TCS Daily

Who Is Responsible for the Mess in Mesopotamia?

By Stephen Schwartz - July 13, 2007 12:00 AM

Thomas Donnelly has pointed out one of many dissonant elements in mainstream media (MSM) coverage of the Iraq war. On Sunday, July 8, The New York Times editorial page stridently called for the U.S. to "leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit."

But the main news story in the paper's "Week in Review," which also includes the editorials, was by the veteran war correspondent John Burns, who described an Iraqi situation that would hardly support such a posture. U.S.-led Coalition forces have succeeded in liberating the city of Ramadi, in Sunni-dominated Anbar province, from Al-Qaida, a year after Marine Corps intelligence assumed Ramadi was lost. Burns reports that an alliance between the Coalition and Arab Sunni enemies of Al-Qaida "has all but ended the fighting in Ramadi and recast the city as a symbol of hope that the tide of war may yet be reversed to favor the Americans and their Iraqi allies."

This is a rather extraordinary example of MSM confusion. American commentators and politicos, forming up in a cut-and-run chorus, spout various defeatist clich├ęs while the possibility of a Coalition victory in Mesopotamia remains present. Among the arguments for abandonment of Iraq, we are told that combat victories will somehow fail to bring about political stability. It is also claimed that retreat from Iraq will increase American authority with Iraq's leaders - a Democratic party fantasy. Like a similar group of Beltway-based counselors for ethnic relocation in or from Iraq, some believe that the inevitable storms of fire and blood that would follow American flight from Baghdad would somehow be preferable to "slow-motion ethnic and religious cleansing."

According to that way of thinking, permanent resettlement of refugees, presumably with Arab Sunnis relocated to Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, is an acceptable means to short-term peace, a goal supposedly preferable to long-term freedom in the region. Such was the same logic that many Americans and Europeans applied to the Bosnian war, and while the Dayton Accords of 1995 ended armed conflict, they left Bosnia-Hercegovina divided and drastically weakened, rewarding Serbian aggression in the same way that a sudden U.S.-led exit from Iraq would aggrandize Al-Qaida beyond all prediction.

Nobody in the West wants to say aloud what every Muslim knows: a U.S. retreat from Iraq would be projected by Al-Qaida to the world as equivalent to the Russian defeat in Afghanistan - as a divine indication that the West is prostrate and about to collapse. To think that the flow of blood in Gaza, in Britain, and elsewhere in both the Muslim and Western countries would not widen and deepen is absurd. Of course America does not rest on shaky foundations like those of Soviet Communism and is not going to disintegrate. But an extended twilight of fear and horror is hardly a preferable alternative.

Donnelly derives two useful lessons from the contradiction in the pages of the NYT. One is that defection of the Sunni sheikhs from an alliance with Al-Qaida, following a major Coalition offensive in Anbar, demonstrates a principle observable throughout history, in all times and places: victory brings peace.

The second reflects Burns' observation of an encounter between Lt. Gen Raymond Odierno, Coalition second-in-command, and an ordinary Iraqi who declared, "America good! Al-Qaida bad!" Donnelly concludes, "Apparently, this is a war that's easier to see face to face than from afar." But that has been true since the Spanish civil war of the 1930s; it was true in Nicaragua in the 1980s and in ex-Yugoslavia a decade later. As I have repeatedly declared, the war experienced by the Iraqis is so different from that discussed inside the Beltway that we can speak of two different, distinct, and disconnected Iraq wars.

But while both of Donnelly's observations are correct, a further discrepancy in MSM reporting is visible, and one should need not go all the way to Iraq to discern it, just as one did not need to travel to Spain, Nicaragua, or the Balkans to grasp the battles between good and evil that occurred there. The other "Iraq gap" involves the continued reluctance of Westerners to acknowledge the main identity of the foreign Sunni radicals who have so quickly alienated themselves from Iraqi Arab Sunnis. Melding the phraseology used by a wide range of media, everyone seems to agree that the Arab Sunnis in Anbar have turned against semi-anonymous Islamic "extremists," whose "rigid" or "severe" interpretation of Sunnism is oppressive to ordinary Iraqi Arab Sunnis.

