The state structures built in Iraq by the US military occupation are now the depraved tools of repression. First among these tools is the US-trained and equipped Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF). By the time Washington was preparing to draw down forces in Iraq, writes Robert Tollast in The National Interest, “elements of ISOF were already being used as a private army by Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.”
And now, with Maliki having secured essentially dictatorial power in Iraq since the US withdrawal, not only is the continuing US support and training for Maliki’s private army of sectarian thugs an essential tool in terrorizing innocent Iraqis, but it is bolstering al-Qaeda-linked groups and stoking sectarian tensions that could lead to civil war.
“Blame here can only go to Maliki,” writes Tollast, who “controls ISOF through the Counterterrorism Bureau, which has proved a useful tool for crushing dissent” and has been “implicated in the intimidation, arrest and even murder of Sunni politicians and opposition figures.”
The Obama administration has kept largely quiet about Maliki’s behavior, aside from about $2 billion in annual aid and tens of billions in military assistance. While this keeps the halls of power in Washington and the oil corporations happy, even the best case scenarios are damning, for Iraqi citizens as well as the geopolitics of the region.
“Maliki is heading towards an incredibly destructive dictatorship, and it looks to me as though the Obama administration is waving him across the finishing line,” Toby Dodge, an Iraq expert at the London School of Economics said earlier this year. “Meanwhile, the most likely outcomes, which are either dictatorship or civil war, would be catastrophic because Iraq sits between Iran and Syria.”
According to Tollast, the strength of al-Qaeda in Iraq has doubled over the past year. Instead of carrying counter-terrorism – “essentially the art of increasing political legitimacy, isolating terrorists from their support base and then eliminating them” – Maliki has been using his security forces in a way that undermines their political legitimacy and reinforces their support base. And as far as civil war goes: angered Kurds and Sunnis say their disenfranchisement has never been greater. This increases the chances more Iraqis will join the latent insurgency still underway there.
Lately, America really seems to have a knack for indirectly strengthening the terrorist groups they claim to fight against. And in their effort to continue propping up dictatorships throughout the Middle East, Washington is sowing deep resentment among the local populations, which ultimately feeds instability. And in the age of Arab uprisings against US-backed totalitarianism, Washington is plain old stupid to keep it up.