World Beyond War & Roots Action & AntiWar.com & Peace Action West & Mother Jones – 2014-06-20 00:36:05
ACTION ALERT: Please Help Us
To Urgently Bring Pressure to Bearâ€¨
World Beyond War & RootsAction.org
To: US Congress, The President,
The Department of “Defense”â€¨
Stop arming Iraq. And do not bomb or send in troops. Remove US drones immediately. Pursue a ceasefire and negotiations, working through the United Nations and the Arab League. â€¨â€¨
Why is this important? â€¨Iraq needs actual aid, not “military aid.” A policy of promoting, facilitating, and engaging in violence has produced nothing but disasters for decades. â€¨
We’re Going Back to Iraq —
Unless Americans Rise Up and Say “No!”
Justin Raimondo / AntiWar.com
(June 20, 2014) — President Obama’s announcement that the US is sending 300 “advisors” back to Iraq to stave off the rising Sunni insurgency was couched in assurances that “American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq” — but who really believes that? A proven liar — “If you like your health insurance you can keep it” — this President has absolutely no qualms about engaging in systematic deception if it serves his purposes.
Indeed, his version of the numbers is in itself a blatant lie: in reality, we are sending 575 military personnel into Iraq, including the 275 marines and troops sent to guard the now-imperiled US Embassy — and that’s just what they’re announcing publicly. God knows what the real numbers are.
Furthermore, the President told us “we will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it.” This will presumably come in the form of air strikes, but the vague wording gives Obama lots of leeway.
The President went out of his way to spin all this in a way that portrayed it as a decision to limit the use of American military force, but his bald assertion that Americans will not play a combat role is just not credible. What if the Iraqi “army” continues its dramatic collapse and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) enters Baghdad?
They’re already in the suburbs of the Iraqi capital: how long before they approach the Green Zone? The rapidity of the ISIS advance militates against making any such declarative statement.
In short, we are, for all intents and purposes, back in a combat role in Iraq — and we aren’t limiting our intervention to purely military means. As the President strongly implied in his news conference, and top administration officials have been saying over the past twenty-four hours, the US is intent on regime change in Iraq — that is, getting rid of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
This has been the one point of unity on both the Obamaite left and the neoconservative right in assigning blame for the crisis: it’s all Maliki’s fault. He is charged with pursuing “sectarian” policies that somehow drove the Sunnis into the camp of ISIS — a group so brutal and sectarian that it was expelled from Al Qaeda. Maliki, says the President, must “reach out” to the rebellious Sunnis — who are even now joining ISIS in droves — and form a coalition “government of national unity.” This, we are told, will somehow defuse the well-armed ISIS cadre, who number some 15,000, and prevent Iraq from falling into their hands.
The problem with this scenario is twofold: first, it bears no relationship to reality. A political settlement of Iraq’s ongoing civil war has been out of reach since the very beginning of US involvement, and there’s no reason to believe the various factions will come together as a result of this latest crisis. That’s because it isn’t in their interests to do so: indeed, the advance of ISIS gives all three factions — the Shia, the Sunnis, and the Kurds — what they’ve always wanted: sectarian supremacy within their respective territories.
Which brings us to the second problem with blaming Maliki: Iraq was never a real country to begin with. Its borders, drawn by the British Foreign Office in 1916, were simply the result of post-World War I bargaining by the victors over who would get what pieces of the Ottoman corpse.
A series of photos posted online by ISIS, titled “The Destruction of Sykes-Picot” — the treaty that established modern day Iraq — showed their fighters blowing up the berms defining Iraq’s border with Syria, and their fighters pouring through the breach. On Twitter, ISIS triumphantly hash-tagged #SykesPicotOver.
They might have done so much sooner — if Twitter had beeen in existence as early as the first day of the Iraq war. Because from that moment on, Iraq was fated to split into at least three parts, as predicted in this space and elsewhere from the outset. The Obama administration, by committing to gluing this already-pulverized Humpty-Dumpty together again, is embarking on a fool’s errand — and, as such, it suits them to a tee.
The seeds of the Sunni rebellion were planted, ironically, by the very tactics we used to secure our Pyrrhic “victory” in the first place: while John McCain, Dick Cheney, and their neocon amen corner are claiming that this administration “snatched defeat from the jaws of victory,” that alleged victory was claimed on the basis of the “success” of the so-called Arab Awakening — an effort by the US to recruit Sunni tribes in the north disgruntled by Al Qaeda’s harsh tactics.
