America’s Cycles of Change

U.S. Neocons Sowed Dragons’ Teeth of Current Political Chaos in Baghdad

Wed, 20 April 2016

The dragons’ teeth that benighted US policies have sowed in Iraq continue to sprout new nightmares for policymakers in Washington as well as across the entire region.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is now on the ropes facing concerted onslaughts in the Iraqi parliament from his ambitious rivals within the Shiite community, and some ambitious but short-sighted Sunni and Kurdish politicians as well.

At the heart of the challenge is a cynical tactical partnership between long-serving and disastrous former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, still in the influential position of vice president, who supposedly ran the country – into the ground in the eyes of his many critics – from 2006 to 2014 – Moqtada al-Sadr, the ambitious, shrewd, tactically agile Iran-backed Shiite populist leader.

Sadr, who defied US policymakers at the height of their power more than a decade ago, still commands a powerful militia, his old Mahdi Army now renamed the Saraya al-Salam, or Peace Brigades, and with a growing and already powerful bloc in parliament.

Abadi genuinely wants to reform the utterly corrupt national government system Maliki bequeathed to him. He wanted to appoint a new Cabinet of technocrats to run the country. But the entrenched corrupt factions that keep parliament paralyzed blocked him.

On Thursday, Abadi’s foes voted to sack Parliament Speaker Salim al-Juboori, one of Abadi’s most important allies, a Sunni and a longtime critic and foe of Maliki. But Juboori counted that the vote was not valid because not enough members of parliament had been in the chamber for a quorum and he had not been there either.

The day before, on Wednesday, Abadi and Maliki supporters got into fist fights and threw water bottles at each other.

These clownish antics are rooted in the ludicrously complicated, idealistic and corrupt system that US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz and others imposed on Iraq in the years following the US invasion and occupation of 2003.

The Iraqi democratic system was meant to be a showcase to the entire region of the merits of democracy, U.S.-style. Instead it destroyed any credibility that remained for US political nostrums across the entire region.

The lesson was rubbed home again a few years later when US support for revolts of the 2011 Arab Spring across the region led invariably to extreme jihadist attempts to take over countries and regions , anarchy or civil war in one major nation after another.

The chaos in Baghdad is a new nightmare for US President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry. They had counted on political stability in Iraq while the US tried to prop up the Iraqi army it has rebuilt over the past 18 months to keep attacking the Islamic state which still holds on to its northern Iraqi stronghold of Mosul.

Instead, Maliki, who enjoyed the adoring support of the American neoconservatives, has now joined forces with their bête noire, Sadr, to paralyze Iraq and the fight against IS.

Like the late Ahmed Chalabi, Maliki managed to win the adoring support of the still hugely influential US neo-conservatives while doing Iran’s bidding at the same time.

The political U-turns, double crosses and cynical reversals of fortune by the politicians in Baghdad are a direct consequence of the system that Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and their friends lovingly imposed on the longsuffering Iraqi people.

Rulers of the successful and stable monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf looked on in bemused horror at the time, but their sage advice was repeatedly brushed aside by the arrogant American proconsuls and young interns turned neo-colonial viceroys in Iraq.

Obama and Kerry have added to the problems by unlocking more than $100 billion in previously frozen assets for Iran in their P5+1 nuclear deal last July. Now they can look forward to the continued disintegration of the Iraqi state or what is left it to of it, as the Iranians leisurely move in with allies like Sadr and Maliki to pick up the pieces.

If Washington was populated by rational and intelligent policymakers, then some of them would now be asking Riyadh and the Gulf leaders for advice on what to do next, instead of inflicting yet more spurious and witless advice on them. But don’t hold your breath waiting.