Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
December 20, 2014

Iraq: The Death Of The "Sunni National Guard" Idea

The U.S. wants to create a Sunni National Guard in Iraq. The prime minister of Iraq and the parliament, dominated by Shia, are slow walking that idea to death. They do not want to give weapons to the Sunni tribes. They suspect that these weapons would end up in the hands of Islamic State fighters and would be used against themselves. There are good reason to believe that this would indeed be the case.

In fact the Sunni revolt against the now Shia led state of Iraq never ended. U.S official propaganda pretended otherwise and declared the civil war over. It then blamed the former prime minister Maliki of alienating Sunnis. But such alienating went on in two directions. One also needs to consider what type of fighters those National Guard people would be. What would be their qualities in a fight against their brethren in the Islamic State?

This piece gives a not-so-positive impression:

Like many of the men here, Col. Hamdani — no direct relation to the general — wants the US to play a larger role in retaking Mosul, to commit more trainers and directly arm the Sunni fighters.

In the meantime, Hamdani says the men spend most of their day preparing for the eventual Mosul offensive.

“We do physical training every morning,” the Colonel said between drags on a cigarette. “We run for one kilometer, you know, about 30 minutes, then we do stretching for 15 minutes and then we rest.”

When asked what the men do for the remainder of the day, the colonel replied: “Weapons training.” But when asked to elaborate, he reluctantly explained that because until recently the men had no weapons, “for weapons training we just talk about the guns.”

These folks do not seem to be very enthusiastic. I can't blame them. They are sitting between all chairs.

But what is not going to help them is further U.S. involvement and the creation of a Sunni National Guard in Iraq against the will of the majority. What would be the endgame for them should the survive the fight and should the Islamic State be defeated?

Would the U.S. guarantee that there will be some autonomy for them? How? Would the Shia majority agree to that? Who found finance an autonomous federal Sunni entity within the state of Iraq?

These folks are screwed. Should they join some U.S. driven National Guard scheme they will get screwed even more. They should hunker down and wait for the whole storm to blow over them. Apparently that is exactly what they are doing.

Posted by b on December 20, 2014 at 19:07 UTC | Permalink


1km in 30 minutes? These guys must make top-tier soldiers.

Posted by: Michal | Dec 20 2014 19:12 utc | 1

In fact the Sunni revolt against the now Shia led state of Iraq never ended. U.S official propaganda pretended otherwise and declared the civil war over.

The Sunni revolt was not against the Shi'a government, but rather the Americans. And yes, it did come to an end. The 'Sahwa' worked because the Sunni tribes were worn out, and they remained quiet a long time after the US withdrawal. However al-Maliki's continuing mistreatment of the Sunnis did finally provoke action.

The sectarian civil war was led by the Shi'a, and by Saudi Arabia, as chief supporter of al-Qa'ida in Mesopotamia. AQIM never represented the Sunni tribes very much.

Posted by: Laguerre | Dec 20 2014 19:49 utc | 2

Indeed--"the Sunni revolt against the now Shia led state of Iraq never ended," but it was all Maliki's fault, according to Washington group think.

As you say, "such alienating went on in two directions." But Washington group think excludes the possibility of mutual responsibility. Washington has to choose a side it doesn't like and assign all the blame to it. Interesting choice here, since Turkey and the Saudis both support the side Washington blames, so Washington is undermining its ties to its allies.

Despite protestations to the contrary, Obama insists on doing stupid stuff...

Posted by: JohnH | Dec 20 2014 21:59 utc | 3

President Eisenhower, certainly no friend of the left or American isolationist, often gave advice to his aides: 'Don't just do something, stand there'. If only that advice had been given more often over the last half century. Starting with our involvement in Vietnam, going to the overthrow of Mossedegh in Iran, numerous coups in South America and the more recent conspicuous fiascos we instigated or promoted in Somalia, Yeman, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, South Sudan and Libya it is clear that when the US intervenes in any internal conflict the entire conflict is transformed into into more chaos or war against US imperialism.

Perhaps there is a general geopolitical uncertainty principle at work here -- whenever the US focuses its gaze on some geopolitical conflict the mere act of our attention changes the momentum of the particles. In any case b's advice to the Iraqi Sunnis is sound: they should try to avoid the gaze of US imperial master-lords, just hunker down and hope US attention shifts elsewhere.

