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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Daesh may prove to have a unifying affect in Iraq

The barbaric fighters of the self-styled “Islamic State” (Daesh) are consciously and openly trying to destroy the Iraqi state. Their head-on attack on Iraq and its society however may prove to have a unifying affect on that state and society in the long run.

As I write these words what is being termed a new and more inclusive cabinet is being established in Baghdad. The government seems to recognize the fundamental faults which were inherent in former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s governance, which the Sunni Arabs and Kurds of Iraq felt discriminated and marginalized by, and are consequently setting out to ensure the government is more inclusive and representative. Because what Iraq needs if it is going to pull itself out of another sectarian morass of violence and avoid fragmenting as a state altogether is inclusive governance and a society which feels at least broadly united.

It would be foolish to state from our present vantage point that we are witnessing a pivotal moment in Iraq’s modern history. Nevertheless we could soon very well see Daesh ending up being the unwitting catalyst that brings about a stronger and more unified Iraq. There are plenty of historical parallels to draw from in order to illustrate why this may prove to be so. Limiting ourselves to Iraq we just have to recall Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran and his campaign of genocide against the Kurds.

In the case of the former he invaded Iran at a time when the new government was in disarray and there was infighting amongst the many ideologues who had been loosely united primarily due to their mutual disgruntlement with the rule of the Shah (it is vital to remember that the Ayatollah Khomeini was seen amongst many secular Iranians as a figurehead, they supported him under the impression that he wouldn’t, as he continuously promised before his famous return, seek power but would support the establishment of a republic). After Saddam hit the Iranians hard in his September 1980 invasion they were forced to organize on their feet as it were and unite in order to repel the invading Iraqi force. In the midst of that war Khomeini and his inner clique seized absolute power and gradually oppressed and forced from the center of power their various opponents. In essence Saddam’s attack ultimately served to strengthen Khomeini and his clique and solidified his regimes power.

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In the case of the Kurds Saddam set out to completely subdue them and kill any who resisted his regimes rule. This saw to the instigation of the genocidal and infamous Al-Anfal campaign which saw extensive amounts of chemical weaponry used. At least 180,000 Kurds were killed and many ‘relocated’ from their villages into crowded internment camps. It seemed as if their spirit had been brutally broken. But what it ultimately saw to was the Kurds eventually (by mid-1991) garnering the sympathy of many nations and gradually building up the foundations of their own autonomous homeland. Today it is one of the wealthier and more stabler parts of Iraq and has its own regional government and security forces. It is far from perfect but at the same time far from the intended result of Saddam’s genocidal campaigns against them.

Today the idea that Daesh’s rapid gains in Northern Iraq will ultimately have a unifying affect on Iraq, in both the upper echelons of the government and amongst ordinary Iraqis of different ethnicities and denominations, is more likely an outcome than one might otherwise think. Such an unintended result of such an action on the part of Daesh certainly wouldn’t be unprecedented when one takes into account those two episodes I alluded to.

June 2014 was a very humiliating month for Iraq. We saw how the divisive governance of Maliki rendered the country completely inept in face of such a nasty adversary which humiliated the Iraqi Army and threatened to subject minorities to a campaign of genocide (seeing footage of thousands of civilians being once again hounded into desolate mountains in Northern Iraq in fear of being massacred was quite a horrible sight to behold). It forced all Iraqis to pull their socks up and reevaluate the way their country is being run. That reevaluation is starting to be shown in the political process as the society does its part of dispensing itself of this nasty foe. Daesh’s victory after all is Iraq’s defeat. And for Iraq to stave off such a defeat such inclusiveness is a fundamental necessity.

By hitting Iraq so hard and so quickly Daesh may have temporarily sent a very painful shockwave through the system and rendered it temporarily inert. But as it continues to try and blatantly exploit the fissures which exist in Iraqi society the society is recognizing that the only way it can pull itself out of the hellish sectarian morass of endless violence is through a broad form of inclusiveness which will in the long-run enable Iraq to overcome these sectarian rifts which are kept alive only by the most reactionary elements in the society, who are clearly very vocal minorities. That is being recognized and that recognition is finally being acted upon. The Kurds haven’t declared independence and broken away. Iraq’s most senior Shia cleric has called for concordance with his Sunni brethren and clearly shown he doesn’t endorse any sectarian, not to mention theocratic, form of governance by his Shia kinsmen, who are of course the majority sect in Iraq. All of these are positive signs.

