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17 April 2016


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FB Ali

"....such post-colonial countries eventually shed their Western accretions and are revealed once again in the guise of the beast within."

The real problem is that many of these "post-colonial countries" were artificially created by colonial powers drawing arbitrary borders without consideration of history, ethnicity, religion, etc. When they are no longer held together by force (whether indigenous or external) they tend to fracture into more 'natural' constituencies. This process is often accompanied by strife, and much loss of life as well as the breakdown of governmental and societal structures.

The "beast within" is the same one that rampaged across Europe for hundreds of years before its national borders were sorted out. It is currently rampaging across Africa as artificial post-colonial structures crumble there.


FB Ali

The post-colonial third world is much like medieval Europe. pl

Chris Chuba

Regardless of how Iraq was formed, they certainly functioned as a coherent entity prior to our intervention. There seems to be a bizarre tug of war between the U.S. and Iran in Iraq now which is fracturing the country more and more. I don't understand the dynamics but I can see signs of it dribbling out in press releases.

For example, the U.S. helped Iranian backed Shiite militias and the Iraq army (such as it was) take back Tikrit from ISIS and I was thinking, okay, this is a model of sorts. But then after that our support for this type of arrangement stopped and then shortly after that Ramadi fell. I also remember that at that time, Petraeus wrote an op-ed claiming that the Shiite militias were a larger threat than ISIS and complaints about some bad behavior about some portion of them at Tikrit. This looked like a turning point to me. Things looked to spiral downhill after that. After this point it looked like we were only going to support the Iraq central army and pressure the Iraqi's not to use the militias. We also further encouraged independent use of the Kurds.

The factions in Iraq look no more complex than Syria yet I am more hopeful that Syria will emerge as a unified state again. I don't know what the answer is but for whatever reason, I think that Putin seems to be handling Syria better than we are handling Iraq. Perhaps the answer is that Putin saw the wisdom in preserving the 'local govt institutions' as he likes to put it while we put the axe to the tree. So Iraq is just starting out in more chaos.

Sorry for the rambling, but the irony here is that one of the foundational doctrines of Neocon interventions is that dictatorships are fundamentally unstable and that promoting democracy also promotes stability. This is demonstrably untrue.


Chris Chuba

Did you spend a lot of time in pre-2003 Iraq? I did. Yes the parts of the country that the government could control functioned as a coherent entity, but the Kurds were in more or less continual revolt. The traditional Shia Were always restive and had to be coerced into quiescence. it was a good country for secularized Sunni and Shia Arabs who stayed out of politics. It was a very good country for Christians. pl


This article from The Atlantic called "The Hell After ISIS" is well worth the read. One wonders if Iraq wouldn't be better off just busting apart along sectarian lines.




The old Iraq, like Belgium was an idea but like Belgium it was always a bad idea. Prior to our destruction of the social order and government in 2003-... a unitary Iraq was the least painful possibility for what is essentially Mesopotamia. Now there is nothing left to hold the country together and partition is probably the least painful possibility. pl

different clue

Chris Chuba,

One thing to Syria's benefit is that the DC FedBorg and its Global Axis of Jihad were never able to topple the SAR government. They could reduce the area of the country over which the SARgov ruled, but they could not dissolve its internal coherence. So it can re-extend its order over as much of the country as it can reconquer.

In Iraq there is no stub or nubbin of government order to build on. I don't think any new order can emerge in Iraq unless the Iranian rulers themselves decide to force their junior Iraqi partners to grant equal standing and respect to the Sunni Arabs of Iraq.


Gopal is the man who wrote that incredible book on Afghanistan 2002-2005 which demonstrates how the US' relentless hunt for Taliban (and thirst for revenge) after its spontaneous dissolution led to the rise of warlords big and small - and then the Taliban revival. he spent years in two provinces getting to know all and sundry.

So, this piece on Iraq should display the same authenticity


The wedge was driven in hard in 1991, when the US called for the Iraqi's to rise up against Saddam and promised them support.

Prior to that, many Kurds and Shia were on good terms with "Iraq", as it was.


My sister took one year sabbatical from her job in education. For half a year she worked in a project in Africa, a school for girls. I was startled when she told there are witch hunts targeting quite young girls.

Mark Pyruz

How would the Sunni ever be content with the rump of a landlocked, eastern Iraq lacking natural resources and relative economic development?

I said this back in 2006 when partition was being floated as a possible Iraqi solution: who gets Baghdad? Well, since then it was decided by a short civil war that the Shia get Baghdad but this still does not sit well with the Sunni.

