What Could Possibly Go Wrong (Next) in the Middle East?

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By Peter Van Buren, who blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during the Iraqi reconstruction in We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. He writes about current events at We Meant Well. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent. His next work will be a novel, Hooper’s War. Originally published at TomDispatch

What if the U.S. had not invaded Iraq in 2003? How would things be different in the Middle East today? Was Iraq, in the words of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, the “worst foreign policy blunder” in American history? Let’s take a big-picture tour of the Middle East and try to answer those questions. But first, a request: after each paragraph that follows, could you make sure to add the question “What could possibly go wrong?”

Let the History Begin

In March 2003, when the Bush administration launched its invasion of Iraq, the region, though simmering as ever, looked like this: Libya was stable, ruled by the same strongman for 42 years; in Egypt, Hosni Mubarak had been in power since 1983; Syria had been run by the Assad family since 1971; Saddam Hussein had essentially been in charge of Iraq since 1969, formally becoming president in 1979; the Turks and Kurds had an uneasy but functional ceasefire; and Yemen was quiet enough, other than the terror attack on the USS Cole in 2000. Relations between the U.S. and most of these nations were so warm that Washington was routinely rendering “terrorists” to their dungeons for some outsourced torture.

Soon after March 2003, when U.S. troops invaded Iraq, neighboring Iran faced two American armies at the peak of their strength. To the east, the U.S. military had effectively destroyed the Taliban and significantly weakened al-Qaeda, both enemies of Iran, but had replaced them as an occupying force. To the west, Iran’s decades-old enemy, Saddam, was gone, but similarly replaced by another massive occupying force. From this position of weakness, Iran’s leaders, no doubt terrified that the Americans would pour across its borders, sought real diplomatic rapprochement with Washington for the first time since 1979. The Iranian efforts were rebuffed by the Bush administration.

The Precipitating Event

Nailing down causation is a tricky thing. But like the June 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that kicked off the Great War, the one to end all others, America’s 2003 invasion was what novelists refer to as “the precipitating event,” the thing that may not actively cause every plot twist to come, but that certainly sets them in motion.

There hadn’t been such an upset in the balance of power in the Middle East since, well, World War I, when Great Britain and France secretly reached the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which, among other things, divided up most of the Arab lands that had been under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. Because the national boundaries created then did not respect on-the-ground tribal, political, ethnic, and religious realities, they could be said to have set the stage for much that was to come.

Now, fast forward to 2003, as the Middle East we had come to know began to unravel. Those U.S. troops had rolled into Baghdad only to find themselves standing there, slack-jawed, gazing at the chaos. Now, fast forward one more time to 2015 and let the grand tour of the unraveling begin!

The Sick Men of the Middle East: It’s easy enough to hustle through three countries in the region in various states of decay before heading into the heart of the chaos: Libya is a failed state, bleeding mayhem into northern Africa; Egypt failed its Arab Spring test and relies on the United States to support its anti-democratic (as well as anti-Islamic fundamentalist) militarized government; and Yemen is a disastrously failed state, now the scene of a proxy war between U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels (with a thriving al-Qaeda outfit and a small but growing arm of the Islamic State [ISIS] thrown into the bargain).

Iraq: Obama is now the fourth American president in a row to have ordered the bombing of Iraq and his successor will almost certainly be the fifth. If ever a post-Vietnam American adventure deserved to inherit the moniker of quagmire, Iraq is it.

And here’s the saddest part of the tale: the forces loosed there in 2003 have yet to reach their natural end point. Your money should be on the Shias, but imagining that there is only one Shia horse to bet on means missing just how broad the field really is. What passes for a Shia “government” in Baghdad today is a collection of interest groups, each with its own militia. Having replaced the old strongman prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, with a weak one, Haider al-Abadi, and with ISIS chased from the gates of Baghdad, each Shia faction is now free to jockey for position. The full impact of the cleaving of Iraq has yet to be felt. At some point expect a civil war inside a civil war.

Iran: If there is any unifying authority left in Iraq, it is Iran. After the initial 2003 blitzkrieg, the Bush administration’s version of neocolonial management in Iraq resulted in the rise of Sunni insurgents, Shia militias, and an influx of determined foreign fighters. Tehran rushed into the power vacuum, and, in 2011, in an agreement brokered by the departing Bush administration and carried out by President Obama, the Americans ran for the exits. The Iranians stayed. Now, they have entered an odd-couple marriage with the U.S. against what Washington pretends is a common foe — ISIS — but which the Iranians and their allies in Baghdad see as a war against the Sunnis in general. At this point, Washington has all but ceded Iraq to the new Persian Empire; everyone is just waiting for the paperwork to clear.

The Iranians continue to meddle in Syria as well, supporting Bashar al-Assad. Under Russian air cover, Iran is increasing its troop presence there, too. According to a recent report, Tehran is sending 2,000 troops to Syria, along with 5,000 Iraqi and Afghan Shia fighters. Perhaps they’re already calling it “the Surge” in Farsi.

The Kurds: The idea of creating a “Kurdistan” was crossed off the post-World War I “to do” list. The 1920 Treaty of Sèvres at first left an opening for a referendum on whether the Kurds wanted to remain part of what remained of the Ottoman Empire or become independent. Problem one: the referendum did not include plans for the Kurds in what became Syria and Iraq. Problem two: the referendum never happened, a victim of the so-called Turkish War of Independence. The result: some 20 million angry Kurds scattered across parts of modern Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria.

That American invasion of 2003, however, opened the way for the Kurds to form a virtual independent statelet, a confederacy if you will, even if still confined within Iraq’s borders. At the time, the Kurds were labeled America’s only true friends in Iraq and rewarded with many weapons and much looking the other way, even as Bush administration officials blathered on about the goal of a united Iraq.

In 2014, the Kurds benefited from U.S. power a second time. Desperate for someone to fight ISIS after Iraq’s American-trained army turned tail (and before the Iranians and the Shia militias entered the fight in significant force), the Obama administration once again began sending arms and equipment to the Kurds while flying close air support for their militia, the peshmerga. The Kurds responded by fighting well, at least in what they considered the Kurdish part of Iraq. However, their interest in getting involved in the greater Sunni-Shia civil war was minimal. In a good turn for them, the U.S. military helped Kurdish forces move into northern Syria, right along the Turkish border. While fighting ISIS, the Kurds also began retaking territory they traditionally considered their own. They may yet be the true winners in all this, unless Turkey stands in their way.

Turkey: Relations between the Turks and the Kurds have never been rosy, both inside Turkey and along the Iraqi-Turkish border.

