When the Americans military arrived in Iraq in 2003, their immediate concern was to root out Saddam’s associates and break up the Baath Party organization. The Americans had only the most simplistic outlines about how the country was organized; they put Saddam at the top of a pyramid with the military, the party and internal security immediately below; the remaining spaces were filled in with assumptions based on Crusader Rabbit cartoons. It was only as the hunt for the absent Saddam intensified did the military begin to piece together the Iraqi political and administrative relationships, (Brian Joseph Reed):
Click on the image above or on this link to bring up the entire graphic. The Americans soon discovered the Iraqis didn’t have a government so much as a mom-and-pop retail store run by members of the Al-Bu Nasir clan from Saddam’s home city of Tikrit. Reed’s chart only shows some of the connections. The Iraqi military command and and important commercial firms were all run by the same insiders. What mattered to Saddam above all else was loyalty. Competence … not so much.
As the Baathists were rounded up, figures from the arrivisté clans filled the old places. The structure of the new regime was more or less the same as Saddam’s with some decorations applied; a ‘parliament’ to give the public impression of a democratic republic, agencies intended to distract the locals and Western media, also elections which served to reinforce factionalism by increasing the influence of the clans.
In the north, insiders were Kurds associated with the Talabani and Barzani families; in Baghdad and points south, roles were filled by al-Dawa party- Al-Muntafiq clan cronies and their Iranian handlers. Ministries were staffed with loyalists to whomever was the leader- of the moment: first Ayad Alawi (ex-army/security force INA party), then Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Nouri al-Maliki (both pro-Iranian Islamic al-Dawa party). New managers’ qualifications were the same as those who served Saddam: personal loyalty to the leadership and the party. It was no surprise with the system broke down in 2014; the Americans spent billions upon an enterprise without a foundation.
When Nouri al-Maliki took power in 2008, he inherited a state with deep sectarian divisions and a long history of military intervention in politics. Concerned that political opponents might use the military as a quick route to power, Maliki separated key brigades, including the army’s 56th Brigade, which is tasked with protecting government institutions and officials within Baghdad, and the first and second Presidential Guard Brigades, from military command. He then replaced experienced commanders with men personally loyal to him. Further, since 2010, when Maliki took over the post of interim Interior Minister, he has also exercised direct control over all Ministry of Interior forces, including the Border Guard and Federal Police, which serve as counterweights to military power.
Islamic State attacked Mosul with about 600 fighters. There were ex-Baathist locals taking part, a total of about 2,000 insurgents. The government defenders represented an overwhelmingly large force on paper, but only a handful were effective soldiers and they were short of supplies, (Washington Post):
Mosul commander was on vacation despite warnings of attack, report says
The top Iraqi army officer for Mosul remained on vacation last summer despite repeated warnings that Islamic State militants were planning to seize the city, and his units had less than a third of the soldiers they were supposed to have on the day of the battle.
The armed forces lacked effective command and control, with multiple competing decision-making centers, the report said. Senior commanders who made “grave” mistakes during the assault were appointed for political reasons rather than for their experience, it said.
In a matter of two weeks in June of 2014, the northern provinces of Iraq; Anbar and Ninevah as well as parts of Salah ad Din, Diyala and Kirkuk were ‘under new management’. The Baghdad yes-men and Iranian spies had run away, replaced by irate locals. Acting as shock troops (or at least pretending) and asserting authority were militants claiming lineage from Jordanian trigger-man and petty hoodlum Abu Musab al-Zarqawi; goodbye Iraq, hello ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah The Islamic State.
The enduring image of Islamic State during its moment in the sun: black-clad bad asses driving into your town in long convoys of brand-new Toyota Hilux pickup trucks … buy one today!
The media served up the impression that the group had burst out of nowhere … this was reasonable but also misleading. The individual militants were well-known to the Americans as tens of thousands of them had been rounded up and held at Camp Bucca and in other Iraqi prisons, some for long periods.
By the time the American ground forces left Iraq in 2011 the prisoners had been set free. What is not known is how many were recruited as American agents, or whether their release was conditional on pursuing a Washington agenda. There are persistent rumors American agency was responsible for the creation of Islamic State; the murky circumstances surrounding the militants and their jailers is suggestive.