These are the very forces now marching on Baghdad under the black banners of ISIS — a fact the Obamaites (and the neocons) blame on Maliki. Yet it was the Americans who gave this group unity — and weaponry — during the “surge,” cohering them into an effective fighting force that is now being turned on Baghdad.
The “surge” was the beginning of a general reorientation of American policy in the region, the turn toward the Sunnis — in preparation for the final advance on the real target, which has always been Iran. Blaming Maliki is only a prelude to blaming the real object of Washington’s ire — Tehran.
Back in 2004, the King of Jordan, a key US ally, issued a warning about the danger posed by what he called the “Shia crescent,” a swath of territory cutting across the Middle East from Damascus to Tehran, and — with the Israelis quietly urging the Bush administration on — Washington quickly mobilized against this new “threat.” The Obama administration took up this policy with a vengeance, openly aligning with radical Sunnis to counteract the rising Shi’ite influence — which was, again ironically, the end product of years of US intervention in the region, starting with our support for the Shah of Iran and ending with the invasion of Iraq.
Our crazy pro-Sunni policy reached its zenith during the phony Syrian “crisis,” wherein it was alleged that Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad had used poison gas against Islamist rebels; as it turned out, it was the rebels — with Turkish help — who had carried out the attacks. But we didn’t learn that until much later: what happened in the interim was a full-fledged American alliance with “moderate” Syrian jihadists in a bid to overthrow the Syrian Ba’athist regime.
In tandem with Qatar, Kuwait, and the Saudis, Washington poured aid — and arms — into the rebel camp. Amid the kaleidoscopic ideological landscape of the Syrian battlefield, it was and is impossible to tell who is getting arms from where — and if you’re wondering how and where ISIS got the heavy weaponry it is now deploying in Iraq you need look no farther than arms depots in Jordan (and Libya) intended for our Syrian jihadist friends. Indeed, ISIS is proudly displaying its American-made arsenal all over social media, and the claim that all of it was captured from Iraqi forces just doesn’t pass muster.
Yes, we helped arm ISIS, along with our backstabbing Gulf allies — and now we’re sending troops into Iraq who will come under fire from weaponry paid for by American taxpayers. If ever there was a crisis entirely created in Washington, what is happening in Iraq today is a textbook case.
To top it off, in their campaign to oust Maliki the Americans are talking to none other than Ahmed Chalabi — yes, the neocons’ favorite Iraqi politician whose made up “intelligence” on Saddam’s alleged “weapons of mass destruction” was channeled onto the front page of the New York Times by disgraced former journalist Judith Miller.
It doesn’t matter to US policymakers that Chalabi was credibly accused by the Pentagon of selling US secrets to Iran — by telling them we had broken the Iranian interagency code. All is forgiven! Incredibly, he is in the running to replace Maliki, with full US backing of course. While this may give the Chalabi Fan Club over at Neocon Central an enormous amount of satisfaction, the rest of us can only look on in sheer disbelief.
As usual, the policy we are pursuing on the ground in the Middle East has zero to do with defending legitimate American interests: it’s pure malarkey to run the “terrorist safe havens” argument up the flagpole, which posits an alleged danger to the United States from ISIS. We are creating more enemies in the region due to our interventionist policies than the public relations departments of ISIS and Al Qaeda combined could ever hope to recruit on their own.
Iraq War III is all about domestic politics: Obama is worried his “legacy” will be tarnished, and his party is concerned about having the “Who lost Iraq?” albatross hung around their necks in 2016.
That’s all the political class in this country cares about: maintaining their own power and prestige. And so the way to approach this issue strategically is to demonstrate that the American people have had it up to here with Iraq, and want no part of another war in the Middle East. We did it when Obama announced he was going to bomb Syria: the War Party was taken aback by the sheer spontaneous power of the protest. Many thousands called their congressional representatives and made it crystal clear that they opposed any new war in the region, whether it be on “humanitarian” or “strategic” grounds.
The American people said “Enough!” — “Basta!” — and it’s time for them to do so again, in no uncertain terms. We here at Antiwar.com are asking our readers and supporters to call Congress and tell them under no circumstances should we send even a single soldier to Iraq. Not one penny, not one GI! And please don’t tell me it’s useless because they won’t listen — they did last time, as politician after politician, inundated with calls from angry constituents, backed away from supporting the supposedly imminent bombing of Syria.
