Showing posts with label Iraq. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Iraq. Show all posts

August 2, 2016

Will Russia react to Idlib's incident the same way the U.S. reacted to Fallujah's?

    Tuesday, August 02, 2016   No comments

The similarities between two events--one took place in Idlib (Syria) on July 31, 2016 and the other happened March 31, 2004 in Fallujah (Iraq)--are eerie. It is reminder of the connections between the two conflicts. Syria’s is a direct result of the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The Fallujah incident, Americans killed, dragged in the streets, and charred bodies hand on a bridge was shocking. But being under shock from seeing the grisly images is not the proper state of mind for launching a military operation. Yet, that is exactly what President Bush and his Secretary of Defense did when they ordered operation Vigilant Resolve.
Russia does not have 150,000 troops on the ground, but it has the power to bomb every town and city under the control of al-Nusra and increase its assistance to the Syrian army. 
Two days after the incident, Russian leaders did not indicate that they will seek revenge and launch new operations, though they are likely to increase the level of support to the Syrian government. 

Moreover, al-Nusra, now re-branded as Jabhat Fath al-Sham, the group that controls the area where the plane was shot down, has enjoyed protection and support from Turkey. With Erdogan scheduled to meet Putin next week, Russia does not see the need to take actions, it may use the incident to force Erdogan to drop his support to al-Nusra and its allies in Jaysh al-Fath and actually start fighting terrorism.

The same way Fallujah changed the direction of the war in Iraq, Idlib, too, will change the direction of the war in Syria. 

July 2, 2016

The truth is the first and last victim of wars

    Saturday, July 02, 2016   No comments

Considering the utterly conflicting reports about a single strike, not a battle or a war, it becomes evident that a truthful narrative about war is elusive and indistinguishable from propaganda. This fact was underscored in the wildly divergent reports about a single attack on ISIL's fighters fleeing the recently liberated city of Fallujah. In the end, the only fact about which we can be certain is this: "Airstrikes destroyed ISIL’s vehicles and killed fighters in a convoy leaving Fallujah." Nothing else reported by even the most reputable news outlets can be ascertained. The event seems to be the same, since the video released by both sides appear to be the same (see below); yet, the details are radically different.
We cannot be sure if U.S. coalition or Iraqi armed forces carried out the attack.

We cannot be sure if the U.S. refused to carry out the attack as requested by the Iraqi armed forces.

We cannot be sure if the U.S. offered ISIL safe passage out of Fallujah.

We cannot be sure if Iraqi forces offered ISIL fighters safe passage out of Fallujah.

We cannot be sure if the Popular Mobilization Forces offered ISIL safe passage out of Fallujah.

We cannot be sure if ISIL convoy consisted of 40 or 700 vehicles.

We cannot be certain if 175 or 250 ISIL fighters were killed.

We cannot be certain if the convoy consisted of only fighters or fighters and their family members.

Yet, all those claims were made and reported in different news outlet. Western media gave credit to the U.S. coalition while Iraqi media gave credit to Iraqi forces. The sample below speaks to the state of journalism and media in times of conflict.

CNN, U.S. media
Ajel; Iraqi media
Alarabiyya; Saudi Media

Nile24; Egyptian media

Nahrain; Iraqi media

RussiaToday, Russian media

ShafaqNews; Iranian media

ShafaqNews Iranian media

SkyIraq, Iarqi media

February 25, 2016

Saudi Arabia’s Impracticable Alliances

    Thursday, February 25, 2016   No comments

Saudi Wahhabism at home and abroad and the arrogation of Islam

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia *

Abstract: Before WikiLeaks released the Saudi diplomatic cables in 2010, the rulers of Saudi Arabia had cultivated the image of being deliberate, moderate, and averse to confrontation. Since the start of 2011, the Saudi rulers have behaved in ways that annulled that perception. The Saudi rulers hosted the Tunisian dictator and refused to extradite him to face criminal and corruption charges, criticized the U.S. for not standing by Hosni Mubarak, turned down a coveted seat on the UNSC, sent its armed forces to crush a peaceful protest in Bahrain, armed Salafists to overthrow the Syrian government, engineered a political coup that displaced the democratically elected prime minister of Iraq--Nuri al-Maliki, and launched a brutal war on Yemen committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the process. Days before beheading a religious leader who spoke against the oppression of Shias, the deputy crown prince and minister of war of the kingdom announced the creation of an “Islamic military coalition,” consisting of 34 countries to combat terrorism. These are not the actions and temperament of deliberate, moderate leaders. These are the actions of impetuous, nervous, and paranoid autocrats who seem to be running out of options as their internal, regional, and global allies abandon them.

