It’s a sad, sad, sad world

By Claude Salhani  –

They say that no news is good news. Regrettably there is plenty of news at the moment and its all rather negative.

The global political situation is today at its most precarious level since the end of the old Cold War. It is a disastrous state of relations that exists today between Russia and the West and that is about to revive itself as Cold War version 2.0.

The world today is chaotic in a manner not seen since the period leading up to WWI. The current conflicts in the Middle East are unlikely to subside without a major shift in alliances, power and leadership. And where is that likely to come from when the superpowers have lost their clout?

Indeed, the world just doesn’t seem chaotic, the world is chaotic. Why? Because as Doyle MacManus of the Los Angeles Times so eloquently points out, “Because rebels are more powerful than before – and superpowers are no longer super.”

Much of the blame for the lack of firmness is directed at President Barack Obama and his inability to act decisively on a number of urgent matters. While undoubtedly Obama carries much of this responsibility, equal blame, if not all the more so, should be directed at President George W. Bush for his naiveté in believing the United States could override centuries of history and traditions and impose democracy in the Middle East as though he was administering cough medicine.

Still dealing with the mess he inherited in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention Libya, Egypt, the Maghreb and Central Africa, as well as the escalating drug wars in Latin America, Obama is understandably reluctant to become involved in a geopolitical game that clearly goes beyond his understanding of geopolitics and that of his Secretary of State, John Kerry. Both men seem totally overwhelmed by the rapidly unfolding events in the Middle East.

In the meantime, Iraq is on the verge of falling entirely under the sandals of the Islamists of the new caliphate, along with a large chunk of Syria. That is very, very bad news.

It might be worth reminding the American president and his secretary of State that Iraq is the second most important Arab oil producer after Saudi Arabia. You do not need a PhD in advance war planning to figure out what it would mean to have hard core Islamists controlling the oil and gas taps in a country as important as Iraq and to have access to the revenue it generates.

Meanwhile in Syria the death toll continues to rise with more than 170,000 people killed. Roughly more than 680,000 have been wounded and close to nine million have become refugees; all that in a country with a population of 21 million people.

Israel and the Palestinians of Hamas are engaged in a new killing spree and hardly anyone seems capable of stopping the madness. To date more than 1,211 Palestinians have been killed and Israel lost some 53 soldiers – a huge number for Israel – many were killed in house to house fighting in the tunnels which the Israelis are constantly searching and destroying and which Hamas is constantly rebuilding.

Then there are the nuclear talks with Iran that require a firm stand which understandably many are asking if Obama is the person who could stand up to Iran. Given his track record it appears unlikely and is generating an interesting line of debate among the rightwing conservatives in the United States. Some of the accusations they lob at Obama border on the absurd.

Yet some of the events taking place makes you wonder the efficiency of the intelligence community who should have seen the dangers of the Islamist movement coming.

How is it possible, you may ask, that a ragtag army of mostly volunteers fighting with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria are able to defeat a supposedly organized army like Iraq’s, armed and trained by the United States when just a few years ago it took the combined armies of the formidable coalition assembled by George Bush Sr. to push the Iraqis out of Kuwait.

The answer is that terrorist groups are today very different from the terrorist groups of the past and conventional warfare needs to be reevaluated. They have better communication systems thanks to the Internet, which has become their best recruiting tool.

The have more funds, more funding and better weapons.

Another first is that unlike terror groups of the 1960, 70s’, 80s’, for the first time the terrorists are no longer fighting over any single geographic area but rather over an idea. Syria, Iraq and the rest of the countries are interchangeable.

Claude Salhani is a political analyst and senior editor with Trend Agency.

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Fanning the Flames of Hatred

By Claude Salhani -

When it comes to the Muslim Arab world, Western nations have often been accused of maintaining a double standard about the value of human life, holding one set of rules for the West and Israel and another for Arabs.

Some voices in the Middle East have gone as far as suggesting that, were it not for its oil wealth, the West would not give a second thought to what happens in turmoil-wracked Arab countries.

These days, as evidence, they point to Washington’s decision to go to war with Iraq to liberate oil-rich Kuwait, but its seeming passivity as Israel invades and bombards the Gaza Strip because three of its citizens were murdered in the West Bank. True, the West was much more dependent on Middle East oil back in the 1980s and 90s. And of course, there is a great difference in the type of U.S. foreign policy advanced by two separate Bush presidents and current President Barak Obama, who even some hardcore party Democrats have said lacks a coherent foreign policy.

