America has become dispensable in Iraq

Emma Sky writes: “When the fighting breaks out between Arabs and Kurds, whose side will the Americans be on?” This was the message that Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government and leader of the Kurdistan Democratic party (KDP), instructed his chief of staff to have me convey to senior U.S. officials in Baghdad in 2010. I was serving as the political adviser to General Raymond T. Odierno, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. Nuri al-Maliki, then the prime minister of Iraq, and Barzani, concerned by rising tensions between Arabs and Kurds ahead of the 2010 national elections in Nineveh province, had asked General Odierno for help in preventing conflict. We had devised a system of joint check points to facilitate cooperation between the Iraqi Security Forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and the U.S. forces, and to ensure all forces remained focused on defeating al-Qaeda in Iraq.

A key part of the plan was to ensure freedom of movement for Atheel Nujaifi, Nineveh’s Sunni Arab governor, who had been elected the previous year on an agenda to roll back the gains the Kurds had made in the province since 2005. Determined to test the new security arrangements at the earliest, Governor Nujaifi decided in early February 2010 to make a trip to the town of Tel Kaif, in a part of the province which the Kurds lay claim to. Over Kurdish objections, the U.S. forces decided that the visit should go ahead. In response, the Kurds brought down reinforcements and tried to prevent the trip from taking place. Crowds of Kurds gathered to block the governor’s convoy; in the resulting melee, shots were fired. The Iraqi police detained 11 Kurds for incitement, and on suspicion of attempting to assassinate Governor Nujaifi.

I was awakened at 2 a.m. by a phone call from Murat Ozcelik, the influential Turkish ambassador to Iraq. He had received a report from Ankara that the Kurds had invaded Mosul, the largest city in Nineveh province. I investigated and soon discovered that there had been no invasion; instead, Kurdish forces had kidnapped a number of Arabs in Nineveh in retaliation for the arrest of the Kurds. President Barzani was furious. Every time he turned on his television, he saw footage of American tanks in a Kurdish village, and F-16s flying overhead. The Kurds had been highly supportive of the United States—not a single U.S. soldier had been killed by a Kurd. So why, he asked, had the Americans behaved this way towards Kurds?

Back in 2010, we did not need to answer Barzani’s question. We could mediate a deal whereby the kidnapped Arabs were swapped for the Kurds accused of attempting to assassinate the Governor of Nineveh. We had close relations with the Turks, and convinced them to back off. For once, everyone seemed happy with this solution, and things calmed down. We were the indispensable ally.

And then we weren’t. And Iran was.

Iran increased its influence during the negotiations to form a government in Iraq after the tightly contested 2010 elections. Iraqiyya, led by Ayad Allawi, won 91 seats; Maliki’s bloc, the State of Law, came in second with 89 seats. After much heated internal debate, Vice President Joe Biden determined that Washington would support the incumbent, insisting that Maliki was “our man,” an Iraqi nationalist, and would permit a contingent of U.S. forces to remain in Iraq post-2011 when the security agreement expired. But despite considerable arm-twisting, the United States could not convince its allies to support a second term for Maliki. Sensing an opportunity, Qassim Suleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Council, pressured Muqtada al-Sadr, an influential and anti-American Shia cleric, to support Maliki on the condition that all U.S. troops would pull out of Iraq and that Sadrists would be given government positions.

Thus it was that Iran ensured Maliki remained as Prime Minister. The Obama administration, in its rush for an exit from Iraq, gave up the American role of “balancer,” of moderator, of protector of the political process, withdrawing its soft power along with its hard.

Secure in his seat for a second term, Maliki pursued a series of sectarian policies. He accused Sunni politicians of being terrorists, forcing them to flee the country; he reneged on his promises to the Sunni Awakening leaders who had fought against al-Qaeda in Iraq; and he arrested Sunni protestors en masse. This created the conditions that enabled ISIS to rise from the ashes of al-Qaeda in Iraq and proclaim itself the defender of Sunnis against the Iranian-backed sectarian regime of Maliki. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Iraqi forces retake all oil fields in disputed areas as Kurds retreat

The New York Times reports: Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq surrendered all disputed oil fields to Iraq’s military on Tuesday, retreating in the face of overwhelming force that appeared to halt, at least for now, their independence hopes from a referendum held less than a month ago.

