Wednesday, March 05, 2014
In Birzeit, ‘Trigger Happy’ Israel Vindicates Amnesty’s Report
By Nicola Nasser*
In the Palestinian West Bank town of Birzeit early last February 27, the Israeli (IDF) Occupation Forces (IOF) acted determinedly, under the media spotlights, to feed Amnesty International with a show case study to vindicate the report it released only hours earlier, entitled “Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank,” and to refute the Israeli official diplomatic denial of the contents thereof.
Under the command of Col. Yossi Pinto, a Nahal infantry force of the Binyamin Territorial Brigade, joined by the Border Police’s elite Counterterrorism Unit, Yamam, according to Israeli The Jerusalem Post on the same day and “200 Israeli soldiers, dozens of jeeps, two (military) bulldozers and many Shin Bet [internal security] officers” according to Amira Hass of Haaretz on this March 3, including some 28 – more than thirty army patrol armored vehicles according to the count of Arab natives of Birzeit who spoke to this writer, were amassed in this Birzeit University town, raising a hell of explosives and gunfire and disrupting its peaceful countryside early spring morning.
Amira Hass was on the scene. Wondering what was all that military mobilization for, a former mayor of Birzeit told this writer that he heard her asking in repudiation, “Was it (the late al-Qaeda founder Osama) Bin Laden inside?!”
Their mission, according to Israeli military spokespeople, was to arrest a “wanted individual” who, according to the Shin Bet internal security agency, quoted by Hass, had “intended” to carry out an “aggressive operation” against Israeli targets. An Israeli army spokeswoman said the man was “suspected” of “terror activity.” www.israelnationalnews.com on the same day quoted “the IDF Spokesman's Unit” as saying that he was “a wanted man suspected of terror activity.” Gideon Levy in Haaretz on this March 2 quoted “the military correspondents” as repeating what the “IDF claimed” that the man “had the intention to carry out a terror attack in the near future.”
Hass wrote: “In the unofficial Israeli law code, unproved “terrorist intentions” are enough to be punishable by death. In Hebrew, “terror attack” is a magic phrase that exempts the Israelis from wondering why an arrest needs so many troops and fanfare, and has such a murderous end.”
Gideon Levy sarcastically repeating the self-described as “the most moral army in the world” wrote that the Israeli army “is also an army that reads intentions,” but Levy did not add that this army has had it as a rule to act accordingly as well.
An Israeli army spokeswoman said: “After the suspect was called to turn himself in, he barricaded himself inside his house, effectively resisting arrest. Under the premise that he had weapons in his possession, the forces used different means to complete the arrest, including live fire.”
The “suspect” was 24-year old Muatazz Abdul-Rahim Washaha, an unemployed Palestinian native of Birzeit.
Hass questioned the accuracy of this statement. Claiming that the victim had “barricaded himself” in would make people “think he built a fortress and surrounded himself with explosives. This is very inaccurate,” she wrote.
The IDF Spokesman’s Office said that the “troops forcibly entered the building and found his body.” Hass said that “this is a lie.” “The elite police unit had shot Washaha at point-blank range dozens of times, according to the pieces of brain that covered the room, not to mention his legs, arms and fingers that were nearly severed from his body,” she added. Washaha's head was split open after being struck by a projectile, a doctor at the
told AP on the same day. Palestinian
It was left to Levy and others to specify the details of “live fire.”
Levy reported that “the most moral army in the world fired an (M72 LAW) anti-tank missile at the house in which a wanted young Palestinian was hiding … ran a bulldozer over the top of the house and destroyed it,” using “a drill it calls a ‘pressure cooker’ – a rather disgusting drill it invented for itself.”
When the tactic of “pressure cooker,” which involves shooting at the walls of the house that is surrounded, failed to persuade the suspect to come out and turn himself in, the IOF troops at around 7 AM bulldozed part of the outer wall of the house and fired projectiles into the building. Fire erupted in the house. At 11 AM, they issued an ultimatum, “giving Muatazz two minutes to surrender, without result. As the ultimatum expired, the army fired several artillery shells from close distance. They then stormed the burning house, killing Muatazz,” Jan Walraven reported in the Palestine Monitor on this March 3.
The four – apartment building was bulldozed and shelled out of use and its contents burned and vandalized. Four families suddenly found themselves on the street, waiting for charities.
Washaha did not “resist” his arrest; he simply refused to give himself in. Released from an IFO jail only a few months ago, he knew very well what being imprisoned by the IOF meant. “I will be free here. Leave and do not worry about me. I will stay here and not surrender. I will not return to prison,” he told a Palestinian civil defense worker who rushed in to extinguish the fire caused by the Israeli projectile. Those were his last words, quoted by The Electronic Intifada on last February 28.
