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الاثنين، 30 يونيو 2014

Is As-Sistani Revealing Lack of Wisdom?

The religious duty of a Muslim leader is to oppose the invasion of his land which would inevitably result in killing and destruction, both of which should not be condoned by a Muslim.

Ali As-Sistani, the most influential Shi’a cleric, recently issued one of the most controversial and contentious Fatwas that may have far more repercussions than ever thought. Although several attempts have since been made to moderate the language and purpose of that Fatwa, the damage had already been done. The ‘Jihad Fatwa’ called on able Shi’a men to take arms and fight the attack of Sunni Selafis against the Government in advancing from Mousil south towards Baghdad. The Fatwa has created a polarization the like of which Iraq has never experienced before as waves of Shi’a mob took arms and marched through cities in Iraq intimidating Sunnis.  But in order to understand the value of the Fatwa and its possible repercussion, a few words need to be said about the meaning of Shi’a hierarchy. The following are excerpts from our forthcoming book, Genocide in Iraq II, to be published by Clarity Press Inc in December 2014.

“Muslims generally have never had a religious hierarchy akin to the Christian church. The Shi’a religious hierarchy is a recent creation in Shi’a history. In the times of the Imam, the source of guidance was the Imams themselves. This remained the case even when Shi’a theology was being formulated after the twelve Imams. However, in the last two hundred years a new concept was born. Both ‘Taqleed’ and ‘Marji’yah[i]came into use as terms of specific meaning in Shi’a theology. ‘Marji’yah’ came to mean the religious reference to which every Shi’a should accept and seek advice from. ‘Taqleed’ is the responsibility of each Shi’a to select a religious learned person (Faqih), who has been certified by his fellow learned colleagues as having reached the stage of the capacity to interpret (ijtihad), and follow him blindly.

Each Shi’a was taught that he/she should choose one such religious leader as a Marji’ and follow him in ‘taqleed’ which entailed following his edicts; seeking his opinion in all matters of religion and life and paying the alms of 20% of their income. Once they do that, they are assured that they will be absolved of any sin having followed the opinion of the Marji’.

There are two important consequences to such a practice. Firstly, it killed all capacity to have an independent thinking by removing the duty on a human being to use his reasoning in matters of life, which is a very reactionary step even for Islam. Ijtihad (independent reasoning or the making of a decision by a personal effort) which the Shi’a had taken pride in over centuries while they retained it, has been made the exclusive right of the Marij’ and not the individual.  Secondly, it created such a power to the Marji’, who could rely on vast sums of money through the payment of alms over the strong and widespread following.  When we consider that this taqleed for any one Marji’ takes place across borders, we can see the potential of the power base of such a Marji’ if he amasses a large following in the Muslim world. It would make it easy to see how a simple Marji’, like Abul-Qasim Al-Khoei’ [ii], while in Najaf of Iraq, managed to set up a charity with an initial capital of some 700 million pounds and register it in his son’s name. Such potential of power has never been available to any ruler or leaders in the world. The difference between such power and that of a political dictator is that for the latter the people generally go along with following him for different reasons whether it was coercion or compulsion, while the Marji’s people follow him believingly. The Marji’ relies on apparatus that does not even exist for political leaders. He uses existing mosques in which he appoints his representatives who carry out the duty of passing on his opinions and forwarding questions put to him by his followers. His source of authority is the undisputed Qur’an which he interprets as the point of reference for an authority he claims to derive from the Imam Mahdi whose expected return would deliver salvation to his hapless masses.

It is in the light of this reality that politics in Iraq, and to a similar extent in Iran, should be understood.

The power and significance of Marji’yah in Iraq could be understood if we consider two instances in its history, namely following the two invasions of Iraq in 1916 and 2003. Despite feeling persecuted by the Ottoman rule, the Marji’yah in 1916 refused to side with the British invaders. It opposed the invasion; issued ‘fatwas’ for that; called on Iraqis to take up arms and fight it and in some cases took part personally in the resistance against the invasion [iii]. However, in 2003, and for the reasons that we shall elaborate, the Marji’yah was either openly in support of the invasion or at best silently acquiescing in it, both of which is, in our opinion, sacrilege. 

Despite the domination of Sunni over all Governments in Iraq between 1920 and 2003, it is fair to say that none of them was in principle sectarian with intent. But that did not lessen the grievance and sense of injustice which the Shi’a intelligentsia felt during these years. The sectarian identity of an individual is a very complex issue to figure out. We have had friends from both Shi’a and Sunni over the years who had in general acted with indifference to the sect of each other. However, at times of crisis or when there is some conflict between the sects, these hidden identities seem to surface and rational people suddenly become irrational. This has been more evident in recent weeks since the incursion of ISIS forces into Mosul and neighboring areas in writings and comments on Facebook and other outlets. It is beyond our competence to understand such affiliation and how it functions but we can observe it and comment on it.

The sense of injustice among the majority of the Shi’a of Iraq has become so ingrained in the culture and psyche that, when it comes to issues of principles, it seems to subconsciously affect even educated Shi’a and obscure their vision.  This has slowly become a sense of victimization which cuts through all strata of the Shi’a in Iraq and has worked to alienate most of them away from Arab Nationalism. Although some staunch Nationalists[iv] were Shi’a, the majority shied away from identifying themselves with it. The reason may not be too obvious to notice. We believe that most Iraqi Shi’as were brought up being told that because the main persecution came from the Sunni Ottoman rule and because most Arabs around Iraq are Sunnis, then any unity with them would make the Shi’a an even smaller minority and thus the persecution would continue. They became, whether consciously or subconsciously, opposed to the idea of Arab Nationalism and Arab unity that follows from it. This led to the result that the Arab Nationalist movement in Iraq has had a mainly Sunni character. This result created a vicious circle as young Shi’a were reminded of the Sunni nature of Arab Nationalism which alienated them even further! This may also explain why young Iraqi Shi’a turned to communism! It would be interesting for any study to compare the situation of the Shi’a in Lebanon with the Shi’a in Iraq and find out the reason for the former being so much more in the Arab Nationalist circle than the latter.

