Monday, October 19, 2015

Revisiting IRAQ - A MeanMesa Reader

Did W Permanently Anchor the United States to IRAQ?
Squandering US blood and treasure was never enough for the oligarchs.
After $5 Tn dollars it remains a hideous, violent "gift that keeps on giving."

Most of us have a chillingly clear recollection of the painful events occurring in Iraq after the launch of the disastrous Bush "Oil Wars," but now events have charged us with the necessity of establishing an understanding of a new picture -- an updated one encompassing not only Iraq but also Iran, Syria and ISIS. Further, this "necessary new picture" also needs to include events before the reckless adventure began. The current "cast of characters" are motivated by bloody calls for revenge, and many of the events which created this appetite occurred even before Bush II began his tormented lying campaign.

Yes, the main tragic features of the original train wreck are straight from the tatters of a 1950's Cold War "play book" or even before, but this monstrosity clearly intends to add even more chapters.

ISIS is playing the information challenged, post-biblical, evangelical crowd in the US like puppets.

For example, had they murdered all those European white people with a bullet to the head in a shabby room somewhere, hardly anyone would have even noticed. Instead, there were choreographed and video taped decapitations scripted to elicit book and verse of the eschatology nightmares of Old Testament mythology. Rather than simply driving all the tourism contractors away and ringing the "heretical" ancient sites with chain link fences, ISIS set to work with Skill Saws and RPGs -- and, of course, video cameras.

So, spend a little time with these articles. Tune up your history of the region and the events which have brought us to this place. Almost none of the politicians already campaigning for your 2016 vote are even mentioning any plans or policies for the on-going war -- the timid, obedient voices of the wholly owned media aren't asking, either. The cowards in Congress are so preoccupied with stealing even more for the Owners of the Republican Party that they won't even bring a debate about US military commitments to the floor.

No matter. Real things have a habit of eventually surfacing on their own steam, and this one is definitely real. It's going to surface during the administration of the next President, and we should remember this as we cast our ballots. Visitors here spending thirty to forty-five minutes with the articles presented below will have a more thorough understanding than that to be found among many [too many...far too many] of the politicians currently creating policy.

MeanMesa views this crushing, cowardly lack of Congressional involvement to be the equivalent of grade school boys playing with matches and a case of wet dynamite. The meat handed treatment disregarding any actual reporting on the part of the oligarchs' network media hasn't helped any, either.

Some Interesting Articles About Earlier Iraq History

What follows in this post are four articles MeanMesa has selected from literally thousands residing in the GOOGLE on this topic. Of course these four, by themselves, can present only a tightly abbreviated view which unavoidably omits vast portions of the story. Still, with these educationally tucked "under one's belt" a visitor can feel far more confident for the inevitable conversational confrontations with the mindless hill billies and other riff raff so eagerly supporting the billionaires' GOP war mongers.

A recap of what is included:

1. The creation of the hodge podge which is modern IRAQ
2. A historical timeline of events in IRAQ during the last century
3. A background history of Shia in IRAQ
4. Interviews with several Sunni leaders about the discrimination which ushered in ISIS

1. Churchill's Folly: How Winston Churchill
 Created Modern Iraq
World War I Left a Legacy on Global Contemporary Politics

July 5, 2010

[Visit the original article FEE Fdn. For Economic Education]

Americans, it is often said, are in general ignorant of history, both their own and that of other countries around the world. This lack of historical knowledge and understanding means that too many Americans cannot appreciate the context of many political events in other parts of the globe.


Another example of the legacy of World War I on contemporary global politics is Iraq. Before the war, what is now called Iraq was part of the Turkish Empire and was known as Mesopotamia—the ancient Biblical land of Babylon. During the war, the British, French, Italian, and Russian governments had signed a secret agreement to divide up most of the Turkish Empire among themselves. In the postwar period, some of this planned partition came to fruition as part of the peace treaties. France gained control of what is now known as Syria and Lebanon. The British acquired control of what became known as Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq, through “mandates” under the auspices of the League of Nations. (In 1899 the British had already established a “protectorate” over what is now called Kuwait.)

The story behind the creation of Iraq is told by Christopher Catherwood in his book Churchill’s Folly: How Winston Churchill Created Modern Iraq. During World War I, the British had invaded this part of the Turkish Empire and occupied Basra and Baghdad. At the end of the war they marched up to Mosul in the north. Prominent figures in the British military already sensed the importance of the country’s oil potential, though exploration had not fully shown the degree to which reserves were under the sand.

In early 1921 Winston Churchill was appointed Secretary of State for the Colonies as well as head of a Middle East Department responsible for Palestine and Iraq in the British government of Prime Minister David Lloyd George. He viewed his tasks as: (a) reducing British military expenditures in the colonial areas as much as possible to relieve pressure on the government’s budget; and (b) assuring that stable governments were established in Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq to guarantee British political and economic interests in this region of the world, including security for the shipping and air routes to the “jewel in the crown” of the British Empire: India.

Churchill was determined to cut spending by reducing British ground forces to a minimum, yet at the same time maintain British control over these areas. He was persuaded that air power could replace ground troops, through the use of a bombing strategy to keep under control any restive “natives” who might attempt to revolt against British authority or those whom the British put into local power. Several times in the early 1920s, when various tribal groups in Iraq rose up in opposition to the British, the air force was put into action, bombing not only military targets but civilian areas as well. Killing and wounding women and children were considered a way of intimidating the population into submission. This included the use of mustard and other poison gases.

In May 1920 Churchill was a vocal advocate of implementing this bombing strategy, telling a cabinet meeting that poison gas “should be definitely accepted as a weapon of war.” On another occasion in 1919, he said, “I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas . . . I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against the uncivilized tribes.” And one other time Churchill argued that “Gas is a more merciful weapon than high explosives and compels an enemy to accept a decision with less loss of life than any other agency of war. The moral effect is also very great. There can be no conceivable reason why it should not be resorted to.”

