Iraq's (US-installed) prime Minister Hayder al-Abadi is insisting ISIS is over. Not everyone seems so sure.
Michael R. Gordon (WALL STREET JOURNAL) notes the previous history of declaring 'success' in Iraq:
In 2003, the Bush administration toppled Saddam Hussein but was unprepared for the mission of occupying the country. After American forces were withdrawn from Iraq in 2011, the Obama administration boasted violence was at a historic low only to see ISIS rampage across the country less than three years later. More recently, President Donald Trump asserted in October that ISIS fighters were giving up.
Gordon notes that ISIS may "return to their guerrilla roots, maintain sleeper cells and try to take advantage of signs of Sunni disaffection" at a time when, for example, approximately 600,000 residents of Mosul have yet to return to the city since its 'liberation.'
There are victory laps by Hayder, but no victory.
A point US State Dept spokesperson Heather Nauert made at yesterday's press briefing in the midst of discussing Syria.
MS NAUERT: Our job in Syria is not done. And when I say “our,” I don’t just mean the United States, I mean the entire coalition. There are still pockets of ISIS. The country still needs to be stabilized. We were just talking about rubble removal and we were talking about demining. If Russia chooses to pull out, certainly, that is its choice to do so, but we continue to work through all our partners to try to stabilize the country.
QUESTION: So if the job is not done as you – you don’t consider it done. The --
MS NAUERT: The job is not – the job is not done.
QUESTION: Not done. I understand.
MS NAUERT: It’s not – done in Iraq, even though Iraq has declared victory over ISIS. It’s not – it’s still not done there because there are still individuals there who belong to ISIS, who will take part, undoubtedly, in terrorist activities. Syria, the job is far from done there, unfortunately.
Amazingly, or maybe not, not one reporter bothered to ask a follow up. The US government has congratulated Iraq on the 'victory.' But there was the US State Dept's spokesperson saying "It's not -- done in Iraq, every though Iraq has declared victory over ISIS. It's not -- it's still not done [. . .]"
Which may not be so amazing since they don't give a damn about Iraq and never ask about it.
Now for foreign outlets (RT had a lively exchange in yesterday's press briefing), that may be fine.
But for US outlets?
It will soon be two trillion tax dollars that the American public has forked over for this illegal war but the press knows their bosses aren't interested so they know to be good little sheep and not ask.
Oh, sure, the loud Matt Lee may use Iraq as a Tweet (Iraq from five or so years ago) to try to score political points but he has no interest in Iraq today.
So that's how the US State Dept could declare yesterday that there's no victory over the Islamic State in Iraq yesterday -- a comment that should have resulted in major headlines -- and everyone looks the other way and pretends not to notice.
Back in July, the International Crisis Group's Joost Hiltermann (NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS) observed:
To local people, the picture is decidedly different. ISIS’s military defeat, which Western officials believe will come sometime later this year or early next, will hardly put an end to the conflicts that gave rise to the group. For much of the battle against ISIS has taken place in a region that has been fought over ever since oil was found in Kirkuk in the 1930s. The deeper conflicts here—between Arabs and Kurds, between Shia and Sunni, between neighboring powers such as Iran and Turkey, and among the Kurds themselves—will only escalate as the victors, fortified by weapons supplies and military training provided by foreign governments, engage in a mad scramble for the spoils.
And the scramble is on. Signs include yesterday's apparent attack (by Baghdad) on Tuz Khurumatu.
Yesterday, the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, spoke of Iraq.
- Secretary Tillerson: The policy has always been a unified #Iraq and we are working through that process now between Baghdad and Erbil to ensure the two parties remain unified; we are supporting both deconfliction and re-engagement around the Iraqi constitution. #ACKoreaForum
And here are Tillerson's remarks:
In Iraq, the liberation of all areas is now complete, and in both the campaigns we’ve now recaptured the caliphate’s capitals of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria. I think the early engagement in Iraq with Arab neighbors has been important to the future of Iraq also being sustained with its democratic government and sustaining Iraq as a unified country. Having Arab neighbors engage early as the war to defeat ISIS progressed, importantly with the historic visit because it’s been more than three decades since the Arab world had relationships with Baghdad, the Saudis were the first to engage and have created now economic talks and consultative committees. They’ve reopened two border crossings, they’re resuming flights between Baghdad and between Riyadh, sending an important message to all Iraqis that – and reminding them that Iraqis are Arab, and you should re-engage and reunite with the Arab world.
