Memo To Washington: Iraq Is Not A Nation And You Can't Build One There With Bombs

Washington's strategy in Iraq is in shambles, but not just because America's spanker-in-chief is really a wimp at heart. The problem is far more generic. To wit, the geographic territory of Iraq is not a nation; it is an arbitrary series of lines on a map drawn 100 years ago by dandies in the foreign offices of two fading empires (the British and the French)-----which lines encircled numerous tribes, ethnicities and religious confessions that had no interest in sharing a common statehood.

In the subsequent century, the warring peoples corralled within the Sykes-Picot boundaries were ram-rodded into a tenuous co-existence by a series of brutal monarchs, generals and dictators, backed up by British and American occupiers. But then the neo-con geniuses in the George W. Bush Administration hung the last dictator and the poll readers in the Obama White House had the good sense to adhere to their campaign pledge and bug out.

They left behind $25 billion in military training and state-of-the-art warfare equipment, but neither a dictator nor a nation. Indeed, under the latter heading they had endeavored to build a nation where there had been none, but ended up liquidating the machinery-----the Republican Guards and the Baathist political party---that in the most recent era had enforced co-existence with machine guns and poison gas canisters.

Foolishly claiming America's job was done at the end of 2011 when the last GIs boarded transports out of Baghdad,  Barack Obama was actually opening the gates of hell without a clue as to the furies that would soon come swarming through. Well, they are all here now with blood soaked hands grasping their weapons and agitated tongues issuing the spittle of revenge and historic enmities.

Yet the foolish man in the White House and his historically illiterate advisors keep banging the same old failed lever. Namely, they are once again attempting to deploy bombs, dollars and hortatory commands to cajole and herd Sunni, Shiite, Kurds and numerous other sectarian and tribal fragments from the time warp of history into a common polity----a purported nation that would do Washington's bidding in the ancient lands of Mesopotamia.

So doing, they are attempting to mobilize the alleged Iraqi nation against the freshly minted threat of the Islamic State. But yesterday's news about the relief of the ISIS siege on the northern town of Amirli  underscores how truly senile and clueless the Washington War party has actually become.

Yes, it was American bombers who spared the 17,000 Shiite Turkmen besieged there of the horrible prospect of a Sunni conversion at the sword. Consider, however, the associated and allied forces on the ground which essentially observed and reported the flight of the ISIS fighters from Washington's aerial onslaught.

There was the Kurdish Peshmerga army that for years occupied a high rank on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations. And also on hand were various and sundry Shiite militias-----many of which have been aligned, funded or even directed  from the headquarters of the Axis of Evil, the allegedly terrorist nation of Iran. Indeed, as one Sunni politician confessed to a Wall Street Journal reporter:

"We don't really have an army. Maliki just created a sectarian army, working with militias," said Hamid Al Mutlaq, a prominent Sunni politician. "A lot of criminals, killers and bad people were included."

Shiite militias such as the Badr Corps, the Hizbullah Brigades, Asaib Ahl Al Haq and the Mehdi Army, have all been accused of abuses against Sunnis.

But the frosting on the cake came from Washington's former man in charge---outgoing prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.  Making his last hurrah, he showed up at Amirli praising the Shiite militia men for their heroics----perhaps including those who only weeks earlier wiped out 70 Sunni worshippers in a nearby town---while failing to even mention the American warplanes which had actually done the job or the Peshmerga that have actually carried the fight against ISIS in the north.

He then went on to remind the world that there is actually no such thing as an "Iraqi army" but only the armed Shiite in Iraqi uniforms or their own militia. Accordingly, Maliki called this wholly transient and irrelevant relief of one tiny town among the checkerboard of vestigial religious sects which occupy the upper Tigress-Euphrates Valley "a second Karbala".

Well, no wonder the Sunni are alienated! That's the battle of Gettysburg on steroids. Its where the 13-century long schism between the Sunni and Shiite all started.

As for the retreating ISIS warriors, never mind that their ranks were formed during the US engineered "surge" in Anbar province in 2007-2008 and the CIA training camps for Syrian rebels  in Jordan during more recent months. At least the American bombers did destroy a few more American Humvees.

And that's actually the point. American bombers can destroy the equipment left behind from the Bush occupation, but that's about all. The second battle of Karbala! Please, can Washington possibly get a more poignant reminder that it cannot bomb or bribe an Iraqi nation into existence?

Indeed, it is time for Washington to learn to celebrate the letter "P". It stands for partition. Let the Kurds have their nation in the northeast and make their political and economic arrangements---already well advanced--with Turkey.  Let the south of Iraq congeal into a Shiite province----loosely or otherwise affiliated with Iran, which together might form an effective barrier to the expansionary ambitions of the Islamic State.

