed groups. In addition, abuses against civilians committed by Somali security forces trained and armed by the west with little accountability continue to provide a fertile recruitment ground for al-Shabaab.</p> <h2><strong>Dousing a fire with paraffin</strong></h2> <p>Western backing for abusive, corrupt and exclusive counter-terror partners attracts the ire of those they marginalise and oppress. The <a href="https://saferworld-indepth.squarespace.com/we-need-to-talk-about-egypt/">Egyptian</a> state continues to enjoy military and political support from the UK to counter terrorism. Egypt has branded any and all opposition to the regime – in particular supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the party of deposed but democratically elected president Morsi – as terrorists, incarcerating and torturing thousands of Egyptians. Civil society organisations have borne the brunt of a massive crackdown. As violence predictably spirals in reaction to the ever-more-inhuman cruelty of the Sisi regime, the blanket support offered by the UK government is irresponsible and counter-productive.&nbsp;</p> <p>The UK witnessed the unpredictable results of ‘capacity building’ for abusive foreign security forces when its initiative to train Libyan armed forces in Cambridgeshire <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/nov/05/libyan-troops-flown-home-uk-training-camp">closed following a string of sexual assaults</a> and reportedly caused almost <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3086108/Libyan-soldiers-responsible-rape-mayhem-UK-training-programme-went-500-000-barracks-wrecking-spree.html">£0.5 million of damage to the training barracks</a>. &nbsp;</p> <p>In fact, security ‘train-and-equip’ programmes that play into the wrong hands are far from the exception. In the 275 military coups between 1970 and 2009, the US trained the armed forces the year before in 165 of them. </p> <p>Despite huge US and UK support for the Iraqi army, it readily capitulated to Isis, who promptly <a href="http://www.conflictarm.com/publications/">gained huge volumes</a> of western-supplied weapons. In Yemen, where the UK played a key role in convening ‘Friends of Yemen’ to offer the country stabilisation and counter-terror assistance, then-President Saleh’s regime misused such assistance for years to suppress domestic opponents. After its cruel, corrupt rule collapsed under the weight of popular discontent, many of the state's foreign-supplied weapons ended up in the arsenals of violent rebels and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. </p> <p>Funneling money, arms, training and political legitimacy to governments at the front lines of the war on terror has proven akin to dousing a <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/05/us-military-admits-failures-to-monitor-over-1-billion-worth-of-arms-transfers/">fire with paraffin</a>.&nbsp;The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria and Yemen – all war on terror battlegrounds – are far from over. This is partly because the transformation in political conditions – the social contract – that people in these contexts need and deserve has never been achieved. Corruption, abuse and exclusion has enabled those who oppose state authority to maintain a considerable social base, and UK assistance has done too little to turn this picture around.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>How to avoid blowback</strong></h2> <p>What is, then, the right strategy?&nbsp;Well, it is obviously vital to detect and disrupt violent groups plotting transnational attacks, prosecuting and sentencing offenders in human rights compliant ways.&nbsp;</p> <p>There may always be violent individuals opposed to liberal democratic societies like the UK. However, it seems plausible that the UK would be much better inoculated against the general enmity of hundreds of millions of people living in repressive contexts if it lives up to its best ideals abroad.</p> <p>It may be necessary to use force judiciously at times to protect human life and prevent vicious, repressive movements taking control over people's lives. But because <a href="https://www.saferworld.org.uk/resources/publications/875-dilemmas-of-counter-terror-stabilisation-and-statebuilding">violence always brings blowback</a> – especially if used indiscriminately – violence has to be the very last resort, and only ever used discriminately and accountably.&nbsp; And because past efforts to eliminate dangerous groups without addressing the conditions that gave rise to them have failed, it should become UK policy only to deploy force in the context of a coherent wider strategy that is focused on achieving peace.&nbsp;</p> <p>Indeed, achieving peace in conflict environments needs to be reasserted as the highest strategic aim of UK foreign policy.&nbsp;Guided by this recalibration of priorities, the UK and its allies must develop a new discipline: extending greater support and cooperation towards partners that respect human rights, that are tackling corruption, security force behaviour and political inclusion; and refusing to ally with governments whose<a href="http://journey-to-extremism.undp.org/content/downloads/UNDP-JourneyToExtremism-report-2017-english.pdf"> behaviour is the best possible recruiting sergeant for violent groups</a>. </p> <p>And in all contexts the UK must work with society to press for peaceful conflict resolution and improved governance.</p> <p>The proudest moment in British history, that has come to define its self-identity, remains its dogged opposition to the abuses of Nazism and communism. If Britain fights ISIS hand in hand with regimes that behead dissidents, and tear the fingernails from their journalists, and if it destroys whole cities while failing to provide for refugees and reconstruction in the process, then the justice of Britain’s cause is diminished, and it can expect the enmity of those who suffer the consequences of what will readily be seen as a reckless and unprincipled approach.&nbsp;</p> <p>Since 2001, Britain has compromised its passion for the rights of people in conflict environments in the name of counter-terrorism, and this has undermined its national security – winning enemies faster than they are eliminated. It is time to resurrect Britain’s identity as a nation that stands against repression, and for just peace for conflict-affected people. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/david-held/broken-politics-from-911-to-present"> Broken politics: from 9/11 to the present </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/isis-and-tunisia-iran-deeper-link">ISIS and Tunisia-Iran: a deeper link</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/wars-next-phase-isis-plus-expertise">The next war: ISIS plus expertise</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/britains-global-role-fantasy-vs-reality">Britain&#039;s global role: fantasy vs reality </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/how-labour-can-make-britain-secure">How Labour can make Britain secure</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/wrongs-of-counter-violence">The wrongs of counter-violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/david-keen-larry-attree/after-raqqa-what-will-it-take-to-get-to-peace-in-syri">After Raqqa: what will it take to get to peace in Syria?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Libya </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Afghanistan </div> <div class="field-item even"> Somalia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Yemen </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Iraq Egypt Yemen Syria Somalia Afghanistan Libya UK Larry Attree Sun, 11 Feb 2018 20:23:35 +0000 Larry Attree 116062 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Prosecuting ISIS crimes against women and LGBTIQ people would set a crucial precedent https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lisa-davis/activists-seek-prosecution-isis-crimes-women-lgbtiq-persons <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A potentially precedent-setting petition at the International Criminal Court could help human rights advocates and survivors of gender-based crimes in conflict.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Majid Photo.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Credit: OWFI."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Majid Photo.png" alt="Credit: OWFI." title="Credit: OWFI." width="460" height="347" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Credit: OWFI.</span></span></span>In Iraq, including in areas controlled by ISIS, women, girls, LGBTIQ persons, and people perceived as stepping outside of traditional gender roles have been targeted for violence on a staggering scale.</p><p>ISIS fighters have <a href="http://www.niqash.org/en/articles/society/3521/">tortured women doctors and nurses who have not complied with rigid dress codes</a>, when doing so would interfere with the performance of medical duties. They have executed women who resisted forced marriages, or who <a href="https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/security/2014/10/islamic-state-execution-women-iraq.html">served as politicians</a>. Men believed to be gay have been <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/06/13/the-islamic-states-shocking-war-on-homosexuals/?utm_term=.03780a5baf72">thrown off buildings</a>. Women believed to be lesbians have been <a href="https://www.madre.org/timeline-isis-killings-gender-expression">threatened with death</a>. ISIS has <a href="https://www.outrightinternational.org/dontturnaway/timeline">killed youth </a>because of alternative forms of personal expression, or refusals to join their militia, labeling them “faggots.”</p><p dir="ltr">War-time abuses against people who are marginalised within their societies are rarely documented. As a result, such violations are excluded from human rights discourse and from justice processes. In effect, they are left out of history.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"War-time abuses against people who are marginalised within their societies are rarely documented."</p><p>For this reason, Iraqi activists, at great personal risk, have been <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/these-lawyers-have-a-case-for-charging-isis-with-killing?utm_term=.upM0zZPOb#.wuDoR81lG">documenting such crimes</a> committed by ISIS but also by Iraqi government forces, and other militias. They have preserved critical information about perpetrators and larger criminal networks. Many have also provided shelter and safe passage to those at imminent risk of sexual slavery or murder.</p><p dir="ltr">On 8 November, <a href="https://www.madre.org/sites/default/files/PDFs/CUNY%20MADRE%20OWFI%20Article%2015%20Communication%20Submission%20Gender%20Crimes%20in%20Iraq%20PDF.pdf">a historic petition</a> was also filed at the International Criminal Court (ICC), to advance protections of the rights of women and LGBTIQ people during conflict.</p><p>This petition was filed jointly by <a href="https://www.madre.org/">MADRE</a>, the <a href="http://www.law.cuny.edu/academics/clinics/hrgj.html">Human Rights and Gender Justice (HRGJ) Clinic</a> of the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law, and the <a href="http://www.owfi.info/EN/">Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq</a> (OWFI), with assistance from the law firm Debevoise &amp; Plimpton. It argues that the international community should prosecute ISIS fighters for gender-based persecution and crimes including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.</p><p dir="ltr">Knowledge of egregious crimes committed against women and perceived or actual LGBTIQ persons, for transgressing gender norms during an armed conflict, is not new. But this is the first time the world has seen this kind of robust documentation of such crimes. The petition currently before the ICC therefore offers a new opportunity to challenge this type of violence.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">"The international community should prosecute ISIS fighters for gender-based persecution and crimes."</p><p dir="ltr">At the world’s first international criminal prosecutions in Nuremberg, Germany, rape and sexual slavery of women and torture of LGBTIQ persons were <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-u5G2haD3vo&amp;t=3367s">acknowledged but never prosecuted.</a> It was only in the 1990s, with the ICC’s creation, that gender-based forms of violence were <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/1184763.stm">first recognised as violations of international law</a>.<br class="kix-line-break" /></p><p dir="ltr">At the time, <a href="http://4genderjustice.org/about-us/history/">women’s rights advocates lobbied drafters</a> of the <a href="https://www.icc-cpi.int/nr/rdonlyres/ea9aeff7-5752-4f84-be94-0a655eb30e16/0/rome_statute_english.pdf">Rome Statute</a> that governs the ICC to abandon the “outrages to personal dignity” language to describe sexual violence. They <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/1998/12/01/summary-key-provisions-icc-statute">succeeded in broadening the category of sexual violence</a> to include not only rape, but also other forms including sexual slavery and forced prostitution, pregnancy, and sterilisation.</p><p dir="ltr">These advocates also succeeded in substituting the word “gender” for “sex” in the Rome Statute. This is one of the most important safeguards for gender justice under international criminal law, and a major achievement of global women’s movements in the 1990s. Yet, since then, the full understanding of “gender” under the statute has not been applied.<br class="kix-line-break" /></p><p dir="ltr">ISIS’s atrocities meanwhile come at a time when the rights of women and of LGBTIQ people are under threat globally.</p><p>Last year, right-wing conservatives <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/10/09/heres-how-attention-to-gender-affected-colombias-peace-process/?utm_term=.322d5dc1e242">curtailed women’s and LGBTIQ rights</a> in Colombia’s peace accords. In 2016, conservative states at the United Nations’ General Assembly <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/the-uns-new-lgbt-rights-watchdog-may-be-about-to-lose-his-jo?utm_term=.miqZ5WElo#.aq33eW5NA">sought to revoke the mandate</a> of the first independent UN expert on sexual orientation and gender identity. In countries around the world, <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/01/24/lgbt-rights-2018-will-be-year-courts">rights to gender expression are being rolled back</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">With the help of MADRE and UN Women, CUNY Law School convened an experts meeting in 2017 on LGBTIQ rights and international criminal law. Together these experts honed the strategy for the petition to the ICC and for ensuring the safety and security of those involved, including Iraqi groups named in the petition.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Photo Yanar.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Credit: OWFI."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Photo Yanar.jpg" alt="Credit: OWFI." title="Credit: OWFI." width="460" height="260" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Credit: OWFI.</span></span></span>Activists also held a series of consultations with Iraqi women’s organisations. For safety reasons, the decision was taken not to translate the submission into Arabic and several supporting groups decided to leave their names off it.</p><p dir="ltr">OWFI, CUNY Law Scool’s HRGJ Clinic, and MADRE are seizing this moment in history to broaden the discourse on gender. The ICC petition could change the landscape of international criminal law, highlighting but also redressing the long-standing targeting of civilians based on gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity in war and conflict.</p><p>Appropriate action by the international court would set a new precedent for prosecuting gender-based crimes and create a new tool for human rights advocates worldwide. We continue to update the ICC on the situation in Iraq and are working with a team of international experts on the follow up to the petition. We are awaiting their response.<br class="kix-line-break" /></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Iraq Conflict International politics Tracking the backlash 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism 50.50 Women, Peace & Security women's human rights violence against women gender fundamentalisms 50.50 newsletter Lisa Davis Thu, 01 Feb 2018 10:39:46 +0000 Lisa Davis 115838 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Will Iraq’s PM embrace a Trump-inspired Saudi-sponsored drive to curb Iranian influence? https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/zayd-alisa/will-iraq-s-pm-embrace-trump-inspired-saudi-sponsored-drive-to-cur <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Trump-MBS strategy has not made significant headway. Will they succeed in escalating anti-Shia confrontation against Iran and its allies?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-33584851.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Pool/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-33584851.jpg" alt="Pool/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved." title="Pool/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="339" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>U.S. President Donald Trump (R) meets with Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in the Oval Office at the White House, March 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Pool/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>With ISIL reeling in the decisive battle to recapture Mosul – ISIL’s biggest urban stronghold –, Masoud Barzani president of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) <a href="https://twitter.com/masoud_barzani/status/872496589868290049">declared</a>, on June 7, that the KRG would hold an independence referendum on September 25.&nbsp;</p> <p>Barzani’s announcement sent shock waves across the region, and what made it profoundly alarming was his determination to conduct this controversial referendum in Kirkuk, an oil-rich multi-ethnic city, as well as in other disputed areas, which were seized by the Kurdish fighters (Peshmerga) as the Iraqi Army unravelled in the face of ISIL’s lightening advance in June 2014.&nbsp;</p> <p>While Iran swiftly declared its strident opposition to the referendum, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al Abadi’s initial response was muted.</p> <p>Turkey’s president Erdogan by contrast, scathingly <a href="https://www.dailysabah.com/diplomacy/2017/06/14/turkey-says-krg-independence-vote-threatens-iraqs-territorial-integrity">criticised</a> Brazani’s move. This was highly unexpected, since Turkey consistently enabled the KRG to defy the Iraqi Central Government (ICG) by selling oil independently.</p> <p>Even with Turkey and Iran standing by the ICG, Abadi nevertheless turned to the US to resolve this contentious issue. Washington sought to persuade Barzani to postpone the referendum, arguing that it would deflect attention from fighting ISIL.</p> <p>However, the <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-tal-afar/iraq-starts-offensive-to-take-back-tal-afar-from-islamic-state-idUSKCN1B0005">offensive</a> by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) on August 20, to recapture Tal Afar, without any Peshmerga participation, demonstrated that battling ISIL superseded all other priorities.</p> <p>In essence, the US’ chief objection was essentially the timing of the referendum, only a few months before the parliamentary elections due in May 2018, which would undoubtedly torpedo Abadi’s prospects of being re-elected, as his premiership would be inextricably linked to surrendering Kirkuk.&nbsp;</p> <p>Barzani’s <a href="http://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/eeb27206-19b1-4834-82b0-74b4014ab32b">rejection</a> of an international proposal on 14 September prompted the US special envoy for the war on ISIL, Brett McGurk, to explicitly <a href="https://www.state.gov/s/seci/2017remarks/274148.htm">emphasize</a> that the referendum lacked any international legitimacy.&nbsp;</p> <p>Consequently, Barzani vowed to press ahead with the vote, prompting Saudi Arabia, a close ally of Barzani, to dispatch on September 17 its Gulf affairs Minister Thamer al Sabhan, who appealed to Barzani to back down.</p> <p>In the eyes of Riyadh, Barzani has doubtlessly been playing an instrumental role in not merely destabilizing its arch foe Iran by enticing Iran’s Kurds to rise up, but also encouraging Turkey’s Kurds to severely undermine Turkey’s government which has emphatically backed its arch rival Qatar in the face of a tight blockade it has imposed in partnership with UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.&nbsp;</p> <p>On September 21, ICG ordered the ISF including the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMFs) – consisting of mainly Shia paramilitary units and volunteers, who spearheaded Iraq’s fight back against ISIL – to launch an <a href="https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2017/10/iraqi-troops-iranian-backed-militias-eject-islamic-state-from-hawija.php">offensive</a> to not only retake Hawija, a strategic ISIL bastion, but also to send a stark warning to Barzani.&nbsp;</p> <p>Buoyed by US and Saudi ringing endorsement, Abadi demanded on September 24, that the KRG must <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-kurds-referendum-borde/kurdistan-region-refuses-to-hand-over-border-crossings-to-iraqi-government-rudaw-idUSKCN1C41OF">hand over</a> airports and border crossings to ICG and also halt oil export.</p> <p>Even though, Barzani’s independence vote was overwhelmingly backed, on September 29 it was abundantly clear that it has spectacularly backfired when all international flights ceased and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson <a href="Link%20please">underlined</a> that the US rejected it.</p> <p>While Iran and its allies in Iraq and Syria were gaining the upper hand against ISIL, came Trump’s desperate attempt to turn the tables on Tehran by <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/13/us/politics/trump-iran-nuclear-deal.html">refusing</a> on October 13, to re-certify the nuclear deal, claiming disingenuously that Iran was violating the spirit of the 2015 accord.</p> <p>Iran, fired back by defiantly showcasing its significant influence, sending the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Qasem Soleimani to Sulaymaniyah in Kurdistan on October 15. </p> <p>Soleimani utilised his close ties with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leadership, especially Bafel Talabani, practically securing the withdrawal of PUK Peshmerga units and enabling ISF not only to sweep effortlessly into Kirkuk on October 16, but also the remaining disputed areas.&nbsp;</p> <p>Paradoxically however, the collapse of Brazani’s independence dream – thanks undeniably to Iran – has been exploited by Trump and Riyadh to bolster Abadi’s inherently weak leadership by presenting him as Iraq’s National hero who crushed ISIL and foiled Kurdish independence.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Ever since 2003 when the US toppled Iraq’s ruthless dictator Saddam Hussain, Saudi Arabia has not only adamantly refused to recognize Iraq’s fledgling democracy but has been working tirelessly to derail the political process.&nbsp;</p> <p>Against this backdrop, Obama’s administration sought to assuage Riyadh’s distrust by compelling Iraq’s ex-PM Nuri al-Maliki, who is deeply loathed by Riyadh, to step aside despite winning the 2014 election, in favour of Abadi.</p> <p>Riyadh however, only appointed al Sabhan as its first ambassador to Iraq in December 2015. And in a stunning <a href="https://www.c-span.org/video/?412915-1/iraqi-foreign-minister-ibrahimal-jaafari-delivers-remarks-usip">speech</a> in July 2016, from Washington, Iraq’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafri, who was well-connected to the Saudis during the nineties through his business of organising and acting as a religious guide for Iraqi Haj pilgrims in London, expressed his resounding shock at Riyadh’s relentless efforts to destabilise Iraq, acknowledging that Baghdad has persistently been covering up Riyadh’s subversive activities.</p> <p>Clearly Baghdad’s <a href="https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/09/iraq-saudi-thamer-sabhan.html">expulsion</a> of al Sabhan in August 2016 was an act of last resort.</p> <p>Trump’s victory in the US presidential elections was beyond doubt music to King Salman’s and his – young inexperienced – son Mohammed bin Salman’s (MBS) ears. He has fervently embraced Riyadh’s uncompromising stance by considering Iran’s nuclear agreement as the worse deal ever, pledging to scrap it.</p> <p>Additionally, regarding Iran’s growing influence as the primary threat to the region, while also supporting Riyadh’s vociferous yet unsuccessful campaign – given the growing chorus of highly credible US and European leaders, including ex-President Obama, ex-Secretary of State Clinton and ex-Vice President Biden, all of whom have firmly pointed the finger of blame at Saudi Arabia for funding, arming and exporting its extremist hard-line Wahhabi Salafi ideology to terrorist groups, such as ISIL, Al Qaeda and Jabhet Al-Nusra – to shift the responsibility for instability and insecurity to Iran.&nbsp;</p> <p>Although, Trump initially treated Abadi as Obama’s poodle, but apparently had a major change of heart, largely due not only to intense lobbying by Tillerson and the defence secretary James Mattis, but also Abadi’s tacit support to Trump’s quest to tackle Iran’s threat, as revealed by Trump’s <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/readout-presidents-call-prime-minister-haider-al-abadi-iraq/">readout</a> of his phone conversation with Abadi in February 2017.</p> <p>This clearly laid the foundations for a new strategy spearheaded by Trump and sponsored by MBS, aiming to prop up Abadi’s powerbase ahead of the May 2018 elections, ultimately empowering him to steer Iraq away from Tehran and towards Riyadh.&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet ironically, Trump-MBS strategy has relied heavily on weaning Iraqi Shia blocs off Iran and pushing them towards Riyadh, thereby inevitably creating a Shia-dominated bloc that is ostensibly led by Abadi but in reality controlled and employed by Riyadh to combat Shia blocs aligning with Iran.</p> <p>To implement this strategy Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubier arrived in Baghdad in February 2017, and Abadi was invited to meet Salman in June 2017, opening the door for Iraq’s Interior Minster Qasim al-Araji, who is a leading figure in Badr Organisation, which is part of the PMFs, followed by Moqtada al Sadr, who is a highly influential cleric and head of the al-Ahrar bloc, to converge in Riyadh in July 2017.</p> <p>Trump, has sought to shore up the new strategy by first sending McGurk in August 2017 to attend the reopening of the Arar border crossing between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and then Tillerson on October 21 to join Salman and Abadi in Riyadh for the inauguration of the Saudi-Iraqi cooperation Council.</p> <p>Without doubt, Tillerson’s demand while in Riyadh that the PMFs should go back home, was intended to consolidate MBS’s credentials as guardian of Sunni Islam, while also boosting Abadi’s image by allowing him to slam Tillerson’s remarks in a face to face meeting the next day in Baghdad.&nbsp;</p> <p>So far Trump-MBS strategy has not made any significant headway, suffering its first major setback in August 2017, when al-Araji <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/08/saudi-arabia-seeks-iraq-mend-ties-iran-170813151145632.html">revealed</a> from Tehran that MBS had asked him and also Abadi to mediate to ease tensions with Iran.</p> <p>MBS had to make a stark choice, either losing face or spoiling the perfect pretext used by Iraqi Shia leaders to justify their eagerness to visit Riyadh. Of course, MBS denied making such a request.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>And while Riyadh would prefer to trumpet Sadr’s bloc alliance with Ayad Allawi’s al-Wataniya coalition, which was <a href="https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/06/sadrists-national-coalition-allawi-iraq.html">announced</a> in June 2017, as tangible evidence that its strategy is delivering, in fact it was merely an agreement to coordinate positions in parliament.&nbsp;</p> <p>Surely, Riyadh must be disappointed that Ammar Al-Hakim’s leadership of the pro-Iran Islamic Supreme Council has so far been reluctant to openly edge closer towards Riyadh.&nbsp;</p> <p>And again, Sadr’s declaration on November 21, that he strongly supports Abadi’s bid for a second term is definitely not inspired by Riyadh, but instead driven by Sadr’s implacable obsession with blocking Maliki’s prospects of becoming PM. It is also in retaliation for Iran’s full-blown backing to his arch rival Qasi al-Khazali, head of Asaib Ahl al Haq.</p> <p>Trump-MBS strategy constitutes a major turn around in the US outlook for post-2003 Iraq, shifting the emphasis from constructing a fragmented Iraq that could potentially break up to a more united Iraq under the leadership of Abadi, who is not merely heavily dependent on its support, but also prepared to bend backwards to tow its line on Iran. In this context, Barzani became an obstacle and Kirkuk a mere detail.</p> <p>Indeed, Abadi’s <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/12/iraqi-general-war-isil-171209120757374.html">declaration</a> on December 9 of the end of war against ISIL signals the beginning of the elections campaign. But with MBS engaged in an escalating anti-Shia confrontation against Iran and its allies, it is very hard to imagine how Shia leaders such as al-Sadr and al-Hakim could join a coalition hell-bent on taking the fight to Tehran.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/zayd-alisa/will-re-launch-of-mosul-battle-by-iraqi-pm-reverse-trump-s-hostile-stance">Will the re-launch of the Mosul battle by the Iraqi PM reverse Trump’s hostile stance?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/feike-fliervoet/survival-game-post-referendum-politics-in-iraqi-kurdistan">The survival game: post-referendum politics in Iraqi Kurdistan</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/seevan-saeed/eastern-kurdistan-silent-politics-with-huge-casualties"> Eastern Kurdistan: a silent politics with huge casualties</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> Saudi Arabia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iran United States Saudi Arabia Iraq Conflict Democracy and government International politics The future: Islam and democracy Zayd Alisa Fri, 22 Dec 2017 09:35:27 +0000 Zayd Alisa 115459 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The return of authoritarianism is priming the Middle East for more conflict https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/erwin-van-veen/return-of-authoritarianism-is-priming-middle-east-for-more-con <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How is the Saudi-Iranian rivalry overwriting the Arab Spring’s key messages?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="western"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-32488489.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-32488489.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Boys sit on the rubble of a two-floor building after it was allegedly destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes on the northern outskirts of Sanaa, Yemen, 23 August 2017. Picture by Hani Al-Ansi/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Today, conflict in the Middle East is reduced to Saudi-Iranian rivalry. The <span><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/16/opinion/saudi-iran-strategy.html">story</a></span> is that emergent Iranian hegemonic designs in the Levant pose a threat to regional peace that needs to be countered. The narrative is cast as religious ‘Shi’a v. Sunni strife’ for additional existential effect. However, this simplistic frame obscures a more significant development: the return of authoritarianism to the Middle East. </p><p class="western">Autocratic rule is consolidating in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and Iran alike. It is overlaying the causes of the Arab Spring - a lack of bread, freedom, social justice and human dignity – with new waves of repression. This realization is insufficiently reflected in western foreign policy that is dominated by concerns over radicals and refugees. Yet, the mix of domestic repression and foreign neglect stores up conflict for the future. It also runs the risk of simply repeating history.</p> <p class="western">The regime of president El-Sisi has been consolidating itself ever since the coup d’état of 2013. In particular, it uses the escalating <span><a href="http://orientxxi.info/magazine/en-egypte-la-guerre-contre-le-terrorisme-s-etend-les-attentats-aussi,2149">insurgency</a></span> in the Sinai to increase its control over Egyptian civil society and religion. As the country is basically broke, it has pawned its foreign policy in part to Saudi Arabia to foot the bill. North, Turkey has discarded its rule of law where political dissent is concerned and re-started a civil war against 20% of its population. Absolute majority rule takes precedence over individual- and minority rights. East, the Iranian state retains a paradoxical balance between revolutionary believers and geopolitical pragmatists with elements of democracy in a cast of clerical autocracy.&nbsp;<span><a href="https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/gulf-and-arabian-peninsula/iran/saving-iran-nuclear-deal-despite-trumps-decertification">Rescinding</a></span> the Joint Comprehensive Plan for Action (‘the nuclear deal’) is likely to strengthen its hardline factions. South, Saudi Arabia is transforming heterogeneous royal rule with limited foreign ambitions into a centralized autocracy with a <span><a href="https://www.clingendael.org/publication/saudi-arabias-strategic-stalemate-what-next">muscular</a></span> foreign policy. The one (former) regional power that offers a glimmer of hope is Iraq’s fledgling democracy. The country was on the road to autocracy under Prime Minister Al-Maliki, but the Islamic State’s successes in 2014 made his tenure unsustainable, throwing electoral competition wide-open.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">The smoldering ruins of Syria demonstrate what can ensue.</p><p class="western">The short of the matter is that these four key regional powers are – to varying degrees – autocracies, which means they can pursue their foreign policy objectives without much regard for their own people, let alone others. The smoldering ruins of Syria demonstrate what can ensue. They are in large part the <span><a href="https://www.amazon.fr/Destroying-Nation-Civil-War-Syria/dp/1784537977/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1511782510&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=van+dam+destroying+a+nation">result</a></span> of regional powers fragmenting the civil war by supporting different proxies. So far, the conflicts between powerful rulers - Mohammed Bin Salman, Recip Erdogan, Ali Khameini and Abdel Fattah El Sisi - have largely taken place in the weaker states of the Levant, i.e. Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and, at the periphery, Yemen. The forced <span><a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/11/lebanon-saudi-arabia-saad-hariri-iran-hezbollah/545678/?utm_source=twb">resignation</a></span> of Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon was only the latest twist in this saga of proxies, politics and patronage. Yet, these battlefields interact with sites of conflict located inside the regional powers –Kurdistan in Turkey, the Sinai in Egypt and the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia - in ideological, human and/or material terms. The unresolved Palestinian case also remains a potent conflict catalyst. In short, more ‘Syria’s’ cannot be excluded.</p> <p class="western">Four-way autocratic competition has temporarily given way to an Iranian-Saudi face-off because Egypt and Turkey are preoccupied at home as internal violence followed their authoritarian consolidation. While Iran and Saudi Arabia are embroiled in a classic realist geopolitical competition - instrumentalising identity and religion for political gain – research <span><a href="https://www.clingendael.org/research-program/levant">suggests</a></span> that Iran is less dominant than typically assumed, while Saudi Arabia is not the modernising society it <span><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/23/opinion/saudi-prince-mbs-arab-spring.html">pretends</a></span> to be. As a result, the emerging unofficial partnership between Israel, Saudi Arabia and the US as ‘balancing act’ against Iran, the Syrian regime, Hezbollah and some Iraqi paramilitary groups not only risks fighting the ‘wrong’ conflict, it also exposes the Middle East to a greater conflagration.</p> <p class="western">Iran, for example, does hold appreciable sway in Iraq. Yet, there are also powerful nationalists and religious forces arrayed against its influence, such as Moqtada al-Sadr and Grand-Ayatollah Al-Sistani. The Iraqi Kataib Hezbollah militia and the Lebanese Hezbollah have little in common in terms of political influence other than their name. After all Iranian efforts to ‘run’ Iraq by way of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, the results appear <span><a href="https://www.clingendael.org/publication/iraqs-shia-house-divided">modest</a></span>. In Syria, Iran and Russia preside over a broken country with a huge legitimacy and reconstruction problem. In Lebanon, Iran has more clout via Hezbollah. Yet, this is mostly a problem of Israel’s own making by not using the Oslo Accords to resolve the Palestinian conflict, and less a manifestation of Iranian hegemonic designs.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">Stability in the Middle East is served by addressing the causes of its present instability – authoritarianism – not by promoting more of the same</p><p class="western">Saudi Arabia is in a worse state. Its more assertive foreign policy of late has resulted in a series of expensive <span><a href="https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/11/21/tehran-is-winning-the-war-for-control-of-the-middle-east-saudi-arabia/">disappointments</a></span>. Qatar is not bending to the Saudi will, Yemen has become a quagmire and Syria exemplifies ineffective meddling by proxy. Yet, the real problem of crown prince Mohammad bin Salman is that the foundations of his family’s rule are trembling. The Islamic State has exposed the real nature of Wahhabi religious worldviews, lower oil prices undermine the fiscal sustainability of the Saudi state and people are <span><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/23/opinion/saudi-prince-mbs-arab-spring.html">disgusted</a></span> with corrupt rule.</p> <p class="western">Instead of <span><a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-42108986">focusing</a></span> on the false binary of Iranian-Saudi rivalry, the drivers of the Arab Spring should be dusted off for policy purposes. Diplomatically, that means standing up more forcefully against the Middle East’s autocracies in fora like the United Nations, stopping to treat them as valuable business partners and creating better prospects for the region’s refugees. It also means toning down the Saudi-Iranian conflict frame in the knowledge that neither country has a governance model to offer that has much attraction beyond its borders or, actually, within them. Stability in the Middle East is served by addressing the causes of its present instability – authoritarianism – not by promoting more of the same.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/beverley-milton-edwards/saudi-arabia-middle-east-salman-iran-corruption-washington-power">Contagion effect and the Saudi grand game in the Middle East</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/wael-eskandar/egypt-terrorism-sinai-violence-religion-repression-sisi">Egypt: do you really want to counter terrorism?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera-heba-khalil/critical-voices-in-critical-times-revolution-withou">Critical voices in critical times: revolution without revolutionaries, an interview with Asef Bayat</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/julie-wark/to-become-bit-more-human-review-of-bel-n-fern-ndez-letter-from-ira">To become a bit more human: Review of Belén Fernández, “Letter from Iran”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/ebrahim-deen-matshidiso-motsoeneng/all-hail-real-king-saudi-mbs-salman">All ‘hail’ the real king</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/North-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/famine-in-yemen-finally-reaches-western-headlines">Famine in Yemen finally reaches western headlines</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item even"> Saudi Arabia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Syria Iraq Turkey Saudi Arabia Iran Conflict Democracy and government International politics authoritarianism Democracy Arab Spring Erwin van Veen Tue, 19 Dec 2017 09:53:27 +0000 Erwin van Veen 115388 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Kurds’ choices: heed history or the US? https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/dunia-assa-farman-farmaian/kurds-choices-heed-history-or-us <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Default">Who controls Syria’s borders? The US and Israel are encouraging Syrian Kurds to fight the regime and its allies for border control. The ensuing mayhem might unravel the Mideast and far beyond.<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-12-07 at 18.08.01.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-12-07 at 18.08.01.png" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Syria is perceived by the West and by many in the Middle East – particularly the Gulf States and Israel – as the enabler of Iran’s <a href="https://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2017/01/31/shia-crescent-middle-east-geopolitics/">Shi’a Crescent</a>, i.e., <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/dunia-assa-farmanfarmaian/saudiiranian-grand-bargain">the extension of Tehran’s influence and the promotion of its Shi’a revolutionary ideology into Sunni Mideast</a>. </p> <p class="Default">Before the <a href="https://www.britannica.com/event/Syrian-Civil-War">onset of Syria’s civil war</a>, the regime resisted Saudi, Qatari, Turkish and American ‘sticks and carrots’ and refused to sever it's <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/seyed-ali-alavi/irans-connections-with-syria-current-status-and-future-perspective">strategic connections with Iran</a>. Once fighting started in earnest, the regime vowed to maintain Syria’s territorial integrity and to regain ultimate control. Ironically, after years of war, destruction and bloodshed, Damascus’ conviction solidified that the Syria-Iran alliance is the guarantor of the Syrian regime’s stamina and long term survival. Given the billions of dollars spent and the forces armed in the pursuit of its downfall, the regime’s political survival – till Russia intervened militarily – would have been doubtful without Iran’s (and Hezbollah’s) initial, crucial and sustained military, logistical and financial support. </p> <p class="Default">Over the past seven years, the ‘<a href="https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/syria/2017-10-31/syrias-fair-weather-friends?cid=nlc-fa_fatoday-20171101">Friends of Syria</a>’ alliance that coalesced around the USA delivered massive support to the opposition (Qatar alone is rumoured to have spent over three billion dollars). The ensuing mayhem and chaos became fertile ground for extremism, thus enabling the so-called Islamic State (IS) to take over large swathes of Syrian territory and to establish Raqqa as its capital in Syria’s north. </p> <h2 class="Default"><strong>‘Democratic Federation of Northern Syria’</strong></h2> <p class="Default">The US’ (and Israel’s) <a href="http://docs.house.gov/meetings/FA/FA00/20171011/106500/HHRG-115-FA00-Wstate-JeffreyJ-20171011.pdf">primary aim</a> in Syria was initially the preclusion of Iran’s supply of arms to <a href="https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hezbollah">Hezbollah</a> via Iraq and Syria, and subsequently – once Hezbollah forces arrived to succour the Syrian regime – the creation of a buffer zone on the Israeli-Syrian border to stem Hezbollah’s ability to launch simultaneously attacks from Syria and Lebanon. </p> <p class="Default">After IS took hold, defeating it was proclaimed an additional objective. In pursuit of these goals, the US made the Syrian-Kurdish militia known as the <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/12/arming-kurdish-ypg-militia-backfire-on-us-heavy-weapons-syria-isis">People’s Protection Units</a> (YPU) the recipient of its military and financial aid, to the ire of Turkey that has, on and off, fought against the independence agenda of its substantial Kurdish minority. The declared aim of this alliance was to fight against IS for the territory, oil fields and border crossings under its control. Although divided on tactics, Syrian Kurds <a href="https://syria.chathamhouse.org/assets/documents/2016-09-15-kurdish-self-governance-syria-sary.pdf">hoped</a> that autonomy, with US strategic support, would eventually become a stepping stone to independence. </p> <p class="Default">At the outset of the Syrian civil war, the Syrian regime tacitly tolerated <a href="https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/05/pyd-pkk-syria-kurdistan.html">de facto Kurdish autonomy</a> in areas where the Kurds are a majority; this self-ruled territory is known as Rojava (‘Western Kurdistan’ in Kurdish). The regime’s de facto acquiescence to Rojova’s autonomy was a quid pro quo for Kurdish abstention from joining the armed opposition. However, the Syrian government has yet to de jure recognise Rojava's autonomy in Kurdish-majority areas and to delineate its borders.</p> <p class="Default">Last March, the <a href="https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_Union_Party_(Syria)">Democratic Union Party</a> (a Kurdish political party created on 20 September 2003 in northern Syria) established a 'Founding Council of Democratic Federal System in Rojava' and declared the formation of a 'democratic federal system for northern Syria'. Prior to that announcement, Rojava was understood to consist only of the self-proclaimed Kurdish autonomous area in north-west Syria, where Kurds are a majority of the local population. </p> <p class="Default">Last October, a Kurdish affiliated militia called <a href="https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syrian_Democratic_Forces">The Syrian Democratic Forces</a> (SDF) recovered – with the help of US Special Forces – vast areas in the north-east and the east of Syria previously controlled by IS, then declared an autonomous <a href="http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/fikraforum/view/northern-syrias-new-democratic-federal-system">Democratic Federation of Northern Syria</a> (DFNS) to include not only the autonomous Kurdish majority areas in north-west Syria, but also <a href="https://www.irinnews.org/analysis/2017/10/23/winter-coming-who-will-rebuild-raqqa">the recently acquired IS areas in Syria’s north-east and east where Kurds are not a majority</a>. </p> <p class="Default">By virtue of this additional acquisition, SDF/YPU now control almost 25% of Syria's territory, and the majority of its arable land, oil and water resources. SDF is mostly composed of Kurdish YPU fighters, with token other minority and Sunni participation. All foreign and domestic actors in Syria understand this, as do the tribes and local populations in territories under SDF control. </p> <p class="Default">When the portrait of the jailed leader of Turkey's outlawed <a href="https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurdistan_Workers&#039;_Party">Kurdistan Workers Party</a> (PKK) was brandished in IS’s ex-capital Raqqa after it fell to joint SDF and US Special Forces, the suspicion solidified of a Kurdish global alliance under various names, whose ultimate aim is the creation of an independent Kurdish State that would be carved out from contiguous regions now under Turkish, Syrian, Iraqi and Iranian suzerainty. </p> <p class="Default">The independence referendum organised almost simultaneously in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan further reinforced this suspicion. <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.dailysabah.com/war-on-terror/2017/10/25/us-caught-red-handed-in-raqqa-over-banner-of-pkk-leader-erdogan-says/amp">Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria concluded</a> in dismay that the PKK, that advocates Kurdish independence, was firmly in control of the newly-minted autonomous ‘Democratic Federation of Northern Syria’, and that the US was complicit in the drive for an independent Kurdistan. </p> <h2 class="Default"><strong>A matter of time</strong></h2> <p class="Default">Geographically, the territory newly acquired by SDF from IS in Syria is a cumbersome acquisition in a hostile neighbourhood. It is surrounded to the north by Turkey, the east by Iraq, the south by the Syrian army and the west by <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/07/syria-turkish-forces-assad-idlib-erdogan">Turkish-supported Turkic opposition forces</a> and the Syrian army. Kurds do not constitute a majority in most of its cities and towns, and locals do not by and large share the Kurdish dream of independence. Moreover, Turkic opposition forces allied with Turkey physically separate the recently acquired north-east and east Syrian territories from the self-declared autonomous Rojava in north-west Syria. </p> <p class="Default">Turkey is not acting alone. Other state actors – in pursuit of their own national interests – will not enable a viable, independent or autonomous Rojava, whatever its territorial limits might be. They would not allow or facilitate the export of oil or the import of arms, goods or significant <a href="https://www.irinnews.org/analysis/2017/10/23/winter-coming-who-will-rebuild-raqqa">reconstruction aid</a> to newly-acquired territories under Kurdish control. </p> <p class="Default">The Iraqi government used the ill-fated Kurdish independence referendum to recover Mosul and Kirkuk along with their oil resources, and is in the process of <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/world-middle-east-41816138">regaining control</a> of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan’s borders, including <a href="http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/us-must-not-let-iran-cut-off-the-kurdish-controlled-iraq-syria-border/article/2638759">border crossings</a> into Syria’s Kurdish-controlled areas. <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/turkey-us-kurdish-syria-terrorist-organisation-militia-pkk-erdogan-binali-yildirim-a7732781.html">Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish YPU/SDF militia a ‘terrorist organisation” affiliated with its homegrown outlawed PKK</a>, and would not relinquish control of its border crossings. </p> <p class="Default">Iran would do its utmost to protect its supply route to Syria and Hezbollah via Iraq, and is wary of its own Kurdish minority that potentially might be used instrumentally by the US and Israel in regime change projects (in 2010 <a href="https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/07TELAVIV2652_a.html">WikiLeaks published</a> Israel’s plans, agreed by the US, to use the Kurds and other Iranian minorities to affect regime change). While Syria's Foreign Minister has publicly stated that <a href="https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2017/9/26/assad-regime-says-syrian-kurdish-autonomy-negotiable">Kurdish autonomy is negotiable</a>, unnamed Syrian Army sources have called the SDF-controlled territory a national ‘<a href="https://www.google.co.uk/amp/mobile.reuters.com/article/amp/idUSKBN1D02CN">occupied territory</a>’ and vowed to retake it, echoing the Syrian President who has repeatedly stressed his determination to <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/amp/news.sky.com/story/amp/ill-retake-every-inch-of-syria-vows-assad-10770052">regain sovereignty over every inch of Syria</a>. </p> <p class="Default">It is also doubtful that the Gulf countries would provide long term massive reconstruction aid for this vast SDF-controlled territory, given their present financial restraints born from reduced oil income, diminishing reserves and altered national priorities (Yemen war, conflict with Qatar,&nbsp; confrontation with Hezbollah in Lebanon, needed massive economic stimulus and investment in the Gulf, etc...). Absent major reconstruction projects that would allow the return of refugees and create employment in the areas under SDF control where Kurds are a minority, it is a question of time before tribal and civil leaders side with the Syrian central government.</p> <h2 class="Default"><strong>Art of the possible</strong></h2> <p class="Default">The Kurdish leadership in Syria would ignore at its peril the <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-skeptics/kurdistan-catalonia-the-iran-deal-the-perils-overreach-22961">lessons</a> of Kurdish overreach in Iraq, of US refusal to support Iraqi Kurdistan’s recent failed independence bid, and of the blunt opinion voiced by American experts like the US Ambassador to Syria from 2011 till 2014 who stated that the <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/amp/www.newsweek.com/us-military-kurds-lose-iran-syria-former-ambassador-627395?amp=1">US will lose Syria to Iran and abandon their Kurdish allies</a>. They would do their constituents and the region a favour by remembering the adage that ‘Politics is the art of the possible’ and Lord Palmerston’s observation that “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests”. Notwithstanding their repeated assertion that Syrian Kurds’ objective is an <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.al-monitor.com/pulse/en/originals/2017/10/syria-federal-state-kurds-turkey-russia.amp.html">autonomous Rojava within a Federal Syria</a>, the devil remains in the detail! Would they negotiate away areas in the north-east and east, in exchange for autonomy guarantees for Rojava in the north-west, or would they seek to preserve their present control over the expanded territory?</p> <p class="Default">The Syrian regime’s ultimate objectives are survival and the control of all Syrian territory. To quickly wind down the war, attain a political solution and start reconstruction, the regime might agree to grant Kurds de jure autonomy in Kurdish-majority areas only, in exchange for control over non-Kurdish majority areas. However, should Syrian Kurds overreach – encouraged by the US and/or Israel – their neighbours would fight them implacably. The construction of US bases in Kurdish-controlled territories as protection would only increase Kurds’ isolation and further motivate the forces arrayed against them.</p> <h2 class="Default"><strong>Overreach</strong></h2> <p class="Default">Kurds who are tempted to fight the Syrian army for control of the north east and east of Syria need to factor in the US’s checkered history as an ally: Historically, since the latter part of the twentieth century, many allies have found it ultimately futile to rely on the constant, enduring and efficient backing of the United States. In Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia, the US abandoned its allies and withdrew without achieving its strategic goals. In Iran and Egypt, the Shah and President Mubarak, both staunch allies of the United States, were undermined and abandoned at crucial junctures. In Afghanistan, the longest war in American history has resulted in the country’s practical division, with the Taliban regaining control over the majority of the country. In Iraq, the US supported Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war, yet later turned against him due to shifting objectives, and invaded Iraq – a strategic blunder that enabled Iran to expand its influence in the region, and proved Washington to be a fickle friend who failed to support its Kurdish ally’s independence bid. In Syria, irrespective of rights and wrongs, regime change has failed, Iran’s influence has increased, Hezbollah has gained a foothold and strength despite US-led efforts to stem its Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon supply route, and the US-supported Syrian Opposition in exile, is increasingly marginalised, almost abandoned.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Default">The large areas and resources of Syria’s eastern and north-eastern borders that have recently come under the control of the Kurdish SDF should logically form the crux of future negotiations between the Kurds and the Syrian regime over Kurdish autonomy in Kurdish majority areas, and between the US and Syria’s government and allies over the crucial issue of who would control Syria’s border with Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Israel. </p> <p class="Default">The Iraqi and Syrian governments, with the help of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah are <a href="http://m.gulf-times.com/story/571731/Syrian-army-allies-retake-Albu-Kamal-from-Islamic-">regaining control</a> of parts of the Iraqi-Syrian border. US plans to deny Iran the use of that border for the shipment of arms to Hezbollah are now severely compromised. Knowing this, will the SDF fight to extend the territory it controls to the areas now under the control of the Syrian Army and its allies, or will it seek a compromise with the regime?</p> <h2 class="Default"><strong>Military buildup</strong></h2> <p class="Default">Tehran’s projection of power in the region depends on its continued ability to supply Hezbollah with arms via Iraq and Syria. Would it be willing to trade a Hezbollah-free zone on the Israeli-Syrian border in exchange for this? Would the US accept this trade off? The Syrian regime might accept a joint Syrian-Russian buffer zone on the southern border with Israel; this would probably be conditional on US recognition of Syrian sovereignty throughput its whole territory – including an autonomous indigenous Kurdish area – and Syrian military control of Syria’s northern and eastern borders (to maintain the Iran-Hezbollah supply route). Would the US accept this and force Israel to live with this prospect? And what incentive would the US then have to maintain military bases and Kurdish allies in Syria?