It is not Israel’s right to defend itself that is questioned – no one will ever say that Israel, or any country in the world, does not have the right to defend itself. When Hamas launches rockets at Israel, it should expect Israel to reciprocate. However, targeting civilians is what terrorists do. It must not be accepted when it becomes normal behavior for a supposedly democratic nation.

Despite the double standards practiced in Israel — where one set of rules applies to Israelis and Jews, and another for Palestinians — Israel is seen as a democratic country surrounded by Arab and Muslim nations incapable of following democratic principles.

Critics of the Arab world say that the Arabs have forever been fighting among themselves and are incapable of living in harmony or practicing democracy.

So how true are these accusations? Does the West really maintain a double standard?

Judge for yourself. Close to 300 people died in the terrible crash of Malaysia Airways Flight 17, and much anger was voiced the world over. The British tabloid press was just about calling for a war on Russia, and in Washington, D.C., a senior member of Congress warned that if it were proven that Russia was responsible for the downing of Flight 17, “there would be hell to pay.”

The indignation was generalized and justified, and many were those who were ready to launch World War III without waiting for confirmation that Russia was responsible or not.

Meanwhile in Gaza, more than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed and many more wounded, thousands rendered homeless, and many children orphaned, and there is hardly a voice in the West rising up to scream in their name.

This seeming indifference to Muslim suffering is a perfect example of the kind of double standard that is devastating relations between the West and the Muslim world and planting the seeds of future conflicts.

When Osama bin Laden was interviewed after al-Qaeda’s attacks on New York City and the Pentagon in 2001, he said he had been influenced by Israeli attacks on the Palestinians in Lebanon.

Even former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak admitted that the Palestinian cause was often used as an excuse by leaders in the Arab world to control a situation, to impose martial law and to keep their countries in a state of war with Israel. (As has been the case in Syria, for example.)

The Palestinians’ plight has long been the leitmotif behind much of the violence and terrorism originating in the Middle East over the past several decades. More often that not, the Palestinian cause is merely used as an excuse. But whether the anger it generates is real or not, there is always the reality that it remains a powerful magnet capable of attracting disenfranchised Muslim youth, who are often searching for a cause. The Palestinian cause also remains one of the reasons Iran remains involved in Middle Eastern affairs.

During the Cold War, Moscow financed and helped arm the left wing of the Palestine Liberation Organization. But with the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, so too disappeared groups such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP),  secularist groups led by Christian Arabs George Habbash and Nayef Hawatmeh.

Following Habbash’s death in 2008, many of the PFLP’s cadres joined Hamas – the acronym for Harakat al-Muq’ amah al-Islmiyyah, or “Islamic Resistance Movement.”

The Internet has given people in the Middle East a window onto what the rest of the world thinks and says about their situation. When they compare the international anger over the deaths of some 300 people accidentally shot down in a plane to the near total silence over the deaths of more than 1,000 Palestinians deliberately targeted by a government, it should come as no great surprise to Westerners when groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria rise to prominence.

 

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Imagining the Dividends of Peace

by Claude Salhani

Summary: As bombs continue to fall on Gaza it may be somewhat premature to talk about peace in the Middle East but it is never too early to dream of peace. Imagine a Middle East without war and imagine what the people of the region could achieve if conflict was not omnipresent.

Imagine if billions upon billions of dollars currently being wasted on defense budgets in the combined countries of the region was invested instead in the advancement of social welfare, in encouraging businesses, and stimulating the sciences.

Consider the leaps and bounds that could be made in research and development in technology and medicine if the best brains in the Middle East could work for the benefit of the people of the region instead of looking for ways to emigrate to America and other greener pastures, as is currently the case affecting faculty members from the universities at Ain Shams to Yarmouk and from Beirut to Tel Aviv.

Imagine the rise in intellectual power if students in the Middle East could exchange ideas rather than insults, debate in lieu of hate, and scholarly theses in place of explosive devices. How would the level of education and understanding improve if scholars could lecture across the region without being prevented by man-made frontiers, both physical and mental?

These are just a few basic ideas in a sea of endless possibilities, where the only barriers are those erected by demagoguery and backward thinking. Of which, alas, the Middle East abounds.

Still, imagine the Middle East with a flourishing tourism trade where visitors bringing hard currency by the bucketful arrive on pilgrimages to the Holy Land without fear of bombs exploding in roadside cafes.

