Richard Cottrell

Payback for the liberators: Iraq prepares to shatter

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By Richard Cottrell

Contributing writer for End the Lie

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (L) shaking hands with U.S President Barak Obama (R) on April 7, 2009 in Baghdad, Iraq (Image credit: Iraqi Prime Minister office via Getty Images)

Practically unreported outside the country, Iraq is preparing to shatter into ethnic fragments. The goal of a united, democratic Iraq built on the ruins of the Ba’ath state is nothing but an empty memory.

The fragile truce among the country’s ethnic groups is bad enough in itself. But far more serious is the progressive advance of a Shiite autocracy and the virtual dictatorship of the Iraqi premier, Nouri al-Maliki.

The key power-sharing agreement between Shiites and Sunni religious factions is in increasing disarray as al-Maliki imposes his personal stamp of universal authority.

In short, he is turning into a replica of Saddam Hussein, which is precisely what I pointed out in my earlier coverage of what is going on over there.

Bahaa al-Araji, a leading follower of the cleric Sayyid Muqtadā al-Ṣadr’s ranks in the Iraqi parliament, compares the situation to a ‘primed time bomb that might explode at any moment.’

He went on to accuse al-Maliki directly of conspiring to exploit the political impasse brought about by ethnic tensions in order to impose a direct personal dictatorship.

The latest political crisis engulfed Iraq shortly after the illusory withdrawal of US occupation forces in July of last year. There are still 40,000 troops in heavily fortified encampments (not to mention all of the contractors), which no one is discussing during the presidential election campaign.

Under cover of ‘mission accomplished’ al-Maliki instantly attacked the two most senior Sunni politicians in the government.

The deputy premier Saleh al-Mutlaq was marginalized and effectively pushed out of office. Al-Maliki then drummed up charges that vice president Tariq al-Hashemi was running death squads and secret prisons, a charge which is more convincingly leveled at al-Maliki himself.

United States diplomats at the giant embassy compound in Baghdad maintained strict radio silence as al-Hashemi fled first to the self-ruling Kurdish northern province and then onwards to Turkey, where he is now in exile. He fears that he will be arrested and imprisoned if he returns home.

The Turkish government’s ‘harboring’ of al-Hashemi has naturally infuriated the rapidly emerging Saddam Hussein Mark Two, leading to a hot exchange of words between Ankara and Baghdad.

Many observers fear this is a precursor of a full-scale rupture between Turkey and Iraq, similar to that which shattered Turkish-Israeli relations in the wake of the deadly Gaza aid convoy raid in May 2010. This split has resulted in some especially heated rhetoric, among other things like a conflict over including an Israeli ship in NATO’s gulf armada.

The Turks are certainly not pulling their punches. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has openly described al-Maliki as an emerging dictator who is deliberately fomenting ethnic strife in order to impose personal rule.

There was no attempt at diplomatic exchanges as al-Maliki furiously responded that the Turks should mind their own business.

They did nothing of the kind. Al-Maliki apparently erupted into a towering rage when the president of the Kurdish province, Massoud Barzani, recently turned up in Ankara for quite unprecedented high level talks with the Turkish government.

This was a remarkable event in itself, given that Turkey is waging a bitter internal war against Kurdish irredentists inside her own borders.

Yet, smiling and beaming for the cameras, both men gave a strong impression that this was no simple courtesy call, but more likely an intentional provocation to isolate Kurdistan from the rest of Iraq.

The Sadrite faction thinks so too. Bahaa al-Araji is on record as saying that al-Maliki’s increasingly dictatorial style unnerves the Kurds, who suspect that he might unleash the Iraqi army in order to snuff out their potentially dangerous quasi-independence.

“Baghdad has similar problems with other provinces. This will lead to the dividing of Iraq, and there will be no Iraq on the world map,” al-Araji said.

The devastating civil war that broke out in the wake of the US-led invasion claimed at least 100,000 lives of civilians.

If violence erupts once again between the rival ethnic factions, then the prospect of parts of Iraq seceding is very real.

The bugbear is al-Maliki, who displays only feint pretense in a national unity government, which is hardly surprising given that he willfully destroyed the one that Iraq already had.

Now the Kurds say that unless there is a real power sharing agreement by autumn, they will go their own way.

History is repeating itself. Saddam held Iraq down by excluding the Sunnis from any positions of power in the civil services, the army and even education. Ending this repression was supposedly one of the reasons to justify the invasion in 2003.

Yet quite obviously al-Maliki is progressively following the same game plan, the slow erosion of the Sunni power base. This is the reason of the new wave of bloody bombings on either side of the ethnic divide, which again are unreported not only in the American corporate media but largely that of Europe as well.

I suspect that some of these attacks are false flags staged by Iraqi secret services in order to corner and isolate the Sunnis.

The illusion that ‘all is well’ is maintained by the White House and the Pentagon, despite the plain evidence that al-Maliki’s scheming will lead to the return of massive civil unrest.

The US is making the bet that al-Maliki is sufficiently well entrenched and strong enough to withstand any large-scale Sunni rebellion.

The growing friction inside Iraq has to be judged against the increasingly adventurous activities of Turkey herself right across the Middle East.

Deputy prime minister Ahmet Devutoglu (widely regarded as Erdogan’s successor, should the premier be compelled to step down on grounds of ill health) this past week stated that Turkey seeks to lead ‘a wave of change’ throughout the region.

Have no doubt that she already is. Thus Turkey has thrust herself into the forefront of tensions surrounding Iran and Israel, the Syrian crisis, and now the slide of Iraq into chaos and very probably dissolution as a nation state.

Turkey is a prominent advocate of the Palestinian cause and in my opinion it is only a question of time before important Turkish political leaders turn up in the Gazan gulag, a massive affront to Israel and the US.

These are immense provocations to the United States, which sees herself as the self-appointed guardian of the Middle East, in concert with Israel and the tacit backing of NATO.

It is a great irony that Turkey, an important NATO power and contributor of its second largest military contingent, increasingly plays a la carte with alliance strategies – as I predicted that she would, here at End the Lie.

Erdogan’s blow-hot, blow-cold relations with the US and NATO presage two possible developments. One is full Turkish withdrawal from the alliance, which I think less likely (better to play with the rest of the kids on the block, but only when you feel like it) or US scheming to undermine and bring down the soft Islamic government which has ruled Turkey for the past ten years.

But that is a large enough subject that deserves and will receive a separate post, save to point out here that the US backed successful military coups in Turkey in 1960 and 1980.

2012 may well prove the tipping point for the Iraqi unitary state unless al-Maliki blinks and backs down in the face of pressure to restore power sharing. There are no signs in his character or history that he is planning to do that. Compromise is not his middle name.

What is more, the US is unquestionably right behind him, in the mistaken belief that their cosseted strongman has all the tools and skills to calm the situation.

Al-Maliki has already demonstrated by his intemperate attacks on the Sunni Turks that he is in no mood to give ground.

Iraq never gained the statesman that she so desperately needed in the wake of the botched invasion.

Nor did the US and its allies have any real comprehension of the depth and bitterness of the ancient ethnic divides, except the British, who once ruled Iraq yet maintained a trappist silence.

There is no doubt that maimed, devastated and chronically mis-ruled Iraq is a powder keg that will blow up at the slightest provocation. Expect a hot Arabian summer.

Richard Cottrell is a writer, journalist and former European MP (Conservative). His new book Gladio: NATO’s Dagger At The Heart Of Europe is now available from Progressive Press. You may order it using the link below (or by clicking here – Gladio, NATO’s Dagger at the Heart of Europe: The Pentagon-Nazi-Mafia Terror Axis):

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Edited by End the Lie

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