Fomenting Chaos in Iraq

After almost a decade since Washington’s invasion of Iraq, the country is still burdened by terrorism, absence of law and order, and thriving corruption. Overcoming these difficulties requires a coherent and strong central government; a government that is independent, writes Abbas J. Ali.   Middle East Online-   In the pressing desire to change the Syrian regime before the national elections, the Obama administration has intensified its overt meddling in Iraqi internal affairs. Meanwhile, neoconservatives and al Qaeda forces have reinvigorated their efforts to topple the government in Iraq, igniting a new wave of fear and anxiety in a country that has been plagued with turmoil and destruction resulting from the U.S.-led economic sanctions of 1990, its devastating military attacks in 1991, and subsequent invasion in 2003.

At this moment, it is impossible to conclude whether or not the instigators of Iraq’s misfortunes know that they are in cahoots with the extremists. What is known, however, is that the extremists, be they neoconservatives or al Qaeda, and their sympathizers have set their goal on deepening Iraq’s misery. The goal is one and the same: to never allow Iraq, as an entity and culture, to regain its health and live in peace, no matter who is in power. In today’s geopolitical maneuverings and in the absence of moral clarity in Washington, Iraq is destined to experience complete desolation.

Endowed with natural resources and a talented and proud people, Iraq has long been targeted by Washington for fear that it could be a threat to Israel and Arab authoritarian regimes. After the 1958 popular Revolution, Washington managed to overthrow the patriotic and progressive government in a bloody coup in 1963. In 1970, Washington was instrumental in strengthening the right wing of the ruling Baath Party and ultimately was successful in manipulating events in Iraq to catapult Saddam Hussein into the presidency.

The failure of Saddam to blindly follow Washington’s instructions and heed its game plan, despite his brutality against the liberal and progressive patriots, forced neoconservatives in Washington to mount a military invasion to incapacitate Iraqi’s social and political institutions. By invading Iraq, the neoconservatives thought their prize was secured and they could easily turned Iraq into a puppet state, governed primarily by corrupt politicians, that would be useful as a staging ground for their ventures against Syria and Iran.

The ascendency of Obama to the Oval office has represented a setback for the neoconservatives but not an end to their schemes to incapacitate Iraq. Their influence in Washington has never been eclipsed and their networking with senior members in the Administration and with influential Iraqi ethnic and sectarian politicians has enabled them to pursue their plans. However, the refusal of the Iraqi Prime Minister to extend the stationing of foreign troops on Iraqi soil and his insistence on independently building a functioning country has infuriated the neoconservatives.

By espousing popular sentiment that calls for an efficient and functional government and a strong state, the Prime Minister has ventured onto a new path that will lead to direct confrontation with Washington. Fostering Iraqi independence, confronting terrorism, and dealing with political fragmentation and corruption has been the center of his focus. The Prime Minister appears to understand the nature of the challenge and that promoting popular demands will bring the wrath of foreign powers. In recent weeks, the response has been immediate and devastating: brazen terrorism and a concentrated campaign by neoconservatives to either replace the Prime Minister or force him to reverse Iraqi’s independent stance.

Both Vice President Biden and Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, have made it clear that Iraq has no choice but to change its approach to Syria and Iran and that the government must be receptive to the demands of ethnic and sectarian groups. These groups seek a weak central government, amnesty for those who have committed terrorist acts, a revision of oil laws to optimally serve the interests of certain ethnic cliques and foreign corporations, and the abandonment of the national infrastructure project.

On September 23, 2012, an advisor to the Prime minister declared that Iraq is facing pressures from foreign powers to reverse its independent stance. The foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, (September 30) announced “We have assured U.S. officials that the Iraqi government is determined to land (Iranian) flights and carry out random searches.” Previously, Patrick Ventrell, the Deputy State Department spokesman, instructed Iraq “to require [Iranian] aircraft to land and be inspected in Iraqi territory.” Senator John McCain (New York Times, September 5) was quoted stating that he had warned the Iraqi prime minister that the flights were a serious issue for the United States and would “have an effect on our relations” if they did not stop.

Pressures on the Iraqi Prime Minister, however, have been mounted on different fronts. As al Qaeda has escalated its terrorist campaigns (in September alone it killed more than 365 people), Iraqi politicians and even those who participate in the government have called for the Prime Minister to step down. Furthermore, various Iraqi politicians have established the Free Iraqi Army, similar to the Free Syrian Army, in order to topple the government. Seasoned Iraqi Kurdish politician, Mahmoud Othman, has denied that the Free Iraqi Army will have its conference in the Kurdish controlled part of Iraq. He acknowledged, however, that the conference might take place in Istanbul, Turkey (Sot al Iraq, September 26).

Middle East and Iraqi experts concede that the Free Iraqi Army (FIA) is an umbrella for a wide range of extremists, including members of al Qaeda and its local affiliates. The FIA is organized and financed by several neighboring countries and seeks not only to change the Iraqi regime but to incite a broad sectarian war in the region and to strategically link Iraq to the U.S.-led Arab authoritarian camp.

It is impossible to imagine that the countries in the region which sponsor or organize the Free Iraqi Army have acted without tacit approval of foreign powers. Many argue that Washington has an interest in keeping Iraq weak and fragmented. However, the activities and goals of the Free Iraqi Army are certain to transform Iraq into an incubator for terrorism. Regional stability and world peace will be at risk and violence could strike in unlikely places.

The chaotic events in Syria and the increasing terrorism in Iraq have put the Iraqi government in a defensive position. While the government seeks to safeguard the interests of the Iraqi people, it carefully assesses changing the power structure in the region and aims to balance its acts. This may not gratify policymakers in Washington who demands blind obedience.

The New York Times reported (September 24, 2012) that there is already some indication that extremists in Iraq have tried to coordinate with Syrian fighters to set off a regional sectarian war. The report further stated that Washington “has tried to secure its interests in Iraq” to the detriment of Iraq. The Times reported, too, (October 2, 2012) that Washington has three immediate goals: to ensure Iraq’s future as an ally, to bring about the fall of the Syrian regime, and to curb Iran’s attempt to gain influence in the region.

Pursuing these goals may appeal to radical groups in Washington and give satisfaction to authoritarian Arab governments. This, however, is being executed at the expense of Iraqi aspirations for liberty and independence. Indeed, Washington’s continuous intervention in Iraqi affairs deepens the suffering of the Iraqi people, encourages extremism and anarchy, makes bloodshed inevitable, and fosters regional instability.

After almost a decade since Washington’s invasion of Iraq, the country is still burdened by terrorism, absence of law and order, and thriving corruption. Overcoming these difficulties requires a coherent and strong central government; a government that is independent, effective in securing the safety and security for its citizens, and able to systematically apply law and order across the country. Washington must not obstruct the realization of Iraq’s aspirations. The cost of human suffering will be too high to bear.