ISIS to US: We’ll drown you in Blood; beheads US Journalist, Holds Tikrit

By Juan Cole

The Iraqi military made a push on Tikrit north of Baghdad on Tuesday, but had to call off their campaign when they ran into minefields, booby-trapped buildings, sniping and artillery and mortar fire on the part of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which now styles itself the “Islamic State” (IS). It took the Sunni Muslim stronghold, birth place of Saddam Hussein, last July. The IS appears to have used its two months of dominance in the city to do extensive defensive works, with the mining proving an effective deterrent along with professional use of medium weaponry.

Meanwhile, a video briefly surfaced purporting to show the IS beheading an American journalist, James Foley, a freelancer for GlobalPost who had been missing in Syria for two years. In the video the IS threatened to drown the United States in blood if its aerial bombardment of IS positions continued.

The Iraqi military advanced toward Tikrit from the west this time, rather than, as with last month, the south. The claimed to have killed 23 IS fighters and to have taken some small suburbs of the city, but that they had to call off their campaign Tuesday afternoon is eloquent as to their failure. They included forces from the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Interior, and Shiite volunteer militias, all supported by the Iraqi Air Force. Unlike with the Kurds fighting to take back the Mosul Dam from IS in the north, there is no report of close air support from the US.

One of the Iraqi military’s goals was to relieve the village of Amirli, which is inhabited by Turkmen Shiites and had been under siege from IS in Tikrit. IS as a hyper-Sunni terrorist organization despises Shiite Muslims and has carried out mass executions against them.

Meanwhile, back in Baghdad, controversy swirled over rumors that a political figure was willing pay $5 mn. for a cabinet seat. As long as there is that level of corruption, it is hard for the government to ask its grunts for loyalty and willingness to sacrifice their lives for this state.

CCTV: “Iraqi military clashes with militants in Tikrit”


Related video

Israel: Crowd shouts “Death to Arabs” at Jewish-Muslim Wedding

By Juan Cole

An Israeli crowd gathered outside the wedding of a Muslim man and a Jewish woman in Rishon Lezion, shouting “death to Arabs” on Sunday. They were from the far right Lehava group, and make a specialty of harassing couples in mixed marriages. They called Maral Malka, 23, a traitor for converting to Islam and marrying Mahmoud Mansour, 26. Both hail from Jaffa. Ms. Malka’s father, Yoram, opposed the marriage as well, and said that he had a problem with his new son-in-law because he is “an Arab.” (It is interesting that he used a racial rather than a religious epithet). Israel’s recently-elected president, Reuven Rivlin, denounced the protest as “outrageous.”

Religiously mixed marriages are not permitted in Israeli law, though they are recognized if conducted abroad and then the bride and groom return. Often couples fly to Cyprus for a marriage and honeymoon if they hail from different faiths but are Israeli citizens. An average of 20,000 Israelis get married in Cyprus every year, about 60% of them ineligible for marriage by the rabbinate. For others, going to Cyprus or the Czech Republic functions like an elopement, to avoid having to throw a huge wedding party. Some Palestinian-Israelis, one a Muslim and the other a Christian, also have to tie the knot abroad because their religious authorities won’t marry them. Israeli personal status law, like that in Lebanon and Egypt, is governed by the individual’s religious community.

This marriage could be conducted in Israel because Ms. Malka converted.

I remember when I was an early teen that it was still illegal for European-Americans and African-Americans to marry in Virginia.

Related video:

eNCAnews: “Inter-faith marriage remains a contentious subject in Israel”

The New Jim Crow: Has the Right finally Repealed the Civil Rights Act?

By Juan Cole

The 45 million African-Americans in the United States are unequal before the law vis-a-vis European-Americans and becoming moreso. In the age of Jim Crow (the white South’s attempt to prevent them from having the full rights of citizens after their emancipation from slavery), African-Americans often were denied the right to vote and were subject to arbitrary, summary judgement and even lynchings. They could not so much as drink from the same water fountain as European-Americans.

Although segregated drinking fountains haven’t reappeared, in many ways the right wing in the United States has largely undone the advances of the 1965 voting rights act.