Daesh hit Iraq hard across the head, but it didn’t knock it out. It gave it a concussion. Now that the state is recovering from that concussion it is clearly being recognized that the society can only function properly and effectively through concordance. Which is why this band of a few thousand violent sectarian fanatics may very well prove to be the catalyst for a reinvigorated, stronger, more unified and overall better Iraq.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

What Daesh’s attempt to fly jets tells us about Baathist-Islamist collusion

The Islamic State (IS, referred to herein by the Arabic acronym ‘Daesh’) group is reportedly flying some antiquated Syrian Air Force MiG’s it has under its control. It’s said that it is doing so with help from former pilots of the Iraqi Air Force.

During the Iraq War many were somewhat reluctant about pointing out that there was a collusion between the remnants of the Iraqi Baath, who had of course been toppled, and al-Qaeda and other such Islamist groups. When the U.S./U.K. and Iraqi military’s were engaged in those vicious firefights in the city of Fallujah in 2004 they were engaged against both the al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia group and Iraqi Baathist forces. Collusion between the two always seemed to be dictated more by expedience than ideology. Although it mustn’t be forgotten that later on in his rule Saddam Hussein had injected a lot of Islamism and jihadi rhetoric and slogans into his propaganda. The idea of him having been a purely secular leader to the end is unfounded.

Casting aside ideological sympathies collusion between at least some remnants of the former regime and the Islamists made a lot sense. For one thing the Islamists were proving to be a formidable foe to the success of the new Iraq from which the Baath were being cast aside. They terrorized, and continue to terrorize, the society and did their utmost to ensure that a post-Saddam Iraq would be an abysmal failure. Something which the Baath also wanted.

And early on in the Iraq War years when the country was, for a few months, administrated by outsiders there were more than enough skilled military men who were essentially told they would be denied employment. This was due to the controversial legacy of Paul Bremer’s decision to completely disband the Iraqi military and start anew. As a result of this policy around 400,000 men were essentially told that given their former membership of the Baath Party (which hundreds-of-thousands of citizens were members given the fact that party membership was the only real way an Iraqi could forge a life for themselves in the days of Saddam’s rule) they would not be allowed seek employment relative to the skills and experience which they verifiable possessed. Now retrospectively seen as a colossal error this served to fuel a considerable amount of the post-2003 chaos which plagued Iraq. Young and armed military professionals often forged common cause with the Baath due to their hatred of the new authorities. Indeed many disenfranchised Sunnis who had at least some sympathy with the al-Qaeda rhetoric which proclaimed the post-2003 ascendance of the hitherto trod-upon Shia majority parliamentary government to be nothing more than an encroaching Persian Shia ‘Safavid’ power.

And of course these former military and security personnel were well-skilled, knew the right targets to hit which would effectively hurt the Iraqi economy and terrorize the populace. Which they did for years. Many outsiders airily dismissed this collusion as little more than a wishful conspiracy concocted by those who in the run up to the war did their utmost to try and establish some kind of a connection between Saddam Hussein’s regime and the terrorists of al-Qaeda. Nevertheless the collusion has existed and this recent story about former Iraqi Air Force personnel helping Daesh fighters fly some captured Syrian MiGs provides an apt opportunity to reevaluate it in light of Daesh and its many exploits continuing to make headlines.

The military value of these three or so MiG-21 and MiG-23 Soviet-era jets is more likely than not quite trifle. It wouldn’t surprise me if they are reduced to ash heaps by U.S.-led coalition jets shortly after I finish writing these lines. Nevertheless the broader picture this episode brings to light is anything but trifle in its significance. It is another indication that quite formidable, and dare I say sophisticated, elements of the ancien régime in Iraq are continuing to sow discord in the region. They are very skilled at exploiting popular discontent among the Sunni minority in Iraq, Saddam’s former deputy Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri for example is believed to have successfully stirred up many of the protests which have taken place in Iraq against the exclusionary governance of former Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki since at least 2012, and of carrying out asymmetrical and guerrilla warfare against their many enemies. Daesh have after all have been very effective when it comes to attacking targets of military importance and then immediately melting away. But it is also good at occupying territory and stifling any attempts amongst local populaces to resist. They have after all since June held onto Iraq’s second city. Not because they were welcome but simply because they managed to efficiently exploit the sectarian fissures which saw the Shia-majority Iraqi Army feel uncomfortable, exposed and, to a certain degree, unwelcome in that Sunni-majority city (as they are in many parts of Anbar where Daesh have also managed to exploit popular discontentment with the government in order to seize territory amidst the instability) in order to take control and retain hold over the city.

Doubtlessly Daesh are at least in part able to do such things through the Baathists collusion with them. Which has given Daesh a formidable edge which makes it an adversary one would be very foolish to underestimate.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Helping Iraq help itself: Some ideas to defeat Daesh

While the United States is committed to helping Iraq rid itself of Daesh it is up to Iraq first and foremost to deal with this threat to its survival.