Securing British control and influence over these areas of the Middle East required the establishment of “friendly” governments under British sponsorship. While there have long been references to “the Arabs” and pan-Arab nationalism, in fact, the Arabs have been splintered into different branches of the Islamic faith (mostly concerning who was legitimate heir to Mohammed’s role as leader of the faithful) and tribal factions in various parts of Arabia.

The family of Saud under the leadership of Ibn Saud came out of World War I as a British-sponsored political power in the central part of the Arabian Peninsula. Along the Red Sea coast, the newly created Kingdom of Hijaz, which contained the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, was under the rule of King Hussein, head of the Hashemite branch of Mohammed’s clan, the Quraishi. But in 1924 Ibn Saud’s forces conquered the Hijaz and deposed Hussein.

The British established King Hussein’s son, Abdullah, on the throne of “Trans-Jordan,” that part of Palestine east of the Jordan River, since Palestine west of the Jordan had been promised as a Jewish homeland under the wartime Balfour Declaration. A descendant of Abdullah still reigns today in Amman, Jordan.

Hussein’s other son, Faisal, had attempted to establish himself as ruler in Syria, although he was kicked out by the French. But he was to have another chance through the assistance of Churchill. Artificially carving out the boundaries of Iraq, and with little thought to the divergent groups now locked within the same borders, the British proceeded to set up a “native” government through which they could rule the country under the terms of the League of Nations mandate.

With the approval of the British Cabinet, Churchill schemed to establish Faisal as the king of Iraq. A limited and manipulated election process was set in motion, and Faisal assumed the role of ruler of Iraq in 1922. One additional problem in this process was that Faisal was a Sunni, the minority branch of Islam within the territory of Iraq. Thus Sunni political control over the Shiite majority long predated the more recent dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and was the product of British diplomatic intrigue.

Churchill and the British government soon found out that political puppets often resent and resist their role as marionettes at the end of strings held by someone else. Within months of taking power, Faisal attempted to gain more autonomy and power for himself, while expecting the British to pay for the military, political, and economic costs of running the country. Churchill was frustrated and angry at Faisal’s behavior, declaring in exasperation that “while we have to pay the piper we must be effectively consulted as to the tune.” The British were caught in a bind, because while they threatened to withdraw from Iraq and leave Faisal to his own devices, they were fearful that the country might fall to the aggressive Turks to the north, or — almost as bad — to the French, who would have liked to get their hands on the oil fields in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. So they had no alternative but to stay on, and pay a good part of Faisal’s bills.

At the end of 1922, Lloyd George’s government fell from power, and with it Churchill’s position in the Cabinet; in the new election he lost his in seat in Parliament as well. But the consequences of the British creation of Iraq are still with us.

2. IRAQ - During The Century Before We Invaded
[Visit the original article IRAQ Timeline]

1900-2000: Iraq timeline
Since the state of Iraq was created early this century, the working class in the area have suffered brutal exploitation and repression at the hands of the rival ruling class groups competing for power. As if dealing with these home grown gangsters wasn't enough, they have also faced the bullets and bombs of the global capitalist powers (especially Britain and America) seeking to control the oil wealth of this part of the world. 

Meanwhile opposition political organisations such as the Iraqi Communist Party and the Kurdish Democratic Party have consistently made deals with both Iraqi regimes and the global powers at the expense of those who they claimed to be leading in resistance to the state. Despite all this, the working class has shown itself a force to be reckoned with, toppling governments and sabotaging war efforts. This brief chronology charts some of the key moments in a century of war and rebellion. 

Iraq doesn't exist. Since the sixteenth century the area that will later become Iraq has formed part of the Turkish-based Ottoman Empire. The Empire's rule is based in the cities; the countryside remains dominated by rural tribal groups, some of them nomadic. 

Turkish Petroleum Company formed by British, Dutch and German interests acquires concessions to prospect for oil in the Ottoman provinces of Baghdad and Mosul (both later part of Iraq). 

Turkey sides with Germany in the First World War. To protect its strategic interests and potential oil fields, Britain occupies Basra in November 1914, eventually capturing Baghdad in 1917. By the end of the war, most of the provinces of Iraq are occupied by British forces although some areas remain "unpacified". Colonial direct rule is established in "British Mesopotamia", with the top levels of the administration in British hands. 

Throughout 1919 and 1920 there are constant risings in northern Iraq, with British military officers and officials being killed. The different tribes in this area share a common Kurdish language and culture, but at this stage there is little demand for a separate Kurdish nation state. The issue is rather resistance to any external state authority. 

The RAF bomb Kurdish areas. Wing-Commander Arthur Harris (later known as "Bomber Harris" for his role in the destruction of Dresden in World War Two) boasts: "The Arab and the Kurd now know what real bombing means in casualties and damage. Within 45 minutes a full-size village can be practically wiped out and a third of its inhabitants killed or injured". 

Colonel Gerald Leachman, a leading British officer declares that the only way to deal with the tribes is "wholesale slaughter". The RAF Middle Eastern Command request chemical weapons to use "against recalcitrant Arabs as (an) experiment". Winston Churchill, Secretary of State for War comments "I am strongly in favour of using poisonous gas against uncivilised tribes.. It is not necessary only to use the most deadly gases: gases can be used which cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror and yet would leave no serious permanent effects of most of those affected". Others argue that the suggested gas would in fact "kill children and sickly persons" and permanently damage eyesight. At this stage, technical problems prevent the use of gas, but later it is deployed. 

In the post-war carve up of the spoils of conquest between the victorious imperialist powers, Britain gets Iraq (as well as Palestine), France gets Syria and Lebanon. The borders of the new state of Iraq are set by the great powers, setting the scene for a century of border conflicts (e.g the Iran/Iraq war). 

