Iraq The Beautiful – As an introduction and at the very end, some photographs of Iraq sent by a close friend.
Baghdad Museum and Northern Iraq
More of northern Iraq
Marshlands area in southern Iraq
Imagine you are a teacher with an economics degree, bagged with world-wide experience in economic development and project generation, and you are tasked to teach a class of people not speaking your language, with a fractured background of religious strife, totalitarian rule, and years of outdated statist management of “if you don’t do it my way, there’s the door”, in a region that is totally different from yours.
Imagine also that you can’t see your class and have to do everything by remote and telephone. Imagine further you are working with a sometimes squabbling but very intelligent and technically capable home team of diverse ethnicity, many of them Arab speaking from the Middle East, with opiniated opinions about the Iraq invasion, Palestine and Israel, and Bush. Imagine lastly that everything has to be done by yesterday.
That’s how I felt when I was tasked to join that team in 2005. But in spite of this list of paralyzing limitations, the team managed to identify, prepare and help execute a project portfolio of a US$450 million equivalent UN donor fund, established after the Iraq invasion of 2003 and later extended by a soft World Bank loan of US$500 million. This included projects for water supply and sanitation, irrigation rehabilitation, school construction and rehabilitation, health and hospital rehabilitation, electricity reconstruction, road and telecommunications repair, energy development assistance, private sector development, household/poverty reduction and pension reform, and others, all in all a portfolio of some 25 projects.
Underlying this effort was a strong push for capacity building and technical assistance. None of this could have been done the way it was done without the support of (a) carefully selected Iraqi consultants who courageously inspected the project sites and assisted in strengthening the basic ministerial administrative capabilities of procurement of works, goods and supervision consultants, and (b) dedicated Iraqi counterpart teams in the ministries that were in charge of project implementation.
During the insurgency of 2005-2007, work continued, even though Shiite and Sunni participants were shooting at each other in some ministries, the Central Bank in Baghdad was bombed, and contractors and supervision consultants were threatened and even pursued on project sites. Some of the local consultants got wounded in Baghdad’s almost everyday bombing that caused long delays in just organizing one meeting at an implementing ministry on a given day that would take just a few minutes to arrange in Washington D.C. and an hour or two to complete.
The Iraqi counterpart teams met with the World Bank teams and consultants in Jordan and Lebanon to discuss project progress, crosscutting issues, and necessary changes in design due to continuously changing circumstances. These conferences proved extremely useful, as they were the only real life contacts with Iraqi administrators as a group. It gave the Iraqis the opportunity to talk to their colleagues of other ministries and implementing agencies about common problems they faced in executing their programs and added much to their ownership of their programs. You may notice the translation boot in the back.
Meetings with Iraqi counterparts were held in Lebanon and Jordan (Dead Sea) as security did not allow meetings in Baghdad.
Beirut and the Dead Sea shore
Only in 2007 was a one man hero mission set up in the Green Zone in Baghdad, and when security improved in 2009, it was extended to a formal resident office. Some missions took place in Baghdad and Erbil in the Kurdish area which was relatively safe.
The experience of meeting with the Iraqi counterparts, even if taking place mostly through simultaneous translation, convinced me personally that with a sustained effort over the longer term, it would be possible to turn relatively well-educated technocrats into modernized administrators, taking on complex rehabilitation and further economic development.
The relative success of the projects compared to sometimes overly complex design and expected results in a battling environment surprised many. Some projects, such as irrigation rehabilitation where farmers had a direct incentive to get better, succeeded remarkably well against all expectations.
But politics and religious strife took priority over rational thought. Soon we were back at square one and the invasion of ISIL has put everything in question. As a pilot enterprise, the hands-on effort in Iraq proved that it is possible to do it right if you give it a chance, but its future looks somber. It was a drop on a hot plate with an endangered sustainability.
We are now at a point where the Middle East, including Iraq, has to decide how it solves it internal issues. Some Middle Eastern nations realize that ISIL is not the answer. But will they be able to stop the brutal reactionary tsunami?
Mesopotamia was rich in agriculture. Eve gave Adam the apple but there was also a snake spoiling the fruits. Bad foreboding for later Iraq? At one stage, Iraq’s Tigris and Euphrates rivers made it the grain storage of the Middle East, until oil drove the incentive to rigs, and the rivers became polluted because of neglect and were drying up fast. Still, agriculture was and still is Iraq’s largest employer. Oil dependence drives out diversification as often happens in similarly endowed countries. Combined with sectarian strife, politics and tyranny, priorities get distorted and the general population suffers.
Can a religiously divided Middle East eliminate ISIL’s barbarian Sunni regime and continue Iraq’ s economic development? Should we not let them fight it out among themselves? For centuries the UK, France, Spain, the Habsburgers and later the USA got their fingers burned in the Middle East. If there had not been oil, what would the Middle East have been now?
The USA is not very eager to get into a new war in the Middle East. The recent speech by the White House contained some buzz words but what action can we expect? Europe entered into brutal wars in 1914 and 1940. The United States got dragged into them kicking and screaming. In World War I, after much foot-dragging of Woodrow Wilson, because the Germans torpedoed the Cunard line’s flagship Lusitania near England in 1915, in which over a thousand people died, among which at least a hundred Americans.
Americans were furious but at first Woodrow Wilson did not act. Germany halted torpedoing passenger liners temporarily, but in 1917 Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm approved to resume its u-boat war on the seas, cutting off commercial trade between the USA and Great-Britain, which compelled Woodrow Wilson to finally join forces with its European Allies and defeat Germany.
In World War II, it was the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and Hitler’s declaration of war to the US a few days later that forced the USA to join, although a year earlier President Roosevelt had said: “I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again: your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.” (source History.co.uk). Sounds familiar?
The issue is that the USA is the only fully free democratic political and military power (still…) standing tall on a hill, to where all suppressed and desperate people want to come, and that extremist religious ideologues want to destroy.