The Americans and the British, relying on an army of Orientalists led by Bernard Lewis, hundreds of think tanks, numerous Iraqi experts and a plethora of intelligence reports, concluded mainly post WWII that by appealing to the sense of injustice among the Shi’a of Iraq, they could subdue Iraq and maintain the purpose of Sykes-Picot. Having realized that the Marji’yah wielded more power than any political party, they concluded that the best way to control Iraq was to infiltrate the Marji’yah and either control it or influence it. As the Marji’ was so powerful, he was all that was needed to persuade Shi’a, directly or through an influential member of his inner circle, that the imperialists’ ambitions were not anti-Shi’a. The offer would be very simple:  Be on our side and we will deliver Iraq to you!

The strategy to infiltrate the Marji’ never slowed down. It simply had to adjust within the realities of politics in Iraq depending on whether or not the regime was fully antagonistic to imperialists’ design. Thus when Iraq was serving their interests in fighting Iran, the imperialists eased their pressure on it and encouraged closer links between Baghdad and one of the most powerful Marji’s in 20th century Shi’a history, Abul-Qasim Al-Khoei’. They even suggested to their rich Shi’a friends in the Gulf to pay their alms to Al-Khoei’ in Najaf rather than Khomeini in Iran. The situation suddenly changed when Iraq retook Kuwait in 1990. The imperialists embarked on an intensive campaign to influence theMarji’yah which took many different forms ranging from contacts with rich Shi’a all over the world, to setting up religious centres, to recruiting people to work in the media, all to serve one purpose; namely to convince the Shi’a masses of Iraq that there would be salvation in ousting the Ba’ath rule. The success of the campaign materialized from its early days after the attack on Iraq in 1991. The Marji’yah established its authority when Saddam Hussein felt unable to act against Al-Khoei’ after the latter refused to back his crackdown on the uprising that followed the 1991 military attack

The planners in Washington and London carried on the infiltration of the Marji’yah ensuring that both Al-Khoei’ and As-Sisatni, his natural successor, were being constantly persuaded. Along with these tactics with the Marji’yah, the imperialists opened channels of communications with all known Shi’a parties ranging from The Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) stationed in Tehran and led by one of Al-Hakims’s sons, to the Da’wa Party through its representative in London, Ibrahim Al-Ja’fari, who became a Prime Minster after the invasion, and who was in constant contacts with MI6.

In attempting to justify collaborating with the Zionists, some Shi’a went down a very serious line of argument in which they debased Islam in general and Shi’ism in particular. One such measure was to fabricate a Hadith, which is not completely new in Islam, as it is awash with fabricated Hadiths, to justify their collaboration with the Zionist against Muslim Iraq. The fabricated Hadith is supposed to say:

The rule of a just heathen ruler is better than the rule of an unjust Muslim ruler.

This they argued was the reason for them to invite the Zionist to invade Iraq, as it would get rid of the unjust rule of Saddam Hussein and replace it with the just rule of the Marji’yah. But they got George Bush! We have yet to come across one Shi’a writer who has asked why, in view of this powerful Hadith, did not their Fourth Imam, Ali Bin Hussein, collaborate with the Byzantines and invite them to occupy Syria and oust Yazid Bin Mu’awyiha, who had massacred his father Hussein and all his family. Indeed, if anything, Ali bin Hussein in all his sermons had called for the defence of the Muslim land.

The religious duty of a Muslim leader is to oppose the invasion of his land which would inevitably result in killing and destruction, both of which should not be condoned by a Muslim. However, when the missiles started showering Iraq in March 2003, Ali As-Sistani, who we believe had prior advice of the invasion, kept quiet. His silence, which naturally would have been watched by the millions who followed him, meant that they either supported the invasion or acquiesced in it. There are millions in Iraq and outside it who follow As-Sistani. The invaders could not have wished for a more favourable state of affairs. As-Sistani’s silence delivered to them a victory that no missiles could have achieved. Some may argue that as a religious leader he had to keep out of politics. But the protection of the Muslim Umma is a religious duty. As-Sistani did not do what the Shi’a leaders did in 1916 in calling on the people of Iraq to fight the infidel army invading their Muslim land.

It is no secret that As-Sistani has always opposed the concept of ‘Wilyat Al-Faqeeh’ [v] and all that Khomeini represented, even when he was in Najaf before he assumed power in Iran. The argument of As-Sistani and his ilk is that religion should keep out of politics which Khomeini and his followers suggest to be inseparable. The latter, on the other hand, believed that Islam and politics are inseparable because Islam is not just a religion but a way of life. But in reality As-Sistani and his followers have always been involved in politics, albeit covertly. There is overwhelming anecdotal evidence about the coordination between Bremer and As-Sistani and his entourage in Najaf, but we shall not go into that here. However, we shall cite a few examples of clear political deacons made by As-Sistani which goes to show that not only did he meddle in and influence politics in Iraq post-2003, but that he in fact supported the invasion and acquiesced in the changes introduced by the invaders in Iraq. It may be argued that As-Sistani did not oppose the invasion because he wanted to preserve life, given the US was going to occupy Iraq in any case and thus surrender was the best option to protect the lives of the Muslims. It may also be argued that As-Sistani wanted to keep out of politics and stick to his religious duties towards his followers.

Had he really kept out of politics, all these arguments would be reasonable. But in 2005 a new constitution for Iraq was drafted by the invaders. It seems that As-Sistani suddenly woke up and decided that every citizen, especially his followers who bestow ‘taqleed’ on him, should vote in favour of the Constitution. Could this be anything but a political act? There are rumours about ‘fatwas’ having been issued by As-Sistani to force his followers to do so. Whether or not such fatwas were indeed made is irrelevant so long as the people believed that they were made and the Marji’ did not come out publically and deny having made them. His silence was as good as having admitted to having made them. That intervention by As-Sistani was a clear support of the invasion for one simple reason. The new constitution included an article [vi] which stated that all the laws passed by Bremer would become irreversibly part of Iraq’s laws. By supporting the new constitution, As-Sistani agreed to legitimize the invasion and all its consequences. Had he even bothered to object to this article in the constitution we would have been able to find some justification for his intervention.