“They could have taken him as a prisoner, but they did not want him as a prisoner they wanted to kill him,” his father Mr. Abdul – Rahim said. Similarly, his mother, Mrs. Eitzaaz Washaha, told Anadolu Agency: “Israeli forces could have arrested Washaha, but they were determined to kill him. My son wasn't armed. He was killed after the house was bombed.”
An Israeli Shin Bet officer, who goes under the name of Alon, gave permission to kill Muatazz because he refused to appear for an interview with him, according to Hass. “This was regarded as a personal affront by Alon,” she wrote. The victim’s brother, Tha’er Washaha, told Haaretz he implored Alon for permission to go inside and convince his brother to come out; Alon refused.
However, despite the officially acknowledged “suspicion,” an official army tweet, quoted by Los Angeles Times on the same day, convicted him as a “terrorist who resisted arrest.”
Pro – Israeli media and Israeli media, the latter being subjected to well – known strict military censorship, echoed this unconfirmed conclusion; for example, www.algemeiner.com on the same day headlined its report to conclude that a “Wanted Terrorist (was) Shot Dead by Israel Defense Forces.”
Disinformation was demonstrated by Israel Hayom, reportedly close to prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office; on the same day Hayom reported that “a firefight broke out” between the holed in victim and the besieging army brigade, but the witnesses on the site confirmed the Reuters’ report that “no shots were heard from inside the home before the Israeli forces opened fire,” a fact that is confirmed by the other fact that the raiding Israeli forces did not suffer the slightest casualty, which also refutes the IOF’ claim that the man had an AK-47 rifle, another “story” that “Israel accepted … with a yawn,” according to Levy of Haaretz.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) in a statement condemned Washaha’s killing as an “assassination,” a “crime” and a “deliberate” killing. PA’s spokesman, Ihab Bsaiso, said it was an “example of the violence perpetrated on a daily basis against our population.” In a letter sent to the UN Secretary-General, the President of the UN Security Council and the President of the UN General Assembly, Palestinian Ambassador Feda Abdelhady – Nasser said Washaha’s killing indicates
’s “pre-meditated intention of killing him.” Israel
Israeli journalist Hass agrees further that his killing was a “cold-blooded assassination”; “The Israeli army did this deliberately,” she wrote. “Israel's goal” was “to embarrass the Palestinian Authority and undermine its status” among its own people and Israel was “successful” as the “Palestinian Authority officials were absent from Washaha's funeral” the next day to avoid the angry crowds, estimated at more than five thousand, who were demanding an end to peace negotiations and to PA’s security coordination with Israel.
Gideon Levy had another interpretation for the motives of “The most moral army in the world,” which was the title of his opinion column in Haaretz; “The Israel Defense Forces has also created a heartwarming name for all this: the “Tool of Disruption” – storming a civilian community for the purpose of causing panic and fear, and to disrupt its life,” or “Sometimes these operations are conducted … as a training routine in order to preserve the readiness of the forces and a demonstration of sovereign power” toward the Palestinians living under the Israeli military occupation since 1967, he wrote.
Amnesty’s Report Vindicated
Washaha’s extrajudicial execution came on the same day the Amnesty International (AI) released its 87-page report recommending that the U.S., EU and the rest of the international community should suspend all transfers of military aid to Israel because “without pressure from the international community the situation is unlikely to change any time soon,” Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Director Philip Luther said. “Too much civilian blood has been spilled … (and
’s) unlawful killings and
unnecessary use of force must stop now,” he added. Israel
The AI reported it had documented the killings of 22 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank in 2013 and in all the cases the Palestinians did not appear to have been posing a direct and immediate threat to life: “The circumstances of all their deaths point to them having been victims of unlawful killings, including — in some cases — possible willful killings.”
“Several victims were shot in the back suggesting that they were targeted as they tried to flee and posed no genuine threat to the lives of members of Israeli forces or others,” the report said. “In several cases, well-armored Israeli forces have resorted to lethal means to crack down on stone-throwing protesters causing needless loss of life” and “there is evidence that some individuals were victims of willful killings, which would amount to war crimes,” it added.
Since the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry succeeded in resuming the Palestinian – Israeli peace talks on last July 29, the IOF killed more than 42 Palestinian civilians; Washaha was among the latest.
Using “excessive force,” “arbitrary and abusive force against peaceful protesters” and displaying "callous disregard" for human life, Israeli soldiers and police officers have been operating with “near total impunity,” in a “harrowing pattern of unlawful killings and unwarranted injuries,” “as a matter of policy,” while the Israeli investigative system is “woefully inadequate,” said Luther.
The AI report accused
of “war crimes and other
serious violations of international law.” Israel
In Birzeit on that sad morning of last February 27, the elite military disproportionate force which the IOF used to liquidate Washaha acted as if it was intentionally determined to undermine the credibility of Israel’s official diplomacy, represented this time by ambassador Taub, and to vindicate the contents of Amnesty’s report which he tried to deny or at least to question.
