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The Mosul riddle

Pepe Escobar

May 24, 2008

"Operation Peace" in Sadr City in Baghdad is and will continue to be spun by the Nuri al-Maliki government - and by America corporate media - as a resounding "success" in controlling Iraqi militias, in this case the Mahdi Army of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Meanwhile, under the global radar, an invisible war in Mosul drags on, officially against al-Qaeda in Iraq jihadis but in fact a barely disguised anti-Sunni mini-pogrom conducted by - what else? - government-embedded militias.

No one has asked the million-dollar-question: How come multicultural Mosul - a non-Kurdish city - is now being ruled by deputy governor Khoso Goran, a Kurd?

Round up all Sunni suspects

It all started in January, when Maliki - and Washington - started spinning the Ninevah province offensive, centered in Mosul, as "the last battle" against al-Qaeda in Iraq. The notion that "al-Qaeda" - or Salafi-jihadis in general - could be in control of Mosul, a city of 1.7 million people, was absolutely ludicrous in the first place. In late 2007, a smatter of jihadis did retreat to Mosul from Anbar and Diyala provinces and south Baghdad. But they have never been able even to control a full Mosul neighborhood.

During Maliki's offensive the city - in many ways reduced to a ghost town - became even more dangerous than before. Goran himself told The Independent's Patrick Cockburn that 90 people were killed in Mosul in September 2007, compared to 213 in March 2008; and the number of roadside bombs rose from 175 to 269.

Meanwhile, Maliki's forces have arrested 1,100 people since January, including scores of former Ba'athist and Saddam Hussein-era military officers, something that aroused serious anger from the Mosul power elite. None of these were "al-Qaeda"; they were, in fact, part of the Sunni Arab resistance.

Confirming this fact is a statement released by the so-called "Resistance Council" denouncing the real reason for the Mosul operation: a sort of coup by what is dubbed the "council of five" - the five hegemonic political parties in Baghdad (the two Kurdish parties, the Da'wa Party, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council and the Islamic Party) to totally dominate the coming Iraqi provincial elections. (The elections have been postponed from October to November, depriving the John McCain Republican campaign in the US from any "positive" Iraqi spin).

Even a dubious Mosul sheikh, Fawaz al-Jarba, who's been in favor of creating an Awakening Council in the city, has admitted that al-Qaeda in Iraqi jihadis had left the city months ago. Scores of Sunni Arab media not only in Iraq but also in Jordan have stressed this is nothing but a concerted Maliki campaign targeting (Sunni Arab) Iraqi nationalists.

Hold your water

The whole scheme got even more suspicious when the Pentagon started spinning that violence in Mosul is down by 85%. No wonder; this is an operation against a guerrilla army, and guerrillas - the "fish", according to Mao Zedong - historically melt down "in the sea" (local population) when under attack. On top of it, the Maliki government has just hired as many as 5,000 former Ba'athists into the Iraqi army. Thus the strong possibility of sectors of the Sunni Arab resistance being bribed for not fighting - at least for a while. This falls completely in line with the favorite counterinsurgency methods of the US's supremo in Iraq, General David Petraeus, of buying off opponents.

Among its methodology, the Mosul operation also has not failed to deploy collective punishment techniques - like depriving large swathes of the city of water. Tribal chiefs had to plead to Mosul governor Duraid Kashmoula, according to the Jordanian newspaper al-Ghad: "The Council of Arab tribes in Mosul reported that the government cut off water supplies from the right side of the city for two days as part of a collective punishment policy against Arabs who refused to deny their pan-Arabism, and reject the campaign of 'Kurdishization' of the city."

This tribal council also denounced the involvement of Badr militias and Kurdish Peshmerga militias - all under the cloak of "official" Baghdad government forces - in the whole operation.

Osama al-Najfi - a Mosul member of the parliament in Baghdad - swore that Peshmergas were forcing people to sign letters saying their property was tied up in a Kurdish-dominated area. On the other hand, Peshmerga General Yabbar Yawar strongly denied there were any Peshmergas in Mosul. But his justification has nothing to do with the sectarian reality on the ground in Iraq. He said there are Kurds in the Iraqi army, but they respond only to the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad. That's not how it works; every single "official" body in Iraq is militia-ridden.

Mosul may now look like filthy, blast-wall, under-siege Baghdad - with vast neighborhoods no more than ghost towns. Just so the point is made: for the Pentagon and dubious US client Maliki, any Iraqi nationalist, Sunni (in this case) or Shi'ite (the Sadrists) is nothing else than "al-Qaeda".

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com .

:: Article nr. 44321 sent on 25-may-2008 01:11 ECT


Link: www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/JE24Ak01.html

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