Imagine a Middle East where border disputes are a thing of the past. Hard to imagine? Look at Europe; how many wars were fought between France and Germany? Between France and England? Between Germany and Russia? Between the Austrian-Hungarians and their neighbors? How many armies waltzed across Poland and how many times were the borders shifted, re-drawn and shifted back?

Look at Europe today. Twenty-seven nations speaking 23 different languages as diverse as French, Lithuanian, Hungarian and Maltese, practicing dozens of different religions, but united in the single largest economic market in the world. War in Europe today is unimaginable because the EU has intertwined the economies of its member states in such a manner that it is simply unthinkable for any two members to resort to armed conflict any longer. How difficult could it be for the Middle East where there are only two languages and far fewer religions?

So imagine a similar political climate enveloping the Middle East where tourists arrive by cruise liner to Beirut or Haifa, or by charter flights to Baghdad, Tehran or Ben Gurion airports and are free to roam throughout the region without worry of fundamentalist abduction or of Israeli threats of retaliation on a massive scale, as is going on in Gaza today. Visualize how business and as a result the standard of living would benefit if people and merchandise could be driven from Lebanon to Israel, to Gaza and on to Egypt.

Think of what the tourism industry could offer with its temperate climates most of the year. When Europe is freezing in the dead of winter, and depression and suicide rates climb to their highest point in northern Europe, when the sun is visible for just a few hours a day, if that, the beaches of Beirut, Tel Aviv and Gaza only a couple of hours by plane from any European country can be very enticing – and economically sound.

Imagine a vast industrial zone established in Gaza where labor is abundant, easy to train, and inexpensive; and where European and US car manufacturers can open assembly plants and textile mills to market their products in the Middle East and Africa and beyond.

Imagine Christian pilgrims looking to follow in the footsteps of the great prophets, travelling unhindered from Israel to Palestine to Jordan to Syria and to Lebanon. Imagine Muslim pilgrims doing the same from Makkah and Medina to Karbala, Jerusalem and Qom. Imagine Syrian Jews being allowed to return to visit Damascus.

Imagine a Middle East without refugees! Where the camps of shame – now 66 years in existence, and where second – and now third-generation refugees are still squatting amid rancor and misery – no longer exist.

Imagine those camps replaced by decent, modern and comfortable apartment buildings with all the amenities of modern life; where the idle youth who were once only too happy to be offered an AK-47, a monthly stipend consisting of a few hundred dollars, along with unlimited prestige that accompanied the uniform of a “freedom fighter,” and nothing else, let alone hope for a better future, can now aspire to a better life for themselves and their families. Give them a taste of what life should be like, then take a head count to see how many remain in line for suicide missions.

Amid the death and destruction what would it take to for neighbors to be, well, neighborly? The answer is somewhat simple: the day the antagonists in the Middle East will agree on peace is when they develop greater love for their children that the hate they harbor for their enemies.

Claude Salhani is a political analyst and senior editor with Trend Agency.

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Are Civilian Flights Over War Zones Safe?

By Claude Salhani

In the aftermath of the shoot-down over Ukraine of Malaysian Airways Flight 17 last week, and the deaths of its 298 passengers and crew, the question that many travelers are asking is: just how safe is international air travel these days?

It’s a reasonable question given that 41 wars or armed conflicts are currently going on across the world at the moment.

Most people would be hard pressed to name more than the major conflicts, the ones making headlines on CNN, Al-Jazeera and the BBC: Ukraine, Israel/Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sad to say, but there are many more: Somalia; Nigeria (where an Islamist insurgency has killed at least 10,700 people since 1999); Pakistan’s Northwest Province (at least 52,000 killed since 2004); Nagorno-Karabakh, where since 1988 more than 30,000 have been killed in fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan; in Darfur, some 462,000 people have died; the insurgency in Yemen has claimed 25,000 lives.

And the list goes on.

If the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine were able to procure anti-aircraft missiles capable of reaching an airliner flying at 35,000 feet, can’t others do the same?

And if they can, does this mean that civilian aircrafts will have to avoid the skies of every conflict-ridden country? With dozens of countries in a state of belligerency at any given moment, that kind of restriction would make flights to many countries much more time consuming not to mention expensive; more flying time means more fuel, which means pricier tickets.