Does the USA need another 9/11 to get convinced that it must help out a moderate Middle East to solve its quagmire? Who else could? Iceland? Then, except the Gulf War in 1990, albeit with a coalition force of more than 30 countries, the USA has not won a war it started itself.. In Korea, Truman stopped McArthur halfway to victory; Janet Fonda cum suae lost the Vietnam war for the USA; President Obama withdrew from Afghanistan and Iraq before the achievements were stabilized. If you start a war only victory counts. Has anybody any confidence left in US management?
Barring another major attack on its mainland, the best thing a US leadership can do is to keep the borders shut tight (which it is able to do), become fully energy independent (which it is able to do), strengthen the military just in case instead of weakening it (which it is able to do), make sure it defends Israel and its NATO allies (which it is able to do) and get its financial house in order (which it is able to do), and stop throwing money at ill-defined nation building, preserving a fish specimen in lieu of irrigating agricultural land (which it can do, too) and stop indebting itself further with inefficient social or health programs and environmental tyranny of doubtful reward. And instead of letting everybody and its brother cross its southern border, it should allow persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East to come to the USA immediately.
Meanwhile, my Iraqi friends are left in the doldrums, knowing that we could have achieved a lot more if given the chance. That’s the sad realization.
Southern and northern areas in Iraq
Looking at Iraq’s history, it’s amazing what difference one hundred years make in a span of 6000 years. Going back to Sumer, the region of city-states in ancient Mesopotamia, may be asking too much, but 1920, when the three Ottoman Empire Mesopotamian provinces, Mosul, Baghdad and Basra, became part of the British “Protectorate”, may be a good starting point. The following is drawn from various sources (Wikipedia, British, French,US journals, personal knowledge).
The Ottomans ruled their Caliphate from Turkish Constantinople for 600 years! The word “Ottoman” is a historical Anglicisation of the name of Osman I, the founder of the Empire in 1299 and of the ruling House of Osman (Oghuz Turks, also known as the Ottoman dynasty). Osman’s name in turn was derived from the Persian form of the name ʿUṯmān (Source: Wikipedia). The Sultan represented the Caliphate.
The Ottomans considered the Mesopotamian territories “backwater”. In 1918, the League of Nations handed them to Britain after the demise of the Ottoman empire, which had sided with the Germans during World War I, with the intention the territories should eventually become independent.
But Mesopotamia consisted of a manifold spectrum of religious sects and tribal sheiks, which became a fundamental problem for the British from the outset to mold Iraq into a functioning state.
All what followed since then until todate, just shows how little the populace of the “West” and the “Middle East” understand each other and how little the various sects in Iraq could collaborate. Every single stage in the evolving history reads like a horror thriller and is the basis for the Iraqi situation today. In hindsight, making a country out of Iraq with artificial borders crossing through sects and different peoples and their tribes (Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds) and various religions conflicting with a majority islamic population (Assyrians, Yazidis, Christians, Jews) never was a viable undertaking.
The British Empire, before it started dwindling down, founded monarchies in the Middle East, including Egypt, starting in 1921, with the common structure of prime ministers, ministers and administrators in ministries. This because the political format of monarchy seemed to work rather well in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Oman, Qatar). Thus, from a “backwater”, Iraq suddenly became a monarchy. Britain elected descendants of the Prophet of Mohammed (the Saudi Hashemite family) to lend it the true image of Arab and Islamic heritage.
The Hashemite dynasty originates in the Hejaz, a region which is now part of Saudi Arabia. It had battled the revolutionary military “Young Turks” of the Ottoman empire of which it was part, with tacit British support.
A secular movement, the Young Turks wanted abolition of absolute monarchies. They sided with Germany in World War I and were responsible for the genocide of the Armenians (Catholics and Protestants), mostly living in eastern Turkey, bordering on Russia, because they were accused of siding with the enemy Russia. They murdered about 1.5 million Armenians in the most abhorrent manner, a genocide Turkey denies till todate, demonstrating the intolerance of Islam toward other religions. A courageous medic took clandestine pictures of it that exposed the horrors of the Turkish genocide.
The Koran is often cited for spurring this violence for all Muslims to fight and kill nonbelievers: “When you meet the unbelievers, strike off their heads; then when you have made wide slaughter among them, carefully tie up the remaining captives” (Surah XLVII.4). (Source: Islam Review.com). We are reminded of that again today.
Hashemite King Faisal 1 became King of Iraq in 1921 after a national referendum, and ruled till 1933, supported by British and Saudi administrators, largely foreign to the Iraqi population. In 1932, Iraq became an independent state.
In the same year, the British appointed his brother, Abdullah I, the Emir of Transjordan. When Transjordan was granted independence in 1946, it became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Abdullah became its first King.
The Hashemites, being of Sunni origin, were unpopular with Iraqi Shiites and Kurds, as administrators were mostly Sunni. King Ghazi 1, Faisal’s son, rose to the throne after his father’s death in 1933. A playboyish King, he was accused of Nazi sympathies and a strong supporter of panarab nationalism.
In 1936, he allowed Bakr Sidqi, a Kurd, then Acting Commander of the Iraqi army, to take over government. This is being described as the first Arab coup in the Middle East. Bakr Sidqi, who had acquired solid credentials in the British army, was among others responsible for the massacre of 3000 Assyrians (adherents to the Assyrian Church of the East, a Christian sect dating from 400 AD that wanted autonomy) in Mosul and Simele in 1933.
This is how Mar Shimun, a Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, described it: “Girls were raped and made to march naked before Iraqi commanders. Children were run over by military cars. Pregnant women were bayonetted. Children were flung in the air and pierced on to the points of bayonets. Holy books were used for the burning of the massacred. ” (source: www.assyrianenterprise.com). Think about ISIS today. A never ending cruel humanity
Adoring fast cars, and desiring to annex Kuwait (which the British opposed), King Ghazi 1 died in a car accident in 1939, which was suspected to have been engineered by Nuri as Said, a “repeat” prime minister in Iraqi Governments and sort of an eternal “Rasputin” behind the scenes, who was strongly supportive of relations with Britain. He was the only minister who did not accept Bakr Sidqi’s military overthrow and was exiled to Egypt. His life story, which ended with him being murdered at the end of the monarchy in 1958, reads like a political thriller as well.