The Sunni radicals have a name. They are Wahhabis and they are backed by a powerful faction within Saudi Arabia, Iraq's southern neighbor. The MSM continues to dance around a reality that has been visible since the Coalition took Fallujah in late 2004 - almost three years ago [see here.] As I wrote then on TCSDaily, Fallujans had turned against the Arab Sunni extremists who invaded their city and "set up a Taliban-style dictatorship, in which women who did not cover their entire bodies, people listening to music, and members of spiritual Sufi orders... were subject to torture and execution... [The radicals] were financed, recruited, and otherwise encouraged by Wahhabism, the state religion in Saudi Arabia."

The missing truth in the MSM about Ramadi is the same as that in Fallujah, and although habitually elided from Western reporting, it is known to Muslims, if they pay attention to Iraqi events. The Sunnis of Anbar, both sheikhs and ordinary folk, deeply resent the attempted imposition of an extreme Sunni order on them and are prepared to conciliate with Iraqi Shias and cooperate with the U.S.-led coalition to prevent it from happening.

Why do Westerners remain so reticent about Wahhabism and its Saudi backers? In almost six years since the atrocities of September 11, 2001 - the entry of the Wahhabis, a once-marginal Islamic sect, into the central stream of world-historical events - Muslims who had talked about Wahhabism for decades have watched as the MSM adopted the idioms the Saudi-Wahhabis use to disguise their intentions. The world has been told there is no such thing as Wahhabism, only Islam - the standard Saudi line; that Wahhabis refuse the label (untrue); that the correct term is "Salafis" (also untrue, since Wahhabis call themselves "Salafis" only as camouflage, for the same reason Stalinists called themselves "progressives".

Considerable effort has also been made to avoid naming the Saudi nationality of most of the "foreign fighters" in Iraq. Yet even Saudi prince Nayef ibn Abd al-Aziz, who is closest to the Wahhabi clerics in the kingdom, last month warned Saudis, in a television interview captured by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), "Brother, are you aware that your sons who go to Iraq are used only for bombings? They are the ones who carry out the bombings. It is not just me who says this, but also the Iraqi officials, including the Iraqi interior ministers that I have met... The Saudis are brought [to Iraq] in order to carry out bombings. Either they strap on explosives belts and blow up in public places, or else they drive a car, crash into some place, and blow it up."

Wahhabism and its Saudi royal patrons are caught in an extremely difficult situation. The monarchical system can no longer function in its habitual way; Saudi subjects are increasingly unwilling to live in the old way. The Wahhabi terror offensive is failing in Iraq, notwithstanding the launch of a global terrorist counter-offensive aimed at such weak spots as the Balkans, while also visible in repeat terror in Britain. Even Prince Nayef, who would prefer to hew to the jihadist line, is forced to admit that the burning house next door in Iraq threatens the stability of the Saudi kingdom. Nayef meets with the Iraqi interior minister, Jawad al-Bulani, a Shia Muslim and therefore a representative of an Islamic tradition long subject to nothing but insult and degradation from Nayef's clerical clients.

The split between the Anbar Sunnis and Wahhabi interlopers can best be used by Coalition forces if an immediate and urgent U.S. diplomatic effort calls on Saudi King Abdullah to break definitively with the Wahhabi ideological structure, particularly the clerics who preach and recruit for terror in Iraq. We might then see the end of frivolous MSM speculation, vaguely stated, that Saudi Arabia will add its weight to the demands of Arab Sunni radicals, or that the Saudi state, which historically mistreated Palestinian and Kuwaiti refugees, would accept an inhumane solution based on a "population transfer," opening its borders to displaced Arab Sunnis from Iraq.

It is considered impolite by many Americans to suggest that Al-Qaida in Iraq takes comfort in the antiwar acrobatics of American public figures, but why should such courtesy also be extended to the Saudi financiers of terrorism? How did the "W" word come to be effectively banned? Why do more journalists and other public figures not simply come out and explain the meaning and role of Wahhabism to the American people? Wahhabism is neither as appealing to Westerners as Communism once was, or as accomplished at manipulation of the public as Nazism. Saudi-financed extremism is the simplest thing in the Muslim world to explain, to contend with, and even to refute - as millions of moderate Muslims know.