Many articles have been written in an attempt to exonerate As-Sistani from the charges levelled against him by his opponents from among the Shi’a of Iraq, like Muqtada As-Sadr [vii], that he had supported the invasion and collaborated with the occupiers. We do not find any of the arguments convincing. As-Sisatni had to choose either to keep out of politics completely or to get involved in it completely. He could not have it both ways and select to intervene at times and keep out of it at others. As we have shown above, by acting like that, As-Sistani served the interest of the imperialists in a way no military action could have achieved. 

We have been told that part of the aim of the invasion was to introduce democracy to Iraq. We are not so naïve as to believe that the US/UK are so magnanimous to waste their sons and billions of dollars at times of need in order to democratize Iraq when they seem to be very happy with their favoured allies in Arabia and the Gulf representing the most despotic regimes on Earth. However, even if we were to go along and accept that democracy was indeed intended for Iraq, our main concern would be to ask: which democracy? In Iraq where four million people, including some of our well educated friends, went in 2005 to the polls to vote ‘Yes’ for the Constitution, without having even read it, simply because As-Sisatni ordered them to do so; the meaning of one man-one vote becomes hollow rhetoric and democracy loses its meaning. No despot could dream of such a deception becoming reality.

The Marji’yah is a double-edged sword. In 1916 it made life difficult for the British invaders. In 2003 it made life very easy for both American and British invaders. But in any case the Marji’yah in Shi’a Iran and Iraq wields more power than any political party or military act.”

It is in the light of the above short exposition that the new Jihad Fatwa, what is happening in Iraq and to where Iraq is heading, should be considered.

The latest claim by As-Sistani in which he expressed his fears that Iraq is heading towards disintegration in line with the Zionist’s plans, seems to be naïve to say the least. As-Sistani ought to read the 2005 Constitution which he vehemently backed in order to see the seeds of the division of Iraq having been sown. What is happening today of the fragmentation of Iraq was planned even before the invasion. If any of As-Sistani entourage would bother to read the classified documents already released on the 2001 Future for Iraq Project as set up by the Zionist US Government, he should advise his holiness accordingly.

The Jihad Fatwa reveals poor judgment and a lack of wisdom in a man who holds such a responsible position holding in his hands the lives of millions of people and should carefully watch any word or action. The Fatwa has opened As-Sistani to at least two major questions that need to be addressed.

  1. If Jihad is a religious duty on a Muslim to defend his people and land against an invasion, then where was As-Sistani when Iraq was invaded and occupied by the infidel Zionist army in 2003?

  1. If Sunni clerics were to meet tomorrow and call on Sunnis to come out in Jihad to defend their Sunni brethren under siege in Baghdad being intimidated by young gun-touting hooligans from Sadr city who have been unleashed by As-Sitani’s Fatwa, then millions of fanatic Sunnis from Indonesia to Morocco would gather over night in order to march across the borders of Arabia and Turkey leveling the holy shrines in Najaf, Kerbela, Sammara and Baghdad. How would As-Sistani react? Would not Hizbullah and its effort over the last twenty years fighting Israel go down the drain? Or is that part of the plan?

May Allah protect the people of Iraq from the dark bloody months awaiting them!

Abdul-Haq Al-Ani
29 June 2014

[i] Marji’ means the source and the reference, while Taqleed means that people can, through a leash on the neck (Qiladah) of a learned jurist, follow him in order to have less responsibility in practising the complexities of their faith. See eg.: Kalantari, Mohammadreza, ‘Shiite Marja’iyat: The Association Of Shiite Quietism And Activism’, Paper prepared for delivery on the Panel, ‘Shi’ism: Clerical Authority, Identity and Diaspora’, at the BRISMES Annual Conference 2012, ‘Revolution and Revolt: Understanding the Forms and Causes of Change’; 26-28 March 2012, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
[iii] Sayyid Muhammad Al-Haboobi declared Jihad against the British and led an army of 90 000 fighters in a fierce battle against the British army in Shu’aiba near Basrah in 1914
See also: Al-Ghanimi, Basim Ahmad Hashim (2008) ‘The Role of Shi’a Clergy in Iraq’s Political Affairs 1900-1920, Part 1’,(in Arabic) Al-Furat Magazine, Issue 4, Al-Furat Center for Development and Strategic Studies,
And: Askary, Hussein (14 November 2003) ‘Lessons to be learned: Iraqi Resistance to British Occupation 80 years ago’, Executive Intelligence Review, Volume 30, Number 44
[iv] Like Fu’ad ar-Rikabi and Muhammad Mahdi Kubba and a few others.
[v] This is the basis of the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The term literally means “Guardianship of the Jurist” whereby Islamic law would be the rule of the land and one of the leading Islamic jurists (like Khomeini who was followed by Khamenei) the supreme ruler.
[vi] Article 126 of the Iraqi Constitution
[vii] See: ‘Profile: Muqtada Sadr’ (19 January 2012), BBC News

What is happening In Iraq?

What is happening In Iraq?
by Abdul-Haq Al-Ani on 29-06-2014
BRussells Tribunal
Anyone who has spent some time looking into the British Government’s archives would find that even before the end of WWI and the birth of modern political Iraq, the Imperialist British were weary of the potential of a united Iraq threatening their future interest.

