There is a war on Iraq, really a continuation of the war on Iraq that began in 1991 and renewed in 2003, despite the version of events fed the public. Iraq had oil, had power and if Saddam were removed, would be ruled by a Shia majority quite possibly loyal to Iran, a nation that in 1979, had overthrown a US backed dictatorship.
The wildcard here is the Kurds and the other, Israel. As has become clear under Trump, Israeli influence, all those stories about the ADL and AIPAC, the Epstein-Maxwell blackmail rings, the MEGA billionaires, are only the tip of the iceberg.
This will not be a story of Israeli influence in Washington or of changing goals as the Cold War ended and American became ripe for radicalization. The real backstory here is Iraq and the key player, the hidden history of Iraq’s Kurds. I had the pleasure of serving in Iraq from 2005 to 2007, representing the Economic and Social Council of the UN. One cannot serve with the Kurds without loving the Kurds and the people of Iraq.
Then again, as we look at today’s landscape, we see the Kurds being tossed into the fray again, perhaps as fodder in a broader conflict, one even broader than that the public sees, the war between Israel and Iran where even the US is a proxy. We begin.
On August 23, 2019, Nouri al Malaki issued a warning to Israel. Israel had attacked Iraq on August 19, four days earlier and the stories about this attack had been circling the globe, their implications far beyond the wildest imaginings of pundits and advisors. Let me explain.
Here are the stories, and there are so many:
- Israel bombed Shiite militias affiliated with Iran to an extent anyway, using American built F35 aircraft but doing so using American call signs and transponders, communicating with Iraqi air defenses as though they were American pilots on a mission authorized by Baghdad.
- In response, the Baghdad government grounded all American air operations over Iraq, a murderous loss of credibility for the American military one reminiscent of the Israeli downing of a Russian military aircraft by hiding behind a civilian airliner.
- A key Israeli defense official then leaked that Israel had launched the attack from within Iraq, at an air base they maintain in partnership with the Kurdish Regional Government in Erbil.
OK, let’s look at just these things right now. First of all, Iraq is a majority Shiite nation with extremely close religious relationships with Iran and, in the Middle East, such relationships are of immense importance.
Then we have Erbil and the KRG government there, one that has always been close to the US and subject to Israeli influence. It isn’t a coincidence that ISIS chose Mosul as its capitol as Mosul is also the announced capitol of “Greater Israel,” and a center of Israeli influence in Iraq since the fall of Saddam, publicly, but for decades before as well.
Additionally, Israel, as a nation whose underlying politics are and have been largely Bolshevik, something seldom publicly spoken of, helped found the Kurdish PKK with precursors in Turkey, Iraq and Iran well into the 1960s. The Kurds have always been a “wild card” against Israel’s potential enemies, a stateless people with a history of being used and discarded. From the UK Telegraph:
“Since becoming part of Iraq in the settlement after the First World War, the Kurds have suffered a turbulent history. It is worth remembering that the Treaty of Sèvres, backed by the UK, had originally promised a Kurdish state that would have mirrored the boundaries of the present-day state envisaged by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Such hopes were dashed, however, by the Treaty of Lausanne, which did away with this promise and brought the incorporation of the three Kurdish provinces into a centralised Kingdom of Iraq. In this regard, I have always felt that Britain in particular has owed a debt to the Kurdish people, especially when considering its role in shaping the borders of the modern Middle East as part of the Sykes-Picot agreement.”
Saddam’s retribution against the Kurds came in two phases, the first in 1988 as the Kurds sided with Iran in the Iraq-Iran War. Do note that the tepid response by the West to this first slaughter was largely due to the fact that Saddam was acting as an American proxy, gassing Kurds with weapons supplied by the US and Germany, through American companies that investigations have tied directly to the brother of then American President George Herbert Walker Bush. From the Pak Tribune:
“On March 16, 1988, as many as 5,000 Iraqi Kurds, mostly women and children, were killed when deadly gas was released on the northern town of Halabja by Saddam Hussein’s forces.