In a swift and largely nonviolent operation that came a day after Iraqi forces reclaimed the contested city of Kirkuk from the Kurdish separatists, Baghdad’s troops occupied all oil-producing facilities that the separatists had held for three years, and which had become critical to the Kurdish autonomous region’s economic vitality.

The loss of those resources will erase billions of dollars in export earnings that has flowed to the Kurdish region from the sale of oil. Kurds took over the disputed areas adjacent to their region after Iraqi troops fled an assault by the Islamic State extremist organization in 2014.

Those areas were included in the Sept. 25 referendum in which the Kurdish region voted overwhelmingly for independence. The vote angered not only the central government in Baghdad and the United States, but also neighbors Turkey and Iran, which have sizable Kurdish populations.

The Iraqi military operation to retake the disputed areas was aided by an agreement with a Kurdish faction to withdraw from them peacefully.

The territorial surrender, and its economic importance, raised new doubts about the political future of the Kurdish president, Massoud Barzani, the driving force behind the referendum, who was clearly outmaneuvered by the Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Iraqi forces launch operation for Kurdish-held oil fields, military base

The Washington Post reports: Clashes broke out early Monday in northern Iraq as Iraqi forces moved to recapture Kurdish-held oil fields and a military base near the city of Kirkuk, setting the stage for a battle between two U.S. allies.

After a three-day standoff, Iraqi forces advanced into the contested province with the goal of returning to positions they held before 2014, when they fled in the face of an Islamic State push. The positions have since been taken over by Kurdish troops.

The conflict between Kurdi­stan and the Iraqi government over land and oil is decades old, but a Kurdish referendum for independence last month inflamed the tensions. The Iraqi government, as well as the United States, Turkey and Iran all opposed the vote.

The flare-up presents an awkward dilemma for the United States, which has trained and equipped the advancing Iraqi troops, which include elite counterterrorism forces, and the Kurdish peshmerga on the other side.

But the Iraqi side is also backed up by Shiite militia forces close to Iran, at a time when the Trump administration has been vocal about curbing Iranian influence in the region, having sanctioned Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps last week. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Iraq conflict: Kurdish Peshmerga ‘given deadline’ in Kirkuk

BBC News reports: Kurdish Peshmerga fighters say Iraq’s central government has ordered them to surrender key military positions in the disputed city of Kirkuk within hours.

They were given a deadline of 02:00 on Sunday (23:00 GMT on Saturday) to quit military facilities and oil fields.

Brief clashes also erupted between Kurdish forces and Shia militia backing the Iraqi government.

Tensions have been on the rise since Kurds held a referendum on independence last month, which Iraq called illegal.

The oil-rich province of Kirkuk is claimed by both the Kurds and Baghdad, though the two sides were recently united in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

ISIS fighters, having pledged to fight or die, surrender en masse

The New York Times reports: The prisoners were taken to a waiting room in groups of four, and were told to stand facing the concrete wall, their noses almost touching it, their hands bound behind their backs.

More than a thousand Islamic State fighters passed through that room this past week after they fled their crumbling Iraqi stronghold of Hawija. Instead of the martyrdom they had boasted was their only acceptable fate, they had voluntarily ended up here in the interrogation center of the Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq.

For an extremist group that has made its reputation on its ferociousness, with fighters who would always choose suicide over surrender, the fall of Hawija has been a notable turning point. The group has suffered a string of humiliating defeats in Iraq and Syria, but the number of its shock troops who turned themselves in to Kurdish officials at the center in Dibis was unusually large, more than 1,000 since last Sunday. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Is the Middle East destined to fragment?

Robin Wright writes: Pity the Kurds. Theirs is a history of epic betrayals. A century ago, the world reneged on a vow to give them their own state, carved from the carcass of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War. The rugged mountain people were instead dispersed into the new states of Turkey, Iraq, and Syria, with another block left in Iran. Since then, all three countries have repressed their Kurds. Saddam Hussein was so intent on Arabizing Iraq’s Kurdistan that he paid Arab families to unearth long-dead relatives and rebury them in Kurdish territory—creating evidence to claim Arab rights to the land. He also razed four thousand Kurdish villages and executed a hundred thousand of the region’s inhabitants, some with chemical weapons. Syria stripped its Kurds of citizenship, making them foreigners in their own lands and depriving them of rights to state education, property ownership, jobs, and even marriage. Turkey repeatedly—sometimes militarily—crushed Kurdish political movements; for decades, the Kurdish language was banned, as was the very word “Kurd” to describe Turkey’s largest ethnic minority. They were instead known as “mountain Turks.”

