Sunday, 15 June 2014

Iraq - Eleven Years After US Invasion

 Iraq: Eleven years After US Invasion
 Dr. Mozammel Haque

The US withdrawal of troops after ten year occupation of Iraq has raised many questions and many issues. Writing about this Iraq war, Seamus Milne wrote in The Guardian, “Ten years to the day after American and British troops launched an unprovoked attack on a false pretext – and more than a year since the last combat troops were withdrawn – the conflict they unleashed shows no sign of winding down.” (The Guardian, 19 March 2013)

Centre of knowledge, literature
and civilization
Before I discuss and analyse the present situation of Iraq, I would like to go into the past, to the history of the country. Iraq is a Muslim country which had a long history of civilization; its capital Baghdad was a centre of knowledge and literature. During the Abbasid period, Baghdad was the capital of the Abbasid caliphate and the Darul Hikmah, the House of Wisdom, was established in Abbasid era Baghdad.

“A thousand years ago, Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, was the world’s most important centre of knowledge and learning. It was home to scientists, physicians, translators and philosophers, some of whom travelled from the far reaches of a vast empire to participate in the most advanced intellectual discussions that were taking place at the time. The city was established in the year 762 as the Abbasid caliphate’s capital, from which it ruled over the entire Middle East, including the whole of modern-day Iraq, much of North Africa and large part of Asia,” wrote Dr. Zaid  Al-Ali, (page17) in his book entitled The Struggle for Iraq’s Future: How Corruption, Incompetence and Sectarianism have undermined Democracy, published by Yale University Press, New Haven and London, in 2014. (I am going to talk about this book later on)

That was Iraq even during the Ottoman period before the First World War. The picture changed after the First World War, the Ottoman Caliphate was dismembered and the territory in the Arabian Peninsula under Ottoman was divided between Britain and France.

The narrative was that the former territories of the Ottoman Empire were divided between Britain and France on the basis of the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement. The Sykes-Picot Agreement is a secret understanding concluded in May 1916, during the World War I, between Great Britain and France, with the assent of Russia, for the Dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire. The agreement led to the division of Turkish-held Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine into various French and British administered areas. The agreement took its name from its negotiators, Sir Mark Sykes of Britain and Georges Picot of France.

Thus Iraq became a British mandate following World War I. Independence came in 1932. Iraq’s pro-Western stance ended in 1958 with the overthrow of the monarchy. Its subsequent turbulent history has witnessed the dictatorship of Saddam Husayn, civil war with the Kurds, a bloody conflict with neighbouring Iran, and, in 1990, an invasion of Kuwait, swiftly turned back by a Western coalition led by the US. Noncooperation with UN Security Council resolution obligations and the UN's inspection of Iraq's nuclear, chemical, biological, and long-range missile weapons programs remain major problems.

Iran-Iraq decade-long war 1980-1988
It should be mentioned that there was a decade-long war between Iraq and Iran (September 1980-August 1988), known as the first Gulf War, the 20th centurys longest conventional war  and the U.S. funded both sides of the Iran/Iraq war in the 1980’s, contributing to well over one million Arab and Persian casualties, according to Farhang Rajaee in a 1993 article published by the University of Florida titled The Iran-Iraq war: the politics of aggression. After this American economic sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s killed one million civilians ,according to a 2003 study by the Centre for Population Studies.

However, the international think-tank Chatham House (The Royal Institute of International Affairs) has carried out a research on Iraq War and published a research paper entitled Iraq Ten Years On edited by Claire Spencer, Jane Kinninmont and Omar Siri wherein it is mentioned recently in 2013: “Iraq has historically been one of the cultural, religious and political centres of the Middle East: the source of huge contributions to the region’s history, culture, scientific knowledge and religious heritage; home to one of the world’s first universities and the centre of Shia Muslim theology; and, more recently, one of the most important energy producers and the fourth most populous country in the Arab world.( Introduction, Iraq Ten years on, Chatham House, page 1 )

