Sunday, August 10, 2014

Obama's war aims in Iraq

Juan Cole continues to be a key source on Iraq and now on Obama's Iraq War.

In Obama & Airstrikes to Protect Iraqi Kurds: 1991 Deja Vu all Over Again Informed Comment08/08/2014, he reminds us how similar the situation was that started the no-fly zones in 1991 is to that Obama is using to justify his 2014 direct military intervention:

George H. W. Bush may not have been very concerned about his bad faith in calling for people to rise up but then hanging them out to dry.

But the prospect of thousands of Kurds dying of hunger or thirst in the mountains on his watch upset him and it would have been a very bad political image. So he ordered a "no-fly zone" instituted over the Kurdish portions of northern Iraq. US planes flew hundreds of missions, making sure that Saddam’s tanks could not come after the Kurds.

Fast forward to today. Now it is the Yezidis, and small religious group, who have fled into the hills, from their area of Sinjar. They could, like the Kurds 23 years ago, starve and thirst to death up there.

Now it is the armored personnel carriers captured by the so-called "Islamic State" from the Iraqi army in Mosul that are rolling toward Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.

So President Obama, like George H. W. Bush before him, was facing a public relations nightmare. And he responded in the same way, with a no-go zone over Kurdistan policed by US fighter jet pilots.
And his concluding warning is one that Congress and the public should take very seriously:

Obama’s hope that the so-called "Islamic State" can be stopped by US air power is likely forlorn. The IS is a guerrilla force, not a conventional army.

But one thing is certain. A US-policed no fly zone or no go zone over Iraqi Kurdistan is a commitment that cannot easily be withdrawn and could last decades, embroiling the US in further conflict.

In Why is Obama bombing Iraq, Really? 08/09/2014

The US has a consulate in Irbil [the city being immediately threated [sic] by ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State/Islamic Caliphate] and presumably many [US] intelligence workers are based there, who were at danger of being shelled or captured, evoking Benghazi again. With midterms coming up, Obama appears to have decided that he would intervene rather than risking those intel guys getting kidnapped.

The US is intervening for political as well as military reasons. Washington says that more such military aid may be forthcoming if Iraq will form a government of national unity. So basically, Obama is putting pressure on President Fuad Massoum to pick a prime minister other than Nouri al-Maliki and form a government asap. Likewise, Washington wants the Kurds to remain within a Federal Iraqi framework rather than declaring independence, and seems to be bombing IS positions for the Kurds in order to extract a promise from Kurdistan president Massoud Barzani that he will stay in Iraq.

The US used close air support with the Kurdish peshmerga during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Bush couldn’t send US troops into the north because the Fourth Infantry Division had been denied permission to march through Turkish Anatolia on their way to Iraq. So the US used the Peshmerga a surrogate troops. It worked then, against the Baath Army of Saddam Hussein. The US also provided close air support to the Northern Alliance in Afghanisan [sic], which enabled it to take Mazar, Herat and many other cities from the Taliban.
He's also skeptical of the humanitarian justification for the new military intervention (The Cruel Jest of American "Humanitarian Aid" to Iraq 08/10/2014): "One is happy that the US has dropped food aid for the Yezidis trapped on a mountain after they escaped the so-called 'Islamic State' of self-styled 'caliph' Ibrahim. But the US press either has a short memory or is being disingenuous when they talk about a humanitarian mission in Iraq!"

The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent 8-year military Occupation of that country caused over one million Iraqis to be displaced abroad, especially to Syria and Jordan, but some of them got to Sweden and a few to the US itself.

Further about 4 million Iraqis were displaced internally. Baghdad underwent an ethnic cleansing of its Sunni Arabs, with the proportion likely falling from 45 percent of the city to 15 percent or so of the city. The "Islamic State" push on the capital in concert with other Sunni Arabs is an attempt to recover what was taken from them by the Bush administration. Likewise, the Sunni Turkmen of Tel Afar under the Americans were ethnically cleansed and the town became largely Shiite. Turkmen Shiites are among the northern ethnic groups now menaced by IS.

The US was the proximate cause of a civil war in 2006-2007 in which at some points as many as 3,000 people were being killed each month.
Hypocrisy is part of the coin of the realm in international affairs. But "humanitarian war" is an oxymoron. And everyone should be extremely skeptical of alleged humanitarian justifications for going to war.

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