“My ardent desire is, and my aim has been...to comply strictly with all our engagements foreign and domestic; but to keep the U States free from political connections with every other Country. To see that they may be independent of all, and under the influence of none. In a word, I want an American character, that the powers of Europe may be convinced we act for ourselves and not for others; this, in my judgment, is the only way to be respected abroad and happy at home.” — George Washington - letter to Patrick Henry — 1795
There are reports circulating that the Obama Administration’s foreign policy gambit to solve the current rise of Sunni insurgency in Iraq by ISIS might be to cut a deal with Iran to assist the Shiite government in Iraq.
“The Obama administration, unable to move the needle in the three-year-old Syrian civil war, now finds itself on the verge of moving toward a "my enemy's enemy" foreign policy with Iran in order to keep Iraq from falling apart next door.
The possibility of partnering with Iran to deal with a common foe -- a radical Sunni militant group bent on regional domination -- has immediately divided some of the Obama administration's toughest critics.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called the idea of an alliance of convenience with Iran the "height of folly."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who typically is in lockstep with McCain on national security matters, on Sunday, though, likened it to the U.S. aligning with Stalin during World War II, because he "was not as bad as Hitler."
"The Iranians can provide some assets to make sure Baghdad doesn't fall," Graham said.
The Obama administration still is weighing Iran's overtures to assist the fellow Shiite-led government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that he's not ruling out U.S.-Iran cooperation.”
“The prospect of entering even a tacit alliance with Iran in order to stabilize Iraq raises challenging diplomatic and security questions for the Obama administration, which has struggled to define where America fits into a rapidly changing Middle East.
The U.S., while technically negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program, is presently at odds with Tehran over Iraq's other neighbor.
Two years ago, Obama declared the use of chemical weapons in Syria as a "red line," only to back off that threat a year later when evidence emerged that the Assad regime had used them. In that time, Iran reportedly has dispatched assets to help prop up Bashar Assad, further strengthening his grip on power despite Obama's declarations that Assad must go.
Iran and the U.S. also were on opposing sides of the bloody and protracted Iran-Iraq War three decades ago.
Citing the Syrian war, McCain strongly urged the Obama administration not to partner with Iran this time.
"This is the same Iranian regime that has trained and armed the most dangerous Shia militant groups, that has consistently urged Prime Minister Maliki to pursue a narrow sectarian agenda at the expense of national reconciliation, that supplies the rockets that have been fired at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, that has sponsored acts of terrorism throughout the Middle East and the world, and that continues to use Iraq's territory and airspace to send weapons and fighters to prop up Bashar al-Assad in Syria," McCain said in a statement, reminding the president that U.S. and Iranian interests "do not align" and their involvement could make the situation in Iraq worse by inflaming sectarian tensions and driving more Sunni's into the ranks of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
He said: "For all of these reasons, and more, the United States should be seeking to minimize greater Iranian involvement in Iraq right now, not encouraging it. That means rapid, decisive U.S. action to degrade ISIS and halt their offensive in Iraq."
When Winston Churchill was asked when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union if he would ally with Joseph Stalin against Hitler’s Nazis he replied that he would ally with the devil to defeat Hitler.
He latest reports from Iraq state that; “Sunni Islamist militants claimed on Sunday that they had massacred hundreds of captive Shiite members of Iraq’s security forces, posting grisly pictures of a mass execution in Tikrit as evidence and warning of more killing to come.”
The possible mass killing came as militants cemented control of the city of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, after two days of fierce clashes with Iraqi troops, residents and senior security officials said. The city came under mortar attack, sending many residents fleeing toward Sinjar to the west and Mosul to the east. Residents said the militants freed dozens of prisoners.
Even as anecdotal reports of extrajudicial killings around the country seemed to bear out the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s intent to kill Shiites wherever it could, Iraqi officials and some human rights groups cautioned that the militants’ claim to have killed 1,700 soldiers in Tikrit could not be immediately verified
But with their claim, the Sunni militants were reveling in an atrocity that if confirmed would be the worst yet in the conflicts that roil the region, outstripping even the poison gas attack near Damascus last year.
In an atmosphere where there were already fears that the militants’ sudden advance near the capital would prompt Shiite reprisal attacks against Sunni Arab civilians, the claims by ISIS were potentially explosive. And that is exactly the group’s stated intent: to stoke a return to all-out sectarian warfare that would bolster its attempts to carve out a Sunni Islamist caliphate that crosses borders through the region.
The sectarian element of the killings may put more pressure on the Obama administration to aid Iraq militarily. In fact, the militants seemed to be counting on it. A pronouncement on Sunday by the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had a clear message for the United States: “Soon we will face you, and we are waiting for this day.”