It would not be surprising that when Iraq did indeed become a potential economic, military and political entity it was time to attack it and put it a century or so back. It was in the light of this reality that the war in 1991 and the invasion and occupation of 2003 should be seen. For the sceptics I would like to pose the following question: In view of the fact that over 100 innocent people are killed or injured in Iraq every day, why are Western politicians and media totally silent when they were very concerned about the death of a few ducks in Southern Iraq in the 1990s?
In 1990 Iraq was a model of a secular state. It was indeed a one-party dictatorship. But which Third World State is not a dictatorship one way or another. Iraqis who did not plan to overthrow the regime or take up arms to fight the State, were not interfered with and left to live their lives as they please. But the most important feature of the Ba'ath rule is that it managed to secure the rights and freedoms of all ethnic and religious sectors of the diverse Iraqi society. It suffices to ask any average Christian in Iraq today about which times are better for her: pre-invasion or post-invasion. I rest my case with her answer!
The real objective of the 2003 invasion has been to dismantle the Iraqi State, which was achieved with great success. The Imperialist Invaders declared that their unlawful aggression on a sovereign State was being carried out in the name of 'humanitarian intervention', (although such intervention has no place under international law) in order to liberate Iraq from tyranny and bring democracy. However, in order to do that you do not dismantle a state by dissolving all its existing entities and replace it with nothing more than an agreement between individuals who have been chosen on ethnic and sectarian bases and have nothing in common other than the insatiable desire to share in power. The Imperialists created a failed state in Iraq modelled on the failed state of Lebanon with the difference of the Lebanese being slightly more civilized in handling their disputes than the Iraqis.  The post invasion Iraq was based on a constitution that was itself drafted by the imperialist in such a way that it ensured the division of Iraq and the impossibility of amending its constitution. The constitution could only be amended by the agreement between the ethnic and sectarian groups, but their agreement to amend would mean that some would have to give up their share in power, which would not be forthcoming.
The Imperialist have always known that Iraq is unique among Muslim Sates in that both Sunni and Shia' believe it to be their base and origin of its jurisprudence. This is an historic reality and nothing could be done about it.. It is for this reason that when on sector believes that the other has usurped power and eliminated it, it would fight back to redress the injustice. That was the weapon which they used to alienate the masses of Shi'a population of Iraq and neutralize them in the war against the Ba'ath, although I do not believe that the Ba'ath rule was sectarian. It might have been insensitive to some issues seen by the Shia’ as important, but it could not be fairly accused of having been sectarian. But in history, what matters is what people believe to have happened not what really happened.
The rule of Iraq, post 2003, moved from the hands of predominantly Sunni elite to the hands of a predominantly Shi'a elite.  Needless to say such a sudden change meant that so many powerful people in Iraq lost their positions, wealth and influence overnight and a new generation of poor, unknown and rural people took over. It is not difficult to see how this new political reality was manipulated by different groups, with different agendas, to further alienate the Sunnis of Iraq. The sectarian blood baths of 2006-2007 were one such example of how that divide was exploited.
The practices of the incompetent Government in Baghdad contributed significantly to the entrenchment of this divide. The rulers were so immersed in corruption that they were either oblivious to what went on around them or did not they care one way or another.
The US Imperialists were not concerned about the failed Iraqi State because all political parties in Iraq were in the US pocket and whoever comes to power will rely on the US for his survival.
The alienation of the Sunni population in Iraq played into the hands of the Salafis in general and the Wahhabis in particular.  Although the remnants of the old Ba'ath Party tried to regroup and launch resistance to the occupation and its supporter from among the Shi'a and Kurdish groups, but they were sidestepped by the fundamentalist Sunni groups who argued successfully that the Ba'ath had thirty five years of rule and failed.
Some of my friends have tried unsuccessfully to argue that the problem in Iraq is not sectarian but the truth of the matter today is that it is sectarian and everyone has contributed to it. Why else would there be such a bloody confrontation in Iraq over such a long period when innocent people get killed or injured everyday on totally random bases, considering that not one single political group has come up with a political programme seeking a free, independent, fair and just Iraq?
It would be quite a futile attempt to portray ISIS activities in Iraq as being acts of terrorist groups that are invading Iraq from outside. The truth of the matter is that most of those fighting in ISIS and their allies are indigenous Iraqis; and this fact has to be acknowledged if there is a serious attempt to understand what is happening. The success of ISIS in the province of Anbar and the slow advance in their control of Mousil which was fully achieved in the last few days, go to show one fundamental fact: these groups have a strong public support among the masses of Sunni Iraqis in these provinces which provides them with men, money, food, logistic support and sympathy.
The activities of ISIS in Iraq are inseparable of their activities in Syria. This has created a dilemma for the Imperialists. When the Syrian Government complained about the existence of the ISIS and other Salafi armed groups in Syria, the US, the UK, France, Turkey and their allies were dismissive and silent at best. The response has been that what is happening in Syria is a revolution by a nation against the tyranny of Bashar Al-Asad! Does this sound familiar? When they were challenged about arming the Muslim fundamentalists in Syria, they responded that they were arming only the moderates among them! Who in the US, Europe, and the insignificant Gulf States knows in whose hands an anti-aircraft gun would end up once it reaches Syria?  All the opponents of the Syrian Ba'ath rule are fighting to replace secular Syria by a failed fundamentalist State just as happened in Iraq.
Yesterday UN Secretary General expressed his concern about ISIS taking over Mousil.  But Mr. Secretary: a year ago the same fundamentalist occupied Raqqah in Syria and have since imposed Shari'ah law on its population. How come we never heard one sentence of concern?
Are ISIS allies in Syria, but enemies in Iraq?
I think the less you speak the better this world would be!
One final important note needs to be added. The Shi'a religious hierarchy " Marja’iyah" needs to be careful about how it handles the situation because the deeper it gets involved the deeper it entrenches the world-wide divide between Shia and Sunni. Nothing will be gained by further alienating the Sunnis in the world, by being politically involved at will and claiming to be apolitical when it chooses. Ali Sistani has been reported to have called on Iraqi soldiers to be steadfast and fight the aggressors in Mousil. That is a political stand. But where was Sistani when the US and its allies invaded Iraq in 2003?
Abdul-Haq Al-Ani
11 June 2014

