Closing Thought–18May18

The war torn nation of Iraq has held their most recent election…..I gave my readers a rundown on the what’s what with this vote…..

https://lobotero.com/2018/05/14/democracy-comes-to-iraq/

Back during the dark days of the 2003 invasion and occupation America’s biggest opponent was an Iraqi cleric, al-Sadr…..and with this election he has risen to the top of Iraqi political process…..

Widespread disillusionment with Iraq’s current political class appears to have helped the political coalition of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr become the early front-runner in national elections marked by record low turnout. Partial returns of the 2018 vote—the first since Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State group—were announced late Sunday by the Iraqi electoral commission and put al-Sadr’s political alliance in the lead in four provinces, including Baghdad. Al-Sadr is a strong Iraqi nationalist—he is critical of any outside influence in the country—and campaigned on a platform that criticized Iraq’s current political leadership as deeply corrupt. He rose to prominence in Iraq after the 2003 US-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein when he commanded a militia that fought American troops. He also commanded paramilitary forces in the war against ISIS.

The election came as the country deals with the disenfranchisement of the country’s Sunni minority. Of more than 2 million Iraqis displaced by the war, the majority are Sunnis. Also at issue is the influence of Iran on the country: Iranian-backed Shiite militias who played a key role in defeating ISIS and were allied with the Shiite-led Baghdad government made significant electoral gains. Al-Sadr did not run for a seat in parliament and therefore cannot become prime minister. However, if his alliance wins the most seats, a member of his bloc will be tasked with forming a majority government and will appoint the country’s next prime minister. Despite not holding an official office, al-Sadr exercises strong organizational control over his followers, per the AP.

It will be interesting to see how he plays with the American forces this time around…..this Iraqi institution is very fragile and will be attacked politically from all sides.

Will his government survive?

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Democracy Comes To Iraq?

With ISIS on the run Iraq has held a round of election trying to find a truly workable government….

Iraq’s electoral law is a complex and idiosyncratic method of securing proportional representation in Parliament. The system tends to favor the largest parties and solid voting blocs using a process so arcane that virtually no one outside of professional politicians and statisticians really understands how it works.

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-05-11/iraq-elections-are-sure-to-leave-a-mess

Since the fall of Saddam Iraq has been suffering from sectarian divide and its politics are the battlefield…..can they move past this?

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a Shiite, has not limited his campaigning for this week’s elections based on traditional sectarian considerations. He has traveled to predominantly Sunni areas such as Salahuddin province about 100 miles north of Baghdad and Anbar province about 70 miles to the west of the capital. He is the most prominent Shiite leader striving to win votes of residents in areas known for strong sectarianism, areas which the Islamic State (IS) invaded in 2014 as the group ultimately settled in about one-third of the country.

In the predominantly Sunni province of Salahuddin, the list of alliances includes diverse ethnic and sectarian names in which 332 candidates from 15 electoral alliances will compete.

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/05/iraq-election-sectarianism-shiite-sunni.html

Iraqis head to the polls on May 12 to elect a new parliament, after which legislators will choose a speaker, president, and prime minister. The elections come at the end of four tough years for Iraq, with the Islamic State seizing a third of the country in 2014 and the Kurds making a strong push for independence last September.

Despite the turmoil, Kurdish-Arab violence has been minimal, and the numerous victors of the war against IS are all hoping to turn their battlefield triumph into votes. Chief among them is Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is seeking reelection and a stronger mandate to govern. The numerous Shia militias who fought IS have formed a political coalition that is expected to do well. Yet the electoral prospects are uncertain for the Kurds, whose independence referendum and subsequent military and political setbacks have diluted the goodwill they gained by fighting IS in the north.

http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/iraqs-elections-red-flags-and-opportunities-for-inclusion

With all the past fighting and destruction and past political in-fighting there are some green shoots of democracy creeping into the Iraqi political scene….

In March 2003, the U.S. invaded Iraq, and in June 2004, it tendered sovereignty of the country back to the Iraqis. Iraq’s first elections took place in January 2005 with images of purple fingertips marking the milestone, but elections alone do not make a democracy. The record of the U.S. in fostering Iraqi democracy has been mixed, but despite the errors and setbacks, the U.S. still has an important opportunity to support something unusual: a stable, Arab democracy.

One of the early U.S. errors was the 2003 decision to order de-Ba’athification. This meant that nearly anyone that was part of the government during the Saddam Hussein regime lost their jobs. Those in favor of de-Ba’athification argued it was the only way to remove the Hussein-tainted operatives from the levers of power. Hindsight shows that critics of this decision had the better argument. With de-Ba’athification, the security situation in Iraq worsened, and since Ba’athists were largely Sunni, ethnic tensions amongst Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds were exacerbated.

https://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2018/05/11/green_shoots_of_democracy_in_iraq_113433.html

WE will just have to see how the election turns out….personally as long as there is any sectarian divide democracy will always be a dream on unfulfilled.

France And The Middle East

I have a degree in Middle East Studies and Conflict Management….but my interests first were ignited by movies like Beau Geste and Lawrence of Arabia and then my trips through the Middle East…..

In all that time what suck in my brain was France’s involve in desert warfare by trying to subjugate the tribes of North Africa…..and in doing so should have learned how to fight a desert war more so than most other nations…..

A paper that I recently read on France’s place in this region of the world……

  • The Middle East is a key stage for France’s foreign policy, one where it bids to prove its credentials as an international power, punching above its weight and demonstrating the independence that is so important to the French sense of place in the world.
  • In this context, the Arab uprisings and their subsequent upheavals have been a particular challenge, to such an extent that France attempted to recalibrate its strategy. Despite this, France soon settled back into its traditional realism by adopting an approach based on “reassurance”.
  • Under this approach, France sought to foster stability by reassuring its partners against their perceived anxiety in the face of domestic instability, regional changes, and international uncertainties. But “reassurance” did not deliver and France still faces key challenges in the region.
  • France also feels increasingly ‘alone in the desert’, with little European support. Even with armed conflicts, terrorism, and migration flows across the region, France has failed to rally its European partners around strategic purpose.
  • Emmanuel Macron’s ardent pro-Europeanism presents an opportunity for France, and for Europe. But France must move on from its “reassurance” approach and better embed its leadership in concerted European cooperation.

http://www.ecfr.eu/publications/summary/alone_in_the_desert_how_france_can_lead_europe_in_the_middle_east

We here in the States hear a lot about what Great Britain is doing and possibly to a lesser extent what Germany is doing but we hear very little of France and its foreign policies…..

I think that if we are to work all aspects of the situation then we need to know what all players are doing….it is the only way for success.

The Color Of Revolution

We have had a Green Revolution……then there was a Red Revolution when the communists came to power…..an Orange Revolution…..a Yellow Revolution…..and the list goes on…..then there was the Velvet Revolution…..

Armenia is in that region that once wrote about as the possible linch pin to start another global upheaval….the region between the two seas…..

It took less than two weeks of protests for Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan, the former two-term president who had previously said he would not take the premiership, to step down from the position. The leader of the protests last week called it a “velvet revolution,” a reference to the pro-democracy color revolutions of the early 2000s that swept the former Soviet Union and the Balkans. But this was no color revolution. The color revolutions pulled states out of Russia’s orbit. Armenia, however, has nowhere else to go.

In the color revolutions of the past, the West offered indirect support to the protesters through vehicles like nongovernmental organizations. Yet there is no overt evidence that the United States or any European countries directly funded or otherwise materially supported the Armenian protests. In fact, no Western government even made statements criticizing Sargsyan or his government. A few Western-funded NGOs went so far as to sign a petition in support of the protests, but this hardly suggests that a dramatic political transformation is imminent.

https://www.realclearworld.com/articles/2018/04/24/armenia_not_another_color_revolution_112785.html

This region gets very little attention…..and has some of the most volatile situations in global politics…..situations that can easily transgress into a shooting war at the drop of a hat…

And then there is another look at the situation in Armenia…..

When opposition Member of Parliament Nikol Pashinyan led a knot of marchers through northern Armenia in April to protest the return to power of long-serving leader Serzh Sargsyan, no one guessed his campaign would prompt the country to take a leap into the unknown.

One of a mere handful of opposition parliamentarians, Pashinyan has never been a popular leader in this country of three million people. His criticism of the government resonated with those parts of society that oppose Sargsyan and reflected real problems. But when he set out on his march, the former journalist and publicist was a marginal figure.

https://www.crisisgroup.org/europe-central-asia/caucasus/armenia/velvet-revolution-takes-armenia-unknown

IST tries to keep its finger on the pulse of the region…well as best it can without access to classified info…..

But could Russia intervene in Armenia?

The resignation of Armenia’s Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan after more than a week of mass protests in Russia’s backyard begs the question: Why has Moscow not intervened?

The demonstrators bring to mind “color revolutions” in the post-Soviet neighborhood that the Kremlin seems to abhor, like in Georgia and Ukraine. But even genuine revolutions, which Armenia has not yet seen, are not enough in and of themselves to prompt Russia to intervene.

https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/why-has-putin-not-intervened-in-armenia-yet-opinion-61261

An Armenian end run did not succeed……

Armenia’s former president and just appointed prime minister, Serzh Sargsyan, resigned Monday after a 10-day campaign of nationwide protest and civil disobedience. Protests began as soon as Sargsyan announced 11 April that he would, after previously stating otherwise, seek the ruling Republican Party’s nomination to the newly created post of prime minister.

By doing so, he laid to rest any lingering doubt about the reasons for Armenia’s switch to a parliamentary system. Introduced through a contested constitutional referendum in December 2015, the new system came online just as Sargsyan’s second, and by law final, presidential term ended. Executive powers now lie with the prime minister, and the president is relegated to a largely ceremonial role.

https://www.chathamhouse.org/expert/comment/armenia-constitutional-power-grab-backfires

This situation is why I enjoy being a foreign policy wonk…..stuff like all this is just fascinating….

IST will keep looking for the rest of this story…..

Syria Saga Continues

Before I go any further I need to make it clear that if there is undeniable evidence that Syria used CWs on a civilian population then it should have been punished….my problem is that the US and its lap dog allies rushed to judgment without that proof of which I speak….

The NATO goons attacked without positive proof and now they let inspectors into the region to determine whether these weapons were used or not….(a little late)……

In the 1980’s, Scott Ritter was a commissioned officer in the United States Marine Corps, specializing in intelligence. In 1987, Ritter was assigned to the On-Site Inspection Agency, which was put together to go into the Soviet Union and oversee the implementation of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. This was the first time that on-site inspection had been used as part of a disarmament verification process.

Ritter was one of the groundbreakers in developing on-site inspection techniques and methodologies. With this unique experience behind him, Ritter was asked in 1991, at the end of the Gulf War, to join the United Nations Special Commission, which was tasked by the Security Council to oversee the disarmament of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. From 1991 to 1998, Ritter served as a chief weapons inspector and led a number of teams into Iraq.

According to Ritter, in the following Flashpoints Radio interview with Dennis Bernstein conducted on April 23rd, US, British and French claims that the Syrian Government used chemical weapons against civilians last month appear to be totally bogus.

http://theantimedia.com/scott-ritter-syrian-gas-attack/

There have been others that have given reason why the Syrian government may not have been behind the attacks…..but so far the Western media will go with the “official” story of the culprit to the attack……

The response from the US, UK and France to a briefing on Thursday at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the Hague was perverse, to say the least. Russia had brought 17 witnesses from Douma who stated that there had been no chemical weapons attack there earlier this month – the pretext for an illegal air strike on Syria by the three western states.

The witnesses, a mix of victims and the doctors who treated them, told accounts that confirmed a report provided last week from Douma by British reporter Robert Fisk – a report, it should be noted, that has been almost entirely blanked by the western media. According to the testimony provided at the OPCW, the victims shown in a video from the site of the alleged attack were actually suffering from the effects of inhaling dust after a bombing raid, not gas.

https://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2018-04-28/the-west-closes-its-ears-to-douma-testimony/

What will happen if there is proof that the Syrians were not behind this attack?  Will there be a “oops my bad”?  Better yet will we, as Americans, ever know the truth about this attack?

Withdraw?….We Gonna Stay!

The perfect description of Trump international policies.

A couple of days ago….or was it weeks…..who knows for sure…..crap flies around so much it is hard to keep up with when it all began…anyway awhile back Trump made some comment about the future of American troops in Syria….

He stated that troops would be withdrawn from the country soon….and then he changed his mind…..

Despite the US’s insistence that it intends to pull troops out of Syria (at some point, possibly in the distant future), local media report that the US has set up a new military facility in Eastern Deir ez-Zor – not far from ISIS’s last major stronghold in Syria, which was crushed by the Syrian Army back in November shortly before they declared victory against ISIS. The region is also known for being rich in oil.

According to the reports, the new base is located in the al-Tanak oilfield, which is controlled by Kurdish forces. Form their new outpost, American personnel have been ferrying new supplies to the front from the town of Khasham, in southeastern Deir ez-Zor, to the city of Hosseinieh, situated northeast of the Deir ez-Zor region.

http://theantimedia.com/new-us-military-base-isis-stronghold-syria/

A new base?  Does that mean an increase of American troops deployed to Syria?

What Of Iran?

NK has been making news so the other side of the world is getting little press these days.  Iran is making news just not enough for the MSM to pay attention at least for right now….they will shortly…..

First we need to look at Iran’s priorities……

Iran is ascendant in the Middle East, spreading its influence in a contiguous geographic arc from Tehran to Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut. Its rise, which began with the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and accelerated when civil wars erupted in Syria and Yemen, has generated a perception that Iran aspires to be the region’s hegemonic power. To the U.S. and its allies – Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – such an ambition constitutes an intolerable threat. Iran, however, sees itself as breaking out of prolonged isolation and stifling sanctions – precipitated by the 1979 Islamic Revolution – that it perceives as historic injustice. It sees a region dominated by powers with superior military capabilities. After the 2011 Arab uprisings, Iran applied military force to protect a longstanding ally, the Syrian regime, viewing its loss as a possible prelude to its own encirclement. It is in part the gap in perceptions that has locked Iran and its rivals in an escalatory spiral of proxy fights that is destroying the region. A first step toward closing the gap is to better understand how Iran debates and fashions its regional policy.

https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/gulf-and-arabian-peninsula/iran/184-irans-priorities-turbulent-middle-east

Then there is the nuke deal that is in place that Trump and the war mongers do not like…..the chances are that this deal will possibly be terminated….if so what then?

With just weeks remaining before President Trump’s May 12 ultimatum to change the Iran nuclear deal, there is little sign major change is coming. This is raising concerns that the president may attempt to blow up the deal outright, as he has long threatened.

Iran is warning against such a move, saying that they are prepared to ‘vigorously‘ resume their enrichment of uranium if the pact collapses. Iran FM Javad Zarif noted that Iran was never seeking a nuclear bomb, but that enrichment to lower levels would probably be stepped up in the fact of the deal falling apart.

That’s unsurprising. Dramatic curbs to enrichment were a big concession made by Iran under the deal, along with giving the IAEA an unprecedented level of access to their nuclear sites. Without the deal, Iran would likely feel obliged to reverse those concessions.

(antiwar.com)

This is very worrying…..we could get a deal with NK and then have another nuke problem on our hands.

4 weeks and this could explode on more than one front.