April 9, 2016

Corruption Is A Key Factor In The Rise of ISIS; Mainstream Iraqi Shiite Militias Get Well-Deserved Pat On The Head From Big Daddy US; Archaeologists Begin Return To Liberated Palmyra

In Iraq, it takes two hundred thousand dollars to become a colonel and two million dollars to become a general. Is it any wonder why these guys keep losing? If money bought military victories or a reputation then the Saudis would be kings of the world, but, they are hardly even the kings of Arabia.

An excerpt from, "The Corruption Revealed in the Panama Papers Opened the Door to Isis" By Patrick Cockburn, Unz Review, April 8, 2016:
Crucial to the rise of Isis, al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan is not their own strength and popularity, but the weakness and unpopularity of the governments to which they are opposed.

The danger of citing extreme examples of corruption from exotic and war-ravaged countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria is that these may sound like events happening on another planet. But the political and economic systems in Iraq and Afghanistan were devised under the tutelage of the US and allies like Britain.

Neo-liberal economists have a lot to answer for. A few days after Isis had captured Mosul in June 2014, I was in Baghdad and asked a recently retired four-star Iraqi general why the much larger and better-equipped Iraqi army had been defeated so swiftly and humiliatingly. He replied that the explanation was: “Corruption! Corruption! Corruption!”

He added that this was pervasive and had begun when the US was building a new Iraqi military after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, when the American commanders had insisted on out-sourcing food and other supplies to private contractors. These businessmen and the army officers soon determined that, if the Iraqi government was paying money to feed and equip a battalion of 600 men, but its real strength was only 150, they could pocket the difference. So profitable was this arrangement that by 2014 all officers’ jobs were for sale and it cost $200,000 to become a colonel and up to $2m a general in charge of a division.

The most corrupt ministers were appointed and the most crooked contracts signed at a time when US officials were the real decision-makers in Baghdad.
An excerpt from, "Has the US Found a New Friend in Iraq’s Shiite Militias?" By Ali Mamouri, Al Monitor via Global Research, April 9, 2016:
On March 12, US Consul General Steve Walker visited Al-Sadr Teaching Hospital in Basra to pay his respects to wounded members of the Popular Mobilization Units. The visit marked the first time a US official has publicly met these troops. This is particularly remarkable as until now, the official US position toward the Popular Mobilization Units was negative, and the United States had even demanded that the Iraqi government prevent the forces from taking part in the operations to liberate some areas, such as the city of Ramadi in Anbar, that were freed without their participation by US request.
Some observers feel that Walker’s visit and remarks reflect a great shift in the US alliances in the Middle East. Following Iran’s nuclear deal, US policy has clearly changed, moving away from its old friends in the region, most notably Saudi Arabia, and closer to Iran.

In an interview with The Atlantic on March 12, US President Barack Obama criticized Saudi Arabia, which “heavily funded Wahhabist madrassas, seminaries that teach the fundamentalist version of Islam.” When asked whether Saudi Arabia is a friend of the United States, he answered, “It’s complicated.” Obama added that the Saudis need to “share” the Middle East with their Iranian foes.

The United States seems to have become more aware of the nature of Iraqi actors like the Popular Mobilization Units. In May 2015, the special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter IS, retired Gen. John Allen, told CBS News, “The militias are not just a single monolithic entity. There are the militias that you and I are used to hearing [about] that have close alignments with Iran. Those are the extremist elements, and we don’t have anything to do with that. But there are elements of the [Shiite] militias that volunteered last year to try to defend Iraq from the onslaught of [IS] who were called to arms by Grand Ayatollah [Ali al-] Sistani, and those elements, or the Popular Mobilization Force, as they are known, have been subordinated to the Iraqi higher military campaign or command.”

Allen concluded that the United States is going to need to assume a positive role in supporting the force in order to defeat IS.
An excerpt from, "As ISIS loses ground, scholars return to beloved historical sites" PBS, April 5, 2016:
When ISIS captured the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria last year, they destroyed and looted priceless pieces of Middle Eastern history.

The city was retaken last week by Syria’s army, and as the extremists lose more ground in Iraq, archaeologists are returning to endangered sites to resecure the past.