Iraq's women: 'It's only us who understand each other's reality'

Everyone has a story and a history but in Iraq women's lives are being reduced to a label, says Shaista Aziz

Iraqi women at a collapsed building the day after a bombing in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2010. Photograph: Karim Kadim/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The unfolding tragedy of Iraq continues to be told through a distorted, polarised western gaze, reducing the country and its 32 million population to labels: ‘Sunni’, ‘Shia’, ‘Islamist’, ‘extremist’ and ‘terrorist.’
News bulletins flash up maps coloured in red blocks and arrows as if to help viewers understand just what a bloodthirsty, barbaric nation this is, awash with terrorists. ‘What can we do if these people insist on killing each other? This is their culture, their ways, we can’t be held responsible. Move on. There is nothing to see here.’ Except there is. If only we would open our eyes.
These maps are abstract illustrations, they never point out where life clings on, where people are trying to hold each other together.
Even now, 11 years on from invasion and occupation, the Iraqi people, faces, names and histories, are missing from the narratives.
International journalists are forced to operate from behind concrete bunkers, seldom meeting Iraqi people. Their Iraqi fixers and Iraqi journalists continue to be harassed and hounded by state actors and armed groups.
When we do see Iraqis, they are like film extras, in the background, to make the setting realistic. Unrelenting violence from Iraq, Syria and Pakistan all looks the same - a heap of broken brown people screeching from a manmade hell. Damaged children and women swamped in black. Over the decade I’ve lived up close and personal to Iraq, through family in the country and from travelling in and out of Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, working with aid agencies.
I’m not Iraqi, nor a specialist on the country. But I have however had unique access to some aspects of people’s lives, especially women. Over the past few weeks I’ve been tracking down some of the women I know across Iraq, friends and former colleagues.
Many have left Baghdad in the past month and fled with family to the north of the country or to Jordan and Syria. Every woman has a story.
Maha, an Iraqi aid worker from Baghdad has been evacuated to the Kurdish north by her employers. When we spoke two days ago, I was struck by her calm and careful choice of words to describe the horrors engulfing her country.
Three weeks ago, when she was in Baghdad, a group of women had been targeted and killed by unknown gunmen in a city centre restaurant.
"The gunmen asked for the women waitresses. They then shot the women one by one. It was during the day in a busy part of Baghdad. Men walked in and killed these women to send a very clear message to Iraqi women. We should not be out in our society. We should be rotting inside our homes.”
It is not clear who carried out these killings. Women I spoke to said 50 women a week on average are being targeted and killed in Iraq. There is no way to verify this figure. The UN said 1,075 Iraqis were killed and 658 injured between June 5 and 22nd. Spokesman Rupert Colville said the numbers “should be viewed very much a a minimum.”
Maha said: “This is not the country I was raised in, this is no longer Iraq. Our society has been ripped to shreds and as in most societies its the women who are carrying the burden. Women are sacrificing their lives to hold families together. They’ve regressed more than 50 years in the past decade.
“The tragedy is that women over the age of 50, they were the pioneers of the women and feminist movement in Iraq. They fought for women’s rights and now its their daughters, nieces, sisters and friends who are being pushed back into their homes, silenced and hidden away.
“Now we have Isis, another group that wants to push women backwards. We expect our lives and rights to continue disappearing. No good will come from these extremists but we have been living under the rule of extremists for years. Already I see fewer and fewer women on the streets - we women are holding our breath.”

Irshad, a mother of three, gave up teaching over a year ago, under pressure from her family, and has set up a support group for women in her Baghdad neighbourhood.
She says Iraqi women are past breaking point and can only depend on themselves for support.
“Iraq has changed forever. There is darkness and heaviness in every home. Our women are existing like ghosts - each person carries with them burdens - some of these burdens can not be discussed openly because of our culture and because of the rules by which we live in society. We try and maintain our dignity, but behind closed doors women talk to each other and support each other. We share burdens.”
“Its only us women who understand each other's reality. Our men have been brutalised and traumatised. Husbands and sons have been imprisoned by the regime and under the occupation the men suffered a lot of violence, women suffered too but in different ways. Unspeakable things happen in prisons. Shameful things. We understand our men will not discuss these things in detail. When your husband no longer desires physical relations with you, when he wakes up screaming and thumping the wall in the middle of the night, it is his wife who absorbs the pain. The wife who tries to protect her children from seeing their father like this. This has as huge impact on a woman’s mental health and her confidence.”
Noor, 27, talked to me from Amman, Jordan. “My family and I have been moving around over the past 11 years. We have lived in Amman, Beirut, Cairo and Damascus. We call it our refugee tour of the Middle East. My father is a businessman and we returned to Iraq two years ago. Everything has changed for us.

“Most women my age don’t see a future. Many have agreed to get married to a cousin or someone their family suggest because we are unable to study or work, as its too dangerous. I have told my parents I won’t get married. You get married to have children. Iraq is like hell. I do not wish to raise my child in hell.”

The things warmongers said.

The things warmongers said.
by Neil Clark on 29-06-2014
BRussells Tribunal
Do we really want to take these people's advice on what 'we' should do now in Iraq? Up to a million people have been killed since the illegal invasion and as critics predicted at the time, the war led to enormous chaos and instability and boosted radical Islamic extremism. By their own words, let the warmongers be damned.