Colonel, I spent a year living in the same or adjacent locales during the previous decade to when you were stationed in Iraq and Turkey as a USA intelligence officer. Yes, the Kurds were in states of episodic revolt in Iraq but also eastern Turkey.

Bear in mind, prior to the European domination of this region, it was mostly the Turks (Ottoman) and Iranians that competed for and occupied these areas. That a resurgent and newly independent Iran since 1979-- that is to say fully sovereign Iran and not subordinated within a great power security order—- currently competes for influence in or over this region should therefore not be seen as strange but rather as a historical continuation of sorts. This even applies to Syria, for both the Turks and Iranians. A similar situation exists in Lebanon but in effect possessing a somewhat different dynamic.

The current context (intensifying, post-1980) has seen a number of new actors competing for influence and occupation in this region, including Americans (global security order), Gulf Arabs (punching above their weight, so to speak, with oil exports derived wealth) and Ashkenazi Jews (politically dominant majority in Israel).

Quite complicated. The upshot? Even if American policy switched to formally pursue a partitioned Iraq, it is very unlikely this could be achieved over the objections of the Iranian/Iraqi Shia. And it is for such determinations that Iraqi Shia paramilitary forces exist and remain supported by Iran.

William R. Cumming

What is the significance of MOSUL to the future of Iraq?


In reply to turcopolier 17 April 2016 at 06:21 PM


I always had the impression that prior to the war with Iran that inter-sect relations within Iraq were fairly harmonious. That there was a fair bit of intermarriage for example and that the venom was only injected by the Ba'athists after the war.

Am I wrong about that? Or was the sectarianism outside of the secularised minority always as vicious as it is now?

I ask because I did a fair bit of my growing up in Lebanon and have quite a few childhood friends from Iraq. I don't remember the sectarianism amongst Arabs as being as bad. Dislike bordering on hatred between Sunni Arabs and Iranians yes I remember that vividly but I've always thought that that was an ethnic thing coupled with the historical hangover of the Safavid vs Ottoman wars.

As general point being a member of any minority anywhere in the Middle East seems to be increasingly untenable. But particularly aimed against Christians whether it's the Copts in Egypt or Iraqi Orthodox, or Palestinian Christians.



If you lived in Iraq, Syria or Lebanon before the great unraveling began in 2003 and you moved and existed among the secularized and semi-westernized classes it would have been easy to think that sectarian and tribal differences in the populations were superficial. As you say, there was a fair amount of intermarriage among Muslim sects and between Muslims and Christians, and in the end identity is most clearly identified by whom you are willing to marry and more importantly whom your family is willing to let you marry. I, too, knew a number of inter-faith couples married across these barriers, but in just about every case the families literally disowned the couple and would not acknowledge the unwanted partner for their child. Now, there were in all these countries enough well educated, cosmopolitan people so that friends and associates could be found especially in the circumstance of the existence of widespread alumni networks of the numerous schools founded mostly in the 19th century for the express purpose of spreading Western values on individual freedom. But, if you circulated among the more traditional majorities in these countries what you found was that under the seemingly "progressive" layer of elites there were deeply conservative people in vast numbers. Those people did not accept the intrusions of acculturation and organized themselves politically and in business in such a way as to avoid having to associate closely with particular groups they disliked and feared. In Lebanon the political parties either represented particular slices of an ethno-religious group organized behind the patronage of a particular personality and his money, or the party was clearly the embodied representative of an ethno religious group. We can list the parties if you like; Druze, Shia, Maronite, or in the shadow of individuals like the Hariris, Aun, Jumblatt, etc. You speak with evident disdain of the Baath, but the Baath was created to serve as a means of changing the paradigm of systematic Sunni exclusion from power of all others. In the Baath ideology what mattered was ethno-linguistic identity based on being a native speaker of Arabic rather than traditional exclusivist categories based on religious identity. In Iraq, the founders of the Bath were secular Shia. In Syria the "minorities" like the Alawis flocked to the Baath and, as you must know, there were always a lot of Sunnis who signed up to this new alternative definition of identity. The post-colonial governments tried to maintain the superficial calm among the underlying and often mutually hostile groups but the pernicious doctrines of individual identity and the creation of governments that did not represent the interests of the essential identity groups destroyed the restraints functioning within these countries and unleashed the forces of those who want to dominate all others in order to empower their own group. Egypt after the anti-Mubarak revolution inevitably developed into a rapidly solidifying Sunni Salafist tyranny, now reversed by army rule. There are many who wish to create explanations for the present difficulties in the ME by assigning blame to, the colonial powers, the CIA, global capitalism, the Jews, perhaps the Mongols? But in fact the search for causes outside the nature of these societies is merely another example of The Great Arabian Dream Machine's attempts to avoid responsibility for their own problems. pl


Mark Pyruz

"during the previous decade to when you were stationed in Iraq and Turkey as a USA intelligence officer." How delightfully dismissive! I have worked continuously in or on the Islamic culture continent since I returned for the last time from the VN War in 1973. pl

Babak Makkinejad

In India, the introduction of the parliamentary system actually has led to the further enhancement of the cast & religious awareness and the attendant entrenchment of parochially vicious politics at the national and local levels. If you do not vote for those that you are told to vote, you would get beaten up or murdered.

