Category Archives: Iraq

Reminiscing on Labor Day

BLOG 216 September 1, 2014

September’s here and you get this day off to have time to sit back and reflect on the summer and the Fall ahead. Sip a nice cool glass of ice tea, put your feet up, and reflect on where we are on this day in 2014.

Do you realize that 100 years ago and four thousand miles away we entered the Great War in France? World War I took 40 million lives with 116,000 Americans dying in only 19 months. While the British attempted to minimize the American role, the USA contributed mightily to the successful outcome of the Allies. My question? After 100 years, has military conflict improved?

Last February, I was in Israel and visited the Dead Sea Scrolls monument that remembers the ancient Jews that lived by the Dead Sea and wrote of the conflict between the Sons of Darkness and the Sons of Light. They had an important insight into conflict because the war with the Sons of Darkness has never stopped. Two thousand years later, we are still fighting the creatures of the night. World War I is both a long time ago and yesterday morning.

A week ago, an Israeli missile flattened a 11-story apartment building where Hamas military leaders lived. The sudden strike followed more rocket attacks aimed at Israel and signaled that Israel would not hesitate to make more audacious military forays into Gaza. As I predicted in a recent blog, Hamas held a victory rally after they accepted a cease fire proposal they had earlier rejected. What they were celebrating remains a mystery as they have been flattened like the 11-story apartment building.

That war probably goes on.

Twenty-one Egyptian soldiers were killed near the isolated Farafara oasis in western Egypt not far from the Libyan border. An attacking gunmen fired a rocket-propelled grenade into an ammunition cache that killed the soldiers and left four other wounded. Jihadist groups from Libyan continue to run wild. The struggle continues in Egypt.

We could wander off and ponder the lying Prime Minister of Russia who is currently attacking and fomenting strife in the Ukraine. But Putin is too far from the Middle East to ponder in this biog  –though the most ridiculous political statement of the last two centuries was George Bush’s asserted he looked into Putin’s soul and saw brotherhood. If he had really seen into Putin’s soul, Bush would have run for the door.

Another sign of the times was this weeks about-face by Syrian President Hassan Rouhani. Reversing himself, Rouhani stated the USA can never be trusted. He acknowledged Iran’s attempts to by-pass sanctions that they consider crimes against humanity. It is not clear exactly what Rouhani is expressing. Because the Obama administration has just imposed new sanctions intended to affect Iran’s nuclear arms program, Rouhani may be reacting in order to improve their position at forth-coming negotiations with the West. On the other hand, the hard-liners pelted him with eggs for talking with Obama and negotiating with the West. Rouhani may be trying to protect his backsides from violence against himself in Iran. Hard to say.

And I haven’t even mention ISIS in Iraq –

Well, on this Labor Day you might want to think about these conflicts. The Sons of Darkness still seem to be at it. Perhaps more than rest, we ought to pray.


Filed under Egypt, Iraq, middle east, Russia, War


Here we are! Our great national holiday and the big firecrackers are going off around the world – not in your backyard. The Iraqi Army on Saturday claimed to have pushed the Islamic extremists from a major city only 50 miles from Baghdad. Independent sources confirmed Tikrit’s government buildings and major road had been liberated but that’s about the only good news coming out of the government’s side of the war.

And guess what came out of Russia? Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov issued an ultimatum of sorts that Russia “will not remain passive” while jihadists push an offense in Iraq. More fireworks on the way?

Apparently, America’s lack of military response has been an attempt to increase the pressure on Malaki to resign and get a more inclusive leader in office who can run the country. Drone are in the sky but rockets are not hitting the ground. Into this vacuum, Uncle Vladimir Putin is now sticking his nose in. The Ukrainians told him they want involvement with Europe, not Russia. Obviously, he was more than hacked off. So, today Putin is sabre-rattling over Iraq. And oh yes, Ryabkov has rejected America’s position in supporting moderate rebels in Syria. Surprise. Surprise.

Actually, the man to look to for insight is Vice-President Joe Biden. From way back at the beginning of the Obama administration, Joe Biden had Iraq put on this plate. Many people see Biden as a bumbling sort of politician with a talent for saying the wrong thing. However, the current fireworks in Iraq may prove to be a vindication for Biden.

Back in 2006, Biden proposed dividing the country into three largely autonomous regions. At this time, that is exactly where the current fighting is going. The three areas would be Kurd, Sinni, and Shi’ite dominated. The Kurds are holding their own while the other two duke it out. When the speaker from the Peanut Gallery Dick Cheney interjects his negativity, Biden’s camp notes that it was the current Iraqi government who opposed keeping even a small American force in the country.