We can win — it just requires action on your part. Go here to find the contact information for your representative in the House: go here to find out how to call your Senator. Call them all — and please do it today. The peace of the world depends on it.
ACTION ALERT: Don’t Bomb Iraq: Study the Politics
Peace Action West & Mother Jones Magazine
President Obama has already ordered 275 military personnel to Iraq and is considering sending additional military advisers. He hasn’t made any decision on bombing yet, so we need your voice now. Tell Congress to speak out against bombing Iraq.
It’s lazy, dangerous thinking to rely on military force to solve every geopolitical challenge. Thanks for raising your voice for a smarter solution.
Don’t Bomb Iraq
President Obama will decide how to respond to the crisis in Iraq over the next few days.
John McCain is shaking his fist angrily and calling for military action. Lindsey Graham is invoking terrorist attacks and describing American air power as “the only option.” The president is huddled with his advisers considering military options for Iraq. Did we just travel in a time machine to 2003?
Sadly, we are having yet another debate about using the blunt and ineffective instrument of military force to deal with a complex crisis in Iraq. President Obama just announced that he’ll decide on military action “in the days ahead” and the US is reportedly moving an aircraft carrier to the area. 
President Obama recently laid out his foreign policy vision in a speech at West Point, saying “Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.” So why is he looking for other tools in his toolbox?
We’ve seen this play out before. The gains made by ISIS militants and the Iraqi government’s lackluster response require a smart strategy.  Dropping bombs on a volatile situation is likely to escalate the conflict, not resolve it, with innocent civilians losing their lives in the process.
We stopped the bombing of Syria because we responded quickly and loudly, and Congress raised a ruckus. Tell them to do it again.
In some ways this feels like dÃ©jÃ vu all over again. But a lot has changed in the past decade. The American people have learned a lesson about the reckless use of military force. Let’s make sure our leaders don’t forget it.
Rebecca Griffin is the Political Director of Peace Action West, 2201 Broadway, Ste 321 Oakland, CA 94612. 800.949.9020
What the Hell Is Happening in Iraq Right Now?
And what is the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and how afraid of them should everybody be?
Molly Redden and Asawin Suebsaeng / Mother Jones
UPDATE, Monday, June 16, 6:56 p.m EDT: President Obama sent a letter to Congress late Monday informing the body that, under the War Powers Resolution, he would be sending up to 275 US troops to Iraq to protect the US embassy in Baghdad. In a statement to the press, the White House said that the Iraqi government had consented to the troop deployment. “This force is deploying for the purpose of protecting US citizens and property, if necessary, and is equipped for combat,” Obama’s letter says. “This force will remain in Iraq until the security situation becomes such that it is no longer needed.”
Read Obama’s full letter to Congress here.
UPDATE, Monday, June 16, 12:09 p.m EDT: ISIS has captured several more small cities as the Iraqi government mobilizes thousands of untrained Shiite citizens to supplement the army, which has been sapped by desertions. Thousands of refugees have fled to the Syrian border. On Sunday, ISIS claimed it massacred 1,700 captured Shiite soldiers in Tikrit. News outlets couldn’t immediately verify that number. But ISIS posted grisly photos of its soldiers preparing to shoot prisoners, and the Associated Press reported Sunday that Iraq’s top military spokesman had confirmed the authenticity of the photos.
Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the US is open to working with Iran to stop ISIS. He said President Obama is weighing all available options, including drone strikes. (The administration has ruled out sending ground troops.) The US plans to evacuate some of the 5,500 employees at the US Embassy in Baghdad.
Iraq is rapidly slipping out of government control as an army of Al Qaeda-inspired militants storms toward Baghdad. Here’s what we know about who these fighters are and what drives them.
Who Are These Militants?
Some of the fighters are part of an Al Qaeda offshoot known as The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). A Sunni militant group led by an Iraqi named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIS grew out of Iraq’s Al Qaeda faction. US troops fought with ISIS and its predecessor until the day they withdrew from Iraq in December 2011.