Iraq’s Kurds got a bit of revenge this week. In a historic but controversial referendum, more than ninety per cent of voters endorsed a proposal to secede and declare their own country. “The partnership with Baghdad has failed and we will not return to it,” the President of Kurdistan, Masoud Barzani, vowed on the eve of the poll. Jubilation erupted. Waving their distinctive flag—three stripes of red, white, and green, with a blazing golden sun in the center—Kurds across northern Iraq took to the streets.

The Kurdish vote reflects an existential quandary across the entire Middle East: Are some of the region’s most important countries really viable anymore? The world has resisted addressing the issue since the popular protests in 2011, known as the Arab Uprising, or Arab Spring, spawned four wars and a dozen crises. Entire countries have been torn asunder, with little to no prospect of political or physical reconstruction anytime soon. Meanwhile, the outside world has invested vast resources, with several countries forking out billions of dollars in military equipment, billions more in aid, and thousands of hours of diplomacy—on the assumption that places like Iraq, Syria, and Libya can still work as currently configured. The list of outside powers that have tried to shape the region’s future is long—from the United States and its European allies to the Russian-Iran axis and many of the Middle East’s oil-rich powers. All have, so far, failed at forging hopeful direction.

They’ve also failed to confront the obvious: Do the people in these countries want to stay together? Do people who identify proudly as Syrians, for example, all define “Syria” the same way? And are they willing to surrender their political, tribal, racial, ethnic, or sectarian identities in order to forge a common good and a stable nation?

The long-term impact of these destructive centrifugal forces is far from clear. But, given the blood spilled over the past six years, primordial forces seem to be prevailing at the moment, and not only among the Kurds. “The only people who want to hold Iraq together,” Lukman Faily, the former Iraqi ambassador to Washington, opined to me recently, “are those who don’t live in Iraq.” That sentiment is echoed, if not as concisely, elsewhere.

The challenge is addressing the flip side: If these countries, most of them modern creations, are dysfunctional or in danger of failing, what then will work to restore some semblance of normalcy to an ever more volatile region? No major player, in the region or the wider world, seems to be exploring solutions. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Iraq orders Kurdistan to surrender its airports

The New York Times reports: Iraq’s prime minister, angered by a vote on independence by his nation’s Kurdish minority, has given the country’s Kurdish region until Friday to surrender control of its two international airports or face a shutdown of international flights.

Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq had antagonized Iraq, Turkey and Iran by holding the referendum on Monday. The results have not yet been announced, but the Kurdish Regional Government said on Tuesday that the vote had gone overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Iraq.

A “yes” vote would not lead to an immediate declaration of independence for the semiautonomous region, but it would direct the regional government to begin the process of creating an independent state, including negotiating a separation with Baghdad.

Iraqi officials have called the referendum unconstitutional and have refused to negotiate with the Kurdish leadership. The Iraqis fear losing a third of the country and a major source of oil should Kurdistan break away. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

5 things to know about the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan

Morgan L. Kaplan and Ramzy Mardini write: On Sept. 25, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) is expected to hold its long-awaited referendum on independence. While it has generated much nationalist excitement among Kurds in the KRI capital of Irbil and abroad, the central government in Baghdad and the international community have objected to the vote. The United States has mobilized diplomatic capital to persuade Irbil to postpone the vote. Last week, Western diplomats offered an alternative proposal: Postpone the vote and enter into new mediated negotiations with Baghdad. But without ironclad guarantees or a specified timetable, Irbil has rejected those initiatives, continuing to prepare for the referendum.

The referendum was never meant to be a silver bullet, ending negotiations on Kurds’ path to statehood. But recent escalations by all sides have produced a self-fulfilling crisis with the prospect of military conflict, fueled by both Arab and Kurdish nationalism.