Ironically, Israeli PM Netanyahu, less than a week later, was in Washington D.C. lecturing a receptive American audience at the annual conference of AIPAC about drawing a “clear line … between life and death, between right and wrong” and about the “moral divide!”
* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Bir Zeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. email@example.com
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Egyptian historic breakthrough with Russia, not a strategic shift yet
By Nicola Nasser*
The recent two-day first official visit in forty years by an Egyptian defense minister to Russia of Egypt’s strongman Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, accompanied by Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy, was indeed an historic breakthrough in bilateral relations, but it is still premature to deal with or build on it as a strategic shift away from the country’s more than three-decade strategic alliance with the United States.
administration sounds not really
concerned with this controversy about an Egyptian strategic shift as much as
with the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s welcome of al-Sisi’s expected candidacy for president. US
is free to pursue relationships with other countries. It doesn't impact our
shared interests,” said State Department deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf, on this
February 13. Egypt
The United States, which has been waging, by military invasion and proxy wars, a campaign of “regime changes” across the Middle East, was miserably hypocritical when Marie Harf invoked her country’s “democratic” ideals to declare that her administration “don't think it's, quite frankly, up to the United States or to Mr. Putin to decide who should govern Egypt.”
However, Pavel Felgenhauer, writing in the Eurasia Daily Monitor on this February 13, described the visit as a “geopolitical shift” that “could, according to Russian government sources, ‘dramatically reorient international relations in the
Middle East’.” The People’s
Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, on the following day
described it as an “historic breakthrough” in Egyptian-Russian relations and a
“transformation in the strategic compass of Egyptian foreign policy from Washington to .” Moscow
The main purpose of al-Sisi’s and Fahmy’s visit was to finalize an arms deal reportedly worth two to four billion US dollars, al-Ahram daily reported on February 13. The joint statement released after the meeting of both countries’ ministers of defense and foreign affairs in Moscow on the same day announced also that the Russian capital will host a meeting of the Russian-Egyptian commission on trade and economic cooperation on next March 28.
This is serious business; it is vindicated also by the arrival in
on this February 17 of the commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force,
Lieutenant General Victor Bondarev, heading a six-member team of his
commanders, on a four-day visit, according to the Egyptian Almasry Alyoum
online the following day. Cairo
In the immediate proximity, this “new concern” has been “preoccupying
strategists in recent weeks. They are beginning to worry about the high
momentum” with which Putin is capitalizing on America’s “hands off policy” in
the Middle East, according to DEBKAfile report on February 16. Al-Sisi’s trip
to Moscow, which “put him on the road to the independent path he seeks” has “incalculable consequences” the report said, adding that “he is investing
effort in building a strong regime that will promote the Nasserist form of
pan-Arab nationalism, with Egypt in the forefront.” “This policy may well bring
Israel Egypt into collision with
the state of ,”
the report concluded. Israel
Nonetheless, two former Israeli cabinet ministers of defense, namely Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Ehud Barak voiced support for al-Sisi. The first publicly supported his bid for presidency. Barak said that “the whole world should support Sisi.” However, their voices seem to fall on deaf ears in
, or sounds like it. Washington D.C.
Both men’s support is consistent with
Israel’s instructive official “silence” over the
developments in ,
which is still committed to its thirty five –year old peace treaty with the
Hebrew state. “Israel’s main interest,” according to Israeli officials and
experts, quoted by The New York Times on last August 16, “is a stable Egypt
that can preserve the country’s 1979 peace treaty and restore order along the
border in the Sinai Peninsula,” which extends 270 kilometers (160
miles) from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea Israeli resort of Eilat. Egypt
Within this context can be interpreted
eyes to the incursion of Egyptian tanks and warplanes into what is designated
by the treaty as a “demilitarized” “Area C” of Sinai. Israel
The Litmus Test
Herein is the litmus test to judge whether al-Sisi’s eastward orientation and his supposed “Nasserist” loyalties indicate or not a strategic shift that trespasses the Israeli and
US red line of ’s commitment to the peace
Senior associate of the
Carnegie Middle East
Center, Yezid Sayigh wrote on August
1, 2012 that the “will continue keeping a balance
between its relations with the (then) Egyptian president (Mohamed
Morsi) and the Egyptian army. The balance will always shift to the side
that ensures the continuity of Egypt's commitment to the following: The
Camp David Peace Treaty, the retention of a demilitarized Sinai, retaining
multinational troops and observers led by the US, maintaining gas exports to
Israel, isolating Hamas, resisting Iran's efforts to expand its influence,
resisting al-Qaida, and keeping the Suez Canal open.” (Emphasis added). United
These are the bedrocks of
Egypt’s strategic alliance with the and
because they were and are still safe in good hands under both the removed
president Morsi and the prospective president al-Sisi, it will be premature to
conclude that the revived Egyptian – Russians relations indicate any strategic
departure therefrom. US
Preserving or discarding these Egyptian commitments is the litmus test to judge whether
’s revival of its Russian ties
is a strategic maneuver or a strategic departure. Egypt
Other indicators include the financial and political sponsorship of al-Sisi’s government by none other than the very close Arab allies of the
like Jordan and in Saudi Arabia, United
Arab Emirates and Kuwait,
who had already together pledged twenty billion dollars in aid to al-Sisi and
reportedly are funding his armaments deal with . Russia
Saudi Al Arabia satellite TV station on this February 13 quoted Abdallah Schleifer, a professor emeritus of journalism at the American University in Cairo, as sarcastically questioning President Barak Obama’s performance: “What an extraordinary accomplishment President Obama will take with him when he retires from office – Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which provided (late Egyptian president) Anwar Sadat with both moral and financial backing to break with the Russians in the early 1970s and turn towards the United States – may now finance an Egyptian arms deal with the Russians,” Schleifer said.
