« The Rhetoric Heats Up a Little More in the Saudi/Iranian Cold/Proxy War | Main | Follow The Money - By Walrus »

17 April 2015

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Fred82

Pat,

It seems clear to me at least some of the Baathists have gone hook, line, and sinker on the ISIS ideology. Sunni Islamism already had a growing presence and an Iraqi Sunni population that was becoming more and more reception to the ideology prior to OIF.

The takedown of Saddam's regime only further opened the playing field for ideologies like Wahhabism and discredited Saddamism as a totalitarian ideology. Believers in one totalitarian ideology tend to seek another when the prior one is discredited.

turcopolier

Fred82

"Believers in one totalitarian ideology tend to seek another when the prior one is discredited" The problem for me with your theory is that I knew a lot of officers of the Iraqi Army in the Iran-Iraq War period and they would have been puzzled by your term "saddamism." To describe them as some sort of political fanatics is just ludicrous. They were Iraqi nationalists and like everyone else in the country were very cautious to express other than great esteem for Saddam but they were essentially career soldiers rather than ideologues. I remember asking a lt. col. once if he were a member of the party. He laughed and said that he was. "How else could I get promoted?" he asked me. You appear to have bought into the the neocon fantasy of pre 2003 Iraq as Nazi Germany. What a crock! Some of the officers of the Iraqi Army turned to the Islamists because we destroyed their institutional home and deprived them of their livelihood. Here is an example of one such. http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/islamic-state-files-show-structure-of-islamist-terror-group-a-1029274.html
pl

Fred82

Pat,

I was never under the impression the Iraqi Army was a bastion of Saddamism. I was thinking more of entities like the Fedayeen Saddam, SRG, SSO, Unit 999, and graduates of the Asbal Saddam.

Likewise, as I understand it, policies the reIslamization campaign and the changes in Iraq's Sunni Arab population which would make it far more receptive to ideologies like Wahhabism didn't occur until after Gulf I and during the sanctions era.

On top of that, there were Sunni Islamists within the ranks of the Iraqi Army and Intelligence Services prior to OIF. In fact, at least a few of the big-wigs in groups like JTWJ/AQI were cashiered from outfits like the SSO for being too Islamist for Saddam even in the period of reIslamization.

turcopolier

Fred82

"Fedayeen Saddam, SRG, SSO, Unit 999, and graduates of the Asbal Saddam." Yes, well none of these were really soldiers anymore than any "levee en masse" opposed to an invasion and occupation of the national territory might inspire. The level of actual military skill, education and experience among these groups was quite low. They were party thugs. OTOH, the officer corps of the Iraqi Army had a great depth of military education, experience, etc. This began in the Ottoman Tanzimaat and continued through the British period into the Soviet period of influence. That tradition of professionalism included that of the regular Republican Guard divisions which was like Napoleon's Guard army corps rather than the Waffen SS. Officers were rotated back and forth between the RG and the rest of the Iraqi Army. The skill resided in the Officer Corps of the Iraqi Army rather than among the Freikorps/SA like thugs of the groups you mention above. There, I admit I have fallen into the trap of making the "reductio ad hitlorem" comparison that is so common. In any event it was the skilled, cadet school, and staff college educated officers of the Iraqi Army that we drove into indigence and in the direction of the Islamists. Were there officers in the Iraqi Army who were Islamists? I never met any in the period when we were "friends." Perhaps there were but they were damned quiet about it. As for Iraqi Military Intelligence people who were secret Islamists, I really doubt that. pl

different clue

Valissa,

I wouldn't be concerned with trying to change our elites' behavior. I would try and figure out how we could attrit, degrade and somewhat destroy their power. I wonder if your suggested approach could also lead to study towards that goal ( attrit degrade destroy . . . ).

turcopolier

Fred82

Having thought this over in response to your off-SST message last night I would agree that the regime centered para-military and security groups that you mention, although much less skilled militarily at the level of "operations" and "strategy," would have been more likely to join a nascent Sunni Islamist set of movements during the US occupation and to associate themselves emotionally with them. OTOH the professional cadres of the Army were needed to provide actual organizational planning skills for the kind of ops we saw during the major campaign of conquest waged last year. The allegiance of the army cadres to IS are IMO opportunistic and something that could have been avoided. pl

Fred

Valissa,

The elites of the Western Roman empire sure acted the way you describe. They brought about the collapse of their civilization in the west (Europe) which stagnated in the dark ages for about a 1,000 years.

