The Islamic State of Saddam’s Iraq

ISIS/Daesh wasn’t created by the American invasion. It’s the logical aftermath and post regnum of Saddam’s Salafized regime

Alongside the Faith Campaign, Mr. Hussein’s regime constructed a system of cross-border smuggling networks designed to evade the sanctions. This funded a system of patronage, much of it distributed through mosques, that maintained a series of militias directly loyal to the ruler, like the Fedayeen Saddam and the Sunni tribes, as a hedge against any repeat of the 1991 Shiite revolt. These networks, which are deeply entrenched in the local populations, especially the tribes of western Iraq, are now run by the Islamic State, adding to the difficulty of uprooting the “caliphate.”

This also throws cold water on the belief that Christians were better off under Saddam. It’s true that they were marginally better off with secular Baathists in power than radical Islamists, but that was no longer the case after the Gulf War. In fact, the trouble started even before that with the tyrannical Arabization campaigns that tried to erase the Kurds from history. They also victimized all non-Arabs, including Christians. The biggest problems for Iraqi Christians after 2003 were largely the result of many trying to reclaim lost property, possessions, and dominion. The lack of legal authority and rule of law meant inflamed tensions and retaliations that culminated in the total ethnic cleansing of the past few years, but the roots of the brutality reach farther back.

The refusal of the Obama Administration to recognize or even acknowledge the plight of Christians in Syria and Iraq is now worsening the already grim situation. It’s obvious now that the official American policy is continuation of the Arabization of the region.

27 thoughts on “The Islamic State of Saddam’s Iraq”

  1. Most of our problems with terrorism are actually with Arabs. The Muslims of southeast Asia are not as radicalized as those of Arabia and Pakistan. In Kilcullen’s book, “Accidental Guerrilla,” he describes young Arabic speaking men coming into Borneo and asking about Palestinian issues that had nothing to do with the local matters.

    The Arabs are the disease carriers and now we are importing hundreds of thousands of them.

    Christians are not immune. A Coptic Christian friend of mine who is from Egypt hates Israel and Jews. I think they blame Israel for stirring up the Arab Muslims.

    Several terrorist leaders, like George Habash, were Christian. Nominal, of course.

  2. Orthodox Christians in the Middle East were always the most suspicious of Western political influence, and by extension Israel, which they considered a Western outpost. Maybe they still had an axe to grind against the Pope or maybe they lost out the most when the Ottoman Empire collapsed. Whatever the case, the remaining Christians of the region are currently rethinking their identities and allegiances. As Samuel Johnson might say, the prospect of losing your head will tend to focus the mind in that respect.

    Assyrians of Iraq and eastern Syria are a different strain, more attached to Central Asia than the ‘Near East’

    — quick joke I just read the other day by Mark Steyn: “What the media call the Middle East, the foreign ministries always used to call “the Near East” – because, in the old joke of British Arabists, it’s nearer than you think. Today it’s nearer than it’s ever been” —

    The Assyrians are all very conservative and support Israel. They’re convinced Obama is really a Muslim and out to get them. The immigrant community has tried to run candidates in local Chicago elections and were making a lot of headway until they got severely gerrymandered, critically splitting them between three congressional districts. The local Democratic Machine isn’t about to help them, here or elsewhere, let alone the Machine’s guy in Washington.

  3. “the official American policy is continuation of the Arabization of the region.” In what sense are the Christians of Iraq less Arab than the moslems?

  4. “Bush’s foreign policy was extraordinarily stupid.”

    Pretty dumb comment. First, there were two Bushes. Second, we got involved with Iran during Eisenhower’s terms. Many other examples of why you sound ignorant with this comment.

    The ISIS leaders care more about Sykes and Picot than Bush.

    “In what sense are the Christians of Iraq less Arab than the moslems?”

    As Jonathan noted, many are not Arab. Assyrians and Chaldeans are not Arabs.