The group’s announcement was made in a series of gruesome photographs uploaded to an ISIS Twitter feed and on websites late on Saturday night. Some showed insurgents, many wearing black masks, lining up at the edges of what looked like shallow mass graves and apparently firing their weapons into young men who had their hands bound behind their backs and were packed closely together in large groups.
The photographs showed what appeared to be seven massacre sites, although several of them may have been different views of the same sites. In any one of the pictures, no more than about 60 victims could be seen and sometimes as few as 20 at each of the sites, although it was not clear if the photographs showed the entire graves.
The militants’ captions seemed tailor-made to ignite anger and fear among Shiites. “The filthy Shiites are killed in the hundreds,” one read. “The liquidation of the Shiites who ran away from their military bases,” read another, and, “This is the destiny of Maliki’s Shiites,” referring to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
“We’re trying to verify the pics, and I am not convinced they are authentic,” said Erin Evers, the Human Rights Watch researcher in Iraq. “As far as ISIS claiming it has killed 1,700 people and publishing horrific photos to support that claim, it is unfortunately in keeping with their pattern of commission of atrocities, and obviously intended to further fuel sectarian war.”
Col. Suhail al-Samaraie, head of the Awakening Council in Samarra, a pro-government Sunni grouping, confirmed that officials in Salahuddin Province were aware that large-scale executions had taken place, but did not know how many. “They are targeting anyone working with the government side, any place, anywhere,” he said. He said the insurgents were targeting both Sunnis and Shiites, anyone with a government affiliation, but claiming for propaganda reasons that the victims were all Shiites.
For areas under control of the ISIS insurgent’s click here.
ISIL fighters and allied Sunni tribesmen overran yet another town on Monday, Saqlawiya west of Baghdad, where they captured six Humvees and two tanks.
Eyewitnesses said Iraqi army helicopters were hovering over the town to try to provide cover for retreating troops. "It was a crazy battle and dozens were killed from both sides. It is impossible to reach the town and evacuate the bodies," said a medical source at a hospital in the nearby city of Falluja, largely held by insurgents since early this year.
Overnight, the fighters captured the city of Tal Afar in northwestern Iraq, solidifying their grip on the north. "Severe fighting took place, and many people were killed. Shiite families have fled to the west and Sunni families have fled to the east," said a city official.
Tal Afar is a short drive west from Mosul, the North’s main city, which ISIL seized last week at the start of its push. Fighters then swept through towns and cities on the Tigris before halting about an hour's drive north of Baghdad.
Iraq's army is holding out in Samarra, a Tigris city that is home to a Shi'ite shrine. A convoy traveling to reinforce the troops there was ambushed late on Sunday by Sunni fighters near the town of Ishaqi. Fighting continued through Monday morning.
An Iraqi army spokesman in Baghdad reported fighting also to the south of Baghdad. He said 56 of the enemy had been killed over the previous 24 hours in various engagements.
Who is Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi?
As a master's-degree student at a university in Baghdad in 1997, Ibrahim Awwad al-Badri al-Samarrai was so poor he took cash handouts every month from a kindly professor, said a former classmate.
The rise of the militant Islamist leader, who changed his name to Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi in 2010, is a rags-to-riches story that mirrors the rise of the ISIS militia he now leads.
By emphasizing practical gains over ideology and placing a premium on battlefield victories rather than lofty principals, Mr. Baghdadi's ISIS has become one of the most powerful militant Islamist groups, said experts on militant Islamism.
According to the Wall Street Journal:
“For the West, ISIS's strength and identity have created a new sort of enemy that has a reputation for brutality and in many ways looks and acts like the army of a state seeking to expand its territory.
ISIS is "actualizing the idea of the Islamic state. On the jihadi side of things, there's appeal in that," said Aaron Zelin, an expert on Islamist groups at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
"You have guys just talking about it and al Qaeda and Jabhat Al Nusra saying they'll get there, whereas ISIS is just doing it," he said, referring to ISIS's rivals in Syria and throughout the world.
While ISIS shares much of the same ideology and jihadist vocabulary as al Qaeda, it differs on methodology. Whereas al Qaeda, which got its start during the resistance against the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s, behaves as a terrorist organization advancing a global ideology, ISIS in many ways acts like the army of a sovereign nation with defined borders and a semi-legitimate system of governance.
ISIS leaders have implemented formal governing systems with leadership councils who meet regularly. The group has published at least two annual reports online that offer detailed descriptions of financing and battlefield victories.
