Mike Whitney: Provoking a Civil War in Iraq

By Mike Whitney

According to the Muslim calendar, yesterday –February 12–is the one year anniversary of the bombing of Samarra’s Golden Dome Mosque. The blast is frequently pointed to as the event which transformed the conflict from an armed struggle against foreign occupation into a civil war. This change in the narrative has had some real benefits for the Bush administration by diverting attention from the nonstop fighting between American troops and the Sunni-led resistance.

The notion that Iraq is in the throes of civil war is rarely challenged in the western media despite the fact that Iraq has no history of the type of sectarian violence which is now ripping the country apart. Veteran journalist Robert Fisk put it this way:

“Iraq is not a sectarian society. People are intermarried. Shiites and Sunnis marry each other…Some from the militias and death squads want a civil war (but) there has never been a civil war in Iraq. The real question I ask myself is: who are these people who are trying to provoke a civil war? The Americans will say that it’s al Qaida or the Sunni insurgents; it is the death squads. Many of the death squads work for the Ministry of Interior? Who pays the militia men who make up the death squads? We do; the occupation authorities.” (Robert Fisk, “Somebody is trying to provoke a Civil War in Iraq”)

So, if we accept the idea that Iraq is in a civil war, aren’t we ignoring the fact that other forces may be at play just below the surface?

A great deal has already been written about “the Salvador Option” which involves the arming and training of death squads for spreading terror among sympathizers of the resistance. But it is also likely that many of the bombings we see are, in fact, false flag operations intended to pit Arab against Arab, and thereby undermine the greatest threat of all, Iraqi nationalism.

False flag operations are commonplace in foreign occupation. Robert Fisk cites a few examples in his article, “All This Talk of Civil War, Now This” (UK Independent, 2006):

“I think of the French OAS in Algeria in 1962, setting off bombs among France\’s Muslim Algerian community. I recall the desperate efforts of the French authorities to set Algerian Muslim against Algerian Muslim which led to half a million dead souls.

 And I\’m afraid I also think of Ireland and the bombings in Dublin and Monaghan in 1974, which, as the years go by, appear to have an ever closer link, via Protestant "loyalist" paramilitaries, to elements of British military security.”

It’s impossible to know how much of the violence we see is real and how much is “black-ops”. Divide and rule is an adage that is as old as war itself and it is certainly being used in Iraq. In fact, the Bush administration commissioned the Rand Corporation to draw up a plan which promotes this very strategy.

The Rand Study was called: “US Strategy in the Muslim World after 9-11”. The document provided “A framework to identify major ideological orientations within Islam, examines critical cleavages between Muslim groups.” The goal of the paper was to develop a Shaping Strategy for pacifying Muslim populations where the US has commercial or strategic interests. The conclusions of the document are enlightening. Rand suggests the US, “Align its policy with Shiite groups who aspire to have more participation in government and greater freedoms of political and religious expression. If this alignment can be brought about, it could erect a barrier against radical Islamic movements and may create a foundation for a stable U.S. position in the Middle East.”

Clearly, the administration is following the recommendations Rand study and has decided elevate the Shiites over the previously dominant Sunnis.

The Bush administration also appears to be applying parts of another theory which was conjured up by the fiercely nationalistic, Oded Yinon, in his “The Zionist Plan for the Middle East”. Yinon said:

"It is obvious that the above military assumptions, and the whole plan too, depend also on the Arabs continuing to be even more divided than they are now, and on the lack of any truly mass movement among them… Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking Iraq up into denominations as in Syria and Lebanon… Syria will fall apart."

Similar to the Rand study’s recommendations, Yinon’s strategy is to pit Sunni against Shiite in a way that destroys Arab unity and to leaves the country weak and fragmented.

Again, there’s nothing new in these theories, but we should realize that much of the media narrative is crafted in a way that conceals the truth while promoting the objectives of the US occupation. Beyond the smokescreen of “civil war” (some of which is real, of course) is a coherent and carefully articulated plan to quash the resistance and steal Iraq’s resources. That is the real force which is generating much of the violence that we see on the ground.

In practical terms, Robert Fisk provides a credible description of how these black-ops are executed in Iraq. In his article, “Seen through a Syrian Lens” (UK Independent 4-29-06) the Fisk gives the details of a conversation he had with a trusted “security source” who told Fisk that: (the US) “is desperately trying to provoke a civil war around Baghdad in order to reduce its own military casualties.”

