Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Little ditty 'bout Iraq and Iran

A pressing issue in Iraq that receives little western attention (unless fisherman are arrested as a result) is Iraq's borders, specifically the border they share with Iran which is in dispute and has caused multiple flare ups in the last eleven or so years.

Alsumaria reports Hadier al-Abadi's Council of Ministers has declared that they will speed up signing off on a border agreement with Iran.

The deal comes as Iran Focus notes there are now over 1,000 Iranian military 'advisors' in Iraq.

With all the countries sending in 'advisors' (that includes the United States), you sort of picture a very frustrated Iraq screaming for everyone to butt out and go home.  Don't think that day is far from coming.

Reese Erlich (Al Jazeera) notes:

In northern Iraq, many Sunni and some Shia political leaders told me they remain suspicious about renewed American involvement. This came as no surprise. The United States, after all, invaded Iraq only a little more than a decade ago on the false pretense of eliminating weapons of mass destruction. Its new stated aims seem to many to be almost as implausible.
In August a U.S. diplomat rattled off to me the three original justifications for the new war: stopping the immediate slaughter of minorities fleeing attacks by ISIL, protecting American military personnel in the northern city of Erbil and keeping ISIL from overrunning the Kurdish region.

None of those rationales hold up under scrutiny.

Last week, US Senator John McCain went to Iraq and had several meetings.  One was with Salah al-Jubouri, Speaker of Parliament, and Sunni tribal leaders.  In the meeting, they conveyed their belief that the US government needs to arm the Sunni fighters (Sahwa) against the Islamic State.  Alsumaria reports today that al-Jubouri states the tribal leaders have initiated a dialogue with Iran regarding weapons.

Meanwhile there is the matter of the oil deal between the Kurdish Regional Government and the central Iraqi government out of Baghdad.  The deal has received much praise, but David L. Phillips points out at CNBC:

  U.S. officials heralded the agreement as a victory for the unity of Iraq. It is a positive, but they should not rush to judgment. The agreement must be enshrined in Iraq's budget bill and passed by the Iraqi parliament. If the agreement is authorized, it must then be implemented—both sides must deliver.
The Baghdad Agreement defers decisions on important issues. It is silent on "disputed internal boundaries." The central government stills claims Kirkuk and Khanaqin, where Kurds predominate. Successive Iraqi governments ignored article 140 of the constitution, which requires a referendum on Kirkuk's status.

The agreement will be in force for just one year. Negotiations will resume before the ink is dry, pre-empting a period of confidence-building. 

Those are very important points and everyone should have been more skeptical of the announcements regarding the deal.

Everyone includes me.

I should have been much more cautious in my remarks. That was my error.

Here, we noted it in terms of the Kurds exercising their power.

And certainly, they did that to get the deal announced; however, a deal means nothing until it's implemented.  Look at all the starts and stops to Nouri's weapons deal with Russia not all that long ago, for example.

And this week, there has been muttering from Hadier al-Abadi's staff (to the Iraq press) about the deal which makes the question mark a little bolder.

But the biggest lesson is and remains the Pike Report.  As that Congressional report documented, the US government (Nixon was President, Henry Kissinger was the go-to for the issue) deliberately encouraged the Kurds to stand, pledged support and much more only to then pull all support without a second thought since the whole thing had been a con and the Kurds were used as a pawn.

 For those late to the party, February 16, 1976, The Village Voice published Aaron Latham's "Introduction to the Pike Papers."  Latham explained:

In 1972, Dr. Henry Kissinger met with the Shah of Iran, who asked the U.S. to aid the Kurds in their rebellion against Iraq, an enemy of the Shah.  Kissinger later presented the proposal to President Nixon who approved what would become a $16 million program.  Then John B. Connally, the former Nixon Treasury Secretary, was dispatched to Iran to inform the Shah, one oil man to another.
The committee report charges that: "The President, Dr. Kissinger and the foreign head of state [the Shah] hoped our clients would not prevail.  They preferred instead that the insurgents simply continue a level of hostilities sufficient to sap the resources of our ally's neighboring country [Iraq].  The policy was not imparted to our clients, who were encouraged to continue fighting.  Even in the context of covert action, ours was a cynical enterprise."
During the Arab-Israeli war, when the Kurds might have been able to strike at a distracted Iraqi government, Kissinger, according to the report, "personally restrained the insurgents from an all-out offensive on the one occasion when such an attack might have been successful."
Then, when Iran resolved its border dispute with Iraq, the U.S. summarily dropped the Kurds.  And Iraq, knowing aid would be cut off, launched a search-and-destroy campaign the day after the border agreement was signed.
A high U.S. official later explained to the Pike committee staff: "Covert action should not be confused with missionary work."

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