  5. In the Middle East, ethnicity has always been inseparably intertwined with religion. Modern secular political movements and regimes, both in the east and west, tried to lump everyone together as certain nationalities believing religion would be cast aside just like every other relic in the steady march of progress, but it didn’t work out that way.

    Here’s something on the subject to consider – Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God? – by Nabeel Qureshi, who is an Arab that converted to Christianity and is now an Evangelical minister and theologian.

    There was a kerfuffle recently at a local Christian college when they had to suspend a professor for saying,

    “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

    She was actually completely wrong about that last part. Pope Francis never said anything like that, last week or ever. He did once say,

    “I greet and thank cordially all of you, dear friends belonging to other religious traditions; firstly the Muslims, who worship the one living and merciful God, and call upon Him in prayer. I really appreciate your presence, and in it I see a tangible sign of the wish to grow in reciprocal trust and in cooperation for the common good of humanity.”

    which was a diplomatic statement not doctrinal and falls well short of Professor Hawkins’ claim. They don’t worship the same God, which makes them a separate people. Does that really matter in the modern world? Some places a lot more than others.

  6. A very useful book to read is David Pryce-Jones, The Closed Circle, “An interpretation of the Arabs.”

    He points out that the Ottoman Empire was chaotic at the local level and was the classic Low Trust Society.

    Trust also tends to run low in the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa, although in all three regions substantial variation is seen. For instance, while nearly six-in-ten Egyptians (58%) believed most people can be trusted, only 27% of Kuwaitis took this position. Similarly, in Latin America levels of trust ran from 51% in Venezuela down to 28% in Peru. Among African nations, Malians were roughly split between those who agree (49%) that most of their fellow citizens are trustworthy and those who disagree (51%), while Kenyans, with 25% agreeing and 75% disagreeing, were much more pessimistic in this poll, which was conducted several months before the outbreak of violence that followed last December’s contested presidential election.

    This low trust gave us clans and tribes, mostly related, and the Muslims were not alone as the Serbs were a similar low trust tribal society. Read Rebecca West’s book, “Black Lamb and Grey Falcon” about the Serb society before WWII.

    As far as the “Revolt” is concerned,

    Americans — who have witnessed more than a few high profile political scandals over the last few years — were slightly more concerned about corrupt politicians than would have been expected, based on their reasonably high degree of social trust.

    From an Amazon review of Pryce-Jones book in January 2001, This book is a great book that will anger most of the arab readers. They will call it biases, bigotted & racist. However as an egyptian who lives in egypt, I believe that the author made it very clear & accurate; in a typical british style it’s sharply critical & t-the-point. What the author said was nothing new to me; I was always wondering what makes the arabs so different after all these years with contacts with other cultures & all that money that some enjoy. I came to the same conclusions that the author came two. It’s damn right! His appraoch is simple & clear, though not very scientific; and it lacks the comparative approach.

    Pryce -Jones other point is that such societies are very much “Shame-Honor” societies. Those who ignore this, like Obama, don’t understand these people.

  7. Thanks to NYT for putting it out there much however of this has been known for years. We knew at the time Saddam had reached out to the Salafists and set up networks of guerrilla warfare among them if the Shia succeeded in toppling him.

    Hating Bush was better politics at the time however.

  8. “Assyrians and Chaldeans are not Arabs.” Fair enough, but in what respects do they differ from Arabs? Do they speak Arabic? Are they tribally inclined? Do they inbreed a lot? Put otherwise, in what ways do they differ from, for instance, the Christian Arabs of Palestine, Israel or Lebanon?

  9. Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Syriacs (Arameans) speak Neo-Aramaic dialects, not Arabic.

    Christians in Lebanon and Israel speak Arabic, although there are reports of an Aramaic revival with the new ethnic designator.

    I don’t see much evidence of tribalistic tendencies among the Christian diasporas in the United States. I do know many are attached to their hometowns in their native lands, but I think that’s true of anyone.