Inside Turkey, the primary Kurdish group calling for an independent state is the Kurdistan Workers party (also known as the PKK). Its first insurgency ran from 1984 until 1999, when the PKK declared a unilateral cease-fire. The armed conflict broke out again in 2004, ending in a ceasefire in 2013, which was, in turn, broken recently. Over the years, the Turkish military also carried out repeated ground incursions and artillery strikes against the PKK inside Iraq.

As for ISIS, the Turks long had a kind of one-way “open-door policy” on their border with Syria, allowing Islamic State fighters and foreign volunteers to transit into that country. ISIS also brokered significant amounts of black market oil in Turkey to fund itself, perhaps with the tacit support, or at least the willful ignorance, of the Turkish authorities. While the Turks claimed to see ISIS as an anti-Assad force, some felt Turkey’s generous stance toward the movement reflected the government’s preference for having anything but an expanded Kurdish presence on its border. In June of this year, Turkish President Recep Erdogan went as far as to say that he would “never allow the establishment of a Kurdish state in northern Syria.”

In light of all that, it’s hardly surprising that early Obama administration efforts to draw Turkey into the fight against ISIS were unsuccessful. Things changed in August 2015, when a supposedly anti-ISIS cooperation deal was reached with Washington. The Turks agreed to allow the Americans to fly strike missions from two air bases in Turkey against ISIS in Syria. However, there appeared to be an unpublicized quid pro quo: the U.S. would turn a blind eye to Turkish military action against its allies the Kurds. On the same day that Turkey announced that it would fight the Islamic State in earnest, it also began an air campaign against the PKK.

Washington, for its part, claimed that it had been “tricked” by the wily Turks, while adding, “We fully respect our ally Turkey’s right to self-defense.” In the process, the Kurds found themselves supported by the U.S. in the struggle with ISIS, even as they were being thrown to the (Turkish) wolves. There is a Kurdish expression suggesting that Kurds have “no friends but the mountains.” Should they ever achieve a trans-border Kurdistan, they will certainly have earned it.

Syria: Through a series of events almost impossible to sort out, having essentially supported the Arab Spring nowhere else, the Obama administration chose to do so in Syria, attempting to use it to turn President Bashar al-Assad out of office. In the process, the Obama administration found itself ever deeper in a conflict it couldn’t control and eternally in search of that unicorn, the moderate Syrian rebel who could be trained to push Assad out without allowing Islamic fundamentalists in. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda spin-offs, including the Islamic State, found haven in the dissolving borderlands between Iraq and Syria, and in that country’s Sunni heartlands.

An indecisive Barack Obama allowed America’s involvement in Syria to ebb and flow. In September 2013, on the verge of a massive strike against the forces of the Assad regime, Obama suddenly punted the decision to Congress, which, of course, proved capable of deciding nothing at all. In November 2013, again on the verge of attacking Syria, the president allowed himself to be talked down after a gaffe by Secretary of State John Kerry opened the door to Russian diplomatic intercession. In September 2014, in a relatively sudden reversal, Obama launched a war against ISIS in Syria, which has proved at best indecisive.

Russia: That brings us to Vladimir Putin, the Syrian game-changer of the moment. In September, the Russian president sent a small but powerful military force into a neglected airfield in Latakia, Syria. With “fighting ISIS” little more than their cover story, the Russians are now serving as Assad’s air force, as well as his chief weapons supplier and possible source of “volunteer” soldiers. 

The thing that matters most, however, is those Russian planes. They have essentially been given a guarantee of immunity to being shot down by the more powerful U.S. Air Force presence in the region (as Washington has nothing to gain and much to worry about when it comes to entering into open conflict with the Russians). That allows them near-impunity to strike when and where they wish in support of whom they wish. It also negates any chance of the U.S. setting up a no-fly zone in parts of Syria.

The Russians have little incentive to depart, given the free pass handed them by the Obama administration. Meanwhile, the Russian military is growing closer to the Iranians with whom they share common cause in Syria, and also the Shia government in Baghdad, which may soon invite them to join the fight there against ISIS. One can almost hear Putin chortling. He may not, in fact, be the most skilled strategist in the world, but he’s certainly the luckiest. When someone hands you the keys, you take the car.

World War I

As in imperial Europe in the period leading up to the First World War, the collapse of an entire order in the Middle East is in process, while forces long held in check are being released. In response, the former superpowers of the Cold War era have once again mobilized, at least modestly, even though both are fearful of a spark that could push them into direct conflict. Each has entangling regional relationships that could easily exacerbate the fight: Russia with Syria, the U.S. with Saudi Arabia and Israel, plus NATO obligations to Turkey. (The Russians have already probed Turkish airspace and the Turks recently shot down a drone coyly labeled of “unknown origin.”)

Imagine a scenario that pulls any of those allies deeper into the mess: some Iranian move in Syria, which prompts a response by Israel in the Golan Heights, which prompts a Russian move in relation to Turkey, which prompts a call to NATO for help… you get the picture. Or imagine another scenario: with nearly every candidate running for president in the United States growling about the chance to confront Putin, what would happen if the Russians accidentally shot down an American plane? Could Obama resist calls for retaliation?

As before World War I, the risk of setting something in motion that can’t be stopped does exist.

What Is This All About Again?

What if the U.S. hadn’t invaded Iraq in 2003? Things would undoubtedly be very different in the Middle East today. America’s war in Afghanistan was unlikely to have been a big enough spark to set off the range of changes Iraq let loose. There were only some 10,000 America soldiers in Afghanistan in 2003 (5,200 in 2002) and there had not been any Abu Ghraib-like indiscriminate torture, no equivalent to the scorched earth policy in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, nothing to spark a trans-border Sunni-Shia-Kurd struggle, no room for Iran to meddle. The Americans were killing Muslims in Afghanistan, but they were not killing Arabs, and they were not occupying Arab lands.

The invasion of Iraq, however, did happen. Now, some 12 years later, the most troubling thing about the current war in the Middle East, from an American perspective, is that no one here really knows why the country is still fighting. The commonly stated reason — “defeat ISIS” — is hardly either convincing or self-explanatory. Defeat ISIS why?

The best Washington can come up with are the same vague threats of terrorism against the homeland that have fueled its disastrous wars since 9/11. The White House can stipulate that Assad is a bad guy and that the ISIS crew are really, really bad guys, but bad guys are hardly in short supply, including in countries the U.S. supports. In reality, the U.S. has few clear goals in the region, but is escalating anyway.