Winning everywhere at once
Wasn't it General Shinseki who told his commander in chief back in 2001 we would need 400,000 troops to prevail in Iraq? And wasn't that opinion overruled by Don Rumsfeld-- with the results we see today being the consequence?

It was true then, and it's true now. We can prevail here and there, in a big game of whack-a-mole, but we can't prevail everywhere at once until we put in 400,000 troops.

So yes, the options on the table are either to surge big or to get out. All parties are in agreement that there's nothing to be gained by just continuing what we've been doing. If you read the op=eds in the newspapers, that's what the talking heads are telling us.

So are we likely to find, train and field 400,000 troops any time soon? Maybe we went about this war all wrong, and have to start over.

Democrats Will Decide Our Policy
A large powerful drafted American Army could probably maintain order in Iraq. We could stay the course in Iraq and probably establish order in the long run. We need to develop more advanced technologies, but that will take time.

The Democratic majority in Congress wants our troops redeployed. They echo the sentiments of the majority of the voters. The benchmark for an American decision about the war is November, 2008. The Democrats don't want military strategy for an issue on election day. If Democratic candidates sound too timid about Iraq come election day, it could hurt them at the polls in close races.

Winning in Iraq
"A large powerful drafted American Army could probably maintain order in Iraq."

...but very likely at the expense of sowing disorder at home. Do you remember 1968? One sure prescription for going off the tracks is to forcibly draft young people into the service of an unpopular war.

"We need to develop more advanced technologies, but that will take time."

Ah, yes. That's the dream. Run other nations' destinies by remote control, so we don't even have to put kids in with guns. Very neat. We can control them by a Space Command Center, and obliterate any cities where there are reports of dissension. I think I saw that in one of Ahnold's movies.

"The Democratic majority in Congress wants our troops redeployed."

I see the differences between the parties this way. If it would take 400,000 troops deployed over a period of years to actually "stabilize" Iraq (that means we get to dictate its policies, while those Iraqis who hate our presence are somehow neutralized), the Republicans want a flat out effort-- with 160,000 troops. The Democrats will want a curtailed effort, with maybe only 70,000 troops. Neither will be capable of doing a damned thing.

Consider this: Russia has occupied such a position in Chechnyan politics for the past two centuries. Is Chechnya stable today?

Iraq is shaping up to be the graveyard of Americans. If you can see a way to imagine we're winning without having to convert any hearts and minds, please pay it on me.

"Saudi-financed extremism "
I lived in Jeddah from '97 through '99 and noted how the Saudi government quickly recognized the Taliban government in Afghanistan.

Just because Saudi Arabia has a king doesn't mean he is an absolute ruler. I believe there are many in Royal family and those with money and power not in the Family, like bin Ladin, who would prefer Saudi develop like Dubai or even Jordan.
I also beleive many must feel trapped by Mecca and Medina. The government must keep those mosques open to all and must accomodate even the most radical as Mecca is 'theirs' too.

Maybe the Saudis would be wise to create a new state, like the Vatican with the cities of Mecca and Medinah. Then the "custodian of the two holy mosques" wouldn't have to worry about them any more.

Yes, we are winning
"But the main news story in the paper's "Week in Review," which also includes the editorials, was by the veteran war correspondent John Burns, who described an Iraqi situation that would hardly support such a posture. U.S.-led Coalition forces have succeeded in liberating the city of Ramadi, in Sunni-dominated Anbar province, from Al-Qaida, a year after Marine Corps intelligence assumed Ramadi was lost. Burns reports that an alliance between the Coalition and Arab Sunni enemies of Al-Qaida "has all but ended the fighting in Ramadi and recast the city as a symbol of hope that the tide of war may yet be reversed to favor the Americans and their Iraqi allies."

How horrible will it be for the democrats if Petraeus succeeds!

Hillary Clinton Can Do That
Sure, listen to people like Roy! Send president and commander and chief Hillary Clinton there in the lead tank. When the idiotic Islamic radicals see how a woman general can fight using American armnaments, they'll begin to respect the opposite sex!

Is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a Wahhabi?
"To think that the flow of blood in Gaza, in Britain, and elsewhere in both the Muslim and Western countries would not widen and deepen is absurd. "
(I would add US cites to this list)
The author makes a good point above why America should stay in Iraq but anyone that thinks Muslims will ever govern themselves peacefully is insane.