</p> <p class="Default">In all probability, neither the US nor Israel would readily agree to this trade off. Their refusal could translate into clashes between the Kurdish forces in the present SDF-controlled territory and the Syrian army and its allies. The US and Israel might encourage the SDF to keep Syria’s northern-eastern and eastern territory recovered from IS, and promise military support and protection to maintain and/or expand it. For the SDF to retain longterm control, an expanded massive US military presence in Syria would become necessary. In acquiescing to this military buildup and enabling it, Kurds run the risk that the US might at will withdraw its protection and abandon them, in exchange for one or both of its, and Israel’s, strategic goals – i.e. stemming the flow of arms from Iran to Hezbollah via Iraq and Syria, and/or creating a buffer zone on the Syria-Israel border (at present, Syrian <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/israel-giving-secret-aid-syrian-rebels-bashar-al-assad-golah-heights-hezbollah-fursan-al-joulan-a7797151.html">opposition forces financed and aided by Israel</a> constitute a buffer-enclave on that border). </p> <h2 class="Default"><strong>‘Constructive chaos?’</strong></h2> <p class="Default">State actors are actively sabotaging US-Israeli objectives: <a href="http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/us-must-not-let-iran-cut-off-the-kurdish-controlled-iraq-syria-border/article/2638759">Iran’s allies are already taking military action to gain control of the border crossings</a> that separate the SDF autonomous areas in eastern Syria from Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan – thus precluding the emergence of a contiguous autonomous/independent Kurdistan in Iraq and Syria. <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-kurds-referendum-borde/iraq-plans-to-take-control-of-kurdistan-regions-border-in-coordination-with-iran-turkey-idUSKCN1C42TA">Iraq’s central government is methodically taking back control of Iraqi-Kurdistan’s borders</a> and airports, in coordination with Iran and Turkey. There are reports that Turkey is <a href="https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/10/turkey-syria-russia-tightening-siege-of-afrin.html">preparing an attack</a> to extend till the Mediterranean the corridor its allies control, in order to completely separate areas under Kurdish control in the north-east from those in the north-west of Syria and encircle the Kurds in north-west Syria. For reasons of national interest, Iran, Turkey and Iraq would actively support Syria’s territorial integrity. </p> <p class="Default"><a href="https://sputniknews.com/politics/201610111046207689-russian-base-syria-tartus/">Russia's national interests</a> also lie in the survival of the Syrian regime as a guarantor to its continued access to its <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/how-russia-turning-syria-major-naval-base-nuclear-warships-19813">Tartus naval facility</a> – its only warm water naval facility, other than in the disputed Crimea – and in the elimination of <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2015/12/09/russian-fighters-are-joining-isis-in-record-numbers.html">IS’s Russian fighters</a> (its largest foreign contingent). An American-Russian deal on Crimea appears a dim possibility in the midst of US judicial and Congressional probes into Russian interference in the US Presidential election. With no deal in sight, Russia would presumably continue to help its Syrian ally regain control over the totality of Syrian territory. The Kurds would have to fight these allied forces. </p> <p class="Default">Many in the Mideast <a href="https://www.globalresearch.ca/us-sponsored-terrorism-in-iraq-and-constructive-chaos-in-the-middle-east/5387653">and in Russia</a> remember the famous declaration in 2006 of the then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice advocating <a href="http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1219325,00.html">‘constructive chaos’</a> as the ‘birth pangs’ for the rebirth of <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/1525200/Death-and-despair-amid-US-pursuit-of-new-Middle-East.html">a New Mideast</a>. A <a href="https://www.globalresearch.ca/plans-for-redrawing-the-middle-east-the-project-for-a-new-middle-east/3882">map</a> surfaced in US military publications in 2006 outlining the joint US-Israel vision of a reconfigured Mideast. There is a general suspicion in the Mideast that the Kurds are the US/Israeli tool for the planned fragmentation of the region. </p> <h2 class="Default"><strong>Restive minorities</strong></h2> <p class="Default">At a recent hearing of the US’ House Committee on Foreign Affairs, <a href="http://docs.house.gov/meetings/FA/FA00/20171011/106500/HHRG-115-FA00-Wstate-JeffreyJ-20171011.pdf">written testimony on ‘Confronting the full range of Iranian threats’</a> was received stating: “<em>The U.S. thus must recognize the stakes: if America does not stop the Iranians on this front, they will soon emerge as the dominant force in the region, deeply inimical to the United States and its partners, and allied with Putin’</em><em>s Russia</em><em>”. </em>Should the US act on such advice, it might implement <a href="https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/07/pentagon-build-bases-facilities-iraq-syria.html">Plans to build multiple military bases</a> in Syria to replace its <a href="https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incirlik_Air_Base">Incirilik air base</a> in Turkey that might be threatened by the disagreement with Ankara over Rojava’s empowerment. </p> <p class="Default">In so doing, it would seek to weaponise the Kurds. Washington and its Kurdish ally would do well not to underestimate the collective national interests aligned against them. Should they persevere, they would enter into a direct and simultaneous confrontation with Russia, Iran/Hezbollah, Turkey, Iraq and Syria that would exponentially increase the risk of resurgent nationalism becoming the extremists’ rallying cry and recruitment tool for targeted attacks against American and Kurdish&nbsp; troops in Syria and Iraq, and US and Kurdish civilians.</p> <p class="Default">Absent an urgent regional endeavour to reduce ethnic and sectarian tensions, Syria’s mayhem, strife and destruction would leak into Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, the Gulf region and Iran – like Iraq’s seeped into Syria in the form of IS. All these countries have societal schisms and/or restive oppressed minorities that could be fanned into militant action: Turkey has a militant Kurdish minority and an upset <a href="https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/07/22/world/europe/alevi-minority-turkey-recep-tayyip-erdogan.html">Alevi</a> one; Iraq has an independence-aspiring Kurdish minority, along with a deep and fractious <a href="https://www.cfr.org/interactives/sunni-shia-divide?cid=otr-marketing_url-sunni_shia_infoguide%23!/sunni-shia-divide?cid=otr-marketing_url-sunni_shia_infoguide">Sunni-Shia schism</a>; Jordan has a <a href="http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/193161">Palestinian and Syrian refugee problem</a>; Lebanon has a sectarian divide that has already caused a civil war, compounded by massive Syrian and Palestinian refugee presence that is <a href="http://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/document.html?reference=EPRS_BRI(2017)599379">upsetting its sectarian makeup</a>; Iran has multiple ethnic minorities including Kurds, and many of its oil and gas fields are in Arab-populated areas; Saudi Arabia – which is spearheading the pushback against <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/globalsecurityreview.com/amp/the-rise-and-rise-of-iran-how-tehran-has-become-pivotal-to-the-future-of-the-middle-east/">Iran’s expanding regional influence</a> – has a discriminated-against <a href="https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shia_Islam_in_Saudi_Arabia">Shi’a minority</a> living above its most important oilfields, Saudi-origin IS returnee fighters, a costly <a href="https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran%E2%80%93Saudi_Arabia_proxy_conflict">proxy war in Yemen</a>, rapidly declining oil revenues and national reserves, and an unfolding fractious succession. The Kurds would be deemed complicit in this dangerous escalation and held responsible.</p> <h2 class="Default"><strong>Sectarian Frankenstein</strong></h2> <p class="Default">The sectarian Frankenstein unleashed in the Mideast could wreak havoc worldwide: <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-27838034">according to the BBC</a>, the largest contingents of foreign fighters in Syria hail (in descending order) from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Tunisia, France, Morocco, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Germany and the UK. The largest contingents of ‘returned fighters’ (in descending order) went to Turkey, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, UK, Germany, Russia, Jordan, France, Morocco and Uzbekistan. </p> <p class="Default">What happens in the Mideast rarely stays there. Continued fighting in Syria would further exasperate radicalism and the epic human tragedy endured by its population, and spill over into neighbouring countries and beyond. Europe especially is vulnerable to increased terrorism inside its border, and to an unstoppable multiethnic tidal wave of refugees from the Mideast heading to its shores, seeking refuge, safety and a future for their families. </p> <p class="Default">The impact on changing demographics and latent separatist strains might politically destabilise Europe and lead to social disorder, internment camps and the rise of xenophobic and nationalist parties. Europe, China and Russia (who all have ethnic and sectarian fault lines) should encourage the Kurds to resist the temptation to retain, as part of an autonomous region, Syrian territory where they are not the majority of the population. By negotiating away these areas in exchange for de jure autonomy in Kurdish-majority areas, Kurds would avoid abandonment by their US ally, and might become partners in the post-war Syrian government.</p> <p class="Default">Ends rarely justify means. Kurdish leaders in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran should not forget that in geopolitics, National Interests are permanent. No sovereign country or national leader would readily acquiesce to the dismemberment of sovereign national territory. By endeavouring, counting on and/or enabling plans to redraw the Mideast’s borders, Kurds would permanently alienate geographic neighbours, and contribute to regional political and social chaos, human suffering, mayhem, unending wars and destruction on an epic scale, in the hope of an independent Kurdistan, with no assurance that backers would stay the course, or that plans would ultimately succeed. It is a well-established military principle that “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy”; In this instance, numerous determined enemies would mount a determined, unwavering and effective counter-offensive.&nbsp; </p> <h2 class="Default"><strong>United Syria and equal rights</strong></h2> <p class="Default">The Mideast is on the brink of an abyss because of sectarian and ethnic schisms and <a href="https://www.thecairoreview.com/tahrir-forum/syria-becomes-ever-more-complicated/">vying multi-national interests</a>. The&nbsp; armed pursuit of Kurdish independence would destabilise the region further, and enable the <a href="https://www.thecairoreview.com/essays/how-isis-will-end/">spread</a> of vicious extremism and <a href="https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings/saudi-arabia-travel-warning.html">terrorist blow-back</a> throughout the Mideast, and hence to many African and Asian states along ethnic and sectarian fault lines, where oppressed minorities, like the Rohingya, might provide fertile recruiting ground for evermore virulent fanaticism and extremism born from the ashes of IS’s defeat. </p> <p class="Default">US allies would be undermined. Terrorist attacks would seep into Europe and the US mainland causing public opinion to shift. In a democracy like the US, that shift would result in the redefinition of strategic objectives. The Kurds would become collateral damage to changed goals. </p> <p class="Default">The Kurdish leadership would better serve its constituents longterm by heeding history’s lessons, not enabling Syria’s breakup, and opting instead to pursue equal rights inside a united Syria. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ercan-ayboga/solution-for-syria-en-route-democratic-federation-of-north-syria">Solution for Syria en route: ‘Democratic Federation of North Syria’ </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item even"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Israel </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Saudi Arabia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Russia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Lebanon </div> <div class="field-item even"> Qatar </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Qatar Lebanon Russia Saudi Arabia EU UK United States Israel Turkey Iran Iraq Syria Dunia Assa Farman-Farmaian Thu, 07 Dec 2017 18:07:31 +0000 Dunia Assa Farman-Farmaian 115163 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In search of cardinal virtues in Iraq https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/fazil-moradi/in-search-of-cardinal-virtues-in-iraq <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Political violence has ascended into a mode of governance in Iraq today, wherein religious identity reigns&nbsp;supreme.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-31544099.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-31544099.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Bullets on the ground in Mosul, Iraq, 01 June 2017. Picture by Noe Falk Nielsen/NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All right reserved. </span></span></span>I arrived in Baghdad in November 2013. It was part of my doctoral research on the afterlives of the Iraqi Baʿth state’s al-Anfāl genocide (1987-1991). I wanted to record how the Iraqi federal government shows its responsibility for the past, present, and future of Iraq. I saw the future of Iraq to be entirely wrapped in women survivors’ persistent demands for legal and ethical justice, for tracing, exhuming, identifying and returning the remains of their loved ones scattered in unknown mass graves in the country. In Iraq women survivors remain the voice that translates into the ethical urgency for building a more responsible and virtuous Iraq.</p> <p>With modern bureaucracy the Iraqi Baʿth regime pulled religion and the constitution together to justify and to make legitimate genocidal violence. The state’s decree no. 4008, dated June 20, 1987, declares the Kurdish rural areas and village as outlawed, and that they “shall be regarded as operational zones strictly out of bound to all persons and animals […] in which the troops can <em>open fire at will</em> […] The Corps shall carry out random bombardment, using artillery, helicopter and aircraft […] in order to kill the largest number of persons in the outlawed areas.” Jointly with thousands of other al-Anfāl documents, the decree became a key legal evidence during the al-Anfāl trials (2006-2007) and was used against Ali Hassan al-Majid, the Secretary General of the Northern Bureau from 1987-1989. Al-Majid was the one who had signed the decree. Following the trials, the verdict judged al-Anfāl as genocide.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">“This is life in Baghdad. It is a biological duration”</p><p>In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, it is now remembered to have resulted in the killing and disappearance of ‘182.000’ people, displacement of ‘1.5 million’ people, and complete destruction of ‘4.500’ villages. </p> <p>At the time of my arrival, ten years after the United States turned “de-Baʿthification” of Iraq into law, Baghdad was still dotted with checkpoints. It was a city under siege as mobile military units and armored vehicles roamed the streets. Occupying the dangerous sidewalk of the road between the liberation monument in Tahrir Square and the “green zone,” where the Iraqi parliament, the Council of Representatives of Iraq, and the respective American and British embassies are located, vendors were forming a line and displayed their goods. As the driver saw me watching the vendors, he told me, “This is life in Baghdad. It is a biological duration.” He was telling me whose life is at stake.</p> <p>I soon observed that al-Anfāl was not of concern to the Iraqi government in the green zone. What happened had disappeared into a past without trace. The dominant question in the pressroom of the Iraqi parliament was whether to maintain or decrease the monthly food rations (e.g. flour, rice, cooking oil etc.) to the Iraqi population. This public distribution food program became a policy when sanctions were imposed on Iraq. It was the punishment for Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in the beginning of August 1990. The United Nations’ “oil for food” program in 1996, and the Iraqi food program increasingly turned the Iraqi peoples into biological duration.</p> <p>A specially trained Kurdish Peshmerga (lit. ‘before death’) force and a British Security company with employees from the Republic of Fiji were responsible for the security of the parliament. “I am surprised to see Peshmerga here,” I voiced my inquisitiveness to a Peshmerga who scanned my body at the entrance. “Shīʿītes and Sunnīs do not trust each other, but they both trust us. There were bloodbaths here before we came,” he responded. Yet, the then President Jalal Talabani had left the Presidential Palace to the city of Sulaimani in the Kurdistan Region. I was told that he is in conflict with Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister at the time. “He will come back. This is how politics is done in Iraq. People get angry at each other and they threaten to kill each other, and then suddenly they are back together as if nothing ever happened between them. It is the Iraqi civilians who suffer,” an Iraqi parliamentarian told me over dinner at a small restaurant outside of the green zone. Two boys, 17 years old and 18 years old respectively were running the restaurant. The restaurant was 16 square meters, and it was also where the two boys slept at night. “We are from the south of Iraq, and have nowhere else to go to at night,” said the 17 year old boy.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Politics as irresponsibility and unaccountability is at the heart of the modern political history of Iraq.</p><p>The 2005 Iraqi state’s constitution that hosts rights and freedoms neither had a place at the restaurant nor in the everyday life of the two boys and their families. “Our families can put bread on the table because we send them money every month,” said the 18 year old boy. The money had to be given to their respective mothers who in turn would use it to take care of other children. If one doesn’t immediately acknowledge that love, ethics, responsibility, accountability, care and justice are always at work at this level of the current Iraqi society then one denies the history and the future of Iraq.</p> <p>The green zone is at work creating another Iraq, taking a different stance in relation to the past, present, and future. Politics as irresponsibility and unaccountability is at the heart of the modern political history of Iraq. Because of his titanic depravity, Nouri al-Maliki was replaced with Haider al-Abadi. Yet, he remains a powerful figure in the Iraqi government. An electric engineer, al-Abadi is now doing apoplectic politics in continuity with a particular reading of religion. While claiming to be a strict constitutional leader and reader, he continues to militarize Iraq to be prepared to carry out constitutional and religious wars against the <em>Iraqi Kurdish</em> <em>citizens </em>at any time. Al-Abadi’s matter of concern is not the living conditions, national infrastructure, and promotion of national education in all fields, health care, and cultural life, but the politics of violence that has brought him closer to Iran and Turkey.</p> <p>Violence is entrenched in the evolvement of what is now Iraq. Apart from the violence of the Ottomans, the British and the Americans that are yet to be accounted for, certain interpretations of religion are a constitutive part of six separate genocidal violence in Iraq in the twentieth and twenty-first century. <em>The Summayl massacre</em> against the Assyrians, an Iraqi Christian minority, on August 11, 1933; <em>Al-Far</em><em>ḥ</em><em>ūd</em> became the name for public hangings, massacre, and violent dispossession of the Iraqi Jews in early 1941; <em>The Dujail massacre</em> targeting the Iraqi Shīʿītes between 1982-1985; <em>Al-Anfāl operations</em> targeting mainly the Kurds but also absorbing Êzîdîs and Christians between 1987-1991; Shīʿīte religious cleansing of the Sunnīs in 2006-2007; the <em>Sinjar operations</em> of the “Islamic state” against Êzîdîs, and its exterminatory violence against Christians, Kāka’ees, and Shabak between 2014-2017.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">Political violence has ascended into a mode of governance in Iraq today</p><p>Political violence has ascended into a mode of governance in Iraq today, wherein religious identity reigns supreme. The arrival and settlement of the “popular mobilization forces” (<em>Al</em><em>-Hashd al-shaʿbī</em>)<em> </em>in the city of Kirkuk on October 16, 2017, attests to how freedoms and rights break down and the control over the oil reserves takes precedence. In its visible form, it is a Shīʿīte army<em> </em>acting rather in the name of God, and making public the growing solidarity between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Haider al-Abadi. A shared religious identity, Shīʿīsm is subjected to a political translation that shapes a new but asymmetric relationship between Baghdad and Tehran. The Iranian state is only at work foisting its own reading of Shīʿīte identity on the entire region. This particular mode of existence is the Islamic Republic’s only contribution to the modern history of the Middle East, and it remains its only option of survival. Its survival and its acts of violence both within Iran and in the region are inseparable. An identity that makes invisible all other identities, as Amartya Sen writes, “can kill – and kill with abandon.”</p> <p>Dichotomized religious identities have advanced into an Iraqi ordinance. Together with other friends, I had the privilege of visiting a renowned Iraqi artist while in Bagdad. Lamenting the loss of cultural life in Baghdad, the artist reflected on how the politicization of Islam is gradually cleaning all traces of art and aesthetics in the memory of the city. Later on, one of the hosts invited me to an art exhibition and while walking he whispered to me how the Iraqi Sunnīs were transformed into a measurable enemy and identified on the basis of their names or their location inscribed on their national identification cards. “Many Sunnīs were exterminated and their bodies were thrown into the Tigris River,” he told me. He continued saying how this policy precipitously turned neighbors and communities into historical religious enemies and brought the everyday living together to an ultimate end.</p> <p>The very exclusive religious mission of <em>Al</em><em>-Hashd al-shaʿbī</em> brings it closer to the Islamic states’ phantasmagoria, informing the Iraqis that they are exclusively Shīʿīte. This comes to life during the&nbsp;holy Day of Ashura,&nbsp;when some organized groups occupy the streets with swords and chains, cutting and whipping their own bodies. Physical pain and bleeding become evidence of religious duty and identity, remembering the killing of ḥussein Ibn ʿAli at the Battle of Karbala&nbsp;in 680 CE. The politics of viscerality is an act that sanctifies the self and the land where ʿAli, Prophet Mohammed’s first cousin and son-in-law, and ḥussein, ʿAli’s son, and other martyrs of the Battle of Karbala&nbsp;are buried. Located at the heart of Iraq, Karbala and the city of Najaf fall within the area where Sunnīs and Shīʿītes sacrificed lives and spilled blood in their battles over who would become the ultimate face of Islam on earth, following the death of the Prophet Mohammed in 632 CE.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">Dichotomized religious identities have advanced into an Iraqi ordinance.</p><p><em>Al</em><em>-Hashd al-shaʿbī </em>cannot, therefore, be confined to what the name proposes. <em>Al-shaʿbī</em> is a euphemism for <em>al-</em><em>Shīʿīte, </em>just as al-Anfāl was a euphemism for genocide. Born from a religious declaration (<em>fatwā</em>) of Al-Sayyed Ali al-Sistani, the highest Shīʿa authority in Iraq, on 15 June 2014 <em>Al-Hashd al-shaʿbī</em> is the manifestation of divine punishment. Its mission was to descend into war with the “Islamic state.” It has now advanced into a force that can suspend law and ethics and make and unmake the humanity of its target group with impunity. Its reputation as a merciless armed force renders it foreign to the principle that each and every person has civil and political rights that she/he should be able to express and realize freely and without any fear of death. It makes infinitely public al-Abadi’s religious reading of the Iraqi constitution, in the name of which he claims to order and command military operations. <em>The operations target Iraqi citizens (Kurds) whose rights and freedoms are also guaranteed by the same constitution</em>. The constitution was written under the US-UK rule. In his book,<em> Constitution Making Under Occupation</em>, Andrew Arato writes that a “short time period was provided for the making of the permanent constitution (seven months), some of this was eaten up by the problems of government formation and the formation of the Constitutional Committee itself (three and a half months in all), and it took another two months to include Sunni representatives.”</p> <p>The paradox embedded in the relation of religion to the constitution continues to be integral to the justification of violence or the right of the state to kill. While Article 2 insists, “Islam is the official religion of the State and is a foundation source of legislation,” <em>Section Two: Rights and Freedoms</em> of the constitution encapsulates the rights and freedoms of all persons, that are taken to be independent of “gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, origin, color, religion, sect, belief or opinion, or economic or social status” (Article 14). These rights are enshrined in the Universal Declarations of Human Rights of which Iraq is a signatory state. In this respect, as it is also inscribed in Article 8, the Iraqi state is made nationally and internationally accountable for any violations of fundamental rights and freedoms.</p> <p><span class="mag-quote-center">It is characteristic of neoliberal democracy that one sings democracy at “home” and participates in annihilatory violence elsewhere – that one is at once a democrat and a monster.</span>&nbsp;</p><p>The terrorizing invasion of Tuz Khurmatu, Kirkuk, Khanaqin, and Sinjar and the forced displacement of the Kurdish civilians from what Article 140 of the constitution gathers together under the name “disputed territories” are rather trends toward violation of all rights and freedoms. The name also turns the inhabitants into “disputed populations.” Sinjar is yet to get free of the genocidal violence of the “Islamic state,” and its inhabitants, Êzîdîs, continue to live in the shadow of that violence in camps for “internally displaced persons” in the Kurdistan Region. The Shīʿīte dominated Iraqi government’s unwillingness to break free of terror and violence and the active deferral of the constitution, has securely turned the <em>no longer valid</em> Article 140 into annihilatory violence. Paragraph 2 of Article 140, insists that the “Iraqi Transitional Government stipulated in Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law,” shall through “a referendum in Kirkuk and other disputed territories … determine the will of their citizens … by a date not to exceed the 31st of December 2007.” Noticing the date (<em>31st </em><em>of December 2007</em>), Article 140 must be <em>a thing of the past</em>.</p> <p>What Article 140 archives is <em>now</em> actualized violence. The arrival and presence of <em>Al</em><em>-Hashd al-shaʿbī </em>with sophisticated weapons, turning the disputed territories into a <em>war zone,</em> cannot display protection of “The will of [Iraqi] citizens.” Fundamental to the annihilatory force of <em>Al</em><em>-Hashd al-shaʿbī </em>is the modernity’s technics of extermination. This is what connects it to the global arms trade for which no one is held accountable. This dimension reveals how weapons produced in democracies, e.g. the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, and traded with Iraq, inevitably makes them complicit. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute <em>Yearbook 2017</em>, these democracies are among the main exporters of weapons and Iraq is among the main importers of these weapons. <strong>It is characteristic of neoliberal democracy that one sings democracy at “home” and participates in annihilatory violence elsewhere – that one is at once a democrat and a monster. </strong><strong>“</strong>In politics,” wrote Hannah Arendt, “obedience and support are the same.”</p><p>In fear of terrorization and death, more than a hundred thousand Kurdish civilians in Sinjar, Tuz Khurmatu, and Kirkuk left their <em>homes </em>already on October 16-17, 2017. Homelessness and statelessness are again turning families, many of whom are survivors of al-Anfāl, into depoliticized bodies. The homes that have been set on fire and worldly possessions looted in Tuz Khurmatu and Kirkuk must testify to how the state materialized in <em>Al</em><em>-Hashd al-shaʿbī </em>displays its will to erase human plurality while <em>miniaturizing</em> Iraq, as Amartya Sen would say. This is already an appalling marker of how the state <em>forgets</em> the constitution. Apart from “public morality,” and the “right to individual privacy,” Article 17 of the Iraqi constitution states: “The sanctity of the homes shall be protected. Homes may not be entered, searched, or violated, except by a judicial decision in accordance with the law.”</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">The unprecedented rapprochement between Iran, Turkey and Haider al-Abadi is a political reversal – friends becoming enemies and enemies becoming friends.</p><p>The referendum [The will of Iraqi citizens] for independence in the Kurdistan Region is made responsible for terrorization and threat of annihilation, forced displacement and the burning of homes. Al-Abadi describes the referendum as “a thing of the past” that is both “unconstitutional” and a threat to state “sovereignty.” The constitution and sovereignty are thus taken as sufficient source for the <em>forgetfulness of the past</em> and the legitimization of <em>Al</em><em>-Hashd al-shaʿbī </em>as a fearful armed force. State sovereignty is not seen to be applicable to the dominant military presence and participation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, operating through Qasem Suleimani, commander of Iran’s “Quds Force” with a commitment to extraterritorial wars. It is also the Islamic Republic of Iran that has divided and controls the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan as a Kafkaian gatekeeper and shapes its politics of withdrawal at any moment. Like the Kurdistan Democratic Party, it, too, remains to be held accountable for its history of political violence. What link together these Kurdish political parties with the the Islamic Dawa party in Baghdad, are their political translation of “Kurdish and Shīʿīte victimhood” and their unaccountable abuse of national wealth.</p> <p><strong>The unprecedented rapprochement between Iran, Turkey and Haider al-Abadi is a political reversal – friends becoming enemies and enemies becoming friends</strong>. They are now suddenly each other’s only hope. Iran and Turkey were “friends” of the two most powerful Kurdish political parties before the referendum. Together with al-Abadi they are now at work drawing a cartographic control of the Iraqi Kurdish citizens. Politics and religious identity are made indivisible. The<em> </em>conquest of the disputed territories is a viscerally arresting testimony. This shows how humiliation and symbolic violence – taking off, throwing away, trampling on, and burning the Kurdish flag and homes – embody a politics of religious identity that feed on hatred between different human collectives in Iraq. As acts of genocide throughout the world can plainly demonstrate, hatred is intrinsically genocidal. If the future of <em>Al-Hashd al-shaʿbī</em> in the disputed territories<em> </em>cannot be fully calculated, their right to render rightless continues to create Iraq as the legitimate domain of the <em>Shīʿīte.</em> It produces radical identitarianism that points at a monstrous future.</p> <p>Al-Anfāl operations, too, produced the Kurdish rural civilians and political demand an internal threat to the Iraqi state sovereignty and national security. Saddam Hussein, then the president of Iraq, also claimed to be an adherent to the Interim Constitution of July 1970, which it had at its disposal. While during the reign of the Baʿth party the constitution was due mainly to political violence, today for the Islamic Dawa party it is due to violence founded on religious identity beyond the national borders of Iraq. The carryover of centralization of political power and monopolization of violence clearly marks how the overthrow of the genocidal Baʿth party has not guaranteed fundamental rights and freedoms of all Iraqis.</p> <p>Contrary to the politics that has given birth to hatred and mass murder again and again in Iraq, what I physically encountered and heard in Baghdad and in villages and cities in the Kurdistan Region is an urgent call for what W. E. B. Du Bois called <em>cardinal virtues</em>: “individual prudence, courage, temperance, and justice, and the more modern faith, hope and love.” These virtues as a complete opening up of the Iraqi political configuration places the future in Iraq, if not in the rest of the world, on the side of the <em>urgent</em> political and ethical demands of all Iraqis outside of the green zone.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/fazil-moradi/iraq-and-rest-of-humanity">Iraq and rest of humanity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/fazil-moradi-hawar-moradi/can-president-of-kurdistan-region-of-iraq-cry">Can the president of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq cry?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/iheb-guermazi/but-what-was-so-appealing-about-isis-tunisian-story">But what was so appealing about ISIS?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iraq Conflict violence war sectarianism identity politics Fazil Moradi Fri, 01 Dec 2017 10:59:36 +0000 Fazil Moradi 114967 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iraq and rest of humanity https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/fazil-moradi/iraq-and-rest-of-humanity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>To ask, why so much violence in Iraq, is, then, to ask what is happening to humanity everywhere in this world?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-1716632.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-1716632.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="269" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Iraqi men frisked by American soldiers in southern Iraq on 17/10/04. Picture by Chris Ison/PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The 2003 bombing of Iraq was supposed to replace the genocidal Baʿth state with democracy. It was supposed to show that humanity matters. Yet, this democratic principle rested on a strategy of warfare claiming that unless the Iraqi people are bombed by the United States and the United Kingdom, they will always be untrustworthy and remain a threat to democracy. It is in this instance – where the division between what is “democracy” contrary to a “dictatorship” –Iraq as a colony, condemned to endless wars, can be noticed.</p> <p>The political and military invasion of Iraq was as much about “us” and “them,” as about the future control of lands, peoples, politics, and natural resources such as oil. It should be difficult to speak or write about Iraq without having a sense of its modern history. It is a history of colonization and violence.&nbsp;<em>Instructions for American servicemen in Iraq during World War II</em>&nbsp;was published in 1943. In a sense, it was a colonial writing of Iraq, intended to help the American soldiers stationed in Iraq to assist the British to win over “Nazi infiltration.” The American soldier is expected to read the&nbsp;<em>Instructions</em>&nbsp;in order to “understand” the Iraqi people and Iraq so that he does his “best and quickest job of sending Hitler back to where he came from.” Iraq was a British colony. Therefore, Hitler as a transformative political ideology&nbsp;<em>and not as a mortal human body</em>&nbsp;had no right to exist.&nbsp;</p> <p>As a mode of control, the soldier’s duties involve knowing that “the native language of Iraq is Arabic. You will not need to know many words to get along … The Iraqis have some religious and tribal differences among themselves … The nomads are divided into tribes headed by sheikhs. These leaders are very powerful and should be shown great considerations.” The soldier must remember, “that tall man in the flowing robe you are going to see soon, with whiskers and the long hair, is a first-class fighting man, highly skilled in guerrilla warfare … if he is your friend, he can be a staunch and valuable ally. If he should happen to be your enemy – watch out!” </p> <p class="mag-quote-right">Iraq had been turned into a humanity-free military zone</p> <p>The&nbsp;<em>Instructions</em>&nbsp;was&nbsp;<em>re</em>published by the University of Chicago Press in 2007. The edition provides a map of the Middle East and depicts the “Arab fighter” in “flowing robe” and a collection of faceless male and entirely covered female figures.</p> <p>In his Foreword, Lieutenant Colonel John A. Nagl writes “I wish that I had read it before beginning my own yearlong tour in Al Anbar in late 2003.” Nagl contributes with the words “Bad interpreter”: “It always defused rising tension when I was struggling to get my ideas across to a family whose house we were searching at three o’clock in the morning.”&nbsp;<em>Iraq had been turned into a humanity-free military zone</em>.</p> <p>If the 1943/2007&nbsp;<em>Instructions</em>&nbsp;solidify the Iraqis as a radically different and easily controllable people, the 2003 conquest turned them into killable and rapeable bodies at the absolute disposal of American and British soldiers and private security companies such as Blackwater.</p> <p>Moreover, in the BBC documentary film entitled,&nbsp;‘<em>Who’s Afraid of Machiavelli?’</em>&nbsp;a former British Army Officer, Colonel Tim Collins, speaks of how during his time in Iraq he rather applied Niccolò Machiavelli’s&nbsp;‘<em>The Prince’</em>&nbsp;(written in 1532), as a manual. Collins confesses, “in an occupied village … we could have a curfew and say the first person I catch with a weapon is a dead man and I want all of the weapons handed in tomorrow. And after that anyone caught with a weapon is a dead man and then get all of the weapons handed in. Once all of the weapons are out of the way and they fear your very shadow then we can have a football match.” Machiavelli’s phrase “it is much safer to be feared than loved,” is a shocking demonstration of how the politics of “the democratizing mission” in Iraq followed the same colonizing activities as did “the civilizing mission.”</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Political violence that depoliticizes the Iraqi civilians has become&nbsp;<em>the</em>&nbsp;mode of governance in Iraq</p> <p>In order to “democratize”, the “democratic” states had to resort to&nbsp;<em>Shock and Awe</em>. This monopoly of annihilation that opposes the fact that the world “is a crowded place,” as Edward Said insists, produced the Iraqi state as a rogue state and a threat to humanity. As such, it had to be completely destroyed. This classic colonial mode of making oneself heard by unmaking the colonized, implied the complete destruction of national infrastructure, targeted killing of academics, and devastation of national archives and monuments. Abu Ghraib does not only demystify the politics of killing a million and displacing millions of Iraqis for democracy’s sake, or show the complete denial of Geneva Conventions, but remains a testimony to how&nbsp;<em>Iraq and Iraqis live on</em>.</p> <p>Political violence that depoliticizes the Iraqi civilians has become&nbsp;<em>the</em>&nbsp;mode of governance in Iraq. The&nbsp;<em>Sh</em><em>ii</em><em>te</em>&nbsp;majority rule and ascendency, the reinforcement of “clan” or “tribal” and strict religious belonging, the ascent of corruption, insecurity, poverty, daily violence, and the resultant displacement of hundreds of thousands of people testify to the non-existence of an accountable state in Iraq. The rise of the so-called&nbsp;<em>al-Hashd al-Shaʿbī</em>&nbsp;(popular mobilization force)&nbsp;as a killing machine is transforming what is called the Iraqi federal government into a genocidal force. It is therefore helpful to ask: What does the current genocidal&nbsp;<em>al-Hashd al-Shaʿbī</em>&nbsp;under the rule of Haider al-Abadi hold for human dignity and inalienable civil and political rights in Iraq? Will the survivors of the “Islamic state” and&nbsp;<em>al-Hashd al-Shaʿbī</em>&nbsp;– that has turned Kirkuk, Khanaqin, Tuz Khurmatu, and Sinjar into&nbsp;<em>war zones</em>&nbsp;– ever experience&nbsp;<em>Justice</em>? What kinds of promises do the camps for “internally displaced people” create in Iraq?&nbsp;</p> <p>The far-reaching politics of&nbsp;<em>Sh</em><em>ii</em><em>tization</em>,&nbsp;<em>ethnicization</em>, and&nbsp;<em>tribalization</em>&nbsp;have gradually led to the formation of a “nation-state” that is engulfed in unaccountable violence. The dream of democracy and statehood in Iraq is shifting toward more violence that entangles Kurdish political parties, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Turkey. The future that this temporary political friendship between al-Abadi and these two neighboring countries – all with archives of genocidal violence – remains inseparable from past violence. As of now the human condition in Iraq, as Sinan Antoon, narrates in&nbsp;‘<em>The Baghdad Eucharist’</em>, remains a heart-wrenching story of violence that makes every Iraqi to become frightened of her/his own haunting past. The question is what does this say about rest of humanity?</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/rijin-sahakian/what-we-are-fighting-for">What we are fighting for</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/fazil-moradi-hawar-moradi/can-president-of-kurdistan-region-of-iraq-cry">Can the president of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq cry?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mieczys-aw-p-boduszy-ski-christopher-k-lamont/challenges-of-building-shared-i">The challenges of building a shared Iraqi identity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/whatever-happened-peace-arms-oil-war-proxy-syria-middle-east-military-industrial">Whatever happened to peace? Arms, oil and war by proxy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iraq Fazil Moradi Tue, 07 Nov 2017 13:39:49 +0000 Fazil Moradi 114509 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The challenges of building a shared Iraqi identity https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/mieczys-aw-p-boduszy-ski-christopher-k-lamont/challenges-of-building-shared-i <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If we take the fracturing of Iraqi memory to be an indicator of the direction Iraq is headed, then it is clear that reconciliation will also entail reconciling such competing narratives of Iraqi history, and thus identity.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/IMG_0076.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A poster of General Abd al-Karim Qasim in Samawah. April 2017. Christopher Lamont. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/IMG_0076.JPG" alt="A poster of General Abd al-Karim Qasim in Samawah. April 2017. Christopher Lamont. All rights reserved." title="A poster of General Abd al-Karim Qasim in Samawah. April 2017. Christopher Lamont. All rights reserved." width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A poster of General Abd al-Karim Qasim in Samawah. April 2017. Christopher Lamont. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The recent independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan and its fallout is another reminder of the challenges of building a shared identity that Iraqis face as the Islamic State threat recedes.</p> <p>With deep Sunni alienation, tensions rising over the fate of Kirkuk, and a myriad of Shia militia gaining increasing sway over the Shia heartlands of southern Iraq, there seems little reason for optimism for the future of an Iraqi state.</p> <p>Under the shadow of an impossibly fractured polity, post-ISIL imperatives such as reconstruction and refugee and internally displaced person return&nbsp;will take years, but dealing with what it means to be Iraqi is perhaps just as much an imperative as bricks and mortar reconstruction if Iraq is to emerge from the shadow of conflict as a viable state.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Our conversations in Iraq’s Shia heartland and beyond suggest that the question of how to reconcile competing sectarian and ethnic narratives of state legitimacy and historical memory is one that needs to be urgently addressed. Or more simply put, what does it mean to be Iraqi in today’s Iraq?</p> <p>Rather than being framed in simplistic sectarian terms, answers to this question betray a complex tapestry in which sectarian and national identities overlap and are riddled with internal inconsistencies. Worryingly, however, events and individuals in Iraqi history who promoted non-sectarian ideologies and identities are now re-imagined through a sectarian lens.&nbsp;</p> <p>This is why current developments, like&nbsp;<a href="http://carnegie-mec.org/2017/04/28/popular-mobilization-forces-and-iraq-s-future-pub-68810" target="_blank">Popular Mobilization Force (PMF)</a>&nbsp;liberation operations,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/12/28/fighting-the-islamic-state-wont-fix-the-sectarian-image-of-iraqs-militias/?utm_term=.b731857103d7" target="_blank">are seen so differently by Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds</a>. While sectarian revisions of history began after 2003, they have intensified in the age of ISIL.</p> <p>Many ordinary Iraqi Shia saw the war on ISIL as an existential battle to save the Iraqi state, whose unity they perceive as under assault from not only ISIL but a host of hostile outside powers such as Saudi Arabia, the United States, Turkey, Qatar, and yes, despite sectarian allegiances, even Iran.&nbsp;</p> <p>They saw the seemingly almost&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/10/iraq-sunni-insurgents-islamic-militants-seize-control-mosul" target="_blank">effortless ISIL takeover of Mosu</a>l as further evidence that at best their Sunni brothers and sisters do not accept the post-Saddam Iraqi state, or at worst that their Sunni brothers are advancing foreign interests to destroy the Iraqi state.</p> <p>Therefore, Iraqi Shia are genuinely moved by appeals to Iraqi nationalism, as it is the Iraqi Shia who have been entrusted to defend the Iraqi state against a myriad of real and imagined, and foreign and domestic adversaries.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/12/28/fighting-the-islamic-state-wont-fix-the-sectarian-image-of-iraqs-militias/https:/www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/12/28/fighting-the-islamic-state-wont-fix-the-sectarian-image-of-iraqs-militias/" target="_blank">These appeals are visible in PMF messaging</a>, which makes pains to paint the PMF as an Iraqi nationalist mobilization force, not beholden to foreign (read: Iranian) interests.&nbsp;Of course, this messaging is muddled, as some PMF leaders such as Kata’ib Hezbollah’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg195.aspx" target="_blank">Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis</a>&nbsp;and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.memri.org/tv/iraqi-shiite-militia-leader-qais-khazali-liberation-mosul-will-be-vengeance-against-slayers" target="_blank">Qais Khazali</a>&nbsp;made their allegiance to Iran quite clear.</p> <p>A very public Shia identity, one that many Sunnis and Kurds see as a threat (Ashura processions, self-flagellation, etc.), from the perspective of many Shia is perfectly in line with Iraqi nationalism.</p> <p>Iraqi Shia with whom we spoke do not understand why Sunnis and Kurds would see it as a challenge to Iraqi national cohesion. As illogical as it may appear from the outside, Sunnis, and to a lesser degree Kurds, see public displays of “Shiite-ness” as evidence of Iranian influence and thus as a threat to their livelihood in Iraq. &nbsp;</p> <p>In short, Sunnis and Kurds perceive the Shiite nationalist narrative as a thin cover for Shia claims to exclusive ownership over the Iraqi state, and their perceived intention to use this claim to marginalize and repress other groups.&nbsp;</p> <p>More than anything else, this is reflected in how many Sunnis in particular see the PMF, the supposed vanguard of the fight against ISIL: as sectarian militias, as Iranian puppets (indeed, epithets such as “Safavid” are thrown about freely) and tools of Shia domination.</p> <p>To be sure, not all PMF groups are closely tied to Iran: in the past three years, a number of armed groups backed by the Najaf-based “nationalist” Iraqi cleric Ali al-Sistani have also emerged.</p> <p>Moreover, a small but significant contingent of Sunni fighters have joined the ranks of Sunni PMF units in the fight against ISIL. While many Kurds may have given up on Iraq, this is not true of Sunnis, who after all were among the most fervent believers in Iraqi and Arab nationalism. But they cannot identify with an Iraqi nationalism expounded by the dominant Shia groups.&nbsp;</p> <p>For a glimpse into how post-Saddam Iraqi identity is being shaped and re-shaped, consider how Shia communities in the south of Iraq have appropriated figures from the past—even those who had little to do with modern sectarianism—to build and reinforce modern sectarian identity. Today, we are witnessing the sectarian fault lines of the present being projected back into Iraqi history.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/IMG_0122.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A street sign for Abd al-Karim Qasim street in Samawah. April 2017. Christopher Lamont. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/IMG_0122.JPG" alt="A street sign for Abd al-Karim Qasim street in Samawah. April 2017. Christopher Lamont. All rights reserved." title="A street sign for Abd al-Karim Qasim street in Samawah. April 2017. Christopher Lamont. All rights reserved." width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A street sign for Abd al-Karim Qasim street in Samawah. April 2017. Christopher Lamont. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>For example, Shia have rehabilitated General Abd al-Kareem Qasim, who overthrew King Faisal II in 1958. One of us was recently in Samawah, Muthanna province, whose streets are covered in not just PMF posters of the present, but also of posters of General Qasim, who is seen today as a symbolic hero of Shia-Iraqi nationalism, despite having coming from mixed Sunni-Shia parentage and espoused a non-sectarian socialist ideology. He also focused on class, rather than sectarian, divisions.</p> <p>Qasim attempted to put an end to Iraqi “aristocracy” and class division. He welcomed rural folk from the hinterland into Baghdad, to this dismay of urbanites. Similarly, most PMF volunteers hail from poor, neglected, or rural areas. In fact, perhaps the only thing that Qasim and Iraq's current Shia leadership have in common is that both have found themselves confronted with putting down two very different rebellions in the city of Mosul. Many&nbsp;Moslawis, of course, remember&nbsp;<a href="https://www.the-american-interest.com/2016/09/26/the-once-and-future-mosul/" target="_blank">Qasim as the instigator of a brutal crackdown in Mosul that saw corpses hanging in the streets</a>.</p> <p>What then explains the appropriation of Iraqi nationalism, and historic figures, on the part of Shia Iraq?</p> <p>In large part this is because Shia claim ownership over the post-Saddam Iraqi state, feelings of entitlement that are reinforced by popular victimhood narratives and fourteen years of politics dominated by religious Shia parties. Any expression of Shia identity was ruthlessly repressed under Saddam. Post-Saddam Iraq created an opening for a cultural and political renaissance for Iraqi Shia, and that identity is being reimagined in the face of the ISIL threat.</p> <p>This does not mean that all Iraqi Shia embrace the PMF or armed groups operating outside of state control: indeed, many Basrawis have bad memories of the power these groups held over the city prior to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/12/world/middleeast/12basra.html?mcubz=2" target="_blank">Maliki’s “Charge of the Knights” operation in 2008.&nbsp;</a></p> <p>Sunnis, and to a lesser extent Kurds, react badly to any flamboyant displays of Shia identity. They argue that these are foreign, artificial imports from Iran, which they see as a hidden hand behind many policies and power structures. This, in turn, leads them to perceive Shia appeals to Iraqi nationalism as illegitimate.</p> <p>They perceive that they stand before an impossible choice between an Iranian militia state on one hand and ISIL on the other. Many Sunnis remind foreigners that they never thought of sect under Saddam, and lived peacefully with their Shia neighbors. </p><p>Now, they claim that they feel like foreigners in their own country. The fight against ISIL has not emerged such sentiments, highlighting the challenges of post-ISIL reconciliation.</p> <p>Rather than harnessing Iraqi nationalism as a binding force for building a shared purpose for post-ISIL Iraq, Iraqi memory is, like Iraq itself,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.the-american-interest.com/2016/09/26/the-once-and-future-mosul/" target="_blank">fracturing along identity lines</a>. Even non-sectarian ideologies, such as communism, are being recast along the lines of sectarian identity.</p> <p>In fact, the Iraqi Communist Party is now seen the product of decades of Shia marginalization, and communist symbols and leaders, such as Ho Chi Minh, find themselves on posters dedicated to Shia martyrs who fell in the war against ISIL.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/IMG_9702.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A memorial poster to a fallen martyr with the Ho Chi Minh quote mentioned in the text. April 2017. Christopher Lamont. All right"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/IMG_9702.JPG" alt="A memorial poster to a fallen martyr with the Ho Chi Minh quote mentioned in the text. April 2017. Christopher Lamont. All right" title="A memorial poster to a fallen martyr with the Ho Chi Minh quote mentioned in the text. April 2017. Christopher Lamont. All right" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A memorial poster to a fallen martyr with the Ho Chi Minh quote mentioned in the text. April 2017. Christopher Lamont. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>If we take the fracturing of Iraqi memory to be an indicator of the direction Iraq is headed, then it is clear that reconciliation will also entail reconciling such competing narratives of Iraqi history, and thus identity.</p> <p>Post-ISIL reconciliation will necessitate far more than the physical reconstruction of war ravaged cities such as Mosul (<a href="https://warontherocks.com/2016/10/politics-population-and-hydrocarbons-preparing-for-mosuls-aftermath/" target="_blank">and negotiating the distribution of revenues from Iraq’s vast oil resources</a>), but will also require sectarian narratives of Iraq’s modern history to be challenged by Iraqis themselves.</p> <p>While some PMF members we have spoken to emphasize the Iraqi nationalist and humanitarian credentials of their respective PMF units, broad appeals to Iraqi nationalism will continue to prove ineffective in dampening sectarian tensions as long as Iraqi memory remains fractured along sectarian lines that blur conflicts of the past and present.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mieczys-aw-p-boduszy-ski/anti-islamist-campaign-and-arab-democracy">The anti-Islamist campaign and Arab democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/beverley-milton-edwards-alexander-brammer/iraq-security-mosul-coalition-US-PMF">Iraq’s security dilemma and the intractable problem of the PMF</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/feike-fliervoet/survival-game-post-referendum-politics-in-iraqi-kurdistan">The survival game: post-referendum politics in Iraqi Kurdistan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/charles-glass/iraqi-kurdistan-fight-for-seat-at-table-of-nations">Iraqi Kurdistan: the fight for a seat at the table of nations</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/huseyin-rasit/not-another-story-of-failed-liberation-tensions-in-bashur-and-r">Not another story of failed liberation: tensions in Bashur and Rojava in the light of the referendum</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iraq Conflict Culture Democracy and government Identity Christopher K. Lamont Mieczysław P. Boduszyński Sun, 05 Nov 2017 14:28:51 +0000 Mieczysław P. Boduszyński and Christopher K. Lamont 114457 at https://www.opendemocracy.net استفتاء كردستان والمعارضة السورية: لا موقف.. موقف.. وتخبّط https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia-%D9%85%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%B0-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B2%D8%B9%D8%A8%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA%D9%81%D8%AA%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D9%83%D8%B1%D8%AF%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B9%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%B6%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A9 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="western" dir="rtl">لم تختلف حصيلة أداء هيئات المعارضة بالعلاقة مع استفتاء الاستقلال الكردستاني من حصيلة أدائها بالعلاقة مع مسائل أخرى.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="rtl"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-33018312.