Iraq delivers 3 tons of seized archive to Kuwait

By Amer al-Hassani

BAGHDAD (AA) – Iraq handed over to Kuwait three tons of its radio and television archives seized during the Iraqi military invasion to Kuwait nearly 28 years ago, Baghdad announced on Wednesday.

"The archives were delivered in compliance with the UN Security Council resolutions, the latest of which called Iraq to hand over these archives to Kuwait," according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

The statement read that roughly 28 boxes of archive — weighing about three tons — were delivered.

"This comes in accordance of Iraq's commitment to the principles of good-neighborliness with the State of Kuwait as well as implementation of the Security Council resolutions," the statement quoted the Foreign Ministry's Undersecretary Hazim al-Yusufi as saying.

Saddam Hussein's regime seized such archives during his invasion of Kuwait in 1990, where Iraqi forces stayed for months before they were forced to leave under an international military campaign known as the "First Gulf War", which caused total rupture of relations between the two countries.

Baghdad and Kuwait resumed their relations in 2003 following the overthrow of the former Iraqi regime as a result of the U.S. occupation to the country.

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CORRECTS – Iraq summons Algerian envoy over pro-Saddam chants

*CORRECTS LAST PARAGRAPH

By Ibrahim Saleh

BAGHDAD (AA) – Iraq has summoned the Algerian ambassador over chants in support of former dictator Saddam Hussein by Algerian football fans.

On Sunday, Iraq’s Air Force team withdrew mid-match against USM Alger in the return leg of the Arab Champions League in protest of pro-Saddam chants by Algerian fans.

The Algerian team was leading 2-0 when the Iraqi team withdrew.

In a statement, the ministry condemned the behavior of some Algerian fans during the game, saying the envoy was summoned “to convey Iraq’s rejection ad resentment to the Algerian government”.

It called for shying away “from anything that irritates our dear people and beautify the ugly face of the former dictatorial Saddam regime”.

Saddam was toppled by the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Iraq summons Algerian envoy over pro-Saddam chants

By Ibrahim Saleh

BAGHDAD (AA) – Iraq has summoned the Algerian ambassador over chants in support of former dictator Saddam Hussein by Algerian football fans.

On Sunday, Iraq’s Air Force team withdrew mid-match against USM Alger in the return leg of the Arab Champions League in protest of pro-Saddam chants by Algerian fans.

The Algerian team was leading 2-0 when the Iraqi team withdrew.

In a statement, the ministry condemned the behavior of some Algerian fans during the game, saying the envoy was summoned “to convey Iraq’s rejection ad resentment to the Algerian government”.

It called for shying away “from anything that irritates our dear people and beautify the ugly face of the former dictatorial Saddam regime”.

Saddam was toppled by the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2011.

Iraqi MP urges amnesty for Saddam-era defense minister

By Ibrahim Saleh

BAGHDAD (AA) – Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jubouri on Thursday called for a “special amnesty” for Sultan Hashim, who served as defense minister under former President Saddam Hussein, with a view to promoting “national reconciliation”.

Speaking at a press conference in Baghdad, al-Jubouri said that prominent personalities and tribal leaders from Mosul and other parts of Iraq had requested a “special amnesty” for Hashim, who remains in prison despite a deteriorating health condition.

Al-Jubouri promised to raise the issue with the president, prime minister and judicial officials.

According to the parliamentary speaker, an amnesty for Hashim would “help create a positive atmosphere in the run-up to [May 12 parliamentary] polls that will set the stage for our country’s future”.

Hashim had served as defense minister when Hussein’s government was overthrown in 2003 on the back of the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.

He turned himself in shortly afterward but was sentenced to death in 2007 — although the sentence was never carried out — after being convicted of committing “genocide” against Iraq’s Kurds.

Since 2003, many of the Iraqi officials who had served under Saddam Hussein have been executed, although a number of others remain behind bars.