The British authorities impose tight controls, collecting taxes more rigorously than their predecessors and operating forced labour schemes. In June 1920 an armed revolt against British rule ("the Revolution of 1920") spreads across southern and central Iraq. For three months Britain loses control of large areas of the countryside. British military posts are overrun, and 450 British troops are killed (1500 are injured). 

By February the rebellion has been crushed, with 9000 rebels killed or wounded by British forces. Whole villages are destroyed by British artillery, and suspected rebels shot without trial. The air power of the RAF plays a major role; what this involves is shown by one report of "an air raid in which men, women and children had been machine gunned as they fled from a village". 

Britain decides to replace direct colonial rule with an Arab administration which it hopes will serve British interests. At the head of the new state structure, Britain creates a monarchy with Faysal as Iraq's first King. Although senior positions are now filled by Iraqis, ultimate control remains with their British advisers'. 

Britain's Labour Government sanctions the use of the RAF against the Kurds, dropping bombs and gas, including on Sulliemania in December. The effects are described by Lord Thompson as "appalling" with panic stricken tribespeoplefleeing "into the desert where hundreds more must have perished of thirst". 

The British-controlled Iraq Petroleum Company (successor to the TPC) opens its first substantial oil well at Baba Gurgur, north of Kirkuk. Tons of oil decimate the local countryside before the well is capped. 

The Anglo-Iraq Treaty paves the way for independence. However the Treaty provides for Britain to maintain two air bases, and for British influence on Iraq's foreign policy until 1957. In negotiations the British government contends that Kuwait "is a small expendable state which could be sacrificed without too much concern if the power struggles of the period demanded it". 

Kurdish uprisings, prompted by fears of their place in the new state, are put down with the help of the RAF. 

General strike against the Municipal Fees Law which imposes draconian new taxes (three times heavier than before) and for unemployment compensation. Thousands of workers and artisans, including 3,000 petroleum workers, take part and there are clashes with the police. The RAF flies over urban centres to intimidate strikers and their supporters. 

Iraq is admitted to the League of Nations, becoming formally independent - although Britain remains in a powerful influence. 

The Artisans Association' (a union) organise a month long boycott of the British-owned Baghdad Electric Light and Power Company. After this, unions and workers' organisations are banned and forced underground for the next ten years with their leaders imprisoned. 

King Faysal dies and is succeeded by his son Ghazi. 

Iraq Petroleum Company begins commercial export of oil from the Kirkuk fields. 

Sporadic tribal rebellions, mainly in the south of the country. Causes include the government's attempt to introduce conscription (the focus of a revolt by the minority Yazidi community), the dispossession of peasants as tribally-owned lands are placed in private hands, and the decreasing power of tribal leaders. The revolts are crushed by air force bombing and summary executions. 

General Bakr Sidqi, an admirer of Mussolini installs a military government and launches repression against the left. There are protest strikes throughout the country including at the Iraq Petroleum Company in Kirkuk and at the National Cigarette Factory in Baghdad. 

King Ghazi is killed in a car crash. Many Iraqis believe that there has been a conspiracy, as the King had become outspokenly anti-British. During an angry demonstration in Mosul, the British Consul is killed. 

Rashid Ali becomes Prime Minister after a coup, at the expense of pro-British politicians. The new government takes a position of neutrality in the Second World War, refusing to support Britain unless it grants independence to British-controlled Syria and Palestine. Links are established with the German government. 

British troops land at Basra. The Iraqi government demands that they leave the country. Instead Britain re-invades Iraq and after the thirty days war' restores its supporters to power. During the British occupation, martial law is declared. Arab nationalist leaders are hanged or imprisoned, with up to 1,000 being interned without trial. Despite this, British forces do not intervene when Rashid supporters stage a pogrom in the Jewish area of Baghdad, killing 150 Jews. 

Bread strikes prompted by food shortages and prices rises are put down by the police. 

Strike by oil workers at the British-controlled Iraq Petroleum Company in Kirkuk demanding higher wages and other benefits. Workers clash with police, and ten are killed when police open fire on a mass meeting on 12 July. The following month there is a strike by oil workers in the Iranian port of Abadan and Britain moves more troops to Basra (near to the Iranian border). The Iraqi government suppresses opposition papers criticising this move, prompting strikes by the printers and railway workers. The cabinet is forced to resign. 

Strikes and demonstrations against the proposed establishment of the Zionist state of Israel at the expense of the dispossessed Palestinians. 

The Iraqi government negotiates a new treaty with Britain which would have extended Britain's say in military policy until 1973. British troops would be withdrawn from Iraqi soil, but would have the right to return in event of war. On January 16, the day after the Treaty is agreed at Portsmouth, police shoot dead four students on a demonstrations against the treaty. This prompts an uprising that becomes known as al-Wathba (the leap). Militant demonstrations and riots spread across the country, directed not just against the proposed Treaty but against bread shortages and rising prices. Several more people are killed a few days later when police open fire on a mass march of railway workers and slum dwellers. On 27 January 300 to 400 people are killed by the police and military as demonstrators erect barricades of burning cars in the street. The cabinet resigns and the Treaty is repudiated. 

In May 3,000 workers at IPC's K3 pumping station near Haditha strike for higher wages bringing the station to a halt. After two and a half weeks, the government and IPC cut off supplies of food and water to the strikers, who then decide to march on Baghdad, 250 km away. On what becomes known as the great march' (al-Masira al-Kubra), strikers are fed and sheltered by people in the small towns and villages en route before being arrested at Fallujah, 70 km from Baghdad. 

The British military mission is withdrawn from Iraq. Martial law is declared, ostensibly because of the war in Palestine, and demonstrations are banned. 

Communist Party leaders are publicly hanged in Baghdad, their bodies left hanging for several hours as a warning to opponents of the regime. 