In the last year, according to the Washington Post, the group became “far more lethal, effective, and powerful” as it focused on controlling parts of war-torn Syria. “ISIS lured into its ranks the bulk of the thousands of foreign volunteers, some from Europe and the United States, who have streamed into Syria to wage jihad, further bolstering its numbers.” ISIS already controls parts of northern Syria along the Euphrates River and much of the arid western region of Iraq, from the Syrian border to Fallujah. As a result of ISIS’s increasing dominance, a rift opened between Al Qaeda and ISIS earlier this year.
ISIS has combined forces with other militants, including local Sunni groups; militias led by members of the Baath party, which ruled the country under Saddam Hussein; and at least one of Hussein’s former top military commanders. It’s not necessarily an ad hoc allegiance: One military leader has said that the planning for this strike began two years ago.
The size of ISIS is unknown. According to the Guardian, the group commands roughly 10,000 men. They are well-trained: “They’re like ghosts,” said one Iraqi officer. “They appear, strike, and disappear in seconds.” Also, there’s this scary paragraph, via the Guardian (emphasis ours):
Iraqi officials told the Guardian that two divisions of Iraqi soldiers â€” roughly 30,000 men â€” simply turned and ran in the face of the assault by an insurgent force of just 800 fighters. Isis extremists roamed freely on Wednesday through the streets of Mosul, openly surprised at the ease with which they took Iraq’s second largest city after three days of sporadic fighting.
Why Are They Doing This?
ISIS is seeking to establish Sunni control over Iraq and the Levant region, which includes Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine. In a video posted right after ISIS forces took Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, the group’s spokesman ordered ISIS forces to march on Baghdad, the seat of the country’s Shiite-led government. “We have a score to settle,” he says.
The militant groups assisting ISIS share the same goal, “which is getting rid of this sectarian government, ending this corrupt army and negotiating to form the Sunni Region,” a high-ranking Baathist leader told the New York Times.
Where Is This All Going Down, Exactly?
ISIS has seized northern Iraq at breakneck speed. Militia forces first clashed with Iraqi soldiers in Mosul, a city in northern Iraq and the country’s second-largest city, on June 7, and controlled the city by June 10. By June 11, they had pushed south and taken Tikrit and Baiji, which supplies the cities of Kirkuk and Baghdad with electricity.
In Mosul, ISIS freed Al Qaeda fighters from prisons and Iraqi officers set fire to fuel and ammunition depots as they retreated. “Mosul now is like hell. It’s in flames and death is everywhere,” one refugee told Reuters.
The decisive battle will most likely take place in Baghdad. As ISIS converges on the city, hundreds of thousands of civilians are fleeing ahead of them.
In all, ISIS has some control or is fighting to take some two dozen large towns and cities across northern Iraq. Notable exceptions include Erbil and Kirkuk in the semiautonomous, oil-rich Kurdish region that borders Iran and Turkey. While reports indicate that Iraqi government troops have fled the area, Kurds say their pesh merga forces are in firm control of those key cities.
The New York Times has a useful map on where ISIS is gaining control in Iraq and Syria.
What Is the Iraqi Government Doing About It?
The Iraqi army has skirmished with ISIS forces before, sometimes with the support of the country’s Shiite-aligned militia groups. But the Iraqi army has offered very little resistance to ISIS since this conflict kicked off last week. In Mosul, the site of the first major clash, many US-trained Iraqi soldiers abandoned their posts and stripped off their uniforms to blend in with fleeing mobs. An Iraqi military officer described witnessing a “a total collapse of the security forces” in Mosul.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has requested emergency powers in response to the threat. The Iraqi parliament delayed voting on a request, which reportedly entails the power to impose curfews and censor news media.
What Is the US Doing?
On Thursday, President Obama said that he and his national security team are weighing all options for helping the Iraqi government respond to ISIS advances. “I don’t rule out anything because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria,” Obama said when asked whether he is considering drone strikes. (Maliki’s government reportedly wants the Obama administration to conduct targeted air strikes.)
The president has the authority to intervene in Iraq without congressional approval because the original war authorization hasn’t expired. However, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that the administration is “not contemplating [sending] ground troops” to Iraq. The president is reportedly considering sending a small number of special forces to Iraq, according to US officials speaking to the AP.
“It’s a rapidly deteriorating and grave situation in Iraq,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fl.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said.
Is Anyone Else Doing Anything?
The UK has ruled out military intervention, but may provide humanitarian aid. Iran, on the other hand, deployed Revolutionary Guard forces to help Iraqi troops, according to the Wall Street Journal.
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