That was essentially what U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in recent comments concerning the crisis in Iraq and the threat posed by Daesh and its continued successes in Iraq’s western Anbar province. His comments and reassurances of continued U.S. support of Iraq in this fight were made days after U.S. Apache helicopter gunships targeted Daesh fighters just a few miles outside of Baghdad. He has stressed that the support does not in turn mean that the United States will be bearing the brunt of the fighting. It is of course the duty of Iraq first and foremost to pull itself out of this morass and overcome the severe threat to its territorial integrity and secular society this group poses.

Since its withdrawal from Iraq in the end of 2011 the U.S. didn’t even leave a residual force there. Decades after World War II it still has military bases and troops stationed in Germany and Japan but none in Iraq. This may of course change in the not so distant future. The United States and the Iraqi government retain a Strategic Framework Agreement which can permit U.S. forces to operate in Iraq on an ad-hoc basis with Iraqi approval if they deem it to be necessary. Given the Iraqi military’s poor performance over the summer, upon the onset of the present crisis, and its lack of sophisticated air power the U.S. finds itself once again deploying forces in Iraq to support the government.

The Iraqis have shown an interest in procuring drones from the U.S. for counter-terrorism operations in the Anbar province, where the government has been engaged militarily against Daesh and others who have capitalized on the deteriorating situation there, before the present crisis began last June. Also coordinating with the U.S. in counter-terrorist operations would see American technology and ability give the Iraqi military a tactical advantage when it comes to combating such resourceful and innovative irregular forces.

Helping Iraq help itself

Helping Iraq help itself

But the problem Iraq presently faces and its main handicap isn’t one that is going to be solved by military means alone. Daesh we shouldn’t forget exploited fissures that were already severely straining Iraqi society and are now threatening to dismember it altogether. The solution needed to rectify this situation needs to be a political one in addition to being a military one.

Iraq after all has a military with very sophisticated weapons, not to mention a large number of armed men. But the minute it faced a threat it embarrassingly fled last June. This is partially due to the corruption in the government which is partially the legacy of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s policies. Yes he did come in back in 2006 during a very dark time in Iraq’s history. But Iraq hasn’t really gotten any better since that time. In essence Maliki merely established what amounted to little more than a pseudo-democratic government and brought about a semblance of stability through his million-man security forces. But no concrete steps towards reconciliation between Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities was reached. On the contrary heavy-handed policies were implemented by a man who comes from a sector of Iraq’s population who know very well what it is like to be sidelined, marginalized and dismissed by an unrepresentative central authority.

Which is why the stability Maliki brought post-2007 was in my opinion was not only short-lived but was indeed doomed from the start to be relatively short-lived. The instability which Anbar province for example is once again plagued with stems partially from the fomenting of violence by the likes of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri and other former Baathists and Sunni Islamist fanatics who see the Shiites as little more than a Persian Safavid (their words not mine) encroachment upon their society who need to be destroyed. But that in and of itself wouldn’t be enough to make it so prevalent and so widespread. There seems to be a genuine feeling of disfranchisement in these areas which is why the protest movement that began in Fallujah in 2012 spread so quickly and why the Kurds, after seeing the state which was supposed to represent them instead sideline them and dictate to them how they should run their region, realized very quickly over the summer what they always knew deep down, that at the end of the day they could only really count on themselves and their own men under arms. This consequently saw them beginning to once again contemplate the idea of ending Iraq altogether by breaking away and declaring complete independence and separation in their autonomous northern region.

Daesh are taking over an Anbar already weakened by political violence brought about by discontentment and the divisions in Iraq exacerbated by this kind of divisive governance. That is why the country is paralyzed and unable to fight off the psychos which are taking this opportunity to try and transform Iraq into a Somalia-like state where well organized gangs of warlords like Daesh exploit and beggar the weakened populaces over which they rule.

What we’re ultimately witnessing is an Iraq struggling for its life. While the U.S. will devote substantial resources towards helping Iraq survive any military or terrorist threat through the use of force and other means the solution to this is political. Iraq is paralyzed as a state and a society due to the divisive governance of recent years. Steps are being taken to rectify the damage that has been done. But the fundamental crux of the situation is political as well as societal. The society is split and weakened and is consequently being exploited by the shark-like predators who having smelled blood are going in for what they anticipate to be a feeding frenzy. The solution to this certainly does have a large military component to it, but the only way Iraq can completely rid itself of the likes of Daesh and other such groups is through more inclusive and less centralized governance where a common sense of nationalism is felt regardless of a citizens sect or ethnicity.

