Saturday, June 27, 2015

Don’t Give Up On Iraq

Iraq has been fighting the Islamic State (Daesh, ISIS) terror gang for well over a year now. Daesh’s blitz across Northern Iraq and its more recent advances in Iraq’s Anbar Province have led many to quite cynical conclusions. And to date Iraq’s efforts against Daesh have yielded few notable successes. This has led some to conclude that Iraq might as well be partitioned in the long-run since it cannot effectively function as a multi-denominational and multi-ethnic nation-state.

Yes things have looked extremely discouraging over the course of the past year. Especially in light of the Iraqi Army’s failure to prevent Daesh from overrunning Ramadi last month nearly a year after its monumental failure to defend Mosul and other large swaths of Northern Iraq in the summer of 2014. But to readily conclude that Iraq is finished, that Iraq is dead, at this point in time may be a premature judgement to make.

Indeed it is somewhat fashionable to say, especially in light of Daesh’s symbolic dismantlement of the Sykes-Picot Syria-Iraq border, that Iraq is a mere construct imposed by British imperialists – lines drawn on the map with little understanding of the intricacies which exist on the ground those boundaries were arbitrarily planted. Which is the case, as is the case with so are many other nation states. And if this war does lead to ultimately greater autonomy and less centralization for the nation as a whole that will be a success, not a failure.

I sometimes wonder if minute-by-minute news updates and detailed up-to-date accounts of situations across the world have led us to lose our sense of historical perspective. On what basis can we, or are some, arguing that Iraq has now failed as a nation, that it has no future? Because it has failed to completely defeat and completely setback a threat to its existence within the space of a year?

Think about it. What major conflict or war was definitively ended within the space of a year? Should one have, for example, have concluded that …

… early on in the American Civil War that because the Union had not thoroughly defeated the Confederacy in less than two years that the war was hopelessly lost and that the Union should have agreed to a partition of the United States rather than continue fighting?

… the fact the North Vietnamese had failed to wear down the Americans to the point of withdrawing from Vietnam by the end of the 1960’s was evidence that they would never prevail in that war and therefore should have unilaterally disbanded, surrendered or given up accordingly?

… the failure of the Iranians to repel fully the invading Iraqis from Iran’s western Khuzestan province by early 1982 (the Iraqi invasion begun in September 1980 and was eventually repelled in May 1982) showed they possessed “no will to fight” and that Iran should have accepted a compromise over that territory?

Don’t forget that since those humiliating aforementioned setbacks in Nineveh and Anbar we’re now seeing Iraqis fighting in tandem under the banner of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU’s). Not only are Shi’ite militias entering a Sunni-majority province but they are doing so in coordination with local Sunni tribesmen in order to recuperate Anbar from Daesh. Meaning the PMU’s are now, by all means, a combined citizen Sunni-Shiite fighting force. If they succeed in this effort they may even strengthen post-Daesh Iraq despite the many differences amongst Iraqis and fissures in the society which were exacerbated, with violent consequences, throughout the course of the Iraq War.

Iraq is fighting to overcome this crisis and eradicate this violent threat to its very existence. Look at the efforts being made by Iraqis of various different backgrounds. They are quite commendable and give one quite a bit of hope for Iraq and its future. Not cynicism. After all this is a country which hasn’t had a very strong central authority nor government since the regime change of 2003 and the lengthy Iraq War which followed. Nevertheless since the onset of this crisis national unity has been trumpeted by government and clerical (most notably the pre-eminent Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani — who has been commendably sober-minded and thoughtful when it comes to devising thoughtful proposals to help solve this crisis) officials.

People who argue that Iraq has ceased to exist and that a partition is inevitable seem to also believe that a partition will resolve a lot of the mess in Iraq. It is of course not, the history of partitions indicates that a partition of Iraq (which will likely be, at least, a three-way partition) may ultimately be quite violent as opposed to a simple bloodless solution to its present woes. There are no simple solutions to this crisis. But that’s not the same as saying that a solution which keeps Iraq intact as a nation is not feasible. On the contrary.