Actually, Iraq was divided into exactly these same three divisions before World War I crumbed the Ottoman Empire and clumsily created the current boundaries. Biden’s better idea was to return to these natural religious and political dividing lines. Currently, Biden is not blowing this horn in an effort to support the Obama administration’s attempt to create a unity government. Of course, that figures.

The problem is that the Obama State Department and John Kerry fail to recognizes the religious realities of the Middle East. As people like myself predicted months ago, negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians would fail. The same fate is now staring the Malaki government in the face. Malaki and company’s  religious differences with the ISIS are that the two sides are from two different planets (and the ISIS are little more than a religious extremist killing machine).

If the situation continues to deteriorate, Biden’s idea could make an important come back.

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Filed under America, Iraq, middle east

Iraq Blows Up!

Iraq is falling apart. At the risk of repetition for my faithful readers, I have already covered how the war between the Sunni and Shiite (Shia) factions is endless. What we are witnessing in Irag today is a return to a holy war.

Let me put this in contenxt.

The world has traditionally recognized three types of war: just, unjust, and the holy war. The unjust war is an assault in which for one side attempts to destroy the other. World War I was of this order.  The just war occurs when one side is clearly fighting to restore justice and stop the other from illegitimate aims. Beside of the violent objectives of Hitler as well as the Holocaust, World War II was considered just. The holy war develops when one side believes God has sent them on a divine mission. The Crusades were created by the Pope sending soldiers to reconquer the Holy Land in Medieval times.

Holy Wars are the most violent and dangerous form of combat.

In Iraq, the ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) have issued edicts stating the harsh terms under which they will govern under Sharia Law. They have already murdered government officals and police officers. ISIS kills relentlessly. They are unrelenting and purist in their religious objectives. Their ultimate objective is creating a caliphate, an Islamic religious nation spanning sections of Iraq and Syria. ISIS is fighting a religious war!

The Shia- Sunni conflict has remained at the epicenter of Islam due to the fact that it is not only persistent in ideological differences between Shia and Sunni sects, but also a disagreement about who possesses the rightful claim to political power. Although this conflict has been persistent within Islam for centuries, the rift between Shia and Sunni factions has only widened over time, creating a power struggle which became illuminated due to the 9/11 attacks and the emergence of Jihad as the defining aspect Islam.

The 2003 United States occupation of Iraq can be argued to have been the initiator of the rise of ‘jihadist’ movements within Iraq in the twenty-first century.  The U.S. invasion and occupation fueled the growth of Islamic militancy across the world and in Iraq. The American attack became a major instigator for the concept of Jihad affecting so much of the twenty-first century politics.

Today Republicans blame Obama for the deterioration in Iraq. They have forgotten Obama ran on a platform of stopping the war and getting soldiers out of that country. His position won the election. Americans had enough. Unfortunately, Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and all America did was stir up a holy war. Maliki’s incompetence and political  problems continue because he won’t allow  Sunnis in his government. Why are the Iraqi soldiers dropping their weapons and not fighting? Same reasons. No one trusts Maliki to be democratic and inclusive.

Can we at this late date make a difference? Not unless we want to nuke ISIS and kill everybody in sight. Of course, American will not do so. And so the war goes on and all we can do is decide between getting back into “their war” or same out of the fray.

Let’s hope the politicians don’t do something stupid.

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Filed under Civil War, Iraq, middle east


            With so many events exploding across the Middle East, one can almost pick any country and come up with a headline grabbing story. This past week, America closed all of its embassies in the area to avoid terrorist violence. Besides being prudent, the closings were certainly a symbol of the upheaval in the area. Instead of the term “World War,” we might call the Middle East fighting a “Zone War.”

            So, what’s happening in the Zone War in the middle of August?

For starters, the attacks of Sunnis on Shiites in Iraq reached new levels of violence. Saturday was Id al-Fitr, a holiday at the end of Ramadan, but the celebrations turned into a string of car bombs that killed over 60 people and wounded more than 200. These incidences were only the latest in a string of bombing that brought the death toll to the highest level in nearly five years. The United Nations reported that in July, 1,057 Iraqis were killed and 2,326 wounded. America left, but the war goes on.

