Blog No. 64.
Iraq Refugees – the sequel to the invasion.
Extract from Wikipedia. “Refugees of Iraq are Iraqi nationals who have fled Iraq due to war or persecution. Throughout the past 30 years, there have been a growing number of refugees fleeing Iraq and settling throughout the world, peaking recently with the latest Iraq War. Precipitated by a series of conflicts including the Kurdish rebellions during the Iran-Iraq War (1980 to 1988), Iraq’s Invasion of Kuwait (1990) and the Gulf War (1991), the subsequent sanctions against Iraq, and culminating in the violence during and after the American-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, millions have been forced by insecurity to flee their homes in Iraq. Unlike most refugees, Iraqi refugees have established themselves in urban areas in other countries rather than in refugee camps. In April 2007, there was an estimate of over 4 million Iraqi refugees around the world, including 1.9 million in Iraq, 2 million in neighboring Middle East countries, and around 200,000 in countries outside the Middle East. “
This blog will follow on from Part III of the previously posted series on the creation of the Iraqi refugee crisis. https://khakispecs.com/?p=1360 The timeline of that blog, written at the time of the events described, finished with the latest developments as at mid-2004, with the hand-over of power from the American Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to the Iraqi Interim government under Iyad Allawi. This blog will continue the story up to the present day. For convenience, I have added as an annexe a sequenced timeline, broken down into sections according to the various governments that the Iraqis have endured over the period.
Blair and Bush Jnr and their prompters and advisors have between them to answer for the consequences of their cynical and deliberate breaches of international law in the case of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The reverberations of that invasion continue to this day with ever more civilian deaths and ever more refugees being racked up on their score sheet.
Saddam Hussein’s revenge seeking, after his eviction from Kuwait in the first Gulf War, led to the displacement of much of the Northern Iraq Kurdish population into camps on the Turkish border and of southern Iraqi Shia into neighbouring Iran. However, this displacement was only temporary, and the flow was reversed as soon as the American coalition had overthrown Saddam.
Ignoring that temporary refugee flux, and excluding the hapless Palestinians, who, in the 1940s and 1960s, had fallen victim to the sundry Zionist ethnic cleansings that have been so well documented by Ilan Pappe, there really was no out-of-control refugee problem in the Middle East, prior to the Bush-Blair invasion of Iraq in 2003. While the invasion of 2003 allowed some Iraqi refugees a temporary respite and return to their homes, in the longer term the consequence of the invasion was to force most of them and many more of their countrymen to abandon their homes.
Leverage. As the Israelis were to prove with their relatively small-scale massacres, such as their killing of a paltry (by post-invasion Iraqi standards) hundred or so Palestinian civilians at Deir Yassin in 1948, relatively few random and violent deaths are sufficient to terrify relatively large populations into leaving their homes. In Iraq, out of a population of approx. 26 million in 2003, the nine years of American occupation saw an absolute minimum of 170,000 Iraqis die violent deaths. (Other estimated body counts range as high as 500,000 to one million.) Click: Iraq body count However, this, confirmed less than 1% of the population, were slaughtered in such a manner as to inspire approx. four million (16%) Iraqis to abandon their homes in search of refuge elsewhere.
In this blog, I will attempt to answer how and why the invasion managed to precipitate human suffering on such a vast scale. If you look at the timeline annex below, it is, as Arnold Toynbee famously commentated about history in general, “just one damned thing after another.” Looking at such a massive human disaster, extended over such a long period and still on-going, the serried ranks of trees obscure an overview of the wood. Where is the pattern that can enable some sense to be made of such a chaotic outcome?
Impunity. Given the anarchic state of the world, in which no overarching authority exists with the power to insist on obedience to international law, the powerful nations are free to do as they will – subject only to the sanctions of other nations willing to exercise independent power – and to the will of the victims of their aggression, should they have the courage to resist. Were there an international governing body capable of enforcing the accepted norm of International Law that, without invitation, nations have no right to intervene in the sovereign concerns of others, this ruinous event would never have occurred. There being no such enforcement powers within the United Nations, the USA and its coalition of eager (and some less eager) supporting governments felt free to go ahead with the invasion of Iraq, despite the protests of the UN.