December 28, 2015

The legacy of the illegal war on Iraq and the burden of befriending the Wahhabi rulers

    Monday, December 28, 2015   No comments

A day after the couple Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people in San Bernardino, CNN reported that Malik had made “a pledge of allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.” Subsequently, it was reported that Malik attended al-Huda, a religious institute whose funding and curriculum were decided by Saudi benefactors, and Farook visited Saudi Arabia and married his wife in that country. The connection between terrorists and Saudi sponsored religious institutions is well documented. The connection between ISIL and its derivatives, terrorism, and the civil war in Syria and Iraq must be properly understood and factored into any global strategy to combat terrorism and reduce violence around the world. Law enforcement officials’ reaction to the San Bernardino shooting--suggesting that the attack “may have been inspired by ISIS” but “not directed or ordered” by the group--shows that the connection between Saudi political/religious systems and terrorism is not properly made and understood.

November 16, 2015

The Genealogy, Ideology, and Future of ISIL and its Derivatives

    Monday, November 16, 2015   No comments

Abstract: The organization known today simply as the “Islamic State,” or by its Arabic acronym, Daesh (English, ISIL), has historical and ideological roots that go beyond the territories it now controls. These deep roots give Daesh confidence that it will succeed in dominating the world, but give others reasons to believe that it will fail in controlling even a single nation. Mixing puritan religious and political discourses, ISIL managed to dominate all other armed opposition groups in conflict zones (Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya) and has inspired individuals in many other countries (Egypt, Pakistan, France, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia) to carry out brutal attacks in its name.

Dogmatic Origins: Traditionism

October 2, 2015

Syria’s protest movement that gave birth to a World War

    Friday, October 02, 2015   No comments

The peaceful protest movement that started in Syria in 2011 was transformed by foreign governments’ involvement into a civil war fueled by sectarian and ethnic dreams. Now, we can see that Syria is no longer ground for a civil or proxy war, it is scene of a world war. There are two sides in this conflict. Although each side prefers to frame its identify in appealing descriptors like Friends Of Syria, Anti-Terror Coalition, Preservers Of Legitimacy, and Pro-International Law and Order Nations, the two sides are fixated on one man: Bashar al-Assad. From the moment some Syrians began protesting, the US-Saudi coalition jumped on the opportunity and planned to oust Assad no matter the cost. The Russian-Iranian coalition did not want that to happen no matter the cost. Every other claim about Assad's regime abuse of human rights, forcing a wave of refugees, denying his people democracy, committing war crimes, being authoritarian, and  lacking legitimacy are nice sounding slogans needed to disguise the real agenda. After all, any one of these nations that is directly involved in this crisis is guilty of the same offenses: they all have a record of human rights abuses, ill treatment of refugees, subversion of democracy, war crimes, and authoritarian behavior. Some of these governments never held even sham elections to test their actual legitimacy. Now, each side is undertaking military action to support its side achieve the one goal: remove/strengthen Bashar al-Assad. 

Russia's direct military involvement should not surprise anyone: Russia's leaders have been preparing for it for years. Now, parties of this international conflict are well known. On one side, we have the so-called Friends-Of-Syria or Anti-ISIL nations that supported, trained, and equipped the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which metamorphosed after 2012 into ISIL, al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam, Jaysh al-Fath, thuwar Suria, and other smaller armed groups. On the other side, we have nations that declared their support for nations' sovereignty, Preservers-Of-Legitimacy (POL), as they want to be called. 

Over time, the coalition of FOS shrunk from nearly 100 nations in 2011, to merely seven nations today: UK, US, France, Germany, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. On Friday Oct. 2, these countries released a joint statement, saying that Russian strikes would “only fuel more extremism.”  But they did not explain why Russian strikes would fuel extremism but strikes carried out by FOS would not. 

January 12, 2015

Where is the Outrage?

    Monday, January 12, 2015   No comments

Europe’s hypocrisy and latent racism displayed after the Paris attacks

On January 11, 2015, an estimated 1.6 million people walked the streets of Paris as part of a “unity march” in reaction to the recent attack in the French capital. Some 40 world leaders joined the march. Other high-profile individuals also recognized the attack and the march—for instance, George Clooney and other actors referred to the events as they received awards on January 11. “Paris is the capital of the world today,” declared Francois Hollande. 