In many states parolees and ex-felons cannot vote. KQED notes, some 6 million ex-felons are disenfranchised in the US. Since African-Americans are sentenced at startlingly higher rates than European-Americans, the burden of loss of voting rights falls especially heavily on them.

“Disenfranchisement laws disproportionately affect African Americans: in 2010, 1 of every 13 African Americans of voting age — about 7.7 percent nationally — was disenfranchised, a rate more than four times greater than with non-African Americans. In some of the strictest states — including Florida, Kentucky and Virginia — more than 20 percent of the African American population was disenfranchised, the report found.

Republican Party-pushed “voter i.d. laws” are aimed at making it harder for those who do not have drivers’ licenses, i.e. the poor who take the bus to work, to vote. African-Americans are especially hit by these laws, which often now also forbid early voting so as to foil the African-American churches’ programs of busing voters in.

Residential segregation, which is de facto often policed by realtors, continues to be extreme, though it is off the levels of 1970.

So, how much progress has the US really made? That places like Ferguson, Mo. were tinderboxes was obvious to anyone following these issues (see below).

Here is what I wrote last February:

Most death sentences are handed out for killing white people, even though African-Americans make up 50% of murder victims (they are only 12% of the population).

So if an African-American male had fired ten shots into the SUV of some white suburban kids playing their music too loud, killing one of them, I think we all know there would have been a murder conviction and almost certainly a death penalty imposed.

In case of conviction for murder, African-Americans are 38% more likely to be handed the death penalty than members of other racial groupings.

reprinted graphs: :

88% of African-Americans in a 2013 Pew poll said that there was “a lot” (46%) or “some” (42% ) discrimination against them.

Only 57% of whites agreed, and only 16% of whites said there is “a lot” of discrimination against African-Americans:

Average household net worth of whites: $110,000.

Average household net worth of African-Americans: $5000

The wealth gap between white and African-American families tripled between 1980 and 2009, according to the Century Foundation:

1 in every 15 African American men are incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white men

Or consider it this way

Can al-Abadi win over Iraq’s Moderate Sunnis?

By Juan Cole

Arguably, the so-called Islamic State (actually a vicious gang of serial killers) could never have taken over northern and Western Iraq if the largely Sunni Arab populations there had not been deeply alienated from the government in Baghdad by the openly sectarian politics of former Shiite prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. Al-Maliki systematically marginalized and angered the Sunni Arabs, many of whom in the end prefered even the vicious criminals of IS to al-Maliki’s Shiite army lording it over them.

Now that al-Maliki has resigned in favor of prime minister-desigante Haydar al-Abadi, some prominent Sunni Arab leaders in the Sunni-majority provinces have offered to work with the new prime minister to fight the al-Qaeda offshoot, IS. (Most Iraqi Sunnis are relatively secular-minded, or, if religious, not Saudi style hard line fundamentalists).

But they have demands they want to see met by al-Abadi before they agree to the dangerous task of taking on IS. They want to see a more balanced, new government with regard to the security forces and civil society. I think they want more Sunni Arabs in the Defense Ministry and in the officer corps. They want more Sunni Arabs in the Ministry of Interior. The central, powerful ministries, they are saying, cannot be the preserve only of hard line Shiites. (Iraq has a spoils system, so jobs in the ministries go to members of political parties in coalition with the prime minister’s party. Since the dominant parties are Shiite fundamentalists, that’s who got the government jobs. The Sunni Arabs want in.)

They also want an end to continual government shelling of Sunni towns and cities, the release of thousands of Sunni Arab prisoners, and the withdrawal of hard line Shiite militias from largely Sunni cities.

They want the largely Sunni Arab provinces to be ruled by local Sunni Arabs, and they want a non-sectarian national army to be rebuilt.

For his part, al-Abadi has pledged an anti-corruption campaign and a new leadership style.

If al-Abadi can actually get the support of any significant number of Sunnis, it will make all the difference. For a mostly Shiite government and army to overrun Sunni Tikrit looks like an occupation. For a joint Sunni-Shiite alliance of tribal leaders and government fighters to take it looks like a national victory.

In fact, the fate of Arab Iraq as a unified state depends on whether this opportunity is real, and whether al-Abadi can take advantage of it.