Whatever world order the U.S. may be fighting for in the Middle East, it seems at least an empire or two out of date. Washington refuses to admit to itself that the ideas of Islamic fundamentalism resonate with vast numbers of people. At this point, even as U.S. TOW missiles are becoming as ubiquitous as iPads in the region, American military power can only delay changes, not stop them. Unless a rebalancing of power that would likely favor some version of Islamic fundamentalism takes hold and creates some measure of stability in the Middle East, count on one thing: the U.S. will be fighting the sons of ISIS years from now.

Back to World War I. The last time Russia and the U.S. both had a powerful presence in the Middle East, the fate of their proxies in the 1973 Yom Kippur War almost brought on a nuclear exchange. No one is predicting a world war or a nuclear war from the mess in Syria. However, like those final days before the Great War, one finds a lot of pieces in play inside a tinderbox.

Now, all together: What could possibly go wrong?

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  1. hemeantwell

    The writer says far too little about Russian motives. Should we regard them as simply “meddling”? Most accounts give emphasis to Putin’s concerns about ISIS and its potential contribution to Muslim insurgencies in south Russia. Russia very plausibly understood the events in the Ukraine as a NATO-driven encroachment in its sphere of immediate interest. The disintegration of the Syrian state and the rise of ISIS, encouraged and supported by a NATO member, Turkey, can only be interpreted as a similar challenge.

    1. Mark P.

      The writer also says nothing about drought, climate change and rising food prices in the ME, which were very much the underlying drivers of the original revolt against Assad and then of the Arab Spring.

      Given those central facts, the current refugee problem in Europe is no surprise and just the start of what’s to come.

      One considers, for one instance, Israel where the essential situation is that the Orthodox Jews are engaged in a long-term demographic war trying to out-breed their Palestinian enemies for control of the land, and there’s a certain dark comedy there. One is also very glad to be a long way away.

      In that overall context, focusing on US policy in the Middle East and chanting “what could possibly go wrong” as if that were a clever, insightful strike at the heart of the matter is like complaining that someone threw a brick through the window when the real problem is that the house is burning down. The Middle East has far bigger problems than US foreign policy, as awful as that has been.

      1. EoinW

        I do not like the orthodox Jews chances of outbreeding the Palestinians. Yet they are outbreeding moderate Jews who you can expect to see abandoning Israel in the near future. That will lead to the most heavily armed, extremist state in the region. Then, perhaps, orthodox Jews can win the demographic war by outkilling Palestinians.

        1. JTMcPhee

          I thought Orthodox Jews, some subset of them at least, are largely exempt from military service at all, and a lot of them get a nice stipend from the Likudniks to run their version of the “madrassas” they excoriate for preaching tribal “religious war…” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/14/israel-ultraorthodox-jews_n_809003.html

          They be gonna have to get them some mercenaries or something (3rd Marines? 1st Cav? Reservists from Kansas? the unfortunate Arabs with “joint citizenship” that make up nearly a quarter of the population of the Infinitely Elastic State of Israel?) to be standing up for them, maybe? http://forward.com/news/israel/307624/orthodox-draft-laws/

          And let us never forget those U-boats they got from the Germans, paid for by US wealth transfer, armed with cruise missiles warheaded with some of the 200-400-600? nuclear weapons they have on hand, so much for the Non-Proliferation Treaty they scorn to sign, and of course their land-based and aircraft-delivered legs of their “Samson Option” Defense Triad Threat Engine.

          And the Israelites, who so efficiently spy on the US and anyone else, murder people where they care to, are “scharf” enough to warp the political economies of whole giant nation-states to serve the ends of a bunch who rate way up there on the scales of corrupt polities… I wonder if OUR spooks, who have rated the Israelites the greatest threat to the vaunted secrecy of US planning and strategy, know as much about the Israelite equivalent of the SIOP/OPLAN, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single_Integrated_Operational_Plan, as they know about the details of the one the huge military we Americans are paying for have in their war locker…

          Sleep well, my children… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolphin-class_submarine, and to go with that, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popeye_%28missile%29

    2. blert

      You mean to say that having meddled in Egyptian politics, (details spilled and spelled out via “60 Minutes” broadcast !) meddled in Ukrainian politics, meddled in Israeli politics, meddled in Canadian politics, Putin has some cause for concern ?

      You don’t say !

      And those ‘project’s’ were made public and bragged upon.

      One must wonder what other gambits have been afoot.

      [ Keep in mind that Obama campaigned in 2007 — meddling in Kenyan politics… on stage… with the microphone… alongside the wannabee tyrant.

      Upon that Muslim’s defeat at the polls, the candidate (Obama’s pal) organized a civil insurrection that cost a thousand lives and which burned out countless Christian churches across Kenya.

      Quite the ‘Christian’, I’d say. ]

      Yes, it’s all straight down the memory hole.

    3. Gaianne


      Yes. This clever essay neglects the goals–stated and unstated–that drive the policies of governments and the strategies meant to implement those goals. That is, while it notes we are moving–seemingly inevitably–toward global war, it neglects the reasons we are moving toward global war, and why it indeed seems inevitable.

      America policy has been incoherent, yet certainly makes a certain sense if understood correctly. Seeking that understanding is the point of any honest policy discussion.

      About Russian policies: For a decade Russian intentions have been as clear as a bell–They hide only their tactics. American confusion about this is simultaneously self-serving and self defeating.


  2. Peter Schitt

    America should fold her cards and withdraw from the game. She is just unable to play cards with the adults. At the start of the Iraqi invasion, US forces had 4(!) Arab speakers in total (according to Chalmers Johnson). Anyway. I thought it was “mission accomplished”?

    1. blert

      The President DID leave Iraq.

      Remember ?

      The MENA, like Moby Dick, tasks him.

      His very, very, first public speach was a narrow cast to Iran. (Jan 21, 2009)

      His signature policy speach was in Cairo.

      Yes, it tasks him.

  3. blert

    Iraq: Obama is now the fourth American president in a row to have ordered the bombing of Iraq and his successor will almost certainly be the fifth. If ever a post-Vietnam American adventure deserved to inherit the moniker of quagmire, Iraq is it.

    You mean sand trap.

    Any one who’s viewed “Lawrence of Arabia” knows better than to fall into the lee of a sand dune.

    Lest it be forgotten, the entire policy “Regime Change” was established by Bill Clinton and the US Congress in 1998.

    “On March 3, 1999, President Clinton explained to Congress that Iraq’s noncompliance with the standard for disarmament mandated by UNSCR 687 triggered Operation Desert Fox:

    As stated in my December 18 report, on December 16, United States and British forces launched military strikes on Iraq (Operation Desert Fox) to degrade Iraq’s capacity to develop and deliver weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and to degrade its ability to threaten its neighbors. The decision to use force was made after U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) Executive Chairman Richard Butler reported to the U.N. Secretary General on December 14, that Iraq was not cooperating fully with the Commission and that it was “not able to conduct the substantive disarmament work mandated to it by the Security Council.”