Ghazi’s son, Faisal II, was 4 years old and Abdul Ilah, the son of Faisal I’s brother, Ali, and brother of Faisal’s mother, Queen Aliya, became regent.
During World War II, Iraq was on the British side, but did not take part in the war. When in 1941, an Iraqi nationalistic military coup sympathetic to the Nazis removed regent Abdul Ilah, a brief Anglo-Iraqi war broke out. Faisal’s mother, Queen Aliya, then divorced from King Ghazi, fled with young Faisal II to Abdullah I in Jordan.
The British restored order with the help of Jordanian forces, and Abdul Ilah was put back in power. Faisal II and his mother returned, but the Queen died in 1950. Faisal II went to school in England, together with his second cousin Hussein of Jordan and they became close friends.
When Faisal II turned 18 in 1953, he became the official ruling King, but Abdul Ilah’s influence, very unpopular in Iraq because of his support of British influence in Iraq and denial of growing panarab socialist sympathies, remained unshaken. Even though under King Faisal II Iraq underwent substantial economic progress, local unrest, influenced by communist sympathizers in politics and the army, kept growing.
King Faisal intrigued me because I was of the same age. He lost his father at four, and his mother when he was just 15. I remember collecting pictures of him at high school and seeing pictures of him on TV, which had just become a new medium, during his visit to Queen Elisabeth in 1956.
In July 1952, The Free Officers Movement of Gamal Abdel Nasser had overthrown the Egyptian monarchy (King Farouk), which had deteriorated into complete decadence, and this was widely supported in Iraq. Nasser became President in 1956.
Interestingly, he also booted out The Brotherhood after they tried to assassinate him. Faisal’s pro-British inclination and the influence of Abdul Ilah in his Iraqi rule, as well as the pro-British position of Prime Minister Nuri al-Said conflicted with Egypt’s popular panarab nationalism.
Prince Abdul Ilah and Nuri as Said
Faisal II chose to support the British -French invasion in Egypt when Nasser nationalized the Suez canal. He and his administrators disregarded the Iraqi people’s support of Egypt’s and Nasser’s panarab nationalism, and broad action of reforms and economic development.
This and the growing local inequalities between landowners, the elite, and poor peasants and workers, led to a popular revolt on July 14, 1958 (seems a favorable month for French and Arab revolutions). As the army had become increasingly supportive of the Arab nationalist movement, despite Faisal’s generous pay, General Abdal-Karim Qasim took power, inspired by Nasser’s July 1952 revolt. Using the request for help from Faisal’s cousin Hussein in Jordan against an escalating crisis of civil war in neighboring Lebanon as a ruse, he took to Baghdad and surrounded the palace with tanks.
Aref and Qasem
Faisal apparently ordered the palatial guard not to resist and hoist the white flag, but the royal family was chased into the palace garden and summarily executed. Faisal, only 23, apparently died in a van on the way to the hospital. Abdul Ilah’s body was mutilated, paraded around and hung on a balcony. Nuri as Said tried to flee as a woman, but got recognized, was shot, and after burial they mutilated his body in the streets. The news and pictures shocked me deeply that time. It was the end of the British dream of holding on to monarchy in Iraq. Faisal II never married, despite several match-making efforts, and at the time of his death was engaged to Princess Sabiha Sultan, the only daughter of Prince Muhammad Ali Ibrahim Beyefendi of Egypt and Princess Zahra Hanzade Sultan. Faisal was buried in a tomb in the Royal Mausoleum at Adamiyah
Interspersed by palatial coups, proving that military rule was no better than the monarchy, several military rulers assumed power of the Republic of Iraq.
In 1979, General Sadam Hussain took the scepter, supported by the Revolutionary Command Council and the socialist-communist Baath party (founded in 1947 by three intellectual Syians, one Christian, one Sunni, and one Alawite!) We all know what happened since then (also see previous blog “Don’t Cry for Me, Iraq”).
Michael Thornton, in an article in Mail Online (August 2008) reports that Saddam was haunted by Faisal’s brutal murder. He would secretly visit Faisal’s tomb to meditate and even upgraded it. He had seen him parading through Baghdad as a young boy and King. Perhaps a feeling of bad foreboding?
Today, Iraq is a crumbling fragile state and the US-imposed democracy after the 2003 invasion is hanging by a thread. Iraq had never known democracy and the Ottoman Empire was far from that. The monarchies were unfit for democratic rule. Democracy grows from within, but Iraq’s sectarian divides, which starkly increased as a result of the 2003 invasion, have made it even more difficult. ISIL saw its chance when it was unchallenged in Syria and found open terrain left by the Allies in Iraq. Caliphates are old but enticing ideas in the Muslim world and the Ottoman Empire was the last. We are seeing a repeat of the past cruelties that we had briefly forgotten about.
In Jordan, King Abdullah II is the last Hashemite King remaining in Power. This beautiful Kingdom has strong Western and moderate Middle-Eastern ties, a strong army and modern leadership, keeping a keen eye on the welfare of its small population (7 million).
King Abdullah II –
Treasury Petra (JS Enchanté)
It is deprived of natural fossil resources but exports phosphates and potash. It has been able to manage energy import wisely. Nonetheless, in the remote desert town Man’an, suffering from poverty and unemployment, ISIS has been able to start unrest. So far, this has been mildly but firmly suppressed by Jordan’s security forces. On the other hand, this trend confirms that the growing ISIS cancer must be stopped now to avoid that the whole area goes up in flames.