Port workers strike for increased wages, more housing and better working conditions. Strikers take over the Basra generator, cutting off water and electricity in the city. Strikers are killed when police move in. 

In October students go on strike over changes in examination rules. The movement spreads to mass riots in most urban centres, known as al-Intifada (the tremor). In Baghdad a police station and the American Information Office are burned to the ground. A military government takes over, declaring martial law. There is a curfew, mass arrests and the banning of some newspapers. 18 demonstrators are killed in military action. 

Government decrees permit the Council of Ministers to deport persons convicted of communism, anarchism and working for a foreign government. The police are given new powers to stop meetings. 

Egypt nationalises the Suez Canal. Britain, Israel and France launch a military attack on Egypt. The government closes all colleges and secondary schools in Baghdad as huge demonstrations, strikes and riots spread. Two rioters are sentenced to death following clashes with the police in the southern town of al-Havy. Martial law is imposed. 

Popular unrest throughout the country, including in Diwaniyah where in June 43 police and an unknown number of demonstrators are killed in a three hour battle. 

A month later the "14 July Revolution" brings to an end the old regime. A coup led by members of the Free Officers seizes power, denounces imperialism and proclaims a republic. The royal family are shot. Crowds take to the streets and a number of US businessmen and Jordanian ministers staying at the Baghdad Hotel are killed. People take food from the shops without paying, thinking that money is now obsolete. To prevent the revolution spreading out of their control, the new government imposes a curfew. After a brief power struggle within the new regime, Abd al-Karim Quasim becomes prime minister (as well as commander in chief of the armed forces) and continues to rule with the support of the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) and other leftists. 

Although Islamic influence remains strong, there are public expressions of anti-clericalism including the public burning of the Koran. 

Without waiting for Quasim to deliver on his promises of land reform, peasants in the south take matters into their own hands. In al-Kut and al-'Amarah they loot landlords' property, burn down their houses, and destroy accounts and land registers. 

Fearing the spread of rebellion throughout the Middle East, the United States sends 14,000 marines to Lebanon. Plans for a joint US/British invasion of Iraq come to nothing because "nobody could be found in Iraq to collaborate with". 

Baathists and nationalists form underground anti-communist hit squads, assassinating not just ICP members but other radical workers. By 1961 up to 300 people have been murdered in this way in Baghdad and around 400 in Mosul. 

In Mosul, Arab nationalist officers stage an unsuccessful coup against the government, prompted largely by anti-communism. Popular resistance goes beyond suppressing the coup: the rich are attacked and their houses looted. There are similar scenes in Kirkuk where 90 generals, capitalists are landlords are killed in violent clashes ( excesses' later denounced by the ICP). 

Quasim cracks down on radical opposition. 6000 militant workers are sacked. Several Communist Party members are sentenced to death after for their role in the Kirkuk clashes. Despite this the ICP leadership continues to support the government, urged on by Moscow. 

War breaks out between the government and Kurds lasting intermittently until 1975. In the first year, 500 places are bombed by the Iraqi Air Force and 80,000 people displaced. 

Kuwait, under British control since 1899, becomes independent. Iraq stakes a claim that Kuwait should be part of Iraq. Britain responds by sending troops to Kuwait. 

Quasim's government is overthrown in a January coup which brings to power the Baathists for the first time. The Arab nationalist Baath party favours the joining together of Iraq, Egypt and Syria in one Arab nation. In the same year, the Baath also come to power in Syria, although the Syrian and Iraqi parties subsequently split. 

The Baath strengthen links with the United States, suspected by many of encouraging the coup. During the coup, demonstrators are mown down by tanks, initiating a period of ruthless persecution during which up to 10,000 people are imprisoned, many of them tortured. The CIA help to supply intelligence on communists and radicals to be rounded up. In addition to the 149 officially executed, up to 5000 are killed in the terror, many buried alive in mass graves. The new government continues the war on the Kurds, bombarding them with tanks, artillery and from the air, and bulldozing villages. 
In November the Baath are removed from power in another coup by supporters of the Egyptian Arab nationalist, Nasser. 

After a split in the Communist Party, a group lead by Aziz al-Hajj launches guerrilla warfare against the state, influenced by Che Guevara and Maoism. There are assassinations of individual capitalists and wide-scale armed confrontations. 

The Baath Party power returns to power after a coup in July. It creates a state apparatus systematically dominated by the Baath party that enables it to remain in power for at least the next thirty years. 

The Baath militia, the National Guard, crack down on demonstrations and strikes. In November, two strikers are shot dead at a vegetable oil factory near Baghdad, and three are killed on a demonstration to commemorate the Russian Revolution. 

The regime begins rounding up suspected communists. The guerrilla movement is defeated, with many of its members tortured to death. Aziz al-Hajj betrays them by recanting on television, subsequently becoming Iraqi ambassador to France. 

The air force bombs Kurdish areas, but the military stalemate remains until the following year when Saddam Hussein negotiates an agreement with the Kurdish Democratic Party. In exchange for limited autonomy, the KDP leadership agrees to integrate its peshmerga fighters into the Iraqi army. 

The Iraqi oil industry is nationalised. 

After pressure from the Soviet Union, the Iraqi Communist Party joins the pro-government National Progressive Front along with the Baath, but the Baath remain in sole control of the state. 

War breaks out again in Kurdistan as the agreement with the KDP breaks down. The KDP is deprived of its traditional allies in the CP and the Soviet Union, now supporting the Baath. Instead it seeks and receives aid from the USA and the Shah of Iran. The Baathists launch napalm attacks on the Kurdish towns of Halabja and Kalalze. 

The Iraqi military continues bombing civilian areas in Kurdistan, killing 130 at Qala'Duza, 43 in Halabja and 29 in Galala in April. 

