The War Over How Washington Should Think About Iraq

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A grand debate is gaining traction in a virtual war for the eye of Washington policy analysts about the nature of the threat facing Iraq. The stakes are high: Whoever can define the threat can help shape the policy response.

On one side are counterterrorist analysts. Because of risks, they are unable to conduct field research embedded with terrorist groups. In the other camp are those who emphasize political factors in Iraq among Sunni Arabs, Kurds, and moderate Shiites.

The press defines the threat to Iraq as the Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. If the threat is mainly the Islamic State, then military options, such as airstrikes, are feasible, though risky because Islamic State fighters embed within populated areas.

Indicative of those whose focus is on the Islamic State is our Shadow colleague Paul Miller. He states that, “The Middle East is now a more favorable operating environment for jihadist groups than ever before … [and they operate in] a wide swath of territory across Iraq and Syria that is essentially safe haven for jihadist militants.” Miller is correct; at issue, however, is emphasis.

Read more:http://shadow.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2014/07/10/the_war_over_how_washington_should_think_about_iraq

 

Iran prepares to assault Iranian dissidents in Iraq

Iranian_Soldiers_boarding_a_SH-3_Sea_KingConsider the strategic value of Iranian dissidents in Iraq, current preparations and prior attacks by Iranian regime proxies, and responsibility to protect.

For Tehran, Iranian dissidents in Camp Liberty, Iraq are of strategic import. Despite the regime’s charm offensive, talks on its nuclear file are likely to deadlock. And even if negotiations resume after a pause, military options are bound to become front page news again. The dissidents have extensive contacts on the ground in Iran and are potential strategic assets for Washington and its allies against Tehran. The dissidents have historic ties in the area that can help tilt the balance against radical Sunnis and counter an extremist “Shiite arc” of Tehran and its counterpart in Damascus.

Iran seeks to demoralize the dissidents in Iraq so they abandon their cause, repatriate them to Iran, and destroy them as the only organization that challenges clerical rule in Tehran. Moderate Sunni Arab Kingdoms like Jordan and Saudi Arabia are quietly sympathetic to the dissidents because they help counter the threat from radical Iran.

Because of their strategic import, during June 2009 demonstrations in Iran in which colleagues of the dissidents participated, Iraqi forces acting on behalf of Tehran attacked the dissidents in Camp Ashraf, Iraq on July 30. Iraqis raided the Camp, killed 11, held 36 as hostages, and then released them in October.

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/211744-iran-prepares-to-assault-iranian-dissidents-in-iraq#ixzz375ZLkdYC

 

After Losing Iraq, Is Maliki Going to Lose His Job?

Political deadlock in Iraq’s National Assembly, Baghdad’s parliament, means that it may be until after mid-August before it tries to elect a speaker, two vice presidents, and a new prime minster, which are steps in forming a new government following April elections. Bargaining goes on backstage; hence, it is critical to examine how Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki might be outmaneuvered from office.

Domestic politics are against Maliki being selected to form the new government. He is unacceptable to key stakeholders: religious leaders; Iraqi Kurds; Sunni Arabs; and many Shia factions, such as followers of Moqtada al-Sadr. They do not trust Maliki’s pledges and believe he uses State institutions to consolidate his hold on power.

Maliki lost confidence of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, whose opinion carries great weight. In 2014, Sistani has been critical of the government. Michael Knights, an expert on Iraqi politics at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, considers the Sistani critique a blow to Maliki.

In the March 2010 elections, Maliki’s State of Law Party won 89 seats of 325 possible and was second to Ayad Allawi’s Iraqiya list, which had 91; the Kurds won 57. Pushed by Tehran, backed by Washington, and supported by Irbil (Kurdistan), Maliki not Allawi formed the government. Washington and Irbil presently have buyer’s remorse.

Now defunct, Iraqiya was a cross-sectarian coalition, which Maliki targeted with politically-motivated charges. He made allegations against former Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, the highest-ranking Sunni Arab in Maliki’s government. In my 2013 interviews with Hashemi in Brussels, he provided evidence that he was unlawfully besieged by Maliki. Hashemi’s mistreatment is a vivid indication of the political shadow cast by outside military presence: Fewer than 24 hours after the last American combatants departed Iraq, Maliki ordered the arrest of Hashemi. Without boots on the ground, Washington’s influence plummeted.

Read more:

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World Insight – CCTV News: Iraq divided; Ukraine crisis; Cross-Straits relations

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Actions by Tehran in support of Damascus and Baghdad give the impression that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, (ISIS rebranded as The Islamic State (IS), is acting alone. In fact, The IS implicitly acts in concert with Damascus and Tehran, which creates a narrative for Assad and Maliki to argue they are fighting terrorists; but Damascus and Baghdad are also suppressing dissent from their respective populations.

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Stabilizing Iraq— Refrain from Coordinating with Iran Pressure Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) by Arming Syrian Moderates Condition U.S. Arms and Airstrikes on Inclusive Political Coalition

The following talking points are the basis of two media appearances by Raymond Tanter on 18 June 2013: BBC World Service Newsday, Radio, 2205 EDT and World Service TV, 2215 EDT

Thanks to Michael Eisenstadt for insights on which some of these bullets are based.

First, stop the loose talk about meeting with Iran to discuss the situation in Iraq.

Turning to Tehran to help stabilize Iraq would be like asking an arsonist to help put out the fire.

So the road to stabilizing Baghdad does not run through Tehran.

The road to Baghdad runs through a coalition of moderates in the region and in Iraq.

Second, the road to Baghdad passes through Damascus via moderate Arab rebels.