Al-Sisi’s supposed “Nasserist” and “pan-Arab” orientation could not be consistent, for example, with inviting the defense ministers of the
United Arab Emirates,
Iraq, Bahrain, , and their Jordanian
counterpart Prime Minister Abdullah al-Nsour to attend the 40th anniversary
celebrations of the 1973 October War. Morocco Syria
partner in that war and Jamal Abdul Nasser’s major “pan-Arab” ally, but it was
not represented. The countries which were represented were seriously against
Abdul Nasser’s Egypt Egypt and its
pan-Arab ideology, but more importantly they were and still are strategic
allies of his US-led enemies and peace partners of . Israel
US Aid Counterproductive
US whistleblowers warning of an Egyptian strategic shift are abundant as part of blasting Obama for his foreign policy blunders. For example, US foreign policy scholars Tom Nichols and John R. Schindler, quoted on this February 13 by The Tower.org staff, who agree that they rarely agree on anything, are agreeing now that Obama’s administration is undermining “nearly seven decades” of bipartisan American efforts aimed at “limiting Moscow’s influence” in the Middle East.
It can be argued that Egypt's flirtation with Russia does not mean a shift in the country's foreign policy away from the United States as much as an attempt to induce the United States to shift its Egypt policy back to where it was before … in order to pressure the United States and to arouse concern among American politicians about the prospect of losing Egypt, encouraging them to amend unfavorable policies.”
The Obama administration welcomed al-Sisi’s assumption of power by calling off the biannual joint US-Egypt military exercise "Bright Star" and halting the delivery of military hardware to Egypt, including F-16 fighter jets, Apache helicopters, Harpoon missiles, and tank parts and when Last January the US Congress approved a spending bill that would restore $1.5bn in aid to Egypt, it was on the condition (emphasis added) that the Egyptian government ensures democratic reform.
Le Monde Diplomatique in November last year quoted veteran arms trade expert Sergio Finardi as saying that the US aid money “never leaves US banks, and is mostly transferred not to the target country but to US defense manufacturers that sell the equipment to Egypt.”
US aid money is attached to Egypt’s commitment to the peace treaty with . Such a
commitment is compromising Egyptian sovereignty in Sinai, which has become a
no-man land where organized crime, illegal trade in arms and terrorist groups
enjoy a free hand with a heavy price in Egyptian souls and governance. Israel
Either the provisions of the peace treaty are amended, or the American conditions for aid are dropped altogether or at least reconsidered to allow Egypt to fully exercise its sovereignty in Sinai, or Egypt would look elsewhere for alternative empowerment, for example to start “a new era of constructive, fruitful co-operation on the military level” with Russia as al-Sisi told his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu, according to the official Egyptian news agency MENA on last November 14.
All the foregoing aside, Egypt wants to modernize its military-industrial complex per se. Shana Marshall, associate director of the Institute for Middle East Studies and research instructor at the George Washington University, quoted by http://www.jadaliyya.com/ on this February 10, called this “Egypt’s Other Revolution.” The thirty five-year old arrangements with the
are not helping out, but worse they have become the main obstacle to fulfill
this aspiration. United States
All these and other factors indicate that al-Sisi is in fact pursuing vital Egyptian national interests and not seeking a strategic shift in his country’s alliance with the
. The Russian
opening is his last resort. It is highly possible that he might backtrack
should US Washington decide not to repeat its
historical mistake when it refused to positively respond to similar Egyptian
military and development aspirations in the fifties of the twentieth century,
which pushed Egypt into the
open arms of the former Soviet Union.