Iraq negotiates an agreement with Iran, withdrawing help from Iranian Kurds and other anti-Shah forces in return for Iran stopping support to the Iraqi KDP. Iran takes back the military equipment it had given to the KDP, leaving the field open for the Iraqi army to conquer Kurdistan 

Wholesale arrests of ICP members it criticises the regime. Twelve are executed for political activity in the army. All non-Baathist political activity in the army (such as reading a political newspaper), or by former members of the armed forces is banned under sentence of death. With universal conscription, this means that all adult males are threatened with death for political activity. 

Saddam Hussein becomes president of the republic, having increasingly concentrated power in his hands during the preceding eleven years. 

War breaks out between Iraq and the new Iranian regime lead by Ayatollah Khomeni. The conflict centres on border disputes and the prospect of the Islamic revolution spreading to Iraq. Iran shells the Iraqi cities of Khanaqin and Mandali; Iraq launches a bombing mission over Tehran. 

Popular anti-government uprising in Kurdish areas. The government decrees that deserters from the army (anyone who has gone absent without leave for more than five days) will be executed. 

In the southern marsh regions, the Iraqi army launches a massive military operation with the help of heavy artillery, missiles and aircraft to flush out the thousands of deserters and their supporters in the area. Rebels do not only run away from the war, but organise sabotage actions such as blowing up an arsenal near the town of Amara. In the village of Douru armed inhabitants resist the police to prevent house-to-house searches for deserters. At Kasem in the same area armed rebels clash with the military. Villages supporting the rebels are destroyed and their inhabitants massacred. 

American support for Iraq in the war is reflected in the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Iraq has received military planes from France, and missiles from the Soviet Union. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait fund the Iraqi war effort. Western and Eastern blocs are united in a wish to see Iraq curtail the influence of Iran and Islamic fundamentalism. 

Jalal al-Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan calls a truce with its troops fighting alongside the Baath. 

Start of the "War of the Cities" with Iran and Iraq firing missiles at each other's capitals. 

In May there is an uprising in the Kurdish town of Halabja led by the many deserters from the army living in the town. According to one eye witness "the governmental forces were toppled. The people had taken over and the police and army had to go into hiding, only being able to move around in tanks and armoured divisions". Hundreds of people are killed when the rebellion is crushed. 

Armed deserters take over the town of Sirwan (near Halabja). The Iraqi air force destroys the town with bombs and rockets. Halabja is bombed by Iran, and then on 13 March the Iraqi government attacks the town with chemical weapons killing at least 5,000 civilians. Poor people attempting to flee the town for Iran before the massacre are stopped from doing so by Kurdish nationalist peshmerga. Throughout this period of insurgency there is widespread suspicion of the Kurdish nationalist parties because of their history of collaboration with the state and their lack of support for working class revolts. 

The Americans send a naval force to the Gulf after attacks on oil tankers. It effectively takes the Iraqi side, shooting down an Iranian passenger jet killing nearly 300 people, and attacking Iranian oil platforms, killing another 200. In August Iran and Iraq agree a ceasefire bringing to an end the first Gulf War. The British government secretly agrees to relax controls on arms exports to Iraq. 

In July, the British government approves the company Matrix Churchill exporting engineering equipment to Iraq, knowing that they are to be used to manufacture shells and missiles. The following month, Iraq invades Kuwait. 

In January the US military, with support from Britain and the other 'Coalition Forces' launches Operation Desert Storm, a massive attack on Iraq and its forces in Kuwait. The conflict is less of a war than what John Pilger calls "a one-sided bloodfest". The allied forces suffer only 131 deaths (many of them killed by 'friendly fire'), compared with up to 250,000 Iraqi dead. 

Despite General Norman Schwarzkopf's public statement that the allies will not attack Iraqis in retreat, Iraqi conscripts are slaughtered even after the unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait has begun. The day before the 'war' comes to an end, troops (and civilians) retreating from Kuwait City on the Basra highway are massacred in what US pilots gleefully call a 'duck shoot'. For miles near the Mutla Ridge, the road is filled with charred bodies and tangled wreckage. An eye witness writes that "In many instances the human form has been reduced to nothing more than a shapeless black lump, the colour of coal, the texture of ash" (Stephen Sackur). 

Many civilians are also killed, most famously at the Amiriya bunker in Baghdad where hundreds of people sheltering from allied bombs are killed when it receives a direct hit from two missiles. 

In February and March, popular uprisings against the Iraqi government spreadacross the country. It starts at Basra in southern Iraq, where the spark is rebels using a tank to fire at the huge pictures of Saddam Hussein in the city. Inspired by rebellion in the south, people in Kurdish areas join in. Police stations, army bases and other government buildings are wrecked and torched. Shops are looted. Food warehouses are occupied and the food distributed. In Sulliemania in the north, rebels smash up the prison and set all the prisoners free and then storm the secret police HQ where many have been tortured and killed. Baathist officials and secret police are shot. In some areas, self-organised workers' councils (shoras) are set up to run things. They set up their own radio stations, medical posts (to collect blood donations for the hospital), and militia to resist government forces.

In Baghdad itself, there are mass desertions from the main barracks during the war, with officers who try to stop them being shot. Two areas of the city, Al Sourah and Al Sho'ela fall into the effective control of deserters and their supporters. 

After a brutal repression of the rebellion in the South (made easier by the earlier Allied massacre of mutinous conscripts on the Basra highway), Government forces focus on Kurdistan. They reoccupy Sulliemania in April, but the city is deserted with almost all the inhabitants having fled to the mountains. 

The Western media present the uprisings as the work of Kurdish nationalists in the north and Shiite Muslims in the south, but they are in fact mass revolts of the poor. In fact the main Kurdish nationalist parties (the KDP and the PUK) oppose radical aspects of the uprisings and try to destroy the shora movement. True to form they announce a new negotiated agreement with Saddam Hussein soon after the uprisings are crushed. 

