Iraq War


faisalgroup

Faisal party at Versailles Conference. Left to right: Rustum Haidar, Nuri as-Said, Prince Faisal (front), Captain Pisani (rear), T. E. Lawrence, Faisal’s attendant (name unknown), Captain Hassan Khadri.

by Jeffrey D. Sachs, al-Qantara, December 21, 2015

There is no doubt that the crisis-riven Middle East is beset by some unique challenges. As Jeffrey Sachs argues, however, these are not the Sunni-Shia political divide, the future of Assad or other doctrinal disputes, but rather the unmet need for quality education, job skills, advanced technologies and sustainable development

The United States, the European Union, and Western-led institutions such as the World Bank repeatedly ask why the Middle East can′t govern itself. The question is asked honestly, but without much self-awareness.

After all, the single most important impediment to good governance in the region has been its lack of self-governance: the region′s political institutions have been crippled as a result of repeated US and European intervention dating back to the First World War – and in some places even earlier.

One century is enough. The year 2016 should mark the start of a new century of home-grown Middle Eastern politics focused urgently on the challenges of sustainable development.

The Middle East′s fate during the last 100 years was cast in November 1914, when the Ottoman Empire chose the losing side during the First World War. The result was the empire′s dismantling, with the victorious powers, Britain and France, grabbing hegemonic control over its remnants. (more…)

Clamping down with law and order will not be enough

by Thomas Piketty, Le blog de Thomas Piketty, Le Monde online, November 24, 2015

Confronted with terrorism, the response must involve security measures. We must hit Daech and arrest those who are members. But we must also consider the political conditions of this violence, the humiliation and the injustices which result in this movement receiving considerable support in the Middle East and today gives rise to murderous vocations in Europe. In the long run, the real issue is the establishment of an equitable model for social development both there and here.

One thing is obvious: terrorism thrives on the inequality in the Middle-East which is a powder keg we have largely contributed to creating. Daech – the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) –is a direct consequence of the break-up of the Iraqi regime and more generally, of the collapse of the system of frontiers set up in the region in 1920. After the annexation of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990-1991, the coalition powers sent their troops to restore the oil to the emirs – and to the Western companies.

In passing, we started a new cycle of technological and assymetrical wars (a few hundred dead in the coalition forces in the ‘liberation’ of Kuwait, as against several thousand on the Iraqi side). This approach was pursued to the limit during the second war with Iraq, from 2003 to 2010: roughly 500,000 Iraqi dead as compared with 4,000 American soldiers killed; all this as revenge for the 3,000 who died on 11 September despite the fact that they had nothing to do with Iraq. This reality, compounded by the extreme asymmetry of loss of lives and the absence of any political way out of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is used today to justify all the abuses perpetrated by the Jihadists. Let us hope that France and Russia, who have taken over after the American fiasco, will do less damage and generate fewer vocations. (more…)

refugee

My latest post on the refugee crisis in Europe.

Newsweek has an interesting article by Christiane Gruber, an associate professor and director of graduate studies at the University of Michigan, about Muslim cartoons against ISIS. Check it out here.

There is a nicely done satire by Sean McFate on how to take over a small country. Check it out here. Note: Only the rich may apply.

How Islamic is the Islamic State known as ISIS, ISIL, IS, Daesh and the new caliphate? To the extent that any group claims to be Islamic, quotes Quran and brandishes the rhetoric of the faith, ISIS is clearly presenting itself as an Islamic sect. To the extent that they have bastardized just about every other Islamic worldview, they are certainly not in the mainstream. Their appeal is not to Muslims who know the history of their faith, but to the disgruntled youth of the West and traumatized youth of the region. And, most importantly, ISIS is, ironically, the revenge of Saddam Hussein. This calculating and blood curdling group was formed not by madrasa-trained clerics but by former intelligence and military cronies of Saddam’s regime.

For the rest of this essay, click here.

This is a chilling account of a cover-up by the U.S. military of the exposure of 200,000 American soldiers in the first Gulf War to nerve gas.

http://www.newsweek.com/how-us-nerve-gassed-its-own-troops-then-covered-it-317250

There is an excellent analysis of ISIS as a cult recently posted on War on the Rocks.

Here is the start, but click here for the full article…

Why Cults Work: The Power Games of the Islamic State and the Lord’s Resistance Army
by Eleanor Beevor

Graeme Wood’s article “What does ISIS really want?” has become the most discussed foreign policy article of the year. Yet the piece’s power lies not in the title question, but in Wood’s blunt assessment of a paradox that leaves Western leaders flummoxed: How does one explain the traction of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), while also denying its religious legitimacy, in order to combat anti-Muslim bigotry? Wood didn’t mince words in refuting this hesitancy:

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic… the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

What follows is a fascinating piece of research, and a frustrating read. Despite addressing all the right aspects of ISIL’s ideological content to understand its power, Wood’s argument is guided by the wrong question: “How Islamic is ISIL?” For him, denial of ISIL’s Islamic nature is why we fail to understand it. The analytical pitfalls of quantifying “Islamic-ness” should be self-explanatory. Are some of Islam’s 1.6 billion practitioners less Muslim than others if they are less violent? How do we explain the religious devotion of politically “quietest” Salafism, compared to the British ISIL fighters who purchased Islam for Dummies pre-departure? This is not to say that religion is irrelevant in the analysis of ISIL. ISIL uses Islam as an existential anchor, so its actions have to be influenced by it in order to work. It also freely capitalizes on global Islamist sentiment. But to say the whole structure is uniquely, potently Islamic is not just a logical fallacy, but part of the very illusion that sustains loyalty to it. Actually, the features that Wood claims represent ISIL’s Islamic orthodoxy – its obsession with “purity” and the apocalyptic prophecy it stakes its claim on – have “been done,” and not just by Islamists. This is revealed by comparing ISIL with another notoriously violent army, led by another self-styled holy man.

ISIL and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) represent grabs for power, but power of a cosmic kind, beyond what human society can grant them. In examining both, I suggest a word substitution. The ways in which ISIL works, to extraordinary success, are not uniquely Islamic. They are uniquely “cultic.” And to examine ISIL as a cult is to see chinks in its armor. ISIL’s territory may be shrinking, but that alone won’t kill the loyalties of its cadres, nor slow the spread of its bloody sectarian ideology. In ISIL, as in the LRA, knowledge is power. If we can challenge the leaders’ tight hold on that power, ISIL’s ideological grip on its fighters might just begin to crumble…

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