The prime mover in the invasion was the USA. There is no need to go into the detail of the motivations of the other participants in the coalition from outside the Middle East. With Blair’s UK leading the sycophantic pack, the motivation of the ‘me-toos’ was simply to win favour in the eyes of Godfather Sam.
US Motivations. In attempting to analyse the motivations of the USA, one has to take into consideration the huge variation in the ambitions and intentions of American decision-makers and of the multiple agencies of state within which those individuals exercise influence. There is also the question of the American ‘Deep State’ through which some of the top 1% of the American wealth and governmental power distribution are able to manipulate international events to their own advantage. Click: Deep State
One can judge from the size of its embassy and the enormous military bases that it set about building as soon as it had declared victory, that at the outset, the Bush Administration had every intention of establishing a long-term and probably permanent base in Iraq. From this base it would be able to project its power and influence throughout the Middle East (and keep a firm hand on the oil price.) This would be achieved, while a Quisling Iraqi government would do as it was told to support the new masters and while an Iraqi population, brimming with gratitude towards the US for having saved them from the evil Saddam, would open their hearts and their minds to welcome their conquering saviour.
‘Nancy’ policy. It could be plausibly argued that this ambition failed due mainly, to what I would term the ‘Nancy’ policy syndrome. The occupation, in line with much of the rest of American foreign policy, was characterised by the three ‘nancies’ – arrogancey, ignorancey and extravagancy. The syndrome manifests itself as an arrogant belief that the American way of life and social organisation can be transplanted onto other (and by definition) inferior, cultures: in the ignorant failure to understand and react intelligently to misunderstood foreign cultures and in the extravagance that, in this case, resulted from confidence that the acquired profits from Iraqi oil would fully compensate for the expenditure.
Pallets upon pallets of $100 dollar bills landed at Baghdad airport. Their dissemination and the other free-spending unaccountability of the occupation, led to the corruption of Iraqi administrators as they sought means of securing their families from the breakdown of their nation and the deepening social chaos that was burgeoning around them. The ultimate pay-back came when, as ISIS invaded Mosul, it faced minimal resistance from an Iraqi army so hollowed out by corruption that absent generals commanded troops who existed only on the payroll.
Diverse agendas. Be that as it may, within the American system, there were other minds and loyalties at work. My previous blogs on this subject demonstrated how the invasion itself and the early phases of the occupation were conducted in a manner that seemed to benefit no one other than the state of Israel. This was put down to undue influence of the Israeli lobby (fifth column) on the American decision making apparatus. Without the ability to read minds and private communications, it is impossible to draw firm conclusions as to the extent of the influence that these variations to the standard view of American self-interest has had on subsequent events.
My 2004 blog on the invasion had ended with the burgeoning insurrection, the hasty dismantling of the Coalition Provisional Authority and the appointment of a Sunni, Iyad Allawi, as Prime Minister of the Iraqi Interim Government in June 2004. Now, with hindsight, I would say that that appointment was not a deliberate blow against Iran, as it looked to be and was interpreted by Iran at the time, but rather a demonstration of a continued naïve belief by the Americans that, by choosing a known and controllable Iraqi nationalist with a non-sectarian agenda, rather than a sectarian partisan, they could rebuild the deconstructed state with a secular and non-partisan government.
The Israeli factor. The well documented Zionist ambition for the Middle East has long been, and continues to be, the balkanisation of uncooperative neighbouring states. The Israelis and their US lobby engineered the US defeat of Saddam Hussein. With that main opponent off the potential battlefield, Israel would then be able to concentrate on providing the same demolition service to Iran and Syria. (Turkey too, now that it has elected a more powerful Islamist regime, had better look out.)
The question is the extent to which the Israelis, who are neither naïve nor ignorant, would have been satisfied with the establishment of an American satrapy in Iraq. Were they? Did they therefore instruct their sympathisers within the Administration to support it unconditionally? Alternatively, had they worked out from the outset that the Americans were going to be forced out by an Iranian sympathetic regime and therefore, right from the word go, were preparing the break-up of Iraq, by undermining America’s ambitions?