There have been consultative councils set up with the Saudis and Iraqis, and there will be a second reconstruction conference hosted by the Kuwaitis in January – all intended to ensure that the government in Baghdad and Iraqis understand you have friends to the south who want to support your reconstruction and your re-establishment of your country.
Importantly, we also – the policy has always been a unified Iraq. And as you know, the independence referendum which was undertaken by the Kurdish Regional Authorities a few months back was disruptive to that unity. We’re working through that process now between Baghdad and Erbil to ensure the two parties remain unified, and we are supporting both deconfliction and we’re supporting a re-engagement around the Iraqi constitution which was never fully implemented. And we will stand and we have said we’ll stand with the Kurds to support them in the full implementation of the Iraqi constitution when – which, when it is fully implemented, will address a number of grievances that the Kurdish people have had for some time and we hope will lead to that unified Iraq.
But if the Kurds don't want a unified government after being attacked? And there's also the fact that Baghdad refuses to speak to the Kurdish government in Erbil.
Maybe the policy of a unified Iraq needs to factor in what the people actually want?
And not just the Kurds.
Yes, on September 25th approximately 92% voted for an independent Kurdistan.
But Hayder al-Abadi's attacks on the Kurds -- just his verbal attacks?
Is no one registering what's taken place as a result?
Because Shi'ite social media is vicious on the Kurds.
So if there was a Shia poll right now, it wouldn't be at all surprising if the results said, "Dump the Kurds! Get rid of them! Let them leave Iraq!"
Hayder's promoted hatred of the Kurds and it's sinking in. But the hatred may work to push the Kurds out of Iraq which I don't believe was Hayder's intent.
In his remarks, Tillerson also noted, "As a result of the military success, we in the State Department have really had to run fast to catch up with the military success with the diplomatic plans as to what comes after the defeat of ISIS, and we’ve executed much of this through the Coalition to Defeat ISIS, a coalition of 74 members, 68 countries and including organizations such as NATO, INTERPOL, EU, and others."
Tillerson hasn't been in the post for even 12 months yet.
So it's not really his fault that a diplomatic push did not begin in 2014.
However, that's when it should have begun.
Barack Obama began bombing in August of 2014. He also began sending in more ground troops then.
But the diplomatic effort?
No where to be found.
Just as Bully Boy Bush's 'surge' failed diplomatically (the military success -- which did take place -- was supposed to allow the political front to move forward but that did not happen) so did Barack's mission.
In his article that we noted earlier, Michael Gordon includes this, "Nearly 50% of Iraq's population is less than 19 years old, the U.N. says."
It's amazing how little coverage of Iraq in the west factors in the youth -- or even nods to their presence.
In August of last year, the International Crisis Group attempted to explore Iraqi youth and noted:
The leadership’s inability to forge a future for “Generation 2000”, which grew up after Saddam Hussein’s fall, has turned it into easy quarry for predators, be they IS, Shiite militias or populists preaching Iraqi nationalism. The potential for mobilising large numbers of young men at loose ends as pawns in violent conflicts has enabled both IS and Shiite militias to gain recruits. In the process, it has compounded sectarian polarisation and widened the divide between street and elites. Fed by fresh pools of fighting-age men, local tensions and conflicts proliferate and escalate, destabilising the country and the surrounding region. The most powerful Shiite militias receive training and advice from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, have an ideological orientation consistent with Tehran’s and can be deployed as proxies outside Iraq as well.
The familiar expression “youth radicalisation” distorts the reality that an entire generation is adrift, in need of a dramatically new state-led approach. Young Iraqis whose formative years were in the post-2003 turmoil have much more in common than they suspect, whatever side of local conflicts they are on, but they have been increasingly socialised within communal confines and left to the mercy of radical groups that promote dehumanised, even demonised perceptions of one another.
Before violence engulfed Iraq again, with the rise of IS, youth had attempted to peacefully hold the political class accountable for years of dismal governance. Sunni Arabs staged sit-ins in several towns in 2013, questioning national leaders, including senior Sunnis. They met with repression, leaving scores dead, many more in prison. These events paved the way for IS, which seized Falluja, the Sunni town nearest Baghdad, Mosul and other majority-Sunni towns in June 2014.
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