Only strong Western and Middle Eastern leadership can eliminate the cancer. Stories on the internet are circulating about secret slaughterhouses in Syria where ISIS rebels systematically behead Christians, Jews and other minorities, and hang their bodies like cattle in a meat factory. Had journalist James Foley and other captured journalists seen too much? Is Assad the bad guy or is it the Islamist terrorists, as he claimed in his interview with Kucinich in September 2013? Why did they agree so quickly to handover WMD? Out of fear that it would fall in the hands of the rebels? Why do we know so little about it all? Maybe James Foley could have told us.
Strategic action is needed soon, including in Syria (finally). Unfortunately for us, nor in the West, nor in the Middle East, do we seem to have strong leadership that appears able to bring it about. Let’s hope they wake up. 9/11 2014 is coming soon. Are we prepared?
Next Time: Iraq, A Frugal Effort of Economic Development and Governance.
With respectful reference to Tom Rice’s lyrics and Andrew Webber’s fabulous musical, Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina, I just wonder how it would look like if Saddam Hussein rose from his grave and gave a speech to the Iraqi populace from the statue from which he was toppled, “Don’t Cry For Me, Iraq.” Saddam would sing it with his heavy baritone (he could surely not sing it like Madonna, www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Spy3Nd2D6w):
Wikipedia on Saddam Hussain
“And as for fortune, and as for fame I never invited them in” (meaning the Allied forces…)
“Though it seemed to the world they were all I desired” (to show them how he had “no WMD”, just to ridicule “Bush”)
“They are illusions” (Western propaganda about his cruel rule)
“They are not the solutions they promised to be” (my hanging on the gallows)
“The answer was here all the time”(I could do much better then they)
“I love you and hope you love me” (Don’t I look much better now?)
“Don’t cry for me, Iraq.”
Well, with medieval ISIS on the attack, Nouri al-Maliki letting it all happen, and the brave Kurds squeezed, we are all in tears, crying for Saddam, the “good old days”.
Sure, Saddam was a ruthless tyrant. Iraq suffered huge crimes under his reign. Shiites and Kurds got emaciated on various occasions.
Wikipedia on Saddam Hussain
Iraqis were hard-pressed and frequently mistreated. But is Sunni ISIS not much worse? At least under Saddam, Christians could live relatively undisturbed though forced to pay the minority taxes. Even Jews originally lived relatively well among the Iraqi Arabs until Palestinian partition occurred in 1948, when some 150,000 Jews lived in Iraq. From then on, they suffered harshly and left, and in the seventies the UN forced Iraq to let the remaining Jews emigrate. Saddam tried to make Mosul more Arab by moving Arabs into Kurdish areas and chasing out the Kurds. Now ISIS is beheading, killing, and torturing infidels on a large scale.
However, there seems some similarity with Eva Peron’s love for Argentina and Saddam’s love for Iraq: he wanted to keep Iraq wholesome with his despicable mixture of Marxism and Nazism that his Baath party emulated, and he felt he had to do so with an iron fist because of its multiple religious scissions and millennia-old tribal differences.
Despite the fact that Iran provoked him into it, fighting an eight-year long war with Iran did not achieve anything.
Still, it might have proven to the West that having Iraq doing the fighting was better than having the West confronting Iran. Then the allies came in to punish him for attacking Kuwait and Israel, and later because he was coveting WMD, which he had used against Iran and the Kurds, and hidden in bunkers or shipped to Assad in Syria to hide them (with the help of “Chemical Ali”, using seatless commercial airplanes; remember that weird general jumping on TV?) This in anticipation of UN-resolution 1441 that sent UN “Inspectors” to Iraq as of 2002 but who could not find them anymore. (Remember the desperate Hans Blix, who was accused of being “pro Saddam”, finding only empty warehouses?) Proof: Syria used them in their current war with their rebels (or the rebels found them and used them to terrorize Syrians).
Recently, after the ISIS invasion, ISIS now occupies the Al Muthanna Chemicals Weapons Complex, Saddam’s ultimate chemical weapons facility, located less than 50 miles from Baghdad. Apparently, a lot of that material is still left in spite of what leftist pundits and commentators wanted us to believe that they did not exist during the Bush presidency. And what about Saddam’s nuclear program that was “dismantled”? All that uranium, bought from Niger, which was said to have been shipped to the USA?
How eager were the “mainstream media” in the USA and Europe at the time to fall in the trap of the “non-wmd” propaganda! Only to pummel “Bush” who defeated their favorite global warming enthusiast Gore, as eager as they are now to support Hamas in its attacks on Israel. But “mainstream media” pundits are known to disregard history, if they ever studied it, or facts when they don’t like them. They go by the emotions of their equally uninformed audience. What a carnival of animals (apologies to Camille Saint-Saens).
These were the last words in Saddam’s letter to his people, issued by his lawyers upon his execution: “Dear faithful people, I say goodbye to you, but I will be with the merciful God who helps those who take refuge in him and who will never disappoint any faithful, honest believer … God is Great … God is great … Long live our nation … Long live our great struggling people … Long live Iraq, long live Iraq … Long live Palestine … Long live jihad and the mujahedeen.”
It’s doubtful that Saddam’s merciful God is helping much in current Iraq or what Saddam thought should be Palestine in spite of UN resolution 181 of 1948. For Arab dictators, it is difficult to accept a majority vote in the UN if they don’t like it. (Today, UN-membership has changed totally and, with it, its political colors. Anti-Israel majority votes are happily agreed.) It’s also doubtful that his “long live jihad and the mujahedeen” would have welcomed ISIS.
Truth be told, the Bush Administration could have found out that most of the WMD had been removed but they did not: they, the allies and Congress wanted to get rid of Saddam as he was a pest in the region. In hindsight, Saddam could possibly have been contained at that time, leaving it to him to deal with the Iranians, while the West could have been protecting Israel with overwhelming military aid while maintaining tough sanctions on Iraq. Too bad hindsight never catches up with actuality. It would have saved many lives, including Iraqis, soldiers maimed for life, and trillions of dollars gone up in smoke.
