What Should Obama Do to Save Iraq?
In reflecting on the Iraqi situation, one cannot escape the conclusion that super and regional powers have behaved as if the mass destruction and killings are none of their concern. This may explain their determination to install a new prime minister and projecting it as a strategy that will save Iraq. This is a crafty diversion that is intended to prolong the sufferings of the Iraqi people and weaken Iraq so that powerful players can impose their design.
In Washington, influential policymakers and the political elite have advised President Obama not to send troops to Iraq to fight terrorism. In fact, Iraq does not need military assistance. What it does need are weapons and intelligence information. According to recent reports in major newspapers, including the New York Times, the US military has collected intelligence on terrorist groups in Iraq, including the location and capability of ISIS. This information has not been given to Iraqis under the pretext that Iraqi military officers may share the information with Iran. This has led to the death of thousands of Iraqis and has enabled ISIS to take over several cities.
Iraq, too, does not need sectarian incitement and division. Many members of the Obama administration have extensively promoted phrases like ‘Sunnis are marginalized,’ ‘Sunnis are not represented in the government,’etc. These and other statements are not only inaccurate but also incite sectarianism and encourage sectarian discord.
Instead of sending military to Iraq, the Obama administration should espouse critical factors for objectively serving the Iraqi people:
1. Iraqis should choose their course of action independently. The State Department has sent Brett McGurk to Iraq. He for over ten days has been pushing Iraqi politicians to replace the Prime Minister, Nuri Maliki.
2. Assertively declare that giving refuge to terrorists and training and financing them constitutes a threat to peace and stability. Those who do so should be treated as terrorists.
3. Inform the ethnic minority in the northern part of Iraq that they have to withdraw immediately from the area that their militias have recently gained control of and act according to the constitutional process.
4. Advise Iraqi politicians that using divisive sectarian terms and listening to regional and foreign powers is a threat to the safety and prosperity of Iraqis.
5. Place the Iraqi file and policies under a neutral authority. Vice President Joe Biden is obsessed with the notion of partitioning Iraq. He is committed to the 1982 Israeli Plan for Iraq which calls for “breaking up Iraq into denominations.” While in the Senate, during the Bush administration, Biden was the author of a resolution to attack and invade Iraq. Prior to that, he led a fierce campaign to divide Iraq. Having been responsible for the Iraqi file means he enthusiastically deploys resources to execute the strategy of fragmenting Iraq.
6. Abandon the idea of creating joint operation centers in Baghdad and the north of the country with Iraqi security forces. This will not only prolong the unrest and strengthen terrorism, but also constitutes a threat to Iraqi sovereignty.
7. Abandon the notion of a government that is representative of every group. This policy has been dysfunctional since it was established by the Occupational Authority in 2004. Rather, there is a need for a functional majority government with an articulated program to lead Iraq for the next four years. This government should be based on the outcome of the recent national elections.
8. Abandon the long discredited notion that only an ignorant, brutal and corrupted authority is suitable for the Arab people. This notion was espoused and promoted by the previous administrations.
Since 1963, when the CIA replaced the popular regime of Abdul Karim Qassim, Washington has spread destruction and bloodshed in Iraq. This was intensified in 1990-1991 and reached its peak in 2003 and the years that have followed. There are many in the previous and current administration who look at the region solely through Israeli interests.
The Occupational Authority in 2003 chose individuals to be in government and in parliament who are inclined to be sectarian and corrupt. These politicians were also selected because of their obedience to our Embassy in Baghdad. Moreover, the Occupational Authority introduced a constitution that is full of contradictions and is designed to incapacitate Iraqi institutions.
The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri Maliki, has his own flaws and committed mistakes. But we should not blame him for the mess in that country. He was selected by our Embassy in Baghdad because it was thought that he would blindly follow instructions and would readily compromise on Iraqi strategic issues.
In 2006, our Ambassador in Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, pushed to replace Ibrahim Jaafari as Prime Minister stating, “there may be a new candidate for prime minister.” Khalilzad selected Nuri Maliki and then praised him: “I have full confidence in him. He has made tough decisions.”
Once Maliki assumed power, he demonstrated some concerns for the unity and integrity of Iraq. He attempted to regain Iraqi independence and dismantle foreign spy networks around Iraq. In an interview with Newsweek, John R. Maguire, a retired former CIA deputy station chief in Baghdad, indicated that Maliki has made it almost impossible for the CIA to operate freely, stating that the Iraqis “fired all the guys who they considered suspect, which was basically all the guys we put into the [intelligence] service.”
The Washington Post (June 30) reported that despite “all the billions spent on the war on terror . . . all the lives lost,” the United States has not been able to defeat al-Qaeda. However, the terrorist group, ISIS, is determined to finish off al-Qaeda. To some foreign affairs analysts this may explain why Washington has not taken any action against ISIS.
Furthermore, Washington has kept silent about the territorial expansion by ethnic militias. This expansion, like the success of ISIS, has created a new reality in Iraq that will ultimately lead to the implementation of the 1982 Israeli plan to partition Iraq along ethnic and sectarian lines. This plan was actively promoted by Vice President Biden and is still a viable option, according to the administration.
The Obama administration, behind the scenes, is actively pursuing a menacing strategy for partitioning Iraq. While publically it is advocating what it calls “inclusive government,” in reality it is forcing Iraqi politicians to accept its design for Iraq. A member of the administration told the New York Times (June 28) that the administration in its negotiation with Iraqi politicians is for “putting together the government, there are going to be conversations about federalism and devolving more power to the local level.”
The selection by senior Iraqi politicians of the new premier, parliament speaker and president of the country was done in consultation with the US The new primer is known for not having strategic vision and lacks Maliki’s assertive capacity. The new speaker of parliament is low profile but unlike his predecessor is less divisive. This leaves, the president, Barham Salah, a protégé of the CIA and the Israeli Mossed, in a position to dictate the future of Iraq.
The selection of these individuals may please Washington. However, their credibility in maintaining a unified and democratic Iraq is questionable. Iraq is facing terrorism, polarization, and foreign interference. This is a turning moment in the history of the country and Iraq needs a strong functional central government.
The policies toward Iraq are bankrupt. While it is impossible to revise history, the only possible and rational avenue is to acknowledge mistakes and avoid the advice of those who made these mistakes and have subordinated US interests to other countries, including Israel and Saudi Arabia. These policies have led to calamities and have been instrumental in perpetuating crimes against humanity in Iraq.
Abbas J. Ali is Professor and Director, School of International Management, Eberly College of Business and IT, Indiana University of Pennsylvania