Babak Makkinejad

As it stands now, KRG cannot operate without funds from the central government.

Mosul cannot prosper either without such funds - partition would only lead to a war between Kurds and ISIS in the North of Iraq - sort of like what is happening now in South Sudan.

Babak Makkinejad

I think Afghanistan is a more suitable candidate for partition than Iraq - basically following the old Seljuk boundary.

South, Southwest and Southeast can become incorporated into Pakistan - the Pashtuns have already been part of Pakistan since her inception and I also have read that they are in the process of acculturation and absorption into Punjabi language and culture.

Northern Afghanistan can then become an independent country with its capital in Herat - nurtured by the Russian Federation, China, India, and Iran.

Per that US Army War College study, she will fracture by 2019 so it is best to prepare for that eventuality now.

Babak Makkinejad

So, your sister observed the Makkinejad Thesis in her own life. I wonder then why you could not admit its veracity earlier.


Thank you colonel for your detailed reply you've given me a lot to think about.

I think your description of the people I knew (and I am speaking of my childhood and early teens so I was not the most sophisticated observer!) is very accurate and so with the picture I got.

I did know that about the Ba'ath and IIRC Michel Aflaq was a Christian. I only ever knew Iraqi Ba'athists after Saddam and his Tikriti clan got control of the party and the state so perhaps that's where my poor opinion came from. I do remember how both my father and some of my Iraqi friends would warn me to keep my mouth shut around some children whose parents were (I now realise) part of his security apparat. Between that and seeing how Syrian troops behaved in Lebanon my impression of the Ba'ath was one of unrelieved thuggery.

What you've said above bears out and explains much that I've seen and heard since.

As a ps: I have had the experience and plainly you have too of hearing Hulegu's sacking of Baghdad being blamed as the stroke from which Arab fortunes never recovered. The next time I'm ticked off about something I don't like in Denmark I'll have to see how far I get complaining that it's because those pesky Swedes caused the fall of the Kalmar union in 1523.



Someone here asserted that before 1991 and the US appeal to the Kurds and Shia to revolt that Iraqis Kurds and Shia accepted the Baghdad government. IMO that is an over-simplification. Various groups of Kurds had revolted against Baghdad many times. Sometimes they cooperated with each other against the Arabs and at times they cooperated with the government. In the Iran-Iraq War well before 1991 they cooperated with Iran and Israel against the Iraqi government. During the Iran-Iraq War many Kurds served in the Iraqi Army. I saw them frequently in Baghdad in uniform. The Iraqi Shia Arabs had a similar history. They were divided between those who favored Iraqi nationality and who served in large numbers in the Iraqi Army. including a lot of officers. At the same time there were many who rejected the rule of a Sunni dominated central government. These are the people who rose against the Iraqi government in response to the US appeal. Guiding them in their revolt there were around 50 IRGC operatives infiltrated into the Shia south. It was imagined by the DC neocons that Shia/Kurdish revolts would cause what they believed was a de-moralized Iraqi Army to overthrow Saddam. In the event the IA pulled itself together and put down the revolts using a great many Shia Arab soldiers who returned to the colors after the defeat in Kuwait. pl


Another anecdote.
Some 30 years ago I had a neighbour whose sister was an enterprising tough woman.
She managed to set up a very succesful bar in ... Kinshasa!
One day she saw a bunch of big blacks in several SUV come to her:
"Hello! The bar is ours now, you've got 2 hours to go to the airport before anything bad happens.

Babak Makkinejad

US & France protected Kurds, no such protection was extended to the Shia in Southern Iraq.

That was the crack, in my opinion, that kept on fracturing Iraq from then on.

Babak Makkinejad

There were two occasion in which Syrian troops were inserted into Lebanon. I heard that in the second instance, many Lebanese were relived for their presence as the security situation had deteriorated severely prior to their arrival. By that I mean, as an example, you go to the beach in the morning and you do not know if you will make it back home by the night fall.

Babak Makkinejad

I am surprised that Arabs are not mentioning that Hulagu Khan did not put an end to the Abbasid Caliphate at the behest of some Shia Persian courtier.

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