    I get the impression that their religion gives them a natural affinity with Western civilization, even though they’re from the East, and I have a feeling this has been the case for a long time.

  10. When did Bush or Obama do anything to help the Christians?

    The last President to help Christians was Reagan in the context of the Cold War and politics behind the Iron Curtain.

    There are people in USG who under rubric of Human Rights* are trying to help Christians but have no power.

    Obama helped Yadzis but not the Orthodox. The only ones to help ME Christians are Assad and Putin. I’m loyal to America but this is simple fact. For that matter their lot was certainly better under Saddam.

  11. To Mike K. – Elaborating complex systems of delusional beliefs to justify Bush’s foreign policy decisions will not change the disastrous consequences of those decisions.

  12. “Elaborating complex systems of delusional beliefs to justify Bush’s foreign policy decisions”

    Way to make a persuasive argument, big guy.

    I think I recall a couple of useful comments from you but this is troll material. There are lots of blogs with plenty of troll comments.

  13. If I do any more traveling, I would like to visit Israel. I’ve been reading Daniel Silva’s series of novels about Gabriel Allon. I usually don’t like “thrillers” but he writes so well and has such color to the stories.

    I read his first novel and it was excellent except it got too much like a chase at the end. The Allon series is much better.

  14. Orton’s article is consistent with the casus belli for OIF – ie, Saddam’s material breach of the Gulf War ceasefire – that included violation of the ceasefire mandate to renounce terrorism in UNSCR 687 (1991) as well as the “all-pervasive repression and oppression sustained by broad-based discrimination and widespread terror” (UN Commission on Human Rights) of Saddam’s regime rule that violated UNSCR 688 (1991).

    Like the post-war findings on Iraq’s disarmament violations of UNSCR 687, Orton’s article shows that proscribed aspects of Saddam’s regime were actually worse than they were believed to be, which was already past the tipping point, at the time of the decision point for OIF.

  15. Jim,

    Actually, Orton’s article adds to the pile of evidence showing that on the facts, the decision for OIF was correct according to the relevant law and policy.

  16. Mike K. – Removing Hussein from power was a huge mistake. After that removing Gaddafi from power was another huge mistake. Trying to topple Assad has had disastrous consequences. We simply seem to continually repeat our mistakes in the Middle East although apparently Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the JCS, had sufficient sense to try to undermine Obama’s policy in Syria.

  17. Jim, I don’t necessarily disagree but you would contribute something if you would try to explain why that is so.

    After the fact, removing Saddam may have been a mistake given the American people’s lack of strategic patience. What if we had been forced off Guadalcanal in 1942 ?

    When you make these blanket statement with no support from reasoning, you sound like a troll.

    I spent considerable tie studying alternate history. It is not obvious that Bush was wrong to invade Iraq in 2003.

    I made several posts on this in the past. One is here.

    Another is here.

    Where do you disagree ?

    After the September 11, 2001, attacks, American intelligence had no means to determine which Muslim governments were in league with terrorists. Middle Eastern governments do not resemble Western nation-states so much as they do hotels at which diverse political factions can rent accommodations, including factions who provide weapons, passports, training and intelligence to the sort of men who flew planes into the World Trade Center. Elements within the governments of Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, among others, supported terrorists, besides Saddam.

    The only way to resolve the matter quickly was to make a horrible example out of one of these regimes. That got the undivided attention of the others. “Kill the chicken, and let the monkey watch,” say the Chinese.

    This is exactly why we invaded Iraq and it is tragic that the Bush people did not make a better attempt to explain this. Spengler is no latecomer to this view, as he explained at the time.

    You may not agree with Spengler here but why ?

  18. Richard Fernandez has a very pessimistic column on Islamism today.

    There was never any “Baathist coup” of former regime elements inside the Islamic State, as some analysts assume, because these men had long since abandoned Baathism. They joined Al Qaeda in Iraq early after the invasion as an act of ideological conviction, and when Al Qaeda in Iraq’s leadership was nearly destroyed in 2008-10, these officers were the last men standing precisely because of their superior counterintelligence and security skills.

