So, You Think you Know Iraq?

By Hussein Al-alak

After a near decade long occupation of Iraq, you would have thought that some people, within British political circles, would have learned something about the country, which they sent troops in to occupy back in 2003.

You could also be mistaken to think, that Britain played no part in a decade long No Fly Zone, which was established over Iraq after the First Gulf War, or that Britain had no role in either imposing or maintaining the UN Sanctions, which devastated Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait.

Such is the absence of quality in the current debate on Iraq, that absent is the presence of British observers in the first elections, to nominate a Government for the Kurdish Autonomous Region, after the 1991 failed US/UK backed uprising to remove Saddam Hussain from power.

The clear absence of such minor details, which any self respecting sociologist or politician would describe as vital, to the “cause and affect” of the current situation, has now resulted in a political narrative, which has excluded the internal and external Iraqi community.

When the Scott Report published the details of Britain’s Arms to Iraq scandal, at no point did the investigation mention either the ethnicity or religious leanings of either Saddam Hussain or the Revolutionary Command Council, or claim the war waged between Iraq and Iran was a consequence of the Sykes-Picot Agreement.

Ironically, it was Anne Clwyd MP, who at the Iraq Inquiry, reminded Chilcot, that events inside of Iraq during the 1980’s, were a direct result of Cold War policies, with a chain of events, which started with the Ba’ath Party overthrow of the pro-Soviet Government of Abdul Karim Qassim in 1963. By the Ba’ath Party’s own admission, they “came to power on a CIA train”.

In 1991, when George Bush promised American backing for an uprising to force “President Saddam to step aside”, the USA eventually withdrew its military support for reasons, which included the presence of Iranian intelligence within the uprising, and its possible influence over a post Saddam Iraq.

America and the United Kingdom also recognized the regional impact, that removing Saddam would have had. In particular the removal of Saddam through a popular uprising, would have threatened the strategic positions of other regimes in the region, in particular that of Saudi Arabia.

The irony for many, is that Saddam Hussain himself recognized, that after the Gulf War, the Middle East as a region had changed politically in view of developments taking place across Europe, and stated to the Arab League, that in the Post Cold War era, Iraq and other Governments, were “vulnerable to regime change”.

In a 2013 parliamentary debate, to mark the tenth anniversary of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the now Conservative Party MP Rory Stewart, and former deputy governor of two Iraqi provinces during the conflict, declared Britain’s involvement as being the biggest Foreign Policy disaster since the Boer War, and described “how complicated countries such as Iraq are.”

“Sitting in Iraq for 18 months from the middle of 2003 to 2005, I found myself facing, in a small provincial town called al-Amara, 52 new political parties, many of them swarming across the border from Iran and many of them armed.”

“Nobody in the Foreign Office or the military, and certainly nobody in the House of Commons, would have been able to distinguish between Hizb-e-Dawa, Harakat-Dawa, Majlis Ahla – or any of the other Shi’a Islamist groups that emerged.”

Similar sentiments were recently echoed by Sir William Patey, the former British Ambassador to Iraq, who on the Voice of Russia, indicated that part of the reason for the breakdown in Iraq’s post invasion security, was due to the De-Baathification policies, which actively excluded former army, police officers, civil servants and others, who had lived under a one party state, to hold a position in a multi-party environment.

The same attempt to polarize Iraq, is now being done in Britain with the presence of ISIS, with references only to a “Sunni uprising ”versus a “Shiite Government” and Army but as Stewart stated in Parliament, “The situation is not helped by the way we talk about it in Britain today. We do not really think very much about Iraq…..Why do we not think about these things? It is because we are not very serious. At some level, this country is no longer being as serious as it should be about foreign policy.”

Well said! Serious analysis and the current level of debate in Britain seems to be as strange as MI6 warning the British Government, that the removal of Gaddafi in Libya, effectively turned the country into the “TESCO of the illegal arms trade”, with shipments of illegal weapons also making their way to the ISIS rebels in Iraq’s neighbor, Syria.

Equally estranged in the current debate, is the geography of Iraq to its neighboring countries and how for over a decade, the absence of a professional Army has allowed Iraq’s borders to be used by foreign mercenaries, for anything from kidnapping through to terror activities, which started with the emergence of the Jordanian Abu Mussab Al-Zarqawi, whose Al-Qaeda presence only entered in to Iraq, after the US/UK military failed to secure the borders upon their entry in 2003.

And as for ISIS being a “Sunni” uprising, the word alone seems to apply legitimacy to it’s aims and dubious ambitions, but with Iraq, like Syria, being predominantly Arabic speaking countries, the presence of fighters from Chechnya, Libya, France, Somalia, The United Kingdom, Pakistan, Malaysia, Turkey, Germany, Spain and America to name a few, seems to indicate that of a “Sunni” trend of Islam it maybe, but as for it being an “uprising” in the interests of Iraq, or Iraq’s people, it most certainly is not!

– Hussein Al-alak is affiliated with the Iraq Solidarity Campaign. He contributed this article to

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