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="IranImages/Zuma Press/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-33018312.jpg" alt="IranImages/Zuma Press/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="IranImages/Zuma Press/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>September 26, 2017: Citizens stand in line to vote for independence referendum in a voting station in Erbil, Iraq. IranImages/Zuma Press/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>الخامس والعشرون من أيلول / سبتمبر الفائت: سلطات إقليم كردستان العراق تنظم <a href="http://www.dw.com/ar/%D8%A8%D8%B1%D9%84%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%83%D8%B1%D8%AF%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%82-%D9%8A%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%81%D9%82-%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%A5%D8%AC%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA%D9%81%D8%AA%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA%D9%82%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%84/a-40534825">استفتاءاً</a> حول انفصال الإقليم، بما يشمل محافظاته الثلاث أربيل والسليمانية ودهوك بالإضافة إلى كركوك المتنازع عليها مع بغداد.</p><p dir="rtl">25 أيلول الفائت: الائتلاف الوطني لقوى الثورة والمعارضة السورية يصدر <a href="http://www.etilaf.org/press/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%A6%D8%AA%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%81-%D9%8A%D8%AF%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%BA%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%A5%D8%AF%D9%84%D8%A8-%D9%88%D9%8A%D8%AD%D8%B0%D8%B1-%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AE%D8%A7%D8%B7%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D9%8A-%D8%B3%D8%AA%D9%86%D8%AC%D9%85-%D8%B9%D9%86%D9%87%D8%A7.html">بياناً.</a></p><p dir="rtl">26 أيلول الفائت: المفوضية العليا للاستفتاء تعلن <a href="http://www.bbc.com/arabic/middleeast-41393460">النتائج </a>الرسمية (92.73% صوتوا بنعم).</p><p dir="rtl">27 أيلول الفائت: الائتلاف الوطني لقوى الثورة والمعارضة السورية يصدر<a href="http://www.etilaf.org/press/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%A6%D8%AA%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%81-%D9%8A%D8%AF%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AC%D8%B2%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D8%A8%D8%AD%D9%82-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%B2%D8%AD%D9%8A%D9%86-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%B1%D9%8A%D9%81-%D8%AD%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%A9-%D9%88%D9%8A%D8%AD%D9%85%D9%84-%D9%85%D9%8A%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%B4%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D8%B3%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B3%D8%A4%D9%88%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%A9.html"> بياناً</a>.</p><p dir="rtl">لكن أيّاَ من بياني الائتلاف المشار إليهما أعلاه لم يتطرق للاستفتاء الذي كان حينها حدث المنطقة الأبرز، بل فضّل أكبر هيئات المعارضة السورية السياسية الصمت وتجاهل الحدث، مديناً في البيان الأول غارات روسية على إدلب وفي الثاني مجزرة بحق نازحين في ريف حماة.</p><p dir="rtl">والحال أن لزوم الائتلاف الصمت حيال الاستفتاء الكردستاني كان متوقعاً بالنظر إلى علاقات مميزة تربطه وأنقرة الغاضبة من الاستفتاء، فعدا عن مكاتب الائتلاف ومؤسساته المنتشرة على أراض تركية، تشغل منصب نائب رئيس الائتلاف الإعلامية سلوى أكسوي، والأخيرة سبق أن قدمتها وسائل إعلام، أو قدمت نفسها، كإعلامية تركية قبل أن تتبوأ منصبها الحالي، وفي هذا دلالة على مدى التأثير الذي تملكه تركيا على الهيئة السورية المعارضة. هذا من جهة أولى.</p><p dir="rtl">ومن جهة ثانية، يضم الائتلاف في صفوفه المجلس الوطني الكردي، الذي كان تأسس في أواخر العام 2011، ولم يكن تأسيسه إلا في أربيل عاصمة كردستان العراق، وما كان ليرعى التأسيس إلا رئيس حكومة إقليم كردستان العراق مسعود البارزاني.</p><p dir="rtl">إلا أن العامل الثاني، لا الأول، هو ما يرجحه الكاتب والمعارض السوري بكر صدقي، الذي يرى بعد إشارة إلى أنه لا يأخذ الائتلاف "على محمل الجد"، أن "المكون الكردي.. نجح في لجم الائتلاف من إصدار موقف معادٍ [للاستفتاء]، بما يتسق مع النزوع القومي لدى معظم مكونات الائتلاف العربية، وبما يتسق أيضاً مع الموقف التركي المتشدد".</p><p dir="rtl">يتفق الباحث في المركز العربي للأبحاث ودراسة السياسات حمزة المصطفى بخصوص تأثير المجلس الوطني الكردي على تحييد الائتلاف لنفسه في استفتاء كردستان، مشيراً إلى أن غياب الموقف هو "أحد الامتحانات التي فشل في الإجابة عنها".</p><p dir="rtl">ويرى المصطفى أن الاستفتاء يشكل فرصة كي يوضح الائتلاف أن "الحلول الانقسامية الانفصالية للمسألة الكردية هي حلول مرفوضة وأن الحل الديمقراطي القائم على المواطنية وحفظ الخصوصية الثقافية واللغوية ورفع المظلومية التي وقعت على الكرد من نظام الاستبداد وليس من العرب هو الحل الوحيد الواقعي للقضية الكردية في سورية".</p><p dir="rtl">وفيما غاب موقف الائتلاف الوطني لقوى الثورة والمعارضة، حضر بشكل لا لبس فيه موقف هيئة التنسيق الوطنية لقوى التغيير الديمقراطي، مرة عبر <a href="https://www.facebook.com/Syria.National.Coordinating/photos/a.805268399487036.1073741826.249088328438382/2081909918489538/?type=3&amp;theater">بيان </a>صادر عن المنسق العام للهيئة حسن عبد العظيم في الثاني من تشرين الأول/أكتوبر، ومرة عبر <a href="https://www.facebook.com/Syria.National.Coordinating/photos/a.805268399487036.1073741826.249088328438382/2089279727752557/?type=3&amp;theater">بيان سياسي</a> صادر عن الهيئة نفسها بعد ذلك بأيام خمس.</p><p dir="rtl">بيان المنسق العام بدأ عبر الإعلان أن "ساعة العمل الثوري" دقت وحان موعدها، لينطلق من هذه العبارة التي غنّاها محمد عبد الوهاب في خمسينيات القرن الماضي ليشرح مؤامرة "مخطط الشرق اﻷوسط الكبير والجديد لتقسيم دول المنطقة"، حيث الاستفتاء الذي "تم إجراؤه في شمال العراق" ما هو إلا الجزء الثاني من هذا المخطط.</p><p dir="rtl">ولم يأت بيان الهيئة الصادر في السابع من تشرين الأول بجديد في هذا الصدد، فأعلن "رفض إجراءات الاستفتاء ونتائجه في شمال العراق"، واعتبره "خطوة غير دستورية، لأنه لا يحق لجزء من الشعب العراقي ممارسة حق تقرير المصير دون موافقة الشعب والدولة العراقية".</p><p dir="rtl">يعتقد المصطفى أن موقف هيئة التنسيق يأتي"في إطار المزايدات الحزبية والتموضعات السياسية للأحزاب الكردية من أجسام المعارضة"، ويوضح الباحث في المركز العربي أن الهيئة "تصر شكلياً على رفض كل ما يمس بالوحدة الترابية للدول" رغم تحالفها "مع حزب كردي توتاليتياري له أجندات خارجية في سورية ويسعى إلى إقامة دويلة كردية في سورية مرتبطة بقيادته السياسية في تركيا"، في إشارة إلى حزب الاتحاد الديمقراطي الكردي.</p><p dir="rtl">ويؤكد صدقي أن هيئة التنسيق وبالأخص المكون الناصري ضمنها الذي يمثله تيار حسن عبد العظيم "ضد أي نزوع استقلالي كردي"، إلا أن المعارض والكاتب المقيم في تركيا يضيف سبباً آخر وراء "البيان الفضائحي" للمنسق العام للهيئة، وهو السياق الذي تمر به الحرب السورية. إذ يرى صدقي أن الهيئة القريبة من الروس سياسياً ترى من المفيد "في الظروف الحالية تحويل الرأي العام من فكرة التخلص من نظام [الرئيس بشار] الأسد، إلى اصطناع عدو وهمي هو "الخطر الكردي" في سوريا والعراق"، وبالأخص في &nbsp;"زمن تعويم نظام الأسد في إطار المنظور الروسي للحل".</p><p dir="rtl">وبين لا موقف الائتلاف وموقف هيئة التنسيق، ظهرت تغريدة لرئيس الهيئة السياسية في "جيش الإسلام"، أحد أكبر فصائل المعارضة السورية المسلحة، وعبر حسابه الرسمي على تويتر <a href="https://twitter.com/Mohammed_Aloush/status/913108167185387520">كتب</a> محمد علوش معلقاً على الاستفتاء أن "لعبة استقلال كردستان لعبة خطيرة لها تداعياتها على المنطقة وعلى الثورة السورية، كنت أظن أن أربيل أعقل من ذلك، لكنهم فضلوا اللعب بالنار".</p><p dir="rtl">ينهل موقف علوش واختياره لكلمة "لعبة" لتوصيف الاستفتاء من النظرة "المؤامراتية" ذاتها التي تنزع تيارات الإسلام السياسي وتيارات قومية أخرى إلى اتخاذها فيما يخص التطورات السياسية في المنطقة وحول العالم. فيما لا يقدم من شغل سابقاً منصب كبير المفاوضين في وفد المعارضة السورية إلى محادثات جنيف (يضم الوفد شخصيات من الائتلاف وهيئة التنسيق وجهات عسكرية وسياسية أخرى) شرحاً عن ماهية التداعيات المحتملة للاستفتاء الكردستاني على الثورة السورية، هذا فيما تبدو طهران، وهي الحليف الأول لنظام بشار الأسد، أكثر غضباً وشعوراً بالتهديد من أنقرة فيما يخص خطوة أكراد العراق، وبالتوازي كذلك مع برود في علاقات الداعم الإقليمي لجيش الإسلام، أي الرياض، مع أنقرة الغاضبة من الاستفتاء.</p><p dir="rtl">لم تختلف حصيلة أداء هيئات المعارضة بالعلاقة مع استفتاء الاستقلال الكردستاني من حصيلة أدائها بالعلاقة مع مسائل أخرى. يقول المصطفى إنه "على الرغم من أن المسألة الكرديّة لطالما حضرت في نقاشات المعارضة قبل الثورة وبعدها فإن أيًا من هيئات المعارضة لم يسطع إنتاج برنامج وطني يقدم تصورًا واضحًا.. فيما يتعلق بحل هذه الإشكالية"، ويردف &nbsp;"جاء الاستفتاء في إقليم كردستان العراق ليؤكد هذه الحقيقة، ويوضح تخبط المعارضة في هذا المجال".</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item even"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia Middle East Forum North-Africa West-Asia Syria Iran Turkey Iraq Civil society Conflict Democracy and government International politics referendum Arabic language Mid-East Forum ملاذ الزعبي Mon, 30 Oct 2017 15:42:27 +0000 ملاذ الزعبي 114352 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iraq’s security dilemma and the intractable problem of the PMF https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/beverley-milton-edwards-alexander-brammer/iraq-security-mosul-coalition-US-PMF <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Given the current political forces in Baghdad and security realities in Mosul, an incremental approach is needed.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-32938351.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Oliver Weiken/DPA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-32938351.jpg" alt="Oliver Weiken/DPA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="Oliver Weiken/DPA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>An Iraqi police man walks towards the remains of the Al-Nuri mosque, where the Islamic State caliphate was proclaimed, in the old city of Mosul, Iraq, 21 September 2017. After almost nine months of heavy fighting Mosul was declared liberated from the so-called Islamic State in July 2017 leaving its western part mostly reduced to rubble and inhabitable. Oliver Weiken/DPA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Nearly a year on from legislation to integrate the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF, or&nbsp;<em>al-Hashd al-Shaabi</em>) into the Iraqi security apparatus, they now constitute half of the security forces nominally under governmental control.</p> <p>The predominantly Shia PMF were once the most important players in preventing the ISIS advance of 2014 on Baghdad and played a widely acknowledged role in subsequent efforts to liberate ISIS-controlled areas.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Yet, as the threat of ISIS recedes and stabilization becomes the number one priority in Iraq, political disputes over the future of the PMF are intensifying in Baghdad and reverberating throughout the country.</p> <p>The reasons for the dispute lie with concerns about the true loyalties of those that command the PMF. Those concerns centre on enduring sectarian loyalties that may trump the national effort to rebuild the country for all its citizens.</p> <h2><strong>On the ground in Mosul</strong></h2> <p>The PMF debate is particularly striking in Mosul. Efforts to rebuild security here have drawn a significant amount of international interest. For Iraqi and coalition security professionals, Mosul is seen as a ‘canary in the mineshaft’ for the success of on-going efforts to defeat ISIS and create stability in Iraq more broadly.&nbsp;</p> <p>As one of the conflict epicentres and a majority Sunni province, the security situation in Mosul today is exceedingly fragile and exacerbated by the presence of sectarian-oriented Shia PMF elements.</p> <p>Beyond the obvious sectarian tensions that dominate the discourse around the PMF, the presence of these groups constitute subtler but perhaps even more profound challenges.</p> <h2><strong>Unity of command</strong></h2> <p>Iraqi and US commanders see things similarly but through different lenses. From the US perspective, one of the biggest challenges to providing security and stability is the necessity to achieve unity of command. </p> <p>During the clearance of Mosul, the unlikely coalition of PMF, Kurdish Peshmerga, western Coalition forces, and other Iraqi security forces merged around the ouster of ISIS.&nbsp;</p> <p>With ISIS militarily defeated, the more complicated stabilization efforts are suffering from a lack of coordination between units contributing to the ‘hold’ mission in Mosul. Hold responsibilities, which include operating checkpoints, targeting suspected ISIS sleeper cells, investigating criminal networks, and detaining criminals, now fall to a motley crew of subsidiary organizations.&nbsp;</p> <p>The political fault lines that emanate from their parent ministries in Baghdad determine their loyalties. The PMF is believed to be heavily influenced by the Ministry of the Interior (MoI), which is dominated by the pro-Iranian Badr Organization. MoI organizations, in turn, have proven unwilling to cooperate with security forces operating under the Ministry of Defence.</p> <p>To complicate matters further, it is widely recognized that there are deep political and ideological fissures between groups within the PMF, with individual groups loyal to various (and often opposing) political and clerical leaders and seeking different political dispensations in a post-ISIS Iraq.</p> <p>Operationally speaking, this means that coordination among and between PMF units and adjacent security organizations is difficult and in places, non-existent. </p><p>For these reasons, and despite a task organization that places PMF units in Mosul nominally under Iraqi army control, some senior security leaders have indicated that they have little influence in how or where they operate, and the spectre of malign Iranian influence weighs heavily.</p> <h2><strong>The relationship between the security forces and the people</strong></h2> <p>Iraqi security leaders in Mosul see a separate but related issue as their main concern in the post-ISIS stabilization effort. </p><p>In an interview, Major General Najim al-Juburi, the commanding general of the Ninewah Operations Command (NOC), strongly asserted that the most important factor in preventing Mosul from becoming a safe-haven once again for&nbsp;<em>takfiri-jihadism</em>&nbsp;is to ensure there is a good relationship between the security forces and the local population.</p> <p>Towards this end, among senior Ninewah political and security leaders today there is a desire to move quickly towards community-based policing and the removal of non-local and militarized security elements from Mosul proper. This includes relocating the Iraqi Army outside of the city limits. </p><p>The recent allegations of <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-watch/u-s-trained-iraqi-army-unit-committed-war-crimes-in-mosul-hrw-idUSKBN1AC1L4">war crimes being committed</a> by the 16th&nbsp;Iraqi Army Division are an apt example of the strategic risk inherent in a prolonged militarized presence in civil society. This is a risk that Najim is well aware of and wishes to mitigate by removing both the Iraqi Army and the PMF from city centres throughout Ninewah Province. </p> <p>The risk of alienating the local population and recreating the grievance-laden breeding ground for ISIS resurgence is amplified by the presence of the PMF in population centres. There is broad consensus that the PMF are regarded as outsiders. </p><p>Much of this consensus emanates from increasing reports of kidnapping for ransom, illegal seizure of property, and other forms of harassment allegedly perpetrated by some PMF units.</p> <p>Some local sources even spoke of fears of the PMF repopulating Mosul – moving themselves, their families and their friends from outside the area into abandoned properties – in order to alter the demographic balance of the city.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The PMF are nevertheless operating under the auspices of the Government of Iraq. To most locals, the security forces operating within the city are the most tangible manifestation of the state, and such abuses – by both IA and PMF units – confirm the ISIS<em>&nbsp;</em>narrative that the Government of Iraq is a sectarian puppet of Iran.</p> <p>PMF units are negatively impacting efforts to secure the population and stabilize Mosul. Their official connection to the Iraqi state, their overt sectarian bent, and their increasing criminality all do lasting harm to the legitimacy of the Government of Iraq with local Maslawis.</p> <h2><strong>Security dilemma</strong></h2> <p>Myriad challenges to stabilizing Mosul will remain for years, but completely removing the PMF variable from the security equation would increase the likelihood that the Government of Iraq will be able to consolidate the gains made in its anti-ISIS campaign.</p> <p>Ultimately, PMF units comprised of non-locals should be removed from Ninewah Province, and local Sunni units (referred to as Tribal Mobilization Forces, or TMF) should be disbanded and their personnel absorbed into local police forces or other public service apparatuses.</p> <p>Given the current political forces in Baghdad and security realities in Mosul, however, an incremental approach is needed – and likely, all that is possible at the moment. The decision to remove the PMF from Mosul will be dictated by decisions from Baghdad.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The US-led coalition could contribute first by continuing to provide unwavering support to Prime Minister Abadi, giving him a visible and enduring commitment of military advisors, material support, and access to resources for capacity building and reconstruction efforts.&nbsp;</p><p>The recent Kurdish independence referendum and resultant re-taking of Kirkuk by Iraqi Security Forces have significantly complicated the United States’ political position in Baghdad, but efforts should be made to separate these Kurd-Arab ethno-political challenges from efforts to prevent an ISIS resurgence in the Sunni heartlands of Iraq.&nbsp; </p> <p>Secondly, back in Mosul, coalition advisors should continue to engage with political and security leaders to enhance their ability to understand their operational environment and synchronize operations between organizations especially as it relates to the different ‘hold’ missions in the east and west of the city.</p> <p>More specifically, the US-led coalition should support Iraqi Security Forces as they try to mitigate criminal and sectarian PMF activities by conducting joint coalition-Iraqi patrols throughout Mosul focusing on PMF-held sectors. This support should be conditional, however, upon legal and ethical behaviour by the Iraqi Security Forces, and the US should credibly signal that this support will be withdrawn if allegations of war crimes continue to surface. </p> <p>If and when PMF units begin to withdraw from Mosul, a more granular understanding of the security gaps they would be leaving behind would facilitate a quicker reorganization of security forces and mitigate opportunities for ISIS regeneration.</p> <p>Finally, coalition advisors should capitalize on opportunities to verbally back Iraqi security leaders in meetings that focus on PMF malfeasance, particularly meetings with PMF leaders present.</p> <p>Together, these practices would help to shape the security environment in Mosul by demonstrating to PMF units that they cannot act with impunity, and would embolden Iraqi Security Forces to counter illicit and sectarian PMF activity while simultaneously enhancing their operational capacity to stabilize Mosul.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/rijin-sahakian/what-we-are-fighting-for">What we are fighting for</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/nadim-houry/justice-after-isis-time-for-judicial-triage"> Justice after ISIS: time for judicial triage</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/andrea-teti-pamela-abbott-munqith-daghir/iraq-after-isis-continued-conflict-o">Iraq after ISIS: continued conflict or rebuilding beyond ethno-sectarian identities?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/whatever-happened-peace-arms-oil-war-proxy-syria-middle-east-military-industrial">Whatever happened to peace? Arms, oil and war by proxy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/yazan-al-saadi/lost-and-found-hopes-in-hell-testimonies-from-iraqi-hospital-mosul-ISIS">Lost and found hopes in hell: testimonies from an Iraqi hospital</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/carla-ferstman/why-icc-examination-into-torture-and-other-abuses-by-uk-soldiers-in-iraq-must-cont">Why the ICC examination into torture and other abuses by UK soldiers in Iraq must continue</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/dylan-odriscoll/preparing-iraq-for-defeat-of-is">Preparing Iraq for the defeat of IS </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iraq Conflict Democracy and government International politics You tell us Violent transitions Alexander Brammer Beverley Milton-Edwards Mon, 23 Oct 2017 17:46:30 +0000 Beverley Milton-Edwards and Alexander Brammer 114201 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The survival game: post-referendum politics in Iraqi Kurdistan https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/feike-fliervoet/survival-game-post-referendum-politics-in-iraqi-kurdistan <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The regional hostile post-referendum moves may seem to leave the Kurds with little reason for optimism, but in Kurdistan, resistance never comes as a surprise.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-33004308.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-33004308.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Kurdish man puts his finger into a bottle of ink at a polling station during the referendum vote in Erbil, Iraq, on Sept. 25, 2017. Picture by Khalil Dawood/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></em>On the 25th of September, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) organized a highly controversial independence referendum. Though non-binding, the Iraqi Parliament declared the vote illegal, and obliged the government of Prime Minister Al-Abadi to take <a href="http://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/12092017">all necessary measures</a> to preserve the unity of Iraq. The Kurds did not bulge – not to the threats from Baghdad, Tehran and Ankara, nor to pressure from Kurdistan’s closest international allies to postpone the vote. In a day filled with hope and euphoria, close to <a href="http://www.khec.krd/pdf/173082892017_english%202.pdf">93 percent</a> of the Kurdistani electorate voted in favor of independence, with a turnout of 72 percent.</p> <p>Two weeks later, the Iraqi government’s hostile post-referendum moves may seem to leave the Kurds with little reason for optimism. But in Kurdistan, resistance never comes as a surprise.</p> <h3>The Kurds’ concerns</h3> <p>In the two weeks before the referendum, I was in Iraqi Kurdistan to conduct interviews with politicians, minority representatives, researchers, and civil society activists. Within this fortnight, Kurdistan’s capital city Erbil transformed into a vibrant advertisement in favor of independence as the streets got lined with flags, buildings covered in banners, and car windows blinded by pictures of KRG President Massoud Barzani. Everyone seemed obsessed with the referendum, and few people questioned that the yes-campaign would win by a landslide.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">The overwhelming support for the Kurdish cause is not a recent surge.</p><p>The overwhelming support for the Kurdish cause is not a recent surge. If anything, the number of Kurds in favor of independence is even higher than the results indicate: many of those who voted against it (or did not vote at all) have done so because they fear the regions’ response, question the <a href="https://medium.com/international-affairs-blog/contentious-borders-iraqi-kurdistan-after-the-independence-referendum-1c3cb493494e">timing</a>, or shun the <a href="http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/ru/contents/articles/originals/2017/08/sulaymaniyah--kurdistan-referendum-independence-iraq.html">political motivations</a> of the referendum, not because they doubt that Kurdistan will be better off alone. Even Shaswar Abdulwahid Qadir, the most prominent figure campaigning against a ‘yes’ vote—tellingly named the ‘No for now’ campaign—was <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-kurds-politics/rich-tycoon-takes-on-iraqi-kurdish-leaders-over-independence-idUSKCN1BN2F4">not ultimately opposed</a> to independence. </p> <p>Not only is independence a long-standing wish of Kurds across the region to express their political and social uniqueness, Iraq’s Kurds also increasingly view it as a necessity for their security and survival. Several interviewees mentioned that they see the continuation of Baghdad’s sectarian politics as an existential threat – not just to the Kurds, but to Iraq as a whole. Firstly, because the country’s Sunni population continues to be marginalized, there is a general expectation that the Islamic State will rise again. As one senior party official put it, ‘if the Islamic State is defeated, its sons will grow up – and they might be even more radical.’ When this happens, it is likely that the Kurds will again be part of the conflagration.</p> <p>Another threat that has been fueled by both the Islamic State and Iraqi sectarianism are the Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), a range of largely Shi’a militia groups that responded to the <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-27834462">call</a> of religious leader Grand-Ayatollah Al-Sistani to defend the country against the Islamic State. Since February 2016, the PMUs are formally included in Iraq’s armed forces, but the Iraqi government only controls a limited number of these groups. The largest and most influential forces are instead <a href="http://www.gppi.net/publications/quick-facts-about-local-and-sub-state-forces/">heavily influenced</a> (or directly controlled) by Iran, and can best be seen as <a href="https://www.clingendael.org/sites/default/files/a_house_divided.pdf">temporary allies</a> of the government. </p> <p>Many interviewees indicated that they consider future conflict with these Iranian-backed elements of the Hashd al-Shaabi highly likely. Smaller <a href="http://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/24042016">clashes</a> between PMU and Peshmerga forces have already resulted in casualties on both sides, and popular <a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/kurds-pmu-referendum-iraq-725497099">fear</a> of a large-scale confrontation in Kirkuk is profound. Both forces maintain a strong military presence in the area that, with its mixed population and large oil reserves, forms the center stage for any future confrontation between Kurds and Arabs.</p> <h3>Elite-level games</h3> <p>The political leadership in Kurdistan has grown very skilled at utilizing the population’s genuine concerns to its own advantage. In August 2015, when President Massoud Barzani’s term ended for the second time—it had already been <a href="http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-iraq-kurds-barzani/iraqi-kurdish-president-set-to-rule-for-two-more-years-idUKBRE95T0BW20130630">extended</a> for two years in June 2013—the leading Kurdistan Democratic Party moved to prolong the president’s tenure by two more years, arguing that ongoing war against the Islamic State (IS) was a <a href="http://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/190820152">poor time</a> to hold elections. When Gorran refused to fall in line, its speaker of the parliament was <a href="http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/04/abadi-cabinet-reshuffle-kurdish-unity-unprecedented.html">prevented</a> from entering Erbil and its four ministers expelled from the cabinet, to which Gorran responded by boycotting the parliament. The parliament’s suspension was only undone shortly before the referendum, to provide legitimacy to the organization of the vote. Gorran did not attend the session. </p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Barzani used the vote to force his opponents to line up behind him</p><p>Yet when the war against the Islamic State was used by the international community in an <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/22/world/middleeast/iraq-kurds-independence-mattis-barzani-tillerson.html">appeal</a> to the KRG president to postpone the referendum, it was suddenly no longer a valid argument. It is unlikely to be a coincidence that the president’s term is again about to expire, while there is no one there to challenge his authority. The leaders of both <a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/mourning-and-concern-iraqi-kurdish-opposition-leader-dies-following-illness-598984594">Gorran</a> and the <a href="http://carnegie-mec.org/diwan/73309">PUK</a> passed away this year, leaving the parties in disarray as they struggle to fill their leadership vacuum. Capitalizing on their weakness, Barzani used the vote to force his opponents to line up behind him, bolster his own <a href="http://www.arabnews.com/node/1169886">sagging popularity</a>, and draw attention away from the region’s political deadlock, economic crisis, and rampant corruption. As several interviewees noted, it is a typical ‘Kurdish solution:’ if you cannot solve a problem, you bring in a bigger issue. </p> <p>Many people are aware of the elite-level games that are being played, and feel <a href="https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2017-09-19/politics-kurdish-independence-referendum?utm_source=Sign+Up+to+Crisis+Group&#039;s+Email+Updates&amp;utm_campaign=ab779efb66-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_09_19&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_1dab8c11ea-ab779efb66-359401853">uneasy</a> with a legitimate question being used as a political tool. Yet despite their awareness of the president’s ulterior motives, they also did not want to waste the only chance they might have in their lifetimes to push for statehood. </p> <h3>More bark than bite? </h3> <p>While the Kurdistan government never had the illusion that the referendum would bring independence easily, it did hope that the vote would give a new impulse to negotiations with Baghdad. In reality, the Iraqi government <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-kurds-referendum-talks/iraq-refuses-talks-with-kurdistan-about-independence-referendum-results-idUSKCN1C107X">refuses</a> to discuss the result of the referendum unless the result is cancelled – a possibility the KRG has <a href="http://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/031020178">ruled out</a>. </p> <p>The <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/29/world/middleeast/iraq-kurds-referendum.html?mcubz=3">war of words</a> continues as Iraq and its neighbors are conspiring to isolate the Kurdistan region. Not only has Baghdad imposed a <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-kurds-referendum/ban-imposed-on-flights-into-iraqs-kurdish-region-after-independence-vote-idUSKCN1C4113?il=0">ban</a> on international flights to Kurdistan, it also seeks to take <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-kurds-referendum/last-flight-departs-as-iraq-imposes-ban-for-kurdish-independence-vote-idUSKCN1C4113">control</a> of all border crossings into Iraqi Kurdistan, and has participated in large-scale military drills with both <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-kurds-referendum-turke/iraqi-soldiers-join-turkish-exercises-near-shared-border-witness-idUSKCN1C1113">Turkey</a> and <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-kurds-referendum-iran/iran-sends-tanks-to-border-with-iraqs-kurdish-region-kurdish-official-says-idUSKCN1C71EF">Iran</a>. As part of the latest round of sanctions, Iraq has now also filed a <a href="http://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/b3b6b472-b584-41ea-837a-0d68d34e4581">lawsuit</a> to put those who organized the referendum on trial. Outside Iraq’s borders, Turkish president Erdogan said last week that he would ‘soon’ close the airspace and borders with the region, and alluded to the possibility of a <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/mideast-crisis-kurds-turkey/update-1-turkey-iran-and-iraq-will-decide-on-closing-n-iraq-oil-taps-erdogan-says-idUSL8N1MG1PO">joint decision</a> with Iran and Iraq to cut off Kurdistan’s oil exports – a threat that, if carried through, would have devastating consequences for the Kurdistan Regional Government. According to a 2016 <a href="http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/229971468195834145/pdf/106109-WP-P159972-KRG-Economic-Reform-Roadmap-post-Decision-Review-PUBLIC-v1-05-29-16-2.pdf">World Bank report</a>, oil sales constitute as much as 85 percent of the KRG’s fiscal revenues, essential to pay for its oversized bureaucracy.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Iraq’s neighbors have much more to gain from a strategic partnership with Iraqi Kurdistan than from its marginalization.</p> <p>While to some it may seem that the KRG <a href="https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/2017-10-02/after-kurdish-independence-referendum">miscalculated</a> the amount of international resistance it would face after the referendum, government officials I spoke to before the referendum seemed to be very aware of the initial pushback they would receive. Indeed, one member of the Kurdistan parliament said that they realized Iraqi Kurdistan’s international partners would be ‘pissed off for a few weeks,’ but expected them to come around eventually. They trust that the <a href="http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/09/turkey-iran-iraq-alignment-against-iraqi-kurdistan.html?utm_source=Boomtrain&amp;utm_medium=manual&amp;utm_campaign=20171002&amp;bt_ee=4EWqfiwT3bf67e6QqVb1q7uG8CK9LABDe3/DFIQ0dCU9fFtoPNUtsd4wjryDruZ0&amp;bt_ts=1506959504027">shaky alignment</a> between Baghdad, Tehran and Turkey will soon collapse: because of their regional rivalry, Iraq’s neighbors have much more to gain from a strategic partnership with Iraqi Kurdistan than from its marginalization. For Turkey, in particular, the KRG has become an increasingly important ally. It is essential to its <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-iraq-oil/exclusive-turkey-iraqi-kurdistan-ink-landmark-energy-contracts-idUSBRE9AS0BO20131129">energy security</a>, an important aide in Turkey’s quest to contain the <a href="https://geopoliticalfutures.com/iraqi-kurdistans-unlikely-ally/">PKK insurgency</a>, and a <a href="https://www.pism.pl/files/?id_plik=23581">buffer</a> against Iran’s growing influence in Iraq. This also explains why it is <a href="https://elijahjm.wordpress.com/2017/09/29/the-kurdish-referendum-has-reshuffled-alliances-in-the-middle-east-turkey-wont-impose-economic-sanctions-the-role-of-ankaratehran/">unlikely</a> that Erdogan will follow through on his threats, which are mainly intended for domestic consumption vis-à-vis Turkey’s own Kurds.</p> <p>Iraqi Kurdistan is playing a survival game in which, over time, it has accumulated appreciable skill. The Iraqi Kurds survived decades of conflict, marginalization and repression, and meticulously exploited the possibilities that opened up after 2003. In order to get to its current position of relative strength, the KRG used the regional powers as much as the regional powers have used them. As one interviewee rhetorically asked, ‘Who else would have survived a landlocked situation for so many years – between countries that only agree on suppressing the Kurds?’ Through the referendum, the KRG has increased the stakes, which means it must feel confident of having a good hand to play. For the sake of peace in the region, it better be true.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/charles-glass/iraqi-kurdistan-fight-for-seat-at-table-of-nations">Iraqi Kurdistan: the fight for a seat at the table of nations</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/behnam-amini/kurdish-struggles-and-challenge-of-foreign-support-case-of-syria">Kurdish struggles and the challenge of foreign support: the case of Syrian Kurds</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/hakan-sandal/redirecting-colonial-gaze"> Redirecting the colonial gaze </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/leyla-bedirxan/neocolonial-geographies-of-occupation-portrait-of-diyarbakir">Neocolonial geographies of occupation: portrait of Diyarbakir</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iraq Conflict Democracy and government International politics Kurds referendum Kurdistan Feike Fliervoet Wed, 11 Oct 2017 07:32:36 +0000 Feike Fliervoet 113919 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iraqi Kurdistan: the fight for a seat at the table of nations https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/charles-glass/iraqi-kurdistan-fight-for-seat-at-table-of-nations <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The result of Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence referendum was never in doubt, but the budding state’s future is. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-33018312.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-33018312.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Citizens of Erbil stand in line to vote for independence referendum on September 25th, 2017. Picture by IranImages/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Of the 72 percent of registered voters who turned up at the polls, a little more than 93 percent opted to separate their homeland from Iraq. Independence, however, is fraught with the dangers of disputed borders, ferocious opposition from its neighbors and internal dissent.</p><p>As a longtime “friend of the Kurds” who made his first illegal attempt to enter Iraqi Kurdistan from Iran in 1974 with ABC News’ Peter Jennings but succeeded many times thereafter, I want to see them free and secure. More than that, my wish is to see them avoid the destruction and displacement of the kind that Saddam Hussein inflicted on them in 1975, 1988 and 1991, when the United States abandoned them to their fate. Their leaders would be well advised to proceed with caution. The Iraqi Kurds’ antagonistic leaders are Massoud Barzani in Arbil and Hero Ibrahim Ahmad, a formidable woman who acts as a kind of regent while her husband, former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, languishes in a semi-coma. The Barzanis and Talabanis, though rivals, guided their people through the dark years of genocide by the Iraqi government and brought them to the semi-independent status they enjoy today. For that, they deserve our respect. They probably do not deserve my advice, but I’ll offer it anyway.</p><p>These creative, original, brave and endearing people must do all in their power to avoid the fate of others who also fought for their seats at the table of nations. Independence is not synonymous with freedom. The promise of self-determination may portend a descent into abject submission. Independent Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Sudan, Kosovo and other states have shown that the flag of liberty can become the cloak of tyranny. Given the refusal of all adjoining states — Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq itself — to accept an independent Kurdish state, a precipitate move toward independence will lead to a defensive war in which the Kurds will have justice, but little else, on their side. Wartime governments, whether under Abraham Lincoln from 1861 to 1865 or the German Kaisers from 1870 to 1918, push human rights aside in the struggle for survival. The Kurds will not benefit from living in perpetual conflict with everyone around them.</p><p>This is a delicate moment for “southern Kurdistan,” as Kurdish nationalists call the Iraqi portion of the vast Kurdish territory that includes slices of Turkey, Iran and Syria. “Southern” (or Iraqi) Kurdistan has no coastline, and all its bridges to the outside world traverse enemy territory. Iran has declared its border closed to Kurdish trade. Turkey is threatening to do the same. The Syrian route is blocked by civil war. To the south, Iraq is mobilizing troops along the disputed frontier that will become a fixed international border if and when its secession-minded province achieves independence.</p><p>Iraq’s Kurds have shown since 1991, when the United States and the United Kingdom declared their region a “safe haven,” that they can govern themselves. Though Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party and Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan fought a civil war in the early years, the two factions have kept the peace since then. Out of that zone of relative security, to which many Arabs fled first from Saddam and later from the Islamic State, came the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in a federal Iraq under the 2005 constitution. It has survived the onslaught of the Islamic State and economic collapse due to low oil prices and financial disputes with Baghdad. Critics lament rampant corruption at the highest levels. Internal divisions cannot be discounted. Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group writes that many pro-Talabani Kurds “support Kurdish independence in principle, but oppose it if it delivers a Barzani-led state.”</p><p>Meanwhile, the KRG remains a haven for persecuted minorities. It is an admirable example of tolerance and secularism in a region where both are in decline. Kurdish independence, even in its de facto rather than de jure form, must be preserved as much for the Kurds as for the Yazidis, Christians and others who live among them. A hasty declaration of independence, using the referendum as justification, would invite invasion by Turkey, Iran or both. But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly Sunni fundamentalist government and the Shiite mullahs of Iran disagree about everything except the Kurds: that their own Kurds will never achieve autonomy, let alone independence, and that Iraqi Kurdistan must not set an example.</p><p>Baghdad, too, is ready to wage war against the Kurds, using the arms it received from the United States after suffering defeat at the hands of the Islamic State in 2014. That war will be not over independence per se, but over the issue that divided Kurds from Arabs under the country’s historical monarchy, subsequent dictatorships and current government: the city, region and oil deposits of Kirkuk. Kirkuk is a Middle Eastern Schleswig-Holstein, a place no one knew about but which caused several German-Danish wars that took over seven decades to resolve.</p><p>Kirkuk’s symbolic importance is as much a casus belli as its oil is. It was the reason for the failure of agreements on Kurdish autonomy between Saddam and the founder of modern Kurdish nationalism, Barzani’s colorful father Mullah Mustafa. The elder Barzani rejected autonomy without Kirkuk, and Saddam prolonged a pointless civil war rather than cede the city. Neither side would compromise then, and no side is negotiating now.</p><p>The Kurds are the most incomprehensible people I know. They are among the most religious of Muslims, whose attendance at the mosque is as strong as their love of alcohol, music, dance and erotic jokes. They pray because they want to, not because religious police force them to. Their openness puts them at odds with Turkey’s Erdogan and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei. As warriors in baggy trousers and bandoliers with Kalashnikovs swung gingerly over their shoulders, they adorn themselves with floral bouquets like young maidens. They dance like dervishes, and they will give travelers their own beds rather than let them sleep in discomfort. They are contentious, argumentative, tribal, feuding, blasphemous, devout and, in my eyes, the most admirable nation in the Middle East.</p><p>In a perfect world, they would have their independence with the support of all those who oppose it. But this world is imperfect. Turkey and Iran are more powerful than the nascent Kurdish state. The Arabs of Iraq will not willingly relinquish Kirkuk. American military power will not solve this conundrum, although deft diplomacy might. It’s worth a try.</p><p><em><strong>This article was originally published on <a href="https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/iraqi-kurdistan-fight-seat-table-nations">Stratfor</a> on September 29, 2017.</strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/francis-owtram/kurds-in-iraq-from-sykes-picot-to-no-fly-zones-and-beyond">Kurds in Iraq: from Sykes-Picot to no-fly zones and beyond</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/seevan-saeed/eastern-kurdistan-silent-politics-with-huge-casualties"> Eastern Kurdistan: a silent politics with huge casualties</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/behnam-amini/kurdish-struggles-and-challenge-of-foreign-support-case-of-syria">Kurdish struggles and the challenge of foreign support: the case of Syrian Kurds</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/leyla-bedirxan/neocolonial-geographies-of-occupation-portrait-of-diyarbakir">Neocolonial geographies of occupation: portrait of Diyarbakir</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/huseyin-rasit/not-another-story-of-failed-liberation-tensions-in-bashur-and-r">Not another story of failed liberation: tensions in Bashur and Rojava in the light of the referendum</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/hakan-sandal/redirecting-colonial-gaze"> Redirecting the colonial gaze </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iraq Conflict Democracy and government International politics Kurdistan referendum Kurds Charles Glass Fri, 06 Oct 2017 13:27:13 +0000 Charles Glass 113859 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Not another story of failed liberation: tensions in Bashur and Rojava in the light of the referendum https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/huseyin-rasit/not-another-story-of-failed-liberation-tensions-in-bashur-and-r <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Kurds need to rely on their own strength. The people must directly participate in and control their affairs if the fate of many other postcolonial countries is to be avoided.<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/33561417956_696e13a956_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/33561417956_696e13a956_z.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Oslo Architecture Triennale 2016: New World Embassy, Rojava: installation view, Oslo City Hall, 2016. Democratic Self-Administration of Rojava & Studio Jonas Staal. Flickr/István Virág. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><em>The situation of the Kurds in a drastically changing Middle East has received&nbsp;little&nbsp;attention in academia and less in the media despite their growing impact on regional and international politics. The biggest stateless people living in the Middle East are on the verge of a new status, not only in Iraqi Kurdistan, where a referendum for independence takes place on September 25, 2017, but also in Syria and Turkey.</em><em> </em><em>Then there are the Iranian Kurds. Their stories and the conditions they live in are the least known, not only by the international community but also by fellow-Kurds living in three neighbouring countries, due to an intense isolation.&nbsp;This week’s&nbsp;short series looks at current political struggles of the Kurds in four neighbouring countries or in a country that does not exist on the world map but in the hearts and mind of 40 million people. </em><strong>Mehmet Kurt, series editor.</strong></p><p>In less than a week, the people of Bashur will go the polls to vote on independence. As the referendum decision has created ripples through the Middle East and beyond, the reactions of Turkey, Iran, and Iraq have been predictably hostile. After all, in the last hundred years since the World War One, these states have repeatedly tried to keep the Kurds in line through a combination of war, repression, and even attempts at genocide. </p> <p>So, one should not be so surprised as they throw various threats at the KRG now. More interesting, however, is how the political fractures among Kurdish people and different parts of Kurdistan have become more manifest. Indeed, we now have at least two Kurdistans: Bashur with its capitalist modernization and Rojava and its allies with their democratic confederalism. </p> <p>It is difficult to say how the relation between these two projects will unfold in the long run. Yet we can say for now that the tensions in both of them have become more obvious during the referendum process. If we want the future of Kurdistan to be bright one, we need to discuss these tensions and how to move beyond them instead of focusing solely on the question of independence.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>One issue the referendum has revealed might be the Achilles’ hill of democratic confederalism: the tension between the ideal of transcending the nation-state and Kurds’ century-old desire for their own state. The adherents of democratic confederalism repeatedly argue that the Kurds do not need or even want a nation-state. In itself, making such claims is certainly understandable since political struggle necessitates a defence of the plausibility of your ideology. Nonetheless, the reality does not exactly match up to ideals. It seems that many Kurds are simply not ready to abandon the idea of a state. </p> <p>Moreover, some of them are quite ready to equate any criticism based on a rejection of a state paradigm with outright treason against Kurdistan. This is apparent from how the initial criticisms from the PKK wing largely fell on deaf ears, or how anyone voicing a no vote is harshly rebuked. Indeed, even parties like Gorran campaign for “no” not because they reject states, but because they are against the way the referendum is being handled. </p> <p>However, the current atmosphere does not mean that the political project of the KRG has been affirmed as the ultimate choice, or that its powerholders are off the hook. The region is suffering, caught in a mire of political, economic, and social problems. For example, economic crisis is now manifest for everyone to see. Wages are sporadically or never paid; electricity and other resources cannot be provided in a regular manner; production is low; and supermarkets are invaded by products coming from Turkey. Economic hardships are both caused and aggravated by relations of clientelism and nepotism. Many are complaining that corruption in key revenues such as oil are controlled by a handful of powerful people with little public control. On top of these problems, it is difficult to argue that Bashur has achieved decolonization. Turkey and Iran exert enormous influence in the region. Especially the Turkish government has established a certain economic and political dominion, with its arms reaching many things from oil trade to the construction to military operations. <span class="mag-quote-center">As people see themselves more and more as citizens, it will be impossible to sustain a system based on a combination of state institutions and militia structures.</span></p> <p>All of the problems above have their roots in how power is held in the region. For so long now, the people have not directly held power in Bashur. Of course, one can immediately make a counter claim and say that direct democracy is not a must for prosperity and progress, and a liberal democracy with a functioning state would do as well. </p> <p>Ignoring many problems of liberal democracies, we can contend that this counterpoint would have some merit. But here is the problem that we have in Bashur. Power operates in the region neither through an overarching and functional liberal state nor through direct democratic institutions. Instead, Bashur is divided between power groups that essentially correspond to parties and militias. Different parties control different regions, employ separate peshmergas, control checkpoints, use resources, and act as gatekeepers. Moreover, people themselves are deeply divided along party lines. Largely a heritage from a century-long armed struggle and subsequent civil war, this situation is extremely inimical to institutionalization or democratization. It simply cannot be sustained without moving either to a liberal state or a direct democracy. </p> <p>The referendum and the nationalist sentiments it brought to the surface might have slowed down these processes for now. However, the region is still moving towards a reckoning, as the underlying conditions will not be magically solved by independence. On the contrary, the referendum might deepen these problems since an independent state itself will further the citizenship process in Bashur. In other words, as people see themselves more and more as citizens, it will be impossible to sustain a system based on a combination of state institutions and militia structures. Because, simply put, one cannot have an institutionalized state/democracy on the one hand and a society based on a militia/party complex on the other. Thus, the current war-based system of Bashur cannot go on like this.</p> <p>Moreover, the democratic confederalist project of Rojava is further highlighting the contradictions in Bashur. The former espouses direct democratic control and communal economic structures. It thus offers a deep contrast to the limited control that the people of Bashur wield over their deepening problems. </p> <p>The point here is not that democratic confederalism is fully functional. There are certainly many gaps in the praxis of Rojava. Yet unlike 15 years ago when democratic confederalism was only a theoretical possibility, it is now being implemented in reality. The warm reception of Rojava by the Kurds of Bashur might initially have been about Kurdish solidarity. In the long run, however, Bashur will be more and more inspired by what is happening in Rojava.&nbsp; </p> <p>So, what might the effects of these longstanding issues be in the long run? Unfortunately, they have the potential to corrupt the century-old dream of the Kurdish people. It is not difficult to imagine a future in which Kurdistan is independent but nonetheless not free and prosperous. History, after all, is full of postcolonial countries which have substantially failed in achieving their liberatory goals. These examples, liberations betrayed as Edward Said would say, show us that it is not enough to achieve nominal independence. Unless a liberation movement transforms political, economic, and social relations towards an egalitarian, just, and democratic future, the new system very likely devolves into a graveyard of ideals and dreams. Oppressed nations have already had enough of these failed cases. The question now is how Bashur will avoid this fate.&nbsp;<br /><span class="mag-quote-center">In the long run, however, Bashur will be more and more inspired by what is happening in Rojava.&nbsp; </span></p> <h2><strong>Measures that could be taken</strong></h2> <p>There are certain steps that could be taken. First of all, there should be a rigorous twin push towards economic and political democratization/decolonization. Economic democratization would require tackling corruption, redirecting revenues of oil and other sources to infrastructural and social programs, investing in education, moving towards increased domestic production, and establishing necessary programs for the redistribution of wealth. </p> <p>Yet these by themselves do not guarantee sustained democracy and decolonization. Therefore, there must also be simultaneous efforts for people to wield real power. The parliament should certainly become functional again as many others have argued. Yet this is not enough. The people must directly participate in and control their affairs if the fate of many other postcolonial countries is to be avoided. New local, regional, and national committees should be established for execution and control of economic, political, and social policies. These should be populated by directly elected and independent civilians. </p> <p>If the steps above are also reinforced by social campaigns to encourage people to mobilize, organize, and participate, Bashur can create the necessary foundations for decolonization and establishing beneficial relations with the rest of the world. I have no illusions at this point. Turkey and Iran are formidable countries, not to mention the US and Russia. It will especially take much effort to shake off the colonizing effects of Turkey. But why do we even discuss independence if we cannot dare to create a truly free and democratic country? And what better way to achieve this than relying on people themselves? Re-energizing the masses and passing the power to them can give Bashur the necessary resources to move forward. Besides, the people of Bashur do not even have to look far. Their own sisters and brothers in Rojava are offering possible solutions and recipes. </p> <p>On their part, adherents of democratic confederalism in Rojava and other parts of Kurdistan should be prepared to face the tensions inherent in their project. Sentiments that powerfully resurfaced during the referendum process can be looked upon as a learning moment. If democratic confederalists want to secure the future success of their project, they need to be able to overcome various tensions stemming from ethnic sentiments and nationalist desires. </p> <p>Specifically, potential conflicts between Kurds’ long desire for a state and the project of the Northern federation; between nationalism and the ideals of democratic confederalism; between Kurds and other groups in Rojava; and between Rojava and other parts of Kurdistan need to be acknowledged and tackled.</p> <p>It seems to me that women might be the key element here. Their central position in Rojava and the revolution’s emphasis on women’s liberation are well-known facts. As an oppressed group cutting through ethnic and religious line, they have the potential to guide people in transcending sectarian conflicts and to safeguard democratization and liberation against destructive tendencies. To the extent that they can keep their central position as a highly mobilized, democratic, and liberationist group, women might offer the solutions to our problems. <span class="mag-quote-center">To the extent that they can keep their central position as a highly mobilized, democratic, and liberationist group, women might offer the solutions to our problems. </span></p> <p>Ultimately, the referendum process has shown that the Kurds need to stand together. It is true that there are fault lines among many different groups, and politically there are now more than one Kurdistan. Still, all the regional states that tower above their Kurdish components have once again proved how hostile they are to the Kurds. </p> <p>In such a geopolitical situation, in which one also cannot easily trust the US or Russia, the Kurds need to rely on their own strength. For this, dialogue, cooperation, and integration should be increased through institutions like the KNK. The Kurds indeed have the potential to guide the peoples of the Middle East towards a better future. Therefore, their success in solving the problems of the different parts of Kurdistan and coming together as a unified force of democracy and liberation is important for us all.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/33445220932_17c415383c_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/33445220932_17c415383c_z.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>New World Embassy: Rojava_Oslo Architecture Triennale. Flickr/Istvan Virag. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Learn more about the New World Embassy, Rojava, (pics) <a href="http://www.jonasstaal.nl/projects/new-world-summit-rojava/">from Jonas Staal.