    All of the dreary, ugly, details that triggered Saddam’s ouster are detailed at the link.

    It’s this history that triggered yeah votes from:

    John Kerry
    Hillary Clinton
    Joe Biden
    et. al.

    They were merely affirming Clinton’s national policy inre Saddam Hussein.

    Today’s MSM has dropped all of this history down the memory hole — but of course.

    It’s also now clear — way, way, way, too late, that Saddam was absolutely committed to revving up his WMD programs — all of them — the moment the coast was clear.

    This tale never made it into the Duelfer Report — for none of the technical authorities in the know were willing to sing until Saddam was hanged, December 30, 2006.

    Only then did they ‘fess up: They had stashed the blueprints and much else in their private libraries. If these documents went ‘astray’ Saddam would liquidate their entire families — and most brutally, too.

    ALL of the ‘finks’ demanded escape from Iraq and new identities in the West.

    Their fears were well founded.

    ISIS assassinated the judge who sentenced Saddam Hussein to death by hanging.

    ISIS is STILL trying to find those others involved in bringing Saddam to justice.

    The oft cited Duelfer Report is utterly worthless. It came out too soon. Until Saddam was swinging by a noose — everyone was lying through their teeth.

    However, once the NY Times and the WaPo committed themselves to their narrative — they proved unable to walk back their blunder.

    For while everyone else in the world is to be mistaken — but the media is never to be caught in a serious blunder, an epic error.

    The NY TImes is the same paper that ‘missed’ the Stalinist Holomodor and soft peddled the Nazi terror, the Shoah. No mea culpa has ever been issued with regard to either, of course.

    It’s a trifecta: Soft peddling Stalin, Hitler, Hussein… I sense a trend.

    1. Eric


      In fact, the ISG Duelfer Report prefaces with caveats like your criticism of it. It says key Saddam regime officials were uncooperative, suspect areas were found “sanitized”, and much of Iraq’s WMD could not be accounted for.

      Nonetheless, “ISG judges that Iraq failed to comply with UNSCRs up to OIF” – Duelfer Report. The Iraq Survey Group findings are rife with violations of UNSCR 687 that corroborate UNMOVIC’s confirmation that Iraq was noncompliant with the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” (UNSCR 1441) for disarmament.

      Keep in mind that under the terms of the Gulf War ceasefire, the UN was not mandated to prove Iraq was proscriptively armed. Rather, Iraq was required to prove Iraq disarmed as mandated. The UN weapons inspections were structured as such.

      Therefore, the debate whether UNMOVIC and/or ISG findings match the pre-war intelligence estimates rests on a fundamentally false premise that’s inapposite of the operative enforcement procedure in the determination of casus belli. The issue was whether Iraq complied with the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” (UNSCR 1441) for disarmament. The pre-war (UNSCOM/UNMOVIC) and post hoc (ISG) fact findings are dispositive that Saddam did not disarm as mandated.

    2. Eric

      blert: “It’s also now clear — way, way, way, too late, that Saddam was absolutely committed to revving up his WMD programs — all of them — the moment the coast was clear. This tale never made it into the Duelfer Report

      That point is included in the Iraq Survey Group Duelfer Report. See the 3rd part of the answer to “Did Iraq failing its compliance test justify the regime change?”. Excerpt:

      Three, in hindsight, the ISG Duelfer Report shows that a free Saddam meant an unreconstructed Saddam rearmed with WMD. The Iraq Survey Group reported “Senior Iraqis—several of them from the Regime’s inner circle—told ISG they assumed Saddam would restart a nuclear program” and “In addition to preserved capability, we have clear evidence of [Saddam’s] intent to resume WMD”. That was the very condition that Saddam’s compliance with the disarmament mandate, “Iraq shall unconditionally undertake not to use, develop, construct or acquire any of the [proscribed] items” (UNSCR 687), was purposed to cure as a necessary qualification for suspending the Gulf War short of regime change.

      1. blert

        Those caveats have never registered in the MSM or in the popular opinion.

        Instead, the exact opposite inference has been taken — erroneously as your citation makes clear.

        To this day, the NY Times is still on a campaign to justify its prior opinion pieces.

        Ditto for the Wa Po.

    3. Jim Haygood

      ‘Soft peddling Stalin, Hitler, Hussein… I sense a trend.’

      Saddam as Hitler — I remember that tune from the Hasbara Hit Parade of 2002.

      Thought it coulda used a little more cowbell.

      1. blert

        Hitler was high on meth.

        Hussein did every dirty deed that Hitler did — he just didn’t have Germany under his heel.

        Some compensation should be made for being in the center of the global oil patch — and having an atomic weapons program — and having IRBMs — the sons of the V2.

        Needless to say, both were fanatically anti-Jewish and conducted race based policies.

        Saddam repeatedly expressed his intense desire to genocide the Kurds — and was conducting a mass starvation campaign in the south ( 1991-2003) — in every way echoing the Holomodor.

        Yes, I guess the Iraqi complaints that he was as awful as Hitler must be an exaggeration.


        Habitual invader. Yeap.

        Total police state. Yeap.

        Paranoid. Yeap.

          1. Eric

            Indeed, in the Gulf War ceasefire, the humanitarian mandates for Iraq per UNSCR 688 (1991) were cornerstone alongside the terrorism, disarmament, and other mandates per UNSCR 687 (1991).

            United Nations Commission on Human Rights, situation report on Iraq, 2002:

            The Commission on Human Rights … Recalling: … [UNSCR] 688 (1991) of 5 April 1991, in which the Council demanded an end to repression of the Iraqi civilian population and insisted that Iraq cooperate with humanitarian organizations and that the human rights of all Iraqi citizens be respected … Strongly condemns: (a) The systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law by the Government of Iraq, resulting in an all-pervasive repression and oppression sustained by broad-based discrimination and widespread terror;

            President Barack Obama, remarks on the Middle East and North Africa, 2011:

            In Iraq, we see the promise of a multiethnic, multisectarian democracy. The Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence in favor of a democratic process, even as they’ve taken full responsibility for their own security. Of course, like all new democracies, they will face setbacks. But Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress. And as they do, we will be proud to stand with them as a steadfast partner.

            The US-led peace operations were vital to Iraq’s progress noted by President Obama, especially given the regional conditions, but unfortunately, the US-led peace operations were prematurely withdrawn from Iraq with dire consequences.