The name “Iraq” was drawn from ancient Sumerian history dating back to the Sumerian civilization in the “Uruk” (“Ur” meaning ” city” in Sumerian) period that reigned that area some 4000 years BC! The 600-year Ottoman Empire (“caliphate”) which supported Germany and included millennia-old Mesopotamia, was dismantled upon Germany’s defeat in 1918 after World War I. The then League of Nations, established under the aegis of Woodrow Wilson, turned Palestine, Transjordan and the three Mesopotamian Ottoman provinces (Mosul, Baghdad, Basra) into British protectorates.
Churchill and his “40 Thieves” (see Churchill’s Folly by historian Christopher Catherwood, 2004, Carrol & Graff) drew up “Iraq”, ignoring tribal regions. In fact, at the time of the British protectorate, the southern Shiites near Basra tried to form their own regional sovereignty as they were suspicious of the Shiites in the north. For a well researched article on the creation of Iraq in 1922, read Don Chapment’s interesting 2007 piece on http://archives.midweek.com/content/columns/Print_Story/following_churchills_folly_in_iraq/
Past caliphates show the surface they occupied.
Under the Ottoman empire, what is now called “Iraq” comprised three provinces Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra.
Several upheavals occurred in the Iraqi part, forcing the British to send troops in 1943. Sixty years later American and allied troops, including the British, invaded once more. The never ending story of the Middle-East.
In Iraq’s new Constitution, under American pressure, Iraq was divided into 18 “States”. Federalism, let alone democracy, is an unknown form of Government in the Middle-East and it never worked in Iraq or anywhere else (except for democracy in Israel). A unified Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish government is a pipedream. Now we are dealing with an Iraq shattering back into several pieces, mostly according to religious and tribal adhesion, amidst ruthless intolerance and genocide of religious minorities.
I am sure that Saddam would not have let ISIS cross his border. Nouri al-Maliki and the Iraqi army seemed totally impotent and, like the White House – although warned by its intelligence services that knew of ISIS in Syria -, taken by surprise. Maliki being a Shiite politician with strong Iranian ties – after all he lived in exile in Iran for some eight years during Saddam Hussein’s regime – was unable or perhaps unwilling to form a unified Shiite-Sunni-Kurd government, which created deep Sunni resentment. The USA having withdrawn its troops left a terrible vacuum. Again it shows that short-sighted local politics based on polls only bring havoc. With some greater effort in trying to convince Maliki, the USA could have left troops to support fledgling Iraq, but Iran told their ally to keep the USA out, and he caved. Saying now that keeping troops would not have prevented ISIS from entering Iraq is trying to justify irresponsible inaction, surely on the side of Maliki but also the USA.
What remains to be seen is what local Iraqi Shiite politicians and activists like Mukthadar Al-Sadar with his Mahdi army and the Grand Ayatolla Ali-al-Sistani will do when ISIS approaches Baghdad, and if Iran will intervene when the Shiites are threatened.
Sources say Iranian Qud is already there, assisting Nouri al-Maliki. Sadar is against US forces propping up Maliki to protect Baghdad, so is Iran. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Qatar are the main Sunni states in the Middle East. Sunnis are 90 % of the Islamic population, Shiites only 10 percent (mostly in Iran, Iraq and Oman). Egypt’s role has substantially strengthened politically in its mediation between Israel, the Palestinians and Hamas. How will they react to Sunni ISIS?
Inaction in Syria helped create ISIS and allowed it to grow from a small force to some 10,000 fighters, many of whom are radicalized Islamists from Western nations. It is being said polls reveal Americans are sick of fighting other people’s wars. But don’t they realize that rats take vacuum territory? Is it not lack of leadership to hide behind that so-called sickness of the American people and do nothing? Should the leadership not point out the dangers of not willing to fight? And that, if you don’t, these rats may finally end up in New York port? Individual Islamists in the US may already have contact with ISIS through cell phones and e-mail and can rapidly be radicalized. Remember the Fort Hood shooting, the Boston bombing.
Why got Hamas power in Gaza? Because the Palestinian Authority was unable to manage Gaza after Arafat was gone. What ISIS is doing in Iraq is worse than what Hamas is doing to the Palestinians in Gaza. Hamas and ISIS are both Sunnis. The danger of them connecting is clear. ISIS wants all, and “Levant” includes Jordan and Lebanon, both bordering Palestine and Israel, reason why ISIS calls itself ISIL, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. A dire prospect.
Unfortunately, for Western countries, they must defend their comfort at the cost of losing it, but tell that to the comfortable TV-looking beer drinking Westerners who imported millions of Islamic people to do work for them they don’t want to do and who are now protesting in their streets. It takes good leaders to wake up their citizens, and good leaders are rare today. Beware whom you invite into your house!
The origins of World War II stemmed for a good deal from wishful pacifism, cowardice, procrastination and collaborators (!), in the hope that it would not be all that bad as some were convincingly predicting. Suddenly Europe was run over and Amerika and Canada had to help to protect themselves. Now America and Canada have large Islamic populations with no sense of assimilation with the history of their hosts, and the pride that goes with it, and, with their open borders, the potential for terrorist attacks is plenty, even more than was the case with 9/11.
As long as the West has been involved in the Middle-East, it has been unable to implant its “rational renaissance” thinking that began in the Renaissance and overtook Islamic reactionary thinking, despite its past wealth of scientific, medical, and artistic creativity. Oil made it worse. Many different peoples in the Greater Middle East, including Iran, are ruled by religious mantras, outdated historical principles, and an unstoppable array of new masters of intolerance and cruelty, such as ISIS.
My fear is that ISIS is just one more ugly Middle Eastern sore but the most vicious so far that will run its course causing many deaths and suffering, until its dreadful puss is burned out by the Middle East itself, when it finally realizes that the 21st century has arrived and they must adapt rather than creating outdated caliphates, yelling with rockets to throw the Jews into the sea, screaming fatwas about planting Allah’s flag on the White House and propagating that Islam is the only true religion.