Issues such as Kirkuk are going to be issues of contention and/or conflict regardless of whether or not Iraq officially breaks-up. The future, or lack thereof, of Iraq is going to be determined by developments in Anbar and Nineveh respectively. In Anbar Baghdad has to coordinate formerly disparate Shia and Sunni groups against a common foe. In Nineveh smaller minority groups will have to work in tandem to liberate Mosul, the crown jewel of Daesh’s so-called caliphate to date. That operation will likely have to encompass Kurdish forces (who have had many tactical successes against Daesh in Northern Iraq but are holding out on any attempt to liberate Mosul for the time being since going it alone would be too risky for them at this point in time), Sunni Arabs who have had to leave Mosul and wish to liberate their homes, and other smaller minorities in that part of Iraq.

The next few months will be very telling whereby Iraq’s future is concerned. There have been discouraging setbacks. There may even be some more. But there are also many encouraging signs that Iraq will indeed be able to weather the storm. And if these delicate efforts do succeed this whole crisis will likely strengthen the Iraqi nation as a whole.

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

#TerroristTurkey becomes Number 1 worldwide HashTag

News broke overnight that ISIS aka Daesh had attacked the city of Kobane by crossing over the border from Turkey.

Naturally the global community on Twitter erupted at the news of Turkey allowing ISIS to freely move across the border to launch an attack on the vulnerable city of Kobane.

For too long Turkey has been the ally in the region not assisting with the fight back against ISIS. Finally, after seeing ISIS attack Kobane by coming across the border….. enough is enough! On one hand Turkey is a member state of NATO but on the other because Turkey is so desperate to see President Bashar al-Assad removed from power, Turkey is willing to support anything that could possibly see Turkey removed.

Sadly…. this is the Turkey we are dealing with today.

Sadly….. Turkey could and should be a key partner for us all in the region to fight back against ISIS.

Why doesn’t Turkey want to reject ISIS? Why is Turkey the single country in the region that is not attacked? Too many questions that remain unanswered and finally enough is enough and #TerroristTurkey has become the Number 1 tweeted hashtag on Twitter. Quite remarkable.

What needs to happen from this moment on is the US and the Europeans to start asking serious questions of Turkey and conclude whether Turkey is a partner or not!

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Iraqi Telecom provider Asiacell is having a surge in subscribers

The leading telecoms provider, Asiacell is currently experience a surge in demand thanks to a significant investment made in 2014 in conjunction with Swedish telecom giant Ericsson.

By working with Ericcson, the company has been able to deliver a much more higher-end broadband service that many come to expect when paying for Mobile Telecommunications.

The key to this upgrade was the installation of the Ericsson RBS 6000 radio base station, which enables an 80% lower energy consumption per subscriber and also requires 75% less space compared to previous base stations meaning Asiacell is able to save on fees associated with leasing the land.

Asiacell listed on the Iraqi Stock Exchange in 2013, listing as the largest IPO in the Middle East since 2008. Trading begun after the successful telecoms company raised some $1.3 Billion.

More than anything the listing ensured more eyes were drawn to the market and speculators are currently awaiting the listing of telecom rival Zain Iraq.

What makes the Zain Iraq IPO interesting is that they have been delaying their listing since August 2011 and in the process incurring fines. The three mobile networks were required to float onto the Iraqi Stock Exchange as part of their 15 year licenses that were awarded back in 2007.

As the region develops its infrastructure, Iraq is keen to ensure it is not left behind.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Iraq’s Reckoning with Daesh

In scenes uncannily like Eastern Europe in the early 1940’s or Srebrenica in 1995 the victims of the Camp Speicher massacre of July 2014 were lined up like lambs to the slaughter. Unarmed and completely defenseless they were ruthlessly slaughtered by their captors. Up to 1,700 Iraqi air cadets were believed to have been murdered in Tikrit by Islamic State (Daesh, ISIS). Their bodies were either dumped into mass-graves near the scene of the massacre (the sight of freshly dug mass graves in Iraq is such a grotesque sight to behold isn’t it?) or the Tigris River. The murder-victims were primarily Shi’ites Muslims who are considered unforgivably heretical in Daesh’s eyes and thus deserving of such a slaughter.