Related video added by Juan Cole

The Telegraph: “Iraq PM ‘must re-engage the Sunni population in Iraq’”

Dutch Lawyer who saved Jewish Boy in WWII returns Medal to Israel over Bombing of his Family in Gaza

By Juan Cole

Henk Zanoli, a 91-year-old Dutch attorney who in 1943 saved a Jewish boy from the Nazis, has returned to Israel the “Righteous among the Nations” medal awarded him three years ago by the Yad Vashem museum. Zanoli’s mother had sheltered the boy, Elchanan Pinto, at risk to her own life, until the end of the war.

Zanoli’s grand-niece married a Palestinian, Ismail Ziadah, who had a house in Gaza where some of his relatives continued to reside. On July 20, an Israeli fighter jet bombed Ziadah’s home, killing his mother, three of his brothers, his sister-in-law and a nephew. These were, as Zanoli noted in his letter to the Israeli ambassador to the Netherlands, the blood relatives of Zanoli’s mother’s own descendants: “The great- great grandchildren of my mother have lost their grandmother, three uncles, an aunt and a cousin at the hands of the Israeli army…”

He said to the ambassador:

“I understand that in your professional role, in which I am addressing you here, you may not be able to express understanding for my decision. However, I am convinced that at both a personal and human level you will have a profound understanding of the fact that for me to hold on to the honour granted by the State of Israel, under these circumstances, will be both an insult to the memory of my courageous mother who risked her life and that of her children fighting against suppression and for the preservation of human life as well as an insult to those in my family, four generations on, who lost no less than six of their relatives in Gaza at the hands of the State of Israel.”

Zanoli added in support of a one-state solution:

“After the horror of the holocaust my family strongly supported the Jewish people also with regard to their aspirations to build a national home. Over more than six decades I have however slowly come to realize that the Zionist project had from its beginning a racist element in it in aspiring to build a state exclusively for Jews. As a consequence, ethnic cleansing took place at the time of the establishment of your state and your state continues to suppress the Palestinian people on the West Bank and in Gaza who live under Israeli occupation since 1967. The actions of your state in Gaza these days have already resulted in serious accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity…The only way out of the quagmire the Jewish people of Israel have gotten themselves into is by granting all living under the control of the State of Israel the same political rights and social and economic rights and opportunities.”

Zanoli’s personal connection with some of the many civilian victims of Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza provoked him to this gesture. But his endorsement of a one-state solution betrays his legal training. He is objecting to the Palestinians being stateless, and therefore lacking political, social and economic rights and opportunities. Populations that do not enjoy citizenship in a state lack, in Warren Burger’s words, “the right to have rights.” It was the Nazi stripping of citizenship from German Jews that laid the groundwork for the Holocaust.

The same conscience that drove Mr. Zanoli to intervene to save a Jewish life in 1943 is now driving him to call for an end to the victimization of the Palestinian people. It is typical of his courage and conscience that he did not stop with a simple condemnation of the reckless disregard for the lives of non-combatants exhibited by the Israeli army in Gaza. Rather, he insisted on pointing to a solution to the over-all problem, which is driven by Israel holding Palestinians as colonized subjects. That, he said, must end, and the exclusionary character of the Israeli polity, which advertises itself as primarily for Jews, is unacceptable. Zanoli seems to realize that the two-state solution is no longer plausible, given the hundreds of thousands of Israeli squatter settlements on the Palestinian West Bank and the physical isolation and siege of Gaza. He therefore has called for life for Palestinian children as citizens of Israel, just as he insisted on life and rights for Dutch Jews who had been denaturalized by the National Socialists.


Top 10 Mistakes of former Iraq PM Nouri al-Maliki (That Ruined his Country)

By Juan Cole

Now that Nouri al-Maliki has resigned as prime minister, it is worth looking at the way his two terms as prime minister (2006-2010, 2010-2014) shaped Iraq. Did his policies help create the country’s current impasse?