    It was these Salafized former military intelligence officers — led by Samir al-Khlifawi, also known as Haji Bakr, who had joined the group in 2003 and rose to be the so-called caliph’s deputy, until he was killed in 2014 — who planned the Islamic State’s dramatic expansion into Syria.

    I have believed this for some time. These former Saddam generals are running ISIS.

    Andrew McCarthy dismisses Obama’s strategy as delusional.

    It is not just that the word terror appears several times in the Koran; it is that the word appears in a particular context: The duty of Muslims to act as Allah’s instrument to terrorize non-Muslims is a recurring scriptural theme. In Sura 3:151, to take one of several examples, Muslims are admonished:

    Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the unbelievers.

    Omar Abdel Rahman, the “Blind Sheikh” I prosecuted in the mid-’90s after his cell bombed the World Trade Center and planned similar strikes against other New York City landmarks, was a renowned scholar of Islamic jurisprudence. Indeed — and this is worth pausing over — his mastery of our enemy’s ideology was the sole source of his authority to approve jihadist attacks. Think about that: his blindness, and various other maladies, render Abdel Rahman unable to do anything useful for a terrorist network. He can’t build bombs, command forces on the battlefield, execute assassinations, and so on. But his authority is unquestioned because of his scholarship and rhetorical power in the scripture-based doctrine our president pretends is non-Islamic and of marginal importance.

    Sheikh Abdel Rahman was adamant that terror is fundamental to Islamic doctrine:

    Why do we fear the word terrorist? If the terrorist is the person who defends his right, so we are terrorists. And if the terrorist is the one who struggles for the sake of God, then we are terrorists. We … have been ordered with terrorism because we must prepare what power we can to terrorize the enemy of Allah and your enemy. The Koran [said] “to strike terror.” Therefore, we don’t fear to be described with “terrorism.” … They may say, “He is a terrorist, he uses violence, he uses force.” Let them say that. We are ordered to prepare whatever we can of power to terrorize the enemies of Islam.
    Obama’s national security strategy is suicidal because it mulishly denies two unavoidable facts: (a) terrorism is rooted in Islamic supremacism’s literalist construction of scripture, and (b) even if Islamic supremacism is not the only way of interpreting Islam, it is a mainstream interpretation of Islam.

    Welcome to the war.

  19. Mike K. – After 9/11 the evidence pointed to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan as well as the Taliban in Afghanistan. Of the 19 hijackers, 15 were Saudi, two were from the UAE, one each from Egypt and Lebanon. None were Iraqi. As for Osama bin Laden obviously the Pakistanis were hiding him and protecting him after the US invasion of Afghanistan. The Pakistanis knew exactly where Osama bin Laden was all along. You don’t need Sherlock Holmes to figure this out. Dr. Watson could tell you this.

  20. “You don’t need Sherlock Holmes to figure this out. Dr. Watson could tell you this.”

    Again, I don’t necessarily disagree. I don’t think the Saudi kingdom was involved in 9/11 nor do I think Pakistan was although I agree they hid OBL.

    OBL was clearly in Afghanistan with his training camps and Clinton could have approved killing him when we had him in our sights.

    The fact that Atta was Egyptian did not mean Mubarak was complicit. I think Egypt Air was crashed by a jihadi pilot and I think TWA 800 was probably brought down by a missile and not one of ours. Your statement “The evidence pointed to” is far too certain when you present no facts to support it. That is what makes your comments less helpful in a discussion.

    If you just want to make unsupported statements, you lose credibility around here. There are lots of blogs full of unsupported statements. Some of us try to make this an exception.