The continued mental gymnastics by the author to prove the trouble with Islam is due to a once-marginal Islamic sect is no different than Stalinists calling themselves "progressives".

Gee is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a Wahhabi, or is he a run of the mill anti-Semitic, can't wait to get his hands on a nuclear bomb/WMDs, subjugate all women, hate the west, install a backwards world wide theocracy, murder in the name of his God, paranoid nut job Muslim?
Notice how the author fails to mention in his article any of the mucking around of the Iranians in Mesopotamia.
Surely the problem with them is that they are closet Wahhabis, is this the problem or is the problem something more fundamental?
i say the later!
The author needs to face reality, Islam is an evil ideology and if all Wahhabis were magically removed from the earth tomorrow Islam would continue to be the evil ideology it always has been along.

Muslims are responsible for the mess in Mesopotamia not just the Wahhabi sect of Muslims. No doubt they are a major contributor but this is part and parcel of the Islamic belief system always has been. Islam just like communism will always lead to a strong man at the top and blindly obedient and ideoloically rigid followers that will do what ever the leader tells them to do in the name of their God.
The end justifies the means is alive and well at the mosque.

The author is just as blind as the Stalinists were in this country. This sounds exactly like their refrains about how communism will work it has just never been implemented properly!
Mao was not a true communist, Stalin was a cult of personality, Pol Pot was nauseum
How is this drivel any different?
All we have to do is control the Wahhabis and everything Muslim is hunky dory.
I for one am not buying this load of cr#p longer!


The roaches are winning
At last, you've made a factual statement! Now we're getting somewhere.

"I lived in Jeddah from '97 through '99 and noted how the Saudi government quickly recognized the Taliban government in Afghanistan."

Dead on. Did you also hear how Saudi Arabia was exporting its fundamentalist Wahhabis around the world, so they could get rid of them at home?

The royal family in fact has spent several billions over the past thirty years, founding religious schools (medressas) around the globe, but especially in Pakistan. They've been exporting their problem to other nations, in the guise of offering them a religious kind of foreign aid.

All their malcontents have gone off to teach fresh generations of young boys to be Salafists. And in the hopeless and forlorn DP camps on the Paki-Afghan border, their teachings have borne fruit.

THAT is where the Taliban came from. And it was still 2001 when I was warning people here on this site that the real cure for the problem would be to fund a real, secular public school system in Pakistan, to outcompete these fundamentalist zealots. You guys were falling over each other, laughing at the idea.

So from that day til now, no one has done anything about it. And the Taliban have only grown stronger. Well who-da thunk it? It's like spraying your cabinets for roaches. If you don't get some spray behind the walls, where they multiply, all you get is more roaches to kill, every day.

That's why we pay our Commander in Chief the big bucks.

Who are we to tell the Saudi's what to do?
If we are to follow the advice of Washington, as you have suggested, we can't demand or force the Saudi's do anything.

The best way to deal with Saudi Arabia, and to even follow the advice of GWI, is to do whatever it takes to become energy independent.

Build those nukes, drill and use our own oil and coal. Cut off the money to the middle east.

Iraqi forces are still growing, and while they have a long way to go... they become just a little bit more capable each day... who knows, assuming we can stick to it, we may have sufficient forces on the ground to actually win this war soon.

A tragedy that it took us so long to realize General Shinseki knew what he was talking about.

I never said anything like that
This is indeed a peculair take on my comments. I haven't mentioned anything about demanding or forcing the Saudis to do anything. They are following the policy dictates required for their own survival. I understand they must do what they must do.

We should follow the policy dictates necessary for our own survival. And the easiest, most effective and best bang for the buck would have been to announce at the beginning of 2002 that we were awarding a financial aid package to Pakistan-- to found and support a new secular school system that would be available at no cost to every Paki child.

Scholarship awards could have been given for promising grads to come to the US for study. The majority in the Muslim world that at that time admired Americans, and wanted to become Americans, would have stood up and cheered.

"We should follow the policy dictates necessary for our own survival. "
Before you said we should follow the advice of George Washington and stay out of foreign entanglements.

Now you say we should do what it takes to survive.