1. Al-Maliki was so partisan in 2006 when he first came to power that he denied that Shiite militias were a security problem. When Gen. David Petraeus came to him in late 2006 with a plan to disarm the Sunni and Shiite militias in Baghdad, al-Maliki insisted that he begin with the Sunni armed groups. The US acquiesced, but as a result, the Shiite militias came into disarmed Sunni neighborhoods at night when the Americans weren’t looking, and ethnically cleansed them. Baghdad went from some 45% Sunni in 2003 to only 25% Sunni by the end of 2007. Al-Maliki’s sectarianism led to the transformation of Baghdad into a largely Shiite city.

2. Gen. Petraeus and others cultivated Sunnis who were alarmed at the rise of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia (the predecessor of today’s so-called “Islamic State”), and created “Awakening Councils” of armed Sunnis willing to fight the extremists. Al-Maliki opposed this program and had shouting matches with Petraeus over it, fearing that the armed Sunnis would become a problem for his Shiite government after the defeat of al-Qaeda. (In fact, if only al-Maliki could get the Awakening Councils back now, he’d be very lucky). As the American forces withdrew from a combat role in 2009, US generals asked al-Maliki to hire the some 100,000 Sunni Awakening Council fighters. They could have been integrated into the police in cities like Mosul or Fallujah. Al-Maliki took about 17,000 of them, but left the other 83,000 twisting in the wind, without any stipends or pensions. Because they had fought al-Qaeda, they were targeted by the terrorists for reprisals and some were killed. In some instances al-Maliki actually prosecuted some Awakening Council fighters for anti-government activities they had engaged in before they joined the Council. Figure each of the 83,000 had a circle of 20 close relatives and friends. That was 1.6 million Sunni Arabs (out of some 5 million at the time) that al-Maliki alienated.

3. Although al-Maliki’s campaign in Basra against the Mahdi Army in spring of 2008 was a victory for the new Iraqi army, it only succeeded because the Shiite, pro-Iranian Badr Corps joined in on the side of the army, and because of American close air support. Al-Maliki is alleged in the aftermath to have brought thousands of Badr Corps fighters into the army, beginning a process of sectarianizing it. Ultimately, al-Maliki’s army from all accounts ended up being largely Shiite, which is one reason they were so unwelcome in mostly Sunni Arab Mosul (a city of 2 million) and that the Mosulis allied with the “Islamic State” against al-Maliki.

4. Al-Maliki allegedly kept the military weak for fear that a powerful officer might try to make a coup against him.

5. Al-Maliki played favorites with the Shiites of the south, his power base, and neglected to provide the Sunni Arab cities with key services, including enough electricity.

6. In late 2011, Al-Maliki abruptly declared his Sunni vice president, Tareq al-Hashimi, a terrorist, without any due process. He alienated a lot of Sunnis with this action.

7. Al-Maliki’s budgets were bloated and did not pay enough attention to investment, creating jobs, supporting local industry, or diversifying the economy away from its almost complete dependence on oil.

8. In 2010 when Sunnis enthusiastically joined the political process and voted in droves for the Iraqiya Party, al-Maliki froze it out of power in favor of a Shiite coalition put together under Iranian pressure (Iran is a Shiite state). The Sunnis were angry that they had the largest party in parliament but came away with nothing to show for it.

9. When the Arab Spring broke out in early 2011 and had its echoes in Iraq, with youth demonstrations against al-Maliki’s authoritarian ways among both Sunnis and Shiites, al-Maliki briefly pledged not to seek a third term as prime minister. (Arab Spring youth were particularly incensed by the power and prerogatives of presidents for life and their privileged children, who were being groomed to take over after them). Al-Maliki quickly reneged on his pledge and only on Thursday did he finally resign, having driven Sunnis into the arms of the “Islamic State.”

10. In winter-spring 2013 when Arab Spring-type demonstrations were mounted by the Sunnis in places like Falluja and Hawija in the Sunni Arab west and north, al-Maliki declared them terrorists and sent in military troops and helicopter gunships to brutally suppress the protests. Sunni Arabs, having been informed that they would be a perpetual defeated minority in parliament were now given the idea that even peaceable assembly would be denied to them as a political tactic. Al-Maliki’s policies gave them no incentive to remain within the system. In the end they allied with the al-Qaeda offshoot, the so-called “Islamic State.” Al-Maliki didn’t so much lose the Sunni Arabs as drive them into the arms of IS with systematic policies of marginalization.