  21. Jim,

    Your error is blaming Obama’s failures on Bush when Obama’s subsequent failures are due to fundamental course changes and poor choices that deviated from Bush’s approach, rather than staying the course from Bush.

    Again, on the controlling law and policy and determinative facts, the decision for OIF was correct. Saddam was evidently guilty across the board of material breach of the ceasefire in his “final opportunity to comply” (UNSCR 1441).

    Subsequently, while the post-war contest to secure the peace was more difficult than the war versus Saddam’s regime, due to the nature of the enemy combined with our institutional weaknesses, the post-war peace operations – before Obama’s premature disengagement from Iraq – had progressed to where, “After a long and difficult conflict, we now have the opportunity to see Iraq emerge as a strategic partner in a tumultuous region. A sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq that can act as a force for moderation is profoundly in the national security interests of the United States and will ensure that Iraq can realize its full potential as a democratic society.” (State Dept)

    In other words, when Bush handed the Iraq mission to his successor, the COIN “Surge” had restored post-Saddam Iraq back on track to develop like our post-WW2 European and Asian “strategic partner(s) in tumultuous regions”.

    If Eisenhower had abandoned our nascent still-fragile European and Asian strategic partners at a similar point of post-WW2 to where Obama disengaged from Iraq, you could have similarly argued whether FDR made “a huge mistake” when choosing sides or choosing to intervene at all in WW2.

    Winning a war includes securing the peace post-war. Bush understood that. Obama does not – or worse, Obama prematurely disengaged from Iraq while understanding that.

    Mike K:
    “After the September 11, 2001, attacks, American intelligence had no means to determine which Muslim governments were in league with terrorists.”

    The intelligence community didn’t need to determine whether Saddam’s regime was terrorist. That was established. Under the Gulf War ceasefire, the burden of proof was on Iraq to establish it ended Saddam’s regime terrorism, not on the US to show Saddam’s regime was terrorist.

    UNSCR 687 (1991):

    32. Requires Iraq to inform the Security Council that it will not commit or support any act of international terrorism or allow any organization directed towards commission of such acts to operate within its territory and to condemn unequivocally and renounce all acts, methods and practices of terrorism;

    Iraq’s failure to comply with the ceasefire mandate to end Saddam’s regime terrorism was a trigger for OIF.

    However, before OIF, the extent of Saddam’s regime terrorism was an unsettled issue in the intelligence community. Like other proscribed areas, such as the extent of Saddam’s reconstitution of Iraq’s WMD-related capability, Saddam’s ceasefire violation on terrorism was found to be worse than many believed before OIF.

    Excerpt from the Iraqi Perspectives Project (2007):

    Captured Iraqi documents have uncovered evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism, including a variety of revolutionary, liberation, nationalist, and Islamic terrorist organizations. … Because Saddam�s security organizations and Osama bin Laden�s terrorist network operated with similar aims (at least in the short term), considerable overlap was inevitable when monitoring, contacting, financing, and training the same outside groups. This created both the appearance of and, in some ways, a �de facto� link between the organizations. At times, these organizations would work together in pursuit of shared goals … evidence shows that Saddam�s use of terrorist tactics and his support for terrorist groups remained strong up until the collapse of the regime.

  22. The NY Times article’s author, Kyle Orton, goes into more depth on the Saddam regime’s Islamic radicalization in the 1980s and 1990s on his blog:

    It’s more proof that the usual arguments against OIF, such as Saddam was a secular bulwark against Islamic radicals, are wrong. Saddam did not oppose Islamic terrorists. Rather, his regime was a source of Islamic radicalization and terrorism.

    Orton’s research adds to the argument that we should have removed Saddam’s regime ASAP, ie, in the 1991 Gulf War. The 2003 regime change was late. The longer the Iraqi regime change was delayed, the worse the situation with Iraq became.

  23. “I think I recall a couple of useful comments from you but this is troll material. There are lots of blogs with plenty of troll comments.”

    You are, by far, the biggest troll here.

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