  4. Eureka Springs

    Covering so much in so little space always misses so many points… That said… Why oh why do so many begin these lines of history and questions with U.S. invasion of Iraq in ’03? I mean, forgetting we took out leaders of Iran, replacing them with the Shah and later installed Saddam. Later fomenting war between the two…. and we invaded Iraq under Bush Sr in what, ’91? We never stopped since Desert Storm. It’s insanity to exclude Bush Sr… and perhaps especially Clintons air enforced sanctions… which killed as many if not more human beings than any other part of this…and we still have a Clinton and a Bush declaring we need to do it again…whilst threatening direct confrontation with Russia. That alone should be reason to abandon both criminal parties forevermore. It’s disgusting that so many so-called Progs negotiate this… even with/for Sanders.

    So here we are, founded in, mired in hubris, lies, massive war criminality in what should above all else be none of our business… and the most basic discussions always omit far more of who we are, our absurdity, than they include.

    After all we as much as anyone, especially if you include our BFFs Saudi Israel Turks et al are the al Qaeda al Nusra ISIS of the world. That is who we are, who we arm and train…. who we rely upon.

    At least that ever present question of WHY? popped up and as always there is no clear or sane answer… which says it all.

    Just stop. This continued insinuation that we should do or say anything other than stop! is to be party to the ongoing madness. This should not be a negotiation.

    1. Ignim Brites

      It was the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia which outraged Osama bin Laden, so a good candidate for the trigger point for the current disintegration was 41’s Desert Storm. But unless US leadership moves aggressively to disengage from the Middle East (and NATO, since Turkey is in NATO), the US will continue to imagine that it has some vital interest at stake in this or that conflict. The only presidential candidate oriented in that direction is Rand Paul, although Trump has proven susceptible to common sense.

      1. Jim Haygood

        ‘The US will continue to imagine that it has some vital interest at stake in this or that conflict.’

        Israel’s interest — as expressed in the ‘Clean Break’ policy paper presented to Netanyahu in 1996 — is in keeping its neighbors divided and destabilized. It expressly advocated the removal of Saddam Hussein.

        The Lobby ensures that the mighty U.S. acts as Israel’s dimwitted but mean pit bull, at enormous expense to its own interests.

        1. MikeNY

          Sadly I agree with this. And fundamentalist Christian loons like Pat Robertson egg the pit bull on.

    2. OIFVet

      Yep, the author treats the 1990’s as though they never happened. The fact is, much of what happened after 2003 had its origins in the 1990’s.

  5. j.c.


    And I thought the NY Times ought to be apologizing for its journalists using doctored intelligence to sell Operation Iraqi Freedom. But apparently some people think they should be apologizing for not selling it hard enough.
    Nor can I really get on board with the idea that stashed blueprints are a suitable “casus belli”. Random inspection to check for actual chemical weapons or the facilities to make them seems somewhat practical. Random inspection of every bookcase or filing cabinet in Iraq that could potentially be used to stash the formula for mustard gas doesn’t. (Not that you’ve provided any source for this story of blueprints that are given to families that have to be threatened with death to keep them rather than hidden in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard” – which would seem to be a better plan – so there’s that, too.)

    1. blert

      I get these trashy notions from the N Y Times and the Wa Po.

      That the relevant Iraqi officials fled the country, and went under witness protection in the West, is on the record.

      That ISIS assassinated the judge — is on the record.

      The stashed blue prints tale came from those tasked with interviewing the Iraqi authorities. Until that was brought out it never occurred to our experts that Saddam would’ve even dreamed of using private libraries to stash his vital WMD plans.

      No-one in the West would run their programs in such a way. Saddam’s solution was that far out of the box. When the documents were thus presented, the investigators were ashamed. In all of their searching, they’d NEVER combed the residences of the top technical officials. They simply assumed that Saddam would run things the way that Westerners would run things.

      Of course, this is the same despot that was found to have buried his jet planes in desert sands…

      To have placed ammunition — by the ton — out in the open — in boxes ten miles on a side — observing absolutely none of the weapons safety protocols normal to the West — or even to the Second World.


      The Bush, Rice, Powell, Bremer fantasy was that Western norms could possibly stick in an indoctrinated Muslim society.

      The other fantasy is that Islam is a religion of peace.

      Al Nusrah, ISIS, THEY are the true face of Islam. Jihad on the march.

      They are following Mohammed’s script right down the line, usually citing him as they hack necks.

      The correct solution was to depose Saddam and then let some other Sunni despot take over.

      Like Hitler and Stalin — he was an irreplaceable despot. No-one else was as daffy.

      It’s of record, both Himmler and Beria wanted to immediately demobilize and work out a deal with the West. Neither was going to carry on the policies of their patron-masters.

      Nikita’s demobilization of the Red Army was per Beria’s script. This reality was kept hidden from Western history for half-a-century.

      As for Himmler, he was trying to sell out Hitler from the Spring of 1943 onward. That he’d been working the Swedish angle that far back is news to most historians.

      1. Eric

        blert: “When the documents were thus presented, the investigators were ashamed. In all of their searching, they’d NEVER combed the residences of the top technical officials.

        Why should they be ashamed? The UN weapons inspectors did their job. There was no burden of proof on the UN to prove Iraq was proscriptively armed. The notion that UN weapons inspectors were mandated to search Iraq for WMD is a false premise. Their mandate was to verify Iraq proved it disarmed as mandated, which means Iraq was obligated to produce all proscribed items for inspection then destruction as mandated.

        That didn’t happen. Iraq’s failure to disarm as mandated was reported by Hans Blix and UNMOVIC: “about 100 unresolved disarmament issues”. UNMOVIC’s finding that Iraq did not disarm as mandated was the main trigger for OIF.

        1. blert

          You are conflating two different investigative attempts.

          The folks that were ashamed were the US military.

          The Pentagon sent far, far, far, more men hustling around trying to prove up that the CIA/ DoD pre-war intelligence was correct.

          They weren’t working to the UN// Duelfer standard AT ALL.

          The US Army tossed over everything in that nation — except the personal libraries. The most damning evidences were — practically — in plain sight.

          National politics would’ve changed — and rather dramatically — if these Iraqis had the nerve to testify earlier.

          Somehow it never occurred to the US Army that until those talking were protected — there was no WAY they were going to spill the beans.

          THAT’S the legacy of a horrific police state — with assassins still roaming like goats through the Iraqi nation.

          Even at this time, ISIS is trying to find and assassinate every Iraqi on their hit list. It’s a very long list.

          It’s a fact that the US Army actually thought that pledges of security carried ANY weight as long as the Iraqi was still residing inside Iraq. The nation had been run by gangsters — Nazi style — for so long that everyone knew that the US Army had no ability to protect them — not really.