After the militants took over northern Iraq their wanton killing of prisoners began, accompanied by the surge of videos and social media activity. The source for this new material is unknown (Qatar?). As it turned out, the Western media ‘picked up the dinner plate and ran with it into the kitchen’: becoming instant pitchmen for a suspiciously convenient ‘Red Menace’ updated to meet 21st century public expectations. The more victims there were, the more intense was the attention, to the point where the apparent aim- or purpose of the organization was to find victims and murder them so as to put videos of the executions on television …
… which makes sense because it offers a purpose to the brutality; to provoke- and then pave the way for (more) intervention from the West (Turkey): to ‘sell that sharia’!
Islamic State’s villainous predecessors were prissy throwbacks from the days when US government employees actually read books. Bin Laden & Co. had aged to the point where they had become respectable, like Tories or old whores: characters from a 19th century Dickens serialization: recherché, twitchy Fagins sending boys onto the streets to pick pockets. The threat they represented no longer resonated with the metrosexual, dis-educated Western permateens hooked on subscription TV and smartphones. The latest upgrade is a ‘Windows 20’; a deterministic post-singularity cyborg adhering to inscrutable, nonsense rules; a form of artificial intelligence with a quasi-human face and a Pintarest account. The only thing missing are the electric cars …
Do you see me? Of course we do! We grasp Islamic State instantly because we’ve spent decades and trillions of dollars perfecting ourselves until our monsters are in our image, intimately familiar because they are us … a novelty reality TV show where those voted off the island are run over by a tank. Islamic State occupies the ‘too much is never enough’ corner of Pop culture along with Charles Manson and Omar Little, Edie Sedgewick and Donald Trump. It squats at the end of the road, a toad-like squirmy headed Freddy Kruger in James Howard Kunstler’s twilight America; where “anything goes, nothing matters and nobody cares.”
Official Islamic State team merchandise.
There also is the Turk’s hands in this affair, little paid attention to it. Turkish involvement makes sense as the mobilization and marshaling of the anti-Assad militants has largely taken place on Turkish soil. Just as there are Turkish forces on the ground in Kurdish Iraq today, there were Turks in Mosul during the collapse of the Iraqi forces, (Dr. Abbas Kadhim):
Some New Revelations About The Capture of Turkish Diplomats in Mosul
On June 11, 2014, the day that followed the fall of Mosul in the hands of ISIL, 49 diplomats working in Turkey’s consulate in Mosul were taken captive by the terrorists and they remained in captivity until September 19. During their 101 days of incarceration, they were treated very well, according to the consulate’s Commercial Attaché Mehmet Argüç, who was among the captives. According to his interview with Turkish Hurriyet Daily News, they were able to talk on their phones to people in Turkey and the Consul General Öztürk Yılmaz maintained in contact with Ankara all the time, he was also among the (so called) captives.
The way these diplomats were taken by ISIL remained a mystery, just as the details of their liberation were vague. Although they had a chance to leave the city before ISIL arrived in the consulate’s neighborhood …
The Turkish Consul, Öztürk Yılmaz, was appointed ambassador to Tajikistan after his release, but he resigned shortly thereafter to run for office in the general parliamentary elections of November 1, 2015 (in Turkey) and was elected as the Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy from Ardahan. In his press interviews he avoids any discussion of what happened to him and his staff in Mosul. But his recent comments in the Turkish Parliament session on December 22, 2015 confirm what Iraqi Intelligence official described as a “negative” role played by the Turkish government and its diplomatic mission. He said:
“In the last five years, setting aside the [Iraqi] state, Turkey invited all Sunni tribes in Mosul to Turkey. Turkey hosted them. They came in, stayed, ate, and made plans. On 11 June 2014, all gave allegiance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.”
— Öztürk Yilmaz
How many Turks does it take to change a light bulb? Who knows? We can see how many are needed to hand over northern Iraq to a bunch of sadists. What could be seen through the media peephole was a military offensive similar to the Nazi blitz of France in 1940. Widen the field of view and it was clear the fix was in: government commanders were on the take, from whom nobody knows but that they were is certain; soldiers on duty rosters not soldiers at all but boys signed up with the understanding they would kick back their pay to the commanders. Offered proper ‘incentives’, government forces scattered like rabbits, officers first with the rest following along as best they could. The takeover was an implosion; a combination of inept Baghdad leadership, a corrupt coup-proofed military plus Turkish meddling and just plain luck on the part of the militants. The resulting panic engulfed the entire country, amplified over the following days by militant propaganda and the Western media echo chamber.