The "progressives" believe the world hates us because we have policies which are necessary for the survival of the USA.
They believe we should succumb to the will of the world and we will all get along.

I am seeking consistency in your positions.

Policies of self preservation
"Before you said we should follow the advice of George Washington and stay out of foreign entanglements.

Now you say we should do what it takes to survive."

There is no contradiction in the two statements. The meddling and interference we commit into the affairs of other nations is the principal cause individuals determine to take action against the United States. And all things considered, we haven't even seen very much of that.

The nations of Islam pose no threat to us. We are in zero, repeatzero, danger of an invasion by any Islamic state, or any other state.

You are in the grips of a mindset that sees enemies everywhere who need stamping out. Such an approach, in time, can only result in the injured nations of the earth combining to attempt to defeat us.

Such an eventuality is not in accord with our goal of enjoying a condition of peace. We should lead by example, as that is the role the other nations have assigned to us.

Good Point
Sadam Hussein commanded something like 180 Iraqi Army brigades in 1990. Three Iraqi Army brigades are currently considered combat ready. The Iraqi Army is improving, and slowly growing under the direction of coalition forces.

I'm sure that skeptics who advocate withdrawl would discredit this statement, but it is feasible for the Iraqi Army to eventually maintain order.

Iran is our enemy. Foolish jihadists still enter Iraq, join Al Qaeda; and commit crimes against the Iraqi population.

A reality of this war is that most Iraqis want to have a good country, and it is necessary for them to accept the fact that help from the United States is required.

"nations of Islam"
There are no 'nations' of Islam.

There is Islam which spans many nations.

Islamists use nations as safe havens and national institutions to exploit. The six Imams in Minneapolis are one example.

If you ask many in France or Denmark or Sweden with large muslim populations, they may disagree with your assessment that Islam is not invading them. Even Canada has considered the imposition of Sharia law.

What constitutes an invasion but the invaders forcing their laws on those invaded.

The Koran is also a constitution.

If you believe in separation of religion and state, how can you support any Muslim in any nation?

Thousands of years of messes
Looking at the history of Mesopotamia, there have been good times and bad times, but mostly bad.
But those few good times have been impressive.

Five thousand years of conquests and conquered have not significantly changed their culture.

Maybe that should be a hint?

is despicable and to be detested. A "drafted" army is an uninspired army at best, and it's the height of irresponsibility to even suggest such a thing be put in place.

If the Democrats are so hot for a re-deployment, why then their insistence on an unprecedented f*****g "timeline for withdrawal"?

The Democrats don't care about the nation, they merely care about exacting "revenge" against the Republicans--the same disgusting posture that the Republicans themselves took in 1994.

Moral relativism
What disgusting posture was that?

"# FIRST, require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply equally to the Congress;
# SECOND, select a major, independent auditing firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of Congress for waste, fraud or abuse;
# THIRD, cut the number of House committees, and cut committee staff by one-third;
# FOURTH, limit the terms of all committee chairs;
# FIFTH, ban the casting of proxy votes in committee;
# SIXTH, require committee meetings to be open to the public;
# SEVENTH, require a three-fifths majority vote to pass a tax increase;
# EIGHTH, guarantee an honest accounting of our Federal Budget by implementing zero base-line budgeting"

Too bad they did not follow through.

If the democrats adopted and implemented what the Republicans wanted to do in 1994, they would stay in Congress for many years to come.

thousands of years of messes
People talk as if Mesopotamia has been such a mess forever, but in its history it actually has been passivised quite a few times. Amongst others, it seems like all the following successfully took on the uncivilized people there: the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Mongols, the British(a few thousand soldiers in short pants). And nowadays all those guys fighting there are really, really lucky that they're only fighting Americans instead of say, the old naaazzi forces. So it's actualy ONLY American forces that are not able to(strike that out, I meant WILLING TO)sort those guys out. Dislclaimer: Some people around here say that you can't make a comment in a field that you're not an expert in. In fact I am an expert on it, and made a good career of it as well. So my hidden agenda is to see if Lemuel will use his usual ad-hominum agrument of saying I can't comment on this topic.

The only times the region has been at peace and no trouble to the outside world has ever been when it was under the rule of an outside force not afraid to use whatever force necessary to stamp out rebellion and religious fanaticism.