15 years after Iraq invasion, Saddam regime in disarray

By Naza Mohamed and Ali Mohamed

BAGHDAD (AA) – On March 19, 2003, U.S.-led forces invaded oil-rich Iraq to topple the Saddam Hussein regime on claims of links to al-Qaeda terrorist group and possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Washington based its rationale for the invasion, which was a response to the 9/11 attacks, that it wanted to prevent Saddam from producing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

One month after the invasion, the U.S. drew up a list of most-wanted Iraqis, consisting of the 55 members of the deposed Iraqi regime whom they most wanted to capture.

The Coalition Provincial Authority also disbanded Saddam’s Ba’ath Party, banning all members of the top four tiers of the party from government posts, causing thousands to lose their jobs.

Most top regime officials were either captured or killed following the invasion, including Saddam, his two sons, Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan and presidential adviser Ali Hassan al-Majid (“Chemical Ali”).

Others died in prison as Vice-President Taha Muhie-eldin Marouf, Prime Minister Mohammed Hamza Al Zubeidi, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and Deputy Premier Hikmat Mizbah al-Azzawi.

Some other former regime officials are still languishing in prison, including former defense minister Sultan Hashim al-Tai and former deputy chief of tribal affairs and husband of Saddam’s daughter Jamal Mustafa al-Tikriti.

Other former officials were released by U.S. forces, including party members and biologist Huda Saleh Mahdi, presidential scientific adviser Amir Hamudi al-Saadi and Minister of Higher Education Humam Abd al-Khaliq Abd al-Ghafur.

-At large

A few former officials, however, remain at large, including Saddam’s former deputy Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri and director of the Iraqi Intelligence Service Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti.

Al-Douri was said to have formed a tribal force with a view to retaking power in Iraq, but most of his loyalists were believed to have either been killed by Iraqi forces or Daesh militants.

Al-Douri’s fate and whereabouts remain unknown.

Some of Saddam’s aides and relatives have also fled the country to seek refuge abroad, including his wife and daughters.

“Many former regime officials have managed to flee Iraq to Syria, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and other countries,” Sobhi Nazem, a military expert, said. “Some others chose to seek refuge in the West.”

After the U.S. invasion, some members of the now-defunct Baath party sought to regroup, particularly in Sunni-majority provinces, where anger against the Shia majority was growing.

Among those members were former party members Seif al-Din al-Mashhadani and Fadil Mahmoud Gharib.

“The two had fled Iraq following the invasion, but returned again when Mosul fell to Daesh group,” Ibrahim al-Sumaidaie, a security and political researcher, told Anadolu Agency.

“They thought that a Sunni uprising was in the making, and they were dragged by Daesh to lead the uprising but were executed by the terrorist group along with 21 former army officers,” he said.

In 2014, Daesh overran vast swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq, but much of the territory were recaptured by Iraqi forces in late 2017.

Some Saddam-era army officers, however, managed to be reinstalled to their jobs in post-invasion Iraq.

“Many military officers managed to get close to political blocs in order to be reinstalled to their jobs in the army and security agencies,” Nazem said.

“They are now occupying high-level positions,” he said, without elaborating.

ANALYSIS – Can GCC survive death of international organizations?

By Hussain Abdul Hussain

– The writer is a Washington-based political analyst. He has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post and Kuwaiti daily Al Rai, among others.

WASHINGTON (AA) – The decade that followed the conclusion of World War II saw the mushrooming of all kinds of international and regional organizations, including the UN, NATO, the Warsaw Pact, and the Arab League.

Anecdotes from the Arab League leave little to be desired. It is said that in one of its meetings, late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein became so angry that he threw an ashtray at his Syrian counterpart, the late Hafez Assad. In more recent episodes, Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi accused Saudis of selling out to America, prompting a harsh rebuke from then Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz. A similar heated exchange, which included cursing of mustaches, took place between former Iraqi Vice President Izzat Douri and a Kuwaiti delegation.

Like other big organizations, the Arab League showed an inability to lead or resolve differences. The failure prompted smaller countries, who usually benefit from world order and international bodies, to work for the creation of smaller regional ones.