But Iraq was destroyed. Writing introduction to his book, Dr. Zaid said, “By 2013, ten years after the 2003 invasion that was supposed to bring an end to despotism and usher in a period of unparalleled prosperity for the country, Iraq was in an uncomfortable position. The government, individual the ministries, the parliament, political parties, the courts, the provinces, academics, civil society and the media were all stuck in a terrible morass: although they all complained that the state was failing the people,  there was no dynamic in play that could possibly bring about change.” (Page 10)

As I mentioned earlier, Dr. Zaid wrote a book entitled The Struggle for Iraq’s Future: How Corruption, Incompetence and Sectarianism have undermined Democracy, published by Yale University Press, New Haven and London, in 2014. Dr. Zaid Al-Ali himself an Iraqi but he was born in Spain where his parents and other members of his family were living at that time. Then in 1987 he had to move to London where his family remained till 2003. By September 2001 he had accumulated three degrees in law, was developing a specialization in commercial litigation and arbitration, and had just moved to New York to continue what was looking like a promising career.

Iraq’s oil and natural resources
Analysts and observers think that the root of Iraq’s all problems lies for its oil and other natural resources. Iraq is the world's third largest oil exporter, behind Saudi Arabia and Russia, and is expected to produce 3.6 million barrels of oil per day during 2013. Output before the US-led invasion was about 2.8 million barrels a day. The country stands to earn almost $5 trillion in revenues from oil export by 2035, an average of $200bn a year, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Dr. Zaid mentioned about the oil in his book and said, “Natural resources are both the cause of all Iraq’s problems and the only solution to the crisis brought on by the ruling elites. With approximately 145 billion barrels, Iraq has the fifth largest proven oil reserves in the world (after Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Canada and Iran). ..Close to 97 per cent of the Iraqi government’s revenue derives from oil resources.”(page 162)

Iraq War
It is now accepted that Iraq war was a mistake. Many people commentators have said many things about Iraq war. Some said it is a ‘mistake’, others said it is a ‘dumb war’ and still others said it is an ‘illegal unprovoked aggression’; it is the ‘longest war’ and ‘senseless’ and ‘wrong’. Before going into the analysis, what is the purpose of the Iraq war, what is the cost of the war both in man and money; what is the result of the war and what is the present condition of Iraq and lastly the future of Iraq?

The objective: Pocket of Lies
Firstly, what is the objective of the war? It was observed, “Indeed, his (President George W. Bush) personal and unilateral decision to launch an illegal war of aggression in 2003—against Iraq, a country that had not attacked the United States—based on disingenuous lies, fabrications, disinformation and propaganda, and in violation of the United Nations’ Charter, whose Security Council refused to authorize the American aggression, will go down in history as one of those abuses and pretexts that devious politicians resort to when they want to circumvent international law in order to promote some narrow personal or national interests. So the objective and goal of invasion of war is a concoction of lies, fabrication.

The Bush regime invaded Iraq 11 years ago in 2003. It is known that the justification for the invasion was a pocket of lies orchestrated by the neoconservative Bush regime in order to deceive the United Nations and the American people. The US Secretary of State at that time, General Colin Powell, has expressed his regrets that he was used by the Bush regime to deceive the United Nations with fake intelligence that the Bush and Blair regimes knew to be fake. But the despicable presstitute media has not apologized to the American people for serving the corrupt Bush regime as its Ministry of Propaganda and Lies. (The legacy of “the war on terror” is the death of liberty. March 19, 2013.)

Effects of the Iraq invasion
The effects of Iraq’s invasion are not only the death and destruction which may be the immediate effect, but it brought the downturn of economy and the rise of Islamophobia.

Iraq: Death and Destruction
Human Cost of the War:  According to report: Some 4,488 US service personnel died in Iraq since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom on 19 March 2003, according to the latest figures from the US Department of Defense. British forces lost 179 personnel. The Iraq Body Count  organisation, which cross references reported deaths with official figures, says 4,571 civilians were killed in 2012, bringing the number of civilian deaths since March 2003 to between 112,017 and 122,438.

