Showing posts with label Iraq. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Iraq. Show all posts

Monday, June 16, 2014

100 Years of Western Meddling in the Middle East (Or, Is the Friend of the Enemy of my Enemy's Friends an Enemy - Always?)

 In the timeline below, I'm not even including Afghanistan, long a proxy war between the US and Russia ... nor am I including the usual focus on Israel and Palestine. This is just an overview - a brief timeline - of the chaos that has been caused in a large part by the US, Britain, and France in the nations of Iran, Iraq, and Syria over the last 100 years. Follow along....if you can.....

1911:  WWI: Russia and Britain occupy Iran.  Britain stays10 years.
1916:  Britain and France develop the Sykes-Picot Agreement, a secret Plan to divide the entire middle east outside of the Arabian peninsula.

1920: Britain receives Palestine, Jordan, and what is now Iraq, and installs Sunni elites into power. France occupies what is today Syria and Lebanon. France transfers some Lebanese territory to Syria, and continues occupation of both until 1946.

1921:  Britain withdraws from Iran, and Reza Khan becomes Shah of Iran.

1941: WWII begins. Iraqis overthrow puppet British government in Iraq. Britain and Russia occupy Iran and Iraq to guarantee oil supplies for the Allied effort. Shah Reza Khan is deposed by the superpowers; his son Reza Pahlavi is installed as new Shah of Iran in return for western access to oil. Britain stays in Iraq until 1948.

1943: Lebanon gains independence from France; Britain occupies both Lebanon and Syria to avoid alliances with Germany.

1948: State of Israel established. Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria declare war on Israel. Syria undergoes years of internal revolts following their defeat, many based on ethnic and religious rivalries.

1951: Iranians elect Mosaddegh as Prime Minister.

1953: Mosaddegh nationalizes oil fields, and is subsequently overthrown in US-UK led coup d’etat. The Shah assumes complete control and crushes opposition with torture and secret police with US-UK support.

1958: Iraqis revolt against British-installed Monarchy and Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist party assumes control.

1966: Ba’athist Party also takes control in Syria, but the group is divided between pro and anti Iraq factions.

1970:  The Anti-Iraq wing of the Ba’athist Party, supported by the military, overthrows the Syrian government and installs anti-Iraq Ba’athist Hafez el-Assad as leader.

1975: Civil War breaks out in Lebanon.

1976: Syria begins a 30 year occupation and effective control of Lebanon.

1978: Iranians revolt against the Shah; The Iranian Revolution installs Ayatollah Khomeini in a  theocratic state.

1979: US refuses to return the Shah to Iran to face trial; students take Americans Embassy hostage for 444 days.

1980: Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein invades Iran, receiving financial, military, and chemical weapons from the US.

1988: Hussein’s Iraq launches chemical genocide against Kurdish minority in northern Iraq.

1990: Iraq annexes Kuwait.  US, France, UK, and Syria enter the Gulf War against Hussein; Kurds rebel in the north.

1998: US President Clinton signs Iraq Liberation Act, calling for “regime change” in Iraq.

2000: Syria’s Hafez el-Assad dies; his son Bashar al-Azzad takes control.

2001: Al Qaeda attacks the United States.  US State Department meets with Iran secretly in Switzerland to obtain cooperation on the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan and al qaeda throughout the region.

2002: President Bush refers to Iran as being part of the “Axis of Evil” and US-Iran relations deteriorate quickly.

2003: US-led coalition enters Iraq and overthrows Hussein. Shi’ite led coalition government installed, with a semi-autonomous Kurdish region in the north.

2005: A series of assassinations of Lebanese officials is blamed on Syria’s Assad; protests and pressure from the west result in Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon.

2008: Lebanon’s new Cabinet establishes Hezbollah, a Shi’ite paramilitary organization, with legal status. Hezbollah is committed to driving the Americans, French, and British out of the Levant, is funded by Iran, and allied with Syria’s Assad in the Syrian Civil War.

2011: US Troops leave Iraq, and Sunni-Shi’ite struggles accelerate. The “Arab Spring” spreads to Syria and full-scale civil war ensues, resulting in over 100,000 deaths and 2 million refugees.  Anti-Assad forces include Kurds and ISIS (“Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”) allies in the northeast of Syria.