‘Abject Failure’ of US Aid
to look now for Russian armament and economic help means that the Egyptian –
strategic cooperation since 1979 has failed to cater for its defense needs and
development aspirations. US
Thirty five years on, during which a regional rival like Iran stands now on the brink of becoming a nuclear power with an ever expanding industrial military complex while the other Israeli rival is already a nuclear power and a major world exporter of arms, Egypt’s military stands weaker, seems stagnant, underdeveloped and pushed out of competition while its population have become much poorer.
Nothing much has changed since the US Middle East Policy Council in its winter edition of 1996 published Denis J. Sullivan’s piece, “American Aid to Egypt, 1975-96: Peace without Development,” wherein he pointed out that “the reality is that Egypt is far from a "model" of effective use of (US) foreign assistance.”
The country, despite the fact that “the US aid program in Egypt is the largest such program in the world” and that “in 21 years, Egypt has received some $21 billion in economic aid from the United States plus over $25 billion in military aid,” Egypt “remains poor, overpopulated, polluted and undemocratic … In short, Egypt in 1996 continues to exhibit virtually all the characteristics the United States has claimed to want to change since it began its massive economic aid program in 1975,” Sullivan wrote.
Seventeen years later The New Republic on this February 4, described what Sullivan said was a “failure” as an “abject failure” of “the US development aid to Egypt.”
Militarily, Carnegie’s Yezid Sayigh’s paper of August 2012 quoted an assessment of US embassy officials in a 2008 cable leaked by WikiLeaks as saying that “tactical and operational readiness of the Egyptian Armed Forces has degraded.” He wrote that “US officers and officials familiar with the military assistance programs to
describe the Egyptian Armed Forces as no longer capable of combat.” He also
quoted “leading experts on Egypt Clement Henry and Robert Springborg” as saying
that the Egyptian army’s “training is desultory, maintenance of its equipment
is profoundly inadequate, and it is dependent on the United States for funding
and logistical support … despite three
decades of US training and joint US-Egyptian exercises.” Egypt
US Back Turned to
The Tower.org on February 13 reported that the “White House two weeks ago to invite
summit of African leaders.” Egypt
That was not the first indication that the US foreign policy has been alienating Egypt since Field Marshal al-Sisi assumed power early last July in response to a massive popular protest on last June 30 against the former president Mohamed Morsi.
Since US Secretary of State John Kerry’ visit to
last November, who in this capacity toured the region more than eleven times
and seems to spend more time in the Middle East than in US, Kerry has been
out of his itinerary. His president Obama, who is scheduled to visit Egypt Saudi Arabia next March, receive Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu early
in the month and had received King Abdullah II of Jordan
on this February 14, had no reported plans either to receive al-Sisi or to visit
his country, which was previously a regular stop for top visiting officials. US
Is it a surprise then that al-Sisi’s first visit abroad was to
not to Washington D.C.,
to meet with the Russian president and not with his counterpart? US
Al-Sisi in an interview with the Washington Post early last August accused the
of “turning its back” to Egyptians. “You left the Egyptians, you turned your
back on the Egyptians and they won’t forget that,” he said. US
However, al-Sisi does by no means dream of disturbing the existing political order in the Middle East, or coming to loggerheads with Israel or the US, but it seems obvious that he’ is fed up with the preconditions attached to US aid that have rendered his country’s military and economy backward in comparison to regional highly upgraded rivals. The
did not help
become a “success story in economic development” as
the USAID claims on its website. Egypt
Pavel Felgenhauer wrote on February 13 that, “It is clear Egypt is ready to accept Russian aid and weaponry as it did during the Cold War in the 1950s–1970s to show the US it has an alternative source of support.”
Indeed, al-Sisi thanked his Russian counterpart for “giving the Egyptian people economic and defense aid.” Putin said that he was “sure we can increase trade to $5 billion in the future.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said: “We agreed to speed up the preparations of documents that will give an additional impulse to the development of military and military-technical cooperation.” It is noteworthy that all is without preconditions, political or otherwise.
The Associated Press on February 13 quoted Abdullah el-Sinawi, whom the AP identified as “a prominent Cairo-based analyst known to be close to the military,” as saying that al-Sisi “wanted to send a signal to
" Washington Egypt needs an
international entrusted ally that would balance relations with . America Egypt will be open to other centers of power
without breaking the relations with the ," he said. US
maneuverability abroad” and that “the Russian ‘bear’ that had come to Egypt has had its claws clipped”: “Soviet Union has collapsed, the Warsaw Pact is dead, and the Cold War is over … (and) the US GDP … is eight times more than Russia’s;” moreover the US-led world alliance accounts “for 80 per cent of global gross production and a larger percentage of the world’s modern technology.”
