News & Events

ARTICLE: How Maliki Ruined Iraq

By Zaid Al-Ali, Foreign Policy,  June 19, 2014

When Mosul fell to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) on June 10, most Iraqis were, like the rest of the world, shocked. When two other cities fell days later with minimal resistance from the Iraqi security forces, the response was horror. How in just a matter of days could a cancerous, extremist organization defeat Iraq’s U.S.-trained security forces, which count more than 1 million personnel in their ranks and have received close to $100 billion in funding since 2006?


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One comment on “ARTICLE: How Maliki Ruined Iraq”

  • Abass says:

    However, Saudi Arabia’s real policy twroad Iran may be a policy that can only work if it is not stated clearly… Saudi policy may be to do nothing… Hooda thunk it? Manufacturing and then exploiting a bright-line crisis might not be the best way to manage one’s relationship with another country, even with one’s near neighbor.I wonder if that might work for us too with Iran. Just stop acting as if we’re in a crisis that needs to be resolved sometime soon by either war or a grand bargain. Instead, just keep clearly in mind what we’re aiming at (such as: keeping Iran from getting a nuclear bomb), stay realistic about how we might achieve it (for example: keep the IAEA inspectors’ noses under the Iranian tent; supply the Tehran Research Reactor with 20% fuel so the Iranians don’t develop the nasty habit of refining it themselves), and patiently try to achieve it more and more effectively in the longer run (for example: get more and more IAEA noses under more and more Iranian tents; reliably supply enough low-grade fuel for peaceful nuclear reactors that the Iranians spend less money building more centrifuges and training their scientists how to make them work better). Not manufacturing crises worked pretty well for us in the Cold War, as I recall. Nerve-racking and time-consuming, to be sure. Not a single grand bargain from beginning to end just a little test-ban treaty here, a SALT treaty there; harsh words about evil empires today, vodka-and-caviar toasts tomorrow. Great patience required, but wars avoided. Might we have been better off drawing a line in the sand with the Soviet Union? Maybe so it worked in Cuba in 1962, after all. Maybe we should have rolled the dice more often. We sure had plenty of opportunities to declare an existential crisis, after all, and no shortage of screeching voices insisting that we do so. What if, in response to those screeching voices, all we’d had during the Cold War were what we seem to have today: those who insisted that there was an alternative to war, that a grand bargain could be struck with the Soviet Union to avoid war? The answer is: we’d have accepted the screechers’ unexamined premise that a crisis point had been reached, that some either-or choice in fact needed to be made. If so, then the apparent choices would have been pretty much what we’re often told they are today with Iran: grand bargain or drop the bombs. Who knows, maybe we’d have worked out a comprehensive grand bargain with, say, Brezhnev possibly even Kruschev, if we could’ve just got him to stop banging his shoe on the table long enough. Probably a 10% chance, at most, that we’d have had a thermo-nuclear war that would have ended life on Earth as we know it. Maybe that would have been a risk worth taking, rather than endure 45 years of anxiety with nothing to show for it at the end except peace.Who knows, if we keep rattling our saber at Iran, maybe there’s little or no risk that Iran will stop letting IAEA inspectors into the country while we’re noodling over a grand bargain that might avert war. And if we don’t supply 20% fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, maybe they’ll just shut it down rather than refine the uranium themselves they probably can get by without those medical isotopes. And if we don’t supply them with low-grade fuel for peaceful nuclear reactors, or let them produce it themselves under our watchful eyes, maybe they’ll just shut down their nuclear program entirely and rely on their vast oil reserves, as we’ve been telling them lately they should do even though our own nuke salesmen told them 35 years ago that that was a short-sighted policy and no Iranian politician in his right mind would propose it today.And, after all, if, as Flynt Leverett reported during his debate with Michael Ledeen, many mid-level Iranian officials are reluctant to argue strenuously for negotiations with the US unless we can give them some assurance that the US is willing to negotiate on a whole raft of issues, who are we to ask those mid-level Iranian officials to take a possibly career-ending risk by pressing harder for some short-term deal on a narrow but important subject? What if, for example, we were to strike some simultaneous-exchange deal on the TRR but, God forbid, it didn’t lead to a US acknowledgement of Iran’s trillion-dollar reparation claim against Iraq, or a deal to restrain the MEK, or to stop interfering with internal Iranian affairs? Might that mid-level Iranian official get re-assigned to some district post in, say, Yazd, and have to pull his kids out of school mid-way through the year? That certainly wouldn’t be fair to him.On the other hand, a small-ball deal like that – negotiated and struck without any understanding whatsoever that it might lead to more – might just ease tensions enough to avoid both (1) war; and (2) the mistaken perception that we have to strike some grand bargain with Iran in order to accomplish anything of real value. Maybe that TRR baby-step could be tied to some other concession by Iran, such as more intrusive IAEA inspections, or an express commitment to the US position on the disclosure-timing issue (though, frankly, the recent wholesale disclosure of nuclear facilities by Iran suggests to me it’s already caving on that issue without explicitly saying so). Maybe then we could tone down our support of the MEK a bit, as Flynt mentions Nixon having done with the CIA in Tibet, and that, in turn, might lead to some further baby-step agreements. The next thing you know, it might occur to someone that maybe we don’t have a crisis after all. That would diminish our would-be grand bargainers, of course, but – far more important – it also would diminish the screechers for war.

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