Here are five things you need to know: [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Birth of a second Hezbollah? Where Iran stands in a post-war Syria

Shahir Shahidsaless writes: Iran’s doctrine in Syria and Iraq is that “if we don’t defend our strongholds outside of our borders we will have to fight our enemies inside our borders”. Accordingly, Iran heavily invested in Syria. Staffan de Mistura, UN special envoy for Syria, has previously estimated that Iran spends $6bn annually in the Syrian war.

According to IRGC officials, the largest Iranian contribution has been the organising of the National Defence Forces (NDF), a pro-government militia. According to several independent reports, at any given time, there are an estimated 50,000 National Defence Force fighters under arms in Syria.

In May 2014, Brigadier General Hossein Hamedani, who had reportedly supervised the funding for the NDF, said that Iran had organised roughly 70,000 pro-Assad NDF fighters into 42 groups and 128 battalions. Hamedani was killed near Aleppo in 2015.

In addition, numerous reports confirm that the Fatemiyoun Brigade – composed of thousands of Afghan Shias who fight under the auspices of Hezbollah Afghanistan, the Zaynabiyoun Brigade (the Pakistani version of Fatemiyoun), Hezbollah of Lebanon, and the militia group Kataib Hezbollah of Iraq – are actively involved in the Syrian war under the Iranian IRGC’s direct control.

Modelled after the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and the experience of coordinating with proxy militias in Iraq, this large, battle-hardened paramilitary base in Syria will provide assurance to Iran by emerging as a decisive political force in Syria once the war is settled, no matter which government is in power as it happened in Lebanon and Iraq.

This simply means the birth of a second Hezbollah and an Iranian foothold right in Israel’s backyard with Syria. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

What is at stake in Iraqi Kurdish vote for independence?

Michael Knights writes: On 25 September, the residents of Kurdish-controlled areas inside Iraq will have the opportunity to vote in a referendum on their preference for the future of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), a semi-autonomous region within Iraq’s current borders.

The referendum ballot asks: “Do you want the Kurdistan region and the Kurdistani areas outside the region’s administration to become an independent state?”

Being that the majority of voters in the balloted areas are ethnic Kurds with a strong history of seeking self-determination, the result will almost certainly be a Yes.

However, no matter what the residents of Kurdish-controlled areas decide, the referendum has no immediate administrative effects.
There is no mechanism for a part of Iraq to secede from the country, so the referendum will not trigger a “Kexit” the same way that the recent UK referendum on whether to stay in or leave the European Union triggered “Brexit”.

One may well ask, why then are they holding a vote and why now? [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

ISIS is near defeat in Iraq. Now comes the hard part

The Washington Post reports: The collapse of the Islamic State in its most important Iraqi strongholds has brought a rare moment of hope for a country mired in war for most of the past four decades.

It is also a moment of peril, as Iraq emerges from the fight against the militants only to be confronted with the same problems that fueled their spectacular rise in 2014.

Old disputes between Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds over territory, resources and power already are resurfacing as the victors of the battles compete to control liberated areas or jostle for political advantage in the post-Islamic State landscape.

They now are compounded by the mammoth task of rebuilding the towns and cities destroyed by the fighting, returning millions of displaced people to their homes and reconciling the communities that once welcomed the Islamic State’s brutal rule as preferable to their own government’s neglect and abuse.

Failure risks a repeat of the cycle of grievance and insurgency that fueled the original Iraqi insurgency in 2003, and its reincarnation in the form of the Islamic State after 2011, Iraqis and analysts say.

But it is a vast and potentially insurmountable challenge, laid bare on the traumatized streets of Mosul. In the relatively unscathed eastern part of the city, life has bounced back. Traffic clogs the streets, music blares from markets and stores are piled high with consumer goods that were banned or hard to find under Islamic State rule, such as cellphones, air conditioners and satellite dishes. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

After victory over ISIS, Mosul discovers the cost: Homes were turned into graves

The Washington Post reports: Aya Abosh found her sister in the house where she spent her final moments, trapped with her boys as shells fell from the sky and caved in the roof.

They were lying there, in the detritus of floral blankets and twisted railings. “Hammoudi,” Abosh said, somehow recognizing her 6-year-old nephew, Mahmoud. Recovery workers toiled around her, struggling to find a zipper on a body bag, then straining to wrap remains disfigured by trauma, time and sun.