As early as 2004, there is strong evidence of Israeli military intervention in Kurdistan to help the Kurds develop an ability to act independently of the government in Baghdad. This must have run directly contrary to the interests of those officials of the occupation who were pursuing purely American interests. Certainly there were several Zionist influential sympathisers, such as Dan Senor, in the CPA, whether or not they remained loyal in their pursuit of American interests, is a question that must remain open. Probably America’s haste and lack of forward planning together with its Nancy tendencies, was quite sufficient to ensure the ensuing chaos, even without any underhand Israeli contribution. Whatever might be the truth of the matter, emerging from Washington’s Beltway Zionist think-tanks, there continues a steady drumbeat of proposals for the balkanisation into micro states of first both Iraq and now Syria. Click: Brookings on Iraq
Other interested players. Besides the USA and Israel, there were other external players with their fingers in the Iraqi pie. In 1990, Syria, a party virulently opposed to Saddam Hussein, had supplied 14,500 troops to join the US coalition that forced Saddam’s army out of Kuwait. However, reading on the wall that it would be next in line, Assad’s regime was vehemently opposed to the Coalition of the Willing’s 2003 invasion of Iraq itself. Its interest was that the interests of its co-religionist and protector, Iran, should be protected (which, in itself, was a guarantee that Syria would indeed, be next in line.)
Another, much interested party was Iran. Having suffered so greatly throughout the 1980s after Saddam had allowed himself to be used as the USA and Israel’s proxy battering ram, the Shia Iranian regime was determined that never again should a hostile power be based in Baghdad. Given that a majority of the Iraqi population were Shia and the USA’s avowed intent was to replace Saddam’s Sunni oriented dictatorship with a democratic government, why should Iran be worried? As soon as the USA gave it cause to be so, it entered the fray to defend its existential national interest.
The next interested party was Turkey. Its major interest was to prevent the Kurds, in northern Iraq and in Syria, gaining so much independence that they might, together with their fellow Kurds in Turkey, start looking towards the establishment of a greater Kurdistan. With the advent of IS and the increase in US support for Kurdish resistance to ISIS, which can only increase the Kurds’ sense of independence from Baghdad, Turkish anxiety has mounted. There is evidence that some nationalist and Islamist circles in Turkey have come to view ISIS as a lesser evil than the Kurds.
Finally, as an external interested party, we have Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Royal family are utterly conflicted in their motivations. On the one hand they are allied to Israel in not wanting to see a democratic government established in Baghdad, which would automatically entail an extension of Shia influence on the Saudi border and across northern Iraq to the Mediterranean coast. On the other hand, given that their Islamist ideology is intended for export only, they do not want to overly encourage al Qaeda’s, let alone the Islamic State’s, operations, too close to home, as both organisations are avowed enemies of the House of Saud and dedicated to its overthrow. Running with the fox and hunting with the hounds, Saudi Arabia is a liability that cannot be relied on for anything other than to muddy all diplomatic waters. It will inevitably spoil the efforts of that section of the US Administration that wishes both to remain friends with Saudi Arabia (and retain its support for the reserve currency status of the US dollar) and, at the same time, to rid the Earth of ISIS, which is so much inconveniencing America’s European allies.
The victims. And then we have the internal players. 75% Arabs; 20% Kurds: 5% sundry others. The religious divide is 75% Shia; 20+% Sunni; 3% other Islamic sects and approx. 2% Christians (whose population has been reduced by 50% since the American occupation.) Prior to the American invasion, inter-marriage between the sects was not unusual and the whole mixed bag has been traditionally held together by a mutual and relatively harmonious, albeit tacit, understanding: the Shia would look after the economy, while the Sunni looked after the army and the government. The whole country was held together initially, under the British appointed Royal Family and subsequently, under successive dictators, by armed force and by Iraqi nationalism as embodied in the Baath party.
