A reader once complained that I sneer at any conspiracy theory that I didn't invent. Just so!
One currently popular -- and quite sneer-worthy -- conspiracy theory holds that Barack Obama somehow wanted
ISIS to lead a Sunni uprising in Iraq. If you think that way, you're being ridiculous. Just look
at what's going down
Even before tens of thousands of troops disappeared into the night two weeks ago, Iraqi generals complained that they were outgunned by an enemy hardened by years of fighting in Syria and in possession of more advanced weaponry.
In recent weeks, ISIS has seized hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of military equipment from the Iraqi army, much of which has been smuggled back across the border to Syria, according to Iraqi officials. The frontier is now largely in the hands of ISIS, which seeks to create an Islamic caliphate stretching across Syria and Iraq.
Much of that equipment came from the United States. While ISIS militants have posted videos flaunting their use of seized weaponry and vehicles, Pentagon officials said they had no accurate accounting of what had ended up in ISIS hands...
All of this tracks with my own reconstruction of events: A new Sunni jihadi fighting force was engineered as a proxy army against the Shi'ite governments of Syria and Iran. The White House (and the neocons) must have been horrified when the Sunni warriors turned against Maliki.
We should have seen this coming. Maliki was always weak and short-sighted -- a much more inviting target.
Much of the problem comes down the United States' refusal to do much of anything to win Iraqi hearts and minds during our own sojourn in Iraq. As Marcy Wheeler
Although the vaunted Petreaus COIN strategy paid lip service to winning “hearts and minds”, the sad reality is that the US spent zero effort on achieving any sort of social reconciliation in Iraq. The huge Sunni-Shia schism remained intact and was even further fed by the US’ hand-picked Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki.
A tremendous window opened for reconciliation when the Sunni militias abandoned al Qaeda in Iraq and joined with the US, but these groups were given no standing by al-Maliki, who even continued to send his Shia-dominated military into Sunni regions, laying groundwork for local support once ISIS came into the picture.
Keep that legacy of failure in mind as you read this piece in Foreign Policy Journal
. I'm not asking you to agree with Franklin Lamb's viewpoints; I'm simply asking you to consider some "ground level" data about ISIS that you may not have received from other news sources. (Note: DAASH equals ISIS, more or less.)
DAASH supporters claim that as soon as they ‘liberate” an area, they invest in public works such as the new souk in Raqqa, installs new power lines and conducts training sessions on how citizens can do-it-yourself for more self-reliance with fixing infrastructure problems. In addition, DAASH claims that it quickly fixes potholes, runs a low fare bus system, has established a ‘green’ program to build parks and plant trees and flowers, helps farmers with harvests and runs a zakat (alms-giving) organization. Moreover, ISIS has established a number of religious schools for children, including ones for girls where they can memorize the Koran and receive awards if successful, while also holding ‘fun days’ for kids including all the ice cream they can eat and inflatable slides. For their older counterparts, ISIS has established training sessions for new imams and preachers. Schedules for prayers and Koran lessons are posted at mosques. In a more worrisome development, ISIS runs training camps for “cub scouts” and houses these recruits for ‘instruction’. Several social media reports and a few eyewitness accounts appear to confirm that DAASH has developed health and welfare programs, operates bread factories and distributes free fruits and vegetables to needy families, passing the goods out personally as well as setting up a free food kitchen in Raqqa and an adoption agency to place orphans with families in their areas. Unlike the Taliban and some other regimes which exhibit paranoia about vaccination campaigns, DAASH claims to be more ‘modern” and actively promotes polio vaccination in its areas to try stop its spread.
The social services that DAASH provides obviously do not ameliorate the deadly violence it carries out, but does suggest it is well-organized and has caught the interest of the Sunni Muslims who feel besieged by Shia.
how you win people over.
America has forgotten how to be liked. In fact, we cannot disguise our contempt for the idea that likability will benefit us in the long run. For decades, right-wingers have said: "It doesn't matter if they love us; all that matters is that they fear us."
And what kind of world has this attitude created?
Our leaders have become so enraptured by libertarian mythology that they can no longer see the obvious tactical
advantages of making the lives of average people easier -- of keeping the lights on, of keeping the hungry from starving.
(If Paul Wolfowitz had run the Marshall Plan, his approach would have come down to two words: "Fuck 'em!"
The Ayn Randroids who ran Iraq on behalf of the Bush administration seemed to think that reliable electricity, cheap bus rides and free ice cream would create a society of leeches. In fact, those are the kinds of things that create goodwill, solidarity, purpose, and a sense of national identity.
They are also creating a formidable fighting force.
After the conquest of Iraq, the next target will be Israel. ISIS is very clear about this.
DAASH supporters deny any interest in training and directing foreign fighters to attack Europe and other places, claiming that their goals are to establish an al-Sham Caliphate and liberate Palestine. With respect to exactly how DAASH intends to liberate Palestine, the Iraqis and now the Obama administration are in possession of an encyclopedia of information about detailed DAASH plans, and tactics it will confront the Zionist occupiers with, according to a congressional staffer via email with this observer.
Time will reveal if DAASH achieves one or both of its objectives. Many believe if they eject the Zionist regime from Palestine, the expanding Islamist group will set in motion historic currents that in all likelihood will be rather different from the Ehud Omert-Condeleeza Rice fantasy of “a New Middle East.”
According to Lamb, ISIS claims to have access to portable nukes. That remains to be seen.
You need not agree with Lamb's biases or choice of verbiage to understand the irony.
For years, supporters of Israel have focused on the alleged "threat" posed by the Shi'ite regime in Iran, a country which has never attacked anyone. The other "threat," of course, was Assad of Syria. To counter those threats, the Israelis reached a quiet accommodation with the main Sunni power, Saudi Arabia. Although those two countries do not have diplomatic relations, they jointly planned a possible attack on Iran
as recently as last year. (Also see here
Yet all this time, the Saudis quietly funded a new Sunni jihad movement: ISIS. The United States and Saudi Arabia worked together to make sure that ISIS got all sorts of weaponry to use against Assad's forces. Now, ISIS is poised to win in Iraq -- and after that, the target is Israel.
Today, those kids in Mosul are eating free ice cream; ten years from now, they will be holding guns and Korans as they eagerly await the go
If you think that Obama or the neocons or anyone
in D.C. wanted this outcome -- well, what can I say? When conspiracy theory devolves into a form of silly and mindless automatic gainsaying, it becomes worse than useless.
John Kerry seems to have his eye on a possible replacement for Maliki: Ahmed Chalabi!
The New York Times revealed the U.S. ambassador in Iraq, Robert Beecroft, and the State Department’s top official in Iraq, Brett McGurk, recently met with the controversial Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi, who has been described as a potential candidate to replace al-Maliki. Chalabi is the former head of the Iraqi National Congress, a CIA-funded Iraqi exile group that strongly pushed for the 2003 U.S. invasion...
Bush clearly chose Chalabi to replace Saddam Hussein. Remember that TV footage of the statue coming down? Those were all Chalabi's imported goons prancing around in front of the cameras, holding up photos of adorable Ahmed. Actual residents of Baghdad -- most of whom had no idea who Chalabi was -- were not allowed in the square.
And now Kerry seems to think that our slightly-tarnished marionette will satisfy the Iraqis. Riiiiiiiiight
Good god, is there anyone in the American political establishment who understands the region? No, strike that: Do we have anyone who understands basic human nature?