Bill H

"So what?" as to killing any of them? If someone had assasinated Dwight D. Eisenhower on June 1st of 1944, would that have prevented us from invading Europe and winning WW2?

We have been pronouncing for six years now that we are killing off their leadership at a terrific rate, have cut off the head of the snake a dozen or more times, and have we ever heard that the threat is reduced? Have we ever heard a date at which we can stand down? Have we ever been told that the groups are no longer dangerous?

Then why do we think that flying drons around and killing the "leaders" is working?

William R. Cumming

Many thanks!

William R. Cumming

Many thanks and has history ended or just morphed for the PAN-ARAB MOVEMENT?

William R. Cumming

Thanks P.L. for this helpful post and comments.

Is it true that KSA targets in Yemen are largely picked by the USA? Do the targets make sense from any standpoint?

MartinJ

I don't think the officer corps of the RG would have joined with Islamic groups because they agreed with their ideology. Instead they would have joined with them because they believed that they provided the best route to power. Any local political movement needs to latch onto something greater in order to ground itself in legitimacy (Baathism, pan-Arabism, Communism, religion etc) then attracting both new recruits and funding. Gulf money would be the tipping point in this case - no one else out there to provide them cash.

The extremely able and motivated Sunni officers were never defeated, they were simply humiliated by a foreign occultation that had nothing to offer them. In my limited dealings with them I found them fiercely determined, intelligent and defiant. That was in 2003 when the army had been disbanded and the occupation was at its high watermark of "success". Now I would simply add "organised" to that description.

turcopolier

MartinJ

"the officer corps of the RG" The officer corps of the seven divisions of the RG was not a separate body from the rest of the officer corps of the Iraqi Army. It was a question of assignment to an elite force as part of career development. The SSO and SRG were a different matter. These were organizations divorced from the Iraqi army and they WERE analogous to the inner security apparatus of Hitler's government. pl

Fred

WRC,

That is "b"'s implication on repeated comments here and his blog. I find that doubtful that the Obama administration is telling KSA what targets to bomb.

FB Ali

You talk of ideology, route to power and money as possible motivations.

What about simple hatred towards the US for what it had done to Iraq and Iraqis, including themselves, their families and friends?

Before spinning PoliSci theories to understand or explain people's actions, it is always better to first consider basic human nature and emotions.

When you hate someone's guts, you will ally yourself with the Devil to settle some scores with them!

MartinJ

Sir,

completely agree with you. I was actually attempting to highlight the emotional aspect.

My comment about Gulf money was about finance for the movement not for their personal enrichment. I was trying to make the point that these officers were extremely competent and that the humiliation of occupation made them motivated to defeat the occupation and then the US/Iranian-backed government.

Fred82

Some of the RG/Iraqi military personnel were Islamists thanks to things like the reIslamization campaign of the 1990s and Islamsists tried and true M.O. of infiltrating military and intelligence organizations and cultivating recruits from such entities. This was going on in Iraq during the 1990s.

Additionally, as I understand it, large numbers of IA personnel and a disproportionate number of military and intelligence officers were recruited or stationed in Fallujah. That would ensure more Wahhabi types ended up in the ranks. On top of that, some of the supposed ardent Baathist military and intelligence officers sent to infiltrate, co-opt, and eventually take over the Iraqi Salafi movement ended up getting converted by the Salafis instead.

Iraq also possessed a defeated military following Gulf I and Operation Iraqi Freedom and a large population faced with a sudden change of social/economic status following both conflicts. DeBaathification exacerbated the change in social/economic status and ensured large numbers of military personnel could not reintegrate into society. All of the above mentioned factors make one more receptive to totalitarian ideologies.

Of course, groups like AQI and ISIS tend to focus heavily on ideological indoctrination and are pretty good at it. Some of the IA/RG officers who weren't ardent Islamists before joining hands with such groups are sure to be believers now.

How many IA personnel ended up as or are currently ardent Wahhabis/Salafis? I don't know but I do know some definitely "broke on through to the other side."