True, Egyptian Foreign Minister Fahmi said on last October 18 that the “Egyptian-American relations have changed after 30 June for the first time in 30 years to a peer relationship” and that “Egyptian decision making is now independent from any state.” A day earlier he told the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper that the bilateral relations were in “a delicate state reflecting the turmoil in the relationship.” “The problem,” he said, “goes back much earlier, and is caused by the dependence of
aid for 30 years.” US
Therefore, “Egypt is heading toward Eastern powers,” Saeed al-Lawindi, a political expert at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Xinhua on February 14, but Talaat Musallam, a strategic and security expert and a former army general, described al-Sisi's Russian pivot as “a kind of strategic maneuver.” Musallam was vindicated by Fahmi’s repeated assertions that “
Egypt’s closeness with Russia
is not a move against the US,”
i.e. not a strategic departure from the . United States
However, international relations are not static; they have their own dynamics. Should the
US passive sensitivity to
Egyptian aspirations continue to be hostage to the 1979 Camp David accords and
the Russian opening continue to cater for ’s military as well as
economic vital needs, the “strategic maneuver” could in no time turn
into a strategic shift. Egypt
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Playing Al-Qaeda Card to the Last Iraqi
By Nicola Nasser*
International, regional and internal players vying for interests, wealth, power or influence are all beneficiaries of the “al-Qaeda threat” in Iraq and in spite of their deadly and bloody competitions they agree only on two denominators, namely that the presence of the U.S.-installed and Iran–supported sectarian government in Baghdad and its sectarian al-Qaeda antithesis are the necessary casus belli for their proxy wars, which are tearing apart the social fabric of the Iraqi society, disintegrating the national unity of Iraq and bleeding its population to the last Iraqi.
The Iraqi people seem a passive player, paying in their blood for all this Machiavellian dirty politics. The war which the
by its invasion of
in 2003 undoubtedly continues and the bleeding of the Iraqi people continues as
According to the UN Assistance Mission to
Iraqis were killed since 2008 and more than ten thousand were killed in 2013
during which suicide bombings more than tripled according to the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk’s recent testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The AFP reported that more than
one thousand Iraqis were killed in last January. The UN refugee agency UNHCR, citing Iraqi government figures, says that more
than 140,000 Iraqis have already been displaced from Iraq Iraq’s
western . province
and Russia are now supplying
Iraq with multi–billion arms
sales to empower the sectarian government in to defeat the sectarian “al-Qaeda
threat.” They see a
casus belli in al–Qaeda to regain a lost ground in Iraq, the first to rebalance
its influence against Iran in a country where it had paid a heavy price in
human souls and taxpayer money only for Iran to reap the exploits of its invasion
of 2003 while the second could not close an opened Iraqi window of opportunity
to re-enter the country as an exporter of arms who used to be the major
supplier of weaponry to the Iraqi military before the U.S. invasion. Baghdad
Regionally, Iraq’s ambassador to Iran Muhammad Majid al-Sheikh announced earlier this month that Baghdad has signed an agreement with Tehran “to purchase weapons and military equipment;” Iraqi Defense Minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen defense and security agreements with Iran last September.
which is totally preoccupied with fighting a three –year old wide spread
terrorist insurgency within its borders, could not but coordinate defense with
military against the common enemy of the “al-Qaeda threat” in both countries. Iraq
Counterbalancing politically and militarily, Turkey and the GCC countries led by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, in their anti-Iran proxy wars in Iraq and Syria, are pouring billions of petrodollars to empower a sectarian counterbalance by money, arms and political support, which end up empowering al–Qaeda indirectly or its sectarian allies directly, thus perpetuating the war and fueling the sectarian strife in Iraq, as a part of an unabated effort to contain Iran’s expanding regional sphere of influence.
Ironically, the Turkish member of the U.S.–led NATO as well as the GCC Arab NATO non–member “partners” seem to stand on the opposite side with their U.S. strategic ally in the Iraqi war in this tragic drama of Machiavellian dirty politics.