The mayhem-maker. When Paul Bremer was appointed as Bush’s representative in Iraq and given dictatorial powers as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, his CPA’s Executive Order No 1. disbanded the Baath party and proscribed limits on the employability of all its former members. CPA Executive Order No 2. disbanded the military and all intelligence services, throwing out on the street thousands of trained Sunni warriors, who no longer had a career or any expectancy from the new order. Bremer (and Rumsfeld and Cheney, pulling his strings from Washington) were true vehicles of nancyism in government – or were they? Could some deeper, and ostensibly treasonous intentions, have been at work from within the American system? In retrospect, the dire consequences of this folly look as though they were so inevitable that their repercussions must have been obvious to anyone not suffering from nancyism in it most acute form.
Though Bremer struggled valiantly in his attempt to establish a secular, democratic and inclusive government through Iyad Allawi, it had to be in vain. The minority Sunnis couldn’t help but see themselves as the victims of discrimination at the hands of what, through their eyes, became America’s favoured Shia. As such they became a fertile breeding ground for the violent jihadist, anti-American and anti-Shia, Saudi Arabian propagated enthusiasm of al Qaeda, which was later to mutate into ISIS. The Ivy League universities of ISIS, were the American run prisons into which the recalcitrant Sunnis were herded.
The outcome was so obvious that one could understand a suspicion that there was a deliberate intention behind it. Click: Divide and Rule If the country couldn’t be held together by an obedient American puppet government, then the US could continue its sojourn in the country by using classic divide and rule tactics. The US government just hadn’t realised how intolerably expensive such a policy would be.
Accountability. One knows that the criminal US instigators of the Iraqi tragedy will remain free from prosecution. However, there is reason to hope that the British legal system takes matters of legality more seriously and that Tony Blair, former Prime Minister (and now multi-millionaire) will indeed ultimately, have to face a tribunal in regards to his role as an accomplice in the instigation of a war of aggression. (That is for the same crime as that for which the Nuremburg Tribunal sentenced eleven Nazis decision-makers to be hanged.) What goes around, comes around. Tony should keep his fingers crossed that Jeremy Corbyn never makes it to Prime Minister! https://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article43363.htm
Annexe – The timeline.
The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) May 2003 – June 2004. Presidential Envoy and Iraqi Head of State Paul Bremer. On 1st May 2003 President Bush declared the end of combat operations and at that point, the hastily improvised CPA took control of the conquered country. The CPA’s interface with the subject population was the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) which consisted of US appointees from a selection of Iraqi tribes, ethnicities and sects. In June 2004, the CPA was disbanded and a ‘sovereign and independent’ Iraqi Interim Government was appointed to take over from the IGC. Iyad Allawi, a Sunni and an alleged former CIA asset, was appointed as interim Prime Minister.
· May 2003 Baath Party outlawed; Iraqi Army disbanded.
· June 2003 Saddam’s sons, Uday & Qusay, killed (The USA played a game of capturing/killing all the top officials in the former government, liking them to a pack of cards as they went down one by one – at this stage Saddam the Ace was still a fugitive.
· August 2003 Sergio Mello, UN Special Representative to Iraq, killed in a suicide bombing and with him, the USA’s hopes of being able to pass the Iraqi buck over to the UN.
· December 2003, Saddam captured.
· January 2004, the USA formally admits it had been in receipt of false information and aborts its hunt for imaginary Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) the grounds on which it had justified its illegal invasion.
· March 2004, al Qaeda suicide bombings in Baghdad and Karbala kill hundreds of Shia. In Fallujah a Sunni mob kills and mutilates four US contractors.
· April 2004, details of US occupation forces abuse of Islamic prisoners in Abu Ghraib are revealed in the global media. More fighting between Shia Sadr militias and coalition troops in Najaf
· May 2004, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi beheads US businessman Nicholas Berg in retaliation for Abu Ghraib insults to Islam.
· June 2004, realising it has a tiger by the tail, the USA rapidly forges ahead with the Iraqiisation of the occupation by appointing an Interim Government led by a Sunni.