2014: The Sunni-dominated ISIS military assume effective control over eastern Syria, and begin successful invasion of Western Iraq. 

News outlets and US Government Hawks reduce the march of ISIS to that of "al qaeda linked militants" - a simpleton's version.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Courage and Independent Thinking in Wisconsin

Lately it's been refreshing listening to politicians out of Wisconsin. Both Democrat Sen. Russ Feingold and former Republican Governor Tommy Thompson have staked out positions on Iraq that place them at odds with their respective parties - positions that show both the courage of their convictions and pragmatism.

The Democrats took control over state legislatures and Congress largely on a wave of public dissatisfaction with the Iraqi mess. But Democrats can not just point the finger at the Bush - they, too, went along with most of this program, and gave been voting to continue it. This week, Democrats tried a lame resolution in Congress - one that passed the House but is stalled in the Senate. The Resolution disagrees with Bush's troop escalation, but does nothing about it. Even if passed, it's merely as if they are children saying "I don't like this!," but nothing happens as a result. It is a mere 'opinion' with no force or effect.

Russ Feingold is a Democrat who insists on 'walking the talk.' Rather than just offering non-binding opinions, Feingold is pushing for Congress to cut off funding for the Iraq war. While the President is the Commander-in-Chief, the House holds the purse strings. That is part of the checks and balances that the Founding fathers built into the Constitution.

If Democrats really want to stop the war, they can support Feingold. I suspect that what they really want to do is *complain* about the war, but not actually stop it. And for that reason, Feingold's bold proposal will probably not be supported.

Then there's Tommy Thompson's approach to Iraq. Thompson shows himself to be the ultimate realist when he sees Iraq not "as we want it to be," and not "as it ought to be," but as it truly is. And in so doing, he has called for the division of Iraq into three separate states rather than trying to hold it together as a single nation.

From the late 1200s until World War I, the land we call Iraq was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. And during the time, there were three states in the region: Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra. That's a long time, folks. After the defeat of the Ottoman Turks in WWI, the European victors tried to create a sovereign nation - Iraq - out of these disparate pieces. One of the casualties of carving up the Ottoman Empire was the separation of the Kurds across four nations: Iran,k Iraq, Turkey, and Syria.

Since then, the Kurds have been one of the most harassed people-groups on earth. In 1925 Turkey suppressed the Kurds, and outlawed their language and cultural expressions. In 1961 the Kurds began rebelling against the Iraqi government, and fighting has continued in fits and starts since then. In 1979, when Islamic Fundamentalists took over Iran, Kurds fought the Islamicists and were brutally suppressed in that nation. In 1988, Iraq engaged in "Al-Anfal," ('The Spoils of War'), and slaughtered thousands of Kurds. One and a half million Kurds fled to Turkey, which, at the time, was the lesser of four evils. During the first Persian Gulf War, the Kurds supported the US invasion and rebelled against Saddam Hussein. Their reward was to be slaughtered when Saddam was permitted to remain in power. Throughout the 1990s, Kurds were subject to raids by Turkish forces crossing the border into Iraq. Finally, in the most recent Iraqi engagement, the Kurds steadfastly opposed Saddam (after thousands had been maimed, killed, and gassed with toxic chemicals by his regime), and assisted the American and European forces.

Since that time, the Kurdish region of Iraq has been stable. The sectarian violence that plagues the Shiites and Sunni Muslims in Baghdad is practically non-existent in Iraqi Kurdistan. While the Kurds live in relative autonomy right now, it came at a price: they still have no homeland of their own, and the oil-rich lands around Kirkuk and Mosul - traditional Kurdish cities - have been wrested from them and given to the Sunnis & Shiites who continue to be engaged in a civil war with each other.

For over 700 years, Iraq existed as three states. Today, the Kurds have suffered at the ends of Iraq and the surrounding states, bore the brunt of Saddam's cruelty, have assisted the west in every endeavor, and have shown themselves capable of peaceful and effective government - and yet, their reward is still to be a people without a homeland, in an Iraqi nation with make-believe borders imposed by Britain after WWI.

It's time to listen to Thompson, give the Kurds their own homeland, and let the Shiites and Sunnis fight their own battles with each other. And time to listen to Feingold, and not just talk about ending a war and whining about it, but actually doing it.