Hence in 1981, and under pressure from revolutionary Iran, Kuwait initiated the creation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), bringing together six of the seven Arab states that border the Persian Gulf. Iraq was deemed not to be a Gulf state, on the grounds that the country shared only a tiny sliver of gulf shore. But geography was not the only reason to keep Iraq out. Baghdad was engaged in a bitter war with Iran, and Gulf countries probably feared that inviting Iraq would invite Iranian wrath.

Since 1981, the GCC has worked in a relatively smooth manner, especially when compared to the dysfunctional Arab League. Saudi Arabia, the biggest and most populous of the Gulf states, dominated the council, whose annual meetings are held, by rotation, in one of the member states.

Oman, the closest to Iran in the Gulf, often checked Saudi dominance and hindered attempts at further unity within the GCC, the most recent of which was in Kuwait in 2013, when Saudi Arabia lobbied for the creation of a joint military command, to be headquartered in Riyadh, along with full market integration and a common currency.

Fearing Saudi hegemony, and perhaps with Iranian instigation, Oman torpedoed the plan for a joint military command. The GCC thus maintained its status as a council of neighboring countries.

But Iran wished to further weaken the GCC, first and foremost its archrival Saudi Arabia. To that effect, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif penned several articles in Western newspapers in which he called for the establishment of a “Greater Persian Gulf” organization, with Iran and Yemen being members of the new regional configuration.

Iran’s ability to check Saudi power within the GCC forced Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. to try to use the council for other purposes. Since the mid-1990s, Riyadh and Qatar had been locked in a bitter rivalry. The Saudis did not support Qatari succession of power, a position that ensured the continuity of antagonism between the two sides. As rivalry grew between them, Qatar inched closer toward the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that the Saudis have been fighting since the 1920s and that Riyadh perceives of as an existential threat to the very foundation of its system, based on tribal allegiance rather than the “consultation” that the Islamists call for.

Saudi-Qatari rivalry came to a head in 2014 when Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Bahrain severed ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting Islamist groups, which the three Gulf allies call “terrorist” groups. Saudi Arabia and its allies, on one hand, and Qatar, on the other, were clearly in disagreement over the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

Kuwait, the founder of GCC, sprang into action. Through shuttle diplomacy, the Kuwaitis managed to bridge the gap and bring the GCC back together.

But other than sharing cultural heritage, GCC members had little to agree on. Decision-making in the council was by consensus, rather than by voting, which further complicated conflict resolution.

The 2014 reconciliation gave the GCC a new lease on life, though a short one. By summer 2017, it was clear that the policies of Qatar and Saudi Arabia could not be reconciled. Abu Dhabi, too, was now locked in a race with Doha over regional and international influence.

Kuwait, serving as the glue that kept the council together, sprang to action again to bridge the gap and reconcile Qatar with its detractors. This time reconciliation proved much harder. Not only Qatar was unwilling to go back to the eve before the crisis broke out, this time Qataris demanded that differences between Gulf states should be resolved either bilaterally, or within the GCC. Doha argued that if every time there are problems it has to hear about its rivals imposing their boycott from the news, rather than through diplomatic or GCC channels, then there was no reason why the GCC should live on.

Despite the hardships, Kuwait has persisted with its mediation. Without the GCC, the region will be fragmented into alliances and sunk into more bitter rivalries. Kuwaiti officials have said that they will continue with their attempts to rescue the GCC, because there is no alternative to the council. Should the contending parties refuse to reconcile, the GCC might simply die.

In 2000, the election of George W. Bush marked the early beginnings of a sustained American attack against the UN. Since then, Congress has often defunded whatever UN organizations that have recognized the State of Palestine. The rise of Donald Trump saw stronger attacks on international and regional organizations, with NATO being the favorite target of Trump’s misinformed criticism. In Britain, a majority voted to break away from the EU.

As post-WWII order breaks apart and comes under attack, and as international organizations prove inadequate in performing their basic tasks, such as stopping massacres in Syria, there is no reason to believe that the GCC can survive while similar configurations become too weak and irrelevant or break up and dissolve.

It remains to be seen whether the Kuwaitis can pull one more rabbit out of their hat and keep the GCC together, at least to give the impression that the council, which never realized its goal of Gulf unity, can still function as an annual get-together for Gulf leaders.