October 12, 2014

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ought to be tried for crimes against humanity

    Sunday, October 12, 2014   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
ISIL attacks Kobane
Earlier this month, Vice President Joe Biden angered some Middle Eastern leaders by making a true statement. Speaking at Harvard, Biden said that the U.S. allies were determined to overthrow Bashar al-Assad from power so they “poured hundreds of millions dollars, and tens thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against al-Assad, accepted the people who would be in supply for al-Nusra and al-Qaeda and extremist elements of jihadists coming from other parts of the world.” Known for his blunt statements, Biden flatly admitted that U.S. “biggest problem is our allies. Our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria. The Turks… the Saudis, the Emiratis, etc...”

September 17, 2014

ISIL cannot be defeated militarily without addressing the roots of its genocidal creed and confronting its sectarian backers

    Wednesday, September 17, 2014   No comments

Less than a year after the start of the crisis in Syria, I warned that militarizing the Syrian uprising is a dangerous step. Picking sides and arming them would amount to  launching a new proxy-war similar to the one that took place in Afghanistan in the 1970's and 1980's. The danger, I reasoned, comes from the necessary outcome of using non-state actors as tools to destabilize other nations and adopting violence to escalate the confrontation with international political adversaries. Such escalation, generally, produces groups that cannot be kept under control as happened with al-Qaeda. Today, it has become evident that Syria is indeed a proxy-war zone that produced ISIL, an upgraded version of al-Qaeda, which was the byproduct of the proxy-war in Afghanistan. Such a new proxy-war will not be limited to Syria's border. Indeed, all countries involved in such a war, especially the ones sharing borders with Syria like Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan, will face serious political and security challenges.

July 6, 2014

Chaos and anarchy in the Middle East: How did it happen?

    Sunday, July 06, 2014   No comments

Takfīris' path to their "caliphate" is soaked with the blood of Muslims

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

The most important event of the summer might end up being ISIL’s (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) declaration that it has restored the caliphate. For the second time in the past two decades, Salafi Islamists have gained territory and resources to establish a communal entity reflecting their idea of an Islamic state. In the mid-1990s, the Taliban, aided by Saudi and Arab fighters led by Bin Laden, routed fellow Mujahidin to establish the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan. The Emirate ended when U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001. Two weeks ago, ISIL, aided by frustrated Sunni Arabs and former Baathists, led an armed assault on the northern provinces of Iraq, linking them to territories in Syria under its control.

June 21, 2014

Lebanon's online Salafists monitor Iraq events

    Saturday, June 21, 2014   No comments
ISIL map
by Ghassan Rifi
[Lebanon's] Salafists are closely following events in Iraq. Some Salafists are waiting to see how the wars between the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the Iraqi army will turn out before deciding what to do.

Social media posts indicate that many jihadist Salafists are pleased with ISIS’s progress in some Iraqi cities. They are careful not to openly express their feelings in public or make moves on the ground, lest they be thrown back into the spotlight. Those moves have stopped since the start of the security plan throughout Lebanon. Salafist social media posts suggest they have recovered their spirit and that ISIS's actions have restored their momentum.

May 19, 2014

Results of first post U.S.-occupation parliamentarian elections in Iraq gives Maliki an edge, but not a majority that would allow him to form a majority government on his own as he hoped

    Monday, May 19, 2014   No comments
Iraq needs a strong government to face the ethnic and religious divisions that continue to cost Iraq nearly 1000 lives every month in the last few months. Most recently, al-Qaeda affiliates or al-Qaeda alike armed groups took control of several cities and towns in western Iraq threatening the unity of the country. Also, Kurdish leaders are threatening separation if Maliki is elected to a third term, mostly because Kurdish leaders are not happy with Maliki's handling of the disputed Kirkuk area and the sale of oil from Kurdish regions. 

March 30, 2014

Obama in Saudi Arabia to talk security and terrorism; the Saudis seem prepared, but are they really?

    Sunday, March 30, 2014   No comments

The new Saudi anti-terrorism law is anti-dissent, anti-civil rights draconian law?
For weeks even before President Obama’s arrival in Saudi Arabia, the rulers of Saudi Arabia have worked hard to make the summit successful. They knew that extremism, regional stability, and the Middle East peace process are high on the U.S. administration’s agenda. The Saudi rulers wanted to show that they are trustworthy, that they are fighting terrorism, and that they are a reliable and stable ally. Specifically, they will be showing President Obama two things: a new law that is supposedly aimed at fighting extremism and an unprecedented designation of an heir to the heir to the throne (Prince Muqrin—half-brother of the King).

