June 13, 2014

Fall of Mosul Brings Saudi Arabia And Iran Closer To A Hot War; Collapse of The Iraqi Army Means More Assertive Shiite Militias; Birth of Kurdistan And ISIS's Cross-Border Rule Signifies The End of The Sykes–Picot Agreement

ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), for all its evils and horrors, has done the people of the region a great service by taking Mosul from the Iraqi army: burying the Sykes–Picot treaty in history's pages. This treaty has caused more violence and bloodshed than ISIL or any terrorist group ever could.

1. An excerpt from, "Iran’s intervention in troubled Iraq could broaden regional conflict" by Patrick Martin, The Globe and Mail, June 12, 2014:
Spurred by threats against Shia holy sites in southern Iraq, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced on Thursday his country was prepared to wage “combat” to repel the jihadist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which is currently sweeping across north and central Iraq.

Iran was responding to threats issued by ISIL spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, who vowed that the jihadists, who have chalked up several conquests in Iraq from Mosul to Tikrit, would not stop there but press on to Baghdad and to Najaf and Karbala, site of the two most important Shia shrines, which millions of pilgrims visit every year.

“We have a score to settle,” Mr. al-Adnani said in a video statement, urging on the ISIL fighters. And the score must be settled with the Shiites.

A senior security official of Iran, a Shia state, elaborated on Mr. Rouhani’s message, accusing Saudi Arabia of being behind the ISIL campaign. The Saudis, he said, are trying to take revenge in Iraq for their failure to oust President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. In an interview with the independent Al Mayadeen satellite news channel, the unnamed official said the Saudis “will feel the heat soon.”

Simon Henderson, an expert on Saudi Arabia at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, agrees with the analysis. ISIL’s attack on Iraq “reflects the wider war between Shiites and Sunnis for control of the Middle East,” he said.

In a paper published on Thursday, entitled The Battle for Iraq is a Saudi War on Iran, Mr. Henderson noted that ISIL’s defeat of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s forces “has been the dream of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah for years. He has regarded [al-]Maliki as little more than an Iranian stooge,” refusing to send an ambassador to Baghdad and encouraging other Gulf States to do likewise.
2. An excerpt from, "Is this the end of Iraq as we know it? Government powerless against Islamists" by Mitchell Prothero, McClatchy, June 12, 2014:
"The collapse of central authority also was evident in Baghdad, where the Iraqi Parliament failed to muster a quorum to consider a request from Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki for a declaration of a state of emergency. Maliki responded in a statement read on state television by accusing Sunni political parties of conspiring to destroy the state. In recent days, Maliki, who also serves as the defense minister, has blamed the same parties for the army’s massive desertion in the face of the ISIS offensive.

“Iraq’s future at this point is being shaped by conflict rather than by a viable political system. No one really knows where it’s going,” Salman Sheikh, the director of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, said in a telephone interview from Beirut. “The long-term impact could be quite cataclysmic, not just for Iraq, but for the entire region.”

The prediction that Iraq would one day descend into an ungovernable space of feuding ethnic and religious groups was first made when U.S. forces toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. Now that it seemed to be happening, many found it difficult to grasp the unfolding reality."

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/06/12/4173614/militias-become-iraqs-only-defense.html#storylink=cpy
3. An excerpt from, "The Rise of 'Cleric Militias' in Iraq" by Ali Mamouri, Al Monitor, July 23, 2013:
Since February 2013, there have been announcements about the formation of new militias at the hands of a cleric named Wathiq al-Battat. The latter has also formed a political party named Hezbollah Islamic Renaissance, which aims to enter the electoral race to establish a religious rule in Iraq according to the Iranian model. This has also coincided with military action on the part of Battat against Baathists and those he described as "takfiris," according to statements made by Battat during an interview with the al-Baghdadiyah TV channel. Battat had previously been linked to the Badr Corps, which was the armed wing of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), and later to the Mahdi Army in its fight against the US Army in Iraq. According to statements made by Battat in the aforementioned interview, he spent a long time in Iran, where he obtained a master’s degree from a military college. He also said that some Shiite religious scholars supported him when he founded the Mukhtar Army. These scholars include the leader of the Iranian Revolution Ali Khamenei, Kamal al-Haydari, Fadel al-Maliki and others. This claim has neither been confirmed nor refuted by these figures.
4. An excerpt from, "Amid turmoil, Iraq’s Kurdish region is laying foundation for independent state" by
As security forces in northern Iraq crumble under the onslaught of Islamist militants, the autonomous Kurdistan region — a bastion of stability — is rapidly laying the groundwork to become an independent state.

Iraqi forces have continued to cede territory to an insurgency led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which is swiftly advancing toward Baghdad after capturing Mosul on Tuesday. Kurdistan’s military forces, known as the pesh merga (or “those who face death”), have taken over many of the northernmost positions abandoned by the national army, significantly expanding the zone of Kurdish control.

“As the Iraqi Army has abandoned its posts . . . Peshmerga reinforcements have been dispatched to fill their places,” Jabbar Yawar, secretary general of the Ministry of Pesh Merga Affairs, said in a statement.
5. An excerpt from, "Iraq army capitulates to Isis militants in four cities" by Martin Chulov, Fazel Hawramy, and Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian, June 12, 2014:
Statements released by the group claimed that the assault on Mosul was the beginning of the end of the Sykes Picot agreement - the post-colonial settlement which in 1916 enshrined the nation states of Syria and Lebanon and influenced the drawing of the Jordan and Iraq borders. Isis commanders say they are fighting to destroy the post-Ottoman nation state borders and restore a caliphate that submits to fundamentalist Islamic law.

The group has been steadily building towards such an outcome, rampaging first through northern Syria and then back into Anbar province, the heartland of its earliest incarnation almost 10 years ago. Along the way, it has steadily accrued weapons and gained confidence, storming unopposed into towns and cities that were notionally protected by the best trained and armed military in the Arab world.

However, Mosul is by far its biggest prize so far: a gain that will seriously undermine Nour al-Maliki's efforts to be renominated as prime minister for a third term - and cripple the standing of the military, regarded for the past three years as the most important institution in the land. Any counter-offensive against Isis is expected to be led instead by Kurdish Peshmurga forces, which remain fiercely loyal to Kurdish leaders, but not to Baghdad.

A spokesperson for the Peshmurga, Brigadier General Halgord Hekmat, told the Guardian that "the sudden collapse of the Iraqi army has left us with no option but to fill some areas with our forces because we can't have a security vacuum on our border".

Maliki accused some senior military figures of "negligence" and "betrayal", attempting to deflect blame for the rout. As commander in chief, Maliki has ultimate responsibility for Iraq's armed forces and has presided over a series of spectacular defeats at the hands of Isis, starting last July when Abu Ghraib prison on Baghdad's western outskirts was overrun by the extremist group in a raid that freed several hundred convicted terrorists.