          This reality never quite sunk in — for the Pentagon.

          1. Eric

            You are conflating two different investigative attempts.

            As far as I’ve come across, the references for official fact findings on Iraq’s WMD are the UNSCOM/UNMOVIC findings of Iraq’s noncompliance with the UNSCR 687 disarmament mandates, which triggered enforcement, and the post hoc ISG investigation.

            The ISG investigation referred to the UNSCR 687 disarmament standard and the pre-war intelligence.

            There wasn’t a redundant post-war investigation by the Army that was separate from ISG – at least that I know of. Rather, the Pentagon, including of course the Army, was tasked to support ISG.

            In fact, the ISG Duelfer Report is critical of the Army for not “toss[ing] over everything in that nation”. Duelfer cites the Army’s priority on neutralizing physical risk/dangers on the ground to the troops as one of the reasons that evidence was lost in the invasion and its aftermath. Pre-war intel was applied by the Army toward its priorities to win a war and establish physical security, not towards an investigation to gauge the predictive precision of the pre-war intel.

            While using and gathering intelligence are basic for soldiers, that’s not the same thing as securing a site or searching for evidence in a forensic investigation-type sense. For the Army in Iraq, investigatory procedures were only belatedly applied by the soldiers working with ISG and, due to the difficult circumstances on the ground, not satisfactorily applied, according to Duelfer.

            1. blert

              The NY Times — in connection with sustaining its narrative WRT WMD — has spilled the beans INRE the US Army’s massive — separate — attempt to find the dirt on Saddam Hussein.

              The Pentagon not only backed the UN efforts — in every way — it came to believe that the ‘other team’ must be screwing up — as their reports were not at all what the Pentagon (or CIA) wanted to hear.

              And with an entire army ‘in country’ the Pentagon figured that their boys would find the stuff that Duelfer and others had missed.

              This was all done on the down low. The Times co-operated with the Pentagon to keep all tales about the effort secret.

              The various binary chemical rounds that were discovered were but a part of this long campaign.

              Only after the US Army left Iraqi 2011, would the NY Times publish anything substantive on the matter. ( The binary rounds ) Here and there you’ll find ‘leaks’ when various soldiers stumbled upon IEDs that had some sarin rounds. ( 155mm binary artillery in every case )

              The Times went into some detail as to how the Pentagon had an entire secret program to find any and all WMD.

              No way was the Pentagon satisfied with the Duelfer Report. It made the entire American intelligence community look bad. Of course the CIA// Pentagon wanted to prove themselves correct.

              Likewise, the basic hunt for Saddam Hussein, himself, was embarrassing. It took far, far, far, too long. Every day he was able to avoid capture he created trouble for the Army. All over (Sunni) Iraq, the Pentagon had to maintain QRF — tasked with capturing Saddam. (and Zarqawi) Their pursuit consumed all of the most elite American formations.

              Stanley McChrystal made his bones commanding this force, JSOC. It was so secret that the Pentagon kept changing its designation.

              While the “Anbar Awakening Movement” gets all of the press — it was JSOC that really turned the tide against the fanatics. McChrystal had brilliantly crafted a super sophisticated, complex force that rolled up cell after cell.

              This reality was kept secret. Many of his techniques were later used to bag Osama bin Laden. He was nailed after a long continuous ‘roll-up’ campaign — just like Zarqawi.

              The same networking was used to build the map of Saddam’s WMD projects.

              Step by step, the US Army removed the aliases and anonymity from the opposing forces. The fish became naked in a sea of people.

              1. Eric

                The NY Times story you’re referring to wasn’t about an investigation of Iraq’s WMD program in the same sense of the Iraq Survey Group investigation.

                The NY Times story was about policing up WMD munitions uncovered/discovered in Iraq, which while related, is not the same thing. That’s why it didn’t involve searching residences and libraries for blueprints, etc, which fell into the ISG tasking.

                  1. Eric

                    To be fair, although not redundant, the NY Times series and Iraq Survey Group findings are related in that both corroborate Iraq breached the Gulf War ceasefire “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” (UNSCR 1441) for disarmament mandated by UNSCR 687.

                    As mandated by UNSCR 687 (1991):

                    8. Decides that Iraq shall unconditionally accept the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless, under international supervision, of:
                    (a) All chemical and biological weapons and all stocks of agents and all related subsystems and components and all research, development, support and manufacturing facilities;
                    … (ii) The yielding by Iraq of possession to the Special Commission for destruction, removal or rendering harmless, taking into account the requirements of public safety, of all items specified under paragraph 8 (a) above

                    The Iraqi WMD munitions reported by the NY Times clearly show that Iraq fell short of the “substantive cooperation” (UNSCR 1441) required to meet the UNSCR 687 disarmament standard.

                    But it wasn’t a revelation since the NY Times series merely added corroboration to the established fact of Iraq’s breach of ceasefire, which triggered the Operation Iraqi Freedom enforcement, that UNMOVIC had confirmed by 2003 and ISG had corroborated by 2004.

                    The pre-war intelligence was not precise in their prediction, but as the NY Times series further corroborated, the pre-war intelligence did correctly estimate that Iraq was not disarmed as mandated by the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance”.

                1. blert

                  You have a fundamental misunderstanding of military logic and military history.

                  No general born would accept a ‘null’ result from any party outside his own forces.

                  This goes double when the null news is a professional embarrassement to all of his superiors — on up to the President.

                  And for reasons too obvious, this second effort would be conducted entirely on the down low… just like the effort to bag Hussein and Zarqawi.

                  We all now know — only as much as the Pentagon wants us to know.

                  When the Iraqis coughed up their sins — they did so to US Army officers — folks who could ACTUALLY protect them.

                  In what context did that conversation occur ?

                  It occurred when the US Army, itself, conducted its own and totally independent search for WMDs.

                  Here’s something to stick in your brain:

                  National armies are never able to learn from the experiences of others – only their own failures.

                  National armies never accept bad news willingly.

                  Null results from the civilian experts would’ve had the brass kicking and hollering. Such reports would’ve been treated with contempt, and rightly so. For EVERY commander knows that hiding things from discovery is central to military leadership. It’s so important that generals go to great effort to hide the truth from their own soldiers — let alone the public or the enemy.

                  And Hussein had already established that he was an A #1 ‘hider.’

                  To suppose a contrary opinion is to ignore all military history — and the very nature of military leaders.

                  Putting up with unsuccess is not any part of their fiber.

  6. Young Ex-Pat

    ‘The Russians have little incentive to depart, given the free pass handed them by the Obama administration.’