</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/francis-owtram/kurds-in-iraq-from-sykes-picot-to-no-fly-zones-and-beyond">Kurds in Iraq: from Sykes-Picot to no-fly zones and beyond</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/behnam-amini/kurdish-struggles-and-challenge-of-foreign-support-case-of-syria">Kurdish struggles and the challenge of foreign support: the case of Syrian Kurds</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/leyla-bedirxan/neocolonial-geographies-of-occupation-portrait-of-diyarbakir">Neocolonial geographies of occupation: portrait of Diyarbakir</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/seevan-saeed/eastern-kurdistan-silent-politics-with-huge-casualties"> Eastern Kurdistan: a silent politics with huge casualties</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Syria Iraq Huseyin Rasit Fri, 22 Sep 2017 07:18:11 +0000 Huseyin Rasit 113482 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Eastern Kurdistan: a silent politics with huge casualties https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/seevan-saeed/eastern-kurdistan-silent-politics-with-huge-casualties <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Body">It is surely time that organisations that are internally active should dedicate their efforts to resuming activities that give hope to the people.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-09-19 at 20.26.05.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-09-19 at 20.26.05.png" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: Leaders from the past: Dr. Qasimlo talks about abjuring terrorism during the Kurdish struggle. Youtube.</span></span></span>The situation of the Kurds in a drastically changing Middle East has received&nbsp;little&nbsp;attention in academia and less in the media despite their growing impact on regional and international politics. The biggest stateless people living in the Middle East are on the verge of a new status, not only in Iraqi Kurdistan, where a referendum for independence takes place on September 25, 2017, but also in Syria and Turkey.</em><em> </em><em>Then there are the Iranian Kurds. Their stories and the conditions they live in are the least known, not only by the international community but also by fellow-Kurds living in three neighbouring countries, due to an intense isolation.&nbsp;This week’s&nbsp;short series looks at current political struggles of the Kurds in four neighbouring countries or in a country that does not exist on the world map but in the hearts and mind of 40 million people. </em><strong>Mehmet Kurt, series editor.</strong></p> <p class="Body">Inspired by the Kurdish movement in the north and Rojava (in Turkey and Syria), PJAK (the Kurdistan Independent Life Party affiliated to the Kurdistan Workers's Party (PKK) or Iranian branch of the PKK)&nbsp;and recently KODAR (the East Kurdistan Democratic and Independent Party also founded by the PKK, to replace the PJAK)&nbsp;were established to fill the gap of the Kurdish struggle in Iran. Yet, this new attempt has faced several serious obstacles. Can Kurdish politics in Rojhelat, (<em>Rojhelat</em>, literally means East, and refers to the eastern part of Kurdistan which is located within Iran’s current borders) look for a change of course to take it out of its current stagnation? Or will it continue to waste the time, resources and patience of a disappointed Kurdish people? </p> <p class="Body">The Islamic state of Iran executes at least seven people every day. Tens of thousands of political prisoners and thousands of other prisoners accused of multiple crimes spend their lives behind bars inside the regime’s prisons. A large proportion of these are Kurdish people accused and tortured on the basis that they are the enemy of God and his Islamic regime in Iran. </p> <p class="Body">To add to their hardship and terrible oppression, there is a huge discrepancy between the living standards, economic mobility, cultural activities, social status and freedom of movement of those who dwell in the Kurdish areas and those from areas that are loyal to the regime. Moreover, the Islamic regime has drawn up a concerted plan to spread social crises, and promote drug addiction and other crimes, particularly in Kurdistan. The state has ravaged the Kurdish people with huge rates of unemployment and criminalised most of their economic activities to such an extent that is very hard for the majority to attain the lowest level of a standard of living. </p> <p class="Body">In contrast to the other parts of Kurdistan, the Kurdish liberation movement in Iran suffers from inactivity and defeatism. These parties never have been and they will never be a threat to the Islamic state. The justification for this lack of strategy given by the Kurdish political parties is that the state is so strong that it doesn't leave them any room for progress. But Kurds are suffering elsewhere under regimes as harsh and strong as the Islamic state. Why in the northern part of Kurdistan, can the Kurds have strong political parties and a multi-dimensional movement with a range of activities that must be perfectly visible to the Turkish state? How is it that in Rojava, in war-torn northern Syria, the Kurds have started to establish a democratic and autonomous status that offers a positive example for all to take lessons from?</p> <p class="Body">It is clear that the eastern part of Kurdistan also has a long history of struggle and well-known leaders who could still inspire people and their parties up to this day. However, the fact is that those leaders and their political parties have never been grounded in a systematic philosophy with perspectives that can mobilise the Kurdish people towards freedom and autonomy. These rather traditional parties have always built their hopes on external powers to make some changes in Iran, despite the lack of evidence that these external powers have ever given a thought to the interests and rights of the Kurds in Iran. It is not an exaggeration to say that since the establishment of the short-lived republic of Kurdistan in 1946, the Kurdish parties have always been waiting for the superpowers to attack the regime in Iran and thereby create their long-awaited window of opportunity for freedom. But it is all too obvious that in such circumstances, the superpowers will never neglect their own economic and political interests to support the Kurds, even if the Kurdish cause in terms of human rights and justice is beyond question.</p> <p class="Body">Since the Iran-Iraq war in 1981, the traditional Kurdish parties of eastern Kurdistan have fallen into the self-defeating trap of what can be called a proxy war. They are almost always used as proxy forces between Iraq and Iran. Following the uprising of the Kurds in Iraq in 1991, these parties became refugees in the Kurdish region of Iraq in order – so they said – not to disturb the plan and friendship between the KRI and the Islamic regime, and to protect the interests of the newly born Kurdish entity in the south. </p> <p class="Body">Moreover, due to personal and fractional interests within the leadership of both traditional Kurdish parties in the east, both parties allowed themselves to be divided into several little parties under the same name and with the same approach and programmes. Currently there are two parties under the name of ‘Democrats’ and four groups under the name of ‘KOMALA’ all of whom are settled into inactivity on campsites in the southern part of Kurdistan. These parties are running very negative campaigns against each other, not over ideological and strategic differences, but arising out of battles for personal leadership and economic interests. As a matter of fact, the conflict between these parties renders them perfectly harmless. They live in deep chaos without any ideological clarity or future plans.</p> <p class="Body">Since 2003, it seems these parties are really counting on the USA to attack Iran and destroy the Islamic regime in the same way that they have created havoc and destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan. In that case, these parties could go home and take their share in the new pro-western government, running the Kurdish areas within Iran.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Body">These parties seem to entertain no other options and are not even working hard to achieve this aim. Currently one can see that Iran’s nuclear deal with the states of the five plus one have had a positive impact for the Islamic regime and the possibility of this regime collapsing from within is very slight. </p> <p class="Body">Arguably, this weak political thinking and ideological poverty has had a long history within the struggle of these traditional Kurdish parties. But in the old days, if these parties put out a call for people to go to the streets or at least boycott some of the state’s activities and close their shops in certain cities on special days like the anniversary of the martyrdom of <a href="http://www.rudaw.net/english/opinion/24072014">Abdul Rahman Qasimlo</a> or <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foad_Mostafa_Soltani">Foad Soltani </a>– the Kurdish people would positively answer that call. But how about now? Would the people positively respond? In fact, people from the east part of Kurdistan no longer believe in the policies and programmes of these parties. </p> <p class="Body">As a matter of fact, these parties are stuck with a dangerously profound identity crisis. While not adapting any policy and approach to show that they are struggling for Kurdish independence, they do not tackle the notion of Iranianness either, with a view to having positive links with other Iranian forces and groups and struggling for a democratic Iran, in which one day, we might see an autonomous and free Kurdistani region. In other words, while they have no any practical effect on reality, nor is there any strategy or plan. </p> <p class="Body">They claim that after the uprising of the Kurds in the south of Iran in 1991, hundreds of leaders, senior members and cadres of these parties have been assassinated and terrorised by the Islamic regime. However, all this terror has failed to motivate the parties to revive and reorganise themselves, setting aside their internal problems and thinking of a solution for this very passive condition. Instead, it is this very negativity that leads to ever-increasing factionalism and conflict. It would be an honourable act for the parties to bring to an end their role in the eastern part of Kurdistan.</p> <p class="Body">Despite all these limitations and problems, even if their numbers are not so many, there are some truly loyal people, “peshmerga” guerrillas and other cadres scattered among these political parties. Moreover, inside eastern Kurdistan, ‘Rojhelat’, the Kurdish people still have a positive potential that can be used and mobilised to revive the revolution.</p> <p class="Body">It is surely time that organisations that are internally active should dedicate their efforts to organising people again and giving hope to the people. They might then be able to advance a new pathway to bring about a different result from the last seventy years. The first thing to be avoided is a repeat of the focus on power-seeking. Political leaders in our recent past were mainly thinking about how to strengthen their own personal political powers and promote internal conflict in order to defend and advance their own personal powers and interests. In this way, the party leaders did not hesitate to collaborate with enemies and seek support from states which have Kurdistan under their control. For example, they sought support from Iraqi regimes to confront the Iranian regime. And in the process, they ended up promoting the same mentality as the occupiers of Kurdistan, rather than working in pursuit of a new struggle with a free and democratic mentality. This led only to a crisis in identity.</p> <p class="Body">One further problem. To copy and paste the ‘Ideas of Ocalan and KCK’ into conditions in Rojhelat without fully understanding the social, cultural and political condition of Iran, the Iranian nations and the history of the Kurds in Rojhelat is likely to bring only more chaos rather than help Kurds to construct a positive and effective alternative. It is indeed far too soon to fully assess what KODAR and PJAK can or cannot do in the social and political arena of Rojhelat. </p><p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-09-19 at 20.41.13.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-09-19 at 20.41.13.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: Leaders from the past - biography of Foad Mostafa Soltani. YouTube.</span></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/francis-owtram/kurds-in-iraq-from-sykes-picot-to-no-fly-zones-and-beyond">Kurds in Iraq: from Sykes-Picot to no-fly zones and beyond</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/behnam-amini/kurdish-struggles-and-challenge-of-foreign-support-case-of-syria">Kurdish struggles and the challenge of foreign support: the case of Syrian Kurds</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/leyla-bedirxan/neocolonial-geographies-of-occupation-portrait-of-diyarbakir">Neocolonial geographies of occupation: portrait of Diyarbakir</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item even"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Syria Turkey Iraq Iran Seevan Saeed Thu, 21 Sep 2017 06:42:20 +0000 Seevan Saeed 113480 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What we are fighting for https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/rijin-sahakian/what-we-are-fighting-for <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The relationship between Iraq and the United States is intimate, toxic, and enduring. It is a relationship whose violence is generally dismissed as inevitable.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/1-EK8VJBoMsVp0eFcLUs-xAAWEB.jpg,1440.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/1-EK8VJBoMsVp0eFcLUs-xAAWEB.jpg,1440.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Oil-well fires burn near the town of Qayyarah, Iraq, 2016. Photo: Planet Labs.</span></span></span>This essay was originally published in&nbsp;<em>e-flux journal </em>no. 84 (September 2017) under the title ‘<a href="http://www.e-flux.com/journal/84/150664/what-we-are-fighting-for/">What We Are Fighting For</a>’ </strong></p><p>On the campaign trail in 2015, Trump stood triumphantly at the podium in Fort Dodge, Iowa, describing how he would deal with ISIS in Iraq: </p><blockquote>I would bomb the <em>shit</em> out of ’em! I would just bomb those suckers. And that’s right, I’d blow up the pipes, I’d blow up the refineries, I’d blow up every single inch, there’d be nothing left. And you know what? You get Exxon to come in there and in two months—you ever see these guys, how good they are, the great oil companies? They’ll rebuild that sucker brand new, it’ll be beautiful. And I’d ring it, and I’d get the oil. [1]</blockquote> <p>The crowd erupts into applause, shocked and delighted by such an unapologetic and direct plan of action.</p> <p>Trump speaks excitedly, as though he is the first person to think of bombing the shit out of Iraq. He speaks about the beauty of the burning oil fields remade in Exxon’s image. A year later, Trump’s words proved prescient. In the summer of 2016, oil fields across northern Iraq burned, with credit due not to Trump, but ISIS. Civilians in northern Iraq lived under a thick layer of toxic soot for eight months until the fires were finally put out in February 2017. Time will tell what damage, generational and in this lifetime, was caused to humans and the environment alike. Meanwhile, Trump also proposed a 10 percent increase—fifty-four billion dollars—in the US military budget, because we are going to <em>win</em>. What you can’t take by being a nice guy, you take by force. Beautiful women, oil fields, whatever.</p> <p>The relationship between Iraq and the United States is intimate, toxic, and enduring. It is a relationship whose violence is generally dismissed as inevitable. It is made possible by many other partners, and kept exciting by still-unfolding entanglements. We grabbed Iraq by the pussy, and some people are very upset that it did not make America great again. Despite all the time and money we put in, we apparently did not get what we wanted. We did not win. <em>Well</em> <em>she is crazy, that Iraq, full of toxic, bloodthirsty baggage</em>. <em>We tried to give her a chance at something good, but that’s what you get for being a nice guy, for trying to do the right thing.</em> For all our shock at Trump and this administration’s language, it is not so far from the way violence has been dressed up and excused since the end of the Cold War. While the rhetoric from the first public announcement of the 1991 Gulf War to today has been more sophisticated than Trump’s, the president has, in effect, simply dissolved the veneer.</p> <p>The shock at Trump’s words and actions, rather than an admission that this is a natural outcome of longstanding policy and general indifference, is a surprising gap. I’m not the first to speak about this; there are a number of authors who have connected exploitative foreign policy and the systems of control used to implement these policies to black and indigenous experiences in the US. We have to look at these experiences as bound up with one another. Humvees and war scenes at Ferguson and the Dakota Access Pipeline represent precisely this internal colonialism. Like Iraq, the Dakotas require a military presence to ensure policy acceptance and unencumbered resource extraction. However, mainstream discourse regarding these similarities generally stops with the idea that “it is a scene out of Iraq.” But what does that mean? What do we actually understand about Iraq’s impact and connection to American life, beyond its resemblance to the worst episodes shown on the news?</p> <p>It seems that we have now entered an information war, an unprecedented era of “alternative facts.” But the first Gulf War was launched through a major information offensive. One day after Iraq invaded Kuwait, the Wexler Group, headed by Craig Fuller, was acquired by Hill &amp; Knowlton, the most powerful public relations lobbying firm in Washington, DC. Fuller had been the chief of staff to George H. W. Bush when he was vice president under Ronald Reagan. Now, as president, Bush would soon announce the start of the Persian Gulf War. But before that happened, Hill &amp; Knowlton was hired by a newly formed outfit, “Citizens for a Free Kuwait,” for more than ten million dollars. Nearly all the money came from the government of Kuwait, which hired the firm to galvanize American support for the war. The funds were well spent. With support from a focus group that counted Pepsi Cola as a client, Hill &amp; Knowlton was able to find the perfect messenger to sway minds: a girl named Nayirah. [2]</p> <p>Nayirah was a fifteen-year-old girl from Kuwait. Modest, with bangs and a long braid down her back, she gave highly emotional testimony to the US Congressional Human Rights Caucus on October 10, 1990 regarding atrocities she claimed to have witnessed inside the infant care unit at a Kuwaiti hospital. Her voice cracking, tears streaming down her face, she described babies being ripped out of their incubators by Iraqi soldiers, thrown to the ground, and left to die:</p> <blockquote>Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, my name is Nayirah, and I just came out of Kuwait. While I was there I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns. They took the babies out of incubators. They took the incubators and left the children to die on the cold floor. It was horrifying.</blockquote> <p>Seared into the American imagination, this episode was told and retold by members of Congress in the months leading up to Operation Desert Storm. At one point, standing in front of a group of US soldiers, Bush referenced the babies “pulled from incubators, and scattered like firewood across the floor.”</p> <p>The story was fabricated. The girl in question turned out to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US. Tom Lanton, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus for Human Rights, knew her real identity, but said nothing. Citizens for a Free Kuwait also provided a fifty-thousand-dollar donation to the Caucus. The invasion of Kuwait did cause terrible violence and looting, though not the kind described in Nayirah’s testimony. It is also important to note that crimes by the Iraqi government were inflicted not only on the people of Kuwait, but also on the Iraqi populace as a whole in the decades prior to, during, and after Operation Desert Storm. Iraq’s regime led by Saddam Hussein had in fact long been supported by the US, despite being a dictatorship characterized by widespread, well-documented abuses and the violent suppression of independent, left-leaning movements. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/iraq_amo_2016051_lrg_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/iraq_amo_2016051_lrg_0.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="355" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Iraqi antiaircraft fire lights up the skies over Baghdad as US warplanes bomb the Iraqi capital in the early hours of January 18, 1991. The US campaign drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait in a little over a month. Photo: Dominique Mollard/AP.</span></span></span>It was against this backdrop that any lingering concerns over Desert Storm were soon overwhelmed by the first televised war—which did not disappoint. Journalists were in awe and given front-row seats in hotel rooms that provided a once-in-a-lifetime view of a Baghdad sky famously described as “lit up by fireworks.” The green lights of antiaircraft missiles sparkled with trails that zigzagged across a foreign landscape, as the post–Cold War military-industrial complex mounted a global display of its undiminished potency. Before the promise of big data was the promise of smart wars. The bombs over Baghdad made for a most impressive unveiling of the technologies soon to guide aspects of our lives as intimately as they guided missiles to their targets. The American public was introduced to real-time, living-room war games. [3]</p> <p>This was what winning looked like.</p> <p>That year—1991—the Super Bowl took place in Florida, at the height of military operations. Security was tight and the atmosphere was tense, though there were no credible threats. Even so, the <em>New York Times</em> noted that Tampa’s public safety administrator’s office “has asked the Federal Aviation Administration to prohibit flights close to the stadium except for regularly scheduled takeoffs and landings by commercial airlines,” adding that, “inevitably, the movie <em>Black Sunday </em>has been recalled here. In it, a Palestinian terrorist takes over a Goodyear blimp at the Super Bowl, planning to strafe the crowd.” [4]</p> <p>Despite reporting no basis for concern—and despite the fact that at that very moment the US was deploying violence affecting Iraqi civilians—the <em>New York Times</em> inserted a scenario from a fictional Hollywood film to serve as a specter of Arab terrorism in the US.</p> <p>This game was, as ESPN put it, the start of the branding relationship between the NFL and the US Army. Small American flags were put on every seat in the stadium for attendees to wave. Whitney Houston was brought in to sing the national anthem; subsequently released as a single, Houston’s rendition make the song a Top 20 hit for the first time.</p> <p>The performance by Houston was huge, replayed again and again. [5]</p> <p>My junior high school in California played it at an assembly the following week, and teachers instructed us to send letters and notes to US troops. It was the time of yellow ribbons, when to criticize the war was to betray the troops, the innocent men and women—the only innocent men and women, it was to be understood—of this conflict. This was also the first year that the Super Bowl enlisted contemporary pop stars for the halftime show. The year before, the halftime show had featured an Elvis impersonator. Most outlets broadcast a news update. The 1991 Super Bowl was the first iteration of halftime as popular spectacle.</p> <p>At the halftime show, hundreds of little girls dressed as cheerleaders swarmed the stage, dancing and singing about rich men, football stars, and beautiful girls. [6]</p> <p>Lyrics sung by the mini-cheerleaders, looking no older than eight or nine, repeated, “You’ve gotta be a football hero to get along with the beautiful girls. If you are rich or handsome it’ll get you anything!” A few minutes later, their counterparts, hundreds of young boys dressed as football players, ran onto the stage. One, with a blonde bowl of hair, took the microphone and solemnly sang the Bette Midler hit “Wind Beneath My Wings,” as images of troops in the Persian Gulf played across the screen. Children of the troops were paraded onto the field, and a live message from George and Barbara Bush was broadcast from their living room, blessing America, the Super Bowl, and our troops.</p> <p>Then a replica of the Disneyland spectacular It’s a Small World After All took center field, as Mickey Mouse, dressed to look like Uncle Sam, burst out with a parade of children in various international costumes. The children and Disney characters all linked hands, singing “We Are the World” and “It’s a Small World After All” as the camera panned across a sea of multinational faces and flags, mirroring the coalition of countries in the Gulf. A small world united by war, and our children. This is why we fight. This is why we win.</p> <p>And win we did. Norman Schwarzkopf—commander-in-chief of the coalition forces—was gruff and respected, a tough-love coach who showed us the way to victory. There were whiteboards with the various teams laid out (remember, this was a thirty-four-member coalition, with more than half the war costs covered by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia), patiently describing how we did it. He also had a great sense of humor. At one of his press conferences, he had a small television set brought out to replay various bombings and attacks from the air. He concluded by introducing us to “The Luckiest Guy in Iraq.” In the video, we see the movement of a vehicle across a bridge. Seconds after the vehicle passes, the bridge explodes—to laughter from the press. [7]</p> <p>This is meant as a lighthearted moment. The man is alive, and all he has to show for it is witnessing a bridge bombed just behind him and a war waging, literally, all around him.</p> <p>Schwarzkopf later explained why some Iraqis were not so lucky. At the end of the war, George Bush made several statements, broadcast inside of Iraq by Voice of America radio, encouraging Iraqis to “rise up.” Logically enough, Iraqis took this to mean that if they revolted against the Hussein regime, the US would support them. And rise up they did. In the north and south of Iraq, major rebellions, often celebratory, broke out. The optimism was short lived, as the US had agreed, in the ceasefire agreement, to allow Iraq to resume flying military planes over the country. Soon, the north and south were attacked from the sky, driving hundreds of thousands of Iraqis into the mountains of the north and the deserts of the south.</p> <p>Schwarzkopf, the celebrated strategic military mastermind of the war, led us to believe that he had no idea that allowing the regime to fly armed aircraft over the country would result in a swift crushing of the rebellions. He claimed that he was left alone with no guidance as to how to work out the ceasefire agreement. In countless interviews and commentary, US military and political figures spoke of the complicated makeup of Iraq and the possibility of a “quagmire” if further involvement in the country was pursued.</p> <p>We see here the precursor to the militarizing of sect and ethnicity. Kurds and Shia become “factions” rather than citizens with commitments and concerns. “I don’t think that we should ever say that because of what’s happening to the Kurds now means that our mission failed,” said General Schwarzkopf in the aftermath of the ceasefire agreement. He continued:</p> <blockquote>It’s exactly the same thing that happened to the Kurds a few years ago at the end of the Iran-Iraq War. It’s exactly the same thing that’s happened to the Kurds for many years. Yes, we are disappointed that that has happened. But it does not affect the accomplishment of our mission one way or another. [8]</blockquote> <p>All of this resulted in one of the largest and most deadly mass migrations in history, a precursor of what was to come. At its height, nearly a thousand people died each day, with thirty-five to sixty thousand dying in total. More than a million fled, with Iran taking in many of the refugees. Nearly twenty-five thousand people remained in Camp Rafha, a desolate camp in the Saudi Arabian desert, for more than a decade.</p> <p>As this tragedy unfolded, a contract was signed between the US government and the Rendon Group in 1991. The Rendon Group was headed by John Rendon, a former Democratic National Committee director turned self-described “information warrior.” He had also been hired by Citizens for a Free Kuwait to manage public perception. During a speech he delivered at the National Security Agency, he told a story about this work: “Remember those little flags the Kuwaitis were waving around as the tanks rolled in? How do you think they got those? Let alone flags of the coalition nations? That was me.”</p> <p>This Rendon Group contract, however, was for a much bigger job, with a much higher, multimillion-dollar price tag: to push for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. During the next decade, Iraqi human rights abuses, so heartbreakingly real, were consistently manipulated in the service of paid CIA operatives and exiled collaborators. This information war, along with real legislation to make the overthrow official US policy (notably, the Iraq Liberation Act, signed by Bill Clinton in 1998), would eventually lead to the fabricated “weapons of mass destruction” claim, infamously printed on the front page of the <em>New York Times</em> above an article by Rendon Group ally Judith Miller. These false claims were chillingly referenced by key leaders like Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”</p> <p>But as the second Gulf War loomed in early 2003, it was hugely unpopular, provoking massive protests worldwide. Something more was needed. “Shock and Awe” was a campaign that used military and visual force to knock Iraqis, and the memory of the record-breaking protests, off their feet. No longer in green-and-black night vision, this war was rolled out in broad daylight. Huge bombs rocked the buildings across Baghdad’s riverfront, with screens flashing white from the intensity of the explosions. As the strikes hit, news tickers went from reporting the size of the antiwar rallies to providing updates on military advancements.</p> <p>The antiwar movement had lost. The US Department of Defense ensured that journalists from major news outlets were embedded with US forces, breathlessly reporting from tanks and Humvees. Things were going well—until, of course, they weren’t. Nighttime raids went horribly awry, images from Abu Ghraib were leaked, militias and gangs waged an internal war that killed three thousand people a day at its height in 2006. Journalists were being killed at an unprecedented rate, along with everyone else. And as many books written about the conflict would later attest, it was also one of the most corrupt wars in history, with rampant cronyism and graft. It was all so chilling, confusing, morbid, and impossible to keep up with; you didn’t want to look, and so, many did not.</p> <p>In 1992, <em>60 Minutes</em> did an interview with a vice president of Hill &amp; Knowlton, Lauri Fitz-Pegado, who had met with Nayirah and worked on her Kuwait testimony. [9]</p> <p>The interviewer was seeking some kind of accountability for Nayirah’s misleading story. After reading a statement from Hill &amp; Knowlton denying any culpability for working deceptively towards the war effort, Fitz-Pegado expressed no regret: “I’m sure there’ll always be two sides to a story. I believe Nayirah, I have no reason not to believe her. The veracity of her story was indelibly marked on my mind, when I saw her and when I talked to her.”</p> <p>Again, it was clear back in 1992 that privatizing the war effort would not only be effective but also that, acting through a corporation like Hill &amp; Knowlton, the government itself would never be held accountable. This has, over and over again, proven to be the case. Even the initial shock of Abu Ghraib is a distant memory. A handful of low-level soldiers were prosecuted, but no one at the top of the government chain of command was charged. CACI International, the prison firm that ran a section of the prison where abusive interrogation took place, has never experienced any blowback. On the contrary, it retained its contract and its profits. In addition, eight months after the Abu Ghraib abuses—rape, torture, and death, which the press referred to as merely a “scandal”—General Keith Kellogg, who was previously director of operations for the Coalition Provisional Authority, in charge of assuring compliance with the billions of dollars in corrupt contracts, took a position as executive vice president at CACI International. Today, he serves as chief of staff of the United States National Security Council in the Trump Administration.</p> <p>In a special investigation conducted by <em>The Nation</em> in 2007, fifty combat veterans were interviewed. The report noted that</p> <blockquote>two dozen soldiers interviewed said that callousness toward Iraqi civilians was particularly evident in the operation of supply convoys—operations in which they participated. These convoys are the arteries that sustain the occupation, ferrying items such as water, mail, maintenance parts, sewage, food and fuel across Iraq. And these strings of tractor-trailers, operated by KBR and other private contractors, required daily protection by the US military.</blockquote> <p>As a former sergeant put it,</p> <blockquote>We’re using these vulnerable, vulnerable convoys, which probably piss off more Iraqis than it actually helps in our relationship with them, just so that we can have comfort and air-conditioning and sodas—great—and PlayStations and camping chairs and greeting cards and stupid T-shirts that say, Who’s Your Baghdaddy? [10]</blockquote> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Baghdaddy-Shirt-ImageWEBB.jpg,1440.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Baghdaddy-Shirt-ImageWEBB.jpg,1440.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="594" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The author's snapshot of the infamous US army occupation slogan.</span></span></span>The above image of the shirt does not come from the <em>Nation</em> article. A few months ago, I was sitting outside a coffee shop on a beautiful California morning with my mother and one of her best friends, also Iraqi and in her early sixties. I bring out their coffee and see this guy, tall, late-forties maybe. He’s standing, chatting with a friend a few feet away, wearing the shirt. I freeze for a moment and look at my mom and her friend, and they look at me quizzically, <em>what does the shirt mean?</em> They both speak perfect, heavily accented English, and are both scientists, not dense. At first I was angry at him for the shirt, then I felt something I’m not sure I can describe. It was this terrible thing. On the one hand, it’s funny—haha, <em>who’s your daddy?</em> On the other, it means<em> I own you baby and you like it. You get me off daddy and I like it</em>. And this is said by an occupier, an invader. <em>We grabbed your pussy. Tell me you like it.</em> How do you explain that to two moms? <em>Who’s your daddy? Who’s your Baghdaddy</em>? This beautiful city, with all of its beautiful people and its histories, their histories, already ravaged and now reduced to this T-shirt. How could I tell them that? My mother and her friend, so proper and good natured, always wanting to remain optimistic, sitting in the sun, troubled by their confusion. I couldn’t. I told them it was just something silly, a stupid saying. I changed the subject. </p><p>We might—and I often want to—think that this is history, it’s old stuff. But this is the dissonance: we still haven’t come to terms with this shirt, this narrative, this violence. It’s still okay, sometimes even funny, to parade about in public wearing this shirt, in our coffee shops, our newspapers, our galleries. (Indeed, many well-meaning people thought the shirt was funny when I first showed it to them.)</p> <p>Why haven’t we reckoned with this? Instead, we have articles like “What We’re Fighting For,” published on February 10, 2017 in the opinion section of the <em>New York Times</em>. [11]</p> <p>The piece recounts the honorable way the author and his fellow soldiers fought in Iraq. Even his references to a colleague at Abu Ghraib mention only the lightest use of harsh tactics: slapping young men for information. The author does not approve of these tactics, but paints a holistic picture of the effort in Iraq as one solely of honor and courage. I do not doubt that this was the case for some, but it has proven to be far from the truth for all. At the end of the article, the author references an Iraqi soldier who was killed, and notes that had he been saved,</p> <blockquote>the enemy soldier would have ended up with a unit like mine, surrounded by doctors and nurses and Navy corpsmen who would have cared for him in accordance with the rules of law. They would have treated him well, because they’re American soldiers, because they swore an oath, because they have principles, because they have honor. And because without that, there’s nothing worth fighting for.</blockquote> <p>It is a bizarre conclusion to an article accompanied by an image of bound, blindfolded Iraq men kneeling at the feet of American soldiers in a barren desert.The article is presented as though there is no shameful history of Iraqis being rounded up, hooded, and detained by the US military, often only to be let go with no charges after they and their families endured terrifying, humiliating ordeals at best, fatal or torturous outcomes at worst. It is presented as though thousands of Iraqi men have not been held and routinely killed, by various actors since the invasion, in mass graves littered throughout the country. Instead, this image is turned into a national call. Bowed and handcuffed Iraqi men, embodying, illustrating <em>What We’re Fighting For</em>.</p> <p>A day earlier, artist Francis Alÿs had written in <em>Artforum</em> about his experience being embedded with Peshmerga soldiers in Mosul, Iraq during the battle against ISIS. He posed a number of questions:</p> <blockquote>What could the ISIS fighters possibly make of the rain? Strangely it brought us closer, we shared that moment. Did I film the rain? Is art just a means of survival through the catastrophe of war? Do we live because we narrate? … This particular war? Because it is local, tribal, and religious conflicts that have had extraordinary repercussions on more than half the planet. Its medieval barbarism perpetrated and spread with the most modern of technologies. An existential war. [12]</blockquote> <p>This use of “clash of civilizations” rhetoric, of the gap between the barbaric and the civilized, and the always violent echoing of sectarian language, exemplifies how the arts mimic the tropes of information warfare. It also mimics the use of authority: a well-known French male artist can give us a glimpse into this odd, terrible world. Medieval barbarism? The City of Sammara, one of the biggest archeological sites in the world, celebrated for its spectacular Abbasid-era minarets, became a notorious torture site when US operatives used the public library to train Iraqi police and Special Forces, transforming it into a brutal interrogation unit that eventually engulfed the city in violence. Hardly a medieval phenomenon.</p> <p>During the course of the work I have done for some years now with art students in Baghdad, I have received incredible support from various members of the arts community. But I would be remiss if I did not also discuss a very disturbing acceptance of sophisticated, supposedly good intentions over the work of building new processes to bring people in. When I tell people what I do, more often than not they express curiosity: <em>What’s happening there? What medium are people using? Any interesting events? What’s the scene like?</em> I answer these questions, themselves violent in their ready willingness to ignore every facet of what was and is taking place: the wholesale degradation of infrastructure, and with it, the conditions under which young artists work.</p> <p>How much do most know of the arts in the Middle East beyond the Gulf States, which have poured billions into PR-friendly arts while maintaining their role as the US’s main economic partner and builder of military bases (where construction workers are paid a miserably low wage)? So many of us still want to believe the Muslim ban is just a Muslim ban, solely about Islamophobia and not about unending warfare in strategic areas. Do we even look at why these states are exempt? It is not just because Trump has hotels there. These hotels pale in comparison to the billion-dollar US military installations and accelerating military activities.</p> <p>The names of the seven countries included in the ban first surfaced years early in comments made by Wesley Clark, a highly decorated former US military general, former NATO commander, and one-time US presidential candidate. He publicly stated that just before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he was told of a high-level memo outlining a strategy to take out seven countries in five years. Those countries? Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Lebanon. He said this long before Trump was even on the radar. By 2017, Lebanon had long been replaced by Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, currently in the midst of a historically devastating war waged by the region’s richest country, Saudi Arabia (supported in the conflict by the US). Why are we still reducing these policies to religious identities and Islamophobia? It is a distraction tactic, and many on the left happily eat it up rather than looking at the clear, ongoing politics involved. Islamophobia is real, yes, but a far more effective counter would be to disengage it from American political ambitions rather than amplify its use.</p> <p>I bring up the situation of artists in Baghdad not because I think only Iraqi art students deserve a shot, but because it shows how willing we are to be contained by clean places, language, and events, and how much <em>we</em> are missing out in doing so. The things that these young people know about are things we couldn’t even begin to understand in our lifetime. They have lived through a multinational takeover, militarized violence by the world’s strongest armies, and dizzying messaging campaigns, all within a bustling, major metropolitan city with unrivaled history. It is our loss not to know, not to understand, not to learn, as much as it is their position to feel unheard and unseen in the most infamous, embattled city on earth—a position some of us may find ourselves in soon enough.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p>[1] See <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySdhGyqGCZk">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySdhGyqGCZk</a></p> <p>[2] As reported by <em>60 Minutes</em> in 1992.</p> <p>[3] See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUMAyiI0TPA</p> <p>[4] Gerald Ezkenazi, “SUPER BOWL XXV; Further Security For Game Unveiled,” <em>New York Times</em>, January 23, 1991.</p> <p>[5] See <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_lCmBvYMRs">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_lCmBvYMRs</a></p> <p>[6] See <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mH3Rwy60ym4">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mH3Rwy60ym4</a></p> <p>[7] See <a href="https://www.c-span.org/video/?16102-1/us-centcom-military-news-briefing">https://www.c-span.org/video/?16102-1/us-centcom-military-news-briefing</a></p> <p>[8] See <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUMAyiI0TPA">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUMAyiI0TPA</a></p> <p>[9] See <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhGl03QFUi4">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhGl03QFUi4</a></p> <p>[10] Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian, “The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness,” <em>The Nation</em>, July 10, 2007.</p> <p>[11] Phil Klay, “What We’re Fighting For,” <em>New York Times</em>, February 10, 2017.</p> <p>[12] Francis Alÿs, untitled article, <em>Artforum</em>, February 9, 2017.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/nadim-houry/justice-after-isis-time-for-judicial-triage"> Justice after ISIS: time for judicial triage</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/whatever-happened-peace-arms-oil-war-proxy-syria-middle-east-military-industrial">Whatever happened to peace? Arms, oil and war by proxy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/yazan-al-saadi/lost-and-found-hopes-in-hell-testimonies-from-iraqi-hospital-mosul-ISIS">Lost and found hopes in hell: testimonies from an Iraqi hospital</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/joanna-rozpedowski/women-and-children-first-war-humanitarianism-and-refugee-crisis">“Women and Children First”: war, humanitarianism, and the refugee crisis</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iraq war anti-war US Trump violence Rijin Sahakian Tue, 19 Sep 2017 12:55:09 +0000 Rijin Sahakian 113437 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Kurdish struggles and the challenge of foreign support: the case of Syrian Kurds https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/behnam-amini/kurdish-struggles-and-challenge-of-foreign-support-case-of-syria <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What needs discussing critically is the historical and structural reasons that would leave a revolutionary movement with no option but to ask for help from virtually whoever offers it. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-31966678.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-31966678.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>U.S.-backed mainly-Kurdish militia (YPG) firing on IS militant positions in Al Sinaa neighborhood, eastern Raqqa, Syria, 06 July 2017. Morukc Umnaber/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The situation of the Kurds in a drastically changing Middle East has received&nbsp;little&nbsp;attention in academia and less in the media despite their growing impact on regional and international politics. The biggest stateless people living in the Middle East are on the verge of a new status, not only in Iraqi Kurdistan, where a referendum for independence takes place on September 25, 2017, but also in Syria and Turkey. In Syria, Kurds have fought an organised and effective struggle against the IS. In Turkey, they have suffered a massive destruction of Kurdish cities, displacement of half a million Kurds and eradication of all forms of legal entity by the Turkish state.&nbsp;Then there is Iran. This week’s&nbsp;short series looks at current political struggles of the Kurds in four neighbouring countries. </em><strong>Mehmet Kurt, series editor.</strong><strong></strong></p> <p>With the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of the First World War, the Kurdish question – the denial of the Kurds’ right to form their own nation-state and the division of their land among four countries of Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran – became one of the major geopolitical questions in the Middle East. </p> <p>Throughout the last century, the Kurdish peoples’ right to self-determination has been expressed in various forms of struggle in movements such as <a href="https://kurdistantribune.com/mahabad-first-independent-kurdish-republic/">the Republic of Kurdistan in 1946</a>, the rebellion of Iraqi Kurds in 1960s and 1970s, the armed struggle of the Kurdistan’s Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey since the 1980s and the <a href="https://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/the-revolution-in-rojava">Rojava revolution</a> in Syria. Notwithstanding ideological and political differences among these movements, they have relied, to varying degrees, upon foreign support in their fights for self-determination. </p> <p>The current <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-usa-kurds-idUSKBN18525V">military collaboration</a> between the self-identified revolutionary leftists in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) and the United States in their combat against the Islamic State is a case in point and perhaps the most staggering example. This recent alliance has deeply bewildered many progressives (the Anglo-Saxon left in particular) to the point that they have either discredited the Rojava revolution or taken a hostile position towards it. What has not been discussed critically, however, is the historical and structural reasons that would leave a revolutionary movement with no option but to ask for help from virtually whoever offers it. &nbsp;<span class="mag-quote-center">The current military collaboration between Rojava and the United States… is a case in point and perhaps the most staggering example.</span></p> <p>In what follows, I will focus on the case of Syrian Kurds. A closer look at the case of Rojava will be helpful for gaining a more grounded understanding of why many Kurdish movements and political parties, rightwing or leftwing, seek support from regional and global powers that have historically played a direct or indirect role in oppressing the Kurds. </p> <h2><strong>Autonomy rather than national liberation</strong></h2> <p>There is little contention about the role of <a href="https://thekurdishproject.org/history-and-culture/kurdish-history/sykes-picot-agreement/">western colonial powers in the creation of the Kurdish question</a>. However, political analysts have paid scant attention to the main actors in perpetuating the Kurdish question. The current national borders of the Middle East within which the Kurds aspire to consolidate their self-rule are a legacy of imperialist interventions of western colonial powers during and after WWI. Yet, for the most part, regional powers and their ethnicized nationalisms have maintained the political, cultural and economic oppression of the Kurds in the region. </p> <p>After the independence of Syria in 1946, the Syrian state gradually built a chauvinist/racist regime (i.e. an overarching societal and political configuration hailed by and centred on the dominant Arab nation) that systematically rendered Kurds second-citizens and non-citizens. In fact, years prior to the 2011 popular uprisings, the Syrian regime subjected the Kurdish population to multilayered forms of violence from <a href="https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/syria1109webwcover_0.pdf">assimilation and denial of cultural identity to mass displacements and political oppression</a>. </p> <p>To have a sense of the extent and depth of racism and discrimination against the Kurds in Syria, it suffices to note the situation of <a href="http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/52a983124.pdf">stateless Syrian-born Kurds</a> in the country. However, it would be naïve to think that anti-Kurdish racism only exists at the level of state. The Syrian opposition to the Assad regime is also greatly plagued by anti-Kurd racism. This is most evident in <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-syria-opposition-idUKBRE82Q0H820120328">the reluctance of a vast majority of the opposition groups to recognize the Kurdish identity</a> and the deep-rooted pan-Arabism in Syria evident in the <a href="https://themoscowtimes.com/news/russian-delegation-proposes-autonomy-for-syrian-kurds-56934">refusal</a> to drop the word ‘Arab’ from the title of the supposedly post-Assad state. </p> <p>Given the pervasive chauvinist/racist nature of the Syrian nation-state, the Syrian Kurds have been unable to seriously consider an ally within that country. Their Kurdish sisters and brothers in Turkey, Iran and Iraq have also rarely been there for them. And there is a reason for that: the geographical fragmentation of the Kurdish nation. </p> <p>The division of land and population, which gives a very unique character to the Kurdish question, has greatly inhibited the formation of a united Kurdish political front against their enemies, generally pushing Kurdish movements to seek autonomy rather than national liberation. A situation that has made Kurdish movements more vulnerable to the onslaughts of the respective nation-states within which they have been operating. The critical and desperate situation of weak nations in taking on strong nations and/or states is enough reason for such nations to ask for help from outside. There is little doubt, for example, that it would have been very unlikely for Cuba to survive decades after the 1959 revolution had there not been all sorts of support from the former Soviet Union. <span class="mag-quote-center">There is little doubt that it would have been very unlikely for Cuba to survive decades after the 1959 revolution had there not been all sorts of support from the former Soviet Union.</span></p> <p>With the Kurds, the situation is even more complicated and hopeless as the fragmentation of their land and struggle has neither allowed them to pull their resources and strengths together, nor have they ever had such a powerful and strategic ally such as the former Soviet Union.</p> <h2><strong>Anti-imperialism in the international left</strong></h2> <p>Another interesting fact about the Kurdish people of Syria is that while at times Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Turkey have all used Kurdish movements as a political tool to weaken one another by providing the Kurds with political and military support, the Syrian Kurds have never received even this superficial and transitory backing. To make things even more complicated, we should recall how in the 1970s and 1980s, the Syrian state backed the PKK in their fight against the Turkish state at the same time that it repressed its own Kurdish minority. Moreover, since the establishment of democratic autonomy in Rojava, Syrian Kurds have been under constant threats posed by unholy alliances of authoritarian regional powers that, despite their differences and power rivalries, have historically made every effort to prevent the Kurds from realizing their aspiration of self-rule. </p> <p><a href="http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/08/iran-bagheri-wraps-turkey-visit.html">The recent announcement</a> of the anti-Kurdish collaboration of Turkey and Iran, pursuing different plans in Syria by backing opposing sides, is only the latest example of this kind. </p> <p>With no regional ally to turn to, one would have hoped that progressive groups around the world, particularly the international left, would be keen on standing in solidarity with the Kurds in Syria. On the contrary, on top of all the support that the Syrian state has historically received from major global and regional powers, it has also enjoyed the support and sympathy of a large group of anti-imperialists, in particular the Anglo-Saxon left. Some intermittent tensions with Israel earned the Syrian state the status of an anti-imperialist state. <span class="mag-quote-center">Some intermittent tensions with Israel earned the Syrian state the status of an anti-imperialist state.</span></p> <p>Yet, historical facts demonstrate that the Syrian state’s anti-imperialist rhetoric is a <a href="http://marxistleftreview.org/index.php/no-13-summer-2017/141-the-origins-of-the-criminal-assad-dynasty#_edn11">myth</a>, and many <a href="http://aljumhuriya.net/en/critical-thought/the-syrian-cause-and-anti-imperialism#.WQ5kgx3_-Wg.facebook">Syrian leftists</a> have strongly challenged this naïve interpretation of anti-imperialism. The immediate outcome of taken-for-granted anti-imperialism of the Syrian state for the Syrian Kurds has been the erasure of their suffering by many on the left. This historical erasure is in total contrast to the situation of Palestine or South Africa, where the (western) settler-colonial oppressions of Palestinians and Africans have become a rallying call on and for the western left. One has to pause here and question the conception of colonization and oppression in left analyses. Has the erasure of the reality of colonialization and oppression of the Kurds in the Middle East meant that peripheral states and Third-World nationalist forces are incapable of colonial/imperial oppression? </p> <p>The Kurdish question often does not draw the attention of the radical left simply because it is not a typical case of colonization/foreign intervention where a western imperialist country is directly involved. Even worse, <a href="https://monthlyreview.org/2016/10/01/the-kurdish-question-then-and-now/">for some</a>, the very confrontation of the Kurds with the Third World states reinforces the idea that the Kurdish question is itself a product of western imperialism, to sabotage the stability of the so-called anti-imperialist states in the Middle East. No wonder then that the violent suppression of the Kurdish movement in Iran in the years after the 1979 revolution, as well as the <a href="https://www.hrw.org/reports/1993/iraqanfal/#Table of">massacre of Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s</a> by Saddam Hussein never bothered the ethics and politics of the international left community in same way as the apartheid regime in South Africa and the Zionist state in Palestine did. </p> <p>Even in 1991<a href="https://www.lrb.co.uk/v13/n05/edward-said/edward-said-an-american-and-an-arab-writes-on-the-eve-of-the-iraqi-soviet-peace-talks">, Edward Said, the prominent left-leaning Arab scholar, expressed doubt</a> about the violent reality of the 1988 chemical bombing of the Kurdish city of Halabja by the Iraqi state. Such denials of reality resulting from a naïve understanding of imperialism and anti-imperialism have indeed facilitated the violent destruction of the lives and lands of Kurdish populations in the region. No wonder then that the desperate Kurdish movements would consider virtually any options to protect their communities.</p> <h2><strong>A matter of necessity</strong></h2> <p>It is thus imperative to remember that the current strategic alliance of the Syrian Kurds with the United States has not been a matter of choice but necessity. The division of Kurdistan among four separate nation-states have made the Syrian Kurds a minority in their own homeland and geographically detached from other Kurdish populations in the region. </p> <p>The Syrian State has exploited the Kurdish minority status over many decades to deny civil and political protection and rights afforded to other Syrians. In order to assert these rights, and their right to self-determination, Syrian Kurds have had to use the recent disintegration of the Syrian state to their advantage. Partly, this has meant taking advantage of regional and global power rivalries to further their own cause. </p> <p>They have also had to accept help from whomever is willing to offer it, including the United States, in order to survive the recent Syrian proxy war since: 1) few nations or movements have offered financial and military support to the Kurds, and, 2) the Syrian Kurds are currently surrounded by pro-Assad forces and opposition rebels (including ISIS), both of which would oppress the Kurdish peoples of Syria if given the chance.