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Iraq: We Have Met The Enemies

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March 24, 2020:

Most Iraqis agree that Iran is a toxic neighbor that, in its current state (an increasingly unpopular religions dictatorship) is a toxic force obsessed with controlling Iraq and the Iraqi government. Iran has sent hundreds of IRGC officers, most of them from the Quds Force (similar to the U.S. Special Forces, but specializing in supporting Islamic terrorists not fighting them) and even more lower ranking IRGC personnel to Iraq. Dozens of senior IRGC officers have been killed in Syria and Iraq since 2012. These IRGC personnel are now seen by most Iraqis as hostile foreign agents. What the Quds Force does get credit for is its leading role in organizing the PMF (Popular Mobilization Force) militias in 2014. This came in response to the corrupt armed forces created by the elected Iraqi government falling apart in the face of the ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) advance. The ISIL force was much smaller and less well armed than the Iraqi security forces they encountered. For the Shia majority in Iraq this ISIL advance was their worst nightmare. Quds stepped in where corrupt Iraqi Shia army and police commanders had failed and turned the poorly armed and trained Shia Iraqi militias into a force that could halt the ISIL advance. But these militia could not drive ISIL out of Iraq. That required newly trained (by American and foreigner military specialists) special operations units supported by American and Iraqi artillery and air power.

Another humiliation was the effectiveness of the Iraqi Kurds, who were not Arab and largely Sunni but very anti-ISIL and opposed to any terrorism. When the Sunni minority was in charge before 2003 the Kurds were persecuted more savagely than Shia Arabs in part because the Kurds were ethnic cousins of Iranians and Europeans. The Iraqi Shia see the Kurds as a threat to Shia domination of Iraq (via democracy) by the Iraqi Shia Arabs. The Kurds are not nearly as much of a threat as the Sunni Arab minority and only want to be left alone via autonomy. The Iraqi Sunni Arab minority had run Iraq for centuries and considered that domination as their right. Iranians have always seen Arabs as inferior and the Kurds as ungovernable. These are ancient attitudes are not easily changed. Iraqis or Iranians who have migrated to a place like the United States find that it takes several generations to completely dilute enough of the religious and ethnic animosities that make the Middle East so toxic and hard to govern. After centuries of Moslem cultural isolation it came as a shock, in the mid-20 century, as Western films and TV became widely available in the Middle East. Suddenly there as exposure to a different way of doing things that did not depend on religion but did demand much less corruption and a lot more tolerance to other ethnic and religious groups. Watching these two systems for several generations has made it clear who has a better life. Even the popular Middle Eastern custom of blaming local problems on foreign influence is losing support. As the Western saying goes, “we have met the enemy and they are us.” Cultural attitudes are slow to change because conservatives see such change as a disaster, not an opportunity. That is what has kept Islamic terrorism in support of Islamic fundamentalism alive for over a thousand years. Dealing with that beast is dangerous and frustrating as this is a stubborn belief that has a lot of support within the core teachings of Islam. Most Moslems now agree that some change is needed but that is not enough to solve the problem. It takes time and during that process the violent religious conservatives will be doing what they have always done; kill and terrorize Moslems who disagree with them.

The Quds Factor


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