    Um, no. The Russians have little incentive to depart because they were invited by the Syrian government to help wipe the U.S./Saudi/Turkish/Qatari-backed “moderate rebels” off the map (by the way, there are 4,000 fighters from ex-Soviet Republics who are fighting alongside ISIS and other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. Moscow cannot allow these militants to return home and spread their Takfiri garbage).

    The U.S. has no authority over Syrian airspace, and is actually operating in Syria illegally. Period. The End.

    1. Steve

      You are absolutely right. Anyone who takes a look at the map of the Russian Caucasus can see the reason Putin is deadly serious about exterminating wahabi takfiris. Access to the Caspian is through a port in Dagestan. The Beslan massacre was in North Ossetia. Beslan didn’t get a lot of coverage here but it was a big deal in Russia. Chechnya is a horrible scar on Russian sensibilities. Putin has reason to destroy wahhabism utterly, even if that means overthrowing the nest of vipers in Riyadh. Personally I think Putin has it right.

      1. cassandra

        Agreed. Were an islamic state to rise from the corpse of Syria, supporters Saudi Arabia and Turkey (and US?) could be expected to press its extension north into the Caucuses, possibly east into Iraq, but certainly into the Iranian Elbruz. Should ISIS get this far, the further extension would be into central Asia, and toward the Uighurs settlements in Xinjiang province in China. But that’s only one nightmare of 3. The other two for Russia if ISIS succeeds are: first, losing an ally in Syria which now provides Russia its only Mediterranean naval base, in Tartus, and: second, bidding farewell, along with Iran, to the prospect of Russian and Iranian gas and oil pipelines connecting central Asian wells to a Mediterranean depot. Would any competent foreign office be expected to remain passive in the face of these circumstances? Which brings us to timing. For the last year, the world has been saturated with the psychological saber-rattling and ineffectual response of the US coalition against ISIS; over the last few months, migration has been straining the social fabric and politics of Europe; and most recently, we have heard rumblings from NATO to implement a no-fly zone against Assad. Considering this board arrangement, I’d say Putin’s chess moves are entirely predictable. The writer speaks of Putin’s luck, but we should bear in mind that the only luck in chess is an opponent’s ineptitude. This entire conflict is regrettable on so many levels.

    2. GlennF

      Putin gave a speech and answered questions yesterday at the “Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club” that explains very well what Russia’s goals for its Middle East operations are. He also touched on Ukraine and sharply rebuked Ambassador Jack Matlock, who was also present and gave a speech. Here is the transcription of the speech from the Kremlin:

      1. JTMcPhee

        Strong recommendation for reading the PUTIN transcript. So hard to know, in the Fog of Bullsh8t that the vast and growing massces of self-interested Bullsh8ters generates, what’s true and honest and correct and to me more importantly RIGHT, in the serious interchanges that mean my species has a long future or it doesn’t thanks to evil shortsightedness by people who can do stuff like destroy the Rights of Man and start big and maybe nuclear or worse stuff wars. Putin has a few blind spots and no doubt there’s some dissimulation going on, but he sure seems to have a great grasp of the fundamentals, so far beyond a Clinton or Cheney or Obama, and a long view toward survival that our neocon tools and the self-seekers who ride the coattails of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse thinking they are going to ” end history and get filthy rich doing it” seem completely unable to fathom…

        Putin maybe was focused on the current excrescence of “contradictions,” so no mention of that other common enemy, “us, the burners of carbon compounds and wastrels of God’s gifts in into the improbable orb called ‘Earth’.” I hope the Russian and USNATO military people are of a high enough real caliber not to get pissed off at real or imagined slights and trickery so bad that we mopes will get to march off (more likely die in place) to Global War…

        “…the most persistent principles in the universe are accident and error…”

  7. EoinW

    Here’s the problem: the writer refers to ISIS and Assad as bad guys yet – as usual with western thinking – makes no mention of the baddest guys around, the USA, Israel and NATO. So long as we continue to give ourselves a pass when it comes to bad guy grades we will continue to be the bad guys. I’m tired of this narrative about our good countries suffering momentary lapses into bad decisions. We are doing the exact same things we’ve been doing for years. Given that our “democratic” processes are structured to prevent meaningful change, we can assume that nothing is going to change in our behavior. The moral disconnect thus becomes essential. No matter how many terrible things are done in our name we continue to be good people living in the most ethically advanced society in human history. Cue all the excuses for why we are still the best no matter what evil we commit.

    I must tip my hat to social conditioning. No matter what our countries do we continue to consider ourselves Americans, Canadians …etc. The nation state continually supported no matter what it becomes. Now we know why, as kids, we were made to stand for the national anthem in school every morning.

    1. Praedor

      Precisely and well said. I repeat whenever the opportunity arises: A person (or a country or group of countries) is NOT what they believe. They are entirely and exclusively what they DO. Any and all discussion intentions, beliefs, desires, etc, is crap. What you DO defines you. The US, NATO, keep DOING certain things while spouting on about what they “believe”. Bah! The US and NATO (it’s puppet) are exactly and ONLY what they do over and over again and it is NOT included in what they say they believe or “stand for”.

    2. MikeNY

      Hear, hear.

      Ash Carter got up at a presser in London and, with great gravity and sententiousness, lambasted Russia’s military intervention in the Middle East as ‘reckless’.

      And nobody laughed.

  8. Eric Patton

    Was Iraq, in the words of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, the “worst foreign policy blunder” in American history?

    I’m a Sanders supporter, and I will vote for him next year. However, it should be pointed out that nothing the US has done in them middle east has been a “blunder.”

    All our actions there have been war crimes. If the Nuremberg principles were applied fairly, many people — including, but not limited to, the four presidents who have bombed Iraq — would be hanged.

    However, on the bright side, it’s nice to know Democrats and Republicans can work together on certain things.

    1. Eric

      See the answer to “Was Operation Iraqi Freedom legal?”. Excerpt:

      In fact, while their practical characters differed, the legal character of Operation Iraqi Freedom was the same as the legal character of the no-fly zones and Operation Desert Fox. The law and policy basis of all the US-led enforcement actions was “to use all necessary means” (UNSCR 678) to bring Iraq into compliance with the Gulf War ceasefire – “Recalling that in its resolution 687 (1991) the Council declared that a ceasefire would be based on acceptance by Iraq of the provisions of that resolution, including the obligations on Iraq contained therein” (UNSCR 1441).