March 22, 2013

Iraq: ten years of hubris and incompetence

    Friday, March 22, 2013   No comments

by Zaid al-Ali 

Ten years after the 2003 war, the Iraqi government credits itself with a number of achievements. All foreign soldiers have left the country, the 2005 constitution was approved by 80% of the population, several rounds of elections have taken place in the absence of credible accusations of massive fraud, and the annual state budget has reached unheard of proportions.  And yet, the country has millions of poor who live in slums without access to any government services to speak of, and millions of others have left the country never to return. The government is once again rearming. Women’s rights have regressed. Political tensions, fueled by corruption, violence and sectarianism, appear to be worsening. 

Was this downwards spiral inevitable? Western and an increasing number of Iraqi analysts eagerly refer to ethno-sectarian divisions, and suggest that Iraq is a hopeless case as a result. But there are countries whose divisions are far more pronounced; fueled by differences in language, skin colour, religion, by a history of imperialism, colonisation and even slavery, many countries in Africa and Latin America have emerged as modern democracies in recent years. These countries not only had the benefit of good leadership, but also established clear rules according to which their countries were to be governed. In comparison, Iraq is a shameful affair: despite the incredible resources at its disposal, the country is clearly heading in the wrong direction.

There are many causes for this state of affairs, too many to address in any single analysis.  This article focuses on the rules that are designed to govern the political process, namely the 2005 constitution. The constitution was rushed, is undemocratic, and is rigged to encourage political tensions, instability and crisis. This is not "post-hindsight" analysis: in the summer of 2005, a few weeks before the referendum that was organised to approve the constitution, two of the world’s leading legal scholars travelled to Baghdad and studied the then draft constitution. They wrote an analysis which was circulated to key officials, but was not published at the time. Their conclusion was that, if applied, the constitution posed a “grave risk to state and society”. Their prophetic prognosis went unheeded and we are still paying the consequences today.

March 7, 2013

Iraqi analysts: Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria mirrors al-Qaeda in Iraq

    Thursday, March 07, 2013   No comments

by Mohammed al-Qaisi
Al-Qaeda in Iraq attacks places of worship, culture and
education deeming them blasphemous, officials say.
 As tensions increase between Syrian citizens and members of extremist group Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN) Iraqi officials, researchers and security leaders warned of similarities between JAN and al-Qaeda in Iraq in terms of ideology and strategy.

"We are monitoring with concern the recent attacks conducted by the extremist JAN in Syria because it is ruining the situation there," said acting Iraqi Defence Minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi. "JAN is turning its attacks on the people, just as al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups did in Iraq."

He said attacks on churches and destruction of statues, archaeological sites and sacred shrines bears resemblance to what al-Qaeda did in Iraq in past years.

In February, Syrians from the Idlib town of Maaret al-Numan accused JAN of cutting off the head of a statue in town of the poet Abu al-Alaa al-Maari, who was born there, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

They posted pictures online of a headless dark brown bust riddled with bullet holes, lying on the ground near its former pedestal.

February 23, 2013

Syria is now Iraq, and soon Turkey and Jordan will be Syria…

    Saturday, February 23, 2013   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

The danger in Syria is not that it is a new kind of a crisis; the danger is that it is becoming a replication of another one. The twin terrorist bomb attack in the capital Damascus on February 21, 2013, which took the lives of at least 100 civilians and injured another 235, echoes what has been happening in Iraq for ten years. This alarming trend shows that the Gulf States, Turkey, and the West have created a beast in Syria that they no longer can control.

The idea that violence can be used to remove “unfriendly” or “unreliable” regimes is a dangerous precedent. The first victim of this logic is the non-violent, civil protest movement that saved Tunisia and Egypt from the kind of destruction seen in Libya and Syria.

November 25, 2012

Analysis: Recognizing the new Syrian National Coalition alone will not end the war in Syria

    Sunday, November 25, 2012   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Those who doubt Lakhdar Brahimi’s assessment of the crisis in Syria ought to rethink their position. His ostensibly naïve initiative for a ceasefire over the Eid holidays might have been a brilliant maneuver that ended the existence of the Syrian National Council, the previously prominent face of the Syrian opposition. Before proposing an ambitious plan of six or one hundred points like his predecessor, Brahimi wanted to make sure that there are reliable representatives of both sides who can exert influence and control over their subordinates. After visiting Russia and China, he proposed, from Tehran, that both the opposition forces and the government stop fighting for four days.