AFP remembers the massacre, believed to have been the worst-ever gas attack targeting civilians. In the final months of the eight-year Iraq-Iran war, ethnic Kurdish fighters who sided with Iran capture the large farming town of Halabja in Iraq on March 15.
Home to more than 40,000 people, the town is in the Kurdistan region and just 11 kilometres (seven miles) from the Iran border, while 250 kilometres from the Iraqi capital.
Saddam’s army retaliates with artillery and air strikes. The Kurdish fighters and most of the town’s men withdraw to surrounding hills, leaving behind the children, women and elderly.
The following day, Iraqi fighter planes circle above the area for five hours, releasing a mixture of toxic gases.
The slaughter is quickly revealed: the fighters who come down from the hills give the alert and foreign journalists are soon on the scene. By March 23, the first images are broadcast on Iranian television.
Corpses scatter the streets with no obvious sign of injury, although witnesses say later some had blood around their noses.”
We then reach 1991. The US had called on all groups opposing Saddam to rise against his rule, backed by guarantees by the United States. The two areas that broke from Iraq as the US crushed the Iraqi Army and Revolutionary Guard were the Shia in the South and the Kurds in the North. As in 1988, the Kurds were to suffer from broken promises. From National Interest:
“On March 3, 1991, commander of UN coalition forces, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, met with Hussein’s generals at the Safwan Airfield in Iraq to discuss the terms of the ceasefire, focusing on the lines of demarcation between opposing forces, the mechanisms for exchanging prisoners of war, and an order by Schwarzkopf that Iraq not fly fixed-wing aircraft. During the discussion, an Iraqi general asked Schwarzkopf for permission to fly helicopters, including armed gunships, to transport government officials over the country’s destroyed roads and bridges. Believing it a legitimate request, and acting without Pentagon or White House instructions, Schwarzkopf replied, “I will instruct the Air Force not to shoot at any helicopters flying over the territory of Iraq where our troops are not located.” The memoir, coauthored by Bush and his national security advisor, Brent Scowcroft, succinctly summarized what happened next: “Saddam almost immediately began using the helicopters as gunships to put down the uprisings.”
The Iraq Air Force fixed-wing aircraft, however, were never employed to defeat the Kurd or Shia uprisings, as U.S. military officials refused to allow the planes to even be “repositioned” within the country because they might attack coalition forces. On one of the few occasions that an Iraqi aircraft violated Schwarzkopf’s edict—a SU-22 Fitter flying out of Kirkuk to avoid the Kurds, not attack them—it was shot down by an American F-15C. The U.S. military’s demonstrated readiness to shoot down violators of this as-yet-undefined “no-fly zone,” and the general unwillingness of the Iraqis to test Schwarzkopf’s order, suggests that a similar pronouncement may have deterred Iraq from using helicopters as a counterinsurgency tool. While patrolling southern Iraq, U.S. F-15s watched Iraqi helicopters attack Shia insurgents; using the fighter aircraft to down the helicopters would have been a simple and straightforward mission.
In the end, Saddam Hussein’s regime, using only helicopters, long-range artillery, and armored ground forces, brutally counterattacked the uprising, killing 30,000-60,000 Shias in the south, and some 20,000 Kurds in the north. Though the United States had enormous military capabilities in the Persian Gulf, the Bush administration provided no assistance to the uprisings, fearing, variously, the “Lebanonization of Iraq,” Iranian-backed Shias assuming power in Baghdad and more U.S. soldiers dying in “another Vietnam,” as then-Secretary of State James Baker described it. The Bush administration also actively restrained the uprisings by refusing to provide captured Iraqi weapons or munitions stockpiles to the insurgents, but rather chose to destroy them, return them to the Iraqis, or transfer them to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. By early April 1991, Hussein’s regime had completely crushed both Shia and Kurdish resistances. By mid-April, American, British, and French planes began enforcing a comprehensive no-fly-zone above the 36th parallel in northern Iraq, which they would sustain for the next dozen years.”
