What Bush’s War on Iraq Wrought

Ten years ago, President George W. Bush and his allies were putting the finishing touches on their unprovoked invasion of Iraq, a conflict that ultimately killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and left behind a devastated nation torn by sectarian violence and a possible civil war, as Adil E. Shamoo writes.

By Adil E. Shamoo

All indicators are pointing to a looming sectarian civil war on Iraq’s horizon. It is possible to avoid this civil war, but so far, the country’s leaders are not willing to compromise, and outside parties show little interest in stopping it.

They should care more than they do: if not resolved, a bloody civil war in Iraq will fuel the rising conflict among Sunni-Shiaacross the Middle East — now in Lebanon and Syria — with the potential of spreading into other countries and inviting extremists to take advantage of the conflagration.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. (Photo credit: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jessica J. Wilkes)

Of course, the United States’ nine-year occupation of Iraq unleashed this friction between Sunni and Shia, the underlying inferno that keeps Iraqis killing each other. According to Iraq Body Count, 4,505 Iraqis died from violence in 2012-409 in the month of Ramadan alone.

Many will say this is civil war already, with numerous groups carrying out suicide attacks, bombings and outright assassinations on a daily basis. No one knows for sure who is responsible most of the time, but invariably it is Al-Qaeda, Sunni militants, lingering Baathists, sectarian fighters, and insurgent nationalists who are to blame.

Politically, it’s a mess. Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani is in failing health, suffering from the effects of a stroke and convalescing in Germany. Talabani is a moderate and a Kurd and has been a unifying figure on the issue of the Kurdish relationship with the central authority in Iraq. Many political factions are gearing up for a fight to replace him, amid serious tensions between the semi-autonomous north and Baghdad.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is hunting down his opponents, including his own vice president, Tariq Al-Hashimi. The Sunni politician was charged with terrorism in 2011 when three of his bodyguards were accused of murder and committing acts of torture, supposedly under al-Hashimi’s orders. Al-Hashimi escaped first to Kurdistan, and in September 2012 was sentenced to death in absentia by an Iraqi court. He is now residing in Turkey where he is reportedly safe from extradition.

Furthermore in December, al-Maliki’s security forces raided the home and offices of the Sunni finance minister, Rafie al-Issawi, and arrested ten of his bodyguards on charges of terrorism. Issawi was accused in the past with links to terror, but no proof has ever been offered.

Since coming to power, al-Maliki has taken complete control of the country’s security forces through executive orders. This control was Maliki’s ticket to his own survival and that of the government, but since then his regime has been accused of torturing prisoners and other abuses once consigned to his predecessor, Saddam Hussein. This has generated an opposition that is now willing to do anything to topple him, including terrorism, fomenting further sectarian violence and unrest.

Many of the seeds of this conflict were sown in the U.S.-written constitution and new Iraqi laws under which al-Maliki now operates. For example, the constitution institutionalized the separation of Kurds, Shia and Sunni by regionalization and the division of oil revenues (an ongoing source of tension that has yet to be resolved).

Furthermore, the United States helped to form the National Intelligence Service (NIS), which under the occupation was reporting directly to the CIA. At present, NIS officially reports to al-Maliki.

Meanwhile, waiting in the wings is Ayad Allawi, the head of the Iraqiyya coalition and darling of the CIA. He seeks to form his own government, as Iraqiyya has wide support as the largest winning bloc in the 2010 parliamentary elections. The Kurds too, are taking advantage of the weak and unstable government to ratchet up their own demands for autonomy — including clear access and control of all oil revenues in Kurdish territories.

In recent weeks, large and frequent demonstrations across the Sunni areas of Baghdad and in the cities of Ramadi, Mosul, Samara and Tikrit, have demanded improved living conditions, an end to government discrimination against former Baathists, and a nullification of the de-Baathification laws.

Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni deputy prime minister echoing others, has demanded the resignation of the Nuri al-Maliki’s government. And the Sunni speaker of parliament, Osama al-Nujaifi, in January called for an amnesty law to free Sunnis detained on what Sunnis say are discriminatory charges of terrorism.

The prime minister, while releasing some female prisoners, has called for the demonstrations to cease in the interest of national security. He is bolstered by counter-demonstrations demanding the maintenance of the status quo, and rightfully expressed fears of any Baathist return to power.

Maliki has had an historic opportunity to unify Iraq and move it forward economically. He may still have time, but he must start by ending the violence and changing his own policies, including the use of authoritarian and undemocratic methods to govern. Iraqis have suffered too much.