Although military action ceases, the war on people in Iraq is continued through other means - sanctions. The destruction of water pumping stations and sewage filtration plants by allied bombing is compounded by sanctions which prevent them being repaired. This amounts to germ warfare, as the inevitable consequences are epidemics of dysentery, typhoid and cholera. In 1997, the UN estimates that 1.2 million people, including 750,000 children below the age of five, have died because of the scarcity of food and medicine. 

The US launches 27 cruise missiles against Iraq. 

In February there is a massive military build up by American and British forces in the Gulf, threatening a new war on Iraq. On this occasion, armed conflict is avoided after a last minute deal on UN Weapons Inspectors.

On October 1, Iraqi authorities under the command of Gen. Sabah Farhan al-Duri execute 119 Iraqis and three Egyptians in Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. Twenty-nine of those killed are members of the armed forces, and fifty had been imprisoned for their participation in the March 1991 uprisings that followed the Gulf War. This mass execution is apparently a continuation of the "prison-cleansing" campaign launched by the government a year earlier which saw an estimated 2500 prisoners executed. 

In December, following the expulsion of Weapons Inspectors from Iraq (and during the middle of President Clinton's impeachment crisis) the US launches Operation Desert Fox. Over a four day period, 400 cruise missiles are launched on Iraq, along with 600 air attack sorties. British aircraft also take part in airstrikes. According to Iraq, thousands are killed and wounded in these attacks.

In March Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq-al Sadr, the most senior Shi'ite religious leader in Iraq, is killed, with the suspicion falling on government agents. A major uprising in Basra is suppressed with hundreds of deaths, many killed in mass executions. 

Western military attacks continue, ostensibly against Iraqi air defenses. On April 11, two people are killed when Western warplanes bomb targets in Quadissiya province. On 27 April, four people are killed by US planes near Mosulin in the northern no-fly zone. On May 9, four people are killed in Basra province, including three in a farmer's house in Qurna. On May 12, 12 people are killed in the northern city of Mosul. 

Tormenting the Shi'ites
Tormenting the Sunni
The Largest Tiles in a Delicate Mosaic

Council on Foreign Relations
3. Shia Muslims in the Mideast

Author: Lionel Beehner
June 16, 2006
[This content is excerpted. Links remain enabled. Visit the original article Shia Council on Foreign Relations]

Who are the Shiites?

Shiites, the second largest branch of Islam, comprise less than 20 percent of the world's Muslims. They broke off from mainstream Islam after the death of the Prophet Mohammed in AD 632 over who should be his chosen successor. Unlike Sunnis, they believe Islam's leader should be a direct descendant of the Prophet (Sunnis say leaders can be chosen by ijma, or consensus). "From about AD 680 [when the official division between the sects occurred] onward, Shiism comes to represent essentially the protest movement within the Islamic world," says Reza Aslan, a research associate at the University of Southern California's Center on Public Diplomacy, speaking at a June 5 CFR Symposium. "It is the non-state version of Islam." Theologically speaking, Shiites and Sunnis overlap in their faiths but retain important differences—for example, Shiites allow temporary marriages, pray three times a day versus the five times common among Sunnis, reject predestination, and practice ijtihad, which authorizes qualified religious leaders to interpret Islamic law.
Are Shiites a monolithic group?

No. Most of the Shiites in the Middle East and southern Asia are so-called "twelvers," who believe the twelfth imam, or descendant of Mohammed's son-in-law and cousin, Ali, is the only rightful ruler of the Muslim faithful (Shiism means "partisans of Ali"); Shiite clerics derive their authority as deputies in his absence. The second largest sect of Shiism is Ismailis, also known as "seveners;" they believe Ismail, the eldest son of the sixth imam, Jafar al-Sadiq (twelvers accept his youngest son Musa al-Kazim), is the infallible interpreter of Islam.

Shiites also disagree on the role of religion in political life. Some subscribe to the theocratic Iranian model and say the state should be ruled by Islamic clerics, or ayatollahs, according tosharia (Islamic law). Others are so-called quietists, or moderates—included among them is Iraq's most senior religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani—who believe clerics should provide guidance for the faithful to interpret Islamic law but should remain outside the realm of politics.

Where do Shiites reside?

An estimated 120 million Shiites live in pockets scattered across the globe. But the bulk of them reside in the Middle East. Shiites make up strong majorities in Iran (90 percent), Bahrain (75 percent), and Iraq (close to 60 percent); Lebanon, too, is primarily Shiite. Small but potentially powerful Shiite are found throughout the Gulf States, as well as in Pakistan (17 percent), Saudi Arabia (15 percent), and India (around 2 percent). Many of the Persian-Gulf-based Shiites, particularly those in eastern Saudi Arabia and southern Iraq, inhabit lands rich in oil, which has created tension between the Shiites and their Sunni neighbors. "There's a tremendous amount of resentment," says CFR Douglas Dillon Fellow Steven Cook, who says the Saudis consider their Shiite minorities "at best as heterodox, at worst apostates."

What has been the treatment of Shiites throughout history?

Shiism was born as a protest group of sorts within Islam, experts say. Since AD 680, Shiites have been marginalized in Muslim societies for religious, political, and demographic reasons. In Iraq, Shiites suffered from two major crackdowns at the hands of Saddam Hussein's Sunni Baathist regime: one in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and another after the 1991 Gulf War, when a Shiite uprising was brutally put down. In Saudi Arabia, the Usuli Shiite community, based mainly in the oil-rich province of al-Hasa, is not officially recognized by the Saudi regime. Shiites—whether Arabs or not—still largely identify themselves, Aslan says, as "a persecuted yet righteous minority surrounded by a persecuting and unjust Sunni majority." In modern times, they often have been associated with Marxists and secularists, experts say.

Is there a Shiite crescent forming in the Middle East?