Tanks and soldiers of the 7th Armoured brigade gather for a briefing by US Lieutenant General Jeff Conway Commanding General 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in the Kuwait desert, March 14, 2003 (Reuters)

Iraq is in turmoil - with ISIS controlling large areas of the country - but the truth is that it's been in turmoil since the illegal 2003 invasion.
2013 was Iraq's bloodiest year since 2008, but as I wrote here members of the elite political class and warmongers in the West weren't interested.
Iraq post-invasion had become the greatest non-news story of the modern era. The people who could not stop talking about Iraq in 2002/3 and telling how much they cared about ordinary Iraqis were strangely silent. Instead they were devoting their energies into propagandizing for another Middle Eastern military 'intervention', this time against Syria.
Now that Iraq is back in the western news headlines again, with calls for 'intervention' to counter ISIS, it's worth bearing in mind what the architects of the Iraq war and the cheerleaders for it said in the lead up and during the invasion about the 'threat' from Saddam's WMDs and how toppling a secular dictator would help the so-called 'war on terror' and bring peace and security to the region.
Do we really want to take these people's advice on what 'we' should do now in Iraq? Up to a million people have been killed since the illegal invasion and as critics predicted at the time, the war led to enormous chaos and instability and boosted radical Islamic extremism. By their own words, let the warmongers be damned.
What a wonderful, magnificent, emotional occasion – one that will live in legend like the fall of the Bastille, V-E Day, or the fall of the Berlin Wall..... All those smart Europeans who ridiculed George Bush and denigrated his idea that there was actually a better future for the Iraqi people – they will now have to think again...Thank God for Tony Blair and those other European leaders who defied the axis of complacency. (Wall Street Journal, 10th April 2003)
read more: here

More Than ISIS, Iraq’s Sunni Insurgency

Headlines as well as political statements focused on ISIS as the only force behind the takeover of several Sunni cities north of Baghdad. And although more recent coverage started to acknowledge the presence of other forces, the dynamics in Sunni areas are still far more complex.

The story of the ongoing events in Iraq is one of lost opportunities. By December 2013, many Sunni leaders had become tired of the jihadi group the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) actions, in their areas and on the other side of the border in Syria, and publicly supported the federal government’s military campaign against the group’s bases. At that time, the momentum against ISIS offered a renewed opportunity for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to work with these Sunni tribal and religious leaders to combat terrorism. 
But instead, Maliki gave a speech in which he portrayed his planned military campaign in Anbar as an ancient war between “the followers of Hussein and the followers of Yazid,” a reference to a 7th century defining Shia battle. The campaign in Anbar has been a disaster, and that failure is directly relevant to today's crisis. The Iraqi forces failed to dislodge the jihadis and, even worse, Maliki took several steps that played into the hands of extremists. He foolishly shut down a popular protest camp in which thousands of Sunni Iraqis rallied for peaceful change for months, arrested powerful Sunni Member of Parliament Ahmed al-Alwani and killed his brother. Baghdad did not only miss a unique opportunity to move beyond the sectarian divide but made the situation in Sunni areas more favorable for jihadis.
Today, the simplistic portrayal by media and world politicians of the rebellion in Iraq risks making a similar mistake. Headlines as well as political statements focused on ISIS as the only force behind the takeover of several Sunni cities north of Baghdad. And although more recent coverage started to acknowledge the presence of other forces, the dynamics in Sunni areas are still far more complex. But regardless of the extent of its role, ISIS is only one faction in the insurgency. There are at least half a dozen groupings that took part in the offensive. 
Other than the two jihadi militias ISIS and Ansar al-Islam, insurgents include a coalition of nearly 80 Sunni Arab tribes, known as the Military Council of the Tribes of Iraq. This coalition has strong presence in Sunni areas especially in Fallujah, Ramadi, and in various areas in Nineveh and Salaheddin. According to Arabic news site al-Araby al-Jadid, the coalition is estimated to include about 41 armed groups, among them soldiers and officers from the dismantled Iraqi army of Saddam Hussein.
Then there is the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order, a group allegedly headed by former Iraqi vice president Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri. Formed in 2007, the group consists of thousands of former members of the Baath party, as well Sufi and Muslim Brotherhood-leaning fighters. At least in terms of numbers, the group is a strong rival to ISIS and has strong social roots in the community. In 2009, U.S. officials warned that the order might be more dangerous than al-Qaeda because its members succeeded in establishing deep roots within Sunni Iraqi society. 
The Naqshbandis, who operate mostly in Mosul, downplay their Sunni focus and claim to have Kurdish and Shia members. Observers of the group say that it also operates under different names primarily provisional military and tribal councils. But it appears that loyalists to the dismantled Baath Party of Iraq dominate the army as they do in many of the Sunni groupings that emerged in the wake of the protest movement of 2011-2013, such as the General Military Council of the Iraqi Revolutionaries (GMCIR). This tendency of Iraqi Baath loyalists to operate through fronts was confirmed last week by Abu Mariya al-Qahtani, a prominent Iraqi jihadi who now works for Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria, who tweeted: “the Baathists work on all levels and with several faces and forms.” A spokesman of GMCIR told the BBC on Sunday that his group is stronger than ISIS and that they adhere to the principles of Geneva Convention, unlike ISIS, which he described as “barbarian.”
These non-ISIS groups have played a significant role in the fighting; according to local sources they not only took part in the fighting but have been the dominant force in several areas, including Mosul and Kirkuk. According to a report by Saudi Arabia channel Al Arabiya, the Islamic Army, believed to be the largest armed group after ISIS and the military councils, prevented ISIS from entering Dulu'iyya, around 55km(34mi) north of Baghdad after they took control of it, due to ideological divergences. Tribal forces, according to the same report, controlled areas such as Alam, Hajjaj, and Albu Ujail, and in Mosul tribal forces and Naqshbandis controlled areas such as al-Wahda, Sukkar, and Baladiyat.
The involvement of such forces alongside ISIS is the worrying trend, not because they fight side by side with jihadis but because many of those fighters once stood by the federal government against the extremists. This fact alone should help the international community figure out the true causes for today’s crisis. Sunni religious and tribal leaders have shown several times that they were willing to stand by the federal government against extremism: during the “Iraqi Surge” in 2007, before the Anbar campaign in December 2013, and a few times in between. 
These forces have little in common with ISIS. Indeed, tensions are already mounting between the two, in media and on the ground. Shortly after the takeover of Mosul last week, ISIS issued a 24-hour ultimatum to the Naqshbandis to remove posters of Saddam Hussein from the streets of Mosul, and then demanded that no other group issue a statement about events on the ground. These tensions reflect profound differences, as ISIS considers Baathists to be kafirs (infidels) while Baathists reject ISIS religious extremism.
Another indication is the fact that Sunni residents fear a government military response more than they fear the militias in their neighborhoods. Residents are already returning to their areas and, according to sources in Mosul, people are expressing a sense of relief for the departure of government forces. A local resident noted that her younger brother said he never saw his city in this light before: “he grew up under sanctions, under occupation and government security [crackdown],” she said. “He refuses to leave now, as the city feels real for him for the first time.”
Recognition of these dynamics, instead of focusing on ISIS, is essential to resolving the crisis. The stakes in Iraq are higher than any time before, and the situation has never more perilous. Between 2005 and 2007, when Iraq faced a civil war and the rise of al-Qaeda elements, the American troops were still in the country and religious leaders from both sides actively called for calm. Today, the country faces similar challenges but without the forces that helped to save Iraq before: Sunni religious leaders are either supporting the rebellion or too discredited to have any influence. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who played a central role in calming sectarian tensions during the 2005-2007 civil war, has issued a fatwa calling on Iraqis to pick up arms and join the government’s forces in fighting ISIS. Although he intended to speak to all Iraqis regardless of their sect, his fatwa has been seen as a call for arms against Sunnis owing to the deep polarization.
A credible and inclusive political process is the way forward. Sunni Iraqis willing to engage in the political process are still the majority. But, to them, Maliki has shown time and again that he cannot be trusted. In 2010, Washington made the mistake of accepting an Iranian plan to help Maliki assume a second term despite the fact that the Iraqiyya bloc won a majority. In this crisis, there are signs that Washington will make another mistake, by seeking Iran's help in fighting ISIS. But that only adds insult to injury and will deepen Sunnis' sense of estrangement and betrayal.
Hassan Hassan is a research associate with the Delma Institute, a research center in Abu Dhabi. Follow him on Twitter @hhassan140.