The Oil Factor
Iran recently announced plans for a gas and oil pipeline system from Iran’s fields, through Iraq and Syria, perhaps entering Lebanon but ending at the refineries on the Mediterranean inside Syria.
If that pipeline system jetties into the Mediterranean, as does the Baku-Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline that it parallels, the world will change in ways unseen.
Baku, in Azerbaijan, is a major source of oil for Western markets. Iran also has Caspian oil fields that it shares with its close neighbor, Azerbaijan. This is worth noting. The primary regional pipeline skirts the Iran border, enters Turkey but then is joined by an Iraqi pipeline from the South that serves the Kirkuk Oil Field, the largest single oil field in the world supply light-sweet crude.
That oil field is in an area the Kurds see as their traditional capitol, an area Saddam excluded them from, inserting instead his backers, members of his own Sunni tribal group, in place of local residence, thus ethnically cleansing the area of Kurds.
At one point I did an assessment of oil fields there, valuing them based on reserves, quality of output and serviceability. There is a complex formula for distribution of oil revenue there, not only between the KRG in Erbil and Bagdad but Sunni and Shia tribal militias as well. The conferences related to asset distribution were at times heated and challenging.
Here is how things might change. First of all, we look at sanctions. With Iraq and Iran’s oil output potentially blended, sanctioning an entire region of the world would inevitably end in conflict, certainly closing the Persian Gulf.
It would also end the oil flow from Azerbaijan whose pipeline through Turkey exists under the thumb of the Iranian military, a fact long hidden.
We then look at Turkey, whose income, with its Israeli partners, another secret, from revenue based on pipeline transit fees and port fees at Ceyhan are vital. Not only is this a major source of revenue for Turkey but key families that hold together Turkey’s fragile political balance have long privately profited from these pipelines, families long close to the CIA and British intelligence and key oil companies, mainly British Petroleum and Exxon.
Do note that the 1953 overthrow of Iran was driven by a request from British Petroleum for a government more amenable to corruption. Thus, the US supplied terror bombings, assassinations, regime change and a 40-year terror rule under the Shah.
Entering other forgotten or rather censored arenas, one might also add that the Baku-Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline has had other historical issues as well. Starting in 2003 with the control of SOMA Oil, the Iraqi national oil company, being turned over to Bush officials, oil flowing out of Iraq through the Kirkuk fields in the North and Baku fields in the South and Persian Gulf, a form of informal taxation began to be enforced.
The deal was this, only 40% of oil was ever paid for. The rest was stolen with payoffs to key American officials, members of Turkey’s military and intelligence services and the American appointed “patsy” Sunni families that, in 2014, backed ISIS.
Their financial ties, after 1991, had moved to Dubai and Saudi Arabia and, as we now see with the changed relationships in the area, Israel as well. Thus, the Sunni-Shia balance that held Iraq together, one that left the Kurds, often as not, “odd man out,” disintegrated leading to the creation of the Islamic State.
In January 2014, I met with regional officials in Baghdad, as head of a delegation of regional defense experts, to discuss the security implications of a plan they thought would offset Iranian influence. I told them their methodologies were unsound.
Within a few short months, most of those I met with had been beheaded by ISIS.
Returning to the issue at hand, oil and gas transit, one must also note that other initiatives, the Nord Stream by Russia, the Russia-Turkish southern gas corridor and the pipelines in various levels of execution servicing Pakistan, India and China, rewrite the traditional playbook of “big oil” and the arms industry that has dominated the new game afield, fake color revolutions driven by “big data” and AI firms, as was almost exposed during the American investigation of alleged “Russian” influence.
Behind this, of course, is the Silk Road overlay that would eliminate the resurgence of neo-colonialism driven by traditional hydrocarbon markets and easily manipulated regional rivalries.
Who do we blame? Trump? Israel? Colonial Britain? A beginning is by telling the truth, getting history “out there,” as Agent Mulder might well say and let it do its work.
Gordon Duff is a Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War that has worked on veterans and POW issues for decades and consulted with governments challenged by security issues. He’s a senior editor and chairman of the board of Veterans Today, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”