In Syria, the group has invested in infrastructure such as electricity works and a new market in the town of Raqqa, according to residents.
In Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city after Baghdad, ISIS pitched in to tear down inconvenient security barricades, distribute gasoline for electricity generators and manage traffic, residents said.
While al Qaeda is financed by its own moneyed members and wealthy donors, ISIS is becoming increasingly self-sufficient thanks to oil smuggling from conquered lands, kidnapping rackets and stolen cash. Iraqi authorities believe that the group may have stolen almost half a billion dollars from a government bank when it seized Mosul last week.
Unlike other jihadist groups, ISIS has sought to implant a sense of patriotism in those it governs. Residents of Raqqa, for example, were made to announce their allegiance to Mr. Baghdadi. In Mosul, all flags except those bearing the ISIS insignia were made illegal, a move some experts said goes beyond typical Islamist strategies of instilling piety and adherence.
"ISIS power is hard power. They are strong because their military capacity is excellent," said Jessica Lewis, an expert on Islamist groups at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. "This undergirds their quest for an emirate," which al Qaeda doesn't seek, she said.
Mr. Baghdadi was raised in Samarra, Iraq, and was active in militant groups following the U.S.-led invasion, which led U.S. forces to arrest him in 2005.
After his release, he joined al Qaeda in Iraq, ascending to leadership. By then, ISIS had been colored by the hands-on perspective of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, who believed "that those who lead the group should be commanders of jihad, not just leaders of an organization," said Mr. Zelin.
As leader of Al Tawhid Wal Jihad, Mr. Zarqawi pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden in 2004 and transformed the group into al Qaeda in Iraq, or AQI.
By the time Mr. Baghdadi took the reins of AQI in 2010, the region was changing. U.S. troops were preparing to depart, and the aged dictators of the Arab world would soon be falling by force of the Arab Spring.
The changes helped Mr. Baghdadi recruit younger, more-energetic jihadists while exciting wealthy donors from Arab Gulf states, said Hisham Hashimi, an independent researcher on jihadist movements who knew Mr. Baghdadi when both were students at the Saddam University of Islamic Studies in Baghdad.
When the Syria conflict began in 2011, Mr. Baghdadi asserted his youthful fighters' strength.
The group's new identity contrasted with al Qaeda leadership who came from privileged backgrounds and executed sometimes devastating attacks that were also rich in symbolism, but did little to advance the dream of an Islamic state.
Mr. Baghdadi soon fell afoul of al Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri, who said in statements that he resented ISIS's domineering attitude toward other groups. He broke with Mr. Baghdadi in 2013.
A few months later, al Qaeda said Mr. Baghdadi could rejoin its movement if he confined his operations to Iraq.
"If the mother is al Qaeda, ISIS is the bad son who forsook the family's authority," said Mr. Hashimi. "This makes them more powerful."
We can do little to support the Maliki Shia Government without sending in 30 to 50 thousand troops, something the U.S. people or Congress will not support. We will continue to receive reports of brutality employed by the ISIS insurgents and there will by cries and gnashing of teeth from around the world while the slaughter goes on.
As the ISIS consolidates its gains and controls more of Iraq the slaughter will decrease and the Shia Muslims will be marginalized as they were under Sadam Hussein. This conflict has been going on since the seventh century.
Both are branches of Islam and the adherents of both are Muslims, all bound by the same Quran, the same five pillars of Islam — belief in one God, daily prayer, fasting, charity, and hajj, or pilgrimage. Where they mainly differ is on the question of who should have succeeded the Prophet Muhammad, who founded Islam in 620.
Basically, Sunnis and Shiites differ on who should have succeeded Muhammad after his death in 632. Sunnis supported the succession of Abu Bakr, the prophet’s friend; Shiite Muslims felt the rightful successor was the prophet’s son-in-law and cousin, Ali bin Abu Talib.
The Associated Press Stylebook puts it:
“The schism between Sunni and Shiite stems from the early days of Islam and arguments over Muhammad’s successors as caliph, the spiritual and temporal leader of Muslims during that period. The Shiites wanted the caliphate to descend through Ali, Muhammad’s son-in-law. Ali eventually became the fourth caliph, but he was murdered; Ali’s son al-Hussein was massacred with his fighters at Karbala, in what is now Iraq. Shiites consider the later caliphs to be usurpers. The Sunnis no longer have a caliph.”