السبت، 28 يونيو 2014

Iraqi Hydrocarbon Prize of U.S. Invasion in Danger?

The unfolding collapse of the U.S. proxy government in Baghdad has cut short a process of legalizing the de-nationalization of the hydrocarbon industry in Iraq, which became within reach with the latest electoral victory of the Iraqi prime minister since 2006, Noori al-Maliki.

Excluding “boots on the ground” and leaving combat missions to local and regional “partners,” President Barak Obama and his administration say the United States keeps “all options on the table” to respond militarily to the terrorists’ threat to “American interests” in Iraq, which are now in “danger.”
Similarly, former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, on TV screens and in print has recently urged western governments to “put aside the differences of the past and act now” and to intervene militarily in Iraq “to save the future” because “we do have interests in this.”
Both men refrained from indicating what are exactly the “American” and “western” interests in Iraq that need military intervention to defend, but the major prize of their invasion of Iraq in 2003 was the country’s hydrocarbon assets. There lies their “interests.
On June 13 however, Obama hinted to a possible major “disruption” in Iraqi oil output and urged “other producers in the Gulf” to be “able to pick up the slack.”
The United States has already moved the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, escorted by the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun, from the northern Arabian Sea into the Arabian Gulf (Persian according to Iran) “to protect American lives, citizens and interests in Iraq,” according to Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, on June 14. Media is reporting that U.S. intelligence units and air reconnaissance are already operating in Iraq.
The unfolding collapse of the U.S. proxy government in Baghdad has cut short a process of legalizing the de-nationalization of the hydrocarbon industry in Iraq, which became within reach with the latest electoral victory of the Iraqi prime minister since 2006, Noori al-Maliki.
Anti-American armed resistance to the U.S. proxy ruling regime in Baghdad, especially the Baath-led backbone, is on record as seeking to return to the status quo ante with regard to the country’s strategic hydrocarbon assets, i.e. nationalization.
De-nationalization and privatization of the Iraqi oil and gas industry began with the U.S.-led invasion of the country in 2003. Al-Maliki for eight years could not pass a hydrocarbons law through the parliament. Popular opposition and a political system based on sectarian distribution of power and “federal” distribution of oil revenues blocked its adoption. Ruling by political majority instead by sectarian consensus was al-Maliki’s declared hope to enact the law.
 Al-Maliki’s plans towards this end together with his political ambitions for a third term were cut short by the fall to armed opposition on this June 10 of Mosul, the capital of the northern Ninawa governorate and second only to Baghdad as Iraq’s largest metropolitan area.
Three days on, with the fighting moving on to the gates of Baghdad, “the most important priority for Baghdad right now is to secure its capital and oil infrastructure,” a Stratfor analysis on June 11 concluded.
The raging war in Iraq now will determine whether Iraqi hydrocarbons are a national asset or multinational loot. Any U.S. military support to the regime it installed in Baghdad should be viewed within this context. Meanwhile this national wealth is still being pillaged as spoils of war.
Al-Maliki is not now preoccupied even with maintaining Iraq as OPEC’s No. 2 oil producer, but with maintaining a level of oil output sufficient to bring in enough revenues to finance a defensive war that left his capital besieged and his government with southern Iraq only to rule, may be not for too long.
Even this modest goal is in doubt. Al-Maliki is left with oil exports from the south only, the disruption of which is highly possible any time now.
Worries that fighting would spread to the southern city of Basra or Baghdad have already sent oil prices to nine-month high on Thursday.
Legalizing the de-nationalization of Iraqi hydrocarbon industry has thus become more elusive than it has ever been since 2003.
On June 1 forty two years ago the process of the nationalization of the hydrocarbon industry kicked off in Iraq. Now Iraq is an open field for looting its only strategic asset.
On April 15 last year the CNN, reviewing “The Iraq war, 10 years on,” reported: “Yes, the Iraq War was a war for oil, and it was a war with winners: Big Oil.”
“Before the 2003 invasion, Iraq’s domestic oil industry was fully nationalized and closed to Western oil companies. A decade of war later, it is largely privatized and utterly dominated by foreign firms,” the CNN report concluded, indicating that, “From ExxonMobil and Chevron to BP and Shell, the West’s largest oil companies have set up shop in Iraq. So have a slew of American oil service companies, including Halliburton, the Texas-based firm Dick Cheney ran before becoming George W. Bush’s running mate in 2000.
The international rush for the Iraqi “black gold” by trans-national oil and gas corporations is at its height with no national law or competent central authority to regulate it.
Iraq’s “oil industry” now “operates, gold rush–style, in an almost complete absence of oversight or regulation,” Greg Muttitt wrote in The Nation on August 23, 2012.
Nothing changed since except that the “rush” was accelerating and the de-nationalization process was taking roots, squandering the bloody sacrifices of the Iraqis over eighty two years to uproot the foreign hold on their major strategic asset. The ongoing fighting is threatening to cut this process short.