The White House has debated whether to train and equip the moderate opposition in Syria long enough. Now is the time to do so. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has an important presence is in eastern Syria. It is critical to threaten it there: The regime in Damascus seems to have a quiet understanding to refrain from attacking ISIS so long as it is fighting moderate rebel forces.

As Washington reaches out to moderate Syrian rebels with arms, the United States also needs to send a signal to Tehran that Washington is paying attention to Iranian dissidents. In this respect, the road to Tehran may go through an alignment of moderate Arab rebels and Iranian dissidents.

Third, make U.S. arms and airstrikes conditional on an inclusive political coalition.

Build an alliance with Kurds and Sunnis opposed to ISIS. The goal would be to recreate the coalition of moderates that defeated al Qaeda in Iraq in 2007. Because Prime Minister Maliki is unlikely to concur, quietly work with other politicians to create a majority able to select a new prime minister that reaches to minorities.

Condition expedited delivery of U.S. arms on whether there is a cross-sectarian strategy of inclusion of Sunnis and Kurds.

Continue refraining from launching American airstrikes until a political coalition of moderates is in place in Baghdad, preferably without Maliki.

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487280799_720Snatching Victory from the Jaws of Defeat in Iraq’s Elections

When Iraq holds nationwide parliamentary elections on Wednesday, is it possible for Washington to secure a victory for the Iraqi people and enhance U.S. interests? The answer depends on awareness of past bipartisan mistakes, effects of those blunders, and willingness to use U.S. leverage more wisely than after prior Iraqi elections.

Ayad Allawi captured two more seats than Maliki’s faction in 2010, and yet Maliki received the mandate to form a government. Just as Washington backed Tehran’s preference for Maliki then, it is in the interests of the Iraqi and American people to align with the Kurds in support of the democratic opposition, including Allawi, now. In this way, Obama might snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

22 August 2012, Sadegh Sistani, “US State Department: When Its Enemy Becomes its Savior,” Global Politician.

An article in the Global Politician describes Sadegh Sistani as a “political prisoner who escaped Iranian dungeons in April 2011 and has endured 17 years and 8 months of torture and interrogation by the Iranian Intelligence service.”

Appeasing the Ayatollahs and Suppressing Democracy: U.S. Policy and the Iranian Opposition, IPC

The Sistani article makes an interesting case for the U.S. State Department to refrain from appeasing the Iranian regime by placing its main political opposition that rejects clerical rule on the Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations list. In this respect, Sistani reinforces the argument made in an IPC book, Appeasing the Ayatollahs and Suppressing Democracy. One reviewer states that the book provides:

“an excellent discussion of how the past policies of appeasement and engagement with the Iranian regime have only made it more aggressive. The book provides many examples, especially for the Khatami (the “moderate” president) era and the U.S. administration’s attempts to appease the mullahs, hoping for reforms and moderation inside Iran.”

“The result was exactly the opposite. The Iranian mullahs internal repression was extended (as evident from the brutal repression of the student movements), many authors were assassinated during serial killings, substantially more women were stoned to death, Iran’s nuclear program accelerated, and guess who, after the “moderation” era, became Iran’s “president” — yes, Khatami paved the road for Ahmadinejad. The fact is: both Khatami and Ahmadinejad bow to Khamenei. Khamenei rules. There is no room for moderation.

“The only viable solution for a free, democratic Iran is to stop appeasing the mullahs, and to support the Iranian people and their resistance. The book provides a compelling argument why the Mojahedin [Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK)] cannot be ignored and the role they will inevitably have to play in the future of Iran.”

The Sistani article also discusses the siege of MEK residents by Iraqi Security Forces in Camp Ashraf as the residents await transfer to Camp Liberty and an opportunity for resettlement outside of Iraq. in this respect, the article supports the argument that the international community has a “responsibility to protect” unarmed civilians subject to harm put forth in an IPC post,

Iranian Dissidents Languish in Iraq

CLICK HERE FOR ORIGINAL ARTICLE IN THE NATIONAL INTEREST.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon popularized the “responsibility to protect” unarmed civilians subject to harm by well-armed states. The responsibility to protect principle (R2P) holds nations responsible for shielding civilians in their midst from war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and related crimes against humanity. 

According to the secretary general, the doctrine “requires the international community to step in if this obligation is not met.” Washington is now stepping up to the plate with its offer to protect the Iranian dissidents in Iraq.

But others have shirked their roles in monitoring the situation. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) acknowledged it has not visited the Iranian oppositionists as of the end of 2011 because “the situation . . . is being monitored by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq [UNAMI].”

Yet monitoring by UNAMI has not restrained Iraqi military and police forces. They violated a signed December 2011 memorandum of understanding between the UN and Government of Iraq by mistreating Iranian dissidents during their transfer from Camp Ashraf to Camp Hurriya, formerly Camp Liberty, Iraq.

Since the publication of the “responsibility to protect” article, the situations in Ashraf and in Camp Liberty have deteriorated even further.

Struan Stevenson, Member of the European Parliament and President of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq stated that an assault on Camp Ashraf had occurred on 27 August 2012,

 “…causing injury to 20 residents, [and] once again reveals the ominous intentions of the Iranian regime and its collaborators in Iraq. According to pictures and video clips, Iraqi SWAT forces (wearing all-black uniforms) attacked the defenceless residents, who had gathered with their personal belongings to be inspected before moving to Camp Liberty at the specific request of the US and UN.”

For additional IPC commentary on the situation in Camp Liberty at the end of August 2012, see:

Iranian American Community of Northern California: Bi-Partisan Panel lauds Iranian dissidents in Iraq, urges Secretary Clinton to de-list the Iranian opposition, MeK, and ensure the peaceful resettlement of all Camp Ashraf residents in third countries