No US and European pacifism will help. Peace through strength will. It had better start now.
Next time: a soft-pedaled effort by the UN and World Bank to steer Iraq toward economic development.
Let me tell you that ENCHANTÉ is for Israel, but has good ties with Arabs too. Let me also tell you that ENCHANTÉ has many Palestinian and Islamic friends and that we sometimes agree to disagree but remain good friends. At a personal level, it works. At the political level, the Israeli-Arab conflict seems insoluble.
Everyone who knows a little bit of the Palestine history knows that it was an area where Jews and Arabs lived together for thousands of years. Zionism had been seeking a Jewish state for itself for a long time and several efforts had been made to achieve that without success (see the Exodus Ship effort of 1947 below.)
(Notes added upon requests from readers: “Zion” commonly refers to a specific mountain near Jerusalem (Mount Zion), on which stood a Jebusite fortress of the same name that was conquered by David and was named the City of David. After almost two millennia of existence of the Jewish diaspora without a national state, the Zionist movement was founded in the late 19th century by secular Jews, largely as a response by Ashkenazi Jews to rising antisemitism in Europe, exemplified by the Dreyfus affair in France and the anti-Jewish pogroms in the Russian Empire. The political movement was formally established by the Austro-Hungarian journalist Theodor Herzl in 1897 following the publication of his book Der Judenstaat. At that time, the movement sought to encourage Jewish migration to the Ottoman Palestine. –Source: Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.)
World War II and the Holocaust (in which Palestine Arabs did not participate but surely did not object) became the catalyst and led to the idea to use the British “Palestina Mandate”, an off-shoot of the Ottoman Empire that was dismantled at the end of World War I, as an area where a Jewish State could be carved out together with an Arab Palestine.
UNSCOP (3 September 1947) and UN Ad Hoc Committee (25 November 1947) partition plans. The UN Ad Hoc committee proposal was voted on in the resolution.
|Date||November 29, 1947|
|33 voted for
13 voted against
|Result||Recommendation to the United Kingdom, as the mandatory Power for Palestine, and to all other Members of the United Nations the adoption and implementation, with regard to the future government of Palestine, of the Plan of Partition with Economic Union set out in the resolution|
The Arabs objected, amongst others about “arable” land (you notice the pun?), but why? After all, the Jews had lived there too. Why not have two States, Jewish and Transjordan? While the UN agreed to the partition in 1948 (33 for, 13 against, 10 abstentions of a UN Assembly of 56 states), war between Jews and Arabs almost started immediately and has never really ended. Reconciliation has proved almost impossible despite the vision of Anwar Sadat who went to Israel and concluded peace with Menachem Begin in 1977 and recognized Israel.
One could say, that was Sadat’s “Mandela” moment. From that moment on, the Arab World could have settled their differences but it did not happen. Other Arabs did not share Sadat’s vision. Egypt was even kicked out of the Arab League for some ten years! On June 6, 1981, fanatic Islamists killed Sadat – and a host of others – at a victory parade commemorating the time that Egypt won back the Sinai from Israel during the Yum Kippur war. And where are we now? Another Palestinian-Israeli war, though this war is chiefly originated by a terrorist organization called Hamas that enforced its reign on the Palestinians in the Gaza strip when Israel relinquished it in 2005.
What ENCHANTÉ finds so unbelievably short-sighted is all this anti-Israel bashing in the Western media solely because of Palestinian casualties, however tragic they are. Unless you keep your eyes in your pocket, your ears plugged with clay, and your brain drugged with Kool-Aid (assuming you have brains), it is clear from all the photographs that it is Hamas that is killing its own people. The picture below was Tweeted by Hamas and intercepted by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
Maybe Hamas considers their own people as canon-fodder like Napoleon did in his war with Russia or at Waterloo, and maybe they believe that when they die, even after multiple Israeli warnings to move out of their missile infested homesteads, schools, hospitals and even mosques (yes, Allah’s houses!), their dead will all be martyrs and go straight to paradise and live happily ever after. But their own people may not want to die. They live in fear under Hamas’s terror regime. So why are these Western nincompoops still choosing Hamas’s side? How can they when it is clear for all to observe that Hamas is using its own people as human shields and victim propaganda? Because they are all like the Nevil Chamberlains of World War II.
And don’t forget it was the Brits that rammed the ship “Exodus”in the Mediterranean in 1947 to prevent Jews from re-entering Palestine and shipped them back to Germany of all places!
In 1947 international discussions were under way to settle the British mandate “Palestina”. Maps floated on negotiation tables.
Why not sit down and REASON to solve your problems without that hot-head demeanor and give each other the space to live? There is enough room if security can be assured!
Look at the daily barrage of missiles that Hamas started this time again. Which country in its right mind would allow that to happen to its people? USA? Germany? France? England? Saudi Arabia? Egypt? Wouldn’t they shoot back, too, with all their might? No, Jews just have to accept annihilation, problem solved. Then all these tunnels the Israeli detected, smuggling Hamas weapons and fighters into Israel to kidnap and kill. Who can pretend that this is morally right? All that because the Jews have no right to be in the Palestine region that is their homeland as much as it is for the Arabs? Yes, Arabs were there also in the past, but “Palestina” was not an Arab State and surely not an Islamic state!
Sinai and Palestine Area at the time of the Jewish Exodus from Egypt thousands of years ago
Arabia map as it is now
Things have happened that should not have happened with respect to Arabs being forced to move out of the State of Israel, but the beginning was politically very murky, also because of British ambiguity. Lots of fights with the Brits erupted. But many Jews were forcefully removed from Arab countries, too! And they are not standing in line to return for “resettlement” like Palestinians say they want to in Israel. Remember the separation of India and Pakistan in 1947? That was a hundred times greater and also very murky. Still, there are Islamic people living peacefully in India (like Arabs in Israel) and while India and Pakistan are touchy neighbors, Islamic Pakistan is not trying to drive Hindu India into the Indian Ocean or firing rockets over the border!