Serving ‘terrorist stew’ to the media as a main course is nothing new. Going back to the American occupation of Iraq, the Bush administration made a mountain out of the molehill Zarqawi as it does now with Islamic State:
Now, the administration attributes to Zarqawi a ubiquitous, virtually demonic role in the new Iraqi disorder. But the adjectives often used to describe him and his cohort – “elusive” and “mysterious” – might as well be applied to the evidence offered by the administration to support its view of his influence. Besides historical data, what evidence we have of al-Zarqawi and his al-Tawhid organization in Iraq are crude, poorly-synchronized video tapes of masked men as well as audio tapes and cryptic communiques that crop up periodically on equally cryptic web sites. This wisp of information leaves too much to interpretation, which has not proved to be the administration’s strong suit. Nevertheless, the news media continues, by and large, to breathlessly transmit whatever the administration has to say about Zarqawi. The scandal regarding Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction has barely dented the pipeline.
Comparing Combatants in Syria – Iraq Theater,
Whose Proxy are You?
There are two ‘sides’: each group on the table is a proxy of the groups above it.
|USA, EC & UK||vs.||RUSSIA & CHINA|
|SAUDI ARABIA & QATAR||vs.||IRAN|
|TURKEY (proxy for US & KSA)||vs.||SYRIAN GOVERNMENT (proxy for Russia and Iran)|
|ISLAMIC STATE, AL-QAEDA & NON-ISIS JIHADISTS / FSA (proxies for Turkey)||vs.||HEZBOLLAH (proxy for Syrian government)|
Do you see me? Both al-Qaeda and Islamic State are indirect proxies of the United States, they have to be as there is no one else they can be proxies of! That they might be somehow, magically ‘self-supporting’ is blatant fraud. If you drive a car you support Islamic State: this is the mainspring of the struggle, to gain control over oil resources or for one petro-state (Saudia) to increase market share at the expense of others (Iran, Russia). The world does not see the US stealing consumption from other countries including that of its own ‘allies’. This is accomplished by cutting off countries’ credit, by manipulating the different currencies and by inoculating peaceful countries with violent militias then reaping the benefits that flow from the resulting chaos. When goods cannot be consumed in the ruined countries they are available to the West.
The Islamic State heyday was mercifully brief, lasting only until the organization’s ill-fated assault on Kobani in northern Syria, where its best fighters were wiped out. The oil price crash that commenced in 2014 deprived the group of income. After the Kobani debacle, (February, 2015) the group could only direct suicide attacks against civilian targets and isolated forward positions of the weakest of the Syrian/Iraqi combatants.
Last June (2016), the Syrian Democratic Front surrounded Islamic State forces holed up in the town of Manbij on the group’s supply corridor with Turkey. After two months of modest resistance, the surviving militants agreed to leave the city under safe conduct. Along with the YPG assault, it is likely the local civilians were extracting pounds of flesh from the Islamic stragglers left behind by their fleeing bosses. As the convoy of fighters rolled from Manbij toward Turkey, the group’s defense of the entire border area collapsed, a reversal of the flash-capture of Mosul a little over a year earlier;
The Hilux pickup trucks are long gone: an SDF drone’s-eye view of Islamic State convoy fleeing Manbij; the Kurdish convoy that pursued the militants to the Turkish border is out of the frame.
The US has been working hard to prevent the Kurds pushing the militants over, it is desperate to keep the group alive. The Kurds have reasons of their own to keep ISIS hanging on; the group is relatively punchless compared to other groups. Dislodging ISIS in northern Iraq will send millions of displaced persons into the Kurdish countryside requiring expensive relief that the Kurds can scarcely afford. Destroying the group in Syria would increase the Rojava Kurds’ visibility, potentially lining them up as adversaries of Assad and his Russian allies. One of the reasons for the Kurds’ success is to limit the number of enemies: Islamic State’s potency — even as a fake — is a useful illusion to everyone concerned at the moment.
A reminder of the permanent wars: Dozens of U.S. airstrikes in six countries
In Iraq and Syria, between Saturday and Monday, the United States conducted about 45 strikes against Islamic State targets. On the other side of the Mediterranean, in the Libyan city of Sirte, U.S. forces also hit fighters with the militant group. On Sunday in Yemen, a U.S. drone strike killed six suspected members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The following day, just across the Gulf of Aden in Somalia, the Pentagon targeted al-Shabab, another group aligned with al-Qaeda. The military also conducted several counterterrorism strikes over the weekend in Afghanistan, where the Taliban and the Islamic State are on the offensive.
Where does it end? Nobody knows. The Americans could end the fighting without firing a shot but won’t because it would mean giving something up, even though we don’t really have anything any more. Giving up delusions that we have made precious is too much to ask: we sell sharia until the checks bounce and then we’re done.