When Shia militiamen fought against Daesh in Tikrit in April of this year they didn’t take any prisoners. This fact has been pointed out by journalists and commentators alike. And its quite significant. Most conclude that the reason there were no prisoners of war was simply because the Shia militiamen killed them all, regardless of whether or not they waved the white flag – remember plenty of Daesh members have surrendered and been taken as prisoners of war by the Kurds throughout the past year so it’s not as if they all manage to keep fighting on until they are killed. It has been argued that this take no prisoners strategy sets a very dangerous precedent for this conflict. After all, the general argument goes, if Daesh members know there is no choice but to fight to the death this war may be, perhaps needlessly, prolonged and therefore cause more death and destruction.

However there is another way to look at all this, and that is to view it is a conscious reckoning. The fact that no prisoners are being taken is the Shia militia’s way of conveying a very simple message. This fight is a fight to the bitter and bloody end. Daesh’s assault on Iraq is a fundamental assault on its existence and therefore must be completely eradicated. An absolute revenge, if you will, for the grave crime against humanity conducted at Camp Speicher (a massacre which was, it’s important to understand, a much graver massacre and crime than even the Dujail village massacre of Shiite men and boys ordered by Saddam Hussein in 1982 – the very massacre for which he was hanged in 2006). And yes that means this war may be much more brutal, much more bloody and much more violent than it otherwise might be. But as far as many of these Shia militiamen, and other Iraqis, are concerned this is the way it has to be since a defeat in the field of battle isn’t enough, Daesh must be completely purged, destroyed, never to rise or threaten Iraq and its people again for what it has done and for what it earnestly seeks to do.

Speicher needs to be put into perspective to properly understand this mentality. Cast your mind back to 1991 when the United States was readying to militarily confront Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, over its annexation of Kuwait. The now passed Tariq Aziz, then Iraq’s foreign minister, was told to convey to his president a warning given to him in a letter by then U.S. Secretary of State James Baker warning Iraq against using non-conventional biological or chemical weapons. Part of the letter declared that,

“If the conflict starts, God forbid, and chemical or biological weapons are used against our forces, the American people would demand revenge, and we have the means to implement this. This is not a threat, but a pledge that if there is any use of such weapons, our objective would not only be the liberation of Kuwait, but also the toppling of the present regime.”

Baker also spoke of “a most terrible response” against Iraq were it to deploy such weapons, indicating that the U.S. would retaliate in kind with non-conventional, possibly nuclear, weaponry. It was clear Saddam would have been completely obliterated if he were to attack American soldiers in such a way. Remember, one of the reasons Hussein was so confident he could keep Kuwait despite the technological superiority of the American-led multinational coalition was the fact that he perceived America to be a society which could not endure/tolerate the loss of ten-thousand soldiers in battle. He even once suggested to his military commanders that they could capture thousands of American soldiers (somehow), tie them to the front of Iraqi tanks and then seize parts of eastern Saudi Arabia to prevent any American attempt to retake Kuwait. Using American soldiers as human shields in such a manner would doubtlessly have incurred a devastating, to put it mildly, retaliation on Iraq which could well have been nuclear and killed many civilians and soldiers alike.

While these examples are hypothetical one can be almost certain if a tyrant like Saddam Hussein or a tyrannical group like Daesh ever did to unarmed American prisoners-of-war what Daesh has done to primarily Shi’ite Arab Iraqi cadets at Speicher the retaliation would be highly destructive and probably wouldn’t leave all an abundance of combatants alive to take prisoner. One should keep that in mind when trying to comprehend and understand what motivates and drives many of these Shia militiamen when it comes to some of the more ruthless actions they are undertaking against their irrevocable Daesh adversary.

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