Maybe the Iraqis and Syrians will luck out and US attention will focus Russia and China and our interests in shooting wars will move there. In 2002 I thought the Chavaz's days in Venezuela were numbered since US imperialism never allowed that level of independence in South America. But then something else happened. The US got bogged down in Iraq (and Afghanistan) and did not have the resources to "solve' the Chavaz problem in Venezuela. This was a major sign that the US did not have the power to actively intervene in multiple interventions across the globe. Our focused power could destroy one hotspot at a time but could not take on multiple ones simultaneously.

These events show that there are major limits to US military power. Once other countries begin to realize that the US can crush any single nation on earth (err excluding Russia and China) but once the rebellion to US imperialism spreads then the US will simply not have the resources to contain the "infection" in all of them.

Posted by: ToivoS | Dec 20 2014 23:21 utc | 4

It's hard to believe that the Yankees expect anyone to take their demented "good intentions" claims seriously in either Iraq or Afpak. I have suspected for a long time that they're 'up the creek without a paddle' (i.e. fucked) in Afghanistan. If Putin hasn't already moved to give materiel assistance to anti-American forces in Afghanistan, then he's not serious about saving Russia from Yankee daydreams.

It is truly remarkable that not only did 'Obama' manage to get both Karzai & Maliki to "step down" (in favour of pro-American candidates) within weeks of each other, but the MSM has pretended that that choreographed 'coincidence' wasn't (and still isn't) newsworthy.

If the Yankees are doing toxic stuff in Iraq to get our attention, it's because they'll do absolutely ANYTHING, no matter how stupid, to keep their (predictable) Afghan SNAFU out of the headlines.

Afghanistan is still the graveyard of empires and no amount of Exceptional Wishful Thinking by Yankees will change that.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Dec 21 2014 0:21 utc | 5

The one thing that the U.S. seems good at, making war on the weaker countries, using state of the art munitions, the latest war toys, but a complete lack of the people who inhabit those countries. Can't speak the language, don't know the customs, won't employ people-natives-that do understand the reasons for wanting change. The fact that ignorance plays a major roll in each of these countries politics by the "brain trust" in Washington, has led the U.S. to be overextended like every other aggressor down through history.

The so-called war on terror, is turning into the "no end in sight war". Of course, that gives the munitions manufactures a constant financial income they can count on, to the detriment of the still paying U.S. taxpayers, while at the same time, all the big businesses get welfare.

As far as the present situation in Iraq goes, The U.S. broke it, now the Iraqi's want the U.S. to fix it, but not on the U.S. terms. I'm not sure that it can be fixed to everyone's satisfaction, especially with the mindset in Washington.

Posted by: Norman | Dec 21 2014 3:32 utc | 6

The US plan to save Iraq hinges on turning enough Sunnis against the Islamic State to tip the balance of power towards Baghdad. If this isn't possible what is the alternative?

Someone has to fight this war and the Iraqi Army may never be able or willing to and the Kurds are interested in Kurdistan plus the Iranians are not really welcome in Iraq. This leaves only US troops to fight and they were bloodied by a much smaller IS already.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Dec 21 2014 3:59 utc | 7

OT -
'Today, Saturday December 20th 2014, 5 days before Christmas, 2 NYPD officers were shot and killed in their cruiser for no apparent reason.With the recent news surrounding the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies around the country, our mayor blasted his own police department by throwing them under the bus,' reads the petition.
'His words and actions on the subject matter of late have to be held accountable. He is unfit to lead this city. He is unfit to have a relationship with his police department for his remaining tenure and he should be taken out of office IMMEDIATELY, with proper protocol to be followed to name a replacement before a special election.'

Posted by: Nevada Smith | Dec 21 2014 4:09 utc | 8

Basically what you are saying is that those "Sunni National Guard" people
arent exactly too keen in going "over the top" as they would say during WW1
(doing fighting and this and that isnt exactly their forte)

that is exactly why we have countries such as the US/UK to do all this sort of thing
madeline albright
"What's the point of having this superb military that you're always talking about if we can't use it?"

Posted by: chris m | Dec 21 2014 12:55 utc | 9


The Sunni revolt was not against the Shi'a government, but rather the Americans. And yes, it did come to an end. The 'Sahwa' worked because the Sunni tribes were worn out, and they remained quiet a long time after the US withdrawal. However al-Maliki's continuing mistreatment of the Sunnis did finally provoke action.

That is wrong. Please check

There were 400-500 dead from fighting/bombs per month throughout 2012. In the second half of 2013 that increased to 1,000+ per month. Iraq was not quit and peaceful - not at all.