Sunnis believe Muslim leaders can be elected, or picked, from those qualified for the job. Shiites believe leaders should be direct descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. So they don’t recognize the same authority in Islam — kind of like the way Catholics and Protestants are all Christians and have the same Bible, but only Catholics recognize the authority of the pope. And like Catholics and Protestants, both Sunnis and Shiites have their own religious holidays, customs and shrines. The difference is that Catholics and Protestants stopped fighting after wiping out one-third of the population of Europe during the Thirty Years Wars and the Peace of Westphalia
There exist lots of hot-bed places. Syria is a majority-Sunni country, but the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is a close ally of Shiite-dominated Iran (Assad’s Alawite sect is a whole other story). Iraq is majority Shiite, but northern Iraq has a lot of Sunnis, and Sunni rebels have made increasing inroads into the country. Neighboring Iran is majority Shiite, while next-door Saudi Arabia is majority Sunni. Yemen, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Lebanon have significant Shiite minorities. Sunnis make up about 85 percent of the world’s Muslims (including the vast majority of U.S. Muslims). See the problem?
Where once the conflict between Sunni and Shiite was religious, now the conflict is more political. In Iraq, the Shiite-dominated army has been seen as a strong-arm of Shiite president Nuri Kemal Al-Maliki and an oppressive force by majority Sunnis in the north. That’s why many have been happy to have the Sunni-dominated ISIS take over the north.
Okay, but all this is taking place on the other side of the world. Why should I care? Because Islam is a global religion, and America has significant strategic and military interests in the region. The number of Muslims is expected to rise by 35 percent in the next 20 years, according to The Pew Research Center, to reach 2.2 billion people.
It gets a lot more contemporary than that. There has been a 3 decade long “Cold War” between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia which has spilled out over Syria and Iraq.
At one point US forces were fighting proxy militias armed by both parties in Iraq. Another example of how the Middle East Cold War has played out is with Israeli/Palestinian conflicts. Hamas is a proxy force for Iran and Fatah is one for the Arab League (Saudis). This erupted into a Palestinian civil war at one point a few years back.
A major problem in Iraq is that it is actually a 3 way ethnic/sectarian conflict involving oil. Sunni/Shia/Kurd. Sadam Hussein’s Sunni led government suppressed Shia religion and politics as possible 5th columnists for Iran. Hussein also embarked on a campaign of genocide against the Kurds. Geographically the Sunnis in Iraq have issues. They are largely clustered in the region of the country without much of the oil fields (towards its center), unlike Shia and Kurdish majority regions. Partition would leave the Iraqi Sunnis in an economic sinkhole in comparison to the others.
The Middle East is not simply falling apart. It is taking a different shape, along very clear lines — far older ones than those the western powers rudely imposed on the region nearly a century ago after the First World War. Across the whole continent those borders are in the process of cracking and breaking. But while that happens the region’s two most ambitious centers of power — the house of Saud and the Ayatollahs in Iran — find themselves fighting each other not just for influence but even, perhaps, for survival.
The way in which what is going on in the Middle East has become a religious war has long been obvious. Just take this radio exchange, caught at the ground level earlier this month, between two foreign fighters in Syria, the first from al-Qaeda’s Islamic State in Iraq and Syria [ISIS], the second from the Free Syrian army [FSA]. ‘You apostate infidels,’ says the first. ‘We’ve declared you to be “apostates”, you heretics. You don’t know Allah or His Prophet, you creature. What kind of Islam do you follow?’ To which the FSA fighter responds, ‘Why did you come here? Go fight Israel, brother.’ Only to be told, ‘Fighting apostates like you people takes precedence over fighting the Jews and the Christians. All imams concur on that.’
The religious propulsion of many of the fighters who have flooded into Syria in the three years of its civil war — 400 or more from Britain alone — is beyond doubt. From the outset this has been a confrontation inflamed by religious sectarianism. In the first stages of the Syrian conflict the Shia militia of Hezbollah were sent by their masters in Iran to fight on the side of Iran’s ally Bashar al-Assad. But those of a different political and religious orientation made their own moves against this. Across Britain and Europe, not to mention the wider Middle East, many thousands of young men listened to the call of religious leaders like the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz al-Asheik and Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who last year declared that Hezbollah is in fact not the ‘army of God’, as its name almost suggests, but rather the ‘army of Satan.’ Sheikh Qaradawi declared that ‘every Muslim trained to fight and capable of doing that must make himself available’ for jihad in Syria.
It is inevitable that with the amount of regional influence at stake, and the quantity of natural resources, there would be numerous powers involved in trying to dictate the Syrian endgame. But as the country’s civil war has ground on and the region as a whole has started to fall into a maelstrom, there is not a party or country that has not been shocked by one particular new reality. That is the fact that what has hitherto been the most important global player has decided to take a back seat. When two major Iraqi cities fell to ISIS forces last week, the American Secretary of State, John Kerry, expressed concern but stressed that for the Iraqi government this was now ‘their fight’.