The Iraqi Interim Government June 2004 – May 2005. Prime Minister Iyad al-Allawi
In January 2005 Allawi’s Interim Government organised elections to a transitional Iraqi National Assembly, which was tasked with drawing up the constitution. In this election, 58% of the approximately eight million entitled voters cast votes – ranging from a 80% turnout in the Kurdish provinces to around 2% in the seriously aggrieved Sunni province of Anbar. 48% of the votes went to the Shia dominated UIA, 48% to the Kurdish Alliance and 14% to Allawi’s Iraqi List (according to Hersh Seymour, it would have been just 2-3% due to a largely enforced Sunni boycott of the election, had it not been for US manipulation.) The election saw Jalal Talabani, who had stood for the three semi-autonomous Kurdish provinces, appointed as President, while Ibrahim al-Jaafari of the UIA (United Iraqi Alliance – a coalition of the Shia dominated Islamic Dawa and SCIRI parties) was appointed Prime Minister. The fact that the Sunni population in large part boycotted the election boded ill for the future – as did the accompanying violence. There were 100 or so armed attacks on polling stations and at least 44 people were killed including nine suicide bombers.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of the al-Qaida affiliate in Iraq, said: “We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology. Anyone who tries to help set up this system is part of it”. At the same time, he declared his real motive for opposing the election was because of the potential for a Shia dominated government “the Shiites aim to begin spreading their evil faith among people through money and fear.”
· September 2004, Battle of Fallujah. Pentagon claims 1200 ‘insurgents’ and 38 US soldiers killed. Red Cross claims 800 civilians killed.
Iraqi Transitional Government May 2005 – May 2006: President Jalal-Talabani; Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.
In May 2005 the Iraqi Interim Government became the Iraqi Transitional Government and the new constitution for the Islamic Federal Democracy was duly drawn up and approved by a national referendum that took place in October 2005.
· May 2005, surge in Sectarian violence 672 civilians killed as opposed to ‘only’ 364 the previous month.
· February 2006, al Qaeda in Iraq blows up the most important Shia shrine in Samarra and Sadrist militias in Baghdad retaliate – this is the key turning point that sets off the sectarian warfare that is to turn so many Iraqis into displaced refugees.
First Permanent Government of Iraq May 2006 – March 2010: President Jalal Talabani; Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki. The first permanent government of Iraq, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the Secretary General of the Shia al Dawa party took office on May 20, 2006.
· June 2006, al-Zarqawi killed.
· July 2006, probably the month in which sectarian violence peaked, with estimated 1,000 – 3,500 civilian deaths.
· November 2006, Saddam Hussein sentenced to be hanged. Shia celebrate in the streets, Sunnis promise revenge. Also Iraq and Syria restore diplomatic relations and 200+ Shia killed by Sunni bombings in Baghdad’s Sadr City.
· January 2007, UN announces estimate of 34,000 Iraqi civilians killed during 2006.
· January 2007, President Bush places General Petraeus in command and orders a surge in US forces – an additional 30,000 troops. Iran is publically blamed for supplying weapons and explosive devices to the Shia insurgents
· June 2007, ‘The Awakening’ Sunni tribes in Anbar province are paid to turn against the insurgents – a successful policy, but one for which the tribes pay dearly as al Qaeda takes its revenge.
· August 2007, large scale massacre of Yazidi sect by al Qaeda.
· October 2007, marked decline in sectarian violence.
· December 2007, British hand over control of Basra to Iraqi army.
· December 2007 saw the end of the worst year for the US army with 900 killed. In the past five years over 4000 US soldiers killed and 30,000 wounded.
· January 2008, de-Baathification rules relaxed.
· March 2008 President Ahmadinejad, of Iran, visits Baghdad and al-Malaki begins a crackdown on Muqtada al-Sadr forces in Basra.
· September 2008, America hands over control of Anbar province to local forces.
· November 2008, Democrat Obama replaces Republican Bush as US president.
· November 2008, Congress calls for US withdrawal from Iraq by 2011.
· January 2009, Iraqi forces takeover responsibility for security of the Green Zone government centre of Baghdad.
· February 2009, drawdown of US combat brigades begins to be completed by August 2010 with 35,000 to 50,000 remaining as trainers and advisors until end of 2011.
· June 2009, US combat troops out of all main cities. As per SOFA (Status of forces Agreement) which al-Malaki refers to as ‘a great victory.’