According to Seamus Milne, as mentioned earlier, “The onslaught triggered a death toll which certainly runs into hundreds, rather than tens, of thousands: estimates range from the Iraq Body Count's minimum of 173,271 up to 2012 (acknowledged to be an underestimate) through the Iraqi government and World Health Organisation's 223,000 and Lancet survey's 654,965 "excess deaths" in the first three years, to the ORB polling organisation's estimate of more than a million. (“Iraq War: It is impossible to inflict such barbarism again,” by Seamus Milne in The Guardian, 19 March 2013)

* There have been at least 123,000-134,000 civilians killed by direct violence since the invasion
* The war is not over: civilians are still dying in significant numbers
* Approximately 2.8 million people are still displaced from their homes
* Lack of health care and basic infrastructure remain threats to public health
* A 2011survey  conservatively estimated that between 800,000 and a million Iraqi children have lost one or both parents
* Following the official withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in December 2011, a host of contractors and US State Department and other government agency employees remain in the

Refugees displaced and fled the country
Approximately 2.8 million people remain either internally displaced or have fled the country. This means 1 in 12 Iraqis are still displaced from their homes. Almost 2.7 million Iraqis have been forced from their homes by the turmoil and violence – half becoming refugees outside Iraq, while others have fled their homes but stayed in the country. Iraqis are still seeking an asylum in their tens of thousands – with 23,743 applying in 2011, mainly to European countries.

Seamus Milne said, “The occupation was a catastrophe for Iraqis. It destroyed the country's infrastructure, created 4 million refugees, reduced cities like Falluja to ruins – littered with depleted uranium and white phosphorus as cancer rates and birth defects multiplied – and brought al-Qaida and its sectarian terror into the country.”

Most Expensive War in US History
It is worthwhile to recall that the Bush administration had claimed at the very outset that the Iraq war would finance itself out of Iraqi oil revenues, but Washington DC had instead ended up borrowing some $2 trillion to finance the two wars, the bulk of it from foreign lender.

The Nobel Prize-winning US Economist Joseph E. Stigliz Shulz wrote in his Book The Three Trillion Dollar War: The true cost of Iraq Conflict,  in this book, he said the true cost of the Iraq War is $3 trillion and counting  - rather than the $50 billion projected by the White House.

In its report under review, the 377-year old Harvard University has viewed that these afore-mentioned wars had not only left the United States heavily indebted, but would also have a profound impact on the federal government’s fiscal and budgetary crises over a protracted period.

The report states: “The Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, taken together, will be the most expensive wars in US history—totalling somewhere between $4 trillion and $6 trillion. This includes long-term medical care and disability compensation for service members, veterans and families, military replenishment and social and economic costs. The largest portion of that bill is yet to be paid.”

According to the Harvard University report, some 1.56 million US troops—56 per cent of all Afghanistan and Iraq veterans—were receiving medical treatment at Veterans Administration facilities and would be granted benefits for the rest of their lives.

Whatever the reasons, causes or goals were there, Polls suggest that a majority of Americans view the 2003 invasion of Iraq as a mistake. Right or wrong, the war has immensely influenced how America sees itself, is seen and conducts itself on the global stage.

America’s longest war
The United States fought in Iraq for nine years. With the exception of the war in Afghanistan, it was America’s longest combat engagement ever: longer than the American Civil war, the two World Wars, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Ten years ago, on March 19, 2003, then-President George W. Bush announced the beginning of the war, saying that America "will accept no outcome but victory." Eight years and nine months later, on Dec. 18, 2011, the last US soldiers pulled out of Iraq. President Barack Obama declared: "The tide of war is receding."