In Yeman, Al-Qaeda continues to have a frightening foothold and the American Embassy remains closed. The United States considers the terrorist groups to be the most dangerous threat to American interests in the region. On Saturday, an American drone strike killed two militants in SouthernYeman. Four militants were traveling by car when the drone hit them. Two came out alive although one of the survivors remains in critical condition. In the past, drone strikes have proved highly successful in this region.  Last year, militants were driven out of a area they had seized in the southby such strikes.

In Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood is struggling to exist. The group was thrown out of the country thirty years ago by Hafez Assad, the father of the current dictator. The Brotherhood was brutally crushed and finally massacred in the city of Hamas, The groups leadership were killed, imprisoned, or exiled. The downfall of the Brotherhood in Egypt has shaken the remnant now fighting against Basher Assad’s regime. In Syria, the organization has always been seen as a foreign. Today, it is viewed by the Syrian government as a branch of an Egyptian movement. However, the Brotherhood continues to supply relief to rebel held areas in the on-going war.  Last February, a Brotherhood newspaper was launched that is now distrubted in the rebel held areas.

The fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is a part of the rebel rebellion emphasizes the struggle that the American government has in supplying weapons to the rebels. Most of these groups like the Brotherhood are enemies of American foreign policy and ideals. Arming them raises the possibility that someday we may be facing our own weapons shooting back at us.

And so the struggle goes on. Pick a country – choose a weapon – or simply throw a dart at a map of the Middle East. You can’t miss finding a battlefield in the Zone war.

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Filed under Egypt, Iraq, middle east, Muslims, Syria


            Anyone following events across the Middle East cannot avoid the constant theme that runs through every story. Violence never stops.

            After the seemingly endless war George Bush visited on Iraq, the proclamation was that we have now planted democracy. Really? This week a bomb exploded in a Sunni Mosque in Baghdad killing at least 13 people. Another attack at a funeral northeast of Baghdad killed three more people. Near evening a blast at the Khalid bin al-Walid mosque wounded 35 people. The fact is that Iraq has been experiencing the worst violence it has seen in some time. Of course, these are all Sunni mosques. The attackers were possibly Shiite militia. Sunni extremists and remnants of Al Qada just as frequently target the Shittes. The wars between the two Islamic factions only feed on the violence

Though unreported, Israel airplanes attacked a storage of antiship cruise missiles that Russia had sold to the Syrian government. On July 5, near Latakia (Syrian’s principal port city) the Israelis made an airstrike on Russia’s Yakhont missiles stored in a warehouse. Though the Israeli government will not discuss the attack, it is the third attack inside Syria this year. Pre-emptive strikes are never commented on by Israel.  However, they are prompted by concern that missiles will be transferred to Hezbollah. In January, Israel attacked a convoy carrying Russian made SA-17 missiles that were intended for Hezbollah. Of course, Iran sends weapons to Syria by flying through Iraq’s airspace.  My, my, who would have thoughts that Iraq would allow such a thing.

Of course, the drug of choice is violence.

Meanwhile the United States maintains warplanes and antimissile batteries in Jordan. American F-16s and Patriot missies are supposed kept in Jordan at the request of Jordanian military. We also know the CIA has been training Syrian rebels in a covert program to put more pressure on the Syrian government. Could it be possible that the United States also prefers violence as their drug of choice?

Of course, the specter standing in the shadows is Vladimir Putin. Russia is suppling all the weapons that keep the Assad Syrian government in the war against their own people. Russia’s economy directly prospers by the Syrian conflict. That old KGB agent Putin certainly understands how Russia can profit from violence.

Let us not forget Egypt where the military just deposed President Morsi. Of course Morsi was attempting to impose Islamic authoritarianism on the country. But even to this hour, his followers are confronting the Egyptian military and the bodies continue to be stacked up in the streets. Egypt can tall us a great deal about violence.

My point is basic. Violence only spawns violence and the Middle East is caught in a downward spiral. All attempts to stop the killing must be pursued with diligence. Lives are precious and talk is cheap. Forget the clowns; send in the peace doves. It’s time for action that counts.

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Filed under Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, middle east, Violence


            When Americans think of extremism, they conjure up ideas like the Jehovah Witness group going from house-to-house pushing their Watchtower magazines. A Mormon missionary riding a bicycles down the street wearing a white shirt and black tie with pants to match might come to mind. In the world of politics, the Left wing points to the Tea-Party types as the extremist while the Ann Coulter’s of the right point in the other direction. Depending on your viewpoint, you either like or dislike these groups. But you aren’t waiting in the bushes to shoot one of them if they come by your house.