Sajjida, the sister, was 28 and devoted to God, Abosh said. Bakr, the other boy, was 9. In the heat and stench and swirling dust, Abosh quietly stared at the bodies before the workers spirited them away. It was early yet, and there were many more bodies to uncover in the Old City of Mosul.

This was the site of Iraq’s landmark military victory just weeks ago that ended the Islamic State extremist group’s wrenching occupation of Mosul and crippled the militants’ odious ambitions for the Middle East, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said. There were noisy, flag-waving celebrations, even as the prime minister reminded the nation that there had been “blood and sacrifices,” too.

Only now is the terrible cost of the victory emerging, in quarters of the Old City ground to rubble by airstrikes and shelling and suicide bombs. For under the barrage were thousands of homes packed with families. Hundreds of the houses were transformed into graves. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

To Iran’s dismay, Iraq engages Saudi Arabia

Al Monitor reports: Pictures displaying Iran’s Quds Force commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani during the battles with the Islamic State stopped circulating online with the military phase that ended in the liberation of Mosul. The Iranian presence and support for the Iraqi forces were absent in the liberation battles.

Simultaneously, Iraqi officials visited Saudi Arabia and Arab Sunni states that cheer for the Saudi axis. Sadrist leader Muqtada al-Sadr visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Aug. 13-15, with clerics and politicians welcoming him as an Iraqi leader. Prominent Sunni Iraqi cleric Ahmed al-Kubaisi and leading politicians met with Sadr during his visit to the UAE. This was only a few days after his visit at the end of July to Saudi Arabia, where Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other officials had welcomed him.

In the wake of the visit, Saudi Arabia took various measures in favor of Iraq, such as announcing the opening of a Saudi Consulate in Najaf, where Sadr lives. Iraq’s most senior Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, did not object to this proposition, as in the past he had called for openness in relations. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Iraqi forces start offensive to retake Tal Afar from ISIS

The New York Times reports: A month after liberating Mosul from the Islamic State, Iraqi forces began a new offensive Sunday to retake Tal Afar, one of the last big cities in Iraq under control of the extremists.

As he has done frequently during the three-year military campaign against the Islamic State, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi appeared on state television in the dark hours — close to 3 a.m. Sunday, a time chosen to heighten the drama — wearing a black uniform in the style of Iraqi special forces to announce that the operation had begun.

Using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State, Mr. Abadi addressed the militants directly. “I would say to Daesh fighters, you have no choice: Either surrender or die,” he said.

Tal Afar, once a remote military outpost for the Ottoman Empire, fell to the Islamic State in 2014. It was strategically significant for its location along a supply route between Mosul and Syria, where the militant group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is also on its heels as it defends its de facto capital there, Raqqa. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Saddam Hussein said sanctions killed 500,000 children. That was ‘a spectacular lie.’

The Washington Post reports: During the rush to wage war in Iraq in the early 2000s, one figure widely cited both to justify and oppose the U.S.-led invasion was that more than 500,000 children had died as a result of U.N.-imposed sanctions in the previous decade.

Nearly two decades later, researchers at the London School of Economics have concluded that the figure simply wasn’t true.

Instead, child mortality figures provided to the United Nations were deliberately doctored by Saddam Hussein’s government to discredit the international community, the researchers said in a new report published by the British Medical Journal of Global Health.

“The government of Iraq cleverly manipulated survey data to fool the international community,” the report said, describing the figure of 500,000 deaths as “a massive fraud.”

“Following its creation and dissemination the deception received considerable attention and was widely believed to be true. Moreover, it continues to be influential,” said Tim Dyson and Valerie Cetorelli, who wrote the report and are with the London School of Economics. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Inside Iran’s mission to dominate the Middle East

Borzou Daragahi reports: Iran has built up a multinational network of tens of thousands of young men from across the Middle East, turning them into a well-drilled fighting machine that is outgunning the US on the battlefield, as Tehran outsmarts the White House in the corridors of power.

These men can be found leading the defense of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, recapturing land from ISIS in Iraq, and fighting for control of the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. The transnational militia of Shiite men — which has no official title — is now the dominant force in the region, enabling Iran to take full advantage in the absence of a coherent strategy from the Trump White House.