      To enforce the UNSC resolutions for Iraq pursuant to P.L. 102-1 and UNSCR 678, the invasion threshold was passed with the Gulf War, which was only suspended contingent on Iraq’s compliance with the ceasefire. Because the breach of a ceasefire restores the offender’s status to the war suspended by that ceasefire, restoring Iraq’s status to the Gulf War was always the intrinsic outer marker of “the use of all necessary means” (P.L. 102-190) to enforce the Gulf War ceasefire should Saddam fail to fulfill “the obligations on Iraq contained therein”.

      1. low_integer

        I assume that you are Eric from the learning-curve blog that you link to. If this is correct, then providing links to your own writing, like it is some sort of authoritative source, and not just your opinions (seemingly formed from time spent in the US military) in long form, really undermines your credibility, imo.

        1. Eric

          It’s not a source. It’s explanation drawn from the primary sources of OIF. You’re encouraged to review the sources of the mission for yourself to set the record straight. The explanation functions as a cheat sheet to help with that.

          For the sources that the explanation is drawn from, see this table of sources.

          1. low_integer

            I admire your thoroughness in compiling all these details, spreading the ‘official’ justifications for Middle East meddling must be very important to you. As such, we are never going to agree on this.

            1. Eric

              Generally speaking, truth of the matter is preferred to false narrative.

              Unfortunately, opposition to the Iraq mission is generally drawn from false premises rather than the actual “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” (UNSCR 1441), operative enforcement procedure for the Gulf War ceasefire, and fact findings by UNSCOM/UNMOVIC et al of Iraq’s noncompliance, ie, breach of ceasefire, that triggered enforcement.

              It’s indisputable that Iraq was guilty of breaching the ceasefire in Saddam’s “final opportunity to comply” (UNSCR 1441). On the facts, the decision for OIF was right on the law and policy to “bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations” (P.L. 105-235).

              That being said, one can legitimately debate the premises underlying the original 1990-1991 intervention, the subsequent Gulf War ceasefire “governing standard of Iraqi compliance”, including the humanitarian mandates of UNSCR 688, and its enforcement against Saddam’s defiance and deception. However, opponents of OIF generally bypass that complex discussion via simpler false-narrative straw men that misrepresent the actual grounds of the Iraq mission.

  9. Ignim Brites

    “Nailing down causation is a tricky thing.” It is conceivable that causation is a nonsensical concept when applied to history. It may be that history really is just one damm thing after another. What causes the Amazon?

    1. JTMcPhee

      My thought is that history, that’s mocked as just the story written by the winners, according to one’s personal calculus and benefit that is, (and that “winners” includes creatures like the Kochs and the Texas textbook control cabal, and of course Netanyahoo and Obama and Josh I can’t believe they found a shill named Earnest for Jeebus’ sake, etc.) is maybe more the sum of a vast and growing number of perceptions, experiences, hopes, fears, rages and idiocies, inter alia, that lead to decisions, indecision, acts and refraining from acting. And of course Murphy…

      Feed it all into the effing Cloud, and see what rains out?

  10. RabidGandhi

    I admit my scorecard has become so jumbled that I’m not sure who the US’s enemy is now.

    One dependable motif running through US history is that there is always a Worstest Enemy Ever! who is an imminent threat to housewives in Nebraska: Nazis, Japanese, “Huns”, commies, Ruskies, “terrorists”… or my personal favourite, the Sandinista army that was a mere two days’ march away from Reagan’s ranch in Texas.

    But now who is the enemy? Al Qaeda? More like a frenemy, since the US supplies Al-Nusra with arms and diplomatic cover against Putin. ISIS? Same thing; ISIS is Turkey and Saudi’s cudgel. Maybe it’s the Khorasan Group, even though they dont even exist? Maybe it’s Assad? Putin?

    I’m not talking in real terms, because in that sense the real enemy remains the same: people who want to “follow the Castro example of taking matters into their own hands” by expropriating “our resources”. I’m rather talking in terms of propaganda. Who is being sold in the US as the reason for sending bodies and treasure into the Mideast?

  11. Eric

    @ j.c.

    j.c.: “But apparently some people think they should be apologizing for not selling [the pre-war intelligence] hard enough. Nor can I really get on board with the idea that stashed blueprints are a suitable “casus belli”.

    See the answer to “Did Bush lie his way to war with Iraq?”.

    Neither the pre-war intelligence nor (obviously) the post hoc Iraq Survey Group findings could trigger enforcement with Operation Iraqi Freedom under the operative enforcement procedure for the Gulf War ceasefire.

    The law and policy are clear the casus belli was Iraq’s breach across the board of the Gulf War ceasefire, including the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” (UNSCR 1441) for disarmament mandated by UNSCR 687 et al.

    Iraq’s guilt of proscribed armament was established at the outset of the ceasefire and presumed in the enforcement of the ceasefire. The only way for Iraq to rebut the presumption that Saddam was proscriptively armed was to prove Iraq disarmed as mandated.

    Therefore, the UN weapons inspectors were mandated to verify whether Iraq disarmed as mandated. The UN weapons inspectors were not mandated to verify the precision of the pre-war intelligence.

    As blert points out with the Clinton quote, Operation Desert Fox was triggered in 1998 by Iraq’s failure to prove to Richard Butler and UNSCOM that Iraq disarmed as mandated. In 2002-2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom was triggered by Iraq’s failure to prove to Hans Blix and UNMOVIC that Iraq disarmed as mandated. Instead, UNMOVIC found “about 100 unresolved disarmament issues” in Saddam’s “final opportunity to comply” (UNSCR 1441).

    As far as the Iraq Survey Group Duelfer Report, albeit post hoc of the decision for OIF and prefaced with caveats like blert’s criticism of the report, the ISG findings are rife with violations of UNSCR 687 that corroborate UNMOVIC’s confirmation that Iraq was noncompliant with the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” for disarmament.

  12. blert

    The end game is at least conceptually in sight:

    Assad stays on his throne — but his domain is constrained to the Alawite heartland.

    The Sunnis merge their turf with that of western Iraq… and perhaps that of Jordan — with the entire area moving its capital back to Damascus. ( It’s the water. )

    The non-Sunni minorities flee into Assad’s domain.

    Without Western and GCC support, AQ [ al Nusra and ISIS ] folds its harsh tent.

    BOTH are acknowledged fronts for AQ, both are still in correspondence to Dr Zawahiri.

    ISIS used to be AQ in Iraq and was at one time Zarqawi’s faction.

    It wouldn’t be a factor except for American military support. ( Plus UK, Jordan, and the GCC )

    It’s proved to be a rogue outfit that will not follow ‘kafir direction.’

    The FSA is a total fraud — a propaganda construct for the Western media. No-one in Syria ever fought under its flag.

    Secularism in a religious war ? How can that make ANY kind of sense ?

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