Tip of iceberg
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq has been awarding hydrocarbon contracts to foreign firms independently without reference to the central government in Baghdad.
Since early 2014, it has been pumping crude to Turkey via its own independent pipeline built last December. On this June 4, Turkey and the KRG announced the signing of a 50-year deal to export Iraqi oil from Kurdistan via Turkey.
Hussein al-Shahristani, Iraq’s deputy prime minister, threatened legal action against firms that purchased “smuggled oil” via the Turkish-KRG arrangements; he accused Turkey of “greed” and trying “to lay (its) hands on cheap Iraqi oil.
Baghdad filed for arbitration against Turkey’s state-owned pipeline operator BOTAS with the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris.
Baghdad says those Turkish-KRG arrangements are illegal and unconstitutional, but its own contract awarding is also unlawful. Should a change of guard occur in Baghdad, al-Maliki and his government would be held accountable and probably prosecuted.
The dispute between Baghdad on the one hand and Turkey and the KRG on the other is only the surfacing tip of the iceberg of the “gold rush–style” looting of Iraq’s national wealth.
One of the main priorities of al-Maliki all along has been to legalize the de-nationalization and privatization process.
Muttitt, author of Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq, wrote a few months before al-Maliki assumed his first premiership that American and British governments made sure the candidates for prime minister knew what their first priority had to be: To pass a law legalizing the return of the foreign multinationals. This would be the vital biggest prize of the U.S. 2003 invasion.
Al-Maliki is the right man to secure a pro-privatization government in Baghdad. Thomas L. Friedman described him in the New York Times on this June 4 as “our guy,” “an American-installed autocrat” and a “big gift” the U.S. occupation “left behind in Iraq.”
Various drafts of hydrocarbon privatization laws failed to gain consensus among the proxy sectarian parties to the U.S.-engineered “political process” and the “federal” entities of Iraq’s U.S.-drafted constitution.
Al-Maliki’s government endorsed the first draft of a privatization law in February 2007 and on August 28, 2011 endorsed an amended draft which the parliament has yet to adopt.
Iraqi trade unions, amid popular protests, opposed and fought the privatization draft laws. Their offices were raided, computers confiscated, equipment smashed and their leaders arrested and prosecuted. Nonetheless, the parliament could not pass the law.
Al-Maliki government began awarding contracts to international oil and gas giants without a law in place. They are illegal contracts, but valid as long as there is a pro-privatization government in Baghdad.
U.S. Executive Order 13303
 Former British and U.S. leaders of the invasion of Iraq, Tony Blair and George Bush junior, were on record to deny that the invasion had anything to do with oil, but the U.S. President Barak Obama has just refuted their claim.
On last May 16, Obama signed an Executive Order to extend the national emergency with respect to Iraq for one year. His predecessor Bush signed this “order” for the first time on May 22, 2003 “to deal with the … threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by obstacles to the continued reconstruction of Iraq.”
Details of Bush’s Executive Order (EO) No. 13303 are still kept out of media spotlight. It declared that future legal claims on Iraq’s oil wealth constitute “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”
Section 1(b) eliminates all judicial process for “all Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products, and interests therein, and proceeds, obligations or any financial instruments of any nature whatsoever arising from or related to the sale or marketing thereof, and interests therein, in which any foreign country or a national thereof has any interest, that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of United States persons.”
EO 13303 was rubber-stamped by the UN Security Council Resolution No. 1483, which protected the U.S.-controlled governmental institutions in Iraq.
Muttitt wrote in August 2012:
“In 2011, after nearly nine years of war and occupation, U.S. troops finally left Iraq. In their place, Big Oil is now present in force.”
“Big Oil” is now the only guarantor of the survival of the U.S. proxy government in Baghdad, but the survival of “Big Oil” itself is now threatened by the escalating and rapidly expanding armed opposition.
Obama said the “threats” and “obstacles” to U.S, interests in Iraq have not changed eleven years after the invasion; Iraq has not enacted yet a hydrocarbon law to legalize the privatization of its oil and gas industry.
The developments of the last week in Iraq vindicate Obama’s renewal of EO 13303. The U.S. war on Iraq is not over and it is not won yet. Hence Obama’s recent extension of the national emergency with respect to Iraq for one year.
Since Great Britain granted Iraq its restricted independence in 1932, the nationalization of Iraqi oil wealth was the national and popular battle cry for complete sovereignty. It is now the battle cry of the armed opposition.
Iraq has been targeted by western powers since the “republic” under the late Abd al-Karim Qasim enacted law No. 80 of 1961, which deprived foreign companies of the right to explore in 99.5% of the Iraqi territory, but mainly since the Baath regime led by the late Saddam Hussein decided to nationalize the hydrocarbon industry on June 1, 1972.