Al-Maliki’s successor needs to make the al-Da’wa Party a party of pan-Islam and try to attract Sunnis into it (this happened in the 1960s)– or better yet needs to found a Labor Party that could unite Iraqis across ethnicity and sect. This Shiite rule business can’t hope to put Iraq back together.


Related video:

Reuters: “Iraq’s Maliki steps aside as PM, backs replacement”

The Appeal of Intervention: New Iraqi Premier, Libyan Parliament ask for Int’l Troops

By Juan Cole

According to a spokesman for his Da’wa Party (Islamic Call or Islamic Mission), Iraq’s prime minister-designate Haydar al-Abadi is preparing a platform on the basis of which he will see to form a new government; one of the planks is a joint Iraqi- international military push against the so-called Islamic State in Tikrit.

Iraq’s military collapsed in June when IS took Mosul and other Sunni Arab cities in the country’s north and west. An attempt to regroup and to take Tikrit from IS and the local forces that allied with the al-Qaeda offshoot stalled out after only a couple of weeks, leaving the army with a stalemate. It is stuck to the south of Tikrit and has not been able to move north, even though its training and equipment should be significantly better than that of IS.

Al-Abadi appears to believe that the army needs to be bolstered by “international” troops to take Tikrit. It seems a little unlikely that the international community will actually send combat troops to Iraq, at least unless Baghdad looks as though it is about to fall. Though, Australia’s far-right wing prime minister seems prepared for this possibility. British special operations forces, SAS, have arrived in Iraq and there are about 1,000 US special operations personnel in country now. Perhaps it is to these small contingents that al-Abadi is referring when he says “international forces.” A few special operations warriors go a long way, since they can paint lasers on targets for precision air strikes (and perhaps al-Abadi is thinking of US and other close air support for his army in its next push on Tikrit.)

It seems to me remarkable that al-Abadi is speaking in this way, of recognizing that the Iraqi army (which he says he wants to rebuild) is inadequate. His Da’wa Party had been a form of Shiite fundamentalism seeking an Islamic state itself. It was so anti-imperial in the 1980s that it targeted the US and French embassies in Kuwait, and in Lebanon helped form Hizbullah. Now the party’s prime minister openly speaks of bringing international troops into the country to help recover the last Sunni Arab regions.

Polling shows that the US public is OK with using the air force in Iraq to supply the Yezidis or bomb IS positions, but they emphatically do not want war-fighting boots on the ground.

In Libya, the country ironically was capable of pulling off parliamentary elections even though it seems incapable of achieving national order amid militia faction-fighting. The newly elected parliament is dominated by nationalists who reject political Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood. But on the ground in Benghazi and Misrata (and thence Tripoli), fundamentalist militias dominate entire neighborhoods. Fighting between the nationalist Zintan militia and the fundamentalist Misrata one in the capital of Tripoli last month destroyed Tripoli airport and many nice two-year-old passenger jets.

Parliament had to meet in the eastern city of Tobruk, near Egypt, because the capital of Tripoli was too insecure. On meeting, they passed a resolution asking for the United Nations to intervene in their deteriorating security situation. They also gave the militias an ultimatum to disband or join the army and submit to a chain of command, by next December. How exactly the weak parliamentarians huddling in a frontier city, exiled from their own capital, will make the militiamen join the army is entirely unclear.

What the UN will do about this request is anyone’s guess. UN “blue helmets” are typically deployed as peace-keepers after a conflict dies down, not as war-fighters.

Again, Libyans like Iraqis are proud people. Their twentieth century history was forged in anti-colonial struggles, in Libya against Mussolini’s Italy and in Iraq against the British. Yet here their elected governments are, deteriorating into failed states and pleading to have the foreign troops back.

What seems clear is that the post-World War II United Nations architecture is broken or never worked. The UN really ought to be able to provide robust peacekeeping troops to such countries, who would uphold elected, legitimate governments and attempt to convince rebels to stand down (or in the worst case scenario, to war against and defeat the rebels)

The US and the UK don’t want anything to do with Libya (despite, you will note, its oil and gas wealth). They do seem willing to send special ops troops to Iraq. But the UN shouldn’t have to depend on a handful of active players, and countries in need of military help shouldn’t have to depend on great Powers with imperial ambitions.