Israel accepted the recent Egyptian brokered ceasefire. Hamas refused, even though other Arab countries and the Arab League agreed. Why? Because they did not get full Israeli submission? Why should Israel give in to terrorists? So Hamas continued firing rockets and continued to expose its poor Palestinian people. It’s only after that that Israel reluctantly began the ground incursion. Deference to the Bully never wins you any favor. Remember the bully in your schoolyard? Unless you beat him/her to pulp or get him/her checked by the management, he/she will only grab more power. It is unfortunate, but that’s how we human beings are made up. Many human beings are simply bullies.
Take that up another notch to world politics, and you have the perverted UN. Despite the fact that many UN specialized agencies do great work, the Assembly (57 Islamic States out of 198 members = 28.7%) has become a totally different politicized debating club from what it was meant to be at its inception in 1944. Western states generally support Israel, but they are now in the minority on a one- member-one-vote basis. So Israel will always be in the boondoggle at the UN: Because of the UN stereotype anti-Israel posture, Israel will always lose. Only in the Security Council can the USA and some Western Nations block nefarious General Assembly votes. How come that missiles were hidden in two UN Schools in Gaza as UN officials admitted? Would you miss somebody coming into your house or backyard carrying a bunch of missiles under his arm to hide? How come the UN people “did not see”?
Then there are those Arabs fuming at Zionism. Why don’t we hear them fuming at their Islamism that tortures, rapes, kills and suppresses people, even their own, and renders women unworthy creatures and even stones them half-buried in dirt?
Jews don’t do that. Israel does not do that. Arabs living in Israel can vote and keep their belief. What makes Islamic people believe that Islam is the only right faith? It started 600 years later than Christianity! What is so nice about a religion that suppresses other religions, steals their believers’ goods and homes where they have lived for years, makes them pay a tax and labels them secondary citizens, or worse, orders them to convert or die? Is that really what the “religion of peace” is about? Do we still have to deal with such eight century nonsense in the 21st century? After all, the reactionary Ottoman Empire was defeated in 1918 and good riddance.
Arafat never let an opportunity go by to fail to make peace. Moneywise it was much more lucrative to keep warring. His wife Suha (born and raised a Catholic in Jerusalem!) lived comfortably in an expensive apartment in the Bristol Hotel in the Rue du Faubourg-Saint Honoré in Paris after she left Gaza where she shared an apartment with Arafat. The CBS “60 Minutes” program, not exactly a “right wing” unit, reported in 2003 that Arafat had US$800 million in the bank and sent his wife US$50,000-100,000 monthly (depending on the sources) from the Palestinian Authority (PA) budget to live in Paris. This was confirmed by other legitimate sources, among others the IMF. Nobody knows what happens with all the aid money to the PA or Hamas.
Bristol Hotel in the Rue du Faubourg-Saint Honoré in Paris
Where did all this money come from? Hamas is not any better. Do you believe they are really suffering from hunger, disease and poverty? Yes, their suppressed Gaza Palestinians do, but not the Hamas “government”.
Deira Hotel and Lobby in Gaza
Gaza Hotel Lobby and local market
Apartments for “martyrs” and Gaza beach
Happy life at Gaza Beach and Gaza Shopping
More Gaza shopping and local markets.
Hamas home in Gaza and Hamas Leader
Iran, Qatar and others are faithful financiers. Even the US gives indirectly taxpayer money to Hamas now that they are joined with Fatah. Do you really think that any of this aid money goes directly to the poor Palestinians? From the “happy” pictures of Gaza, where Palestinians seem to like their life, one would wonder, why for heavens sake would Hamas want to expose that happy life to war with its intransigent attitude toward Israel? But no, war has a higher motive: Israel must be destroyed even if it destroys the Palestinians. So, instead of using the aid for further economic development, it will be applied to new missile launchers and tunnels, as was done in the past.
Why this moral equivalence from the USA? What’s left of its moral values? Where is the White House’s moral clarity? How was it possible that the FAA banned flights to Ben Gurion Airport, giving Hamas a win? Such a dramatic move could never have been made without State Department and White House involvement. Did the US want to pressurize Israel into a cease fire while Kerry was “negotiating” in Egypt? (Remember Kerry’s off the record scolding of Israel’s ground offensive as “a hell of a pin-pointing operation” and “we have to go there tonight, we’re wasting our time here?” Implying he was going to give the Israelis a lesson? This mindset ties in nicely with that FAA ban!) Former mayor Bloomberg courageously took an El Al flight to Ben Gurion to show solidarity.
Bloomberg flies El Al to Ben Gurion Airport after FAA ban. Kerry follows him quickly. Airport suddenly safe again?The ban was quickly lifted after Kerry had to visit Israel. Oh! that White House and State Department miserable hypocrisy!
What has become of the US motto “Peace through Strength” that got the Soviet Union down? Bully Putin is laughing his head off and keeps shooting at Ukraine, even after his cronies downed a commercial jet liner with 300 people dead and Europe and the USA did not take even one meaningful action.
A one Palestinian State is, for the time being, utopia. A well-known Israeli “dissident”, Mike Peled, describes in his intriguing book “A General’s son” how his father promoted that idea. He writes this as having grown up from an “insider” to a “dissident”. In this regard, he is not much different from US “dissidents”. The problem with “dissidents” in democratic societies is that their free speech does not necessarily mean they are right. They surely offer food for thought and sometimes galvanize into a protest march, but I am afraid that Mike Peled’s solution is not achievable at this time, and I even wonder if it is shared by the Arab world:
Jews and Palestinians all living peacefully in one single democratic State. The book has many good critics and, of course, rejections. No one denies that Zionism had racist elements, but Arabs are racist too. The USA had its racist differences and is still not free from it. If there are “lies” based in Zionism, come to Arabia and read the 1000 Arabian nights. The whole argument of a non-racist society in the one Palestine is a noble thought, but history is not encouraging. It may take another century before we grow out of that and make it possible, if ever we get a chance.
