By Nicola Nasser*
International, regional and internal players vying for interests, wealth, power or influence are all beneficiaries of the "al-Qaeda threat" in Iraq and in spite of their deadly and bloody competitions they agree only on two denominators, namely that the presence of the U.S.-installed and Iran--supported sectarian government in Baghdad and its sectarian al-Qaeda antithesis are the necessary casus belli for their proxy wars, which are tearing apart the social fabric of the Iraqi society, disintegrating the national unity of Iraq and bleeding its population to the last Iraqi.
The Iraqi people seem a passive player, paying in their blood for all this Machiavellian dirty politics. The war which the U.S. unleashed by its invasion of Iraq in 2003 undoubtedly continues and the bleeding of the Iraqi people continues as well.
According to the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq, 34452 Iraqis were killed since 2008 and more than ten thousand were killed in 2013 during which suicide bombings more than tripled according to the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk's recent testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The AFP reported that more than one thousand Iraqis were killed in last January. The UN refugee agency UNHCR, citing Iraqi government figures, says that more than 140,000 Iraqis have already been displaced from Iraq's western province of Anbar.
Both the United States and Russia are now supplying Iraq with multi--billion arms sales to empower the sectarian government in Baghdad to defeat the sectarian "al-Qaeda threat." They see a casus belli in al--Qaeda to regain a lost ground in Iraq, the first to rebalance its influence against Iran in a country where it had paid a heavy price in human souls and taxpayer money only for Iran to reap the exploits of its invasion of 2003 while the second could not close an opened Iraqi window of opportunity to re-enter the country as an exporter of arms who used to be the major supplier of weaponry to the Iraqi military before the U.S. invasion.
Regionally, Iraq's ambassador to Iran Muhammad Majid al-Sheikh announced earlier this month that Baghdad has signed an agreement with Tehran "to purchase weapons and military equipment;" Iraqi Defense Minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen defense and security agreements with Iran last September.
Meanwhile Syria, which is totally preoccupied with fighting a three --year old wide spread terrorist insurgency within its borders, could not but coordinate defense with the Iraq military against the common enemy of the "al-Qaeda threat" in both countries.
Counterbalancing politically and militarily, Turkey and the GCC countries led by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, in their anti-Iran proxy wars in Iraq and Syria, are pouring billions of petrodollars to empower a sectarian counterbalance by money, arms and political support, which end up empowering al--Qaeda indirectly or its sectarian allies directly, thus perpetuating the war and fueling the sectarian strife in Iraq, as a part of an unabated effort to contain Iran's expanding regional sphere of influence.
Ironically, the Turkish member of the U.S.--led NATO as well as the GCC Arab NATO non--member "partners" seem to stand on the opposite side with their U.S. strategic ally in the Iraqi war in this tragic drama of Machiavellian dirty politics.
Internally, the three major partners in the "political process" are no less Machiavellian in their exploiting of the al-Qaeda card. The self--ruled northern Iraqi Kurdistan region, which counts down for the right timing for secession, could not be but happy with the preoccupation of the central government in Baghdad with the "al--Qaeda threat." Pro-Iran Shiite sectarian parties and militias use this threat to strengthen their sectarian bond and justify their loyalty to Iran as their protector. Their Sunni sectarian rivals are using the threat to promote themselves as the "alternative" to al-Qaeda in representing the Sunnis and to justify their seeking financial, political and paramilitary support from the U.S., GCC and Turkey, allegedly to counter the pro-Iran sectarian government in Baghdad as well as the expanding Iranian influence in Iraq and the region.
Exploiting his partners' inter-fighting, Iraqi two--term Prime Minister Nouri (or Jawad) Al-Maliki, has maneuvered to win a constitutional interpretation allowing him to run for a third term and, to reinforce his one-man show of governance, he was in Washington D.C. last November, then in Tehran the next December, seeking military "help" against the "al-Qaeda threat" and he got it.
U.S. Continues War by Proxy
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has pledged to support al-Maliki's military offensive against al--Qaeda and its offshoot the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) .
24 Apache helicopter with rockets and other equipment connected to them, 175 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, ScanEagle and Raven reconnaissance drones have either already been delivered or pending delivery, among a $4.7 billion worth of military equipment, including F-16 fighters. James Jeffrey reported in Foreign Policy last Monday that President Barak Obama's administration is "increasing intelligence and operational cooperation with the Iraqi government." The French Le Figaro reported early this week that "hundreds" of U.S. security personnel will return to Iraq to train Iraqis on using these weapons to confirm what the Pentagon spokesman, Army Col. Steve Warren, did not rule out on last January 17 when he said that "we are in continuing discussions about how we can improve the Iraqi military."
Kerry ruled out sending "American boots" on the Iraqi ground; obviously he meant "Pentagon boots," but not the Pentagon--contracted boots.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) online on this February 3 reported that the "U.S. military support there relies increasingly on the presence of contractors." It described this strategy as "the strategic deployment of defense contractors in Iraq." Citing State Department and Pentagon figures, the WSJ reported, "As of January 2013, the U.S. had more than 12,500 contractors in Iraq," including some 5,000 contractors supporting the American diplomatic mission in Iraq, the largest in the world.