So, you think you know Iraq?July 10, 2014 12:00 am Leave your thoughts
After the nearly decade long occupation of Iraq, you would have thought that some within British political circles would have learned about the country they sent troops to occupy back in 2003.
You could also be mistaken to think that Britain played no part in a decade long No Fly Zone, which was established over Iraq after the First Gulf War, or that Britain had no role in either imposing or maintaining the UN Sanctions, which devastated Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait.
Such is the absence of quality in the current debate on Iraq. For example, the presence of British observers in the first elections to nominate a government for the Kurdish Autonomous Region, after the 1991 failed US/UK backed uprising to remove Saddam Hussain from power.
The clear absence of such minor details, which any self respecting sociologist or politician would describe as vital, to the “cause and effect” of the current situation, has now resulted in a political narrative, which has excluded the internal and external Iraqi community.
When the Scott Report published the details of Britain’s Arms to Iraq scandal, at no point did the investigation mention either the ethnicity or religious leanings of either Saddam Hussain or the Revolutionary Command Council, or claim the war waged between Iraq and Iran was a consequence of the Sykes-Picot Agreement.
Ironically, it was Anne Clwyd MP who reminded Chilcot at the Iraq Inquiry that events inside Iraq during the 1980s were a direct result of Cold War policies, with a chain of events starting with the Ba’ath Party overthrow of the pro-Soviet Government of Abdul Karim Qassim in 1963. By the Ba’ath Party’s own admission, they “came to power on a CIA train”.
In 1991, when George Bush promised American backing for an uprising to force “President Saddam to step aside”, the USA eventually withdrew its military support for reasons which included the presence of Iranian intelligence within the uprising and its possible influence over a post Saddam Iraq.
America and the United Kingdom also recognised the regional impact that removing Saddam would have had. In particular, the removal of Saddam through a popular uprising would have threatened the strategic positions of other regimes in the region, in particular that of Saudi Arabia.
The irony for many is that Saddam Hussain himself recognised that after the Gulf War the Middle East, as a region, had changed politically in view of developments taking place across Europe and stated to the Arab League that in the Post Cold War era, Iraq and other governments, were “vulnerable to regime change”.
In a 2013 parliamentary debate, to mark the tenth anniversary of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the now Conservative Party MP Rory Stewart, and former deputy governor of two Iraqi provinces during the conflict, declared Britain’s involvement as being the biggest Foreign Policy disaster since the Boer War and described “how complicated countries such as Iraq are.”
“Sitting in Iraq for 18 months from the middle of 2003 to 2005, I found myself facing, in a small provincial town called al-Amara, 52 new political parties, many of them swarming across the border from Iran and many of them armed.”
“Nobody in the Foreign Office or the military, and certainly nobody in the House of Commons, would have been able to distinguish between Hizb-e-Dawa, Harakat-Dawa, Majlis Ahla – or any of the other Shi’a Islamist groups that emerged.”
Similar sentiments were recently echoed by Sir William Patey, the former British Ambassador to Iraq, who on the Voice of Russia indicated that part of the reason for the breakdown in Iraq’s post invasion security was due to de-Baathification policies which actively excluded former army, police officers, civil servants and others, who had lived under a one party state, to hold a position in a multi-party environment.
The same attempt to polarise Iraq is now being repeated in Britain, in the case of ISIS, with references only to a “Sunni uprising “versus a “Shiite Government” and army. However, as Stewart stated in Parliament, “The situation is not helped by the way we talk about it in Britain today. We do not really think very much about Iraq…..Why do we not think about these things? It is because we are not very serious. At some level, this country is no longer being as serious as it should be about foreign policy.”
Well said! Serious analysis and the current level of debate in Britain seems to be as strange as MI6 warning the British government that the removal of Gaddafi in Libya effectively turned the country into the “TESCO of the illegal arms trade”, with shipments of illegal weapons also making their way to the ISIS rebels in Iraq’s neighbour, Syria.
Equally estranged in the current debate is the geography of Iraq to its neighboring countries and how for over a decade the absence of a professional army has allowed Iraq’s borders to be used by foreign mercenaries, for anything from kidnapping through to terror activities, which started with the emergence of the Jordanian Abu Mussab Al-Zarqawi whose Al-Qaeda presence only entered in to Iraq after the US/UK military failed to secure the borders upon their entry in 2003.
And as for ISIS being a “Sunni” uprising, the word alone seems to imply legitimacy to its aims and dubious ambitions. With Iraq, like Syria, being a predominantly Arabic speaking country, the presence of fighters from Chechnya, Libya, France, Somalia, The United Kingdom, Pakistan, Malaysia, Turkey, Germany, Spain and America to name a few, seems to indicate that of a “Sunni” trend of Islam it may be, but as for it being an “uprising” in the interests of Iraq, or Iraq’s people, it most certainly is not!
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This post was written by Hussein Al-alak