            Extremism in the Middle East is an entirely different breed of cat. Shiites and Sunni are still killing each other over a difference of opinion about a successor to Mohammed that happened way over a thousand years ago. Westerns cannot make sense out of such hostilities.

Some years ago, I was in Jerusalem and had gone up to the Temple Mount. Near the Al-Aska Mosque was a large fountain used by Muslims to wash their hands and feet before entering the mosque. I was looking into the reflection pool when a Muslim man approached me and warned me to get out. I told him that I had as much right to be there as he did. My answer nearly got me assaulted and possibly killed. What I will always remember was the fierce, grazed look in his eyes. This “true believer” was ready to attack the infidel who had wandered across some imaginary line.

Can you imagine a Baptist in America threatening a Presbyterian for picking up a hymnal in one of their churches?

However, here’s how it is playing in Iraq today. Last week a suicide bomber killed 23 people inside a Shiite mosque during evening prayers. Looking like the rest of the worshippers, the suicide bomber simply sat down in the midst of the crowd and blew himself up. Since the beginning of April, more than 2,000 Iraqis have been killed in extremists attacks. These massacres have been the most sustained violence in Iraqi since 2008. What’s it all about? Just religious differences between the Shiites and Sunnis!

In the village of Sabaa al-Bour a suicide bomber in a Shiite mosque killed 14 people and wounded 32 others. Moreover, police officers are often the targets of these attacks. Not only driving explosive laden vehicles into police stations, the extremists often attack checkpoints.

The Al Qaeda followers in Iraq often assault the Shiite-led government in an attempt to undermine public confidence in this element.

The point? Americans paid no attention to this highly destructive factor and the meaning of religious extremism in their various forays in the Middle East. As we erred in Vietnam by not assessing how the natives thoughts, we have made the same error in the Middle East. To avoid these terrible clashes, we need experts to explore the mindset of the locals and how various groups differ.

We must not underestimate the potential of extremism to produce destruction.

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Filed under Iraq, middle east, Violence


The current situation in the Middle East did not appear like a genie popping out of a bottle. The factors that prompted the current turmoil began during the Bush era and were a combination of several elements that came together to create the perfect storm.  Whatever economic and social issues that were churning, the Al-Qaeda attack on 9-11 lit a fuse that eventually blew up in Bin Laden’s face. However, the terrorist attack created a ripple effect that has not stopped. At the same time, from the American side of the table, the Bush era created an Iraq war setting off the bomb that undermined any stability that had been created between Sunni and Shi’ite, Jew and Arab, elite and commoners. Latent unrest blew up like a torment volcano coming to life. The reverberations in Afghanistan and Iran became shock waves that continue to signal instability and hostility. Today, much of that debris is still settling on Egypt.

Another major effect during the Bush administration was the economic disaster that detonated with full force in 2008. The secretary of the treasury thought the world of Wall Street had come to an apocalyptic conclusion. (And it nearly did!) If one can push away the political charges and counter-charges in order to get to the bottom line, I believe we can now see clearly that there were never weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the gross expenditures to support an unpaid for war in Iraq and Afghanistan set up America for a financial disaster.

Obviously, we rolled over Iraq like boys turning over outhouses on Halloween, but Afghanistan turned out to be a genuine mud hole. Bush’s assurances of victory in Iraq only exacerbated the religious and social forces America could not control and the proclamation of victory turned out to be an ironic proclamation of disaster. We now know that we poured millions of dollars into the pockets of Hamid Karzai and it bought almost nothing except a little time.

While many make the charge that Bush was inept, I believe he was a decent man who wanted the best for the country. Unfortunately, his jokes about not going to the library turned out to be a comment on himself. He lacked the breadth and the depth to handle incredibly important issues that have now come back to haunt the world. Certainly, Rumsfeld and Chaney only threw more logs on the fire.

Another commentator could paint a different picture of how these factors came together, but no one can deny the costly effect these decisions had on world order. In the Middle East, we are faced with issues of serious distrust. The Egyptians need our money, but don’t trust us. When Syria falls, we will once again be on the outside looking in on people who despise us. Bush claimed we were bringing democracy to Iraq. Not only has that not been the chase, the real winner may turn out to be Iran.

And so the kettle boils and the fire burns. The American role in the Middle East has been diminished and the consequences are not good for millions of people. Think about it because we need the best thoughts we can find.

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Filed under Iraq, middle east, Syria, Violence