|Iraq's Regime had gone - but what next?|
Meanwhile, until I find my writings about the Caucasus in the context of the recent Russian-Georgian War here's some stuff I wrote a few years ago about the Wars in Syria and northern Iraq
Having just read about ISIS and their Activities in the last 12 Years it seems some of us are being proved right about the disaster that unfurls in the Region formerly called Arabia and the Levant. Those Paramilitaries GWB went on about - which, then, were factitious - are now there in their 1000s - and while the West tries to evaluate which one might be friendly and those that aren't, all have shown that the Arab Expression "Your Enemies Enemy isn't necessarily your Friend" is right. Even the Iraqi Government recently showed support for Syrian Government Air strikes against recent rebel Activity as it encroached into Iraq. So much for the continued Support the West has had for the insurgency in Syria then as it puts them in conflict with their new Protege, while President Obama has asked for yet another $500M to arm what he hopes would be "Moderate" Forces in the Rebellion. I'm sure some of those Moujahedin in 1980s Afghanistan must have seemed quite moderate when the US did something similar then.
Isn't this Folly and for a Number of Reasons? Firstly; that the Afghan example applies and that today s 'Freedom Fighters' are tomorrows 'Terrorists' - or that the Ebb and Flow of Allegiances in the Region could mean the President being duped into supplying People who could change sides at the Drop of a Keffir. Also, if they are defeated those Weapons are captured - just like the many others that have been - in both Syria and Iraq (the latter having a Squadron of Helicopters appropriated by ISIS when they seized Mosul Airport recently). John Kerry must have seen something similar in Vietnam when those 'Vietnamised' Troops (Soldiers from South Vietnam charged with assuming Army Duty once the US withdrew) collapsed and their Weapons siezed by VC and NVA Troops instead. This is why I'm surprised the President even suggested it - particularly when his Secretary of State for Defence must also realise why Vietnamisation didn't work for the same Reason those Iraqi'ised Troops surrendered as promptly as they did. After almost the same Time-scale (about 3-4 Years) Vietnamised Soldiers realised that the People they pointed their Rifles at were as Vietnamese as they were - those they did so on behalf of weren't. The same applies to the Iraqi Army - with the additional Element of whichever Strand of Islam they subscribe to.
Meanwhile, a Consignment of F16s seem to have got lost in the Post - causing Baghdad to buy Sukhoi Aircraft from Russia and Belorus instead - something Saddam used to do - and while those ,and maybe any other FWhatevernumbers, seem to be mislaid in the Sorting Office maybe they'll continue buying Planes from Saddam s former Ally!
All of this is partially because western Intel insisted on identifying Sunnis and Shia Moslems as potential Friend or Foe Groupings rather than as Iraqis - a Policy we saw the beginnings of in 1990 when GHB tried rallying those Shias of the Basra region into Insurrection against Saddam's Sunni Government, and continued when the recent War raged. The Aim of ISIS is to create a pre-1919 Arabia where Islam (the Caliphate) effectively erases the artificially created Countries of the post WWl Era (Sykes-Piquot). Considering they are a Reaction to the predominantly Shia Government in Baghdad - who were a Reaction to the Sunni Government of Saddam - while Assads Regime in Damascus is a Shia Alawite Sect of Islam - the Allegiances in the region are somewhat Skewed. The West backs the new Iraqi Government and opposes Damascus - thus supports Rebels in Syria - but is against those in Iraq. Iraq's Government supports the Government in Damascus and tacitly opposes Rebels.. All of this suggests that Groupings like ISIS could prove very seductive to a People wearied by War in either Countries and begin to see their Presence as potential to end it in both. Even one of their Regions (where Tikrit is located) has the very evocative Name Salah-ah-Din - from a time when Shia and Sunni Saracens were unified in the 12th-13th Century. Something I'm sure isn't lost on those responsible for their Propaganda.
All of this shows that the recent Wars could prove to be counter-productive in protecting western Interests in Arabia and the Levant - while Israel must wince at the prospect of a unified Islamic Caliphate on their Doorstep.