"I swear to you that we have very good information," Fisk recounts, "One young Iraqi man told us that he was trained by the Americans as a policeman in Baghdad and he spent 70 per cent of his time learning to drive and 30 per cent in weapons training. They said to him: \’Come back in a week.\’ When he went back, they gave him a mobile phone and told him to drive into a crowded area near a mosque and phone them. He waited in the car but couldn\’t get the right mobile signal. So he got out of the car to where he received a better signal. Then his car blew up."

As incredible as it seems, Fisk assures us that he’s heard the same story many times from different sources.


"There was another man, trained by the Americans for the police. He too was given a mobile and told to drive to an area where there was a crowd – maybe a protest – and to call them and tell them what was happening. Again, his new mobile was not working. So he went to a landline phone and called the Americans and told them: \’Here I am, in the place you sent me and I can tell you what\’s happening here.\’ And at that moment there was a big explosion in his car."

Fisk is a hardnosed journalist not easily given to exaggeration. His account of these incidents simply adds to the growing body of “hearsay” evidence that US intelligence agencies are directly involved in inciting sectarian violence. These stories cannot be corroborated, but, of course, that hasn’t stopped many Iraqis from believing that the US is behind the daily bombings.

Of course, the question of “who” is funding and facilitating the terrorism in Iraq presents a serious challenge to an administration that has based its foreign policy in terms of a war on terror. Public support would quickly erode if the American people knew that Bush was directly involved in the  same activities as our nemesis, al Qaida.

Traditionally, the United States has no problem supporting Islamic extremists as long as they serve our overall foreign policy objectives. The CIA funded the mujahideen in Afghanistan, the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) in Kosovo, and now provides material support and weaponry to the MEK Mujahideen-e- Khalq; a Marxist militant group which is on the State Dept list of terrorist organizations. What matters is not ideology but whether or not the groups can advance Washington’s imperial aspirations.

This demonstrates that Bush’s finger-wagging against “ideological extremism” or “radical Islam” is just more empty rhetoric. Ideology plays a very small part in the current war. Dick Cheney’s comments in a speech to the Institute of Petroleum in London in 1999 may shed a bit of light on this point. He said, “By 2010 we will need on the order of an additional fifty million barrels a day. So where is the oil going to come from? … While many regions of the world offer great oil opportunities, the Middle East with two thirds of the world\’s oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies."

While depletion of oil reserves have accelerated beyond Cheney’s expectations at the time ;( the world’s 4 largest oil fields are in a state of irreversible decline) the facts remain the same. The world is running out of oil and the US intends to deploy its military to seize vital reserves wherever they may be. The war on terror is simply the mask that conceals this ongoing struggle.

The Bush administration seems less and less concerned that their “divide and rule” strategy remains hidden from the public. There’ve been a number of articles in the mainstream press about Bush’s $86 million gift to Mahmoud Abbas’ to train and equip special shock-troops to crush the democratically-elected Hamas government. And, there’s been ample coverage of the CIA’s covert operations in Lebanon that are directed against Hezbollah. The only conclusion we can draw from this, is that Bush really doesn’t care anymore if the world knows that the US is purposely fueling the anarchy which is quickly spreading across the entire Middle East. (The latest accusation that Iran is supplying roadside bombs to the Iraqi resistance just shows how sloppy the administration has gotten in managing its propaganda. Iran, of course, is Shiite, whereas, the Iraqi resistance is predominantly Sunni. The likelihood that Iran is providing roadside bombs to the former members of Saddam’s army is remote to say the least.)

Bush’s “dirty war” in Iraq has become increasingly violent and confused. The neocon trust in “creative destruction” has succeeded in fragmenting Iraqi society, but the long-term prospects for normalization (or resource extraction) appear bleak. At this point, it seems irrelevant whether the bombing of the Golden-dome Mosque was the work of Sunni extremists or the US intelligence agencies. After all, propaganda may be useful for shaping public opinion but it cannot win wars. And that is the dilemma that Bush now faces.

It has been exactly one year since the Askirya Mosque was flattened. Most Americans now believe that we are mired in an "unwinnable" war. Public support is eroding, the violence is escalating, the administration is drifting sideways, and the end is nowhere in sight. The inability of the administration to think politically or change course has thrust America to the brink of its worst defeat in history.

-Mike Whitney is a Washington State-based writer and a regular contributor to PalestineChronicle.com.

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
Our Vision For Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders & Intellectuals Speak Out