Apparently, he wanted to test the influence of the Syrian regime backers and the political leaders of the opposition (Syrian National Council, or SNC) who accepted the ceasefire. Even the military leaders of the FSA accepted the Eid ceasefire. He was aware that for the ceasefire to hold, the opposition groups must stop fighting. It is one thing to claim control over armed groups by simply supporting their actions, but it is a different level of credible control to actually order these groups to stop fighting and see compliance on the ground. Brahimi wanted actual proof of command and control over armed groups in the form of four days of quiet.

The result was embarrassing for the so-called opposition leaders. During the four-day holidays, more car bombs exploded in crowded cities and more attacks on military checkpoints. Worse, some of the FSA groups used the quiet time to attack Kurdish neighborhoods in Aleppo and other Kurdish majority areas to bring more territory under their control. Deadly fights erupted between FSA fighters and Kurdish neighborhood protection militias, forcing the FSA groups to retreat.

November 23, 2012

Top News Story: Turkey’s troubles are directly linked to the trouble of its neighbors

    Friday, November 23, 2012   No comments
Kurdish Fighters

Turkey found a formula for success, and then it lost it. When the Justice and Development Party took power in 2001, they promised economic growth at home founded on zero problems abroad. They were right in linking peace and stability in the region to economic development. That formula worked and it nearly brought them to ending the crisis with the Kurdish people.

All that promise of economic development and peace are now threatened. They are threatened because Turkey abandoned that formula and embraced war making instead of building peace. It is becoming clear that Turkey cannot go on labeling its Kurdish subjects terrorists and killing them while criticizing its neighbors for fighting what they call terrorists. This week, the contradiction was apparent.

Violence in the Turkish eastern region is on the rise. In addition to soldiers and Kurdish fighters clashes, on Thursday, a group (believed to be associated with Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)), broke into a school in the eastern province of Van and set fire to classrooms.

On the legal front, a Turkish court sentenced three members of the PKK to life in prison for their involvement in a 2007 attack on a military outpost in Dağlıca, Hakkari province.

On same day, speaking to journalists aboard his plane as he was returning from a visit to Pakistan, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that his government might take steps to make it possible for “terrorist” Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) members to take shelter in other countries on condition that they lay down their weapons. He stressed that “as long as weapons remain in the hands of the terrorists, they may be shot at… The moment the terrorists lay down weapons… [they] go to other countries.”

Kurdish Population Areas
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Syrian opposition fighters associated with the Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood attacked the Syrian Kurdish city of Raas Al-Ayn. When Kurdish Neighborhood Protection committees resisted, Turkey inserted its tanks and Special Forces to support fighters from Jabhat Alnusrah and Ghurabaa Alshaam. In response, Kurdish fighters from inside Turkey sent fighters to help their Kurdish brethren on the Syrian side.

In Iraq, the Iraqi army is threatening Kurdish militia and putting the Kurdish regional government under pressure for entering into oil export deals with Turkey. The Iraqi central government insists that border control and national resources management such as oil expert, fall under the jurisdiction of the central government alone, not the regional ones. Turkey is siding with the Kurdish regional government and that is adding fuel to sectarian tension in the region.

The deployment of Patriot missile systems along the Turkish-Syrian border brought Russian condemnation and military reaction. It was reported Friday that Russia is sending several battle ships to the Mediterranean Sea. All these developments are adding to tension in the region and creating a heavy social and economic cost to Turkey and its neighbors. In the end, the Syrian conflict and Turkey losing sight of the foundation for success might enable the Kurdish people to gain some of the rights.


April 26, 2012

Why are Turkey's ruling party leaders struggling in developing a consistent, enduring Middle East policy?

    Thursday, April 26, 2012   No comments

Ahmet Davutoğlu
On Thursday, the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu responded to opposition parties’ members of parliament who accused the government of war mongering on Syria. 

“A new Middle East is emerging and we will continue to lead this. Turkey will pioneer this order of peace. … The Turkish people of 74 million are with the Syrian people and will continue to be so… Those who side with dictatorial regimes instead of the people of the Middle East cannot understand our policies. … We stand by people, not minority dictatorships,” Davutoğlu responded.

“What should be said first on Syria is that the Syrian administration is responsible for the current situation in Syria. The culprit is the Baath regime, which orders shooting at people who took to the streets with demands for freedom. … We support the valid demands of the Syrian people, regardless of their religion, sect and ethnicity,” Davutoğlu said.


The engineer of the zero conflict with Turkey’s neighbor policy is now promoting direct involvement in the conflicts of the region after struggling to find a comfortable position when the Arab Spring first started. 