The Islamic State in its previous versions did never stop the sectarian violence. The Sunni tribes didn't really fight for a while but they demanded lots of cash for not doing it. Maliki and the parliament would not agree to that. The Sunnis were demanding much more than their fair share. When they did not get it they again started to sabotage the state wherever they could.

Maliki had good reason, and the public support by the majority, for his behavior towards the Sunni tribes.

Posted by: b | Dec 21 2014 16:40 utc | 10

Posted by: ToivoS | Dec 20, 2014 6:21:33 PM | 4

I bet Eisenhower's lament over the rise to power of the military-industrial complex resulted in part from the aggressive undermining of his "don't just do something, stand there" approach. But the m-i complex can only prosper without adequate mortal fear, atrocities and demons. You can't get that with the normal, rational diplomacy that Eisenhower's thinking was displays. For example, couldn't the U.S. have brought Cuba and Vietnam over to the Western capitalist side without genocidal war or near nuclear war but instead with reasonable patience and appeals to the targeted leadership's middle-class greed? Imagine the lives saved and the profits lost.

Posted by: fairleft | Dec 21 2014 18:10 utc | 11

Oops, that should say "can only prosper with" ...

Posted by: fairleft | Dec 21 2014 18:11 utc | 12


I was following your analysis and nodding in agreement when you skewed off into rewriting history about the Iraqi conflict.

The Sunni tribal leaders were promised three main things by the US to join with Maliki against the insurrection. A place at the table in Baghdad, funding for their tribes and integration of the militias into the Iraqi Army. None of these promises were kept by Maliki after the US left but you blame the tribal leaders for Maliki's betrayal.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Dec 21 2014 22:04 utc | 13

The number one rule for all countries on this planet is: Don't, under any circumstances trust the Anglo-Saxons. Anyone country not following this rule will suffer the unpleasant consequences.

Posted by: Kraken | Dec 22 2014 1:21 utc | 14

I sure hope that the braintrust at USSA Inc. is getting more out of Iraq than all of the time, money and effort that they are putting into it. Seems so far from a person outside looking in that the returns are negligible, even on the War as Normal Everyday Routine front. Iraq is a never-ending saga of fail, death, destruction.
I find it hard to believe that after all this that any Iraqis who aren't trapped in that place wouldn't leave if they could.

Posted by: farflungstar | Dec 22 2014 18:57 utc | 15

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Posted by: kirth gersen | Dec 23 2014 2:03 utc | 16

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Posted by: kirth gersen | Dec 23 2014 2:12 utc | 17

That is wrong. Please check

Don't quote Iraqbodycount to me, b. It was worthless at the time, and it is worthless now. They never even used local language media, i.e. Arabic.

In any case, the fact that there were ongoing deaths in Iraq is not a proof of anything. The bombs in Baghdad and particularly in Basra were run out of Saudi Arabia. It was very notable that there were a lot of bombs in Basra. Near Anbar, isn't it? This is Bandar bin Bush. The Iraqis (apart from Maliki) didn't blame the Sunnis, rather the Saudis.

Posted by: Laguerre | Dec 23 2014 8:30 utc | 18

What you missed out on, b, was an ongoing effort to stir things up by Saudi. It didn't resonate much in the north, until, of course, the Syrian situation allowed it to burst out into flower.

Even now, though, I'm not quite sure how enthusiastic the northern Sunni Arabs really are for Da'ish. The Yezidis will quote individual cases of their former neighbours in Sinjar who are enthusiastic oppressors, and western commentators will tell you how the Sunni tribes are on the point of abandoning Da'ish, or who are constrained. Truth between the two, I should think. But before the developments in Syria, the Sunni tribes were quiet, in spite of Maliki's provocation.

Posted by: Laguerre | Dec 23 2014 8:56 utc | 19

Posted by: b | Dec 21, 2014 11:40:55 AM | 10

Why are you taking sides in a staged sectarian fight? When the sectarian fight is what is needed to return/keep US/NATO troops to Iraq? And when the goal maybe an independent Kurdistan? And maybe a "federal" Middle East?

The US keep Saudi Arabia on their toes by threating a potential de facto alliance with Iran that might include the Saudi Shiite oil region. Same as they keep the Iraqi government (and Iran) in line by "supporting Sunni tribes" and "supporting Kurdistan"

Posted by: somebody | Dec 23 2014 15:41 utc | 20

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