· September 2009, Camp Bucca, American prison-cum-IS training-centre closed. Click: Camp Bucca.
· October-December 2009, Islamic State of Iraq (IS) claims responsibility for 500+ civilian deaths in Baghdad.
· December 2009, first month since the invasion when no US soldiers were killed. (Only 149 US troops killed during the whole year.)
Second Government of Iraq March 2010 – April 2014: The next election was held in March 2010 and, after nine months of wrangling and further alienation of al-Allawi’s Sunni supporters, it again returned Al-Malaki as Prime Minister where he remained until August 2014 until he was forced out of office.
· August 2010, US combat operations in Iraq end and Obama states “In the end, only Iraqis can resolve their differences and police their streets,” Obama said. “What America can do, and will do, is provide support for the Iraqi people as both a friend and a partner.” Approx. 40,000 US troops remain as advisors and trainers.
· December 2011, The Obama administration having failed to agree with al-Malaki that stay-behind US troops should be immune from prosecution under Iraqi law, the last U.S. soldiers leave Iraq. Since 2003, more than one million US servicemen had served in the country. The costs of the conflict were high: for the US at least $800 billion from the Treasury, with nearly 4,500 Americans killed, over 40,000 injured and with a continuing average of over ten suicides veteran per day through PTSD. For the Iraqis, by this stage, with modest estimates of over 500,000 killed and more than four million displaced from their homes, the agony was to continue.
· December 2011, Al-Malaki’s government in disarray as a warrant issued for arrest of his Sunni Vice-President, Tariq al-Haider and Sunnis boycott both parliament and cabinet.
· Throughout 2012, fears of new sectarian violence as Shia constantly targeted.
· November 2012, as an indication of things going amiss, the government cancelled a $4.2 billion arms contract with Russia as it feared massive corruption at the Iraqi end.
· December 2012, massive Sunni rallies protesting their political marginalisation.
· April 2013, Iraqi troops kill 50 Sunni protesters at Hawija in Northern Iraq.
· July 2013, the insurgency is now as violent as it was in 2008 and mass prison breakouts at Taji and Abu Ghraib result in at least 500 hard-core terrorists being freed to enter the fray.
· September 2013, Kurdish capital Irbil, struck by car bombs claimed by al Qaida as retaliation for Kurdish attacks on Jihadists fighting Bashir al Assad’s regime in Syria.
· October 2013, UN estimate civilian deaths in Iraq so far that year at 7,157 against ‘only’ 3,238 for the whole of the preceding year.
· January 2014, Islamists capture Fallujah and Ramadi. They are ejected from Ramadi but retain control of Fallujah and most of Anbar province.
· February 2014, Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shia militia leader, announces his withdrawal from politics.
Third Government of Iraq April 2014 – present day: Initial President Jalal Talabani; Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki but then followed by President Faud Masum; Prime Minister Haider al-Abaidi Haider al-Abaidi, also a Shia from al-Malaki’s Islamic Dawa party.
· June-September, Sunni forces of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) surge out of Anbar Province and seize Mosul and surrounding area. Capturing huge military and financial resources, conducting large scale massacres sending refugees fleeing in all directions, they rename themselves Islamic State (IS) and declare the new Islamic Caliphate.
· July 2014, Kurdish Regional President Massoud Barzani announces that the Kurds will conduct an independence referendum on the grounds that Iraq is now “effectively partitioned.”
· July 2014, as the US, Iran, Kurds rush to help the al-Malaki government save Baghdad from capture by this forces, al-Malaki is forced out of office and a new and much more inclusive government takes over and Barzani puts his referendum on hold.
· US announces its feeble strategy for containing IS with air strikes and recruits a fig-leaf alliance of coalition partners to help train Iraqi troops and join in the air strikes.
· December 2014, at very long last, the Iraqi Government and the Kurdish region sign an agreement on sharing Iraq’s oil wealth as they unite against their common enemy.
· April 2015, Iraqi forces recapture Tikrit from IS force.
· May 2015, IS, in lightning strike, ejects government forces from Ramadi.
· August 2015, government indicated that it is going to get serious in its attempts to tackle the twin problems of corruption and sectarian favouritism.