For instance, Turkey’s government refused to support Europe and NATO in their campaign to remove Qaddafi from power in Libya. Turkish leaders also struggled to articulate a clear position regarding the Egyptian revolution when it first started. In order to make up for those delayed reactions, Turkey’s ruling leaders are now overreacting. They did not study the various actors involved in the Syrian crisis and they ended up siding with two of the least democratic regimes of the Arab world: Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Such a company Turkish leaders are keeping highlights the contradictions in Turkey’s Middle East policy. 

On the one hand, the ruling party claims that they are supporting popular revolutions regardless of sect and ethnicity of the revolting people. But they remain silent about the demands for change in Bahrain—where the uprising preceded the Syrian one until it was crushed by the Saudi military that came to the aid of the minority-run government there. That casts doubt about their sectarian neutrality.  Turkey’s ongoing conflict with the Kurds also challenges their claim to ethnic neutrality.


February 4, 2012

An education in occupation

    Saturday, February 04, 2012   No comments

Cost of War comments: 
Iraq has a history rich in contributions to various academic fields, and its universities were the envy of the Middle East thirty years ago. In the early years of Saddam Hussein’s regime, the education system in Iraq was well resourced, globally connected, secular and open to women.  University education was free and literacy levels rose from 52 percent in 1977 to 80 percent in 1987.  The near collapse of Iraq’s education system was the culmination of a process of decline that gathered pace with the international sanctions regime of the 1990s, culminating in the war of 2003 and its aftermath.  Iraqi universities were stripped clean not only of cultural artifacts like books but also of the basic infrastructural items that enabled them to function at all. Due to international sanctions following the 1991 Gulf War, foreign bureaucrats blocked requests for education materials and resources. After the U.S. invaded Iraq, museums and university libraries were looted and many of their cultural artifacts and documents destroyed, despite earlier pleas from the Pentagon’s Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance to protect cultural heritage sites in Iraq. Jerry Bremer’s DeBaathification process, initiated in 2003, led to the removal of half the intellectual leadership in academia regardless of whether or not they truly believed in the Baath party.

Many professors were kidnapped and assassinated during the violence that followed the US invasion.   While the exact number of academics killed is difficult to determine, estimates by journalists range between 160 and 380 by 2006.  Female students have meanwhile become targets of threats and intimidation by fundamentalist militia groups. In just three decades, Iraq’s universities, reputedly the best in the Islamic world, were effectively destroyed. 

In 2004, John Agresto, the US Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Education, assessed the rebuilding needs of devastated Iraqi universities.  He requested from Congress $1.2 billion even though the UN and World Bank had estimated it would take almost $2 billion to “ensure minimal quality standards of teaching and learning.” Nonetheless, Agresto received  $8 million, less than 1 percent of what he had asked for.

Far from the battlefield, American universities have paid a less visible price during the post-9/11 wars. The university system places greater emphasis on military research than it did prior to 9/11 and, as a result, diverts students from careers and researchers from other pressing projects they might pursue. Instead of tackling considerable public health problems such as diabetes and heart disease that kill large numbers of Americans, resources have been skewed towards a preoccupation with bioterrorism (which has killed five Americans since 9/11).

The war in Iraq harmed the Iraqi and American systems in different ways, resulting in the complete degradation of the Iraqi education system and a reallocation of research labor away from important health and other social problems in the United States.

As the last American soldiers left Iraq in December, so, too, did many of the journalists who had covered the war, leaving little in the way of media coverage of post-war Iraq. While there were some notable exceptions -- including two fine articles by MIT's John Tirman that asked how many Iraqis had been killed as a result of the US invasion -- overall the American press published few articles on the effects of the occupation, especially the consequences for Iraqis.

An Academic's work provides some insight into the state of Iraqi universities. 

Hugh Gusterson, an anthropologist, is a professor of anthropology and sociology at George Mason University. His expertise is in nuclear culture, international security, and the anthropology of science. He has conducted considerable fieldwork in the United States and Russia, where he studied the culture of nuclear weapon scientists and antinuclear activists. Two of his books encapsulate this work--Nuclear Rites: A Weapons Laboratory at the End of the Cold War (University of California Press, 1996) and People of the Bomb: Portraits of America's Nuclear Complex (University of Minnesota Press, 2004). He also coedited Why America's Top Pundits Are Wrong (University of California Press, 2005) and the sequel, The Insecure American (University of California Press, 2009). Previously, he taught in MIT's Program on Science, Technology, and Society.


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