Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Juan Cole: 7 Myths about the Radical Sunni Advance in Iraq // Blair-Bush & Iraq: It’s not just the quagmire but the Lawbreaking & Deception

Already in the past week and a half, many assertions are becoming commonplace in the inside-the-Beltway echo chamber about Iraq’s current crisis that are poorly grounded in knowledge of the country. Here are some sudden truisms that should be rethought.
1. “The Sunni radicals of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are popular.” They are not. Opinion polling shows that most Iraqi Sunnis are secular-minded. The ISIS is brutal and fundamentalist. Where the Sunnis have rallied to it, it is because of severe discontents with their situation after the fall of the Baath Party in 2003 with the American invasion. The appearance of video showing ISIS massacring police (most of them Sunnis) in Tikrit will severely detract from such popularity as they enjoyed.

2. “ISIS fighters achieved victory after victory in the Sunni north.” While this assertion is true, and towns continue to fall to it, it is simplistic. The central government troops, many of them Shiite, in Mosul and in towns of the north, were unpopular because representatives of a sectarian Shiite regime. The populace of Mosul, including town quarters and clan groups (‘tribes’) on the city’s outskirts, appear to have risen up in conjunction with the ISIS advance,as Patrick Cockburn argues. It was a pluralist urban rebellion, with nationalists of a socialist bent (former Baathists) joining in. In some instances locals were suppressed by the fundamentalist guerrillas and there already have been instances of local Sunnis helping the Iraqi army reassert itself in Salahuddin Province and then celebrating the departure of ISIS.

3. “Iraqi troops were afraid to fight the radical Sunni guerrillas and so ran away.” While the troops did abandon their positions in Mosul and other towns, it isn’t clear why. There are reports that they were ordered to fall back. More important, if this was a popular uprising, then a few thousand troops were facing hundreds of thousands of angry urbanites and were in danger of being overwhelmed. In Afghanistan’s Mazar-i Sharif in 1997 when the Pashtun Taliban took this largely Tajik and Uzbek city, the local populace abided it af few days and then rose up and killed 8,000 Taliban, expelling them from the city. (A year later they returned and bloodily reasserted themselves). Troops cannot always assert themselves against the biopower of urban masses.

4. “The Sunni radicals are poised to move on Baghdad.” While ISIS as a guerrilla group could infiltrate parts of Baghdad and cause trouble, they would face severe difficulty in taking it.. read more: <http://www.juancole.com/2014/06/myths-radical-advance.html>

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is complaining that he is unfairly blamed for causing the current mess in Iraq and that if Saddam had still been in power it would be just as unstable. He is, perhaps deliberately, missing the point. His invasion of Iraq was illegal and based on deception and propaganda. That was what was wrong with it. A quagmire that is the fruit of illegality and fraud is the worst...In summer of 2002, the head of MI-6, British intelligence, visited Washington to consult on the budding war. He was appalled at the atmosphere of intrigue and deception and reported back to London that the intelligence was being fixed around the policy. In intelligence circles, analysts and field officers who tell the executive what it wants to hear, despite the contrary known facts in the field, are called weasels. Sir Richard Dearlove was warning Blair that elements of the CIA and the Pentagon (the ‘Office of Special Plans’) had turned weasel. Deerlove did not realize that Blair himself was a weasel. Blair suppressed the memo.

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