The airline industry will generate about $24 billion in profit for oil producers this year, spending an estimated $212 billion on jet fuel – or almost 30 percent of their total operating costs, according to the International Air Transport Association.

The good news to the above questions are yes, for the most part, international air travel over warring regions is safe; and no, most rebel groups around the world are unable to obtain similar weapons for a wide range of reasons.

The first is that this is very expensive equipment; a set of four missiles costs anywhere from $30 million to $120 million. And the countries that manufacture them aren’t in the business of selling them cheaply or handing them over to any group with a grudge.

Second, these are large weapons, usually requiring two or three vehicles to move them. These are not shoulder-held rockets that someone can literally hide under their bed.

Third, the weapons systems require specialized training. Not every rebel group can recruit such talent.

Fourth, it’s highly unlikely that rebel groups believe shooting international civilian plans out of the sky is part of a winning strategy. Most observers believe the Malaysian flight was shot down accidentally.

The type of weapon used to shoot down Malaysian Flight 17 crash is still being investigated, but evidence so far points to the use of either the SA-11 (NATO codenamed Gadfly 1979) or SA-17 “Buk Mk. 2″ anti-aircraft missile (NATO designation Grizzly 2007).

That assumes that the weapon was Russian-made. The Ukrainian government said it doesn’t have a weapon capable of bringing down a commercial airliner. The missile was fired from pro-Moscow separatist-held territory.

The Russians also have the more sophisticated SA-20, (S0-300) though it would be highly unlikely that they would have given those to the Ukrainian rebels, U.S. experts say.

The SA-20 are extremely sophisticated and need to be operated by experienced crews with excellent ability to characterize flight paths and read out IIF (Identification friend or foe) and transponder data.

Human error from a SA-20 unit is possible, but very unlikely, says Anthony H. Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

“There have been no suggestions that these are in rebel hands or they could use them,” Cordesman wrote in a special report on the downing of the Malaysian plane.

We know that at the altitude the plane was flying – 32,000 feet — it is impossible that it was hit by a portable, shoulder-launched heat-seeking missile of the sort the CIA handed out to Afghan rebels during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Cordesman confirms that those are unable to reach civilian airliners at cruising altitude. Variants of the SA-11 and SA-12 easily can.

General Philip Breedlove, NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, warned in June that the Russian government had been training pro-Russian separatists inside Russia to have an “anti-aircraft capability,” Cordesman noted.

   
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The Islamic State: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

By Claude Salhani –

If you think the oil industry is already too powerful, imagine that power under the control of already powerful terrorists whose aim is political supremacy over multiple territories.

For the group of Islamist militants that has captured large swaths of land stretching across Syria and Iraq — the one formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant that now call itself “the Islamic State” — the war that began in Syria and has since spilled over in neighboring Iraq has the potential of turning into an extremely lucrative, and highly dangerous, endeavor with a very high margin of return, given the initial investment.

If they succeed in their goals, the result would be high-octane terrorism, the sort that would make everything we have seen until now seem tame by comparison. The slim possibility of this becoming a reality has some of the most powerful minds in law enforcement terrified and on alert, because they know that it is only a matter of time before the battle waged by the Islamic State moves into Phase Two.

In June, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius confirmed that the Islamic State has been selling Syrian oil back to Syria. The sale was evidence of the “confusing” nature of the escalating conflict in the Middle East in which Syrian President Bashar Assad and the jihadists are, in theory, on opposing sides.

“We have proof that when [ISIS] has taken over oil, it has sold oil to the (Assad) regime,” Fabius said, without offering more details. Referring to how the rebels in Syria and the Assad regime use each other to derive legitimacy, Fabius said, “Officially they are combating each other but in fact they are very often helping each other.”

The situation in Iraq is “very, very, very worrying,” he added. “Why? Because it is probably the first time that a terrorist group — and a ferocious terrorist group — is in a position, if there is no reaction, to take over the whole country, and a rich country, with enormous consequences for the region and the world,” he said.

Days ago, reports surfaced that the Islamic State is also selling oil from Iraq.

The very idea of this group with millions, if not billions, of dollars (stolen from banks in cities they conquered) is frightful enough. And with billions of dollars more on the way from the oil they are about to sell, will give them a continuous source of serious income that will make them the most potent — and the most dangerous — group of armed fighters anywhere on this planet.

Speaking from London on ABC News’ “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he was very worried by what was happening in Syria. The typically understated Holder said intelligence that terrorists are working to build undetectable explosives is “something that gives [Washington] really extreme, extreme concern.”