Related video:

ODN: “Iraq Crisis: US send 130 additional military advisers to Kurdistan”

Arab Youth and the Changing Middle East (HuffPo Cole Interview)

By Juan Cole

Huffington Post Live Highlight: Juan Cole, “The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation is Changing the Middle East”

Related book:

The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation is Changing the Middle East

Iraq: Al-Abadi garners Iranian, US, Saudi Support: But can He Unite Iraq?

By Juan Cole

Middle Eastern regional powers joined the US in welcoming the appointment of Haydar al-Abadi as Iraq’s next Prime Minister, creating a dorm full of strange bedfellows.

The chairman of Iran’s national security council, Ali Shamkhani, congratulated al-Abadi and said that Iran approved of the legal process whereby President Fuad Masoum appointed the new PM. This entire line of reasoning was a slap in the face to outgoing prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, who argues that Masoum acted unconstitutionally in appointing anyone but Maliki and has said he will challenge the step in the supreme court. Shamkhani appeared to caution al-Maliki and others against opposing al-Abadi, calling on “all political blocs” to abide by “the rule of law” and to unite in the face of the threat posed by an “external enemy.” Some observers believe that al-Abadi was pressed on Masoum by Iran to begin with and is now Tehran’s candidate.

Saudi Arabian King Abdullah sent congratulatory messages both to President Masoum and to prime minister-designate al-Abadi, expressing the kingdom’s support for the new government. King Abdullah appears truly to have despised Nouri al-Maliki. In 2006, al-Maliki used his Islamic Call or Islamic Mission Party (al-Da`wa al-Islamiya) to mount a global campaign against “Wahhabism,” the severe branch of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia, which has often been hostile to Shiite Muslims like al-Maliki. King Abdullah, however, appointed two Shiites to his advisory council and allowed municipal elections in Shiite cities like Qatif, which brought Shiite politicians onto the city council. Before the 2011 Arab Spring demos, in which Shiites in the Saudi Eastern Province joined, King Abdullah appeared to be slowly trying to improve the position of Saudi minorities. Since then, unfortunately, there has been a renewed crackdown. In any case, Abdullah was deeply offended by al-Maliki’s critiques of Wahhabism and the mounting of Shiite demonstrations outside Saudi embassies. I don’t believe al-Maliki was ever allowed to visit Riyadh, whereas the Iranian prime ministers and even hard line Shiite Muqtada al-Sadr have come on such diplomatic visits. So whether or not King Abdullah is as enthusiastic as he says for Iraq to flourish (the Saudis are a little afraid of a united Iraq after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait), it is plausible that he is truly delighted that al-Maliki is being replaced by someone more level-headed.

Likewise, the Turkish foreign ministry congratulated al-Abadi. Turkey’s fate is much bound up with Iraq’s since they are neighbors and both Kurdish nationalism and hard line political Islam pose challenges to both.

Getting Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey all to agree on something is pretty difficult, so al-Abadi already has an achievement.

Al-Abadi has also garnered the support of the major Shiite parties, including Fadila (Virtue), the al-Ahrar (“Free Ones”) of hard line cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq (ISCI) of Ammar al-Hakim, which is close to Iran. He appears to have gained the support of about half of the Islamic Mission Party, which has 92 seats in parliament or so, and which al-Maliki theoretically heads. The party leaders, however, issued a statement on Tuesday that al-Maliki is their candidate, rejecting al-Abadi.

On the other hand, US Vice President Joe Biden appears to have elicited a promise from Kurdistan president Massoud Barzani to “work with” al-Abadi. Barzani has made it clear that he actually wants to secede from Iraq, so it is unclear how he will cooperate with Baghdad. Though, his pledge to hold a referendum on secession within 6 months was made before the Kurdistan paramilitary, the Peshmerga, found themselves unable to hold their front with the so-called Islamic State, an al-Qaeda offshoot. Barzani is now getting large amounts of US weapons and money, and the US air force is bombing IS positions near Kurdistan. The Peshmerga (“one who stands before death”) have been enabled to take back two border towns straddling the Arab and Kurdish frontier, Gwer (al-Kuwair) in Ninewa Province and Makhmour in Irbil Province. So, I think if Biden wants Barzani to compliment al-Abadi, he’ll swallow his pride and do so.