And finally, let ISIS try to govern 8 million people in the dusty villages and impoverished desert expanse of the Euphrates Valley by means of the sword and medieval precepts of Sharia law. The resulting "blowback" from the bestirred people of the ISIS occupied lands will do more for the safety and security of the American people than all the drones and bombers that Washington could send to forge a puppet nation within borders that have already been deposited in the dustbin of history.

By Matt Bradley at the  Wall Street Journal

Iraq's prime minister thanked Shiite militias on Monday for helping break a two-month siege by Sunni insurgents on the town of Amirli, a victory speech that showed how the fight against Islamic State extremists is hardening the country's sectarian divisions.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki omitted mention of the U.S. and Kurdish role in the battle on Sunday. Instead he called the fight "a second Karbala," drawing a connection to a historic battle that cemented the split between Sunnis and Shiites.

The mostly Shiite Turkmen town of 17,000 was running short of food and water during the siege and disease was spreading. Residents received new aid the day after the Iraqi military, Kurdish fighters and Shiite militias launched their coordinated ground offensive backed by U.S. airstrikes.

Also on Monday, the joint forces consolidated the territory they retook, driving retreating Islamic State militants from the city of Suleiman Bec to the north.

Amirli, about 100 miles north of Baghdad, was secure enough for outgoing Prime Minister Maliki to fly in to celebrate a rare victory against Islamic State fighters. During his speech, he was flanked by Hadi Al Ameri, the minister of transportation and leader of the Badr Corps, a Shiite militia founded in Iran during the 1980s.

While praising the role that the militias played, the prime minister didn't mention the U.S. airstrikes that helped break the siege. The Obama administration pressured Mr. Maliki to step aside recently after it blamed him for marginalizing the Sunni and Kurdish minorities during his rule and deepening sectarian tensions.

For the U.S., teaming up with Shiite militias that terrify Sunnis risked alienating the Sunnis further, something that could undermine American goals of promoting a unified Iraq and encouraging formation of a government that better represents all of the country's major sects.

"We don't deal with the Shiite militias," a senior U.S. official in Iraq said on Monday. "But if you don't acknowledge that they are out there and they are going to be working either alongside or linked in with the Iraqi security forces to accomplish a common goal against a common enemy, then we're never going to get there."

Iraqi forces on Monday hold up an Islamic State flag captured in the battle for the town of Amirli. Associated Press

That strategy could end up empowering armed groups who have worked against U.S. interests in the past and whose longer-range political goals may undermine the country's unity.

"The Americans' hands are tied," said Hayder Al Khoie, an Iraqi analyst at the London-based Chatham House, who called the U.S. position a "contradiction." The Americans "are trying to help, but the people they are helping are going to be a national-security threat if and when the dust settles," he said.

Iraq's weakened national military has grown increasingly reliant on Shiite militias as well as fighters for the semiautonomous Kurdish region, which is already angling for independence.

From 2005-07 when Iraq teetered on the brink of sectarian civil war, Shiite militias ran death squads that targeted Sunnis. They were accused of ethnic cleansing, driving members of the rival sect out of entire neighborhoods in Baghdad and other cities.

At the same time, Sunnis who formed the backbone of an insurgency blew up Shiite shrines and carried out a campaign of violence against Shiites.

The tensions persist until today. Just last month, security officials blamed Shiite militiamen for a shooting rampage that killed more than 70 Sunni worshipers in Diyala province.

Many of the Shiite militias are closely tied to neighboring Iran. Such a visible reliance on fighters from the Shiite majority, which accounts for about two-thirds of Iraq's population, will challenge efforts to disarm the militias in the future and will likely give sectarian Shiites and Iran outsize influence over Iraqi politics for years to come, Mr. Khoie and Sunni politicians warned.

Sunni politicians have voiced loud opposition to Iraq's reliance on Shiite militias in the past.

"We don't really have an army. Maliki just created a sectarian army, working with militias," said Hamid Al Mutlaq, a prominent Sunni politician. "A lot of criminals, killers and bad people were included."

Shiite militias such as the Badr Corps, the Hizbullah Brigades, Asaib Ahl Al Haq and the Mehdi Army, have all been accused of abuses against Sunnis.

Even though militia leaders insist they will stop fighting once the Islamic State is defeated, few say they plan to give up their arms or their political influence.

"When things settle, we won't work outside the law but we will be part of the ruling system within the law and the constitution," said Ahmed Al Kinani, a member of the political bureau in Asaib Ahl Al Haq. Mr. Kinani denied that Shiite militias were involved in the Diyala shooting or other abuses.

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