<span class="mag-quote-center"> A mere condemnation and critique of the Kurdish peoples of Syria by the western left will not get us anywhere.</span></p> <p>My aim in contextualizing the complex situation of Kurdish struggles and their desperate search for allies should not be interpreted as total support for any strategic alliance with foreign forces. Rather my point is that a mere condemnation and critique of the Kurdish peoples of Syria by the western left will not get us anywhere. In fact, historically, tactical alliances with forces that have been politically hostile to Kurdish self-rule have most often resulted in tragedy for the Kurds. One can think of the Republic of Kurdistan in 1946 as well as <a href="http://coat.ncf.ca/our_magazine/links/issue51/articles/51_27.pdf">the betrayal of Iraqi Kurds by the Iranian and American states in the 1970s</a>. </p><p>In the current conjuncture of the Middle East, with intensified geo-political rivalries and war, the more strategic way of making alliances should be focused on building close ties with other oppressed nations and social groups in and beyond the region, combined with taking serious account of the physical and political survival of racialized and historically oppressed peoples. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/francis-owtram/kurds-in-iraq-from-sykes-picot-to-no-fly-zones-and-beyond">Kurds in Iraq: from Sykes-Picot to no-fly zones and beyond</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/serhun-al/making-of-modern-kurdish-middle-east">The making of the modern Kurdish Middle East</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/bahzad-hammo/pkk-music-engineering-social-revolution">PKK music: engineering a social revolution</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iran Iraq Turkey Syria Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Ideas International politics Behnam Amini Tue, 19 Sep 2017 06:55:49 +0000 Behnam Amini 113422 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Kurds in Iraq: from Sykes-Picot to no-fly zones and beyond https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/francis-owtram/kurds-in-iraq-from-sykes-picot-to-no-fly-zones-and-beyond <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Will the approaching referendum on independence open up a new phase for the Kurds, abrogating the Sykes-Picot Agreement?<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30993070.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30993070.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Masoud Barzani has exceeded his allowed term as president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region. Kay Nietfeld/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The situation of the Kurds in a drastically changing Middle East has received&nbsp;little&nbsp;attention in academe and less in the media despite their growing impact on regional and international politics. The biggest stateless people living in the Middle East are on the verge of a new status, not only in Iraqi Kurdistan, where a referendum for independence takes place on September 25, 2017, but also in Syria and Turkey. In Syria, Kurds have fought an organised and effective struggle against the IS. In Turkey, they have suffered a massive destruction of Kurdish cities, displacement of half a million Kurds and eradication of all forms of legal entity by the Turkish state. Then there is Iran. This week’s&nbsp;short series looks at current political struggles of the Kurds in four neighbouring countries.</em><em> </em><strong>Mehmet Kurt, series editor.</strong><em><br /></em></p> <p>Since the 2011 ‘Arab Spring’ revolutions sent a seismic shock wave through the Middle East the suffering of Kurds such as <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/sherif-elsayed-ali/crisis-that-shouldn-t-be">Alan Kurdi</a> and the fight of the <em>peshmerga </em>(Kurdish militia) against the Islamic State has catapulted the Kurds’ plight as a ‘stateless nation’ to the world’s attention.&nbsp; </p> <p>On the liberation of Sinjar from the Islamic State, Masoud Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, called for the international community to move beyond the ‘Sykes-Picot borders’. This phrase is a shorthand for the artificial and arbitrary frontiers imposed at the end of the First World War by Britain and France which locked the Kurds into the Turkish, Syrian and Iraqi states where they have experienced sustained attempts at assimilation, denial of identity and human rights, and genocidal attack. </p> <p>To emphasize his intent, Barzani announced in 2016 his intention to hold a referendum on independence for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, now confirmed for 25 September 2017.&nbsp; How did it come about that such suffering should befall the Kurds in the states they found themselves and what are the prospects for Kurdish independence as a result of this referendum? </p><h2> </h2><h2><strong>The Kurds and ‘post-colonial sequestration’</strong></h2> <p>The Kurds’ quest for independence is partly the product of geography: their ancestral homeland around the Taurus mountains occupies a peripheral border region at the intersection of the historic empires of the Turks, Persians and Arabs. </p> <p>Under these empires the Kurdish tribes attempted to carve out high levels of autonomy and were often in conflict with the central authority and other rival tribes. Following the demise of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War, they found themselves divided between three successor states: Iraq, Syria and Turkey where they became regionally concentrated ‘non-assimilating minorities’. This underlying sense of malaise finds conceptual framing in the ‘syndrome of post-colonial sequestration’, a term coined by the late Professor Fred Halliday in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/article/tibet-palestine-and-the-politics-of-failure">a succinct and incisive openDemocracy article</a> in 2008 to explain the experience of peoples such as the Kurds and Palestinians. <span class="mag-quote-center">This underlying sense of malaise finds conceptual framing in the ‘syndrome of post-colonial sequestration’, a term coined by the late Professor Fred Halliday.</span></p> <p>Halliday noted that various peoples have found, during moments of momentous historic change (the end of WW1, WW2, colonial withdraw) that if they were not able (due to bad luck, poor leadership or other circumstances) to obtain a state, then they may remain trapped until the next moment of opportunity. To understand their plight, he argued, it is important to be aware that the division of the world into today’s ‘nation states’ does not correspond to any fundamental principles of natural justice or historic entitlement. It is rather arbitrary and haphazard – the result of power politics, accidents, wars, state crises and hegemonic or colonial intervention. </p> <p>By way of moving beyond post-colonial sequestration, Halliday recommended these peoples to seek to establish democratic forms including federalism, which once consolidated could lead to discussion of all issues, including independence. Halliday focussed on the Palestinians and the Tibetans, making only passing reference to the Kurds, which I expand here with my primary focus on the Kurds in Iraq.</p> <h2><strong>The Kurds in Iraq</strong></h2> <p>The imposition of &nbsp;European-style ‘nation-states’ on the Middle East led to deeply divided societies due to the straight lines drawn across tribal lands on the map enclosed with the 1916 Asia Minor Agreement signed between Britain and France – otherwise known as the Sykes-Picot agreement. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/927px-MPK1-426_Sykes_Picot_Agreement_Map_signed_8_May_1916.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/927px-MPK1-426_Sykes_Picot_Agreement_Map_signed_8_May_1916.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Map of Sykes–Picot Agreement showing areas of control and influence agreed between the British and the French. Royal Geographical Society, 1910-15. Signed by Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot, 8 May 1916. Wikicommons/public domain.</span></span></span>In 1916 the British Navy converted from coal to oil, immediately elevating the Middle East into a new strategic scenario. Oil had been discovered in Persia in 1909 by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company and it was thought that the lands of Turkish Arabia also held promise. Following the invasion of Basra, occupation of Baghdad, and demise of the Ottoman Empire, the British took on the League of Nations Mandate for Iraq.&nbsp; </p><p>The Kurds seemed poised to obtain a homeland as stated in the Treaty of Sèvres (1920). However, with Turkey resurgent under the leadership of Kemal Ataturk, the subsequent Treaty of Lausanne (1923) omitted any reference to a Kurdish homeland. Instead the Kurds became constituted as a concentrated geographic minority in the three Ottoman successor states of Turkey, Iraq and Syria, as well as incorporated into the new dynasty of Pahlavi Iran. </p> <p>The Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq was given independence in 1932 with its potentially vast oil resources discovered in Kirkuk in 1927 under the control of the British controlled ‘Iraq Petroleum Company’. In their occupation of Iraq the British encountered major resistance from the Kurds in the north, both after the First World War and then during the Second World War when forces led by Mustafa Barzani (1903-1979) gained control of large parts of Erbil. RAF bombers were deployed causing the rebels to flee over the border into Iran. The Anglo-Soviet invasion and occupation of Iran in 1941 presented an opportunity for the Kurds to found the Mahabad Republic in 1946 under the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). </p> <p>Mustafa Barzani was a prominent general in this and thus his son, Masoud Barzani, was born under the Kurdish flag. However, the newly installed pro-British Shah crushed the nascent Kurdish republic causing Barzani and his followers to retreat over snow-covered mountains to the Soviet Union where they found sanctuary. Following the overthrow of the Iraqi monarch in 1958 Mustafa Barzani returned to Iraq following promises of Kurdish autonomy. But these did not materialize, and this led to the Iraqi-Kurdish war, 1961-70. The Ba’ath Party came to power in 1968 with Saddam Hussein the driving force. The 1970 Iraqi-Kurdish Autonomy Agreement offered meaningful autonomy on paper but it was not possible to find a solution to sharing oil revenues or resolving the status of Kirkuk, so it was never implemented. Instead, an Arabization programme around Kirkuk was instigated and Barzani and his peshmerga took up armed rebellion against the Baghdad government.&nbsp;</p> <p>A further aspect of the dynamic set in motion is that the state system created by external powers after the First World War provides ample opportunity for the regional states to play the Kurds in neighbouring states as a card against the state in which they reside. The Kurds also try and play one regional state off against each other. Different tribes or factions of Kurds (tribes, the KDP and PUK) will also do the same. On top of this, the Kurds are used as a pawn in the game of the external powers as they attempt to manipulate the Middle East to their advantage. <span class="mag-quote-center">On top of this, the Kurds are used as a pawn in the game of the external powers as they attempt to manipulate the Middle East to their advantage.</span></p> <p>A prime example of this was the mid-1970s when the Kurds were literally ‘sold down the river’ as part of a deal between Iraq and Iran on the Shatt al Arab waterway (the 1975 Algiers Agreement). Having played his Kurdish card, Saddam then proceeded to easily crush the Kurdish rebellion in the north of Iraq. Mustafa Barzani escaped to the United States where he died in 1979. During this time, based on differences in ideology and strategy, Jalal Talabani split off from Mustafa Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party and formed the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in 1975. Thus, an intense and sometimes blood rivalry was inaugurated within the Kurds of Iraq, with rival peshmerga forces bidding for exclusive control of territory in order to control resources and establish and maintain networks of patronage. </p> <p>Following Saddam’s invasion of Iran in 1980, Iraqi Kurds again found support in Iran under Khomeini to attack the military forces of the Ba’athist regime. There followed Saddam’s genocidal Anfal campaign in which thousands of Kurdish villages were destroyed and Barzani males aged 7-70 were killed in retribution. This culminated in the sarin and mustard gas attack on Halabja by Saddam’s cousin, Ali Hassan Al Majid, leaving 5000 dead. After Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the 1991 Gulf War, George H. Bush encouraged the Shia in the south and the Kurds in the north to rise up. When they did so, Saddam attacked them and the Kurds fled to the highest points of the peaks of the Zagros in affirmation of their enduring refrain, ‘no friends but the mountains’.</p><h2> </h2><h2><strong>No-fly zones, de facto autonomy and the Iraqi-Kurdish civil war</strong></h2> <p>Images in western media of Kurdish families huddled on the mountains to escape Saddam’s helicopter gunships led to the creation of a ‘no-fly zone’ in the northern part of Iraq. Saddam withdrew all governmental services from the Kurdistan Region and this erosion of the sovereignty of the Iraqi state allowed the Kurds to create two Kurdistan Regional Governments (KRG) formed by the KDP in Erbil and the PUK in Sulaimainiyah. </p> <p>This mirrored the dominance of the two main families and their associated political parties: the Barzanis and KDP in Erbil and Dohuk, and the Talibani and PUK in Sulaimaniyah and Kirkuk. The intense rivalry between these two families with their associated political parties and accompanying patronage networks over UN ‘oil-for-food’ revenues led to the Kurdish civil war in Iraq in the mid-1990s. </p> <p>In another twist of the ‘Kurdish card’ the KDP, facing defeat at the hands of the PUK, requested Saddam’s forces to enter Erbil to evict the militias of the PUK. Iraqi army tanks rolled in and in a couple of hours eliminated the Iraqi opposition which had been taking refuge there. The signing of the 1998 Washington Agreement committed Kurdish political parties to resolve their differences and act in a unified manner against Saddam. The September 11 attacks gave the perfect opportunity to implement regime change in Iraq, a long desired neo-con objective, which would allow access to the vast Iraqi oil reserves. Just as the British had eighty years earlier, the Americans then faced the task of building an administration that would cope with the fissiparous tendencies of Iraq’s deeply divided society.</p> <h2><strong>The Kurdistan region in federal Iraq</strong></h2> <p>For the Kurds, the US-led invasion was undoubtedly a liberation, as it sent their oppressor Saddam Hussein to the gallows and provided an opportunity to further develop their autonomy enshrined as a federal region in the 2005 constitution. A key question for the place of Kurdistan in federal Iraq is that posed by the ‘paradox of federalism’: that is, the paradox that the various measures of federal systems designed to alleviate tensions in deeply divided societies through allowing autonomy and facilitating power sharing – namely, regional government and control of resources – can at the same time serve as a ‘stepping stone’ to secession.</p> <p>The Iraqi Constitution contained a number of articles which addressed the highly contentious issue of the management of oil, many of which were contradictory and deliberately vague in order to allow the fractious negotiating parties to sign it. This included Articles 140 and 143 on Kirkuk which allowed for a referendum on its place in the new federal Iraq as well as including a mechanism to handle the process of Arabization that had taken place there. However, these measures were never implemented by the Baghdad government. </p> <p>As US combat forces withdrew from Iraq at the end of 2011, the unresolved issues in Iraq’s federal polity erupted in the warrant issued by the increasingly authoritarian Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki for the arrest of the Sunni Iraqi Vice-President, Tariq al-Hashimi, who fled to the Kurdistan Region. This was only the first indication of the approaching storm. <span class="mag-quote-center">The division of the world into today’s ‘nation states’ does not correspond to any fundamental principles of natural justice or historic entitlement.</span></p><p>In 2014 the ‘perfect storm’ hit the Kurdistan Region: global oil prices collapsed, the central government ceased payments to the KRG due to disputes over oil exports, and the Islamic State launched an offensive on the Kurdistan Region’s capital of Erbil , and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were given refuge in the Kurdistan Region. As they swept back into Iraq from Syria to occupy Mosul in June 2014, Islamic State celebrated their removal of the Sykes-Picot borders by dismantling the frontier checkpoints and declaring a new Caliphate. &nbsp; </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Verdrag-Sykes-Picot-IS.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Verdrag-Sykes-Picot-IS.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>ISIS celebrates takeover of Nineveh Province, saying the 'Sykes-Picot Borders' have been removed, June 11, 2014. Memri TV/Wikicommons.Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>Masoud Barzani reflected ruefully on how six divisions of the Iraqi army had <a href="http://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/4beb2f8d-956c-4182-b717-136cb90e7db2">‘melted like snow’</a> &nbsp;in the face of 1,500 fighters in pick-up trucks, stripping off their uniforms and abandoning state-of-the-art US military equipment to the Islamic State. In August 2014 the IS advance on Erbil was only stopped by Iranian and US airstrikes giving the Kurds time to regroup. As the Iraqi army crumbled Maliki asked Barzani to occupy oil-rich Kirkuk province and other disputed territories to prevent their capture by IS. Accordingly, Barzani’s KDP Peshmerga moved in, creating ‘facts-on-the-ground’ and occupying 95% of the so-called ‘disputed territories’.&nbsp; The Iraqi Security Forces reorganised under US tuition, recaptured Mosul in 2017 and reinstated the berm denoting the Syria-Iraq border. The question was would this also be the end of any chance for the Kurds of Iraq to redraw the Sykes-Picot borders? </p> <p>The international community has a ‘low appetite’ for secession as most states in the world are made up of different ethnic, religious or linguistic groups, so too frequent secession threatens the majority of the world’s states. </p> <p>As Ephraim Nimni points out, ‘nations that have states are only a small fraction of all nations, but we insist in associating nations with states and in regarding the majority of nations that are stateless as problematic or lacking something.’ The international community has instead preferred self-determination and autonomy to take place within existing state structures – through constitutional arrangements such as federalism, devolution, autonomy and other forms of power sharing. </p> <p>As a result, since 1945 there have been very few cases of secession. South Sudan is only the second state (after Eritrea) to complete secession in post-colonial Africa, gaining sovereignty with the consent of its former parent state, though only after a long and violent struggle. It has gone onto experience civil war and occupy the no.1 ranking in the failed states index. </p> <p>The 2008 recognition of Kosovo by mostly western states shows the political nature of upholding self-determination of peoples over the territorial integrity of states. For the western states, Kosovo’s recognition was partly based on earned ‘sovereignty’ by conforming to EU and US foreign policy agendas promoting democratic principles. This suggested that recognition could be awarded to entities that succeed in building effective democratic institutions. In 2006 Montenegro seceded from the Federation of Serbia and Montenegro in a peaceful, negotiated process following a referendum. Could a similar development happen in Iraq to end the curse of the Sykes-Picot borders for the Kurds?</p> <p>The rise of IS drew attention to the inability of the federal state of Iraq to protect its citizens, a powerful indication of failure. But looking back, the decade 2003-2013 is now seen almost as a ‘golden decade’ of high oil receipts for the Kurdistan Regional Government and an opportunity that was squandered through lack of accountability and rumoured corruption.&nbsp; </p> <p>Furthermore, the Kurdistan Region has a political and economic crisis. Masoud Barzani has exceeded his allowed term as President and the Kurdistan Region’s Parliament has been suspended for many months, although moves are afoot to reconvene it. The <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/hawre-hasan-hama/consequences-of-politicized-forces-in-kurdistan-region-of-iraq">Gorran party’s position</a> is that these issues must be resolved before any referendum on independence takes place. </p> <p>Economically, the KRG is billions of dollars in debt and unable to pay civil servants who make up 80% of the work force. For many Kurds, the struggle to make a living and have access to clean water and electricity is their most pressing concern. In this context, the charge has been made that President Barzani’s referendum is designed <a href="http://carnegieendowment.org/sada/72740">to distract from these issues</a> and garner nationalist legitimacy. </p> <p>Whilst there is a ‘no’ campaign the result is likely to be a ‘yes vote’ as, whilst they may not even be that impressed with the current Kurdish political elite, it seems the vast majority of Kurds in Iraq dream of an independent Kurdish state and to be able to hold a Kurdish passport as a symbol of identity. The Kurdistan Regional Government seeks to cut a deal with other groups living in Kurdistan – Arabs, Turkmen and Assyrian Christians –&nbsp; to persuade them they will be better off with the KRG than the Baghdad government.</p> <h2><strong>Farewell to Sykes-Picot?</strong></h2> <p>The Kurdistan Regional Government has made clear that with this referendum there is no intention to redraw all the border lines of the Middle East to create a Kurdish state, merely to define a border within the state of Iraq. </p> <p>Unsurprisingly, it has not won much in the way of overt international support or from the government of Iraq in Baghdad. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, argued that it was not the time for a referendum on independence and has received authorisation from Parliament to use all measures to prevent the referendum taking place.&nbsp; The Iranian government expressed opposition&nbsp; and the Turkish government has said that there ‘will be a price to pay’ for holding the referendum.&nbsp; Concerned that it would detract from the fight against IS, US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, called President Barzani to ask him to postpone the referendum which he declined to do. Furthermore, the United Nations and the European Union have made clear that they are unable to support the referendum unless invited by a sovereign state, that is the federal government in Baghdad. &nbsp;Only Israel has openly supported the idea of the KRG becoming an independent state. </p> <p>Given the absence of overt support either from the international or parent state level (the federal government in Baghdad) for an agreed secession from Iraq, the most likely outcome of the referendum is that a ‘yes vote’ will be used by the KRG in an attempt to leverage further autonomy and greater control of oil revenues through a greater degree of <a href="https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/gulf-and-arabian-peninsula/iraq/iraq-s-federalism-quandary">‘asymmetric federalism’</a> for the Kurdistan Region or some form of confederal arrangement.&nbsp; </p> <p>If this course is followed, then by pressing for the consolidation of their democratic rights within a federal or confederal constitution the Kurds would be following Halliday’s injunction to press for human rights and democracy within the states they find themselves.&nbsp; Similarly, the attempt of the Kurds in Syria to build new forms of democratic practice also represent an attempt to transcend the constraints of the centrally controlled ‘nation-states’ of the dominant Turkish, Arab or Persian ethnic group. </p> <p>Until now the Kurdish experience of the state in the modern Middle East has been largely one of authoritarian assimilation, denial of identity, military force and genocide. It is hardly surprising then that the Kurds in the states of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran should be at the forefront of exploring new forms of democratic experiment, including ones which seek to go beyond the unitary, centralized authoritarian states which have hitherto been dominant in the modern Middle East.&nbsp; </p> <p>The Kurds have without doubt suffered the pernicious effects of ‘the syndrome of post-colonial sequestration’. Perhaps the silver lining if there is one, is that, in the current period of momentous regional change in the Middle East, if the concept has analytical weight, the Kurds have the best opportunity for a long time to transcend the Sykes-Picot borders. Either in new forms of autonomy or an independent sovereign state, the Kurds could then attest to the world that the ‘syndrome of post-colonial sequestration’ is not after all incurable.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Further reading:</strong></p> <p>Michael Gunter, <em>A Modern History of the Kurds</em> (Markus Wiener, 2016)</p> <p>Francis Owtram, ‘The State We’re In: Post Colonial Sequestration and the Kurdish Quest for Independence Since the First World War’. In Michael Gunter (ed) <em>Routledge</em> <em>Handbook of Kurdish Studies</em> (Routledge, 2018)</p> <p>Francis Owtram, ‘Oil, the Kurds, and the Drive for Independence: an Ace in the Hole or Joker in the pack? In Alex Danilovich (ed) <em>Iraqi Kurdistan in Middle Eastern Politics</em> (Routledge, 2017)</p> <p>Francis Owtram, ‘The Kurdistan Region of Iraq and the Federal Constitution: A Perimeter Plinth of State Territorial Integrity or a Stepping Stone to Secession?’. In Gareth Stansfield and Mohammed Shareef (eds) <em>The Kurdish Question Revisited</em> (Hurst, 2017)</p> <p>Denise Natali, <em>The Kurds and the State: Evolving National Identity in Iraq, Turkey and Iran</em> (Syracuse University Press, 2005)</p><p>Ephraim Nimni, 'Stateless nations in a world of nation-states'. In Karl Cordell and Stefan Wolff (eds) Routledge Handbook of Ethnic Conflict (Routledge, 2013)</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/tibet-palestine-and-the-politics-of-failure">Tibet, Palestine and the politics of failure </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/behnam-amini/kurdish-struggles-and-challenge-of-foreign-support-case-of-syria">Kurdish struggles and the challenge of foreign support: the case of Syrian Kurds</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/zaid-al-ali-luay-al-khateeb/kurdish-referendum-iraq-kirkuk-kurdistan">The possible devastating outcome of a Kurdish referendum</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iran Turkey Syria Iraq Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics Francis Owtram Mon, 18 Sep 2017 07:40:33 +0000 Francis Owtram 113420 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Justice after ISIS: time for judicial triage https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/nadim-houry/justice-after-isis-time-for-judicial-triage <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The overwhelming reliance on a counterterrorism framework is showing its limits. Judges and local officials in Iraq and Syria are realizing that you cannot lock everyone up.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_9764 (2).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_9764 (2).jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Author interviewing local Tabqa residents after ISIS had been pushed out of city (July 2017) © Ole Solvang/Human Rights Watch. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The Raqqa Civilian Council building was full of people with complaints when I visited in July. The council, based in the Syrian town of `Ayn Issa, was set up in April to govern the areas in Raqqa province that US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are retaking from ISIS. A local sheikh had come to seek the release of a relative who the SDF had detained on suspicion of being an ISIS member. Another local man was upset that the SDF had not arrested his neighbor, who he says had joined ISIS and had used his association with them to confiscate some of the local man’s property.</p> <p>The scene that unfolded before me in rural Syria was not just about predictable local complaints. It illustrated a difficult policy question that runs all the way from the battlefields of Iraq and Syria through key international capitals: what should justice look like after ISIS? In other words, who should be prosecuted, by whom, and for what?</p> <p>The question is a complex one. While the imperative for justice is overwhelming, existing justice mechanisms are underwhelming. Sorting through and properly prosecuting the grave crimes committed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria would be a challenge for any well-resourced and fully functioning judiciary. Some of the challenges include the sheer number and types of crimes, the difficulty gathering evidence for crimes that took place in the chaos of war, and the inevitability of having to conduct these investigations in a highly politicized and polarized environment.</p> <p>For the judiciaries in Iraq and Syria – weak to begin with and now depleted by years of conflict and corruption – it is a nearly impossible task. And to make things worse, each of those countries has different judicial systems operating in various parts of the country that either do not cooperate or are openly hostile toward one another.</p> <h2><strong>Blunt instrument</strong></h2> <p>To face the challenge, the authorities in Iraq and Syria have opted to go with a blunt instrument. For the most part, they have relied on their counterterrorism laws and special counterterrorism courts to prosecute ISIS members as well as their suspected accomplices. An Iraqi judge at the Nineveh governorate’s counterterrorism court, which has jurisdiction over cases from the Mosul area, told Human Rights Watch recently that the court was working through about 2,000 cases involving people suspected of being ISIS members or affiliates. Across the border in Syria, the People’s Protection Court, a local court in charge of terrorism cases in the Democratic Union Party (PYD)-led autonomous administration in northern Syria, has handled more than 700 cases, a local judge told me last month.</p> <p>It is easy to see why counterterrorism laws appeal to prosecutors. They can lock people up for a long time simply by proving membership in ISIS or that someone materially assisted the group or its members, without having to prove they committed specific criminal acts. But these laws and the courts that apply them are too blunt for the challenge at hand. They do not sufficiently distinguish between ISIS members who may have committed rape or executions, and those who simply worked as traffic police. </p> <p>And the definition of assistance is so broad that it has been applied to large swathes of the population that lived under ISIS. For instance, the laws in force could penalize doctors who worked in ISIS-run hospitals, lawyers who participated in ISIS courts, local shop owners who sold food to ISIS or filled their cars with gas. This is not just a hypothetical; in the past two weeks, Iraq has <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/08/10/iraq-lawyers-arrested-work-isis-courts">issued arrest warrants</a> against at least 15 lawyers, apparently for the “crime” of practicing law in ISIS courts.</p> <h2><strong>Amnesty</strong></h2> <p>The overwhelming reliance on this counterterrorism framework is showing its limits. Judges and local officials in Iraq and Syria are realizing that you cannot lock everyone up. In June, the Raqqa Civilian Council pardoned 83 captured ISIS fighters whom it described as “low-ranking members without blood on their hands.” The council said that it was a goodwill gesture designed to promote stability and reconciliation.</p> <p>Iraq <a href="http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/08/general-amnesty-law-terrorism-national-reconciliation-iraq.html">passed a law in August 2016</a> that offers amnesty to anyone who joined ISIS or another extremist group against their will, and did not commit any serious offense such as torture, killing, or the use of explosives. The head of the Iraqi parliament’s legal committee, Mohsen al-Karkari, told Human Rights Watch during a meeting on February 7 that it was a roundabout way to limit the scope of Iraq’s wide-reaching counterterrorism law. According to the Iraqi Justice Ministry, authorities have <a href="http://www.moj.gov.iq/view.3010/">released 756 prisoners since the law was passed</a>.</p> <p>Amnesties may be a necessary correction to expedited and often flawed trials as well as overflowing prisons, but the overall process is not delivering justice. Several Raqqa residents told me that they feared that those who benefited from the June amnesty were not necessarily those with “clean hands” but rather those who had strong advocates among the key clans that the SDF is trying to accommodate to promote stability. <span class="mag-quote-center">Those who benefited from the June amnesty were not necessarily those with “clean hands” but rather those who had strong advocates among the key clans that the SDF is trying to accommodate to promote stability.</span></p> <p>In Iraq, the amnesty has failed to convince many judges or promote local reconciliation. A judge in the Nineveh counterterrorism court told Human Rights Watch that in his opinion those who supported ISIS even with the simplest actions like cooking, were as culpable as the fighters, and that he had no interest in claims from defendants that they joined the group against their will.</p> <h2><strong>Accountability for specific acts</strong></h2> <p>It is time to recognize that the overreliance on counterterrorism laws and courts to judge acts conducted during ISIS rule is producing a failed outcome. What is needed is to apply the judicial equivalent of medical triage: prioritize the prosecution of serious crimes and explore alternative avenues to address lesser crimes. Authorities in Iraq and Syria should concentrate their limited judicial resources on investigating the gravest crimes committed by ISIS members. They should encourage victims to participate in such proceedings. Terrorism charges can still be relied on when appropriate but it will be essential to investigate and prosecute serious underlying crimes such as rape, execution, and kidnapping, to establish accountability for specific acts, and to provide victims with a sense of justice for the crimes committed against them.</p> <p>Given the scale and nature of crimes committed by ISIS, efforts to introduce international crimes, such as war crimes and crimes against humanity, into Iraqi and Syrian law should be a priority so that these crimes can be properly prosecuted. Without proper international support and political backing, it is doubtful that Iraqi and Syrian courts would be able to successfully prosecute such cases. <span class="mag-quote-center">Authorities in Iraq and Syria should concentrate their limited judicial resources on investigating the gravest crimes committed by ISIS members. They should encourage victims to participate.</span></p> <p>For lesser crimes, notably nonviolent crimes, alternatives to criminal prosecution are needed. The intent is not to sweep certain crimes under the rug but rather to seek alternative ways, such as financial compensation to victims, public apologies, and property restitution to promote victims’ rights and ensure reconciliation. Justice and the notion of triage do not always sit well together but given the actual judicial options and resources available, it would be a vast improvement over the current approach.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/nadim-houry/making-local-ceasefires-work-in-syria">Making local ceasefires work in Syria</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/nadim-houry/breaking-france-s-addiction-to-its-state-of-emergency">Breaking France’s addiction to its state of emergency</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia Syria Iraq Nadim Houry Fri, 25 Aug 2017 07:04:48 +0000 Nadim Houry 112976 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Kurdistan referendum: why now is the wrong time https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/kavar-kurda/kurdistan-referendum-barzani-iraq-kurdish <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It appears that the referendum is arguably nothing more than a bargaining chip used by President Barzani, whilst also covering itself as a clever ploy to lull the suffering Kurdish population away from the on-going problems.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-32274377.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Suhaib Salem/Reuters/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-32274377.jpg" alt="Suhaib Salem/Reuters/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="Suhaib Salem/Reuters/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="292" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A member of Kurdish security forces stands guard in Sinjar region, Iraq August 2, 2017. Suhaib Salem/Reuters/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Numbering around 40 million, Kurds hold the infamous title as the largest ethnic group in the world without a country. Split between Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey, and with sizable diasporas around the world, one set of Kurds seem to be closer to achieving the long elusive goal of independence.</p><p dir="ltr">Since 1991 the Kurds in Iraq have operated under de-facto autonomy. However, Iraqi Kurdistan, revered across the world for its bravery and supposed secularism in an unstable region, is now subject to a never-ending list of problems.</p><p dir="ltr">Nevertheless, that has not stopped President Masood Barzani from calling a referendum to secede from Iraq. Whilst, undeniably, this is the moment all Kurds have been dreaming for, such drastic actions could prove disastrous and damage everything the Kurds have laboured for strenuously up till now.</p><p dir="ltr">Post 2003, oil-rich Iraqi Kurdistan underwent an economic boom, drawing in investors all over the world. With ostentatious buildings under construction, an increasing tourism sector, and the erection of democratic structures, Kurdistan’s future looked bright and prosperous.</p><p dir="ltr">However, since the arrival of ISIS, the region has suffered a massive influx of refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs), complicating things for the small 5 million population of the area. Bearing in mind the rapidly increasing food prices, power cuts and constant demonstrations, there is no denying the cataclysmic disarray across the blemished region.</p><p dir="ltr">This dire situation is amplified as economic mismanagement and corruption are treated with impunity. Iraqis considered one of the most corrupt countries in the world, with Kurdistan arguably sharing a brunt of the blame. Thousands of <a href="http://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/09032017">ghost workers</a> across the region are an example of this corruption.</p><p dir="ltr">Moreover, for several months, the government has <a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/economic-crisis-leader-iraqi-kurdistan-government-pay-partial-salaries-1168845275">failed to pay</a> the salaries of workers, including the valiant Peshmerga (the Kurdish army). Not only has this led to mass social unrest, it has also left the people with low morale and apathy. Coupled with the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/03/what-s-behind-the-drop-in-oil-prices">drop in oil-prices</a>, an unwillingness for Baghdad to allocate funds to the region and an outstanding <a href="https://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21701773-despite-string-military-successes-kurds-are-nowhere-near">$20 billion debt</a>, Kurdistan is not the bubbling metropolis it was once set out to be.</p><p dir="ltr">Considering these inapt circumstances, one must really question how the Kurds intend on funding such a costly project with an already broken economy and minimal funds?</p><p dir="ltr">Since 2013, not only has President Barzani unlawfully extended his premiership, but the Kurdish parliament has also been <a href="http://ekurd.net/referendum-kurdistan-parliaments-2017-07-12">dissolved</a>, making any mandate to push forth a referendum ultimately undemocratic.</p><p dir="ltr">To make matters worse, the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has been at constant odds with the opposing Change Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The inability for the parties to cooperate functionally in unity poses serious questions for stability in the region in any scenario of independence, with their Peshmerga already infamously divided. </p><p dir="ltr">On top of the fact that there are currently a number of <a href="http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/pt/originals/2017/07/kurdish-referendum-disputed-areas-iraq.html">disputed areas</a> between the Iraqi central government and the Kurdish government making things even more problematic, the only country who has openly showed actual support for Kurdish secession is Israel.</p><p dir="ltr">Whilst any ally would be welcomed, in the Middle East, such partnership could be disastrous on how the Kurds are further perceived by their hostile borders.</p><p dir="ltr">Seceding from Iraq in any case, would have to be done in an amicable case. But with constant quarrels between the two and Baghdad previously <a href="http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/tr/business/2014/05/iraq-kurdistan-region-budget-dispute-economic-effects.html">refusing</a> to pay Kurdistan’s constitutional allocated budget, this will be difficult. This does not bode well for the Kurds’ future, if we bear in mind the fierce opposition from numerous other Shia and Sunni groups.</p><p dir="ltr">With minimal allies in a country where sectarianism is rife, the likelihood of Kurds splitting in such a delicate time is only more likely to separate the country and bring about more conflict.</p><p dir="ltr">The Shia dominated government has constantly been accused of <a href="http://carnegie-mec.org/2016/03/03/sunni-predicament-in-iraq-pub-62924">repressing</a> the Sunni minority and now reports of Feyli Kurds in Baghdad being <a href="http://www.rudaw.net/mobile/english/kurdistan/130820174">attacked</a> also make this referendum that much more sensitive.</p><p dir="ltr">Beyond this, with mixed communities in disputed areas and Hashd Al-Shabi only gaining more fervour and dominance across the country, the likelihood of more conflict once ISIS disappears is only stronger, and likely to encourage other minorities in the area to rebel.</p><p dir="ltr">Beyond these barriers stand the border countries of Turkey, Iran and Syria. All countries have a sizable Kurdish population and have a long history of oppressing Kurds. All three are also adamant in Iraq’s borders remaining intact. The reason being that the successful independence of Iraqi Kurdistan will diffuse to other regions, causing revolts and instability.</p><p dir="ltr">Added to the fact that the Syrian war has also been favourable for Kurds in Syria, the two major powers of Turkey and Iran both have reasonable fears. President Erdogan <a href="https://www.dailysabah.com/diplomacy/2017/06/14/turkey-says-krg-independence-vote-threatens-iraqs-territorial-integrity">stated</a> that the referendum “is a threat to the territorial integrity of Iraq and is a wrong step”.</p><p dir="ltr">Whilst in the same vein, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has highlighted opposition, <a href="http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/en/originals/2017/06/iran-opposition-iraqi-kurdistan-krg-independence-referendum.html">arguing</a> that the Kurdish referendum is “opposed to the independence and identity of Iraq”.</p><p dir="ltr">With the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) also <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2017/08/tensions-build-iraq-iran-border-170803075834091.html">stepping up attacks</a> on military personnel in Turkey and Iran, any possibility of Kurdish secession is a major danger to them.</p><p dir="ltr">Nevertheless, both are Kurdistan’s biggest trade partners, and in the event of an unwanted secession both Turkey and Iran have the option of blockading the region and ending all trade, leaving a premature naive Kurdistan starved and suffocated, with no means to build its utopia.</p><p dir="ltr">The Kurdistan region has more problems it can count and independence certainly won’t solve any of those, but rather blow them up. Beyond that, all the border countries are clearly opposed to any referendum and the USA has also shown <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/iraq-kurdish-independence-syria-us-delay-tillerson-a7893486.html?am">opposition</a>, highlighting that international support is also limited.</p><p dir="ltr">In any case, it appears that the referendum is arguably nothing more than a bargaining chip used by President Barzani against the Iraqi central government, whilst also covering itself as a clever ploy to lull the suffering Kurdish population away from the on-going problems.</p><p dir="ltr">Whilst the Kurds have undoubtedly suffered and every nation has the right to self-determination, now is the wrong time for such deluded fantasies. Considered a beacon of light by some in a tarnished region, this could very quickly go sour and mimic the failed South Sudan.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/zaid-al-ali-luay-al-khateeb/kurdish-referendum-iraq-kirkuk-kurdistan">The possible devastating outcome of a Kurdish referendum</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iraq Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics Kurds Kurdistan referendum Kavar Kurda Thu, 17 Aug 2017 11:39:35 +0000 Kavar Kurda 112893 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iraq after ISIS: continued conflict or rebuilding beyond ethno-sectarian identities? https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/andrea-teti-pamela-abbott-munqith-daghir/iraq-after-isis-continued-conflict-o <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Ignoring priorities that have popular support in Iraq risks undermining post-ISIS attempts to build a stable country, with knock-on effects at a regional level.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-32005258_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-32005258_0.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>An Iraqi soldier talks with civilians waiting to be evacuated in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq, on July 10, 2017. Khalil Dawood/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>As the defeat of ISIS/Daesh looms large both in Syria and in Iraq, attention turns to post-ISIS settlements: while in Syria the Assad regime seems set to remain in power with Russian support, how Iraq’s diverse political forces – which mostly self-identify along Shi’a, Kurdish, and Sunni lines – will address the deep divisions highlighted by ISIS’ rise to prominence remains a more open question.</p> <p class="Body">Post-ISIS nation-building will certainly require negotiation between political elites, most of which ground their legitimacy in sectarian identity, but the long-term stability of any settlement they reach depends crucially on their ability to address popular priorities and national (non-sectarian) interests. </p> <p class="Body">However, recent evidence from <a href="http://www.arabtrans.eu/work-packages/">nationwide public opinion surveys</a> shows that these priorities are not always determined by ‘identity’, as is often assumed, but are often shared across communities. For example, data suggests that in crucial areas, including security, people’s location is at least as important as identity, and that people want stability, jobs, decent services, and an end to corruption whatever their ethno-religious identity. <span class="mag-quote-center">People’s location is at least as important as identity... people want stability, jobs, decent services, and an end to corruption.</span></p> <p class="Body">Basing either domestic politics in Iraq or foreign policy towards it on ‘identitarian’ assumptions is likely to miss popular demands and priorities. Indeed, the fact that people’s concerns are not determined by their identity alone provides an opportunity to forge a socially, economically, and politically inclusive post-conflict settlement. The divisive consequences of both Saddam Hussein’s ‘Sunni-centric’ regime and the ‘Shi’a-centric’ central government which emerged in the wake of US-led regime change provide cautionary tales about the price of failing to find such an inclusive settlement, both at home and abroad.</p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Inclusive growth</strong></h2> <p class="Body">The Arab Transformations Survey, the latest empirical information from nationwide public opinion survey dates from June 2014, just before the fall of Mosul, and covers Iraq plus five other countries – Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. In 2014 Iraqis saw internal security and the economy as the two greatest challenges facing their country, with corruption a close third. More extensive analysis of the data suggests that for some time concerns about security have been common across the sectarian divide and higher in the central than the other regions. It also suggests that Sunnis are more concerned about totalitarianism than Shi’ites though in all regions many more people are concerned about corruption, internal security and/or the economic situation than consider authoritarianism a major challenge in their country. How such concerns will have been affected by the experience of ISIS occupation remains to be seen, particularly in ISIS-occupied areas.</p> <p class="Body">In 2014, people across Iraq were pessimistic about the country’s economic predicament and dissatisfied with prospects for its development. In no group or region did more than about 40 per cent of respondents expressed confidence in the future of the economy, but dissatisfaction was particularly high in the case of Sunnis, both in the Kurdish-majority northern areas and in the centre. Beyond regional or ethno-religious differences, however, such markedly low levels of satisfaction signal the urgent need for inclusive development nationwide.</p> <p class="Body">Regional and ethno-religious differences are important, but what is more important than variations between such areas and identity groups is that a considerable majority of the population nationwide were unhappy with the country’s economic performance and lacked confidence in the federal government’s work to improve it. While certainly posing a challenging political task, this dissatisfaction emphasises the importance of an inclusive post-ISIS economic settlement. The long-term stability of any political settlement must be underpinned by growth that is – and is perceived to be – inclusive across regional and sectarian lines. </p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Corruption</strong></h2> <p class="Body">Corruption is perceived as pervasive: between 88 and 98 per cent identify it as a problem regardless of regional location or religion. Indeed, for half of respondents nationwide it was corruption which motivated them to support or take part in protests during the 2010-11 Arab Uprisings, followed by economic factors (demand for improved basic services 43%; economic problems 30%) and political factors (demanding more political freedom 25%; opposition to authoritarian leader, 23%). By contrast, even the highest levels of confidence that government will work towards tackling corruption – among Shi’ites in the Central and Southern regions, at 50 per cent and 40 per cent respectively – remain troublingly low. </p> <p class="Body">While politically sensitive and practically complex, tackling corruption is likely to both boost economic growth and generate considerable legitimation for the federal government and the political forces supporting it. </p> <p class="Body">Few social or political institutions command much trust in Iraq, often including religious leaders. However, the demand for an inclusive, representative government remains strong, providing opportunities for stable long-term solutions to Iraq’s problems. Trust in central government<strong> </strong>varies significantly along both sectarian and regional lines but is low nationwide, being highest among Shi’ites in the Central Region (32% ) and the South (37%) compared to at most half these levels for Sunnis in other regions. </p> <p class="Body">Low levels of trust in political leaders, however, do not translate into a lack of confidence in an inclusive form of government. Iraqis clearly favour a parliamentary form of government in which all parties – religious and secular, right and left – take part (91% among Southern Shi’ites, 83% among both Central Shi’ites and Northern Sunnis). Despite the comparatively significant drop, a clear majority of Central Sunnis (64%) still also favoured such a system. </p> <p class="Body">These data highlight the problems of central regions but also show that despite the intense and complex problems Iraq faces and the difficulty of reaching a negotiated compromise, a politically and economically fair and inclusive settlement would be well received by Iraqis of all religions and in all regions and would improve social, economic, and political resilience. </p> <p class="Body">Even before the ISIS take-over of Mosul respondents nationwide were concerned about violence: two thirds or more worried about war, terrorism, civil war, and sectarian violence. In any post-ISIS scenario, government must both ensure security <em>and </em>gain the people’s trust. <span class="mag-quote-center">In any post-ISIS scenario, government must both ensure security&nbsp;and&nbsp;gain the people’s trust.</span></p> <p class="Body">Iraq’s problems and politics are often viewed through sectarian lenses. However, nationwide public opinion survey data challenges received notions about the relative weight of sectarian identity in explaining respondents’ perceptions of key social, economic, and political issues. These regional variations point to the crucial importance of local conditions <em>alongside </em>identity.</p> <p class="Body">This has significant implications for post-ISIS nation-building in Iraq: it is not just ‘identity’ which politicians must represent, but people’s interests. In particular, for any negotiated settlement to be stable in the long term it must address popular demands for both economic and political inclusion. Herein lies both a challenge to conventional ways of perceiving Iraqi politics and an opportunity – if it can be grasped – to build bridges across sectarian lines.</p> <p class="Body">&nbsp;</p> <p class="Body"><em>See the full briefing <em>in <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/315797280_Iraq_After_ISIS_Continued_Conflict_or_Rebuilding_Beyond_Ethno-Sectarian_Identity_Arab_Transformations_Policy_Brief_No_7">The Arab Transformations Policy Briefs. No.7</a> from </em>the University of Aberdeen. The research on which the article is based was funded by the European Union under FP7.</em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia Iraq Conflict Economics International politics Munqith Dagher Pamela Abbott Andrea Teti Sat, 12 Aug 2017 13:13:44 +0000 Andrea Teti, Pamela Abbott and Munqith Dagher 112829 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The possible devastating outcome of a Kurdish referendum https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/zaid-al-ali-luay-al-khateeb/kurdish-referendum-iraq-kirkuk-kurdistan <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An attempt to establish a Kurdish state including Kirkuk is likely to result in a truncated and economically devastated mini-Kurdistan.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-30365446.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Xinhua/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-30365446.jpg" alt="Xinhua/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved." title="Xinhua/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kurdish soldiers stand at the gate of an oil pumping station in western Kirkuk province in Iraq, on March 2, 2017. The outflow of oil from Iraq's Kirkuk oil field stopped Thursday after Kurdish forces entered a Baghdad government-owned pumping station near the city of Kirkuk and prevented workers from pumping oil, an Iraqi oil official told Xinhua. Xinhua/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is planning for a referendum to separate from Iraq later this year. This could easily lead to further ruin for ordinary people. </p><p>As both sides to the dispute push forward with increasing amounts of hubris, policy makers and observers should reflect on both the causes and the risks of the current trajectory.&nbsp;</p> <p>As is often the case in Iraq, this particular crisis could easily have been avoided if only the country’s political class had been capable of being slightly more mature. Instead, both sides suffer from a tendency to overreach and unhealthily rely on <a href="https://www.amazon.com/End-Iraq-American-Incompetence-Created/dp/0743294246/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1497970009&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=peter+galbraith+end+of+iraq">external advisors</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Control over oil resources is at the center of the dispute. Prior to 2003, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) – which is led by the current president of the Kurdistan Region, Masoud Barzani – had a modest ambition: its main demand was merely that oil and gas revenues should be shared equally by Baghdad. That position was reflected in a draft constitution that the KDP prepared in 2002, and which represented what it then considered to be its maximalist position. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong class="mag-quote-right">it is precisely that tendency to compare itself to wealthy, democratic and stable western democracies that is causing the KRG to overreach once again</strong></p> <p>After the US-led invasion however, Erbil received advice from foreign parties that it should be solely responsible for exploiting its own resources, regardless of what the rest of the country thought. </p><p>Some of those advisers have since benefited handsomely. Never having revealed at the time that they had acquired a&nbsp;<span><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/12/world/middleeast/12galbraith.html">financial stake</a></span>&nbsp;in oil fields, they needed their advice to be adopted to reap their financial rewards. &nbsp;</p><p>The KRG’s negotiators followed through and exploited the chaos surrounding the 2005 constitutional drafting process to introduce their newly preferred wording in the draft constitution.&nbsp;</p> <p>In what soon became a notorious turn of phrase, Article 112 of the final constitution stated that “current fields” are to be managed jointly by Baghdad and the regions, the implication being that ‘new fields’ would be managed solely by the regions.&nbsp;</p> <p>That strategy was supposed to introduce a period of glory, but instead it has contributed to political and economic ruin. Article 112 was nothing less than a poison pill: as the Kurds (and Americans) in the constitutional drafting chamber were well aware, the provision was introduced without the full understanding of the rest of the negotiators let alone of those people who were not in the chamber whatsoever.</p> <p>Baghdad’s position was and has always been that oil policy should be centralized so as to extract a maximum price for its oil resources. Despite the fact that the constitution was approved by 80 percent of voters in the 2005 referendum, Baghdad was never likely to accept Erbil's interpretation, which meant that a conflict was inevitable.&nbsp;</p> <p>In the first years after the new constitution entered into force,&nbsp;oil prices were at US$65, which translated into a huge bonanza for everyone. Every year, Baghdad transferred a very significant portion of a historically high federal budget to Erbil. Almost no questions were asked on how that money was spent and no significant efforts were ever made to audit the KRG’s accounts. &nbsp;</p> <p>Record numbers of tourists from the rest of Iraq were travelling to Kurdistan, which translated into a huge transfer of money to Kurdish businesses. </p><p>Meanwhile, the KRG commissioned a number of international oil companies to begin exploiting oil resources in accordance with its interpretation of Article 112. Some of the oil was sold locally, and some was exported via trucks. Baghdad was willing to turn a blind eye to that practice so long as it remained informal. &nbsp;</p> <p>Kurdistan’s economic boom was short lived. In late 2013, the KRG inaugurated a pipeline to carry oil exports through Turkey. Baghdad’s international oil policy was being undermined by what it considered to be the emergence of a rival oil producer within its own borders. </p> <p>In response, Baghdad refused to transfer the KRG’s share of the federal budget so long as it pursued its own independent oil policy. The KRG’s references to Article 112 left Baghdad unmoved. To make matters worse, Iraqi tourists dried up after ISIS’ invasion of Mosul, and even oil prices&nbsp;dropped by close to two-thirds.&nbsp;</p> <p>The KRG has since kept to its guns, but the economic cost has been huge. The KRG is now up to <a href="https://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21701773-despite-string-military-successes-kurds-are-nowhere-near">US$30 billion in debt</a>, public universities are closed, the KRG is unable to pay its foreign investors and has been on the losing side of an increasing number of commercial arbitration cases. Poverty and economic migration have increased dramatically.&nbsp;</p> <p>In the meantime, the KRG’s political institutions have all but collapsed: the KRG’s regional president is refusing to step down from his position despite the fact that his legal term expired years ago (first in 2013 and then in 2015 when a&nbsp;<span><a href="https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/kurdistans-slow-rolling-coup-detat/">two year extension expired</a></span>), the parliament was suspended in 2015 after an opposition group grew too critical, the region’s security forces (the Peshmerga) remain as divided as they were decades ago, and the regional budget is not subject to any meaningful auditing process.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong class="mag-quote-left">The KRG’s constitutional negotiation strategy was supposed to introduce a period of glory, but instead it has contributed to political and economic ruin.&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>The KRG desperately needs a solution to this ongoing crisis (far more than Baghdad does), and it has very few good options. </p><p>Its proposed solution is to proceed to a referendum on Kurdish independence, a course that has once again been recommended by <a href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/06/15/masoud-barzani-why-its-time-for-kurdish-independence/">foreign advisers</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Some have equated the Kurds’ aspirations to past and current attempts at achieving independence in <span><a href="http://www.rudaw.net/english/opinion/160620171">Quebec, Catalonia and Scotland</a></span>. </p><p>But it is precisely that tendency to compare itself to wealthy, democratic and stable western democracies that is causing the Kurds to overreach again.&nbsp;</p> <p>Barzani has said that the independence referendum is designed to free Kurdistan from “<span><a href="oppression and occupation">oppression and occupation</a></span>” but it is unclear how an independence referendum could lead to more freedom for ordinary Kurds.&nbsp; </p><p>Credible international financial institutions will not offer a future Kurdish state any relief from its current debt, considering that the Kurdish government has no books that can be audited.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Worse, security is extremely likely to deteriorate for the KRG. The future Kurdish state that the KRG hopes to establish includes Kirkuk, which is religiously and ethnically mixed, as well as areas that have been emptied of their populations since the start of the war with ISIS in 2014. &nbsp;</p> <p>Not only will a referendum be close to impossible to organize in those areas, but Baghdad will never relinquish sovereignty over Kirkuk, which means that violence is inevitable.&nbsp;</p> <p>The KRG cannot possibly hope to match the resources that are at Baghdad’s disposal, and no one is likely to come to the KRG’s aid when a conflict eventually breaks out (Turkey and Iran have already aggressively opposed the decision to hold a referendum).</p> <p>The KRG’s internal divisions are also likely to worsen as resources decline. Another internecine round of fighting between the region’s various actors could easily break out (the first having occurred in the 1990s).&nbsp; </p> <p>The final outcome of an attempt to establish a Kurdish state including Kirkuk is likely to be a truncated and economically devastated mini-Kurdistan, with internal borders separating family run political parties from each other.&nbsp;</p> <p>A Kurdish referendum could also lead to divisions within the rest of Iraq, including the establishment of an anarchic Shia state in the south, and a rogue Sunni state in the west. In current circumstances, comparisons with Quebec and Scotland appear obscene at best. A comparison with&nbsp;<span><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/39107125">South Sudan</a></span>&nbsp;appears far more appropriate.&nbsp;</p> <p>The KRG should seriously reconsider its position in favor of an outcome that at the very least will avoid conflict. A clear option would be for it to insist, as a condition for suspending the plan to hold a referendum, on the establishment of a federal mechanism through which all parties administer, market and sell oil internationally, as well as a second mechanism that will guarantee the equitable distribution of financial resources. &nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, Kirkuk’s future should be negotiated and based on compromise: its population is far too divided to allow for a simple majority outcome to determine its future.&nbsp;Many parties have argued that it should be reestablished as its own federal region. That option should be seriously explored as a possible peaceful solution to the ongoing crisis.&nbsp; </p> <p>In a region where tensions are high and arms are in abundance, negotiated solutions are preferred not because they necessarily satisfy everyone, but because they can avoid conflict. &nbsp;</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Turkey Iran Iraq Conflict Democracy and government Economics Geopolitics Luay al-Khateeb Zaid Al-Ali Fri, 04 Aug 2017 10:39:07 +0000 Zaid Al-Ali and Luay al-Khateeb 112297 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Race to the sea: Qatar and the balance of power in the Middle East https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/khairuldeen-al-makhzoomi-adel-albdeewy/qatar-MiddleEast-power-US-SaudiArabia-Iran-Turkey-Egypt-GCC-gulf <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If the Qatari crisis is not managed rationally, then it is likely to compound the present risks in the regional balance of power, with consequences for all states in the region.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-32014647.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="State Department/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-32014647.jpg" alt="State Department/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved." title="State Department/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a bilateral meeting with the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah at Dar Salwa July 10, 2017 in Kuwait. Tillerson is meeting leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council in an attempt to end the isolation of fellow member Qatar by a Saudi led coalition. State Department/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The Qatari crisis is no passing issue in the strategic alignment of forces in the Middle East with three main axes competing for regional hegemony. The three main axes in the region, led by Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are likely to express their goals and interests differently, leading to increased competition and dispute.</p> <p>The main goal of each of the axes is the containment of the others, including the more-or-less non-aligned states such as Iraq. If the Qatari crisis is not managed rationally, then it is likely to compound the present risks in the regional balance of power, with consequences for all states in the region.</p> <h2>The three axes</h2> <p>The first of these axes consists of Iran and Syria, as well as non-state actors such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and forces affiliated with the Popular Mobilization Units in Iraq. Iran is the main directing and controlling force in this axis, supported politically, economically and militarily by the Russian Federation. </p> <p>The second axis consists of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Yemen (under the leadership of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi), in addition to some non-state actors such as Jaysh al-Islam (Islamic Front). However, Saudi Arabia is the main force in this axis with Egypt as the second pillar. Unlike the prior group, this axis is supported by the United States of America. </p> <p>The third axis is perhaps the most complex and most embroiled by the recent crisis of diplomatic relations in the region; it is composed of Turkey, Qatar and several non-state actors such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and various radical Takfiri salafist groups. In a recent speech by Dr. Anwar Gargash at Chatham House, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs made the connection between Qatar and the radical Takfiri salafist groups more clear: “The US State Department [has] said openly in its 2015 country terrorism report that ‘entities and individuals within Qatar’ had financed Al-Nusra,” a regional affiliate of Al-Qaeda. He further noted that, “In Libya, Qatar has supported the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and Ansar ashSharia. In fact, Qatar’s go-between with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group is now-head of the Qatari special forces.”</p> <p>Although Turkey is a major regional power, leadership in its axis is rotated with Qatar as a result of a comparative advantage between each country in different aspects of leadership; Turkey with its military-human surplus is matched by Qatari finances to form the current integrated leadership structure. This axis is similar in many ways to the Saudi Arabia-Egypt bloc, as they are both supported by the United States and also part of the Sunni world of Islam.</p> <h2>Criss-crossing alliances</h2> <p>Although each of the three main axes in the Middle East have their own interests and goals, this has not stopped cooperation and engagement across blocs on certain issues. Recent examples of reciprocity have occurred primarily between the first axis (Iran) and the third (Turkey), notably facilitated by the increasing engagement of Russia with both parties on Middle East issues from Syria and the Kurds to economic relations.</p> <p>The Iranian - Turkish rapprochement, in particular, has figured prominently in many geopolitical issues yet to be resolved in the region, such as the fight against terrorism, the Kurdish Independence Referendum - just recently both Turkey and Iran warned against such a vote, and international efforts to ease the war in Syria.</p> <p>As for the Iranian - Qatari rapprochement, recent resolutions have covered interests from energy and military operations to foodstuffs, the most important being the management and sharing of the world’s largest gas field. </p> <p>Meanwhile, in the face of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) blockade that banned Qatari planes from their airspace, Iran opened its maritime and airspace and also supplied food to Qatar. In both instances, the Iranian-Qatari rapprochement has had ramifications for the wider web of relations in the region.</p> <p>The recent warming of relations between Turkey - Qatar and Iran has highlighted the differences and contradictions between the goals of these two axes and that of Saudi Arabia. Despite mutual American support and common Islamic affiliation, both Saudi Arabia and Turkey have fundamentally different visions and objectives towards Qatar and Iran.</p> <h2>United States' serious dilemma</h2> <p>The United States is particularly aware of the consequences of an exacerbation of the conflict between its primary partners in the region, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. American options are hamstrung in this quarrel among allies. </p> <p>To abandon Qatar in such a crisis would be damaging both for the loss of an important pillar in the Middle East and the opportunity it would provide to the Russians looking to reach warm waters. And the United States is aware that Qatar, with the help of Russia, Turkey and Iran, is capable of creating a gas monopoly with consequences for global economic growth.</p> <p>The bigger picture here is that an exacerbation of an inter-ally conflict could result in the disintegration of US-led alliance in the region into two discrete groups, one of them being (the Muslim brotherhood) with Qatari capital and Turkish manpower and the other (Wahhabi) with Saudi capital and Egyptian manpower.</p> <p>In the eyes of the US State Department, any threat to GCC security is a threat to US national interest. Gulf security is a long standing part of American national security since President Jimmy Carter, who outlined in his 1980 State of the Union Address: </p> <blockquote><p>“An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.” </p></blockquote> <p>Given the US position, American policy planners are watching the events in the Gulf anxiously, particularly as it relates to Iraq.</p> <p>Managing the inter-ally Qatari crisis has therefore put the United States in a serious dilemma, since strong action in favor of either side must be weighed against repercussions for the 10,000 American personnel in Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base, the largest US military base in the Middle East. </p> <h2>Iraq geopolitics </h2> <p>Iraq is located in the middle of the three axes: Iran from the east, Saudi Arabia from the south-west, and Turkey from the north. In the face of competition and heated conflict between these axes, Iraq is in both a position of weakness and strength, with both threats and opportunities in consideration. </p> <p>The recent destruction of the country is at odds with its historic centrality to the region, making it both a prized possession and a vulnerable partner to each axis. All three axes are looking for influence in Iraq. And based on their collective geo-strategic perspectives, Iraq can function as both a crucial client state and buffer zone.</p> <p>In an interview with former Ambassador Alberto Fernandez, President of the Middle East Broadcasting Networks at Broadcasting Board of Governors, he outlined the needs of the Iraqi state in the near future. </p> <blockquote><p>“The key is to strengthen the institutional integrity and efficiency of the Iraqi state, all of its institutions and its appeal to all of its citizens. Strengthening Iraq as a government and as a society makes the interference of hostile foreign powers more difficult.”</p></blockquote> <p>The reality is that there is a crucial window following the liberation of Mosul to consolidate gains and tighten control over Iraq. Competition for influence in Iraq threatens to carve the nation along sectarian, ideological, and material lines. The fragile national unity faces its greatest challenge if Saudi Arabia and Iran enter a zero sum game for influence. The brunt of their proxy war is likely to fall squarely on Iraq and its people.</p> <p>The US is concerned that Iran will go on the political offensive in Iraq. With the liberation of Mosul, Iran may well conclude that it no longer benefits from any US presence in Iraq. Iran has a vast array of means to exert pressure on the main Iraqi political decision makers, especially through its non-state actors. In addition, Iran’s strategic and historical relations with Shiite political forces gives it a foothold to direct the Iraqi people towards its own bloc. </p> <p>As for Saudi Arabia, the country has its own means of keeping Iraq from aligning too closely with Iran. The kingdom could passively refrain from supporting the reconstruction of the liberated areas, or actively support groups and parties intent on destabilizing the peace and impeding the political process in Iraq. More broadly, the Saudis may pressure other countries of the Arab and Islamic world against providing support to Iraq. </p> <p>Finally, Turkey also possesses the means of exerting pressure in the Iraqi political arena. The Ataturk Dam on the Euphrates River, one of the largest in the world, is owned by Turkey. </p> <p>Last year The New York Times reported on a story, “Turkish Dam Project Threatens to Submerge Thousands of Years of History,” that discussed the near completion of several Turkish dam projects, in particular the Ilisu Dam. The consequences for water levels in parts of Iraq appear to be significant, with marshes drying and the agricultural industry as a whole declining. Using water as a political card may play in Turkey’s favor with Iraq. </p> <p>Similarly, Turkey may use the Kurdish issue and its bloc’s ties with Massoud Barzani, President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, to its advantage vis-a-vis Iraq. Barzani's demands for independence may be pushed by both Qatar and Turkey. Although Turkey is opposed to Kurdish independence, this doesn’t rule out Erdogan’s willingness to use the possibility to pressure the Iraqi government. </p> <p>Qatari money is also at play and has been spent on armed groups making it possible for the country to stand up to any national reconciliation process in Iraq or any project that may stand in the way of its interests. The US department of treasury stated in 2014 that, </p> <blockquote><p>“Qatar – are soliciting donations to fund extremist insurgents, not to meet legitimate humanitarian needs. The recipients of these funds are often terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, al-Nusrah Front, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the group formerly known as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).” &nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p>In addition, Dr Anwar Gargash pointed out in a speech at Chatham House that, “Just this year, the state of Qatar paid a ransom of approximately $1 billion to free a group of Qatari falconers in southern Iraq. Multiple sources confirmed to the Financial Times that $700 million was paid to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and to the Shia militias which they control,” evidencing once more Qatar’s willingness to fund extremist groups in the region. </p> <p>The Qatari crisis, and the broader diplomatic imbroglio it has caused, has provided the impetus to the race for control of Iraq. Given the geopolitical value of Iraq and the opening presented to the various blocs in the region after the liberation of Mosul, competition for the future balance of power in the Middle East is already underway between Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/tommaso-segantini/qatar-Saudi-US-MiddleEast-geopolitics-power">Qatar crisis: a broader consolidation of power</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Qatar </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Saudi Arabia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Egypt </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item even"> Russia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> United Arab Emirates </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item even"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Yemen Syria Turkey United Arab Emirates United States Russia Iran Egypt Saudi Arabia Iraq Qatar Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics Geopolitics Adel Albdeewy Khairuldeen Al Makhzoomi Sun, 30 Jul 2017 14:42:33 +0000 Khairuldeen Al Makhzoomi and Adel Albdeewy 112477 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why the ICC examination into torture and other abuses by UK soldiers in Iraq must continue https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/carla-ferstman/why-icc-examination-into-torture-and-other-abuses-by-uk-soldiers-in-iraq-must-cont <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Default">The Office of the Prosecutor is under pressure to conclude the examination. It must remain open. The Prosecutor should be taking it to the next logical step – a full-blown investigation.&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/1024px-1_RRF_engage_Iraqi_Army_positions_with_their_81mm_Mortars._Iraq._26-03-2003_MOD_45142764.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/1024px-1_RRF_engage_Iraqi_Army_positions_with_their_81mm_Mortars._Iraq._26-03-2003_MOD_45142764.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Royal Regiment of Fusiliers preparing to engage enemy targets, south of Basra, March 2003. Wikicmmons/ Cpl Paul Jarvis/MOD. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The International Criminal Court has received numerous submissions of information about the UK military’s conduct in Iraq. An initial preliminary examination was opened and then later <a href="https://www.icc-cpi.int/NR/rdonlyres/04D143C8-19FB-466C-AB77-4CDB2FDEBEF7/143682/OTP_letter_to_senders_re_Iraq_9_February_2006.pdf">closed in 2006</a>. Although there was a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court had been committed, namely wilful killing, torture and inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners and civilians, the Prosecutor’s view was that the gravity threshold was not met. The number of victims of alleged abused at that time was very limited, totalling in all less than 20 persons, so the ‘quantitative criteria’ was not fulfilled. </p> <p>Subsequently, more information on alleged crimes was supplied, and in May 2014 the ICC Prosecutor <a href="https://www.icc-cpi.int/Pages/item.aspx?name=otp-statement-iraq-13-05-2014">announced&nbsp;the re-opening of the previously terminated preliminary examination</a>. This preliminary examination is ongoing. <a href="https://www.icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/otp/161114-otp-rep-PE_ENG.pdf">According to her latest report</a>, the ICC Prosecutor is currently finalizing the assessment of whether the alleged crimes committed by UK nationals fall within the subject-matter jurisdiction of the Court. In other words, do the crimes fall within the definition of war crimes or crimes against humanity, and do they meet the Prosecutor’s gravity threshold? </p> <p class="Default">The Office of the Prosecutor is now under pressure to conclude the examination. &nbsp;But this examination must remain open. Instead, the Prosecutor should be taking it to the next logical step – a full-blown investigation.&nbsp; </p> <p class="xmsonormal">Under the ICC Statute, the Court can only pursue an investigation and prosecution if it can be shown that the country with competence over the said crimes (in this case the UK) is unable or unwilling genuinely to pursue the matters which the ICC is specifically investigating, domestically. The UK has one of the strongest and most highly renowned legal systems in the world. Thus, it would be difficult to say that the competent UK authorities are unable to pursue an investigation or prosecution. Certainly they are able to do so. The issue is one of willingness and this is now seriously in question. <span class="mag-quote-center">It would be difficult to say that the competent UK authorities are unable to pursue an investigation or prosecution. Certainly they are able to do so. The issue is one of willingness and this is now seriously in question.</span></p> <p>There have been numerous investigations, including criminal investigations but there have been no prosecutions of UK armed forces personnel since the creation of the Iraq Historical Allegations Team (IHAT), which was established to review and investigate the growing number of allegations of abuse of Iraqi civilians by UK armed forces personnel in Iraq during the period of 2003 to July 2009. This in itself is extraordinary given that the MOD has spent about £60 million on IHAT, and paid out £20 million in compensation for abuse in over 300 “civil” cases (a process separate from IHAT).</p> <p>But IHAT’s focus was mainly the rank and file soldiers. There has never been a genuine attempt to prosecute the&nbsp;high-ranking&nbsp;military commanders or the senior officials who ordered and/or who were complicit in the&nbsp;commission of torture in Iraq. The IHAT may have been held up by the UK Government to the ICC Prosecutor and others as evidence that it was investigating, in order to stand up to the ICC’s ‘complementarity’ test. But has it all been an exercise in smoke and mirrors ?</p> <p>Most alarmingly, a clear picture of abuse during interrogation has emerged. In 2003, British interrogators were challenged for their use of the <a href="https://rightsinfo.org/stories/the-five-techniques/">outlawed ‘5 techniques’ - deprivation of sleep, food and drink, stress positions, hooding and subjection to ‘white noise’ (loud static)</a>, on up to 40 prisoners. Six months later, Baha Mousa was beaten to death during ‘tactical questioning’. In the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14825889">Baha Mousa Inquiry</a> in 2010, the MOD admitted it had breached the Geneva Conventions during interrogations and this is likely to have taken place between 2003-2009. &nbsp;According to sources, the typical practice was that Iraqis were taken into armoured vehicles, beaten, then either taken for a few days to an undisclosed location to be ‘worked over’, or taken straight to detention where they would be kept for about a month, during which time they were subjected to sleep and food deprivation, stress positions, physical, sexual and religious abuse and restricted access to toilets. Many of the detainees were photographed naked. </p> <p>There are also allegations that special forces aided the rendition of Iraqi prisoners to and from secret detention facilities in the Western desert and that prisoners were not officially recorded in medical facilities, presumably so that their existence could be officially denied. Who was ultimately responsible for this?</p> <p class="xmsolistparagraph">Arguably, the UK Government has undermined the very investigative body they originally championed. They have painted a set of simple narratives: ‘Our brave troops’, ‘ambulance chasing lawyers’, ‘vexatious’, ‘spurious’ and ‘baseless’ claims. This painting of narratives was easy to do; one of the claimant lawyers was dramatically <a href="http://www.solicitorstribunal.org.uk/sites/default/files-sdt/11510.2016.Philip%20Joseph%20Shiner.pdf">struck off by the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal</a> for his improper actions, which helped to reinforce the Government’s narrative. On the other hand, <a href="http://www.solicitorstribunal.org.uk/sites/default/files-sdt/SDT%20Press%20Release%20-%209%20June%202017_0.pdf">another firm has been cleared of any wrongdoing</a>, but this has passed almost without mention. <span class="mag-quote-center">The ethics of a lawyer in a single case doesn’t say anything about the strength or weakness of the evidence itself, which should have been independently investigated and any underlying crimes prosecuted.</span></p> <p class="xmsolistparagraph">But the ethics of a lawyer in a single case doesn’t say anything about the strength or weakness of the evidence itself, which should have been independently investigated and any underlying crimes prosecuted. Indeed, IHAT never relied exclusively on claimant lawyers for its evidence; IHAT undertook its own investigations, and there were a number of ICRC reports of abuse along with service personnel witnesses, some of whom had sounded their alarm about mistreatment as early as 2003. </p> <p class="xmsolistparagraph">Over the last year, there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of allegations being investigated, with hundreds of ongoing investigations shut down prematurely, some because of the so-called taint of the providence of the allegations – the ‘ambulance-chasing lawyers’. But many credible investigations were not being pursued, including the death of Tariq Sabri al-Fahdawi on board an RAF helicopter in Iraq in April 2003, and the death of Ahmed Jabbar Kareem Ali, an Iraqi teenager who drowned after being forced into a river by British soldiers, or even <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhOYpy0iIz8">the beating of children captured on video by News of the World</a>. And there has been an entirely unacceptable delay in investigating and prosecuting crimes where there is clear evidence of abuse.</p><p class="xmsolistparagraph">There have been a number of deaths in custody and almost six years after a major public inquiry found that Baha Mousa, a hotel receptionist, had been beaten to death by British soldiers in Basra, no new prosecutions have yet been brought. The High Court judge overseeing the ongoing civil claims against the MOD, Mr Justice Leggatt, recently described this delay as ‘extraordinarily difficult to understand.’ Apparently, Ministry of Defence civil servants began to interfere in the conduct of investigations and the vetting of evidence. Months before the plans were put in place to close IHAT down, the MOD instructed investigators that it could no longer interview service personnel as part of its investigations.&nbsp; </p> <p class="xmsonormal">Some of these tactics are similar to what has recently been revealed in the <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/rogue-sas-unit-accused-of-executing-civilians-in-afghanistan-f2bqlc897">Sunday Times’ exposé on the SAS in Afghanistan</a> – Operation Northmoor, where about 90% of the 600 allegations had been shelved. These Afghanistan allegations were generated in part by evidence supplied by soldiers and through ICRC reports.&nbsp; Operation Northmoor is being run by the SIB – the Army police investigating army alleged offences. It was determined that the Army police wasn’t sufficiently independent to carry out the investigations in Iraq; this begs the question why they are leading the investigations in Afghanistan. </p> <p>The MOD has confirmed to REDRESS that 752 of the IHAT cases concern interrogation and that the videos of some of the interrogations are held in the archives of Defence Intelligence and with IHAT. The MOD will know whether these allegations are true or not and to what extent they are to blame. It seems extraordinary that the MOD is now responsible for closing down an investigation which could legitimately question members of their own Ministry. </p> <p class="xmsolistparagraph">Now that the IHAT investigation has effectively closed, the few investigations that remain open will be transferred to a less independent process – reportedly, the Airforce police will be leading the investigations, overseen by the Provost Marshall of the RAF. This ignores the <a href="http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2011/1334.html">appellate ruling in respect of IHAT</a> which required that the investigators be hierarchically, institutionally and practically independent from those they were investigating. </p> <p class="xmsonormal">All that this shows is that the UK Government is unwilling to pay anything more than lip-service to its obligation to investigate and prosecute abuses allegedly perpetrated by service personnel and the higher echelons who ordered or condoned such acts. <span class="mag-quote-center">The UK Government is unwilling to pay anything more than lip-service to its obligation to investigate and prosecute abuses allegedly perpetrated by service personnel and the higher echelons who ordered or condoned such acts.</span></p> <p class="xmsonormal">This is why the ICC should maintain its preliminary examination and take it to the next logical step: a full blown investigation. The fact that the competent UK authorities are able to prosecute but have chosen not to do so, is a sad testament of the respect for the rule of law in this country. That the UK Government is unwilling to pursue these matters itself has now become clear. The numbers of allegations which have not been subject to independent scrutiny remains high and problematic. But furthermore, the assessment of the gravity of the alleged crimes should also take into account the abuse of power and the high prospects for impunity. </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> Afghanistan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia uk Afghanistan Iraq Conflict Democracy and government International politics openJustice Carla Ferstman Sun, 16 Jul 2017 10:36:50 +0000 Carla Ferstman 112288 at https://www.opendemocracy.net الانبعاثات وارتفاع درجات الحرارة في العراق https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/karar-ali/global-warming-iraq-pollution-air <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="rtl"> ترتفع درجات الحرارة في العراق هذا الصيف لتصل لدرجات غير مسبوقة فبحسب الارصاد الجوية العراقية سجلت المناطق الجنوبية قبل بضعة ايام 51 درجة مئوية وهي الأعلى منذ 30 سنة. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-31937592.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-31937592.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="333" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>KHALID AL-MOUSILY/Reuters/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p><strong>ينشر هذا المقال بالتعاون مع <a href="http://climatetracker.org/">"كلايمت تراكر" </a></strong></p><p>اسباب هذا التسارع في الارتفاع بدرجات الحرارة اصبحت جلية وواضحة للمجتمع العلمي وذلك بسبب الاحتباس الحراري وهو انحباس الحرارة في الغلاف الجوي دون ارتدادها عنه وخروجها وهذه العملية تدعى ايضا بالبيت الزجاجي . </p><p dir="rtl"> تتسبب الغازات الدفيئة والتي تنتج من عوادم المحركات والمصادر الاخرى بالاحتفاظ وتقييد الحرارة القادمة من الشمس في الغلاف الجوي وهذا يسبب بدوره ارتفاعا في درجة الحرارة .</p> <p dir="rtl"> تتمثل نواتج عوادم المحركات بصورة رئيسية وبشتى انواعها من غازات هي غاز النيتروجين (N2), غاز ثاني أكسيد الكربون (CO2), بخار الماء (H2O) ،المتسبب الرئيسي والاهم في ظاهرة الانحباس الحراري هو غاز ثاني اوكسيد الكاربون ,وفي السنوات الاخيرة وبعد نشاط الحركة الصناعية و التطور التكنولوجي اصبح تراكم هذا الغاز بصورة غير طبيعية ومضره للحياة على هذه الارض .</p> <p dir="rtl"> في العراق ترتفع مستويات التلوث البيئي الذي تسببه عوادم المولدات الكهربائية التي تعمل بالبنزين وزيت الغاز(الكاز) ، بنحو غير مسبوق، وتشير الاحصائيات الى ان عدد المولدات ازداد الى اكثر من10 ملايين تقريبا ما بين صغيرة وكبيرة ولو تم احتساب الغازات والكاربون والابخرة المنبعثة منها والحرارة التي تزيد جو الصيف اللاهب ستكون ارقام كبيرة وخطيرة وتنتج اضرار لا يحمد عقباها مع العلم انها تنصب في الأحياء بين البيوت ومراكز المدن وايضا في المحال التجارية والمطاعم والافران والدوائر والوزارات دون ضوابط او قيود او حتى وعي كاف في كيفية معالجة او تقليل اثار الملوثات الناجمة عن عمل هذه المولدات , وبالتالي انبعاث مواد سامة في الجو مثل الرصاص الذي يستنشق مباشرة من قبل الإنسان والغازات الدفيئة الاخرى .</p> <p dir="rtl"> من<strong> الاثار المترتبة على هذا التلوث </strong><strong>:</strong></p> <p dir="rtl">1) ارتفاع نسبة الإصابة بمرض الربو وأمراض الجهاز التنفسي الأخرى.</p> <p dir="rtl">2) أوضحت الدراسات الأولية ايضا أن ارتفاع درجات الحرارة في الكرة الأرضية يؤدي إلى تغيرات مناخية كبيرة في المنطقة وتؤدي الى جفاف واعاصير وفيضانات.</p> <p dir="rtl">3)يؤدي الارتفاع في مستويات الحرارة الى انقراض العديد من الكائنات الحية في البيئة العراقية .</p> <p dir="rtl">4) حدوث كوارث زراعية وفقدان بعض المحاصيلوكذلك احتمالات متزايدة بوقوع أحداث متطرفة في الطقس.</p> <p dir="rtl">5) كما يؤدي ارتفاع درجات الحرارة إلى انخفاض نوعية مياه الشرب في بعض المناطق مما يؤدي إلى ارتفاع نسبة الأمراض التي ينشرها البعوض الذي يعيش في المياه الراكدة.مثل الملاريا والحمى الصفراء والتهاب السحايا كذلك أمراض الكوليرا وأمراض التسمم الغذائي. كما أن ارتفاع الحرارة يزيد من نسبة الإصابة بما يسمى بضربة الشمس ويتسبب في خسارة الكثير من الثروة السمكية وتزداد أمراض الأسماك والثروات الطبيعية الأخرى وهو مصدر حياة وغذاء النوع البشري.</p> <p dir="rtl"> لذا فان الحكومة وبالأخص الجهات المسؤولة عن الطاقة والبيئة اصبح من الضروري جدا ان تجد الحلول الشافية لهذه المشكلة المتزايدة في البلد بعد معاناة دامت طويلا وتهدد مستقبل البيئة العراقية وحياة الاجيال اللاحقة ،فالمطلوب مواكبة التطور والتقدم في حلول الطاقة واختيار مصادر نظيفة وكفؤة واستثمار طاقات البلد في هذا المجال من طاقة شمسية وطاقة رياح والسدود ،او دعوة شركات استثمارية خاصة بهذا الجانب لتوفير الطاقة الكافية لسد الحاجة والحفاظ على البيئة العراقية .</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/karar-ali/iraq-climate-change-global-warming"> الغطاء النباتي واثره على التغير المناخي في العراق</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iraq climate change Arabic language كرار علي Fri, 14 Jul 2017 15:50:33 +0000 كرار علي 112274 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Preparing Iraq for the defeat of IS https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/dylan-odriscoll/preparing-iraq-for-defeat-of-is <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Multiple segments of the population, including at elite level, have come together in the fight against IS and now the time has come for this effort to extend beyond the battle.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-31873400.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-31873400.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Iraqi army recaptured Mosul's historical al-Nuri mosque and its leaning minaret on June 29, 2017. Cheng Shuaipeng/Xinhua News Agency/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>The territorial defeat of the Islamic State (IS) in Mosul is a significant moment for Iraq, a country that has come a long way since IS was rapidly <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/10/iraq-sunni-insurgents-islamic-militants-seize-control-mosul">gaining territory with such ease</a> in the summer of 2014. </p> <p>This success was enabled by the fact that all sections of Iraqi society came together in the face of a common enemy – a dynamic that needs to prevail if the country is to cement IS’ defeat. IS still holds pockets of territory, with Hawija being of particular importance, but it is only a matter of time before they return to the shadows and the tactics of a non-territory-holding entity. Once they do, it will be difficult to address, as many of the structural and political failures that facilitated IS’ growth in Iraq will need to be gradually overcome, beginning with the reluctance of the political elite to enforce change. Moreover, there are a number of issues that have emerged as a direct reaction, and in response, to the rise of IS and it is these issues that need to be addressed first following their defeat.</p> <h2><strong>Kurdish gains</strong></h2> <p>As a result of the fight against IS the Kurds have made significant territorial gains, either through taking territory from IS (for example in parts of Nineveh) or through filling the vacuum left by the Iraqi army’s withdrawal from territory (for example in parts of Kirkuk). These disputed territories have long been claimed by the Kurds, who have now taken the opportunity gained by their control of these areas to call a referendum for independence on <a href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/06/15/masoud-barzani-why-its-time-for-kurdish-independence/">25 September 2017</a>. </p> <p>A people’s right to self-determination is one thing – although whether they are in the <a href="http://www.meri-k.org/publication/the-day-after-governing-the-kri/">political</a> or <a href="https://theconversation.com/david-petraeus-on-us-policy-under-donald-trump-the-generational-war-against-islamist-terrorism-and-dealing-with-china-80045?utm_source=twitter&amp;utm_medium=twitterbutton">economic</a> position for independence can be questioned – but calling for independence for territories that have long <a href="https://www.usip.org/publications/2011/04/iraqs-disputed-territories">had their constitutional status contested</a> is another, much more problematic matter, one that is complicated by the rise of militias in Iraq. </p> <p>If a deal is not reached on these territories, including one on hydrocarbon management, it is possible that Iraq moves from one conflict with IS, to another conflict with the Kurds over the control of territory, reversing all the gains made by the IS defeat.</p> <h2><strong>Rise of militias</strong></h2> <p>In response to the Iraqi army’s capitulation to IS in 2014 a <a href="http://www.meri-k.org/publication/the-hashd-al-shaabi-and-iraq-subnationalism-and-the-state/">whole host of militias came to the fore</a> in the battle against IS. However, more recently the Iraqi army has made a dramatic recovery to once again lead the fight. Nonetheless, the militias remain in place and a <a href="https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20161126-iraq-parliament-passes-law-legalising-pmf-shia-militias/">law has been passed</a> that legitimises their continued existence. The multiple militias that exist in Iraq represent every fabric of society (From Shiites following Sistani, to Christians, to Sunnis, to Shiites with links to Iran) and herein lies the problem. The competition between militias that is created for the support of the population builds divides in a society that needs to come together to address the wider political and structural issues. </p> <p>Any notion of a common Iraqi identity is destroyed through the rhetoric used by these groups to gain popular support from segments of the society they claim to represent. With elections planned for next year and several militias closely linked or aligned to political parties, this issue becomes a larger concern, which could further hamper democratic elections in Iraq. It is therefore imperative that processes (such as disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration, as well as security sector reform) to minimise the influence of the militias and to strengthen the role of the <a href="http://www.meri-k.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/PMF-Report-0.2.pdf">army are put into place</a>.</p> <h2><strong>Justice and reconciliation</strong></h2> <p>A great number of atrocities have been committed during the war against IS by many different actors and it is important to acknowledge that <em>all</em> communities have suffered. &nbsp;Ensuring justice for all the communities affected by the conflict is an important step to allowing the population to move on. However, it is also important that justice goes beyond retributive mechanisms and that reconciliation is built into the process. Elements such as truth commissions should be incorporated into the justice system and there needs to be local ownership of the process in order to avoid retribution being exacted in the future. </p> <p>For communities to move on, the cycle of violence needs to be halted. At the same time, there also need to be de-radicalisation programmes focusing on undoing the damage caused to populations that have been living under IS for up to three years in some cases – with the youth being particularly affected. The above seems simplistic, but reconciliation in Iraq is often ignored by the government and left to civil society and it is important that this does not continue.</p> <h2><strong>Reconstruction</strong></h2> <p>Great physical and material damage has been caused during the battle against IS, with the recent destruction of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/21/mosuls-grand-al-nouri-mosque-blown-up-by-isis-fighters">al-Hadba minaret and the al-Nuri mosque</a> acting as a symbol of the indiscriminate nature of the devastation. </p> <p>It is imperative that action is taken to repair the damage – from rebuilding the villages, towns and cities to providing basic services, such as electricity, water, medical care and education. Reconstruction should not be politicised and patronage policies and corruption must be avoided. Investment in the economies of the affected areas is also extremely important, as without jobs there can be no hope of economic security. Failure to demonstrate significant efforts of reconstruction runs the risk of alienating large sections of the population, which in turn could allow for radical entities to once again take advantage of local disenfranchisement. </p> <h2><strong>Political elites</strong></h2> <p>The majority of the issues discussed above require the political elites to come together and reach agreements for the implementation of policies. Multiple segments of the population, including at elite level, have come together in the fight against IS and now the time has come for this effort to extend beyond the battle. </p> <p>However, in Iraq, like other societies involving power sharing, political agreements are difficult to reach and policies are often politicised for the gains of individual factions rather than the population as a whole. Therefore, reversing the damage created by IS will be no easy task. </p> <p>Nevertheless, considering the fight against IS and the cooperation it fostered, and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/hamid.alsaedi.3/videos/1049056211897907/">continues to foster against the IS message</a>, the population should be able to rally once more to set Iraq back on the track of <a href="http://carnegieendowment.org/sada/62004">reform first promised</a> by Prime Minister Abadi when he was elected in 2014. Failure to do so will waste an opportunity to rebuild Iraq from the ashes of IS defeat and will most likely lead to the re-emergence of similar radical entities.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/isis-long-term-prospect">ISIS: the long-term prospect</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/charles-tripp/seductions-of-violence-in-iraq">The seductions of violence in Iraq</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/frzand-abdullah/how-isil-war-changed-political-system-in-iraqi-kurdistan-from-democra">Iraqi Kurdistan: from democratic consensus to de facto autocracy </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iraq Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics International politics Dylan O’Driscoll Thu, 29 Jun 2017 17:59:53 +0000 Dylan O’Driscoll 112006 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Can the Kurds pull off Kurdexit? https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/gary-kent/can-kurds-pull-off-kurdexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Iraqi Kurdistan president Masoud Barzani and former Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari share their thoughts about the upcoming referendum on the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-29046883.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-29046883.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="316" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Kurdish national flag, hoisted in Erbil, Iraq, 18 October 2016. Picture by Jens Kalaene/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>The Kurds in Iraq will probably back the principle of independence from Iraq in three months time. </p><p class="western" lang="en-GB"> Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani grabs a book about Kurdish independence written in 1905 to demonstrate the pedigree of their struggle. He also tells me how Winston Churchill and the Iraqi King chewed the cud about Arab-Kurd equality rather than an Arab Iraqi empire. But Baghdad constantly spurned Kurdish equality and the record of discrimination and genocide weighs heavily as the Kurds approach an independence referendum on 25 September. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> Barzani sketches the vision behind the vote: 'the referendum is for the people as the source of legitimacy, not individuals or parties, to give a mandate not for independence the next day but for the leadership to undertake serious and meaningful negotiations [with Baghdad]. We oppose violence and are ready to show flexibility over the timescale but not the principle. We cannot be stable or subordinate in Iraq. It is shameful to keep making the same mistakes.' </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> Asked about benefits to the west, he replies that 'I am proudest of our peaceful co-existence, the way we have dealt with women's emancipation and national rights, and opposed extremism and racism. Kurdistan can be a factor for security and stability and that is best done through an understanding with Iraq.' </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> Government spokesman, Safeen Dizayee says sovereignty means survival: 'a people that are part of a sovereign state don't have international protection. Yes, people express their concerns - the Kurds are being gassed to death - but authorities in the west said it was an internal matter. If you're sovereign you're in a position to protect the destiny and well-being of your people.' Foreign Minister Falah Mustafa slams the Islamicisation of Iraq and says Kurds 'cannot accept a ban on alcohol, forcing the segregation of students, and other violations of individual rights.'</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> The Kurdistan Democratic Party's point man for 'the referendum movement' is Hoshyar Zebari, who was the international face of Iraq as foreign minister after 2003. Zebari argues 'we can do it, it is within our reach, and we cannot find better international and regional conditions.'</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> Landlocked Kurds in Iraq often feel encircled by what they commonly refer to as the four 'wolves' of Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Iraq itself. Zebari starts his Cook's tour with Syria which 'will not be fixed for a long time' before moving to Turkey, whose opposition is commonly assumed. But Zebari details how 'President Erdogan's reaction, contrary to many perceptions, is reasonable.'</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> As a seasoned diplomat, Zebari emphasises strategic interests. For Turkey, he says, 'Kurdistan is the only place from which they can ensure energy supplies,' and is 'a buffer between them and the expansionism of Shia militants.' Furthermore, Erdogan's recent victory in a controversial constitutional referendum relied on the votes of millions of Kurds in Turkey. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> Kurdistan's second biggest trade partner after Turkey is Iran, which Zebari says is 'opposed vehemently and has the tools to derail and sabotage' independence but is itself under 'intense economic and military pressure' from the US and the Gulf States. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> As for Iraq, Zebari says the Kurds 'gave the new Iraq our best shot for 14 years' but 'nothing is moving between Erbil and Baghdad apart from military co-ordination.' The former Baghdad insider, Zebari bluntly concludes that 'we have given up on Iraq because it is going back on everything we agreed on in 2005,' when the federal constitution was overwhelmingly endorsed by Iraqis. The Kurds sought consensual democracy and partnership but that ship has sailed. Furthermore, he says, Shia ruling elites want majority rule although 'Iraq is not a normal democracy - you cannot rule by 50% plus one in a divided society, or you get tyranny.' </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> Zebari insists that 'we don't want a complete break up with Baghdad [because] Baghdad will still need us and we will still need Baghdad' in continuing commercial, cultural and security links. He highlights the Iraqi Prime Minister's comment that the Kurds have a natural right to independence. The major sticking point to an amicable divorce is the formal incorporation into Kurdistan of disputed territories such as Kirkuk, an emotive issue for Kurds and Arabs alike, and whose oil and strategic position are vital.</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> Zebari acknowledges American fears but says Kurdistan is 'the only trusted ally of the Americans,' whose 'almost bases' in Kurdistan supply the military effort in Syria more than NATO's air base in Incirlik in Turkey. He adds that 'the Shia are not America's friends, Iran is domineering every aspect of Iraq's political, security and military life' and that Kurds worry about Shia militias which are 'expanding and encroaching' on Kurdistan.</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> The Kurds are under pressure on the timing of the referendum and Zebari says Britain asked that the Iraqi Parliament approve the referendum, as Scotland's was by the Commons. He retorts that Iraq lacks a Westminster. But so does Kurdistan. Its parliament was suspended in 2015 when security forces controversially prevented the Speaker from returning to Erbil after violence in the second city of Slemani amid deep disputes about the status of the Presidency. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> Differences were amplified by war and the influx of nearly two million refugees which increased the population by a third. Collapsing oil prices sank its once booming yet dysfunctional economy into a crisis of unpaid wages, increasing debt and deficit, increased unemployment and poverty, and stalled investment. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani and Qubad Talabani, have pioneered biometric mapping of the state workforce to eliminate illegitimate jobs and have introduced austerity measures to close the deficit between lower revenues and state spending. But more is needed and that requires a Kurdistani consensus to ease the political pain. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> Some say an internal political deal should precede the referendum, and it may yet do so, but Zebari insists that 'if we wait for all the problems to be resolved we will have to wait forever' but adds that 'as we move towards this bigger goal party leaders have to sacrifice something for the greater good of the people.' </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> The international community will urge more reform once Daesh is defeated. The menu is well-known and Kurdistan's friends should offer tough love conditional on thorough reform. It needs less state employment and less reliance on energy exports. It needs to diversify its economy to earn more income from agriculture and tourism in a beautiful landscape that already attracts Arabs in their millions. All this requires a much bigger private sector to boost dynamism and a bigger tax base to underpin political pluralism. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> Over the years, I have heard much rhetoric about reform and in some areas seen negligible change. It is difficult to persuade people, for instance, to leave the cities and work in the countryside where life is slower and services are worse. At the same time, the government has pulled off major changes such as a detente with Turkey, which was once poised to invade, and the development from scratch of an energy sector whose exports reach the world through Turkey. Its security is also commendable. My last visit was bookended by the Manchester and London Bridge atrocities which made me very aware that I was safer in Kurdistan than in London.</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> A powerful argument for statehood is that it deprives opponents of excuses for not reforming and also enables greater access to development and capacity building funds that are denied sub-sovereign entities. But it's not all about governments. People also have to work harder and smarter in what I call a patriotic work ethic. I mention to Zebari that I once asked a senior leader if the average working day in the bloated state sector was 25 or 45 minutes - the leader had plumped for the former. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> Zebari chuckles and says 'our biggest problem is that we are not accustomed to the culture of work, things go slowly and people don't know how to operationalise ideas but independence is a huge project, your future. I tell many of my friends and colleagues - how can you build a state when you close your door at 2pm.' It's nearly 2pm and our time is up as Zebari heads to Europe for a conference as part of increasing efforts to persuade the world that they are deadly serious about commencing the countdown to Kurdexit in September. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> The formal opposition of great powers will not, I think, stop the referendum. It is probable that the Kurds will vote yes but not reach the 98.8% yes vote achieved in 2005 in an informal civil society referendum in which nearly two million people participated. Zebari hopes for more than 50% plus one and others are talking about 80% but the referendum is just the start of a move to convince Baghdad that an amicable divorce is better for all. When I began working with the Kurds a decade ago they focused world attention on what they called 'the other Iraq' but that is now maybe becoming the new Kurdistan.