Experts on the Arab world disagree. Some say the so-called "Shiite crescent," which presumably includes Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, is being overblown. First, Syria is not Shiite but Alawite, a secular sect of Islam that ascribes to Arab nationalism, which puts it at odds with Shiite regional interests. Second, much will depend on the outcome in Iraq, experts say, as well as what kind of future relations Iran and Iraq have (some liken Iran's policy in Iraq to "managed chaos"). "[The Iranians] don't hope to achieve this regional hegemony by trying to instigate Islamic revolutions throughout the region to create a Shiite crescent," the International Crisis Group's Karim Sadjadpour told the Middle East Policy Council. Adds Tehran University's Kamran Taremi: "This concept [of a Shiite crescent] is a figment of the imagination of those inside and outside Iraq whose interests require them to present Iran as a threat to the Arab world."

But other experts say Shiism, at least in the Persian Gulf region, is ascendant. "[T]hat subregion of the Middle East is beginning to be polarized, not so much between revolutionary Islam and status-quo powers but along sectarian lines," CFR Senior Fellow Ray Takeyh told the Middle East Policy Council in December. Regarding U.S. foreign policy in the region, "I would suggest that we're beginning to see the emergence of a dual-pillar policy again, but the pillars are Shiite," he adds, referring to Iran and Iraq.

How close are Shiite Arabs outside Iran
 to the Iranian regime?

Iran has the ability to influence Shiite Arabs across Iraq and the Middle East, experts say. Many of Iraq's top Shiite political leaders spent years in exile in Iran—all told, around 100,000 Iraqi Shiites took refuge in Iran throughout the 1990s—and Tehran's Revolutionary Guards are heavily involved in Iraq's predominantly Shiite south. The two countries also have close religious ties. Ayatollah Sistani's popular website is based in Qom, an Iranian holy city, and Iranians increasingly view the cleric, who is of Persian descent, as their religious leader. Beyond Iraq, Tehran funds Hezbollah, an anti-Israel, Lebanon-based Shiite group that Washington brands a terrorist organization. And Iran has important commercial links with Shiite communities in Dubai, Kuwait, and Syria. But most experts say Shiite Arabs, contrary to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's comments in April, do not remain more loyal to Iran than the countries where they live.


4. In Their Own Words: 
Sunnis on Their Treatment in Maliki’s Iraq
October 28, 2014, by Priyanka Boghani
[This content excerpted. Read the entire article Maliki and Rise of ISIS PBS FRONTLINE ]

Politicians who served under former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shia-led government, and were targeted for arrest by his security forces, were not surprised. Here, they describe the many grievances of Iraq’s Sunni population while Maliki was in power, which they say led to the resurrection of the Sunni insurgency — once again providing a safe haven for extremists.

Tariq al-Hashemi served as vice president in Maliki’s government from 2006 until 2011, when a warrant was issued for his arrest for alleged links to terrorism. While former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey conceded that there were “a lot of problems” with Hashemi, the arrest of his bodyguards in 2011 was the first major indication of Maliki’s emerging sectarian politics. Hashemi, who fled Iraq, was later tried in absentia and sentenced to death.

Rafi al-Essawi was the minister of finance in Maliki’s cabinet, a figure who was “greatly respected” by many Iraqis, according to journalist Dexter Filkins. Almost exactly a year after Hashemi’s bodyguards were rounded up, Maliki’s security forces arrested Essawi’s bodyguards on similar allegations of ties to terrorism. The move triggered huge protests in Sunni parts of Iraq, because as Filkins said, “everybody knows Rafi al-Essawi is a peaceful man.” Fearing he would be arrested like Hashemi, Essawi fled to the Sunni-dominated city of Ramadi.

Hoshyar Zebari served as minister of foreign affairs from 2003 to 2014, and now holds the position of finance* minister in Iraq’s government. Zebari is a Sunni from the Kurdish region of Iraq.

Khamis al-Khanjar is a Sunni Arab businessman who provided financial support to the anti-government demonstrations in many parts of Iraq, and also backed Sunni political candidates in Iraq’s last elections.
Nouri al-Maliki was a relative unknown when he became Iraq’s prime minister with U.S. backing in 2006. Maliki initially promised to reach out to Iraq’s minority Sunni and Kurdish populations, and both groups were represented in his cabinet. As U.S. troops prepared to withdraw, however, Maliki moved to centralize power and go after his political rivals, especially Sunni political leaders.

Rafi al-Essawi I think in 2011, everyone in Iraq thought that after the American withdrawal everything would be built [around] a national unity Iraqi government.

Unfortunately very rapidly, just soon after the American withdrawal, everything started to collapse. All the commitments that Maliki gave to the politicians in what’s called the Erbil Agreement — that’s the agreement that formed the government at that time — nothing from that agreement was fulfilled or implemented.

Maliki — he had to get rid of all Sunni politicians who were capable of saying no to him, his policies or his behavior. So it’s the story of attacking, intimidating, marginalizing, whatever you want, of Sunni politicians.

Hoshyar Zebari You see, this is the argument we made to Maliki: Look, all these people, all the Sunnis whom we’ve brought into the political process, they were in the resistance. They were with the terrorists. They were in league or in bed with Al Qaeda, with the Salafis, with the Baathists. But with the Americans, we brought them all, let’s say, to have an inclusive government. So now to come and accuse them again, you are undermining the very process that we have started.

Tariq al-Hashemi In 2011, I was scared about the future. Because I was expecting that since 2006 when Nouri al-Maliki became prime minister and chief in command, in fact, I observed a systematic drifting from building a real democracy in my country to some sort of tyrannical regime. Despotic regime. So I warned the Americans.
Under the late dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s Sunnis dominated the country’s government and security apparatuses. Maliki, a Shia who suffered at the hands of Baathists in Saddam’s regime, remained deeply suspicious of Iraq’s Sunni population. Former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker said Maliki “sees basically in almost every Sunni a nascent Baathi.”

