Wednesday, June 29, 2016

West of Eden: Lede, exhumed

The Fallujah caravanserai, ca. 1914. Via Wikipedia.
Maybe I just wasn't reading carefully enough, but when the Iraqi government forces were reconquering the Anbar city of Fallujah from Da'esh, culminating over the weekend, I never saw the news that interested me most until I got to Professor Cole's wrapup of the operation: namely, who those government forces were, and whether they included any Sunni soldiers, which it turns out they did, in the form of tribal levies from the
clans of the Dulaym in al-Anbar Province who opposed Daesh just as many of them had opposed al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the predecessor of Daesh that was organized to fight the US military occupation of the country. Tribes are kinship units in rural Iraq, and while they are religiously conservative they typically are not fundamentalists, and they dislike Daesh for condemning their Muslim traditionalism in favor of a hyper-fundamentalism.
They also included Shi'ite militias including some, such as the Badr Corps, that are directly backed by Iran, and Cole seems to think that the actual Iraqi regular army, a mess, was probably the least useful element. There are allegations of bad behavior among the militias, that they have been razing buildings in the city to punish the Sunni residents. But the fact that the Sunni tribal levies participated and played an important part is a really good sign that Prime Minister al-Abadi may finally be beginning to work effectively towards integration, and that Obama's policy of handing out US assistance in a way that encourages it is finally starting to pay off. Cole is dubious, but not hopeless:
In the end, Daesh and other al-Qaeda affiliates in Iraq and Syria can only truly be defeated by inclusive, non-sectarian government. But al-Abadi is the head of a Shiite religious party that no Sunni believes includes them. That has to change if Iraq is to survive.
But it might be changing. And nobody at the New York Times, as far as I can determine (and I've used every search term I can think of) thought it was worth reporting that, for once, there were Sunni and Shi'ite Arabs fighting on the same side in this very important battle.

The Arab village of Khirbet Susya in the south Hebron hills, rebuilt with European Union funds after five demolitions, in 1991, 2997, 2001 (twice), and 2011, and under a new demolition order since May 2015 in spite of the pleas of European diplomats as well as the US state department. "Deputy Defense Minister and new head of Israel’s Civil Administration, Eli Ben Dahan, publicly denied that Susya exists, asserting that attempts to protect the village were a ploy by leftists to take over Area C." (Wikipedia). Photo by  Annie Slemrod/IRIN.
Another very stimulating thought piece at Cole's site, by Ramzy Baroud, asks a question I certainly hadn't thought about and you possibly haven't either: How will Britain's leaving the EU affect the Palestinians?

Because while Europe has as a whole been increasingly unwilling to take orders from Binyamin Netanyahu in recent years—notably in its work on the Iran nuclear agreement and in its insistence on labeling products from illegal West Bank settlements as "made in settlements", Britain has thought of itself as an advocate for Likud in Brussels, so much so that a couple of days before the referendum prime minister Cameron was urging British Jews to vote Remain in an address to Jewish Care, a health and social services agency:
“When Europe is discussing its attitude to Israel, do you want Britain — Israel’s greatest friend — in there opposing boycotts, opposing the campaign for divestment and sanctions, or do you want us outside the room, powerless to affect the discussion that takes place?”
Adding that Britain needed to be inside the EU to "stop Iran getting nuclear weapons," of course, because pretending the agreement we have is going to be ineffective is just part of the territory. Indeed, Baroud remarks,
Britain has played that dreadful role for decades, muting any serious discussion on Israel and Palestine, and ensuring more courageous voices like that of Sweden, for example, are offset by the ardently and unconditionally pro-Israel sentiment constantly radiating from Westminster. Who can forget Cameron’s impassionate defense of Israel’s last war on Gaza in 2014, which killed over 2,200 mostly Palestinian civilians?
So it's just possible that this horrible mistake will have one of those nice unintended consequences and encourage a revived peace process.

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