Unfortunately, in order to resolve the current crisis in Iraq, al-Abadi needs internal allies more than external lip support. He needs more than pro forma support from the Kurds in confronting IS in Diyala, Salahuddin and Ninawa provinces. And, he needs to detach some of the Sunni tribal leaders from the IS. The last time the Sunni rural notables allied with Baghdad against al-Qaeda, they were treated shoddily. Al-Maliki declined to continue their stipends or give very many of them government jobs. Since they had fought terrorists, they were often targeted for reprisals by the terrorists. And, al-Maliki even prosecuted some who had fought Baghdad before changing their minds and joining “Awakening Councils.” The difficulty is that when al-Abadi goes to the tribal chiefs, he may not get much of a hearing. He is after all from al-Maliki’s party.

Still, if Iranian, Turkish and Saudi support for al-Abadi is more than lip service, it could be important to al-Abadi’s success.


Related video

Iraq president asks Abadi to succeed PM Nouri Maliki

The Long Knives Come out in Baghdad

By Juan Cole

The coup-like atmosphere created by Nouri al-Maliki’s stationing of his troops at the Green Zone, checkpoints and bridges in Baghdad on late Sunday backfired on him with Iraq’s parliamentarians. Nearly half of the members of his Islamic Da`wa Party (Islamic Call or Mission Party) in parliament defected from him. Most of the other Shiites in parliament threw their vote to the new appointee, Haydar al-`Ibadi.

On Monday, President Fuad Massoum appointed Haydar al-`Ibadi as prime minister, and he has a month to form a government. Al-`Ibadi was born in 1952. He joined the Islamic Da’wa Party at the age of 15 and so has been a fundamentalist striving for an Islamic state all his life. He served in Paul Bremer’s Coalition Provisional Authority for a while after the revolution. But he grew dissatisfied with it and wanted an elected Iraqi government. He seems to be an Iraq patriot.

Al-Maliki blamed the move on the Americans, called it unconstitutional, and pledged to “correct” this step and to prove “victorious.”

In other words, al-Maliki is refusing to go quietly, and troops loyal to him are still mobilized around key points in Baghdad, the capital.

Sociologist Charles Tilly argued that revolutions are accompanied by a condition of dual sovereignty, that is, during a revolution two centers of political power emerge, which go on to have their troops fight for them on the battlefield.

At the moment, Iraq is certainly in a revolutionary situation, with four centers of sovereignty. These are

1. Nouri al-Maliki, who insists he is still prime minister

2. Haydar al-Abadi, the incoming PM according to some parties

3. The Kurdistan Republic of Massoud Barzani

4. The so-called “Islamic State” of “Caliph” Ibrahim.

The nomination of al-Abadi was greeted as good news by hard line cleric and champion of the poor, Muqtada al-Sadr.

The problems are just beginning. Al-Abadi is from the ruling “State of Law” coalition, the major component of which back al-Maliki. A party congress to undo the president’s appointment would be a major embarrassment.

On the other hand, if parliament gets to decide, there are almost certainly more votes for al-Abadi than al-Maliki there. The Supreme Islamic Council
of Iraq, led by Ammar al-Hakim
, has swung to al-Abadi. Iran is also said to be pleased with al-Abadi.

Al-Abadi will also need the Kurdish vote. Fuad Massoum, who appointed him, is Kurdish. But there is some question about whether the Kurds will ever relinquish Kirkuk, which they seized last month. The Da’wa Party is a combination religious and nationalist power, so it wants a strong central government and would not want like the idea of ceding Kirkuk or acquiescing in Kurdistan independence. So even if al-Abadi can ally with the Kurds, there is likely still a blow-up to come down the road.

So al-Abadi has to first defeat al-Maliki, politically and militarily.

Then he likely has to ally with the Kurds against Cali Ibrahim and try to get back Sunni Iraq.

But then after that, he will likely come into conflict with the Kurds.

The war is by no means over.


Related video:

VOA: “Can Abadi form a workable government for Iraq?”