Internally, the three major partners in the “political process” are no less Machiavellian in their exploiting of the al-Qaeda card. The self–ruled northern Iraqi Kurdistan region, which counts down for the right timing for secession, could not be but happy with the preoccupation of the central government in
with the “al–Qaeda threat.” Pro-Iran Shiite sectarian parties and militias use
this threat to strengthen their sectarian bond and justify their loyalty to Baghdad as their
protector. Their Sunni sectarian rivals are using the threat to promote
themselves as the “alternative” to al-Qaeda in representing the Sunnis and to
justify their seeking financial, political and paramilitary support from the Iran U.S., GCC and Turkey,
allegedly to counter the pro-Iran sectarian government in Baghdad
as well as the expanding Iranian influence in and the region. Iraq
Exploiting his partners’ inter-fighting, Iraqi two–term Prime Minister Nouri (or Jawad) Al-Maliki, has maneuvered to win a constitutional interpretation allowing him to run for a third term and, to reinforce his one-man show of governance, he was in Washington D.C. last November, then in Tehran the next December, seeking military “help” against the “al-Qaeda threat” and he got it.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has pledged to support al-Maliki's military offensive against al–Qaeda and its offshoot the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
24 Apache helicopter with rockets and other equipment connected to them, 175 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, ScanEagle and Raven reconnaissance drones have either already been delivered or pending delivery, among a $4.7 billion worth of military equipment, including F-16 fighters. James Jeffrey reported in Foreign Policy last Monday that President Barak Obama’s administration is “increasing intelligence and operational cooperation with the Iraqi government.” The French Le Figaro reported early this week that “hundreds” of U.S. security personnel will return to Iraq to train Iraqis on using these weapons to confirm what the Pentagon spokesman, Army Col. Steve Warren, did not rule out on last January 17 when he said that “we are in continuing discussions about how we can improve the Iraqi military.”
Kerry ruled out sending “American boots” on the Iraqi ground; obviously he meant “Pentagon boots,” but not the Pentagon–contracted boots.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) online on this February 3 reported that the “
military support there relies increasingly on the presence of contractors.” It
described this strategy as “the strategic deployment of defense contractors in U.S. .” Citing
State Department and Pentagon figures, the WSJ reported, “As of January 2013,
the Iraq U.S. had more than
12,500 contractors in Iraq,”
including some 5,000 contractors supporting the American diplomatic mission in ,
the largest in the world. Iraq
It is obvious that the
U.S. administration is continuing its war on
by the Iraqi ruling proxies who had been left behind when the American combat
mission was ended in December 2011. The administration is highlighting the “al-Qaeda threat” as casus belli
as cited Brett McGurk’s testimony before the House
Foreign Affairs Committee on this February 8. Iraq
The Machiavellian support from
Syria and Russia might for a while misleadingly portray al-Maliky’s
government as anti - American, but it could not cover up the fact that it was essentially
installed by the U.S. foreign
military invasion and is still bound by a “strategic agreement” with the . United States
Political System Unfixable
However the new U.S. “surge” in “operational cooperation with the Iraqi government” will most likely not succeed in fixing “Iraq’s shattered political system,” which “our forces were unable to fix … even when they were in Iraq in large numbers,” according to Christopher A. Preble, writing in Cato Institute online on last January 23.
“Sending David Petraeus and Ambassador (Ryan) Crocker back” to
as suggested by U.S. Sen. John McCain to CNN’s “State of the Union”
last January 12 was a disparate wishful thinking.
’s shattered political system”
is the legitimate product of the U.S.–engineered “political process” based on
sectarian and ethnic fragmentation of the geopolitical national unity of the
country. Highlighting the “al-Qaeda threat” can no more cover up the fact that the “political
process” is a failure that cannot be “fixed” militarily. Iraq
Writing in Foreign Policy on this February 10, James Jeffrey said that the “United States tried to transform Iraq into a model Western-style democracy,” but “the U.S. experience in the Middle East came to resemble its long war in Vietnam.”
proxy government in Baghdad, which has developed
into an authoritarian regime, remains the bedrock of the strategic
failure. The “al-Qaeda threat” is only the expected sectarian antithesis; it is
a byproduct that will disappear with the collapse of the sectarian “political
In their report titled “Iraq in Crisis” and published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on last January 24, Anthony H. Cordesman and Sam Khazai said that the “cause of Iraq’s current violence” is “its failed politics and system of governance,” adding that the Iraqi “election in 2010 divided the nation rather than create any form of stable democracy.” On the background of the current status quo,
’s next round of elections, scheduled for next April
30, is expected to fare worse. Writing in Al-Ahram Weekly last August 14, Salah
Nasrawi said that more than 10 years after the Iraq invasion,
“the much-trumpeted Iraqi democracy is a mirage.” He was vindicated by none
other than the Iraqi Speaker of the parliament Osama
Al Nujaifi who was quoted by the Gulf News on last January 25 as saying during
his latest visit to U.S.: “What we have now is a facade of a democracy
— superficial — but on the inside it’s total chaos.” U.S.
Popular Uprising, not al-Qaeda
Al-Maliki’s government on this February 8 issued a one week ultimatum to what the governor of Anbar described as the “criminals” who “have kidnapped Fallujah” for more than a month, but Ross Caputi, a veteran U.S. Marine who participated in the second U.S. siege of Fallujah in 2004, in an open letter to U.S. Secretary Kerry published by the Global Research last Monday, said that “the current violence in Fallujah has been .”