OPINION – When will Daesh 2.0 emerge?

By Hussain Abdul-Hussain

– The writer is a Washington-based political analyst. He has written for the New York Times, The Washington Post and Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai, among others.

WASHINGTON (AA) – Top U.S. general in Iraq Stephen Townsend has a tip for Baghdad. “If we’re to keep ISIS [Daesh] 2.0 from emerging, the Iraqi government is going to have to do something pretty significantly different,” he told the BBC [1]. Townsend said the Iraqi government has “to reach out and reconcile with the Sunni population, and make them feel like their government in Baghdad represents them”.

But what seems like an American advice to Baghdad is in fact a denunciation of past government policies toward the country’s Sunnis. If reaching out and reconciling with Sunnis is required to prevent the reemergence of terrorism, then one cannot but conclude that it was the Shia government’s anti-Sunni policies that resulted in the creation of Daesh 1.0 in the first place.

In Washington, it has been long understood that the attitude of Iraqi Shia toward their Sunni compatriots has been at the heart of the rise of terrorism. America, however, was slow to realize that — during the early stages of its war in Iraq — it unwittingly helped tip the balance in favor of the Shia.

Civil wars are slow to heal. The beginning of the healing process, however, is incumbent on the turning of a new page and resetting of relations between the warring factions. In religiously and ethnically diverse Iraq, America copied a political system from the similarly diverse Lebanon. The only Lebanese experience that America did not replicate in post-Saddam Iraq was the “general pardon”, which the Lebanese government issued in 1991, toward the end of the country’s 15-year civil war. Pardons allow bygones to be bygones, and bring vendettas and revenge to a close.

In Iraq, however, instead of turning a new page, America played into the Shia-Sunni conflict by approving a series of steps that put Iraqi Sunnis on the back foot facing an Iranian-inspired Shia assault. Starting with de-Baathification, and ending with the disbanding of the American-formed Sunni tribal militias known as Sahwat, Washington effectively let the Shias go after the Sunnis. And because every action begets a reaction, and because the Sunnis had nowhere to run, many Sunnis started joining groups like al-Qaeda, thus resulting in a resurgence of the terrorist group, which had been annihilated by the time America withdrew from Iraq in late 2011.

The history of the Iraq war has yet to be written. For the time being, the most common narrative has it that America invaded the country in 2003 and unleashed a bloody conflict that continues until today. What actually happened was somehow different.

America’s surge of troops, together with arming Sunni tribal fighters, succeeded in bringing down the number of deaths among Iraqi civilians from a peak of 13,613 in 2007, to 3,036 in 2011, before the number snapped back to 9,851 in 2013, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) [2], a Washington think tank.

Contrary to the common belief, the U.S. withdrawal in December 2011 was not the determining factor in the deterioration of Iraqi security. It was rather the decision of the Obama administration to treat the Shia Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki as a sovereign counterpart, which meant that America let go of its Sunni allies.

Maliki, who used Iraqi oil proceeds to build an Iraqi Shia movement, feared that pro-Iran Iraqi Shias might outflank him on the right. Iran had given the nod to its Syrian ally Bashar Assad to allow suicide bombers into neighboring Iraq, thus killing hundreds of Iraqis and shattering Maliki’s image as the man who had restored stability.

To make up for his political losses, and to brandish his credentials as a strong Shia leader, Maliki cracked down on Iraqi Sunnis, both those in government and the tribal forces that America had left behind. The day after the U.S. withdrawal, Maliki sent tanks to surround the residence of Vice President Tareq al-Hashimi, a Sunni, on charges of terrorism. Maliki also dissolved the Sunni force, Sahwat, and chased down its leaders, often on bogus charges of terrorism.

Because al-Qaeda — the force that could have countered Maliki’s uncontrollable power — had been ejected, Iraqi Sunnis found themselves on the run with nowhere to hide. Many former Saddam regime cadres thus reorganized themselves into violent groups, but replaced their secular Baathist outlook with one of “radical Islamism”, an image that is more marketable today for foreign fighters and donors.