Terrorists are constantly trying to invent more ingenious ways in which to smuggle explosives on board airliners for two reasons. First, given the ever-increasing security at airports, it’s almost a point of pride for terrorist groups to circumvent all the safety measures and still manage to smuggle weapons or explosives onto airliners. Second, it sends a message to the world that ‘no matter what you do, you will never be safe from us.’

Bombing an aircraft in flight is a psychologically more powerful terrorist act than blowing up a bus or a train because of the total sense of helplessness experienced by its passengers. There is little one can do at 32,000 feet other than pray.

Groups like the Islamic State realize that sooner or later they are bound to clash with the United States and Western powers, and with that in mind are very likely preparing to attack or counterattack the U.S.

“In some ways, it’s more frightening than anything I think I’ve seen as attorney general,” said Holder.

Holder’s comments follow a major change in U.S. air safety rules. Passengers taking international flights into the United States must now submit their cell phones and other electronic devices to additional inspections before they will be allowed to bring them onboard. The suspicion is that a bomb could be hidden inside an empty cell phone or laptop.
The Transportation Security Administration said personnel at certain foreign airports – trained by U.S. officials – would be required to conduct the new inspections. Devices that fail to turn on will be further tested with a charger, and if they still don’t work, be confiscated. Owners of non-starting devices might have to undergo extra screening.

The tighter security is almost certainly a response to recent intelligence reports suggesting that Al Qaeda-linked terrorists in Syria are working with members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to blow up a commercial aircraft headed to the U.S. or Europe, as first reported by ABC News.

Terrorism experts believe thousands of people living in the West – including Americans — have traveled to Syria in the past year to join the Islamists’ fight against the Syrian government. The influx has given rise to fears that fighters with a U.S. or European passport – passengers who are typically screened less stringently — could carry a bomb onto a U.S.-bound plane.

Ariel Cohen, a leading U.S. energy and geopolitics expert and the principal of International Market Analysis, said the Islamic State has an “ambitious agenda” to try and conquer large territories, setting up violent clashes with multiple armies, governments and civilian fighters.  “We may be, for all intents and purposes, looking at a multi-century conflict,” he said.

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Obama Fiddles While Iraq Burns

By Claude Salhani

To compare U.S. President Barack Obama to a modern-day Nero may be somewhat harsh, but as the Middle East continues to disintegrate, falling into chaos and unprecedented violence, its oilfields and gas fields within grasping reach of well-organized terrorist groups, it’s hard not to when no clear U.S. foreign policy is in sight.

In 1990, President George H. W. Bush (the elder) went to war against the most powerful Arab army to force Iraqi President Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, the tiny emirate he had invaded a few months earlier, claiming it as Iraq’s 19th province.

The only reason Bush Sr. went to war and succeeded in putting together a formidable coalition that included Arab countries was the need to safeguard Kuwait’s oil.

Today, two of the Middle East’s most key countries – Syria and Iraq — are quite literally on the verge of disintegration, threatened by terror groups the likes of which the world have rarely seen, with the potential to jeopardize the security of Western Europe and United States, and yet there is no visible U.S. involvement or articulated policy to manage the crisis.

What is even more alarming is that this latest crisis did not suddenly appear out nowhere, as the loudest media narrative has insisted. Alarm bells and red flags were consistently ignored by the Obama administration.

Members of the U.S. administration were warned, repeatedly, that ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, posed a real threat to the security of Iraq, and ultimately to the region, but chose to ignore the warnings.

As reported by the Daily Beast, “On November 1, 2013, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited the White House, and made a rather stunning request.”

Maliki — who reportedly celebrated when the last U.S. troops left Iraq in 2011 — made a very discreet request of the White House to return some U.S. military units to Iraq so they could assist the country’s air force in planning target acquisition of ISIS positions.

Senior administration officials told the president that ISIS was producing upwards of 40 suicide bombers a month.

ISIS took advantage of the Iraqi government’s weakness and the Iraqi army’s unpreparedness. That, compiled with Sunni disenchantment with the government’s policies, provided fertile grounds for the Islamists to strike.

Yet the warnings were there, clear for anyone to see, if anybody really wanted to see. The problem was that nobody close to the American president seemed to give it much thought. All the intelligence services were telling anyone who was willing to listen that the news from Iraq was worrisome. No one at the White House seems to have been listening.?