One of the cities was Fallujah, the site of the bloodiest battle of the Iraq war, where 10,000 British and American troops fought to depose the Islamists. It is now back under jihadi control, with the black flag of al-Qaeda proudly flying — and the West does not know what to do. Although there are Syrian cities also now under al-Qaeda control, the US and its allies remain unmoved over acting in that country either.
At its core, the Iranian-Saudi rivalry is about power and money: two oil-rich giants, vying for control of the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow water passage that accounts for almost 20% of all oil traded worldwide (and 40% of all US crude imports pass).
Iran and Saudi Arabia would always struggle to avoid collision, but ethnic and sectarian tension certainly doesn’t help. Iran is a majority Persian country that belongs to the Shiite branch of Islam. The vast majority of Saudis are Sunni Arabs, with a Shiite Arab minority (about 10%).
The two governments are also ideological rivals:
Wahhabism: Saudi royals have spent vast amounts of money funding the spread of the (Sunni) Wahabi school, an ultra-conservative, literal interpretation of Islam, which is the state religion in Saudi Arabia. The official title of the Saudi King includes the duty of the "Guardian of the Two Holy Places", Mecca and Medina, suggesting a degree of a divine authority.
Supreme Leader: The Islamic Republic of Iran, on the other hand, has promoted its version of political Islam, a combination of elected republican institutions under the guidance of a Muslim cleric, the Supreme Leader. The founder of the Iranian regime, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, condemned the Saudi monarchy as a tyrannical, illegitimate clique that answers to Washington, rather than God.
So now, hopefully, you can see what a mess this region is. Our intelligence agencies, especially the bureaucratic CIA have not done us well. They are so political now that tend to operate on the agenda of the administration in power. In the Bush years they were focused on the WMD track relying from a discredited source named curveball.an informant that the German and British intelligence agencies warned against.
The Obama Administration’s is to ignore most foreign policy issues and focus on getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Anything that interferes with that agenda is either ignored or swept under the rug. This latest debacle in Iraq, the Benghazi attack, and the return of the five Taliban masterminds are proof of that agenda. If our intelligence agencies saw this ISIS insurgency coming they definitely did nothing about it. There were, however, those in the reputable international media and private intelligence organizations such as Stratfor who saw this as long as six months ago, but they were mostly ignored in the United States.
Today a large portion of the border between Syria and Iraq has been erased by the ISIS. This means that a defacto nation is being created — a nation of radical Islamic and jihadist beliefs — a caliphate. Radical Muslims the world over will flock to this nation where they will be trained in terrorist tactics and sent back to their home countries to carry out terrorist attacks such as was Afghanistan in the 90s.
Our main concern should be to seriously focus on our border and those Muslims in this country. The FBI should pay as much attention to the many Muslims, especially those with visas, as they did with suspected Soviet spies during the cold war. We also need to seriously tighten our visa policies for Muslim students along with tightening the security of our border with Mexico and close it down if need be. The recent influx of children from Central America has demonstrated how ineffective our border patrol is today. We should use the National Guard on the Texas and Arizona borders. This is a legal use of the Guard and I think both governors would approve. Our national security depends upon it. As sure as the sun will rise in the east there will be another 9/11 type attack if we do not take these measures. And I don’t rule out a nuclear attack.
We are between a rock and a hard place in Syria and Iraq and I seriously doubt we can do anything about it except evacuate the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in Saigon style. Like the scorpion it is the nature of the Sunnis and Shias to kill each other and we should stay on the sidelines and follow the advice of George Washington when he stated in his 1796 farewell address:
“Harmony, liberal intercourse with all Nations, are recommended by policy, humanity and interest. But even our Commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand: neither seeking nor granting exclusive favours or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of Commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing with Powers so disposed; in order to give trade a stable course.”
Washington wanted stable trade and commerce with other nations and was very fearful of foreign political entanglements but he also believed, as did the rest or Founders that the number one duty of the President and Congress was to protect our national security. For it was George Washington who also said; “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” Washington was parroting the words of Latin author Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus's tract De Re Militari : “Si vis pacem, para bellum” — in other words “Peace Through Strength”, something declining in the United States as we devote more and more of our resources to liberal progressive social engineering. And this strength includes developing our own fossil fuel resources such as building the Keystone Pipeline, drilling in Anwar and along the east, west and gulf coast. By doing this we would not need oil from the Middle East.