Present situation: Iraq – A Fragile Progress
Dr. Zaid has given a talk entitled Iraq: Fragile Progress at Chatham House, London,  on 29 February, 2014 where he actually painted a picture of the present situation in Iraq.

He said, “We have human rights abuses that have been taking place at an alarming level since 2003 even more so with groups of people not at a time being arrested for no good reason, detained without charge for days, weeks, months sometimes even longer; subjected to brutal treatment, detention if they ever appear to court and if they are even lucky to be found not guilty; then often they were even kept detention illegally in violation of court orders may be some of the guards can extract.”

Dr. Zaid also mentioned, “Women are subjected to sexual harassment rape at an alarming level; due process requirement guarantee contained in the constitution are totally ignored. Corruptions, as you know, are completely out of control. It was described second insurgency and yet it is even closed to ten years anti-corruption frameworks today in Iraq are legal framework that is protect our pocket money from corruption to embezzlement is awful most exactly as it was in 2005 and in 2006. Almost no changes are taking place. Few changes that are taking place are really very insignificant. Nowhere near the reform that one would expect giving the billion of dollars that have disappeared.”

Speaking about the services, Dr. Zaid mentioned, “It is completely non-existent. As electricity, healthcare education and now environment collapsing at an alarming rate even the dusk-storm hundreds of dusk storm in a year and now two years now are debilitating destroyed buildings.”

Finally talking about sectarianism, Dr. Zaid said, “Sectarianism is not awful but worsen since 2003; it was the worst indicator of the system of government and the occupation and the election of the system that sectarianism and people’s willingness to live together has gone worse overtime and not better.  People in 2003 was much willing forgiving and to live together than they are today. What is the cause? Rather than seek to improve their performance rather than admit failure the government officials resorted to sectarianism on a daily basis to protect themselves from criticism and the most vulgar way possible, if I have more time I will show examples,” said Dr. Zaid.

Origins of Iraq’s new political elites
Then Dr. Zaid mentioned about these political elites. He said, “So the question comes who are these people? Who are these political elites? What was their willingness and what was their capacity? To answer those questions is that for the most part our political elites are formed in-exile; spend decades without meaningful employment; spend decades being in schools and are in art of deceits involving themselves in failure after failure in their efforts, in their futile efforts to remove a single individual from power. They were also very deep in engaging in moral compromise.”

“By 2005 these individuals are political elites have been in power for two years; have already of benefit of decades of assistance from the United States and from the United Kingdom, from Iran, and from the Gulf countries nationally people are stucked in the country never have any hope. During the two years in 2003-05 these political elites were in power; they have access to money to privilege, to visibility and to rockets any group of people that often challenges individuals free and fair elections will never stand any chance.”

What is to be done?
After describing the corruption, incompetence, sectarianism; Dr. Zaid enquired “What is the solution? Is it revolution? Coup de tat? Civil war? and promptly replied, “None of these will be convincing outcome neither desirable outcome nor feasible realistic. Elections? The current system is braced in favour of current group who are ruling the country; best outcome that we can hope for is Noor al-Maliki the current Prime Minister not return for third term. That be the case then at least we have the chance to have a new dynamic that will allow some time for outcome through negotiations to resolve our situations. But even that elite comes to power and the rest of the ministers in government can be divided into same group of elites. Therefore  the same methods, the same sectarianism and the same level of corruptions.”

“The only possible option is the civil society,” said Dr. Zaid and added, “The civil society has had the some measure of success over the past few years. Those successes include changes in the election methods in 2010. Those changes of improvements in 2010 solely in consistent with civil society including political leaders and religious leaders. Forces outside the political parties. Reconciliation initiatives after reduction of violence in 2008 civil society organisations of their own initiative reconciliation in 2008 to 2011 hundreds of demonstrations relating to Arab Spring relating to some electricity supply or organised verily throughout the country; organised by civil society in an organised fashion and also success benefits. Some of you know Iraq an amount of money this has been debated and discussed civil society has some success perhaps not so significant.” 

11 March 2014

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