It also shows that whatever they have now is far more extreme than anything they had before - including the Syrian Government and former Iraqi Regime. In the recent Years of the current Conflicts the myriad Combatants have probably killed, maimed, kidnapped and oppressed as many People on every side as either Government had in rather more Years. Even the formerly maligned Kurds during Saddam's Era haven't escaped the Conflict as they have had to defend themselves (and others fleeing the War) against the Paramilitaries. NATO Turkey has seen its Government severely compromised as the Strain starts to cross its own Borders with Syria and the Kurdish PK begin to seize their chance in the uncertainty. This is why ISIS have had an Ascendancy they otherwise wouldn't have as the Wars gradually wear down the People and any Resolve they might have had to retain any Westernisation, where that 12th-13th Century historical Figure who represented Unification and subsequent Peace, seems more attractive as each Day of the Conflict continues - even in Sunni Islamic Turkey. There have even been mass Executions of POWs not seen since the Massacre of the Saracens at 1190s Acre or those of Refugee Camps in Lebanon..They have seen 12 Years of total War - and like any omnipresent Conflict anything that existed before gradually fades into distant Memory.
What makes it all far more dangerous to the West and Israel is how any previous Paramilitary Activity from the PLO and the late Yassur Arafat were waged from Refugee Camps and the tiny Enclaves of Gaza and the West Bank. These were also Nationalist Conflicts - a territorial Battle for Areas of what used to be called Palestine. ISIS and others have an Islamist Agenda that wouldn't be negotiated at Camp David with Maps and territorial and administerial Agreements, while they now control Areas of the Region rather more substantial and not completely reliant on Funding from other Arabist States. This means they are in a much more powerful Position to export 'Terrorism' to other Islamic Regions and the sort of Activity in the West we used to see in the 1960s-90s by the PLO - but on a wider Scale. Arafat might have been behind those Bombings and Hijackings - but at least he and Rabin could be brought to the Negotiating Table to resolve the Crisis.
Even when it was possible to negotiate about Geography like the British and French did with Faisal there were still mistakes........
Also, I remember how Hostages were returned to the West via Syrian backed Amal in Lebanon - to Assad's Damascus and ultimately their Home Countries. The kidnapping Activities of these Groups in the current Conflict have shown no Intent at all of doing the same - quite the opposite - and while Damascus is compromised as a regional Influence so is the prospect of an acceptable Resolution to any Hostage Scenario. That these have - and will - happen in Areas far larger than the Lebanon merely compounds the Problem.
And no-one has even contemplated the Dilemma surrounding the Millions of Refugees scattered across the Region, who - at some Point - will have to return Home. Home - to what exactly - while it's Luck of the Draw as to who rules which Area each Refugee came from and returns to.
What also makes all of this more dangerous than ever before are things like that and the many other Crises that afflict the Region. Israel have fought their Wars with Arabs and Palestinians many times before - the latter a comparatively small Group of Fighters numbering no more than a few Thousand, while the other Arab Peoples watched. This time - and unlike Yom Kippur in 1973 - if things escalated (and Israel seem to have resorted to the usual Tit for Tat Policy with Gaza at the moment) they won't be fighting either a conventional Army controlled from Cairo, Amman and Damascus or that small Group of Palestinians - but an entire Swathe of potentially 100s of 1000s of increasingly desperate People - all armed - and of all Aramaic Demographics. The biggest Mistake the West can make would be to send yet another Coalition into War - where those 'People' they are there to 'Liberate' might just as readily shoot them as support them.