Of course saying what is required is much easier than explaining how it can be attained. However on a more positive note what is interesting about Daesh’s assault on Iraq is that it is a fundamental assault on essentially all Iraqis regardless of whatever background from which they emanate. This may actually serve to, in the long-run, help the country to get together and face-down this head-on threat to its existence.

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Baghdad Invest: On Saddam Hussein Nostalgia

Saddam Hussein Nostalgia

Saddam Hussein Nostalgia

In light of the trauma afflicted on nearly every facet of Iraqi society in wake of the wicked assault levelled against it by Islamic State terror group many Iraqis retrospectively view their lives during Saddam Hussein’s reign with a seemingly odd feeling of nostalgia.

To an outsider this may seem quite bizarre. Of course Iraq has been mired by chaos in the aftermath of the 2003 overthrow of Mr. Hussein has been mired with violence and civil strife. Furthermore corrupt governance didn’t go away with Saddam. Former Iraqi premier Nouri al-Maliki used state compulsion counter-productively in order to marginalize Sunni Arab and Kurdish minorities in the political process. A move which saw the state convulsed by that divisive governance and therefore wholly inept when it came to defending the country against the initial Islamic State onslaught last June.

This doesn’t mean that the Saddam nostalgia sees Iraqis missing the days of the rule of the Mukhabarat terror and torture apparatus, the vicious and depleting war with Iran, the military engagements with America and its allies and the many years of economic sanctions. It is more so a mild nostalgia for a time when the country wasn’t fundamentally breaking up along ethnic and sectarian lines as it is today due in large part of Islamic States brutal attack on an Iraqi society already divided by weak divisive ill-representative central governance.

Interestingly the aforementioned sanction years essentially saw to it that the regime was able to cement its hold on power since the population could barely eek out a basic existence let alone fight the tyrannical system oppressing them. Furthermore the sanctions saw to it that it was the regime that supplied the basic food stuffs to the population and also gave it access to enough financial resources which allowed it to build new and extravagant palaces in each of Iraq’s provinces. The country, along with the majority of its population, was a largely beggared and devastated fiefdom in those years presided over by a brutal family regime.

But the instability was never as bad as it is today. And this is the point that needs to be remembered. As poor as Iraq was and as oppressed as the people were politically they were largely in the same boat to an extent. You didn’t for example have empowered Shia sectarians like Maliki for example using state power in order to sideline and tame the Sunni Kurds but instead you had them under the same collective whip. Today in part due to the legacy of the Iraq War the population is divided and the government and state as a whole extremely weak and ineffective. This weakness coupled with Islamic States ongoing tumultuous assault has crippled Iraq and unleashed more terrors on its people. Whole communities have been destroyed before our eyes and the very fundamental existence of the country has been directly threatened.

That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good thing that the Hussein clan was overthrown. When you remove or severely destabilize any brutal central authority in such a society these things tend to happen. When the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union invaded Iraq’s neighbour Iran in 1941 and dislodged the Iranian dictator Reza Shah Pahlavi for example they, whether they intended to or not, brought about severe instability and chaos which nearly saw to the country being ripped apart by the competing powers and driven into turmoil with tribal chieftains, communist revolutionaries and separatists alike vying for power and influence over that massive and diverse country in the vacuum brought about by the sudden removal of a powerful centralized autocracy.

In Syria another Baathist dictator is fighting an uprising and insurgency against his regime. While he wasn’t overthrown by external powers we see that the breakdown in society brought about by that uprising and the brutal attempt by the regime to crush it has seen to the society being divided and the fissures between different religious sects and ethnicities being brought to the fore and even exploited by many sides in this fight – such as Assad’s stoking of sectarian fires in order to get more reluctant Christians and Alawites behind him for their protection. Again not unlike what happened to Iraq when a hitherto brutal centralized force was suddenly unhinged very dramatically.

A feeling of quasi-nostalgia amongst Iraqis for that period should not necessarily be viewed as an endorsement of the past order nor an expression of affinity with the ancient régime. Instead it should be understood as a lamentation of sorts over the fact that since the demise of that brutal regime Iraq has not been fully stable and has to date been unable to erect a system that will allow the country and its varied and various inhabitants to reach and realize their potential. Which is certainly something to despair and lament about.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Islamic State Terror in Australia

Australia Islamic State Terror threat

As Australians woke up to the news of abductions and beheadings, Australian Assyrians feel that they are now facing the terror on two fronts; on our shores and in our homelands. A Demand For Action applauds the AFP and ASIO, as well as NSW police for detecting such terror plots and putting an end to it. We are sleeping with the enemy, because the same people who have beheaded, raped and killed the innocent civilians in Iraq and Syria, are now calling themselves proud Australian citizens, sneaking and plotting under our very own eyes. These may be ‘plots’ in Australia, but they are a reality in Iraq and Syria. For this reason and for months now, the Australian branch of A Demand For Action has been rallying in both Sydney and Melbourne, with joint rallies held on 2 August 2014. Federal and State MP’s from both sides of the spectrum were present, and gave powerful and moving speeches. However, we are all enraged that all over the world, these atrocious crimes by the Islamic State have not been widely reported and discussed in greater length on mainstream media. There is genocide in progress and it is being ignored.