With former Baathists taking over Iraqi al-Qaeda, Daesh broke ranks with al-Qaeda International. In Syria, Daesh engaged in bloody wars against al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front. Also in Syria, Iraqi Baathists, now Daesh leaders, maintained good ties with Assad’s intelligence networks, a fact that might explain the non-hostile relationship between Assad and Daesh, and their mutual interest in producing oil and gas — in Daesh territory — and selling it to the Assad regime.

While most of the world treated Daesh as an extension of al-Qaeda, only Shia Iraqis seemed to be aware that, in essence, “radical Islamism” was only a veneer for an otherwise Baathist organization the world knows as Daesh. In almost all the statements and speeches by Iraqi officials, as well as in the conversations of common Iraqis, Daesh members were called the “Baathist Dawaish” (the Arabic plural of the singular Daesh). The way Daesh governed territory it controlled further confirmed that the group was more inspired by Saddam than al-Qaeda.

Like Saddam, Daesh banned travel for people living under its control, prohibited satellite dishes, and cut the hands of anyone found using foreign currency instead of the state’s presumed Islamic dinar. And like Saddam, the brutal Daesh had no friends as the group went after everything and everyone, accusing the world of conspiring against the nation, the Arab nation in the case of Saddam and the Islamic nation with Daesh.

Finally, and also like Saddam, Daesh invited the wrath of an international coalition that launched a devastating air campaign against its territory. Daesh fighters, however, showed more prowess in fighting the advancing forces of the Iraqi government and militias, as opposed to Saddam’s fighters, who often ran away at the first whiff of battle.

The architects of the American plan to stabilize Iraq in 2010 and 2011 were called upon after the Iraqi military meltdown and the Daesh takeover of Mosul in June 2014. Former Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, who had sneaked into Obama’s limousine to convince him of the importance of American intervention to stop a possible downfall of Baghdad to Daesh, told Congress — in a hearing [3] — that the cornerstone of his plan to roll back Daesh was to reconnect with Iraqi Sunni tribes. If that fails, he said, America would go back to the drawing board.

Under Iranian pressure, the Iraqi government never let America reconnect with the Sunni tribes or arm them. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Abadi, closer to Tehran than his predecessor, insisted that whatever support Washington had to offer to Iraqi Sunnis had to go through his government. With Obama courting Iran for a nuclear deal, Washington let go of Iraqi Sunnis, as pro-Iran Shia militias ravaged Sunni towns and villages, often committing atrocities against civilians and even shooting at the rubble of Saddam’s mausoleum [4] in Tikrit, suggesting that the Iraqi war on Daesh was more of a Shia settling of scores with Sunnis rather than combating terrorism.

After the downfall of Saddam, Iran and Iraqi Shias went after the Iraq’s Sunnis in revenge, perpetuating an old and vicious cycle of violence. The most recent round of this Shia-Sunni vendetta in Iraq was the Shia retaking of Daesh territory. But if history teaches us anything, it is that revenge never heals old wounds, only deepens them and paves the way for further rounds of violence in the future. That’s why Townsend invited Iraqi Shias to act differently toward the Sunnis. Whether the Shias are heeding his advice is an open question.

* Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.

[1] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-40564159

[2] https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/legacy_files/files/publication/121024_Iraq_Violence.pdf

[3] https://www.c-span.org/video/?321417-1/secretary-hagel-general-dempsey-isis-threat

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ny88_J_RY-g

Iraq invaded before peace options exhausted: UK inquiry

LONDON (AA) – Britain took part in the 2003 Iraq war on the basis of flawed intelligence and before peaceful options for disarming Saddam Hussein’s regime had been exhausted, a long-awaited inquiry has ruled.

The inquiry by John Chilcot, a retired judge, said Britain’s intervention had gone “badly wrong” and the U.K. government had failed to achieve the objects it had set for itself.

Announcing the results of his seven-year inquiry in central London on Wednesday morning, Chilcot said he was not expressing a view on whether military action in Iraq was legal.

But he added: “We have however concluded that the circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for military action were far from satisfactory.”