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/frzand-abdullah/how-isil-war-changed-political-system-in-iraqi-kurdistan-from-democra">Iraqi Kurdistan: from democratic consensus to de facto autocracy </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/hawre-hasan-hama/do-people-of-kurdistan-live-in-security">Do the people of Kurdistan live in security?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/hawre-hasan-hama/consequences-of-politicized-forces-in-kurdistan-region-of-iraq">The consequences of politicized forces in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/dara-salam/iraq-s-kurdistan-government-needs-public-debate-on-independence">Iraq’s Kurdistan government needs a public debate on independence</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iraq International politics referendum Kurdistan Gary Kent Wed, 28 Jun 2017 13:32:47 +0000 Gary Kent 111975 at https://www.opendemocracy.net الغطاء النباتي واثره على التغير المناخي في العراق https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/karar-ali/iraq-climate-change-global-warming <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p style="text-align: right;">يعاني العراق ارتفاع في درجات الحرارة وتأثير الرياح الجافة وتكرار العواصف الغبارية في المنطقتين الوسطى والجنوبية بوجه خاص ويتطلب فهم اثارها البيئية والاقتصادية والاجتماعية والصحية وربما السياسية في الوقت الحاضر والمستقبل، للوصول الى الوسائل الناجعة لتقليل الاثار السلبية.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="rtl"><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/iraq_amo_2016051_lrg.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/iraq_amo_2016051_lrg.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="355" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>ينشر هذا المقال بالتعاون مع <a href="http://climatetracker.org/">"كلايمت تراكر" </a></strong></p><p dir="rtl">أصبح التغير المناخي وآثاره الشغل الشاغل للعالم هذه الأيام ، فالكوارث الطبيعية كالجفاف الشديد والمجاعة في الصومال والإعصار الذي ضرب المكسيك أخيراً وبلغت سرعته 256 كم/ س وموجة الحر الشديدة في الولايات المتحدة الامريكية , وغيرها من المظاهر كلها مؤشرات على حدوث التغير المناخي.</p> <p dir="rtl"> ويعد الغطاء النباتي من العوامل المهمة للحفاظ على توازن الغازات في الجو وله اثر ايجابي في تخفيف ظاهرة الاحتباس الحراري. يغطي النبات ما يقرب من 20 ٪ من كوكب الأرض، فإنه ليس من المستغرب أن النباتات تؤثر على المناخ بشكل كبير .</p> <p dir="rtl"> يعاني العراق ارتفاع في درجات الحرارة وتأثير الرياح الجافة وتكرار العواصف الغبارية في المنطقتين الوسطى والجنوبية بوجه خاص وكل ارض العراق بوجه عام، وبالتالي يتطلب فهم اثارها البيئية والاقتصادية والاجتماعية والصحية وربما السياسية في الوقت الحاضر والمستقبل، للوصول الى الوسائل الناجعة لتقليل الاثار السلبية وتحقيق النتائج الملموسة في خفض تزايد ارتفاع درجات الحرارة والغبار من جهة والنهوض بالبيئة وتشغيل الانسان واستثمار النتائج المتحققة اقتصادياً واجتماعياً وبيئياً من جهة أخرى. يوضح هذا المقال عرضا مقتضباً (نسبياً) لدور الغطاء النباتي واهمية الاستزراع وانشاء الغابات والمحميات النباتية وما تعكسه من فوائد مختلفة للانسان والبيئة لجعل مدن العراق التي تقع على حواف الصحاري عموماً، وبغداد خاصةً نموذجا بيئياً ، ولكي يتم خفض درجة الحرارة وتحقيق تقليل اثار العواصف الغبارية وتلطيف المناخ.</p> <p dir="rtl"> <strong>دور المناطق الزراعية والاشجار في حماية البيئة</strong></p><p dir="rtl"><strong> </strong>تؤثر الاشجار والشجيرات بشكل مباشر او غير مباشر على البيئة المحيطة بها، فتحمي موارد الانتاج وتحفظ التربة من التعرية والانجراف وتساعد في زيادة مخزون المياه الجوفية وتحسين نوعية المياه السطحية وتقلل من الترسبات الطينية والطميية في السدود والخزانات وتحفظ قدرة الاراضي الانتاجية وزيادة المادة العضوية وتقلل خطر الملوحة والجفاف من خلال التظليل الكبير لسطح التربة وانعكاسه على تقليل التبخر/ النتح وبالتالي تقليل شدة الحرارة الناجمة عن اشعة الشمس او المنعكسة من سطح الارض، كما تؤثر في حركة الرياح وتزيد سقوط الامطار وبالتالي دورها الايجابي الكبير في تغيير المناخ. وفيما ياتي وصفا موجزا لبعض هذه التاثيرات.</p> <p dir="rtl"><strong>التاثير في المناخ</strong></p><p dir="rtl"><em> </em>يساهم وجود وتزايد الغطاء النباتي والغاباتي منه بشكل خاص من دون ادنى شك في نشوء النظم البيئية المناخية الموضعية التي تؤثر في مناخ العراق ايجابا، لما تشكله من دور مهم في بناء الكتلة الحيوية والكساء الخضري واتساع نطاقها وكثافتها وانشطتها في البناء الضوئي وما ينجم عنها من العمليات الحيوية المتعلقة بامتصاص غاز ثاني اوكسيد الكاربون والتبخر والنتح، فالغطاء النباتي ليس صديقاً للبيئة فحسب، بل يمثل حجر الزاوية في بنائها. خير مثال ودليل على ذلك هي التاثيرات السلبية الناتجة عن تجفيف الاهوار وازالة الغابات وقطع الاشجار وانعكاسها على ارتفاع درجة الحرارة والرياح الجافة المصحوبة بهبوب العواصف الغبارية وقلة سقوط الامطار في مناطق مختلفة في العراق. فالدونم الواحد من اشجار الغابات يمتص 140 كغم من ثاني اوكسيد الكاربون، الذي يعد المساهم الاول في ظاهرة الاحتباس الحراري. فكم بالاحرى من الغاز الممتص للملايين من الدونمات الغاباتية، وما يقابله من انتاج للاوكسجين وبخار الماء، الى جانب امتصاص 3-5 طن/ دونم من الغبار سنويا، وتنقية الهواء وتلطيف الجو وتقليل اثر الملوثات وخفض درجة الحرارة، وينعكس بالنتيجة على راحة الانسان وصحته واطالة عمره.</p> <p dir="rtl"><strong>صيانة التنوع البيئي والحياتي</strong></p><p dir="rtl"><em> </em>تتفاوت الاشجار والشجيرات فيما بينها من حيث تركيبها المظهري والوراثي والهندسي مما يجعلها من اغنى المجاميع النباتية في الاختلاف الوراثي في بيئاتها بسبب تنوع الظروف المحلية المحيطة واختلاف ظروف التلقيح وتوليف التراكيب الوراثية الجديدة التي تخدم التنوع الحياتي. النخيل من الامثلة الشائعة والمعروفة في العراق ، حيث يزيد عدد الاصناف على 600 بحسب الاحصاءات والمراجع العلمية ومنها الدليل العراقي لسنة 1934، مع الاشارة الى ان بعض المصادر تؤكد على اكثر من هذا العدد من اصناف النخيل من خلال التهجين والانتخاب، ومثلها بالنسبة لأشجار الغابات الاخرى. ان توافر المحميات النباتية والغاباتية سيتيح بلا شك الفرصة لضمان استمرارية بقاء وتطور وزيادة تنوع هذه الانماط الوراثية بما يخدم الانسانية في المستقبل.</p> <p dir="rtl"> <strong>صيانة موارد المياه والتربة</strong></p><p dir="rtl"><em> </em>للاشجار دور فعال في توزيع مياه الامطار والحد من طاقتها الحركية. يتعزز هذا الدور ايجابيا بزيادة الكثافة النباتية عموما، تتحسن خواص التربة نتيجة تقليل اثر الرياح من جهة وتوفير المادة العضوية التي تزيد من قابلية التربة على الاحتفاظ بالماء وبالتالي النفاذية العالية التي تؤدي الى زيادة امتصاص المياه الجارية والحد من تاثير تدفقها (تقليل اثر السيول) وتنشيط ميكروبات التربة، مثلما تعمل جذور الاشجار والشجيرات النافذة في اعماق التربة على تكسير الطبقة الصماء وتفتيت الصخور وامتصاص العناصر المعدنية وضخها الى سطح التربة، مما يتيح القدرة على صيانة التربة واعادة تأهيلها باستمرار. تستخدم الاشجار المزروعة وفق نظام هندسي معين مصدات للرياح وتقليل او ايقاف زحف الصحراء، فضلا عن المساعدة في تقليل انجراف التربة بنسبة تزيد عن 55% وتقليل اثر الملوحة والجفاف واطالة عمر السدود المعدة لخزن المياه وتحسين نوعية المياه.</p> <p dir="rtl"> <strong>حماية البيئة البشرية</strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p dir="rtl">من قراءة الكتب السماوية على سبيل المثال لا الحصر نستذكر التين والزيتون (سورة التين، القرآن الكريم) ، وقول الرسول الكريم محمد (ص) بحق النخلة "عليكم بعمتكم النخلة" على ان هذه النباتات المباركة قد افرزت دورا مهما في حياة الانسان منذ الازل ولا زالت تؤثر في اقتصاديات العديد من الدول. يستشف من ذلك وجوب تطوير المرافق السياحية والانتاجية والترفيهية، ولا شك في ان المنافع العلمية احد اكثر الجوانب اهمية، اذ يتخذها علماء البيولوجيا والبيئة والنبات والجغرافيا والجيولوجيا وعلوم التربة والمياه والمناخ وحتى التاريخ والاثار وسيلة لتوفير مستلزمات البحث العلمي التي تنعكس على تحقيق الجانب التطبيقي الذي يخدم الانسان وبيئته.</p><p dir="rtl"> اما الدور السياحي للغابات فهو من الجوانب المتميزة التي يمكن تسخيرها بفاعلية كبيرة لخدمة الدخل الوطني والمجتمع السكاني القريب منها. يتفق الكثيرين على ان تطوير السياحة في شمالنا الحبيب على اساس جمال الطبيعة وما يجاورها من التراث العراقي الزاخر من الاثار والمرافق الدينية، ومثلها في مناطق العراق الاخرى، سيعود بالمنفعة الاقتصادية غير الناضبة، كونها اجمل بكثير من مثيلاتها في الدول الاوروبية. كما انها تساعد في قيام حرف ومهن جديدة مثل الصيد والقنص والمشافي الصحية والعلاج الطبي والنفسي بعيدا عن التلوث والضجيج.</p> <p dir="rtl"> <strong>الاستنتاج</strong></p><p dir="rtl"><strong> </strong>للغطاء النباتي تاثيرات ايجابية كبيره تمس حياة الانسان بكل جوانبها وفي الوقت المعاصر اصبح له حاجة كبيره في التاثير على المناخ وتلطيف الجو في العراق ، لذلك يتطلب الامر تشجيع الاستثمار الغاباتي واقامة الغابات والمحميات وفق اسلوب علمي مدروس وبعيد المدى لكل مناطق العراق، وهو بمثابة دعوة لاعادة احياء فكرة الحزام الاخضر لمدينة بغداد التي غفت باحضان دجلة والفرات وصحت مبكرة بسبب حر تموز وآب اللهّاب، وهي فكرة ليست جديدة، يتوجب على المعنيين وكل المختصين في وزارات الدولة والانسان العراقي بوجه عام، اعادة فتح الملفات السابقة برؤية علمية جديدة لتاهيل الغابات الطبيعية والسعي الى توطين واقامة الغابات والاحزمة الخضراء والمتنزهات في داخل المدن، فنزرع نخلة او شجرة زيتون او نبق او سرو لتحقيق الفوائد الصحية والغذائية وتوفير فرص العمل، فنعيد بغداد الى سابق عهدها الناظر الجميل، ليترحم علينا الاحفاد ويذكرونا بالذكر الحميد.</p> <p dir="rtl"> فكما قال الجواهري عن بغداد (حييت سفحك عن بعد فحييني&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; يا دجلة الخير يا ام البساتين)</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iraq environment كرار علي Tue, 20 Jun 2017 13:24:55 +0000 كرار علي 111755 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Lebanon in the eye of the regional storm https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/neil-partrick/lebanon-in-eye-of-regional-storm <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Hizbollah’s proven armed capability in Syria, Israel’s perceived political defeat in 2006, coupled with a possible US and Saudi green light, may make confrontation inevitable.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-31000331_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Xinhua/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-31000331_0.jpg" alt="Xinhua/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved." title="Xinhua/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="311" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A member of Lebanese militant party Hezbollah is seen at the Lebanese-Israeli borders, in Lebanon on April 20, 2017. Xinhua/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Hizbollah are defiant. They know that the regular Lebanese armed forces are weak and that most Lebanese, mindful of the horror show next door in Syria, think that the Shia militia is crucial to their national security.</p><p>However Hizbollah is under increasing US financial pressure, and US and allied forces could weaken Hizbollah’s position in Syria. At the same time Israel recently targeted its Damascus airport supply line and could restart the confrontation with Hizbollah in south Lebanon.</p><p><span></span></p><p>Hizbollah’s chief spokesman Mohammed Afif told the author in Beirut that fighting in Syria and Israel are two sides of the same coin: both are about enhancing Lebanese national security. Syria is strategic depth for Lebanon, he argues. However Hizbollah recently handed over four border crossing points with Syria in the Beqaa Valley to the Lebanese Army, and stated that it intends to transfer the rest. </p><p>While not itself meaning that Hizbollah is about to end its armed role in Syria, the move was accompanied by Hizbollah’s leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah declaring, in response to the Iranian-Russian-Turkish agreement on four de-escalation zones in Syria, that his movement would back any steps that brought peace to that country. If the zones consolidate existing territorial holdings in Syria, including those of the Assad regime in Damascus, Homs and Hama, then Hizbollah may have to accept that it is reaching the end of what it can do to keep Assad, or some version of his regime, in office.&nbsp;</p><p>This is not peace, and it may still include a role for Hizbollah in Syria. However it symbolises a consolidation of power in which Russia is the preeminent foreign actor in Syria, and Iran’s autonomy of action may come to depend on Russian-US agreement on a division of responsibilities for all external actors. </p><p>Such Russian and US collaboration could reduce Iran’s supply lines, including to Hizbollah. The Iraqi government is working closely with the US military and might play its part in the weapons squeeze, while a possible eastern Syrian security zone, alongside a US-backed southern one involving the Jordanians, could further constrain Iran.<span></span><span></span></p><p>None of this is cast in stone of course. President Trump’s domestic predicaments could complicate attempted strategic collaboration with an ostensible Russian adversary, while Syrian regime forces and their Iranian-backed Iraqi militia allies are seeking to control the eastern Syrian border with Iraq – a development that would presumably favour Hizbollah.</p><p>There is no doubt though that Hizbollah’s domestic Lebanese enemies sense an opportunity to reduce the power of what to them is an unwelcome foreign adjunct to the Lebanese state. In response to such a possible scenario, and already intensified US anti-Hizbollah sanctions and the arrest of some Hizbollah figures abroad, Mohammed Raad, the veteran head of Hizbollah’s parliamentary group, said, “Don’t worry about us….[w]e’re adapting.”<span></span><span></span></p><p>Despite a de facto national pact with Hizbollah, MPs loyal to Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the Saudi-allied Sunni Arab politician, do not bother to contain their hostility to the Shia Islamist group. They believe that President Aoun is only still rejecting US and Saudi attempts to side-line Hizbollah because his alliance with them is what brought him to power after a two year vacuum at the top of the Lebanese political system. </p><p>Sunni Arabs and non-Maronite Christians from Mr Hariri’s ’Future’ bloc are expecting that Lebanon will become a platform for a US-led initiative to contain Iran’s Lebanese ally. Thus far, however, Aoun and the rest of the Lebanese leadership are not embracing the apparent Trump strategy of deep alignment with Sunni Arab and wider Sunni Muslim regimes in a dual contest with Iran and all those judged to be terrorists: essentially Sunni Arab extremists ISIS and Al-Qaeda, the Palestinian Sunni Islamists Hamas, and the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hizbollah. </p><p>Aoun wasn’t invited to Riyadh for the founding of the de facto Sunni club, and the Lebanese delegation left before the final Trump-Saudi declaration on May 22. Lebanon’s energy minister Raed Khoury contemptuously observed that it contained nothing new as the US-Saudi position toward Hizbollah and Iran was already well-known. &nbsp;<span></span><span></span></p><p>Hizbollah argues that Iran, unlike Saudi Arabia, has limited economic, social and cultural links in Lebanon, in part because the Beirut government refuses some of the assistance it has been offered. Iran never demands a political price for its support, Afif argues, drawing a contrast with the demands the Saudis have made in order to fulfil the largely frozen US$ 3 billion in French arms supplies to the Lebanese Army and the balance of US$ 1 billion Saudi support for the security services.President Aoun’s visit to Saudi Arabia in January failed to secure the unfreezing of this arms package. </p><p>The Saudis want Lebanon to distance itself from both Iran and Hizbollah, and are still sore about Lebanon’s refusal to condemn Iran for the attacks on the Saudi embassy and consulate in Iran in January 2016. However Aoun isn’t budging.</p><p><span></span></p><p>If the Saudis decided to box clever, emboldened by the deepening US-Saudi relationship, they would supply the outstanding Lebanese security assistance without rhetorical strings. French or US officials could be invited to monitor the security of the Army’s arms storage, not that alleged Hizbollah stealing of kit supplied to the Lebanese Army has ever prevented Washington from providing military assistance. </p><p>Why should we steal their weapons, Raad asks rhetorically. There are plenty of Russian and other arms kicking around Syria, he observes. Of course Hizbollah could block any Lebanese-Saudi movement on the arms front, seeing it as a direct move against itself and Iran. After all, Hizbollah sees no separation between what Raad calls the “aggressive policies of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the USA against Hizbollah and Iran.”</p><p>An ongoing conflict in Syria will leave Hizbollah’s role in Lebanese national security unresolved, as it will the future of an estimated 1.5 million Syrians resident throughout a country of only 4.2 million Lebanese nationals. Refugees minister Moueen Merehbi is hopeful the proposed security zones will stabilise Syria and enable the return of many of the 1.5 million. Enhancing the Lebanese state’s security capacity and receiving much more generous foreign aid could, he says, help the desired process of giving them a temporary but official residency status and of improving the economic lot of people who otherwise lack a horizon.&nbsp;<span></span><span></span></p><p>If this is not done, the mostly Sunni Arabs could become tools for&nbsp;<em>takfiri</em>s, replicating a domestic Sunni militant threat that both Hizbollah and the Lebanese state have played an important part in containing. A possible Hizbollah retrenchment in Syria may free its forces to offset such a perceived enemy within. The Shia militia would like the Lebanese Government to transfer these refugees to a zone just the other side of the Beqaa Valley border with Syria.&nbsp; &nbsp;<span></span><span></span></p><p>Contrary to any such Hizbollah-friendly domestic division of territory in Syria, the security zones being discussed by Russia, Turkey and Iran, if realised, would complicate Iran’s ability to transfer arms overland from Iraq. That, and Israel’s proven willingness to strike Hizbollah’s access to arms in Syria, might constrain the militia’s options. However, for the time being at least, Hizbollah’s close relationship to the Lebanese state will probably continue to facilitate other in-bound arms sources. Lebanon’s airports and docks can probably continue to provide Hizbollah with arms, even if at risk of Israeli attack.<span></span><span></span></p><p>Should the Lebanese government feel able to distance itself from Iran by reducing the Lebanese state’s dependence on Hizbollah, it is hard to see how this will weaken the movement’s domestic role. Returning Hizbollah fighters, if and when this occurs, would consolidate the movement’s Lebanese presence. A mutual interest that has made Aoun, Hariri and Hizbollah political bed-fellows could also mitigate against any domestic steps that Hizbollah would see as benefitting its regional adversaries. </p><p>Hariri faces growing opposition in the Lebanese Sunni Muslim camp, encouraged by Saudi Arabia betting on several horses as Hariri is in effect in alliance with Hizbollah; and Christian opinion is divided for and against Hizbollah. The latter dominates the Shia community’s politics, and prospective voting reform, projected in advance of a possible August election, is more likely to advantage its position than that of those whose base is in more divided communities.</p><p>With or without enhanced foreign aid to the Lebanese army and security forces, Israel and the US may consider that a Hizbollah that has redeployed, or is planning to redeploy, its forces from Syria, needs to be hit in Lebanon. It would argue that this is pre-emptive action. Hizbollah will know that it will be sorely testing the patience of many Lebanese should it be seen to have provoked such a conflict. However it may have little choice but to enter a resumed confrontation. </p><p>Hizbollah’s proven armed capability in Syria, Israel’s perceived political defeat in 2006, coupled with a possible US and Saudi green light, may make it inevitable. Once again though, unless Israel wins decisively, Hizbollah will be the victor. The danger of this recurring scenario might encourage Israeli caution. </p><p>The US’ re-found Sunni regional alliance will still make a rebalancing of Lebanon’s domestic and external alignments a likely American objective. In other words, while Hizbollah may face increased domestic and external pressure, it is unlikely to lose its centrality to the future of Lebanon.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/neil-partrick/turkey-looking-east-and-west">Turkey: looking east and west </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Lebanon </div> <div class="field-item even"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Saudi Arabia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia United States Iraq Iran Saudi Arabia Syria Lebanon Conflict Democracy and government International politics Violent transitions Geopolitics Neil Partrick Fri, 16 Jun 2017 18:40:14 +0000 Neil Partrick 111636 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iraqi feminists mobilise against sectarian laws https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/zahra-ali/iraqi-feminists-mobilise-against-sectarian-laws <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The sectarian personal status code comes in a context marked by social and religious conservatisms, sectarian conflicts, political instability and the absence of a strong unifying state. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/iraqfeminists.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/iraqfeminists.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Picture made by the Iraqi Women’s Journalist’s Forum to campaign against the latest attempt to reformulate the Ja’fari law.</span></span></span>Feminists and civil society activists in Iraq <a href="http://ehamalat.com/Ar/sign_petitions.aspx?pid=938">are calling once again for the withdrawal of a proposition</a> made by two parliamentary commissions, the legal and the Awkaf, to re-introduce in a new form the previously rejected <em>Ja’fari</em> law. On the pretext of reforming the Personal Status Code relying on the very polemical article 41 of the Constitution, a group of parliamentarians are willing to introduce a sectarian family law based on Shi’a jurisprudence breaking with the existing one that applies for Sunnis and Shi’as alike. </p><h3>Questioning a unifying and a more egalitarian legacy</h3><h3> </h3><p>Challenging the Law n°188 of 1959 is not new in Iraq. The law includes legislation related to personal status such as marriage, divorce, custody and inheritance etc. constituting the Personal Status Code (also known as Family Law in other Arab countries). Since 2003, Shi’a Islamist political parties who came to power with the US-led coalition forces, pushed for a reassessment of the unified PSC which relies on both Sunni and Shi’a jurisprudence. They presented different propositions all of which introduce the possibility of a sectarian based PSC: Decree 137 proposed in 2003, Article 41 of the new Iraqi Constitution adopted in 2005 and more recently the <em>Ja’fari </em>Law proposition in 2014. </p><p>That last law is named after the main school of jurisprudence of Shi’a Muslims in Iraq the <em>Ja’fari mazhab.</em> It contains articles that can allow the marriage of girls from the age of 9 considered as <em>sin al-Balagha</em> (the age of maturity) in the <em>Ja’fari</em> jurisprudence. It can also allow precarious forms of marriage in which women could lose basic legal protection. The <em>Ja’fari</em> law represents a rupture with the PSC. On the one hand, it questions what is considered by Iraqis as a historical gain in terms of legal rights such as the minimum legal age of marriage fixed at 18 years old for both sexes, and the limit imposed on polygamy and unions contracted outside the civil court. On the other hand, it also constitutes a rupture with the unifying and non-sectarian nature of the PSC that gathers both Sunni and Shi’a jurisprudence and thus is applied to both sects and renders possible intersect marriages. </p><p>More generally, it can also be argued that the push for a sectarianization of the PSC by the conservative Islamist Shi’a political groups who took power after the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, represent an even more radical political stance. Through both a conservative reading of religious jurisprudence and a politico-sectarian definition of their national identity, these groups are also questioning the legacy of the anti-imperialist left that fought for the establishment of the PSC in the late 1950s. </p><p>In Iraq, the adoption of an openly pro-women’s rights PSC in 1959 was related to the political culture of the revolutionary elite that came to power through ‘Abd al-Karim Qasim (1914–1963)’s 1959 coup. It also signalled questioning the dictates of ‘ulemas and tribal leaders over private matters. Crucially, the adoption of this code marked the beginning of women activists’ inclusion in the process of negotiating for their rights. As an example, Naziha al-Dulaymi (1923–2007), a gynaecologist by trade, and a prominent figure of the League for the Defense of Women’s Rights, was the first Iraqi and Arab female minister. She was a prominent communist and anti-imperialist activist who participated in the drafting of the PSC. </p><p>The text of Law no. 188 is clearly inspired by different schools of jurisprudence thus eliminating the differential treatment of Sunnis and Shias and allowing state-trained and appointed judges to rule on personal matters without consulting the ‘ulemas. Thus, the PSC gathering both Sunni and Shi’a jurisprudence provided a legal frame applicable equally to all Muslim Iraqis. This makes the Law no. 188 a symbol of both the new nation’s unity beyond ethno-sectarian lines and the inclusion of women’s rights activists’ demands through their participation in the legislative process itself. At a time when the political culture was marked by the anti-imperialist left, especially the Iraqi Communist Party, both ethno-sectarian unity and pro-women’s rights aspirations were linked to one another. </p><p>Activists of the <a href="https://iraqiwomennet.wordpress.com/about/">Iraqi Women Network</a>, as well as the <a href="http://www.iwjf.info/">Iraqi Women Journalist’s Forum</a>, the <a href="http://www.owfi.info/EN/">Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq</a> and prominent civil society activists firmly opposed all the measures that break with the unifying and relatively egalitarian nature of the PSC. They have all expressed fears over both the adoption of a system based on a regressive and conservative reading of Muslim jurisprudence and the sectarianization of women and family issues in a context marked by social and religious conservatisms, sectarian conflicts, political instability and the absence of a strong unifying state. </p><h3>Against a communal-based political system </h3><p>Significantly, Sunni Islamists also opposed these propositions, siding instead with the preservation of a unified code that facilitates inter-communal marriage and unites all Muslim Iraqis. All these law propositions have been very unpopular among Iraqis, Sunnis and Shi’as alike. Most Shi’a clerics also opposed it. The fact that most of the Shi’a population and clerics also oppose the sectarianization of the PSC shows that this issue does not divide Sunnis and Shi’as on strictly religious-sectarian lines, but rather on political-sectarian lines. Only the conservative Shi’a Islamist parties that came to power in 2003 push for a sectarianization of the PSC which for them is synonymous with more autonomy and signal an affirmation of their politico-sectarian identity. It is clearly an opposition between divergent political models between a conservative and sectarian one and an egalitarian and unifying one. </p><p>The US-led invasion and the occupation administration have institutionalized communal-based identity as the basis of the Iraqi political system. This very polity constitute the <em>raison d’être</em> of the sectarian groups that came to power in 2003 since their political power would not be possible without a communal-based political system. It is precisely this system that Iraqi feminists and civil society activists are combatting through their recent mobilizations in Tahrir square. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/zahra-ali/young-grassroots-activism-on-rise-in-iraq-voices-from-baghdad-and-najaf">The popular movement of protest that started in late July 2015</a> expresses its revolt against the communal based post-2003 political system and the corruption and nepotism that characterizes the new political elite. In claiming their demand of a <em>dawla medenya</em> (civil state), demonstrators also express their denunciation of the instrumentalization of religion in politics. In response to the use of a sectarian discourse by the Iraqi government in its war against the Islamic State organization in the North of the country, Iraqi demonstrators have insisted on the fact that corruption and sectarianism have created this terrorist organization and that only social justice and equality can adequately resolve the issue of terrorism and sectarian violence in Iraq. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/nick-grinstead/frenemies-forever-iraqi-shi-after-mosul">Frenemies forever: Iraqi Shi’a after Mosul</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/ali-ali/iraq-13-years-on-legacy-of-occupation-and-grinding-deregulation-of-daily-life">Iraq 13 years on</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia 50.50 North-Africa West-Asia Iraq feminism sectarianism protest Zahra Ali Thu, 15 Jun 2017 11:37:44 +0000 Zahra Ali 111700 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Whatever happened to peace? Arms, oil and war by proxy https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/whatever-happened-peace-arms-oil-war-proxy-syria-middle-east-military-industrial <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We're living in a new era of proxy warfare, where multiple powers fund local proxies with disastrous consequences. We need to break the cycle.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563362/7805643488_c5a36456c2_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="The conflict in Syria is just one example of a new age of proxy wars. Image by a.anis/Flickr. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563362/7805643488_c5a36456c2_o.jpg" alt="" title="The conflict in Syria is just one example of a new age of proxy wars. Image by a.anis/Flickr. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="326" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">The conflict in Syria is just one example of a new age of proxy wars. Image by a.anis/Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></p><p dir="ltr">The end of the Cold War was one of the few historical moments in which people around the world looked forward to a future that promised to be more just and peaceful for everyone. The Berlin Wall was finally torn down, following years of tireless civil society activism in one of the world’s few peaceful revolutions. Liberal democratic systems seemed to be spreading everywhere, compelling Francis Fukuyama to craft the (nowadays often-scorned) argument that “The End of History” – and consequently the cessation of constant conflict – had finally arrived with the falling of the Iron Curtain.</p><p dir="ltr">The promising world 'peace dividend', a term initially coined by US president <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_H.W._Bush">George H.W. Bush</a> and UK prime minister <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Thatcher">Margaret Thatcher</a>, was on everyone’s lips. Hope was in the air. The Soviet Union and United States vowed to work together to further cut down on a nuclear arsenal that could have blown up the world many times over. And they also seemed to be hard at work getting rid of another major – and often underestimated – impediment to peace: proxy wars, the type of war waged in the developing world for most of the Cold War, from Latin America to Central Asia to the Horn of Africa. These were wars in which the Soviet Union and US did not directly fight, but paid and favored local fighters, often through highly classified operations and byzantine financial networks that have inspired generations of spy novelists. Before the Cold War, colonial regimes paid local proxies to advance their agendas and “divide and conquer”.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">Following the conclusion of the Cold War, an era of enduring peace was within immediate reach. Or so it seemed.</p><p dir="ltr"><span>As the Cold War finally came to a close, it was hoped and anticipated that weapon donations would be replaced by UN Peacekeepers and a new generation of NGO activists. Indeed, the new crop of peacemakers seemed to be more liberated. Free from the stifling imperatives of geopolitics, they could implement deals that had previously died prematurely at the conference tables of diplomats, anxious over the advances of an enemy superpower. </span>The tit-for-tat strategies that would reap destruction seemed to be a thing of yesteryear. </p><p dir="ltr">The “War to End all Wars” is a coinage that stems from the First World War. In the global public imagination: the Cold War would be the real “War to End all Wars.” Following its conclusion, an era of enduring peace was within immediate reach. Or so it seemed.</p><h2>A new era of proxy wars</h2><p dir="ltr">Fast forward 28 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and few such promised realities seem to have materialized. On the contrary, we have entered a new era of proxy wars.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Syria</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><span>According to some commentators, the conflict in Syria at the doorstep of Europe is a heart-wrenching case-in-point for a new type of intractable Middle Eastern proxy war in which not two, but multiple regional and global powers have become drawn into conflict. This is a conflict which finds its roots in an uprising against the dictatorial regime of president Assad, whose government, according to media accounts and studies, has committed unspeakable crimes against humanity, such as the use of barrel bombs, chemical weapon attacks and forced starvation campaigns.</span>&nbsp;Between 312,001 and 470,000 Syrians have died with millions displaced.</p><p dir="ltr">In analyzing the Syrian conflict, we should, of course, not lift the moral onus off the Assad regime, nor create wrong moral equivalenies, as Syrian commentators such as Alia Malek, Sami Alkayial and Yasser Munif have warned. Sadly the Syrian conflict has become, to quote Mehdi Hasan, “the ultimate political and sectarian Rorschach test of our time.” Similarly, as Alia Malek points out:</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“[A] lot of people are kind of placing Syria as a character, as a bit character, into their larger sort of geopolitical narratives of what is happening in this world. Whether you’re objecting to intervention by outside powers, you know, Syria just becomes like the latest theater to have that discussion. Whether it’s a discussion about sectarianism and whether Sunnis are being killed by Shia, it just becomes […] a way to look at Syria in that sense. But I’m—I’ve always advocated for looking at Syria for the sake of Syrians and creating a country that is stable and safe and free for all its people.”</p><p dir="ltr">Such cautionary words notwithstanding, the internationalization of the Syrian conflict has made it more intractable. Though the Syrian conflict has been described as a proxy conflict between the US and Russia, the most prominent of the powers contending for influence in Syria are regional. Part of the reason for this support is that Iran, Shiite sectarian arch-enemy of the Gulf monarchies, supports the Syrian government as well as local Hezbollah and even Iranian fighters who entered Syrian territory. Because of the Sunni Iranian involvement, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Arab Emirate countries have provided financial support to some of the supposedly moderate groups—the ones also vetted and backed by the US—, and allegedly also to some of the more radical groups. Qatar is accused of supporting the radical Al Nusra Front, which is considered an offspring of Al Qaida. EU countries and the United States support Kurdish fighters, while they are militarily opposed by Turkey, reportedly allowing DAESH fighters entry into the territory of neighboring Syria to maintain a counterbalance to Assad.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Yemen</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The outbreak of intractable proxy wars is a problem that is not confined to Syria. Not too far away and in the same region, the country of Yemen has been engulfed in a proxy war involving Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the US. It’s a war that has often escaped public attention and media scrutiny, despite the attempts of NGOs such as Oxfam to bring the suffering of Yemeni civilians to the attention of western publics. According to UN estimates from August 2016, at least 10,000 have been killed or wounded in the conflict. According to experts, containing Iranian influences within the region also played a role in the Saudi decision to go to war in Yemen. In so doing, the Saudi military has received many of its weapons, including cluster bombs, from the US and EU countries, along with concrete tactical support from US military personnel.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Somalia</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Across the Gulf of Aden, where Yemen is located, the failed state of Somalia is recovering from a proxy war of the post 9/11-era. Following the attacks of 9/11, the Bush administration decided that it would be necessary to oust the Islamic Courts that had created some stability in a country historically beset by conflicts. These conflicts had both a local and international dimension, especially in the 1980s when Somalia served as the theater for a Cold War proxy conflict. With US backing, Ethiopia invaded Somalia in 2006, leaving behind a trail of human rights abuses.</p><p dir="ltr">While the conflicts in Yemen, Somalia, and Syria are more readily identifiable proxy wars, even the supposedly classical military operations of the post 9/11-era had elements of proxy wars. After all, it wasn’t Russian military forces alone that annexed East Crimea. Russia’s 'little green men' (military personnel, unmarked) entered the area, formed local militias, pushed a pro-Russian agenda, then called for a vote on annexation.</p><p dir="ltr">The same goes for western invasions. It wasn’t the international ISAF Forces that singlehandedly defeated the Taliban in late 2001, but the US-backed Northern Alliance, initially made up of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tajik_people">Tajik fighters.</a> Though precise accounts of the fall of the Libyan state diverge, according to many credible narratives it was not a NATO airstrike but rebels supported by NATO airpower that executed Colonel Gaddafi on the streets of Misrata in March of 2012. Even before the invasion, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar competed for influence by arming different militias in a country that has long been a chessboard of global and regional politics. According to an analysis by Frederic Wehrey in the Washington Post, similar dynamics still plague the country. In the case of the Iraq invasion, which had initially been fought without indigenous proxies, US planners attempted to recruit local conscripts to bring stability following the post-invasion chaos. The so-called “Anbar Awakening”, vigilantes cooperating with US forces, quenched some of the post-war violence and facilitated the eventual troop withdrawal from Iraq, though both were only temporary.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Regime change</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Recent western military invasions may not have been proxy wars in the classical Cold War sense: that is, competitions between two proxies for greater powers fighting in the same territory. Instead, proxy forces were relied on to topple regimes. An early definition of proxy wars, formulated by Karl Deutsch, considered them “an international conflict between two foreign powers, fought out on the soil of a third country.” A more recent one by Andrew Mumford considers proxy wars “conflicts in which a third party intervenes indirectly in order to influence the strategic outcome in favor of its preferred faction.” Following this newer definition, the more recent regime change operations as well as the annexation of East Crimea, and the long and tragic ripple effects that would cost the lives of hundreds of thousands if not more, could be considered proxy wars.</p><h2>The causes of proxy wars</h2><p>To bring these complex wars to a halt, we have to be very precise about what keeps them going. Saudi Arabia and Iran, probably the two main players in proxy wars in a destabilizaion of the Middle Eastern region that is steadily increasing, fund proxy forces to bolster their versions of Islam—Sunni and Shiite Islam, respectively. It is safe to assume that from the perspective of Riyadh and Teheran, furthering sectarian interests, inextricably intertwined with access to resources and geopolitical influence, are of more importance than peace in the region.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">Global unregulated capitalism pours kerosene on a Middle East that is already in flames.</p><p dir="ltr">But it is not only sectarian strife—often highlighted in the western media—but also global unregulated capitalism that pours kerosene on a Middle East that is already in flames. </p><p dir="ltr">Western weapon companies see the newly emerging proxy wars as momentous opportunities for increased revenues. During a 2015 conference of Lockheed Martin in Palm Beach Florida, its executive vice president Bruce Tanner predicted “indirect benefits” from the war in Syria. Similarly, as the Intercept reports, Raytheon chief executive Tom Kennedy spoke of “a significant uptick” for “defense solutions across the board in multiple countries in the Middle East.” Referring to Saudi Arabia, Kennedy elaborates, “It’s all the turmoil they have going on, whether the turmoil is occurring in Yemen, whether it’s with the Houthis, whether it’s occurring in Syria or Iraq, with ISIS.” And sure enough, stocks for arms have soared in recent years.</p><p dir="ltr">But it is not only weapons but also oil which disincentivizes policy makers from de-escalating proxy wars. As Christopher Davidson, who the Economist called “one of the most knowledgeable academics” writing about the Middle East, shows in his 688-page long tome “Shadow Wars: The Secret Struggle for the Middle East,” how many covert operations in the Middle East were historically supported to advance the explicit geopolitical or economic interests of the funders. According to Davidson, the emergence of the US as a major oil producer has motivated US policy makers to let Saudi forces engage in exhausting proxy wars throughout the region so that a weakened Saudi Arabia is forced to sell its state assets.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">Oil and weapons play a role in the decisions made by states, even when lives are at stake.</p><p dir="ltr">Whatever the precise motivations, aside from the publicly touted humanitarian rationales, oil and weapons play a role in the decisions made by states, even when lives are at stake. </p><p dir="ltr">But whatever the argument, the evidence in support of proxy wars as an effective means in the interest of peace is scarce. At least this is the case if one follows the analysis coming from the proverbial mouth of the horse, the CIA. The spy agency has funded proxy fighters for most of its history. Reportedly president Obama, at least an initial skeptic in the use of proxies, was interested in finding out if funding insurgents generally accomplish the stated strategic goals and commissioned an internal study.</p><p dir="ltr">The report concluded that conflicts were not decided in the interest of the US following the funding of proxy actors, unless, according to the report, US personnel were on the ground along with the proxies. The notable exception—according to the study—was the support for the Mujahidin against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. However, although the Mujahidin did ultimately chase the illegally invading Soviet forces out of the country, Afghanistan did not regain stability. One thing to come out of this instability was the merging of the Mujahidin into Al Qaida: the very same enemy the US fights in the current global 'War on Terror'. This is not just one war, but multiple new proxy wars that cause immense suffering and which have, according to the Global Terrorism Index, contributed to an almost nine-fold increase in deaths caused by terrorism between 2000 and 2016. If we consider the entire historical context, the Afghanistan example serves, at best, as a very cautionary tale.</p><h2>What happened the last time proxy wars ended?</h2><p dir="ltr">Faced with a history of such tragic blowbacks, it seems self-evident that we had better seriously contemplate workable alternatives. What can we do instead of embarking on a perilous path towards funding more and more local fighters? Was there ever a time in which we collectively escaped the fatal trap of the proxy war? Has it been done before? How can we influence states and corporations so that they work towards disentangling proxy wars?</p><p dir="ltr">As it turns out, we must go back to the aforementioned moment in history in which world leaders at least tried giving peace a chance on a global scale: the end of the Cold War. The conventional wisdom is that global efforts to curb violence following the Cold War have fallen flat, that out of the ruins of the battlefields of the proxy wars in the Global South and the Soviet Empire in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, ethnically motivated violence, no longer encumbered by Cold War authoritarian regimes, caused havoc. But has the post-Cold War landscape really been so bleak? Are ethnically motivated clashes and indigenous warfare the inevitable replacement of proxy wars?</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">There was a dramatic decline in the number of wars, genocides, and human rights abuse over the 15 years following the end of the Cold War.</p><p dir="ltr">One could say that the end of the Cold War is a historic test case for whether proxy wars can be stopped. As it turns out, the Human Security Report conducted by the Simon Frasier University in Canada, the most rigorous investigation of what happened in regards to global conflicts following the Cold War, gives some reason to hope. </p><p dir="ltr">The research, which annually measures the numbers of incidences of violence such as internal and international wars, reports that there was “a dramatic, but largely unknown, decline in the number of wars, genocides, and human rights abuse" over the roughly fifteen years following the end of the Cold War.</p><p dir="ltr">At the time one of their major reports was commissioned in 2005, the number of armed conflicts around the world had reduced by 40 percent. The report sees the end of proxy wars as a major cause for the reduction of violence. Without external assistance, conflicts, in the words of the investigators, “simply petered out, or were ended by negotiated settlements.” Conflicts such as those in Angola did drag on for a bit following the Cold War, but in the absence of international support for proxies they became resolved within the fifteen years following it. What took the place of external military assistance was a proliferation of international activism to stop wars, prevent the outbreak of wars that had been ended, and aid in the post-conflict reconstruction following the signature of peace settlements. Contrary to common perceptions, the peace dividend paid off.</p><h2><span>Towards a new peace dividend and movement</span></h2><p dir="ltr"><span></span>Though the most recent Human Security Report, dating from 2013, reported a further decline in conflicts, one of the more recent rigorous projects to globally measure the prevalence of conflicts, the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP), demonstrates that 2014 saw an increase in the number of active conflicts and also the casualties from battle. Forty armed conflicts were active in 2014, whereas in 2013 34 conflicts were designated active. The increase in conflicts since 1999 stood at 18 percent. Whatever gains were brought about by the 'peace dividend', they have been reversed, with people all over the world paying the greatest price.</p><p dir="ltr">Following the Cold War, the willingness to invest some of the political energy otherwise put into warfare reduced the number of conflicts. Not enough, of course. Counting the worldwide number of deaths gives no comfort to those who have lost loved ones in conflict. But what the study by Simon Frasier University shows is that global political will for more peaceful solutions can indeed translate into tangibly less conflict on the ground.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Mikhail Gorbachev: “It All Looks as if the World Is Preparing for War”</p><p dir="ltr">This political will is, unfortunately, in very short supply in this day and age. Recently Mikhail Gorbachev, a major architect of the policies that facilitated the end of the Cold War and perhaps one of the most daring and innovative agents for peace in the twentieth century, wrote an op-ed in the Times, entitled “It All Looks as if the World Is Preparing for War”, in which he sums up the current historical moment by stating,</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“The world today is overwhelmed with problems. Policy makers seem to be confused and at a loss. But no problem is more urgent today than the militarization of politics and the new arms race. Stopping and reversing this ruinous race must be our top priority.”</p><p dir="ltr">There seems to be no regret among decision makers in Moscow about having armed rebels in East Ukraine, or about its current support for the slaughter in Syria. There is also little support for a bolder, more peaceful foreign policy in the US. From Somalia to Yemen, US politicians have accepted “counterinsurgency warfare”, which includes arming local forces, as a less politically costly and militarily effective alternative to ground force invasions. This shift in strategy was arguably stronger, not weaker, for much of the presidency of Obama, a politician who was not only ushered into office with a public mandate to create a more peaceful foreign policy, but also received a Nobel Peace Prize to bolster his plans shortly following his inauguration.</p><p dir="ltr">President Donald Trump, by contrast, initially critical of Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy, has stepped up military activities since he took office. For example, drone strikes, an important component in the theatre of war in Yemen, have gone up by 432 percent. </p><p dir="ltr">In contrast to Trump and Clinton, the Bernie Sanders campaign had a more authentic political platform when it came to the issue of de-escalating conflicts. In the debate with Hillary Clinton, he cited historical examples to make a strong and coherent argument against escalating conflicts.</p><p dir="ltr">A new type of vigorous and principled peace movement must be formed in this time of crisis. Peace movements in rich countries should join Middle Eastern peace movements that rally for more democratic and less sectarian governance. Social movements can become stronger by integrating divergent points of view, histories and ideologies, which inform interpretations of complex conflicts. It necessarily has to look at the various internal roots of conflict, and also at how foreign governments, from Moscow and Washington to Riyadh and Teheran, fuel conflicts.</p><p dir="ltr">Supporting and holding political platforms accountable will be key to demilitarizing political ideologies and stopping the world in its “ruinous race” to global war, to use the words of Gorbachev. More often than not, a call to arm a party to a conflict prolongs said conflict. </p><p dir="ltr">The public’s immediate question with regards to conflicts probably shouldn’t be “Whom should we support militarily?” Instead, we should more seriously consider questions such as “Who keeps a conflict going?” and “How can we de-escalate it?”</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">It is up to us westerners to bring global war profiteering out of the shadows of impunity.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">As profits soar while countries spiral into chaos, a new peace movement cannot compel states to act more responsibly or to de-escalate conflict without challenging a global economic system that puts profits over people. If we fail to do so, the next 'peace dividend' will again be short-lived. Governments cannot serve as effective diplomats if their representatives indirectly represent the interests of the defense or oil industries. Just as reducing the grip of sectarianism on conflict resolutions has to be accomplished in the Middle East, it is up to us westerners to bring global war profiteering out of the shadows of impunity. For such political activism to happen, we have to realize that the out-of-control weaponization of regional conflicts is one of the twenty-first century’s many major challenges.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-right">The global peace movement holds the most realistic solutions to conflict.</span></p><p>Somehow we the people—who, against all odds, want to raise our children in a more peaceful world—have to let our politicians know that arms should be removed from most regions of conflict.</p><p>Far from being out of touch with reality, the global peace movement—though worryingly weakened—in fact holds the most realistic solutions to conflict. Given the data, it is clear that negotiation with the actors in a conflict is the best route to peace. De-escalation is the only framework in tune with the realities of the contemporary world as well as the lessons of recent history. We have to compel regional and global forces to work towards de-escalating conflicts. Challenging the financial incentives that bring weapons into the hand of proxies may be one of the most effective ways to do so.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/david-morrison/britain-would-have-been-safer-with-corbyn-in-charge">Britain would have been safer with Corbyn in charge</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/andrew-smith/debunking-myths-that-underpin-britains-arms-exports-to-saudi-arabia">Debunking the myths that underpin Britain&#039;s arms exports to Saudi Arabia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/danny-sjursen/how-to-lose-next-war-in-middle-east-short-answer-fight-it">How to lose the next war in the Middle East: the short answer, fight it!</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/shilpa-jindia/syria-US-war-left-revolution">To stand up for the powerless in Syria, the Left must embrace complexity</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> <div class="field-item odd"> France </div> <div class="field-item even"> Russia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Somalia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Afghanistan </div> <div class="field-item even"> Libya </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ukraine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Ukraine Libya Afghanistan Iraq Somalia Syria EU Russia France UK United States Conflict Economics International politics Jonas Ecke Fri, 19 May 2017 08:01:25 +0000 Jonas Ecke 110739 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Britain would have been safer with Corbyn in charge https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/david-morrison/britain-would-have-been-safer-with-corbyn-in-charge <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Jeremy Corbyn consistently voted against wars of choice that Britain could have refrained from taking part in, now regarded as strategic failures, promoting, not reducing, international terrorism.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/blair4.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/blair4.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/Centre for American Progress, CC BY-ND 2.0</span></span></span>In a <a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3422855/dont-feel-sorry-for-helpless-jeremy-corbyn-he-poses-an-enormous-threat-to-our-country/">tirade</a> against Jeremy Corbyn in <em>The Sun</em> on 26 April 2017, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson asserted that the Labour leader’s, </p> <blockquote><p>“ardent anti-military stances actually mean ‘the consequences would be calamitous’ if he ever gets the keys to No 10”.</p></blockquote> <p>And he went on to say that the Labour Party leader would pose “an enormous threat to our country if he gets into No 10”. Likewise, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told BBC Today listeners on 11 May 2017 that the Labour leader “would be a very dangerous leader of our country” if he became Prime Minister.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>It is true that Jeremy Corbyn has a spotless record of opposition to British military intervention abroad in the twenty-first century – in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria – and he has consistently voted against these interventions in the House of Commons. By contrast, the Foreign Secretary has maintained what might be called an ardent pro-military stance and backed all of them – and so has Defence Secretary Fallon and Prime Minister May.&nbsp; </p> <p>The consequences of these military interventions have been disastrous for the Greater Middle East. The region has been destabilised and an environment created in which al-Qaeda linked groups, such as ISIS, have flourished. Without the invasion and destruction of the Iraqi state, ISIS would not have come into existence.&nbsp; In an <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2a01Rg2g2Z8">interview</a> with Vice News in March 2015, President Obama said:</p> <p>“ISIS is a direct outgrowth of al-Qaeda in Iraq that grew out of our invasion. Which is an example of unintended consequences. Which is why we should generally aim before we shoot.” <span class="mag-quote-center">“ISIS is a direct outgrowth of al-Qaeda in Iraq that grew out of our invasion. Which is an example of unintended consequences. Which is why we should generally aim before we shoot.” </span></p><p>In the appalling environment created by these interventions, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions more have been made into refugees. In March 2015, <em>Physicians for Social Responsibility</em> published a <a href="http://www.psr.org/assets/pdfs/body-count.pdf">review</a> of the various estimates of people killed in Afghanistan and Iraq in the 12 years after 9/11 during the so-called “war on terror”.&nbsp; They estimate that “the war has, directly or indirectly, killed around 1 million people in Iraq” and “220,000 in Afghanistan”.