However, seeing this break-out in Australia is not surprising to us. We need recognize that this has become a magnet for disaffected, alienated & angry extremists everywhere, and the more successful they are in the Middle East, the more we can expect events like this. A man named Abu-Adil, a Syrian IS solider, warned us. He warned Nuri Kino, (the founder of A Demand For Action) that the Islamic State would not stop until they have infiltrated the west. Now is the time for the Australian parties, to put aside political agendas and act united to defeat the national security threat of the Islamic State. We are the first country to begin raids and make arrests, while this is great news for us, the rest must follow suit. Let Australia lead by example and stand fiercely in the face of evil. For a decade now, brutal atrocities like these have taken place against minorities. On many occasions, our founder Nuri Kino has documented, reported, testified, and most of all warned of further violence, and as the United Nations has stipulated, of crimes against humanity.

We are Assyrians, a heritage that also includes Chaldeans and Syriacs. We are the descendants of the ancient peoples who gave the world civilization and a culture over 7000 years old. Our people have retained the language of our ancestors, a fusion of Akkadian and Aramaic, the mother tongue of Jesus Christ. Civilization today, however, has failed to protect us. Civilization today, has failed to preserve us. Our people are at risk of extinction. More of us now live in Diaspora than we do in our ancestral lands. Our entire existence rests in your hands.

A Demand For Action Assyrian Iraqis

It only took a couple of days for Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city to be emptied of all non-Sunni Muslims. And in weeks 400 000 people were displaced from the Nineveh Plains. A Demand For Action has followed every step of this tragedy. Can you imagine the full effects if a city like Melbourne was to be caught in the middle of such tragedy? The week after the invasion of Mosul, that is when “A Demand For Action” was founded. A grassroots movement that now operates in over 4 continents and 19 countries. Our branches have echoed our demands in rallies, TV debates, radio interviews and social media efforts. Every day, politicians and journalists have received information about the genocide in Iraq and Syria, with the same grotesque atrocities occurring in all pockets under the control of Islamic Fundamentalists. Our demands are simple; we want a safe haven established, we want military resources to be given to minorities, and we want non-stop humanitarian aid. Whilst we have a capable ASIO and federal police system detecting terror plots, the Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs and other minorities in Iraq don’t have anything of this nature.

We are now at the point where the Islamic State has been formed and Caliphate built; a threat to the whole world. We have been trying to make our Australian government understand this plague and this threat. The Islamic State is here, in Australia, waving its dark and evil flag in front of Churches and ready to attack. The world cannot silently look on as more sons and fathers are decapitated in front of cameras and publicized in social media outlets. These devastating and brutal acts have no place in modern times.

Diana Yaqco
A Demand For Action – Australia

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

We condemn the Brutal Murder of David Haines by ISIS

David Haines Iraq

David Haines Iraq

Unfortunately it is with sad news the thug group we call the Islamic State otherwise known as ISIS have decided to unjustly murder their latest victim, British Aid worker David Haines.

It comes a few days after David’s family had pleaded with ISIS to get in touch with the family and not carry out their threats.

Sadly, ISIS have done what they have already done to thousands of others.

It is a terrible situation and those captured by ISIS face a sickening fate. We at Baghdad Invest condemn such actions as seriously Un-Islamic and way out of line of what is normality. For now, the family of David Haines will be suffering tremendous angst at news of their loved one’s passing.

David will be in a better place now, hopefully his God will be taking good care of him.

As we go on, we can say Iraq is very much turning the tide on ISIS in the fight to take back land and push ISIS out of Iraq. The murder of David Haines is an indication of the levels of desperation in which ISIS are feeling.

David Cawthorne Haines

Born in East Yorkshire but raised Perthshire, 44-year-old Mr Haines was in Syria as an aid worker just before his capture in March 2013. David has been to multiple middle east countries in a similar capacity working to bring aid to those who need it.

David’s case really came to light after he appeared at the end of the video of which ISIS had beheaded American journalist Steven Sotloff.

Rest in Peace – David Haines.

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