So far, a two-state solution with renegotiated borders for security is the best what can be obtained. Democracy in the Middle-East is unchartered territory and we learned that the hard way once more in Iraq. As long as the Jews cannot be assured of absolute security, it would be suicidal for them and for any state to open its borders and resettle hostile terrorists in their midst. And why should Arabs say that Jews cannot have their own State? Saudi Arabia is an Islamic State, Iran is, and other Middle Eastern countries claim they are Islamic States. Beats me.
It’s a mystery why Palestinian leaders never could build their own state and develop it economically the way the Jews did, despite all the billions of aid-dollars and technical assistance that they have been given for at least four decades. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, leaving economic development it had started. What have the “Palestinians” done with it? For nine years, Gaza Hamas has done nothing but complaining, whining, fighting, subverting, and all for the greater good of throwing the Jews into the sea. What an impressive developmental mission. What a memorable contribution to humanity.
Sorry, ENCHANTÉ can’t have respect for that and is pretty fed up with this Islamic terrorist and anti-Israel stuff and refuses to be political correct about it as so many in the dumb permissive US and European media are. Friends of ENCHANTÉ consider its author outdated but it wishes we still had an Eisenhower or Reagan USA, Thatcher steel in Europe and an another “Mandela” like Anwar Sadat in Egypt. Today’s leaderless “normal” is pathetic.
Everyone loves freedom. Fireworks and all. At Independence Day.
But Independence is a fragile good. Once obtained, many Peoples realize that Independence turns out different from what they asked for. Strongmen leaders grow into tyrants and apply harsh suppression. The national economy is mismanaged and drained into poverty because of greed, corruption and tribalism. Liberté, Egalité et Fraternité evolves into socialist Dépendence.
The American Independence succeeded well and grew into an exceptional configuration of fifty states and the strongest world economy. In his “Democracy in America” (issued from 1835 to 1840 in two volumes), Alexis de Tocqueville marvels about the American Democracy sprouted from the Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, and an example for the French Revolution (1789).
But he also says that if its Congress discovers how to bribe the populace with public money, the American Republic will cease to exist. That danger is more than obvious today with “Obamacare” and other state-enforced laws that received only partisan approval.
Alexis de Tocqueville
Liberty from Independence is replaced by the tyranny of the majority, elected by an uninformed gullible electorate. Look at today’s American and European scenes: freedom has transmogrified into socialist servitude: dependence, not Independence. Or is replaced by the tyranny of the local bully (Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Mobutu, Idi Amin, Allende, Castro, Chavez, Sadam, Assad, just to name a few). The French Revolution turned into another tyranny by Napoleon. Remember the “guillotine”.
The Arab Spring of Hope got squashed by religious and secular tyrants (not that much different from what happened after the French Revolution.)
Still, thousands from other countries that once jumped in the streets celebrating their Independence from colonial powers risk their lives and indebt themselves to flee to Europe and the great USA. It is still better there than in their own “independent” crime-ridden, tortured and economically ruined homesteads.
Because freedom is a precious good, Peoples who lack it try to steal it. Or destroy it. Not only outside forces attack a free society, inside forces do so, too: liberal/socialist forces vie for more “government”, to impose their will and regulate freedom to smithereens, as is happening in the USA. Freedom-people seem unaware or complacent that they have a precious good, except at moments when they sing The Star-Spangled Banner, America The Beautiful, la Marseillaise, God Save The Queen, or other national anthems. At the Olympics or the World Cup Soccer, fans stand and shout it out. But the day after the fireworks fade, they return to their usual infighting, busy destroying their hard-won unity, or fall back into complacency, watching sports on TV.
What is left of the Arab Spring? The Independence hopes of the young people, seeing a possibility for democratic rule, a blossoming economy and full employment, living in a world deprived of arbitrary law, torture and daily fear?
Do we in the “West” have any responsibility to defend our liberty and to help others who are suppressed to gain or regain their freedom? I believe we do, and if we don’t, it will be at our own peril.
Can we help in the Middle East that has struggled for centuries to form political unity but never succeeded? Surely our “colonial”forefathers who drew arbitrary boundaries, overstepping tribal and religious realities, bear much responsibility for today’s political mess. As a result, many out there want to steal our liberty and to replace it with their own interpretation of how we should live, just as a matter of revenge.
We in the West should remain willing to offer a helping hand to liberty loving Peoples, but at the same time stand very strong to defend our own and make it known we will hit back very hard if they try to take it away from us. At present, the wishy-washy attitude from some Western countries invites attack. A weak posture, even the perception of one, can lead to very quick disaster (9/11 and subsequent events, both in Europe and in the USA, are obvious and dangerous examples).
A politician recently said that being strong does not mean having to go to war. Perhaps. But displaying a wimpy attitude and falling overboard in political correctness only invites a murderous mind to blow us up. You don’t believe that? Remember how World War II started with weak Neville Chamberlain, the amazing lack of intelligence of 9/11 due to political correctness, etc.. Nobody believed these events would be possible. But they happened, and will happen again if we do not show our teeth and preparedness to hit back. Tiny Israel does, and they are feared. Not so anymore with Obama’s BIG USA. Don’t misjudge or undervalue your Independence. Defend it. It can be lost before you know it.
It’s unfortunate but that’s how our world is made up. People enjoying freedom don’t like to be nasty to others. They become complacent, lazy, too comfortable in their own skin. But others who don’t enjoy it are willing to be nasty with you. That’s the human world we share. Nature has the same contrasts: a beautiful day or scenery gets destroyed by a hurricane, a tsunami, or a deadly flood. We cannot change it but we can protect ourselves.
Guard your Independence beyond the fireworks.