“The Iraqi government has not been attacking al Qaeda in Fallujah,” he said, adding that Al-Maliki’s government “is not a regime the
should be sending weapons to.”
For this purpose Caputi attached a petition with . He described what is happening in the western Iraqi city as
a “popular uprising.” U.S.
Embracing the same strategy the Americans used in 2007,
and U.S. Iraqi proxies have
now joined forces against a “popular uprising” that Fallujah has just become only
a symbol. Misleadingly pronouncing al-Qaeda as their target, the pro-Iran
sectarian and the pro-U.S. so-called “Awakening” tribal militias have revived
their 2007 alliance. Iran
The Washington Post on this February 9 reported that the “Shiite militias” have begun “to remobilize,” including The Badr Organization, Kataib Hezbollah and the Mahdi Army; it quoted a commander of one such militia, namely Asaib Ahl al-Haq, as admitting to “targeted” extrajudicial “killings.”
This unholy alliance is the ideal recipe for fueling the sectarian divide and inviting a sectarian retaliation in the name of fighting al-Qaeda; the likely bloody prospects vindicate Cordesman and Khazai’s conclusion that
is now “a nation in
crisis bordering on civil war.” Iraq
Al – Qaeda is real and a terrorist threat, but like the sectarian U.S.-installed government in
was a new comer brought into Iraq
by or because of the invading U.S.
troops and most likely it would last as long as its sectarian antithesis lives
on in ’s
so–called “Green Zone.” Baghdad
“Al-Maliki has more than once termed the various fights and stand-offs” in Iraq “as a fight against "al Qaeda", but it's not that simple,” Michael Holmes wrote in CNN on last January 15. The “Sunni sense of being under the heel of a sectarian government … has nothing to do with al Qaeda and won't evaporate once” it is forced out of
, Holmes concluded. Iraq
A week earlier, analyst Charles Lister, writing to CNN, concluded that "al Qaeda" was being used as a political tool” by al–Maliki, who “has adopted sharply sectarian rhetoric when referring to Sunni elements … as inherently connected to al Qaeda, with no substantive evidence to back these claims.”
Al–Qaeda not the Only Force
“Al–Qaeda is “not the only force on the ground in Fallujah, where “defected local police personnel and armed tribesmen opposed to the federal government … represent the superior force,” Lister added.
The Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) had reported that the “Iraqi insurgency” is composed of at least a dozen major organizations and perhaps as many as 40 distinct groups with an estimated less than 10% non-Iraqi foreign insurgents. It is noteworthy that all those who are playing the “al-Qaeda threat” card are in consensus on blacking out the role of these movements.
Prominent among them is the Jaysh Rijal al-Tariq al-Naqshabandi (JRTN) movement, which announced its establishment after Saddam Hussein’s execution on December 30, 2006. It is the backbone of the Higher Command for Jihad and Liberation (HCJL), which was formed in October the following year as a coalition of more than thirty national “resistance” movements. The National, Pan-Arab and Islamic front (NAIF) is the Higher Command’s political wing. Saddam’s deputy, Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, is the leader of JRTN, HCJL and NAIF as well as the banned Baath party.
“Since 2009, the movement has gained significant strength” because of its “commitment to restrict attacks to “the unbeliever-occupier,” according to Michael Knights, writing to the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) on July1, 2011. “We absolutely forbid killing or fighting any Iraqi in all the agent state apparatus of the army, the police, the awakening, and the administration, except in self-defense situations, and if some agents and spies in these apparatus tried to confront the resistance,” al-Duri stated in 2009, thus extricating his movement from the terrorist atrocities of al-Qaeda, which has drowned the Iraqi people in a bloodbath of daily suicide bombings.
The majority of these organizations and groups are indigenous national anti-U.S. resistance movements. Even the ISIL, which broke out recently with al-Qaeda, is led and manned mostly by Iraqis. Playing al-Qaeda card is a smokescreen to downplay their role as the backbone of the national opposition to the U.S.-installed sectarian proxy government in
’s green Zone.
Their Islamic rhetoric is their common language with their religious people. Baghdad
Since the end of the
U.S. combat mission in the country in December
2011, they resorted to popular peaceful protests across . Late last
December al-Maliki dismantled by force their major camp of protests near
Ramadi, the capital of the western Iraq . Protesting armed
men immediately took over Fallujah and Ramadi. province
Since then, more than 45 tribal “military councils” were announced in all the governorates of
. They held a national
conference in January, which elected the “General Political Council of the
Guerrillas of Iraq.” Coverage of the news and “guerrilla” activities of these
councils by Al-Duri’s
media outlets is enough indication of the linkage between them and his
organizational structure. Iraq
No doubt revolution is brewing and boiling in
Iraq against the sectarian government in Baghdad, its and Iranian supporters as well
as against its al-Qaeda sectarian antithesis. U.S.