Saturday, December 5, 2015

Eye to Eye

It never ceases to amaze me how Americans think that the rest of the world is acting on the same information and perceptions that we get through speeches from our politicians and our own rather biased news media. Oh sure, we don’t think North Koreans or those under ISIS rule are getting the same news, but we still believe that somehow truth seeps through the Chinese “Green Dam” – the Great Internet Blocking Wall of China – Russia via the Web and even through the cloistered intranet within Iran itself. We think that people and their leaders are thus acting accordingly.
We are deeply disturbed and angered over the actions of ISIS, probably the most dangerous armed threat to America and the West, a factor we are getting from both sides of the aisle. If there is national fear and loathing, within the American perception, ISIS tops the list. We believe that Iraq is our ally in this battle against this Islamic State. How much do we hate ISIS?
31 mostly GOP governors have usurped constitutional authority over immigration uniquely accorded to the federal government over fear of ISIS infiltration from the dribble a mere 10,000 potential batch of Syrian refugees slated to enter the United States. ISIS is smiling both at the ability to use these political positions to recruit more fighters, hoping that excluded and discriminated-against refugee children grow up to remember this humiliation and then join their killing ranks, fueling their ultimate wish: a massive head-to-head on-the-ground confrontation with the United States military. We so fear and hate ISIS. Thank goodness that having “liberated” Iraq, they are now our solid ally in this war against terrorism. Right?
Would it surprise you to know that there is a very strong, widespread and persistent belief among too many Iraqis that the United States and ISIS are in cahoots, working to tear down the Shiite infrastructure that rules Iraq (Iraq is 60% Shiite, ISIS is pure extremist Sunni with Shiites as their number one target)? The pervasive American vitriol against Iran (well over 90% Shiite) has convinced lots of Iraqis that the United States has it in for them… and that we would back Sunni extremists to get the job done. Huh? The United States and ISIS as allies? Absurd, right? But it is this and other mythological beliefs that have further complicated the political and military quagmire we call the Middle East.
Who can believe this tripe? How gullible can these people be? Probably no more “out there” than Americans who persist in their belief that Barak Obama is a Muslim who was not born in the United States… or that mankind is not responsible for any meaningful part of global climate change. Most of the world shakes their head at those in the U.S. who hold those beliefs.
“On the front lines of the battle against the Islamic State, suspicion of the United States runs deep. Iraqi fighters say they have all seen the videos purportedly showing U.S. helicopters airdropping weapons to the militants, and many claim they have friends and relatives who have witnessed similar instances of collusion.
“Ordinary people also have seen the videos, heard the stories and reached the same conclusion — one that might seem absurd to Americans but is widely believed among Iraqis — that the United States is supporting the Islamic State for a variety of pernicious reasons that have to do with asserting U.S. control over Iraq, the wider Middle East and, perhaps, its oil.
“‘It is not in doubt,’ said Mustafa Saadi, who says his friend saw U.S. helicopters delivering bottled water to Islamic State positions. He is a commander in one of the Shiite militias that last month helped push the militants out of the oil refinery near Baiji in northern Iraq alongside the Iraqi army… ‘The Islamic State is ‘almost finished,’ he said. ‘They are weak. If only America would stop supporting them, we could defeat them in days.’…
“The perception among Iraqis that the United States is somehow in cahoots with the militants it claims to be fighting appears, however, to be widespread across the country’s Sunni-Shiite sectarian divide, and it speaks to more than just the troubling legacy of mistrust that has clouded the United States’ relationship with Iraq since the 2003 invasion and the subsequent withdrawal eight years later.
“At a time when attacks by the Islamic State in Paris and elsewhere have intensified calls for tougher action on the ground, such is the level of suspicion with which the United States is viewed in Iraq that it is unclear whether the Obama administration would be able to significantly escalate its involvement even if it wanted to. ‘What influence can we have if they think we are supporting the terrorists?’ asked Kirk Sowell, an analyst based in neighboring Jordan who publishes the newsletter Inside Iraqi Politics.” Liz Sly writing for The Washington Post, December 1st.
We’ve also just seen how this Iraqi antipathy is clearly directed against U.S. deployment in the area: “Iraq's ruling alliance and powerful Shi'ite militias say Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi would be digging his own political grave and undermining the fight against Islamic State if he permits the deployment of a new U.S. special operations force in the country.
“Washington said on [December 1st] it would send troops, expected to number around 200, to Iraq to conduct raids against the ultra-hardline Sunni Muslim militants who have seized swathes of the country's north and west and neighboring Syria.” Reuters, December 1st. They don’t like us. They don’t trust us, and they think that there is an American-ISIS coalition against all Shiites. Yeah, we really did a good thing deposing Saddam Hussein in that lovely Iraq War. And how are the presidential candidates dealing with all this? Guess!
What is particularly stunning to me is how absolutely ignorant of the real situation in the Middle East so many presidential candidates are. They utter slogans and “solutions” with absolutely no basis in reality. They make assumptions, for example, about who the players are on the ground, how our “allies” (like Iraq!) sshould behave, without the remotest knowledge of the effect of the schism between Sunnis and Shiites, a rift that was beginning to heel in the neighborhoods of Iraq before our intervention in that nation effectively required Iraqis to choose sides. The instability that followed, exacerbated by over a million, mostly Sunni, farmers losing their homes and farms to interminable drought, is not really understood by wannabee leaders of the free world. And we are soon voting for our next president.
I’m Peter Dekom, and ill-conceived decisions by under-informed elected officials with bravado as their calling card can backfire to levels that would seriously undermine our own stability well beyond our current risk profile.

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