Sadly (in this case) we're not currently living in such an era.

Why sad?
You would prefer the oppressive empires of the past?

Unless, of course, you don't believe all people are capable of ruling themselves.

Whew, I'm so relieved!
The nations of Islam pose no threat to us. We are in zero, repeatzero, danger of an invasion by any Islamic state, or any other state.

Well, Roy has spoken. We can simply ignore the imperial and martial ambitions, the genocidal decrees, the mysogyny, the intolerance, the madrassas and fatwas and the endless parade of world dictator wannabees...the khomeinis, ahbinijabs, husseins, OBL's...

Roy has evaluated his threat matrix, from the safety of his hovel and with all the "boots on the ground" knowledge his domain offers and we can all relax and turn our attentions to the dangers posted by carmelite nuns, hassidic rabbis,and the like.

Its not about belief, but feelings..
If you believe in separation of religion and state, how can you support any Muslim in any nation?

Are you really asking the left, guided as it is by emotion, whimsy and fantasy to stake out a logical, dispassionate, coherent position? Roy and the other fellow travellers have trained themselves to be free thinkers, unimpeded by the strictures of reason. Instead they rely on the purity of thought provided by "feelings". Hence every leftwing argument: "I feel (insert transient concern here)".

Losing to Al Qaeda
Welcome back, from whatever self-directed sabbatical you have been enjoying. And if your long vacation has been at federal expense, I hope your parole period goes well.

I was actually hoping for something more than your brief comment. Could you lay out for me a scenario by which a gaggle of suicide bombers and IED makers can leave their garages, take over the United States and administer their vast new empire? For openers, how long would it take them to learn the language?

Next, how many of them would it take just to police the streets? If we assume that one cop could pacify a hundred angry, armed Americans (a very generous assumption) wouldn't that task alone require three million Al Qaeda? Do they really have that kind of depth sitting on the bench?

So then, resorting to specifics in framing your argument, please display for us their winning scenario.

Blow up New York
If they do that, and threaten to do it again to LA, do you fight, or do what they say?

Blackmail and intimidation can make the weak do anything.

Blackmail and intimidation?
Continuing to muddy the situation in Iraq doesn't do zip diddly about preventing a nuke in New York harbor. Only better container inspections could help in that. So do you think they could spend a bit of that Homeland Security money on devising a better inspections regime?

For that matter, how about our refineries and chemical plants? It's child's play to go up to the gates of any of them. Assuming we have enemies who want to hurt us, that's where I would put my money and attention.

as if....
Islamist warriors have never conquered another country or region before. Keep your beard long, your turban handy, your terms of surrender posted on your forehead, and hope alive that your enemy will be merciful. It begins with fearfull and unreasonable tolerance of bad behavior.

You asked...
how Al Queada could 'take over' the USA.

They blackmailed Spain to elect a socialist.

With such 'stalwart' democrats that we have now, they would fall all over themselves to appease anyone who looked at them cross eyed.

So far, the Bush plan on 6 party talks in DPRK is succeeding. I won't believe it for a while, but the liberal rants about single party talks, which is what DPRK wanted, seem to be wrong.

This describes my view of Iraq quite well:

"Other libertarians, however, supported the war in Iraq because they viewed it as part of a larger war of self-defense against Islamic jihadists who were organizationally independent of any government. They viewed radical Islamic fundamentalism as resulting in part from the corrupt dictatorial regimes that inhabit the Middle East, which have effectively repressed indigenous democratic reformers. Although opposed to nation building generally, these libertarians believed that a strategy of fomenting democratic regimes in the Middle East, as was done in Germany and Japan after World War II, might well be the best way to take the fight to the enemy rather than solely trying to ward off the next attack."
"These libertarians are still rooting for success in Iraq because it would make Americans more safe, while defeat would greatly undermine the fight against those who declared war on the U.S. "

Invading Malmoe, Sweden
" Of the town's 280,000 inhabitants, a third are foreigners and 60,000 are Muslims."

The 'immigrants' don't want to be Swedish, they want to take advantage of the Swedes and keep their intolerant culture.

Precisely, Marjon. They are in this to win. Are we?

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