</p> <h2><strong>Wars of choice</strong></h2> <p>There was no compelling reason for Britain to participate in any of these military interventions. All of them were wars of choice. None of them was undertaken in self-defence in response to being attacked. None of them was undertaken to counter a credible threat to Britain. Indeed, as we will see, Britain’s participation in the invasion of Iraq greatly increased the threat to Britain from al-Qaeda, as the intelligence services warned in advance it would. </p> <p>Britain would have been safer if successive governments, beginning with Tony Blair’s in 2001, had adopted Jeremy Corbyn’s “ardent anti-military” stance and kept its troops at home. <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-10637526">179</a> British service personnel were killed in Iraq and <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-10629358">456</a> in Afghanistan and thousands more have been injured, many with injuries that will be with them for the rest of their lives. These casualties would have been avoided if successive UK governments had refused to participate in these interventions.</p> <p>In his Chatham House <a href="https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2017/05/jeremy-corbyns-chatham-house-speech-full-text/">speech</a> on 12 May 2017, Jeremy Corbyn said:</p> <blockquote><p>“The approach to international security we have been using since the 1990s has simply not worked.&nbsp;Regime change wars in Afghanistan Iraq, Libya, and Syria – and western interventions in Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen – have failed in their own terms, and made the world a more dangerous place.</p><p>“This is the fourth General Election in a row to be held while Britain is at war and our armed forces are in action in the Middle East and beyond.&nbsp;The fact is that the ‘war on terror’ which has driven these interventions has failed. They have not increased our security at home – just the opposite.&nbsp;And they have caused destabilisation and devastation abroad.”</p></blockquote> <p class="mag-quote-center">“The ‘war on terror’ which has driven these interventions has failed. They have not increased our security at home – just the opposite…&nbsp; and destabilisation and devastation abroad.”</p> <p>It is difficult to disagree with any of that. As an MP, Jeremy Corbyn opposed all of these interventions. Prime Minister May, Foreign Secretary Johnson and Defence Secretary Fallon supported all of them and they haven’t shown any sign of recognising the calamitous consequences that flowed from them. So, it would be unwise to bet against a government headed by them engaging in similar disastrous operations abroad, while it’s a surefire bet that a government headed by the “dangerous” Jeremy Corbyn would not.</p> <h2><strong>A last resort - and only if authorised by the Security Council</strong></h2> <p>Throughout his political life, Jeremy Corbyn has taken the view that Britain should engage in military intervention abroad only if the action is authorised by the Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and even then only as a last resort. His stance is hardly surprising since the use of force by a state in other circumstances (apart from in self-defence under Article 51 of the Charter) amounts to aggression, for which Nazi leaders were convicted and hanged at Nuremberg.&nbsp; </p> <p>If asked, British governments would claim to apply the same principles but in practice they find ways of ignoring them or of stretching them unmercifully. A prime example of the latter was the Blair government’s assertion that the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 (the purpose of which was supposed to be to disarm Iraq of its “weapons of mass destruction”) was authorised by a Chapter VII Security Council resolution passed in November 1990 for the entirely different purpose of expelling Iraqi forces from Kuwait. As a veto-holding member of the Security Council, Britain can engage in this kind of creative interpretation of Council resolutions without fear of a word of criticism by the Council, let alone of appropriate punishment for taking unauthorised military action.</p> <h2><strong>Afghanistan</strong></h2> <p>The US/UK invasion of Afghanistan, which began on 7 October 2001, wasn’t explicitly authorised by the Security Council. How then did the Blair Government justify its participation? Believe it or believe it not, the Government claimed that the UK was exercising its right of self-defence under <a href="http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/chapter-vii/">Article 51</a> of the UN Charter “following the terrorist outrage of 11 September, to avert the continuing threat of attacks from the same source” (see House of Commons Library briefing <em>The legal basis for the invasion of Afghanistan</em>, p4). </p> <p>Since the UK hadn’t been attacked by Afghanistan or even by al-Qaida which had a base in Afghanistan at the time, it is difficult to see how it could claim to be acting in self-defence.&nbsp; Be that as it may, as required by Article 51, the UK notified the Security Council of its action, saying that it was directed “against targets we know to be involved in the operation of terror against the United States of America, the United Kingdom and other countries around the world”.&nbsp; </p> <p>For what it’s worth, this argument relied on the UK being an al-Qaida target prior to the attack – and Tony Blair went to great lengths to prove that it was. </p> <p>On 4 October 2001, a few days before the bombing of Afghanistan began, the Government published a document entitled <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/1579043.stm"><em>Responsibility for the terrorist atrocities in the United States, 11 September 2001</em></a>. At the time, I remember being puzzled when I heard that the Government was about to publish a document about events which took place on American soil. What business was it of the British Government?</p> <p>The answer became clear on reading the document. It has four conclusions. The first two are that bin Laden and al-Qaida were responsible for the attacks and that they are capable of mounting further attacks. The third is the reason why the document was published: it is that “the United Kingdom, and United Kingdom nationals are potential targets” for al-Qaida.</p> <p>This was based on two statements by bin Laden (see paragraph 22 of the document). First, the declaration of war against the US military presence in Saudi Arabia from August 1996, which talks about the “aggression, iniquity and injustice imposed” on the Muslim world “by the Zionist-Crusader alliance and their collaborators”. Second, the fatwa issued in February 1998, which calls on Muslims “to launch the raid on Satan’s US troops and the devil’s supporters allying with them, and to displace those who are behind them”.</p> <p>On the basis of these, the document concluded from this that:</p> <blockquote><p>“Although US targets are Al Qaida’s priority, it also explicitly threatens the United States’ allies. References to ‘Zionist-Crusader alliance and their collaborators’, and to ‘Satan’s US troops and the devil’s supporters allying with them’ are references which unquestionably include the United Kingdom.”(paragraph 24)</p></blockquote> <p>This was a doubtful conclusion since the UK wasn’t mentioned explicitly in either of the two statements – or in any other statement – by bin Laden.</p> <p>Sometime later when I looked up the document again, I discovered to my surprise that paragraph 24 had been extended to include the following:</p> <blockquote><p>“This is confirmed by more specific references in a broadcast of 13 October, during which Bin Laden's spokesman said: ‘Al Qaida declares that Bush Sr, Bush Jr, Clinton, Blair and Sharon are the arch-criminals from among the Zionists and Crusaders . . . Al Qaida stresses that the blood of those killed will not go to waste, God willing, until we punish these criminals . . . We also say and advise the Muslims in the United States and Britain . . . not to travel by plane. We also advise them not to live in high-rise buildings and towers’” (see amended report <a href="https://fas.org/irp/news/2001/11/ukreport.html">here</a>)</p></blockquote> <p>Readers were not told that the explicit threat to Britain in this amended paragraph was in response to Britain taking part in the bombing of Afghanistan (which began on 7 October 2001) and would not have been made if Britain had not taken part in the bombing of Afghanistan. Now, Britain certainly was on al-Qaida’s target list – and the Blair government used this to justify the military intervention that put it on. <span class="mag-quote-center">Readers were not told that the explicit threat to Britain in this amended paragraph was in response to Britain taking part in the bombing of Afghanistan. </span></p><p>The proposition that the UK had a right to attack Afghanistan in self-defence is, to say the least of it, farfetched. But, in any case, there was no compelling reason for the UK to participate alongside the US. Tony Blair chose to do so.</p> <p>Jeremy Corbyn was one of a handful of left wing Labour MPs, who along with nationalist MPs from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland opposed participation.</p> <p>Tony Blair didn’t allow the House of Commons a say in the initial decision to participate, nor in the major deployment of troops to Helmand province in 2006. The House of Commons was finally allowed a say by David Cameron on 9 September 2010, when it <a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm100909/debtext/100909-0004.htm#10090911001688">voted</a> overwhelmingly (373 to 14) to “support the continued deployment of UK armed forces in Afghanistan”. Jeremy Corbyn was one of only 14 MPs who voted against.</p> <p>Nearly 16 years after the US/UK invasion and the overthrow of the Taliban regime there is no sign of political arrangements being established that might allow the Afghan people to live in something approaching peace. And, far from countering a threat to Britain from al-Qaida – which was the reason given at the outset by Tony Blair and repeated by later prime ministers – British participation helped generate a threat from al-Qaida, a process that was greatly accelerated by British participation in the invasion of Iraq.&nbsp; </p> <p>Today, around 500 British troops remain in Afghanistan and their final withdrawal is not imminent. On 10 May 2017, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with Prime Minister May and asked for more troops for Afghanistan.</p> <h2><strong>Iraq</strong></h2> <p>The invasion of Iraq in March 2003 alongside the US was another “war of choice” for Tony Blair. Iraq had not attacked the UK, nor did it pose a credible threat to the UK.</p> <p>Ostensibly, the objective of the invasion was to disarm Iraq of its “weapons of mass destruction”. But the invasion on 19 March 2017 aborted a process of disarmament by inspection authorised by the Security Council at a time when a majority in the Council (and the inspectors themselves) wished the process to continue. As Sir John Chilcot said in his <a href="http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/247010/2016-09-06-sir-john-chilcots-public-statement.pdf">statement</a> on 6 July 2016 when he launched his report:</p> <p>“… the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort.” <span class="mag-quote-center">“… The UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort.” </span></p><p>Furthermore, despite heroic efforts by the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith to prove otherwise, the Security Council never authorised the use of force to disarm Iraq of “weapons of mass destruction”. So, Britain’s military action against Iraq constituted aggression contrary to Article 2.4 of the UN Charter. </p> <p>Jeremy Corbyn was one of the 149 MPs (mainly Labour and Liberal Democrat) who <a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200203/cmhansrd/vo030318/debtext/30318-48.htm">voted</a> against the invasion of Iraq on 18 March 2003. 412 MPs, including Boris Johnson (and Michael Fallon and Theresa May) and most other Conservative MPs voted for it. In the debate prior to the vote, Conservative leader Ian Duncan Smith gave Tony Blair completely uncritical support in his determination to overthrow Saddam Hussein, as he had done for the previous year and more.</p> <p>Boris Johnson <a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200203/cmhansrd/vo030318/debtext/30318-20.htm#30318-20_spnew2">spoke</a> in the debate and said that his main reason for supporting the invasion was that:</p> <blockquote><p>“… the removal of Saddam Hussein will make the world a better place, but, above all, it will make the world better for the millions of Iraqis whom he oppresses”.</p></blockquote> <p>The future Foreign Secretary could hardly have been more wrong: the human cost of the invasion and occupation for the Iraqi people has been calamitous.</p> <p>President Bush justified the invasion of Iraq on the basis of two false premises (1) that Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction” and (2) that Saddam Hussein had connections with al-Qaida and had a hand in 9/11. The awful irony is that the US/UK invasion and occupation transformed Iraq from an al-Qaida free zone into an area where al-Qaeda flourished, so much so that a year after the invasion began George Bush <a href="http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2004/03/20040318-3.html">described</a> it as “the central front in the war on terror”. You couldn’t make it up.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/685px-Boris_Johnson_FCA.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/685px-Boris_Johnson_FCA.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Boris Johnson, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Wikicommons. UK Govt. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <h2><strong>Britain less safe</strong></h2> <p>The British intelligence services warned in advance that military action by Britain against Iraq “would increase the threat from Al Qaida to the UK and to UK interests” (see Sir John Chilcot’s <a href="http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/247010/2016-09-06-sir-john-chilcots-public-statement.pdf">statement</a> at the launch of his report on 6 July 2016). That warning, which Tony Blair kept from the British parliament and people, came true in the years following the invasion – al-Qaida activity in Britain increased “substantially” because of the invasion of Iraq, so much so that Tony Blair was persuaded to double the budget of MI5, the UK’s domestic intelligence agency, in 2003.</p> <p>Irrefutable <a href="http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/95374/2010-07-20-Transcript-Manningham-BullerS1.pdf">evidence</a> to that effect was given to the Chilcot inquiry on 20 July 2010 by Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller, who was the Director General of MI5 from October 2002 until April 2007.</p> <p>Asked by one of the inquiry team:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <blockquote><p>“to what extent did the conflict in Iraq exacerbate the overall threat that your Service and your fellow services were having to deal with from international terrorism?”</p></blockquote> <p>in the years after the conflict began in 2003. She replied: “Substantially”.</p> <p>She said there was hard evidence for this, for instance “numerical evidence of the number of plots, the number of leads, the number of people identified, and the correlation of that to Iraq and statements of people as to why they were involved, the discussions between them as to what they were doing”.</p> <p>She added:</p> <blockquote><p>“The fact is that the threat increased, was exacerbated by Iraq, and caused not only my Service but many other services round the world to have to have a major increase in resources to deal with it. In 2003, having had an upgrade in resources after 9/11, which my predecessor agreed, and … another one … in 2002, by 2003 I found it necessary to ask the Prime Minister for a doubling of our budget. This is unheard of, it's certainly unheard of today, but he and the Treasury and the Chancellor accepted that because I was able to demonstrate the scale of the problem that we were confronted by.” (p26-7)</p></blockquote> <p class="mag-quote-center">“The fact is that the threat increased, was exacerbated by Iraq… by 2003 I found it necessary to ask the Prime Minister for a doubling of our budget. This is unheard of…”</p> <p>So, there is no doubt that al-Qaida related activity in Britain increased “substantially” because of Britain’s participation in the invasion of Iraq. This activity included the London bombings of 7 July 2005, in which 52 people were killed and more than 700 were&nbsp;injured.</p> <p>If Britain had not participated in that invasion, it is almost certain that such an upsurge in al-Qaida related activity in Britain, including the London bombings, would not have occurred.&nbsp; Stating that is not a justification for the London bombings or other al-Qaida attacks. It is simply a statement of fact.</p> <p>Had Jeremy Corbyn’s “ardent anti-military” stance been adopted by the House of Commons on 18 March 2003, there would have been no British military casualties in Iraq and, most likely, no civilian casualties in London on 7 July 2005.</p> <h2><strong>Libya</strong></h2> <p>Had Britain opted out of the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US would probably have invaded, and destabilised, these states without Britain’s help. However, had David Cameron refused to back President Sarkozy in his ambition to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi, the intervention in Libya wouldn’t have happened. David Cameron backed President Sarkozy enthusiastically, so Britain bears a heavy responsibility for the destabilisation of Libya and the other consequences of the intervention.</p> <p>The Security Council did authorise military action in this case. On 17 March 2011, it passed resolution <a href="http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/1973(2011)">1973</a> by 10 votes to 0, with Brazil, China, Germany, India and Russia abstaining.&nbsp; This resolution authorised military action “to protect civilians and civilian populated areas” and banned flights by the Libyan air force over Libya. It did not authorise military action to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi, but that is how it was interpreted by Britain and France, the key players in the intervention. <span class="mag-quote-center">It did not authorise military action to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi, but that is how it was interpreted by Britain and France, the key players in the intervention.</span> </p><p>On 21 March 2011, two days after military action began, Prime Minister David Cameron allowed the House of Commons to have a say in the matter. In the debate, he <a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110321/debtext/110321-0001.htm#1103219000001">assured</a> MPs that the object of the intervention was not regime change and MPs <a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110321/debtext/110321-0004.htm#column_802">voted</a> overwhelmingly (557 to 13) in favour. Jeremy Corbyn was one of the 13 who voted against.</p> <p>A few weeks later on 15 April 2011, David Cameron signed a joint <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13090646">letter</a> with President Obama and President Sarkozy demanding that “Colonel Gaddafi must go, and go for good”.&nbsp; </p> <p>With NATO air support, the armed opposition achieved that goal six months later and Colonel Gaddafi was killed. The consequences for Libya and its people have been dire: plagued with factional warfare, Libya quickly ceased to be a functional state. ISIS and other terrorist groups have freedom to operate. Weapons belonging to the Gaddafi regime have fuelled terrorism and instability in other parts of North and West Africa.</p> <p>38 tourists (30 of them British) were killed on a beach at Sousse in Tunisia on 26 June 2015.&nbsp; Seifeddine Rezgui, the individual responsible for the Sousse attack, was trained in Libya. That would not have occurred had Colonel Gaddafi been left in power. The Tunisian Prime Minister, Habib Essid, <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/war-on-isis-tunisian-pm-says-britain-has-a-responsibility-to-protect-nation-from-militants-10441631.html">told</a> <em>The Independent </em>on 5 August 2015 that “the UK is partly to blame for creating the violent chaos that allowed the extreme Islamist movement to flourish in neighbouring Libya”. That cannot be denied. <span class="mag-quote-center">“The UK is partly to blame for creating the violent chaos that allowed the extreme Islamist movement to flourish in neighbouring Libya”. </span></p><p>(For a comprehensive, and critical, appraisal of the UK’s role in the intervention, see the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee report <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmfaff/119/11902.htm"><em>Libya: Examination of intervention and collapse and the UK's future policy options</em></a> published in September 2016).</p> <h2><strong>RUSI</strong></h2> <p>In April 2014, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) published a study, <em>Wars in Peace</em>, on Britain’s military interventions since the end of the Cold War. It <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/23/uk-military-operations-costs">concluded</a> that these interventions have cost an extra £34.7 billion in defence spending. It suggests that a further £30 billion may have to be spent on long-term veteran care.</p> <p>Of the extra £34.7 billion, almost £10 billion was spent on operations in Iraq from 2003 to 2009 and almost £20 billion in Afghanistan from 2006 (when British ground forces were deployed to Helmand province) to 2013.&nbsp; </p> <p>The study concludes that these were "largely discretionary" operations, that is, wars of choice that Britain could have refrained from taking part in. Furthermore, RUSI judges these operations, and the air operation in Libya in 2011, to be “strategic failures”.</p> <p>For example, on the Iraqi intervention, it says "there is no longer any serious disagreement" over how the UK's role in the Iraq war helped to increase the radicalisation of young Muslims in Britain and that “far from reducing international terrorism&nbsp;… the 2003 invasion [of Iraq] had the effect of promoting it”.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/theresa-may-donald-trump-and-wars-to-come">Theresa May, Donald Trump and the wars to come</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/david-held-kyle-mcnally/911-wars-reckoning">9/11 wars: a reckoning</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/david-morrison/bombing-is-in-syria-will-increase-threat-from-is-to-britain">Bombing IS in Syria will increase the threat from IS to Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/corbyn-crowd-and-its-message">The Corbyn crowd, and its message</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/robert-borosage/stunning-disappearance-of-candidate-trump">The stunning disappearance of candidate Trump</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> France </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Afghanistan </div> <div class="field-item even"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Libya </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Libya Syria Afghanistan Iraq France United States UK Conflict Democracy and government Ideas International politics David Morrison Thu, 18 May 2017 16:03:26 +0000 David Morrison 111023 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Lost and found hopes in hell: testimonies from an Iraqi hospital https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/yazan-al-saadi/lost-and-found-hopes-in-hell-testimonies-from-iraqi-hospital-mosul-ISIS <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Yazan al-Saadi gathers some of the astonishing stories from staff and patients of MSF’s trauma hospital in Hammam al-Alil, the closest surgical facility to West Mosul. <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/yazan-al-saadi/lost-and-found-hopes-in-hell-testimonies-from-iraqi-hospital-mosul-ISIS-Arabic">عربي</a></strong> </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/18360799_10155364472522139_314024250_n.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/18360799_10155364472522139_314024250_n.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="344" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>View of the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) field trauma clinic with an emergency room, operating theater, intensive care unit and in patient department. The facility was opened on the 16th February in a village south of Mosul. For more than one month it has been the closest surgical facility to West Mosul. Picture taken on 02 April, 2017 by MSF/Alice Martins. Used with permission.</span></span></span>Not long ago, I was dispatched by the medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to an MSF-run field trauma hospital in Hammam al-Alil, which, for a brief while, was the closest surgical facility to West Mosul. </p> <p class="western">The trauma hospital is an exceptional project. About two months into its opening, 2067 patients have been received at the hospital; 55 percent of them were women and children and 82 percent had war wounds. To date, more than 160 major surgeries were performed by Iraqi and international staff at the facility. These facts alone should remind us that the massive cost of war – particularly in counter-terrorism conflicts where both sides tend towards a ‘total war’ approach – is often paid by people, young or old, caught in the crossfire, mortars, and airstrikes. </p> <p class="western">I was sent to gather stories of Iraqi patients and the Iraqi medical and non-medical staff in the trauma hospital. Reflecting on what I heard (too many to count) and wrote down (a sliver of what I heard), and rereading the outcome before you, I am compelled to write a few additional words here as a quasi-foreword: </p> <p>There is something astonishing about human beings, especially those who have suffered for so long due to a variety of reasons. They continue to exist, to persevere, to work and live, often defiantly so in the face of humanity’s greatest acts of brutality. They – like other communities in West Asia and beyond – deserve the absolute best yet have received nothing of that sort. That must change, don’t you think?</p><h3>Yaser* - Driver </h3><p class="western">I am in my mid-twenties and I work as a driver for MSF at the trauma center. </p> <p class="western">Emotionally we are affected by the situation because our community and our people are facing injustices. Many groups have played around with us and this has destroyed us. </p> <p class="western"> <span class="mag-quote-left">I have not seen one moment’s respite in this country. Not even once.</span> </p><p class="western">Currently, outside of work there is no safety or security. There are no guarantees. You sleep at home and you don’t know who will come for you. The country isn’t functioning. You don’t know when or where something bad will happen. Your mind is exhausted from constantly thinking. Now, there is no stability. All we have now is aid for food and gas. Other than that, there aren’t a lot of services for people. </p> <p class="western">I do not have hope for the future. Not one bit. You don’t have this personal security to wake up in the morning and really think far about the future. Since I was born in the early 1990s, I have not seen one moment’s respite in this country. Not even once. I can’t even think of a future within Iraq. There doesn’t seem to be a future for my generation. You can’t continue your education, you can’t find suitable work. So there is a lack of many things that can make you comfortable with your life. </p> <p class="western"><strong>*Name has been changed</strong></p><p><strong> </strong></p><h3>Umm Saqr – Caretaker </h3><p class="western">At almost 37 years old, I am not young anymore, life has made me age so much. Today, my son and my husband are injured. I have six children – three sons and three daughters. This child [being treated], is Mahmoud. He’s eleven years old. </p> <p class="western">I was sitting at home. All of a sudden I heard an explosion. It was the largest blast I’ve ever heard. I ran out of the house to see my children who were outside. Three of my children ran towards me. I saw the injured on the ground, and blood. I don’t know how to deal with this. I saw my husband injured. I ran to my daughter’s house and cousin’s house to get help. I told them what happened and we ran back. One of my relatives went to the Iraqi army to get help too, while other relatives of ours had come running from the Nablus district. Iraqi soldiers came and took my husband to get treated in some other hospital. At the moment I don’t know his situation – one moment they tell me he’s dead, another that he is alive. </p> <p class="western">When I returned home in the evening I found out my child [Mahmoud] was also hurt, his nose was ripped apart. I hadn’t known at all. There was blood everywhere. I left my one year old at home and he is being taken care of by his uncle and other members of my family at the moment. I hope he’s okay and they are feeding him milk and biscuits. </p> <p class="western">I have three children in refugee camps. Maybe it was better to have just stayed in the camps. I don’t know. They are calling me, crying and asking about how their father and brother are. There is supposed to be a second surgery for my husband. I don’t know what is next really. </p> <p class="mag-quote-right">Life was becoming normal. Then came this mortar.</p><p class="western">Before this tragedy, my husband was unemployed. There was no work. He was also sick. He has high blood pressure and I’m always worried about him. He was born in 1958. Hopefully he’ll be okay and come back home. Hopefully we can all be back home together. </p> <p class="western">Our neighborhood was supposed to be safe after being freed from ISIS. We’ve been freed for over a month and had hoped to restart our lives. I don’t know where this mortar came from. The frontline is far away. But what is written is written. </p> <p class="western">Life before being freed from ISIS was hard. Everything was controlled. We didn’t have soup or bread. It was a difficult life. But life was slowly returning after. Very slowly. Food and aid were coming in. My children are used to eating little, so even when we finally got food in, like bread or biscuits, my children would only eat half of it. Life was becoming normal. Then came this mortar. </p> <p class="western">God protect us. I hope my children start eating more. I have barely any hope. God is kind. We have survived a lot of evils. God saved us from injustice. </p> <p class="western">My son is sad. He says his nose is gone, I told him it is okay there is nothing to be done. We will try to live and continue. God is kind.</p> <h3 class="western">Mohammed – MSF Assistant Surgeon</h3> <p class="western">My name is Mohammed Khalid Taha. I am 38 years old and I work as an assistant surgeon in the operation room here in the trauma center. The work here is really beautiful. I describe it as beautiful because the people I work with are intelligent, respectable, and treat me as an equal. </p> <p class="western">While I work here, I also work in another government hospital in Al-Salmaniyeh. When I’m off from work, I come straight here to assist in surgeries. </p> <p class="mag-quote-left">We do see horrible things, but what helps is that when you save patients it eases your soul. There is hope in that.</p><p class="western">A lot of the patients that we treat have different types of wounds. It ranges from amputations to complicated forms of surgeries. Those we can help come to our operating theater, while others are referred to other hospitals. There was a period in which we had to do a lot of surgeries. You have to save people as quickly as you can in order to move to the next case. You cannot hesitate or be slow because the life of the patient could be at risk. The most important thing is to save them.</p> <p class="western">Overall, a lot of the cases are very depressing, they’re miserable cases. At my day job [in the government hospital], we mainly treat injuries related to accidents and after a number of years working in such an environment, you get used to the work. </p><p class="western">But here, you see different types of injuries in different age groups. The youngest patient I worked on was a seven year old, while the eldest was around 60. It’ll affect you. You will hold yourself together, yet inside you will still be affected. Many of the cases I have dealt with are related to suspected sniper fire or IEDs on the road. </p> <p class="western">So thankfully the team here is exceptional and cooperative. We are learning a lot from the modes of work. And I do think the various humanitarian groups working in Iraq are helping, including MSF, and they are doing it right. We do see horrible things, but what helps is that when you save patients it eases your soul. There is hope in that.</p> <h3 class="western">Bilal* - Emergency Room Cleaner </h3> <p class="western"> I am 28 years old but the situation we’re facing makes me feel like I am 100. I started working in the trauma center when it opened. I am a cleaner for the emergency room. I clean before the injured come in, and especially when they are taken away. The work is good. You see hard situations but I am used to this because I worked as a cleaner in other hospitals before. So blood or no blood, I have seen it all. </p> <p class="western"><span class="mag-quote-right">Yet, I still get up in the morning and I still come to work.</span> </p><p class="western">I have lived in this area my whole life. I never went anywhere. Before ISIS, it was a good and decent life. When ISIS came, and the siege was placed, we had no work. We had no money to buy clothes and had to rely on our savings and whatever we had at home. Then we were liberated and ISIS was gone, and now I work with MSF, so life is better. </p> <p class="western">Till now I wouldn’t say I’ve been through many difficulties in my work but yes, we are still bothered by the fact that our community, our families are hurt. Truthfully, the country isn’t secure and the future seems unstable. So internally we aren’t in comfort. </p> <p class="western">I don’t have much hope for the future. If these organizations leave, and our work is over, we don’t have much left. There is barely anything left. Yet, I still get up in the morning and I still come to work. </p> <p class="western"><strong>*Name has been changed</strong></p> <h3 class="western">Ridwan– MSF Surgeon </h3> <p class="western">My name is Ridwan Jalal Mohammed and I am almost 50 years old. I am a doctor and a surgeon in this trauma center. I started working with MSF about a month ago. Before here, I was a surgeon in Mosul living in the neighborhood of Al-Sadiq. Life over there continues; not with ease, but it does go on.</p> <p class="western">Working with MSF at the trauma center seems easier than what I did because of the types of treatment I can offer to the patients. The quality of care here is really good. Most of the cases I’ve dealt with relate to mortars. A mortar is an explosive device that releases shrapnel that then hits different parts of the body, in goes into the muscles and bones. Here our patients widely differ in age; mothers, fathers, the elderly and children. They are all different. </p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Life over there continues; not with ease, but it does go on.</p><p class="western">The hardest thing to witness is family members losing loved ones. Yesterday, for example, we had a father who lost his daughter. It was very hard to see this. It is hard for a father to lose his child. This trauma center is an archive of pain. </p> <p class="western">A doctor sees a lot of things in his life, but he must continue to do his work because mercy is powerful. To treat a patient is a blessing and we do what we can as human beings but the rest is in God’s hands. The best thing is to have patients fully treated; to receive the patient, to treat them, and then to see them and their family happy to be alive.</p> <p class="western">There is no doubt I have hope for the future. I always hope that life will be better. A human being must do their part for those around them. </p> <h3 class="western">Ayman - Caretaker </h3> <p class="western">My wife’s name is Widad and we’ve been married for seven years. We have only one child who is six months old. Her name is Hadeel. It’s a beautiful name, don’t you think? </p> <p class="western">We lived in the IS controlled district of Yarmouk in Mosul where life was indescribable. There was hunger, fear and terror. ISIS would kidnap people and whatever form of torture you can think of, they did. There were airstrikes on our area and there was shelling. It was death all around. If we didn’t leave we would have died at home. </p> <p class="western"> <span class="mag-quote-right">Her name is Hadeel. It’s a beautiful name don’t you think? </span></p><p class="western">My lovely wife, during all the fighting and strikes, would sew things for our child. She would make gloves, scarves, pajamas. Seven years and this is our first child. It was tough for us to conceive a child but we were granted Hadeel. </p> <p class="western">We decided to leave last night (March 30) at one in the morning with a bunch of people. We were a huge family leaving by foot. They [ISIS] saw us – they were stationed on one of the roof tops – and then I think they triggered an improvised explosive device. My wife lost her leg. Four children were taken to Erbil for treatment; I think one of them has died. I don’t know. I don’t know about the others who were with us.</p> <p class="western">We were brought to a medical point where they stopped my wife from bleeding to death. Then they referred us here [MSF Trauma center]. They welcomed us. It was a good reception. Yes they are foreigners, and they came from far away, but they are better than any other humans I’ve known. All I’ve seen was slaughter and death. But here [in the MSF trauma center], there is a sense of safety. They take care of the sick and injured. </p> <p class="western">They took care of my wife. They treated her but she has no leg. She has no leg and I think this will hurt us in the future. I know this is God’s will, but I don’t understand why this happened. This shouldn’t have happened. I do have hope for the future. I do have hope. Life will return to normal. We will forget this horror. As long as we have hope we can live, without hope, life is over. </p> <p class="western">I just hope tomorrow my wife can be better, that she can get up, walk, and play with her daughter. I have hope. God takes things and gives things. I will be by her side and help her, inshallah (God willing). </p> <h3 class="western">Saleh – MSF Watchmen </h3> <p class="western">My name is Saleh Mahmoud Mohammed. I am 31 years old. I am a watchman for this trauma center and started working just as the trauma centre opened. </p> <p class="western">Before working here I didn’t have any work. The situation in my area, in Mosul, was very challenging; you had to beg for any work. After liberation, which was a happy moment, it was still hard because work was scarce. When MSF came, they really invigorated the area. We actually thought they would be like other organizations, as in they wouldn’t really benefit us or give us good quality care. MSF immediately provided jobs for the people who were unemployed; it has really transformed the area and the lives of many families.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">When we cry, they cry.</p><p class="western">I am the first person who sees the cases from Mosul when they arrive and I’ve seen absolutely miserable cases of all types, and in turn the doctors have tackled these cases with many treatments. As human beings, we are facing circumstances that are extraordinary, and this causes a sense of mercy. When you see a child, or a woman, or a man who are hurt, it causes you pain. But when you see the doctors here – Iraqi or foreign – doing all they can, you do so too. When we cry, they cry. The country is going through a difficult time. It is miserable. </p> <p class="western">One story that is happy is the time when there was a patient – a woman – who we all thought was dead. We were around her to say goodbye, and then, even with all the science against her, she lived! It shocks you in a good way. At the same time there was a case who had only minimal wounds but died because of a heart attack. It was apparently in the same day. What is written is written. </p> <p class="western">I have huge hope for Iraq. The most important thing is that Iraq remains united, that after this war, we return as one people. </p> <h3>Hassan – Caretaker</h3><p class="western"> My name is Hassan Mahmoud Ahmad and I was born in 1968. My daughter’s name is Ilham and she is ten years old. I have eight daughters in total. I’m always worried about them. Every one of them. </p> <p class="mag-quote-right">My daughter was injured on the first day we arrived to a “safe” area.</p><p class="western">We were displaced from an area of Taktak and arrived to a house in a new area. Before we were displaced, it was a dire situation. It was just abuse and death for people. </p> <p class="western">My daughter was injured on the first day we arrived to a “safe” area. It happened as my relatives went to clean a house. It seems there was a booby trap or some unexploded mine or something. All I know is that she crumpled to the ground and started bleeding. </p> <p class="western">God save us all. There isn’t much more to say about the circumstances. All we’ve seen is displacement and refugees. What more can one say. All I want is peace of mind.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/yazan-al-saadi/lost-and-found-hopes-in-hell-testimonies-from-iraqi-hospital-mosul-ISIS-Arabic">آمال ضائعة في جحيم الحرب: شهادات حيّة من مستشفى عراقي</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/mosul-very-dangerous-victory">Mosul: a very dangerous victory</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/after-mosul-what">After Mosul, what?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/andres-barkil-oteo/agency-and-hope-helping-communities-healing-themselves">Agency and hope: helping communities healing themselves</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iraq Civil society Conflict ISIS war MSF Mosul Yazan al-Saadi Fri, 12 May 2017 11:40:46 +0000 Yazan al-Saadi 110818 at https://www.opendemocracy.net آمال ضائعة في جحيم الحرب: شهادات حيّة من مستشفى عراقي https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/yazan-al-saadi/lost-and-found-hopes-in-hell-testimonies-from-iraqi-hospital-mosul-ISIS-Arabic <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="direction-rtl">يجمع يزن السعدي شهادات حياة صادمة من موظفي ومرضى مستشفى أطباء بلا حدود لعلاج الإصابات البالغة في منطقة حمام العليل، علماً أنّ هذا المستشفى يشكّل المنشأة الجراحية الأقرب إلى غرب الموصل. <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/yazan-al-saadi/lost-and-found-hopes-in-hell-testimonies-from-iraqi-hospital-mosul-ISIS">English</a></strong> </p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="direction-rtl"><span class="direction-rtl"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/18360799_10155364472522139_314024250_n_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/18360799_10155364472522139_314024250_n_0.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="344" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>مستشفى أطباء بلا حدود لعلاج الإصابات البالغة في منطقة حمام العليل، علماً أنّ هذا المستشفى يشكّل المنشأة الجراحية الأقرب إلى MSF/Alice Martins. غرب الموصل. افتتح المستشفى في ١٦ فبراير. الصورة</span></span></span>منذ فترة ليست ببعيدة، أرسلتني المنظمة الإنسانية الطبية "أطباء بلا حدود" إلى مستشفى ميداني لمعالجة الإصابات البالغة خاضع لإدارتها في منطقة حمام العليل إذ كان يمثل لمدة وجيزة المنشأة الجراحية الأقرب إلى غرب الموصل. </span> </p><p><span class="direction-rtl"> </span></p><p class="direction-rtl"><span class="direction-rtl">&nbsp;</span><span class="direction-rtl">&nbsp;</span><span class="direction-rtl">&nbsp;</span>يُعتبر مستشفى معالجة الاصابات البالغة مشروعاً استثنائياً. بالكاد مضى شهران على افتتاحه حتى بات يستقبل 2067 مريضاً — 55% منهم من النساء والأطفال و82% يعانون من جروح أصابتهم في الحرب. حتى الآن، أُجريت أكثر من 160 عملية جراحية بارزة على يَد أطباء عراقيين ودوليين في المستشفى. يجب أن تكون هذه الأرقام وحدها كفيلة بتذكيرنا بأنّ الشعب، بشبابه ومسنّيه، غالباً ما يتحمّل الكلفة الباهظة للحرب وخصوصاً في نزاعات محاربة الإرهاب التي يميل فيها الطرفان المتنازعان إلى اعتماد نهج "الحرب الشاملة". فيعيش الشعب حينها محاصراً بتبادل إطلاق النار وقذائف الهاون والضربات الجوية.<span class="direction-rtl">&nbsp;</span></p><p class="direction-rtl">أُرسلتني المنظمة في مهمة لجمع قصص المرضى العراقيين والطاقم العراقي الطبي وغير الطبي في هذا المستشفى. وقد دفعتني القصص الكثيرة التي سمعتها وكتبتها والتي تشكّل مجرّد عيّنة من جعبة حكايات لا تُحصى إلى تدوين بعض الملاحظات الإضافية لتكون بمثابة شبه مقدّمة. </p><p><span class="direction-rtl"> </span></p> <p class="direction-rtl">يثير البشر العجب، وخصوصاً الذين عاشوا المعاناة لفترة طويلة ولأسباب عديدة. فها هم صامدون، يستمرّون في العيش ويعملون بجهد وغالباً ما تشتدّ عزيمتهم للصمود في وجه أسوأ الأعمال وأعنفها. وعلى غرار المجتمعات الأخرى في غرب آسيا وما ورائها، تستحقّ هذه المجتمعات أيضاً الأفضل على الإطلاق ولكنها لا تحظى به قطّ. ألَم يحِن الوقت لتغيير هذا الوضع؟</p> <h3 class="direction-rtl">ياسر*، سائق يعمل في منظمة أطباء بلا حدود</h3> <p class="direction-rtl">أنا في منتصف العشرينيات وأعمل كسائق في مركز علاج الإصابات البالغة التابع لمنظمة أطباء بلا حدود.</p> <p class="direction-rtl">نحن نتأثر على المستوى العاطفي بالوضع لأن مجتمعنا وشعبنا واجه الظلم. والعديد من الجماعات تلاعبت بنا ودمرتنا.</p> <p class="direction-rtl"> <span class="mag-quote-right">لم أشهد لحظة واحدة من الراحة في بلادي. ولا حتى مرة واحدة.</span></p><p class="direction-rtl">وفي الوقت الحالي، حين نكون خارج العمل لا نجد أمناً ولا أماناً. وليس هناك ضمانات. إذ تنام في منازلك ولا تعلم ماذا سيحدث لك. فالأمور في البلاد لا تسير جيداً ولا تعلم متى وأين سيحصل لك أمر سيء. وعقلك قد أُنهك من التفكير المستمر. فحالياً لم يعد هناك استقرار. كل ما نملكه الآن هو المساعدات في مجال المياه والوقود. ما عدا ذلك، لا يتوفر الكثير من الخدمات للناس.</p> <p class="direction-rtl">ليس لدي أمل في المستقبل، ولا حتى القليل منه. فنحن لا نحظى بالأمان لنستيقظ في الصباح ونفكّر في المستقبل. منذ أن ولدت في بداية التسعينيات، لم أشهد لحظة واحدة من الراحة في بلادي. ولا حتى مرة واحدة. لا يمكنني حتى أن أفكر في مستقبل داخل العراق. فلا يبدو وجود مستقبل لجيلي. لا يمكنك متابعة دراستك ولا إيجاد عمل مناسب. فثمة نقص في أمور كثيرة من شأنها أن تجعلك مرتاحاً في حياتك.</p> <p class="direction-rtl"><strong>*أسم مستعار</strong></p> <h3 class="direction-rtl">أم صقر- والدة مريض</h3> <p class="direction-rtl">في سن الـ37 تقريباً، لم أعد شابة، فالحياة أهرمتني كثيراً. اليوم، ابني وزوجي مصابان. لدي ستة أطفال- ثلاثة أولاد وثلاث بنات. هذا الطفل (الذي يخضع للعلاج)، هو محمود. يبلغ من العمر 11 عاماً.</p> <p class="direction-rtl">كنت أجلس في منزلي. وفجأة سمعت دوي انفجار. وكان ذلك أقوى صوت انفجار أسمعه في حياتي. ركضت خارج المنزل لرؤية أطفالي حيث تواجدوا. ثلاثة منهم ركضوا تجاهي. رأيت طفلي المصاب مطروحاً أرضاً ورأيت الدماء. لم أعرف كيف أتعامل مع الوضع. شاهدت زوجي مصاباً أيضاً. هممت ركضاً إلى منزل ابنتي وابن عمي لطلب المساعدة. أخبرتهم بما حصل وعدنا ركضاً إلى منزلي. وقد ذهب أحد أقاربي إلى الجيش العراقي لطلب المساعدة أيضاً، فيما هرع غيرهم من الأقارب إلينا من مقاطعة نابلس. حضر الجنود العراقيون واصطحبوا زوجي لتلقي العلاج في أحد المستشفيات. في الوقت الحالي لا أعرف كيف وضعه- فتارة يقولون لي إنه مات، وطوراً يخبرونني إنه ما زال حياً.</p> <p class="direction-rtl">حين عدت إلى المنزل في المساء وجدت ابني (محمود) مصاباً أيضاً، إذ تمزّق أنفه. لم أكن أعرف ذلك بتاتاً. رأيت الدماء في كل مكان. تركت طفلي البالغ من العمر عاماً واحداً في المنزل حيث يرعاه عمه وغيره من أفراد الأسرة الآن. آمل أن يكون بحالة جيدة وآمل أنهم يطعمونه الآن الحليب والبسكويت. </p> <p class="direction-rtl">لدي ثلاثة أطفال في مخيمات اللاجئين. ربما لكان من الأفضل أن أبقى في المخيمات. لا أعلم. هم يتصلوا بي، يبكون ويسألون كيف حال أبيهم وأخيهم. من المفترض أن يخضع زوجي لعملية جراحية أخرى. لا أعلم ما الذي سيحصل تماماً في الفترة المقبلة.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">لا أعلم من أين أتت قذيفة الهاون هذه.</p><p class="direction-rtl">قبل هذه المأساة، كان زوجي دون وظيفة، ليس بيده أي عمل. وكان مريضاً. يعاني من ارتفاع في ضغط الدم وأنا دائماً قلقة حياله. فهو من مواليد العام 1958. آمل أن يكون على ما يرام ويعود بخير إلى المنزل. آمل أن نعود سوياً إلى منزلنا.</p> <p class="direction-rtl">كان من المفترض أن يحظى جيراننا بالأمان بعد أن أُطلق سراحهم من قبل تنظيم الدولة الإسلامية. أطلِق سراحنا منذ شهر واحد تقريباً وأملنا إعادة بدء حياتنا من جديد. لا أعلم من أين أتت قذيفة الهاون هذه. فخط الجبهة بعيد جداً. لكن ما هو مكتوب سيحصل.</p> <p class="direction-rtl">واجهنا حياة صعبة قبل إطلاق سراحنا من قبل تنظيم الدولة الإسلامية، حيث يخضع كل شيء لسيطرتهم. لم نملك الحساء ولا الخبز. واتسمت حياتنا بالصعوبة. لكن بعد ذلك بدأت الحياة تعود لنا شيئاً فشيئاً. وبدأ الطعام والمساعدات تدخل إلى منطقتنا. لكن أطفالي اعتادوا على تناول كميات قليلة من الطعام، فحتى عندما بدأنا نحصل على الطعام أخيراً، كالخبز والبسكويت، بات أطفالي يتناولون فقط نصف الكمية المتوفرة. والحياة أصبحت طبيعية. ثم جاءتنا قذيفة الهاون.</p> <p class="direction-rtl">آمل أن يحمنا الله. وآمل أن يعيد أطفالي تناول الطعام. لدي بصيص من الأمل. لكن الله كريم. فقد نجينا من الكثير من الويلات. والله أنقذنا من الظلم.</p> <p class="direction-rtl">يشعر ابني بالحزن. يقول إنه قد فقد أنفه، قلت له إن الأمور ستسير على ما يرام وإنه ليس بوسعنا فعل أي شيء. سنحاول أن نكمل حياتنا ونمضي قدماً. فالله كريم.</p> <h3 class="direction-rtl">محمد خالد طه- مساعد الطبيب الجراح في منظمة أطباء بلا حدود</h3> <p class="direction-rtl">اسمي محمد خالد طه. عمري 38 عاماً وأعمل كمساعد الطبيب الجراح في غرفة العمليات في مركز علاج الإصابات البالغة. العمل هنا جميل بالفعل. أصفه بأنه جميل لأن الناس الذين أعمل معهم أذكياء ومحترمين ويعاملونا بالمثل.</p> <p class="direction-rtl">وفيما أعمل هنا، أعمل أيضاً في مستشفى حكومي في السلمانية. وفي الأوقات التي لا أعمل فيها أحضر مباشرة إلى هنا للمساعدة في العمليات الجراحية.</p> <p class="direction-rtl">إن العديد من المرضى الذين نعالجهم يعانون من أنواع مختلفة من الإصابات التي تتراوح بين بتور وأشكال معقدة من العمليات الجراحية. يأتي أولئك الذين نتمكن من مساعدتهم إلى غرفة العمليات التابعة لنا فيما يتم إحالة الآخرين إلى مستشفيات أخرى. وقد شهدنا فترة أجرينا خلالها الكثير من العمليات الجراحية. فعليك أن تساعد الناس بأسرع وقت ممكن للانتقال إلى الحالة التالية. ولا يمكنك التردد أو التصرف ببطء لأن حياة المريض قد تكون بخطر. ويعتبر أنقاذ حياة المرضى الأمر الأكثر أهمية. </p> <p class="mag-quote-left">ما يساعدنا هو الشعور الذي ينتابنا حين ننقذ حياة إنسان</p><p class="direction-rtl">بشكل عام، تعتبر الكثير من الحالات مثيرة للاكتئاب إلى حد كبير، وهي حالات محزنة. في عملي الصباحي (في المستشفى الحكومي)، نعالج بشكل عام الإصابات المتعلقة بحوادث السير وبعد عملي خلال عدة السنوات في محيط كهذا، اعتدت على طبيعة العمل. لكن هنا، ترى أنواع مختلفة من الإصابات لدى مجموعات عمرية مختلفة. يبلغ عمر أصغر مريض قمت بعملية جراحية له سبع سنوات، فيما بلغ المريض الأكبر سناً حوالى 60 عاماً. سيؤثر الأمر بك، ستلملم جراحك، حتى وإن شعرت بالتأثر في داخلك. وقد جاء العديد من الحالات التي تعاملت معها نتيجة نيران القناصة أو العبوات الناسفة على الطرقات.</p> <p class="direction-rtl">لذا، أحمد الله أن الفريق العامل هنا مميز ومتعاون. نحن نتعلم الكثير من طرق العمل المعتمدة. وأعتقد أن المجموعات الإنسانية المتنوعة العاملة في العراق تقدّم المساعدة فعلاً، ومنها منظمة أطباء بلا حدود، ويقومون بذلك بالطريقة الصحيحة. نحن نرى بالفعل أموراً فظيعة، لكن ما يساعدنا هو الشعور الذي ينتابنا حين ننقذ حياة إنسان بأن وجداننا مرتاح. وهذا كفيل ببعث الأمل.</p> <h3 class="direction-rtl">بلال*- موظف وطني يعمل كعامل تنظيف</h3> <p class="direction-rtl">أبلغ من العمر 28 عاماً لكن الوضع الذي نواجهه يجعلني أشعر أن عمري 100 سنة. بدأت العمل في مركز علاج الإصابات البالغة حين تم افتتاحه. أشغل وظيفة عامل تنظيف في غرفة الطوارئ. أقوم بالتنظيف قبل دخول المصابين وبشكل خاص بعد خروجهم. ويسير العمل بشكل جيد. نرى حالات صعبة لكني اعتدت على ذلك لأني عملت كعامل تنظيف في مستشفيات أخرى. دماء أم لا، لقد رأيت كل شيء.</p> <p class="direction-rtl"> <span class="mag-quote-left">ما زلت أستيقظ كل صباح وأحضر إلى العمل</span></p><p class="direction-rtl">عشت في هذه المنطقة طوال حياتي. لم أذهب إلى أي مكان آخر. وقبل تنظيم الدولة الإسلامية، كانت حياة جيدة ولائقة، لكن حين أتى تنظيم الدولة الإسلامية، وحين فُرض الحصار، لم يعد لدينا عمل. ولم نملك المال لشراء الملابس واضطررنا إلى الاعتماد على مدخراتنا وعلى كل ما نجده في منزلنا. ثم تم تحريرنا وغادر تنظيم الدولة الإسلامية والآن أعمل مع منظمة أطباء بلا حدود، لذا فالحياة أصبحت أفضل. </p> <p class="direction-rtl">حتى الآن لا يمكنني أن أقول أني مررت بالكثير من الصعوبات في عملي لكن أجل، لا زلنا منزعجين من حقيقة أن مجتمعنا وعائلاتنا تشعر بالألم. في الحقيقة، البلاد ليست آمنة والمستقبل يبدو غير مستقر. وداخلياً لسنا مرتاحين.</p> <p class="direction-rtl">لا أملك الكثير من الأمل للمستقبل. وفي حال غادرت هذه المنظمات، وانتهى عملنا، لن يبقى لدينا الكثير. فبالكاد بقي لدينا أي شيء. لكن، ما زلت أستيقظ كل صباح وأحضر إلى العمل.</p> <p class="direction-rtl"><strong>*أسم مستعار</strong></p> <h3 class="direction-rtl">رضوان جلال محمد – جراح يعمل مع منظمة أطباء بلا حدود </h3> <p class="direction-rtl">اسمي رضوان جلال محمد وعمري يقرب من الخمسين عاماً. أنا طبيب وجراح هنا في مركز علاج الإصابات البالغة. بدأت العمل مع منظمة أطباء بلا حدود قبل حوالي الشهر. وقبل ذلك عملت جراحاً في الموصل، وعشت في حي الصادق. الحياة مستمرة هناك، إنما ليس بسهولة، إلا أنها مستمرة. </p> <p class="mag-quote-right">من الصعب مشاهدة عائلة تفقد أحد أحبائها</p><p class="direction-rtl">يبدو العمل مع منظمة أطباء بلا حدود في مركز علاج الإصابات البالغة أسهل مما كنت أقوم به في السابق، لأن نوعية العلاج التي أقدمها للمرضى، ونوعية الرعاية المقدمة هنا جيدة للغاية. ومعظم الحالات المرضية التي تعاملت معها، ترتبط بإصابات ناتجة عن قذائف الهاون. والهاون هو أحد أنواع المتفجرات التي تُطلق شظايا تصيب أجزاء عدة في الجسم وتخترق العضلات والعظام. هنا تختلف أعمار المرضى: الأمهات والآباء والكبار في السن والأطفال. جميعهم مختلفون. </p> <p class="direction-rtl">من الصعب مشاهدة عائلة تفقد أحد أحبائها. على سبيل المثال، بالأمس فقد أب ابنته. وكان من الشاقّ جداً رؤية ذلك. فمن الصعب على أب أن يفقد طفله. إن مركز علاج الإصابات البالغة هذا عبارة عن أرشيف من الآلام. </p> <p class="direction-rtl">يرى الطبيب الكثير من الأمور في حياته، لكن عليه الاستمرار بعمله لأن الرحمة قوة. أن تعالج مريضاً فتلك نعمة، وما نقوم به هو ما يستطيع الإنسان فعله، إنما الباقي ففي يد الله. والأمر الأفضل هو أن يتعافى المريض الذي تعالجه بشكل كامل، وأن تراه وعائلته سعداء لبقائه على قيد الحياة.</p> <p class="direction-rtl">لا أشك أبداً بأملي بالمستقبل. آمل دائماً أن تصبح الحياة أفضل. على الإنسان أن يقوم بدوره تجاه من هم بمحيطه. </p> <h3 class="direction-rtl">أيمن أحمد يونس – زوج إحدى المريضات</h3> <p class="direction-rtl">زوجتي اسمها وداد ونحن متزوجون منذ سبع سنوات. ولدينا طفلة واحدة عمرها ستة أشهر، واسمها هديل. إنه اسم جميل، ألا تعتقد ذلك؟ </p> <p class="direction-rtl">عشنا في منطقة اليرموك بالموصل والواقعة تحت سيطرة تنظيم الدولة الإسلامية، حيث لا يمكن وصف الحياة، حيث الجوع والخوف والإرهاب. كان تنظيم الدولة الإسلامية يختطف الناس ويعذبهم بكافة أشكال التعذيب التي يمكن لعقلك تخيلها. وتنهال الضربات جوية على منطقتنا ونواجه القصف. كان الموت حاضراً في كل مكان. ولو أننا لم نغادر، لمتنا في بيتنا. </p> <p class="direction-rtl">كانت زوجتي العزيزة، خلال مدة القتال والهجمات، تخيط بعض الأشياء لأطفالنا. وتصنع القفازات والأوشحة والبيجامات. وبعد سبع سنوات رزقنا بالطفلة الأولى. لقد كان صعباً علينا أن ننجب طفلاُ، حتى مُنحنا هديل.</p> <p class="direction-rtl">قررنا المغادرة ليلة أمس (30 آذار/مارس)، الساعة الواحدة صباحاً مع عدد من الأشخاص. كنا عائلة كبيرة تغادر سيراً على الأقدام. لقد رأونا (تنظيم الدولة الإسلامية)، كانوا متمركزين على أحد سطوح المنازل، وبعد ذلك أعتقد أنهم فعّلوا إحدى العبوات الناسفة. ففقدت زوجتي رجلها. وجرى نقل أربعة أطفال إلى إربيل لتلقي العلاج. على ما أعتقد أن أحدهم مات. ولكن لا أدري. لا أعلم شيئاً عن الآخرين الذين كانوا معنا.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">أنا فقط آمل أن تصبح زوجتي بحال أفضل</p><p class="direction-rtl">تم إحضارنا إلى نقطة طبية حيث أوقفوا نزيف زوجتي الذي كاد أن يكون مميتاً. وبعد ذلك أحالونا إلى هنا (مستشفى علاج الإصابات البالغة التابع لمنظمة أطباء بلا حدود). رحبوا بنا. كان ترحيباً جيداً. نعم إنهم غرباء، وأتوا من مكان بعيد، لكنهم أفضل من أي إنسان عرفته. فكل ما رأيته بالسابق كان الذبح والقتل. ولكن هنا، هناك حس بالأمن. وهم يهتمون بالمرضى والجرحى.</p> <p class="direction-rtl">واهتموا بزوجتي. وعالجوها لكنها فقدت رجلها، وأعتقد أن ذلك سيؤثر علينا في المستقبل. أعلم أن تلك إرادة الله، إنما لا أستطيع أن أفهم سبب حصول هذا. فهذا لا يجب أن يحدث. لدي أمل بالمستقبل. نعم لدي أمل، أن الحياة ستعود لطبيعتها. وسوف ننسى الرعب. طالما أننا نحظى بالأمل، نستطيع العيش، وبدون الأمل لا يوجد حياة. </p> <p class="direction-rtl">أنا فقط آمل أن تصبح زوجتي بحال أفضل، وأن تستطيع الوقوف والمشي واللعب مع ابنتنا. لدي أمل بذلك. فالله يأخذ أشياء ويعطي غيرها. وسأكون بجانبها وسأساعدها، إن شاء الله. </p> <h3 class="direction-rtl">صالح محمود محمد – حارس يعمل مع أطباء بلا حدود </h3> <p class="direction-rtl">اسمي صالح محمود محمد. وعمري 31 عاماً. أعمل حارساً هنا في مركز علاج الإصابات البالغة، وبدأت العمل منذ افتتاح المركز.</p> <p class="direction-rtl">لم أكن أعمل قبل أن أبدأ بالعمل هنا. فالوضع في منطقتي في الموصل صعب للغاية، ويجب أن تتسول لتحصل على وظيفة. بعد التحرير، الذي كان لحظة سعادة، كان الوضع لا يزال صعباً، لأن فرص العمل كانت قليلة. وعند قدوم منظمة أطباء بلا حدود، عملوا على تنشيط المنطقة. نحن اعتقدنا أنهم مثل المنظمات الأخرى، التي لم نكن نستفد منها ولم تقدم لنا رعاية جيدة. أما منظمة أطباء بلا حدود فقدمت مباشرة وظائف للناس الذين كانوا عاطلين عن العمل، لقد حولّت المنطقة وحياة العديد من العائلات للأفضل. </p> <p class="mag-quote-right">عندما نبكي هم يبكون أيضاً</p><p class="direction-rtl">أنا أول شخص يرى الحالات الواصلة من الموصل. لقد رأيت حالات سيئة جداً، وإصابات من كافة الأنواع، فيما عالج الأطباء هذه الإصابات بالطرق العلاجية المناسبة. لقد واجهنا ظروفاً غير عادية، وهذا يخلق شعوراً بالتراحم. فعندما ترى طفلاً أو امرأة أو رجلاً يتألم، فإنك تشعر بالألم أيضاً. لكن عندما ترى الأطباء هنا، سواء العراقيين أو الأجانب، يفعلون ما بوسعهم، فأنت تحاول المساعدة قدر المستطاع. عندما نبكي هم يبكون أيضاً. تمر البلاد بأوقات صعبة. إنها تعيسة. </p> <p class="direction-rtl">ومن إحدى القصص السعيدة التي عشتها امرأة مريضة، اعتقدنا جميعاً أنها ميتة. وكنا حولها لإلقاء تحية الوداع، وبعد ذلك ورغم كل الحقائق العلمية التي أفادت بأنها ستموت، إلا أنها عاشت. يفاجئك ذلك بطريقة إيجابية. وفي نفس الوقت، كان هناك حالة مصابة بجروح طفيفة لكنها ماتت بسكتة قلبية. كان ذلك بنفس اليوم تقريباً. ما هو مكتوب هو مكتوب. </p> <p class="direction-rtl">لدي أمل كبير في العراق. الأمر الأهم هو بقاء العراق متحداً، وبعد هذه الحرب، أن نعود متحدين.</p> <h3 class="direction-rtl">حسن محمود أحمد- والد إحدى المريضات</h3> <p class="direction-rtl">اسمي حسن محمود أحمد وولدت في العام 1968. ابنتي تدعى إلهام حسن محمود وتبلغ من العمر 10 أعوام. لدي ثماني فتيات. ودائماً ما أشعر بالقلق حيالهن، حيال كل واحدة منهن.</p> <p class="direction-rtl"> <span class="mag-quote-right">قبل نزوحنا، عانينا وضعاً مزرياً</span></p><p class="direction-rtl">لقد نزحنا من إحدى المناطق في طقطق ووصلنا إلى أحد المنازل في منطقة جديدة. قبل نزوحنا، عانينا وضعاً مزرياً. إذ واجه الناس الاعتداء والموت.</p> <p class="direction-rtl">أصيبت ابنتي في اليوم الأول الذي وصلنا فيه إلى منطقة "آمنة". وقد حصل ذلك فيما ذهب أقربائي لتنظيف أحد المنازل. على ما يبدو أنه كان هناك قنبلة موقوتة أو لغم غير منفجر أو ما شابه. كل ما أعرفه أنها انطرحت أرضاً وبدأت تنزف.</p> <p class="direction-rtl">آمل أن يحمنا الله جميعاً. لا يسعني أن أقول المزيد حول هذه الظروف. فكل ما شهدناه هو النزوح واللجوء. ماذا عساي أقول بعد؟ جل ما نريده هو راحة البال. 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