But one man alone cannot transform the entire landscape. First, Allawi needs to suspend his burning desire to become a prime minister. Others – from the Kurds, and Sunni and Shia leaders such as Muqtada al-Sadr – need to cooperate in earnest with the government for the sake of national unity. It will take such herculean efforts to stop Iraq from sliding into a civil war.

Adil E. Shamoo is an associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, a senior analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus, and the author of Equal Worth: When Humanity Will Have Peace. His blog is www.forwarorpeace.com. He can be reached at ashamoo@som.umaryland.edu. This story first appeared at http://www.warscapes.com/opinion/iraq-its-way-civil-war. 

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6 comments on “What Bush’s War on Iraq Wrought

  1. In the Islamic world, nature fills a power vacuum with Islam. Then the nature of Islam does the rest.

    • I bet Israeli-born Gilad Atzmon would have advised to to substitute Judaism for Islam.

      Gilad Atzmon spoke (video below) at the Stuttgart Conference on Palestine held in Germany on November 26-28, 2010.

      “We all agree about one state – which is the only ethical, universal and viable solution. However, the universalism is very foreign to Jewish culture.”

      “The world “Shalom” doesn’t mean “peace” – in Jewish culture it mean “security of the Jewish people”.

      “The “loving your neighbor” is quite foreign to Jewish culture”.

      “The political concept of Western is disastrous. Look at their actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

      “A few weeks ago a very brave Israeli came up with names of 200 Israeli war criminals in Gaza. Some Israeli media outlets blamed me for leaking that information.”

      “The Israel’s comparison with Nazi Germany is wrong because Israel claims to be a ‘democracy’ while Germany under Nazis was not. Israeli are worse than Nazis”.

      “Israel’s comparison with appartheid South Africa is wrong. South Africa never carried out the ethnic-cleansing of the Native Africans as Israelis are carrying-out against the Native Palestinians.”

      “Israelis are doomed. The US, Britain and Germany would not be able to save them. Ultimately, they are subject to Palestinians’ kindness”.

      http://rehmat1.com/2010/12/11/gilad-atzmon-israelis-are-subject-to-palestinians-kindness/

  2. Sectarian war among the Iraqis – was created by US-Israel occupation forces. Before that over 20% of families in Baghdad consisted of Shia-Sunni couples. The local people are not killing each other for their religious differences otherwise their main target should had been country’s 8% strong Christian minority. The current religious strife is maintained by US-Israel-Turkey-Saudi Arabia ‘Axis of Evil’ to keep Iraq’s Shia majority (60%) playing as a regional power – which would be anti-Israel.

    A stable and powerful government in Baghdad means no more exploitation of oil reserve in Iraqi Kurdistan by the US and Israel. Furthermore, the current al-Maliki regime in Baghdad has already proved that it would never side with US-Israel against Iran, Syria or Hizballah. As British former foreign secretary Lord David Owen claimed in December 2011 – that 10 year occupation of Iraq had made Iran the most powerful country in the region.

    http://rehmat1.com/2011/12/17/lord-owen-iran-is-the-most-powerful-country-in-the-region/

    • This is a complete lie. Just go to the Metropolitan Museum in NYC and look at the bas reliefs of Mesopotamia. What do see depicted? Sectarian warfare.

  3. Carl Stoll on said:

    Reply to

    What Bush’s War on Iraq Wrought, By Adil E. Shamoo, Consortium News, February 10, 2013

    “Of course, the United States’ nine-year occupation of Iraq unleashed this friction between Sunni and Shia …”

    Of course.

    Somehow I had been under the impression that Sunni and Shia have been fighting for 1,400 years, ever since the battle of Karbala.

    How many Shias did Saddam Hussein kill? Easily half a million. Pakistan was never occupied by the US. Nonetheless Sunni death squads murder dozens of Shias every week.

    US imperialism sucks, but trying to blame the US for a conflict that started over one thousand years ago discredits all critique of imperialism.

    Why do you publish this garbage? Robert Spencer’s web site might use it to prove that all critics of US imperialism are a bunch of fatheads. Like Mr. Shamoo.

    • Ace Virginian on said:

      Your point is valid – Shia – Sunni do not get along.
      But during Saddams rule – common people were not at each others throat – like they are post US occupation.
      In Saddams Iraq Shia Sunni christian got along..
      Bush’s Iraq is fragmented. By design?
      Is US to blame? No, if anybody can set you off against each, other you deserve all the grief you get.