Rafi al-Essawi Thousands of Sunnis were arrested after the Americans left the country, tens of thousands in fact. They come to any district with a car bombing, for example. They’re collecting 200, 300 people and they stay in [prison] for years without a trial.

This was discrimination, in fact. People started to talk about first and second-degree citizenship. And we agreed more than one time to go to the parliament to legislate an amnesty law for people in order to start a new era of reconciliation.

And I used to ask Maliki — I was very close to him. I used to ask him if all these tens of thousands are criminal, why the amount of violence, the car bombings, were increasing? If you are capturing the criminals, it should decrease.

It is either you are arresting innocent people, not the criminals, this is one possibility, or these people you are arresting, their families and the tribes became sympathetic with the killers to get revenge on the government.

And many of the Shia politicians talked to Maliki, that this is not the way of dealing with the security fight, arresting tens of thousands.

Hundreds of thousands of people were very upset because they felt that this was a story of dignity. No Sunni was exempt. Maliki and the gangs of the militias of Maliki could arrest anyone.

Tariq al-Hashemi The Sunni communities had been treated in an unjust way, discriminated. And I could tell you for hours, in fact, what sort of tragedy we faced.

We accepted the offer [to take part in government]. We participated in the political process. We made our people angry.

We paid a high cost, at the end of the day, in 2011. … It was not only those insurgents who fought the Americans, who fought the militias. Even those who participated in the political process were not immune and were accused [of taking] part in terrorism. This is the tragedy we saw.

To be an Arab Sunni in Iraq, you’re a terrorist. Simple as that.

Hoshyar Zebari Well, their grievances are many, actually. And they were magnified by the sermons, that they are being alienated, discriminated against, marginalized, they have not been represented, are underrepresented in government, in the military, in the security [forces]. …

Whenever there was an incident in a Sunni neighborhood and so on, the army would go in. And it has its own modus operandi to start arresting people, and keep them in detention for months without trial. Or there are cases of torture.


The earliest signs of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) taking over territory in Iraq came when its black flag was hoisted in the Sunni-dominated city of Fallujah. By June, ISIS had seized Mosul from a weakened and fleeing Iraqi army. While Sunni politicians concede that some disgruntled Sunnis may be sympathetic toward ISIS or even fighting alongside the group, they say a majority of Sunnis only tolerate the militants because of years of abuse under Maliki’s Shia-dominated security forces, and the failure of the political process. 

Khamis al-Khanjar We are against terrorism. I am against terrorism and every terrorism organization. There are 28 different Shia militias in Iraq. There are ministers in Iraq who are letting Shia militias kill people in Iraq.

Let’s first agree on what terrorism is. Not listening to the protestors, arresting a parliament member, killing his brother in the square, that is terrorism. That’s what started terrorism and blood in Iraq. That’s what started it. I think it’s a pure Arab tribal revolution. I’m proud of it. I support it.

Some of the Sunnis, they joined terrorism organizations. We are completely against it. We don’t want, but we don’t want to repeat what happened in 2007 with us fighting terrorism, then later getting punished for it, instead of being rewarded.

Tariq al-Hashemi [In Mosul] they said things are better than they used to be in the past, but we don’t like the [Sharia law] of the Islamic State, because either we go for baya [a pledge of allegiance], they call it, or they kill us.

I mean, this is a very, very awkward situation and nobody’s going to accept it. And last Friday prayer, in fact, hundreds of the [worshippers] in the mosque refused to sign, or pledge loyalty to ISIS. They just refused. And that’s very good.

And this is an indication that ISIS’s policy, and agenda, in no way could reflect the attitude, the desire, the aspirations of the Sunni community.

Rafi al-Essawi [For Sunni people] participation in the political process ended in nothing. Demonstration ended in nothing. Asking the government constitutionally to change their province into region was not accepted. They started to be convinced that there is no benefit of constitutional solutions.

So the government pushed and squeezed people towards supporting the terrorists. And I can’t say that it is — again, it is not direct support. It is only creating an environment — and this was a very fatal mistake of the government.

When ISIS came as defenders of Sunnis, we knew that they were criminals, that they were not Sunni defenders. When they presented themselves, people said, “Well, it may be possible to save us from the government, from the army which is not a professional national army, but one that killed and arrested Sunnis.” That is why people in these provinces stayed silent. They are not supporting ISIS. They are not opposing ISIS.

No one wants to fight against ISIS now, [because they would] appear to be pro-Maliki or supporting the militia that is killing Sunnis in Baghdad. You see, when [Sunnis] fight ISIS, people would blame them for fighting Sunnis who are protecting you, while no one is fighting Shia militias that are killing our brothers, Sunnis in Diyala.

If the government came to the Sunnis now to fulfill their requirements, the rights of the Sunnis, no one would accept ISIS. By the way, even now, despite being very upset against the government, Sunnis are not accepting ISIS.

To me, at the end of the day, it is the Sunnis who will defeat ISIS, exactly like in 2007 and ’08 when the Sunnis made the decision of fighting Al Qaeda.

Additional Reading
Yes, there's already been quite a bit!

Consider these articles as "runners up" in the contest to be extensively quoted directly in this post. Nonetheless, since visitors here have already gone this far, these additional articles may also be quite helpful in understanding some of the details we will be facing in our foreign policy as it responds to what MeanMesa hopes will be the "end game" of George W. Bush's monumental catastrophe.

1.  Old European Grievances With the Ottomans
2 Centuries after Pope Urban II's Initiation of the first Crusades

2. The History of Caliphates and Caliphate Rule
The Nature of the Dream of ISIL

3. The Integration and Transformation of Al Qaeda Officers into ISIL

4. ISIL - About the Islamic State of IRAQ and the Levant

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