Additionally, too much trust was placed in the restructured Iraqi Army. Despite major U.S. training and reforms, Iraq’s military suffered from poor operational tactics while legitimate and popular grievances were unheeded.?

Obama could have used political leverage to force al-Maliki to avoid sidelining the country’s Sunni population. The sale of advanced weapon systems for nearly $11 billion should have been the carrot.

And major notice should have been taken when Fallujah — a town made infamous during the U.S. occupation of Iraq when Sunni gunmen killed American contract workers, and where resistance to the U.S. presence became notorious — was the first major and strategically important city to fall to the Islamists.

When Fallujah fell, red flags should have gone up. But the only flag that went up was the black banner of the jihadists.

It was only after Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, fell to ISIS that the world began to take notice. But by then, ISIS had gained control of oil fields in Syria and some in Iraq, and had looted millions from banks in the cities they occupied.

Obama may be thinking that the fallout of this crisis will be mitigated if the U.S. continues to pursue improved relations with Iran. But again, he seems to ignore the fact that countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey will never accept Iran playing the role of the regional policeman.

Like it or not, as the only remaining superpower, the job falls to the United States. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.

 

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Washington ignored red flags in Iraq

By Claude Salhani -
Members of the Obama Administration were warned – repeatedly – that ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – posed a real threat to the security of Iraq, and ultimately to the region but did nothing to preempt the very foreseeable outcome.

“On November 1, 2013, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited the White House, and made a rather stunning request,” states a report from The Daily Beast.

Maliki, who apparently celebrated when the last of the U.S. troops left Iraq in 2011, made a very discreet request to the White House for a return of some U.S. military units to assist the Iraqi Air Force in planning target acquisition of ISIS positions.

Senior Obama Administration officials reported to the president that ISIS was launching upwards of 40 suicide bombers a month.

“ISIS was encouraged in part by the weakness of Maliki’s military and the aggressively anti-Sunni policies of the Shi’ite prime minister,” goes on to say The Daily Beast.

The mainstream media has been saying since the emergence of ISIS as a major force to be reckoned with that their recent successes and sudden meteoric rise to power was unforeseeable, yet all the intelligence services were telling anyone who was willing to listen that the news from Iraq was worrisome. Perhaps the alarm bells and red flags should have attracted some attention at this point.

The problem is that no one at the White House was listening.
How did the meteoric rise of ISIS fall between the gaps?

Despite being restructured by the U.S. military, Iraq’s military suffered from poor operational tactics while legitimate and popular grievances were unheeded.
‘The problem for Obama was that he had no good policy option in Iraq,” wrote Eli Lake in the Daily Beast.

Having promised Iraq to sell it advanced weapon systems for nearly $11 billion, the Obama administration should have used the sale to place some leverage on the Maliki government forcing it to ease up on the Sunni populations of Iraq, except it did not.

Fallujah – a town made infamous during the U.S. occupation of Iraq when Sunni gunmen killed American contract workers, and where resistance to the U.S. presence became notorious, was the first major and strategically important city to fall to the Islamists. When Fallujah fell red flags should have gone up. They did not.

And just five month after that, Iraq’s second-largest city -Mosul, fell like ripe fruit to the fighters of ISIS.

In his expose in The Daily Beast, Eli Lake states: “At the time, senior Obama administration officials went out of their way to proclaim just how impossible-to-predict the collapse of Mosul was.”

But Mr. Lake adds, interviews with a dozen U.S. and Iraqi intelligence officials, diplomats, and policy makers reveal a very different story. A catastrophe like the fall of Mosul wasn’t just predictable. They repeatedly warned the Obama administration that something like this was going to happen.

The White House decided not do anything with the information they were given.
Now, perhaps with a bit of reality finally starting to sink in, the Obama Administration is starting to realize that it must do something. As a first step Obama has dispatched some 300 military advisors to Iraq. The unmanned drone flights – crucial for intelligence gathering have been increased from one flight per month to 50 flights.

Despite its ongoing problems, high unemployment, sporadic clashes and occasional car bombs, Iraq, until recently was on the road to recovery. Many however, disagreed. Their cries that should have been headed and action taken to avoid reaching the point were we are today.

Perhaps now the Obama administration will wake up to the fact that some inaction is a dangerous game to play.

Claude Salhani is a political analyst and senior editor at Trend Agency in Baku, Azerbaijan. You can follow him on Twitter@claudesalhani

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