Fred82

Col Lang,

How well trained was the typical RG infantryman and could you shed some more light on the recruitment and training of both the RG enlisted personnel and officers?

turcopolier

Fred82

If you mean in the period of the Iran-Iraq War the divisions of the RG were held in national reserve except for periods of severe crisis or major operations that required the participation of the ultimate maneuver reserve. The RG divisions had the pick of drafted men and new equipment. They also had their own dedicated force of HETs so that at the height of their capability they could lift two heavy divisions at one time. The RG also had its own force of heavy artillery. None of these assets could be diverted to other units of the army. The rest of the army relied on pools of support equipment that had to be assigned on a task order basis. The RG kept expanding and a lot of enlisted men were drafted into it with the result that levels of training of EM varied by unit and period. I remember units going through cycles of accelerated and intense training as they assimilated draftees. The units of the RG (and other parts of the army)were intensively rehearsed on one to one terrain models out in the desert before big operations. This made it easy to figure out what they were going to do because the terrain model could be overlaid on the front line terrain to reach conclusions. As I told you before, the officers of the line of the RG were not much different that those of the rest of army. They liked the duty with these units because they got extra pay in the RG and extra credit for retirement. As I recall this duty entitled the officers to two years credit for retirement foe each year served in the RG. A return to duty in the rest of the army generally brought a promotion and command of a larger unit than they had experienced previously. pl

turcopolier

fred82

I have no idea who or what was in Fallujah after the defeat of Iraq and the dissolution of the Iraqi armed forces. you were there a year after that had occurred. pl

Patrick Bahzad

Thx for the link, but nothing much new here. Besides, question marks need to be added to these documents. Who can say if they are genuine or if they have been planted to be found ?

Not much info to counter-check them, so it is difficult to assess their validity without any reliable and high enough human asset within ISIS, which is one of the most urgent matters anybody dealing with that organisation is facing.

There is certainly some truth to it, as in any intoxication operation, whether this is a genuine "blue print" for ISIS, I would seriously doubt it.

Haji Bakr and the old baathist element in ISIS have been in the game for too long, even they know what piece of intel can be written down and where it can be kept and what not.

Again, question mark of some of this, even though, certain elements sound and seem to reflect genuine ISIS efforts on the ground.

Patrick Bahzad

What lot of people seem unable to understand, in DC or elsewhere, is that the disgruntled Sunnis in North and West Iraq feel closer still to an organisation that uses terror and a form of Islam that looks medieval to us, because they have been alienated even more by a totally corrupt regime, backed by a US policy that saw only short term victory as an objective instead of long term stabilisation and reconstruction of a State in which the three population groups feel treated fairly.
Iraq has been a functional but oppressive State since its inception. The American invasion and the ensuing catastrophic decisions made by the US have broken that country apart, helped by the sectarian agendas of those who had something to win in this new situation (Shia and Kurds).

Patrick Bahzad

Baathism was a political ideology that was used in Iraq and in Syria to give some ideologic base to the rule of a sectarian minority.
That's also one of the reasons the two baathist regimes in the ME, Iraq and Syria, were mortal ennemies instead of close allies.
they both used baathism to rally around a hollow cause the majority of a population that didn't belong to the group who was in charge of the State.

Patrick Bahzad

Is this an attempt at giving us a revisionist version of the reasons for OIF ? Now it's not so much the WMDs anymore but it's the post mortem realization that Saddam was actually attempting to arm and equip more or less informal groups of Sunni Islamists, potentially hostile to the West ?
This is a big joke, anybody who real, actual knowledge of Iraq between 1991 and 2003 could tell you ! It's like when the Bush/Cheney administration came up with the argument that there were Al Qaeda friendly groups in Saddam's Iraq, which potentially made him an accomplice of Bin Laden. Well, yes, there was an AQ friendly organisation in Iraq at the time, but it was in a kurdish controlled area to which Saddam had neither access not control ...
And then the story about reislamisation of Iraq ... This is just laughable ! Iraq is always been an islamic country, whether the regime was secular or not. Bringing up those stories about half assed amateur groups that have been blown away in the first days of the group campaign are part of some bad quality spin doctoring, could have come right out of the "office of special plans" !
There were "efforts" of that nature under Saddam but they have to be seen in the wider context of the ME at that time ! But one needs to know the history of the country and the region a little bit to realize the difference between all these elements. FB Ali has given a few clues that deserve to be reflected upon. Also, keep in mind Saddam still wanted to appear as a "panarabic" champion against both the Saudis and the Iranians/Syrians as the time ... Just hints as explanation, but the various "bozo" groups you're mentioning, we've seen them at work all over the place. They were never the real issue.

turcopolier

Patrick Bahzad

"Is this an attempt at giving us a revisionist version of the reasons for OIF?" I think the answer is yes. I have been answering questions as if they are "for real" but I think not. IMO, the reason for the questions is a desire to propagate the thesis that Saddam was a secret Islamist. pl

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

September 2020

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30      
Blog powered by Typepad