Whoever it was who thought a Rebellion in Syria might be a good Idea ought to be brought to account for this - while the Iraq Conflict suffered because GWB broke one of the most important Rules of War - don't over-deploy your Army on any second Fronts, which he did - as that 250,000 was split - 125,000 each in Iraq and Afghanistan. This means neither were as effective as they could have been had they just focussed on each objective at a time. Those WMDs might or might not have been there (while it could be argued certain former Vice Presidents probably had the Copies of Invoices from the Sale of any that did - as does France, Britain etc with many conventional Weapons) but how any of this could be decisive when you don't have enough Troops in the Conflict is a Question for him. Apparently, amongst the Weapons ISIS have captured was a SCUD Missile - so, so much for disposing of any of those anyway then.
Also, Yitzhak Rabin was killed - not by a Palestinian, or anyone else who might oppose Israel - but by an Israeli (who thought Rabin had made too many Concessions to Arafat) - so the extremist Element in all this isn't just in the Arab Camp and Israel has its own Enemies of Peace too!
What should also be remembered here is that while the 1967 War concluded with the Capture of the Golan Heights and Yom Kippur by the conventional Defeat of a conventional Army (with the usual Announcement of Cessation of Hostilities) any War waged against Israel now won't. Unlike a very small Group of Suicide Bombers from Hamas there are infinitely more of them - and we have seen them do this in their Battles in Iraq and Syria. These Rocket Attacks - launched from Gaza and Southern Lebanon - are limited by the Borders they have with Israel. Now, they could do it from the Syrian Border Region and maybe even Jordan if the Conflict spreads into there too. King Hussein's Government has been regarded by the Islamists as an Enemy and they could make Life very difficult in Amman.
GWBs biggest Error was self-admitted in 2001 when he said how he was going to play one Group off against another - while his under-deployment of Resources showed how he also underestimated how difficult it would be to keep those same Factions from fighting each other long after Saddam was toppled. He broke the Country and Iraqi Society - but couldn't repair it. while the same applied to Syria - but on a much larger Scale as her Russian Allies were prompt in supporting the Government. Suddenly the War reached the Gates of Moscow.
Not sure what George Robertson was doing either when he let Sakashvili loose a few Years ago in the Caucasus. Instead of this he ought to have urged Caution as Secretary General of NATO - but he didn't, thus forfeiting any diplomatic Work via the Kremlin as Putin 'resolved' the Ossetia and Abkazia Crisis in quite predictatble Fashion. Although, for all Putin’s Faults it has to be said it was just as well it was 'concluded' as quickly as it was to prevent South Ossettia and Abkhazia turning into Ingushettia and Chechnya - oeven these being embroiled in a wider - opportunistic Conflict by Grozny. Problem now being those same Chechens are now in control of a Region of Syria - with all that that entails.
(This is where I wish I could access my Piece about the Caucasus being the most dangerous place on Earth - an Analysis of the various Allegiances and enmities in the region).
On the continuing Israel-Palestinian conflict and the contrast..........................
The Difference now is how the Conflict is infinitely bigger than it was since 1948.........and certainly after the Palestinians established Refugee Camps in Lebanon and Jordan. For Years Palestinians had their internecine Skirmishes, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Peoples Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Revolutionary Justice Organisation, more latterly Hamas and the PLO have squabbled - as have Lebanese Groups like Hezbollah and Amal, Abu Nidal and the Druze. Their common Enemy is Israel and her western Allies, but these Groupings are all comparatively small and even unified haven't really done much Damage to the Jewish State.
The Knesset's biggest Dilemma is how they have been manoeuvred into an unenviable Position by Events and while it might be one thing to launch the usual Air strikes on Gaza or even invade Lebanon like they have in the past - it could be something entirely different if they did on any of these new Groupings in Syria and Iraq. Even the IDF can't be everywhere - and they must realise that if anything would unify these Groupings it would be that. There is an unfortunate Resonance with the Crusades - particularly that of the third - as a Caliphate now occupies somewhere called Salah'ah'Din and we have seen a Massacre of Prisoners of War almost as large as Richard lst's mass Execution of Saracens at Acre. There was no Geneva Convention in the 1190s - there seems to be scant regard for it now!
Iraq, before, during and after the Invasion in Maps.....
For a complete geographical understanding of the current Situation click here..............
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