Over six months, BuzzFeed News spoke to researchers, officials, and militia fighters who described what they knew about the Iranian program, overseen by the secretive Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and its infamous commander Qassem Suleimani — who often shows up on front lines in Iraq and Syria. Accounts by the fighters reveal the scale and structure of the program, and although many of the details could not be independently verified, BuzzFeed News was able to confirm all the fighters’ memberships in various armed groups. Their stories, collected independently, match one another — as well as accounts gathered by US military and intelligence officials.

Mustafa al-Freidawi is one of those men.

Freidawi, a compact man with a neatly trimmed black beard, fondly recalls his early days as a member of Iran’s militia. “It was a new adventure,” he said. “We were happy.” Speaking in a noisy restaurant in northern Baghdad earlier this year, Freidawi outlined how he was recruited, trained, and deployed to be part of a fighting force that aims to cement Iran’s influence in the Middle East, and beyond. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

In Mosul, 350,000 children return to school

Rudaw reports: Approximately 350,000 students have returned to school in both east and west Mosul, which is bisected by the Tigris river, despite the heavy destruction and fear of unexploded bombs, especially in western Mosul where the damage is 30 times higher than the east.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared west Mosul liberated on July 10 therefore announcing the full liberation of the city from ISIS militants following months of military operations.

A UK-based education charity announced earlier this week that as many as 83 schools have reopened in west Mosul, accommodating 58,800 students.

Their World stated that damaged buildings, unexploded bombs, and overcrowding are the main problems facing the return of education to the war-torn city.

In eastern Mosul, which was liberated in late January by the Iraqi Security Forces with lesser damage to the infrastructure, the charity says that at least 336 schools are back in service providing education to 288,500 students. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Children of ISIS fighters face threat of Mosul revenge attacks

The Guardian reports: For the past seven months, Abu Hassan, an army medic, has treated the damaged and desperate people of the Iraqi city of Mosul as they arrived from the cauldron of war.

Soldiers, women and children often trembled in fear in front of him, hours after escaping the bloody clashes, as Iraqi forces battled to wrest control of the city from Islamic State fighters. But not nine-year-old Mohammed.

“He wasn’t a normal boy – he didn’t seem scared,” Hassan said shortly after treating Mohammed, one of the last to flee west Mosul earlier this month. “I chatted with him. I asked him normal questions, like: ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ He said: ‘I want to be a sniper.’”

“I was shocked,” said Hassan. “It’s not a normal thing for a child to say. I asked him: ‘What did your dad do?’ He said he was a sniper emir – the emir of snipers.

“[Later] I received a lot of information from people from Mosul saying his father was important. The special forces found the boy in a basement with several [dead] Isis fighters. The soldiers brought the boy to me.”

Since the recapture of Iraq’s second city earlier this month, the toll the terror group’s occupation took on the city’s residents – and especially its young – has begun to emerge.

Hundreds, potentially thousands, of children have been left orphaned by war. And some bear a second burden – an ideology that has stripped them of innocence. To many in their own society, they are the devil’s spawn; stateless outcasts, unworthy of basic care. Aid agencies and state welfare systems do not want to acknowledge them. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Blaming religion for Middle East violence ignores nuance and absolves governments of their responsibility

Tristan Dunning writes: As the Islamic State group’s territorial project slowly but inexorably comes to an end in Iraq and Syria, the White House is once again trotting out the twin rationales of foreign fighters and the impending apocalypse to absolve itself of any responsibility for the rise and spread of extremist militant Islam.

Last week, US Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk revealed that the US-led coalition was compiling a database of foreign jihadists fighting for IS, thereby signalling that the White House may be preparing to shift the focus of its operations from the ongoing recruitment bazaars of Iraq and Syria, to the putative eschatological battle against extremist militant Islam on a global level.

In similar vein, White House Deputy Assistant to the President Sebastian Gorka asserted earlier this year that IS propagated the idea that Judgement Day was nigh and that now was the last chance to engage in jihad and thereby ascend to Paradise.

Invocations of such rationales as official explanations for the rise and persistence of extremist militant Islam are not only misleading, but also potentially counterproductive and dangerous. There are a variety of other more mundane reasons at play aside from supposed religious dogma. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail