not necessarily true that obama will really increase arms supplies to maliki

Resurgence of AQI, Fuelled by Saudi Arabia
Zayd Alisa, Global Research, Mar 3 2014

Iraq, more than two years after the US withdrawal, and nearly a decade after the US forces ousted al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) from Falluja, is still grappling with not merely an escalating sectarian crisis between the Shi’a-led government and an increasingly disaffected Sunni minority, but even more menacingly, the takeover of parts of Ramadi and Falluja in the notoriously rebellious Sunni-dominated Anbar province by AQI, now calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). And while the Iraqi army managed to regain parts of Ramadi, the provincial capital, it has so far spectacularly failed to make any headway in Falluja. Although PM Maliki has repeatedly warned that the army was on the verge of storming Falluja, nonetheless he has so far refrained, fearing that civilian casualties would trigger a fierce backlash by tribal leaders backing the army. Maliki asserted on Feb 5 that the only way to avoid a full-scale assault would be for the fighters holed up in the city to accept an amnesty declared on Feb 9 by Anbar’s Governor, Ahmed al-Dulaimi, which offered them one week to lay down their weapons. But despite the end of the deadline, military action has not yet materialised. It is doubtless true that 2013 witnessed a dramatic surge in deadly violence, yet, it is no where near the 2006-2007 levels. That is largely due to the fact that a relentless campaign against the Shi’a majority aimed at provoking a tit for tat retaliatory attacks by the Shia militias has, at least for now, spectacularly failed. In retaliation for the killing of dozens of soldiers on Dec 21, and in preparation for the looming general elections in Apr 2014, the army bombed AQI camps, arrested Ahmed al-Alwani, a Sunni MP who was wanted for terrorism charges, and then on Dec 30 dismantled the protest camp in Ramadi. While AIQ and Sunni tribal leaders opened fire on the Army, speaker of the parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and his Sunni Mutahidun party, part of the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya bloc, explicitly demanded the immediate withdrawal of the army from Falluja and Ramadi. But, as Maliki withdrew the army, AQI scrambled to seize the two cities. Without doubt, Maliki’s decision was militarily a grave mistake, however it has manifested that:

  1. AQI had not only a highly significant presence in the protest camp, but it was heavily armed.
  2. The local police in Anbar were at best utterly incompetent, but at worst colluding with AQI.
  3. Maliki’s decision has also driven a major wedge between Sunni tribal leaders. While Ahmed Abu Reasha has emphatically backed the army, Ali Hatem Suliaman has formed the Falluja Military Council to fight the Iraqi Army.
  4. The sight of AQI sweeping into Falluja and Ramadi, both the scenes of fierce US battles, has undeniably jolted the Obama administration to sharply expedite shipments of desperately-needed weapons.

Ever since the overthrow of Saddam’s regime in 2003, the Saudi regime has been emphatically hostile towards Iraq. This has been largely due to its deeply-entrenched fear that the success of democracy in Iraq would undoubtedly inspire its own people. Another reason is the deeply rooted hatred of Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi religious establishment for the Shi’a. The Saudi regime accuses Maliki of giving Iran a free hand to dramatically intensify its influence in Iraq. The Saudi regime has made no secret that its overriding priority is to severely undermine what it perceives as highly perilous and yet growing Iranian influence. Even though the Saudi regime vehemently opposed US pull-out from Iraq, nevertheless in Dec 2011 Syria rather than Iraq became Saudi Arabia’s principal target for regime change. The Saudi regime has consistently considered Syria under Assad an irreplaceable strategic ally to its primary foe Iran. The Saudis moved swiftly to shore up the armed insurgents by deploying their intelligence services, whose instrumental role in establishing Jabhat al-Nusra was highlighted in an intelligence review released in Paris in Jan 2013. The Saudi regime also used its huge influence and leverage on not only Sunni tribal leaders in western Iraq, but also on Saudi members of AQI, convincing it that its principal battlefield must be Syria and that its ultimate goal should be deposing Assad’s Alawi regime, since its overthrow would break the backbone of the Iraqi Shi’a-led government and inevitably loosen Iran’s grip on Iraq.

The NYT reported on Oct 14 2012 that most of the weapons shipped by Saudi Arabia and Qatar were going to hard-line Jihadis in Syria, thereby explaining how Nusra swiftly rose to prominence. The NYT also reported on Sep 12 2013 that the Saudi regime dramatically stepped up its arming of the rebels, hoping to enable them to capitalise on a much-anticipated USmilitary strikes in retaliation to a chemical attack on a Damascus suburb. However, the Saudi regime was deeply rattled by Obama’s stunning change of heart, not only pulling back from launching military strikes against Syria but, far more devastatingly, actively pursuing diplomacy to resolve the nuclear issue with Iran. In response, n Oct 23 2013, Saudi intelligence chief Bandar bin Sultan reportedly told EU diplomats that Saudi Arabia is hell bent on scaling back its co-operation with the US on the all-important issue of arming Syrian rebels. Among the primary reasons for the extraordinary resurgence of AQI are the following:

  1. The torrent of funding, arming, logistical support and salaries provided by Saudi Arabia to extremist groups in Syria has turned Nusra into the most potent killing machine in Syria, and dramatically revived AQI’s power and influence, vaulting it to levels that surmount its peak strength in 2006-07. According to AQI chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s declaration of Apr 2013, Nusra is merely an extension of AQI, and Nusra chief al-Golani is one of AQI’s foot-solders. As a result, all the resources were shared between AQI and Nusra.
  2. The appointment of Bandar bin Sultan as new intelligence chief in Jul 2012 was primarily designed to ratchet up Saudi Arabia’s faltering efforts in Syria. In Bandar’s eyes overthrowing the Syrian regime was highly unachievable without initially destabilising Iraq and Lebanon. Thus, AQI was given the green light to restart its intense campaign in Iraq, aimed at ensuring that Iraq is far too busy to prop up the Syrian regime.
  3. The protests which erupted in Anbar in Dec 2012 were swiftly hijacked by a number of the Iraqiya bloc leaders and hard-line Sunni clerics. They not only defiantly refused to negotiate directly or indirectly with the central government, but sought to escalate the protests, which were spurred on by AQI and Saudi Arabia. For AQI, the ongoing protests were a golden opportunity for more radicalisation, recruitment and ultimately reactivating the safe havens that originally existed in those areas. Saudi Arabia enthusiastically trumpeted these protests as incontrovertible evidence from the horse’s mouth that Iraq is adopting discriminatory policies, and exploited the protests to intensify its blatant meddling under the perfect pretext of responding to appeals made by Sunni leaders. The Saudi Foreign minister in Jan 2013 chillingly warned that Iraq will not stabilise unless it ceases embracing sectarian extremism.
  4. The Saudi regime is making strenuous attempts to stave off an internal uprising, after its patently deceitful myth of being the guardian of Sunni Islam has unravelled due to its full-blown support for the tyrannical regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen against the Sunnis in these countries. It has been working tirelessly to ratchet up sectarian strife in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Therefore, paving the way for AQI to ignite a regional sectarian war, enabling it to demonstrate to its increasingly disenfranchised people that it is heavily engaged in combating an existential threat from the Shi’a, namely Iran.
  5. The spiralling conflict in Syria has dramatically emboldened the Sunni minority in Iraq.

All of these factors underscore the inescapable reality that Saudi Arabia’s virulently sectarian foreign policy is behind the resurgence of AQI. According to the Walnuts McCain and Lindsey Graham narrative, Maliki’s policy of discriminating against the Sunni minority revived AQI. This narrative holds no water for deliberately ignoring the following facts:

  1. AQI was also heavily active in the same Sunni safe havens during the premierships of both Iyad Allawi and then Ibrahim al-Jaffari.
  2. The Sunni minority has persistently been in power since 1920, but during the Ba’athist era, and specifically under Saddam’s rule, it was almost exclusively calling the shots in Iraq. No wonder, the Sunnis regard the prominent positions of Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister and seven more ministries as woefully inadequate.
  3. Sunni leaders have adamantly refused to accept the unavoidable reality that the Shi’a are the indisputable majority in Iraq. Nujaifi even claimed on al-Jazeera TV in Qatar that the Sunnis are the majority.
  4. Despite Sunni claims that Article 4 of the terrorism law has unfairly been targeting them, it was, however, the Shi’a cities of Basra, Amarah, and Sadr City which experienced the strictest implementation of anti-terror laws in 2008.

This narrative sends out the highly perilous message to all marginalised ethnic and religious minorities that it is perfectly justifiable for them to join terrorist groups like AQI and turn their areas into a safe haven and a launchpad for suicide bombers to indiscriminately slaughter thousands of innocent civilians belonging to the majority, to bring the government to its knees. That was indeed AQ’s narrative for bombing New York, London, Madrid and now Baghdad.

And here are yesterday’s deathcounts:

Iraq, Monday Mar 3 2014
Margaret Griffis, AntiWar.com, Mar 3 2014

At least 97 people were killed, and 45 others were wounded across Iraq today. The number of insurgents killed was again remarkably high at 82. however, that figure cannot be independently confirmed. Anbar: in Ramadi, 52 insurgents were killed during operations today or yesterday. A suicide attack occurred, but the number of casualties was not released. Two insurgents were killed and three soldiers were wounded in a clash. Mortar fire in Falluja killed two women and wounded two children. At least six more people were injured in the shelling. Ten insurgents were killed. A bomb killed a shop owner in Hit. Security forces in al-Siger and al-Azrakiya killed 15 insurgents. Elsewhere: in Baghdad, a market bombing left one dead and five wounded. A body was found in Ghazaliya. Security forces killed an insurgent. In Mosul, a bomb killed one soldier and wounded two more. A lawyer was gunned down. Gunmen killed a policeman. A dumped body was found. A bomb killed two people and wounded six more in Hawija. A bomb in al-Hay al-Askari wounded 20 people. A policeman was killed and a civilian was wounded in a small arms attack in Abu Ghraib. A bomb killed a civilian in Muqdadiya. A policeman and a civilian were killed in an attack in the Hamrim Mountains. In Latifiya, an AQ leader was killed.

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