Decision making process and it’s consequences: (de)stabilization of Iraq

There is a tendency among the politicians and decision makers (key to the world order) for the simplifying of the most important issues. It helps to “understand” the matter of the problem, and take some decisive actions. The problem is, that without careful analysis and taking all – or at least as much as possible – of the details into consideration, such actions can lead to disastrous effects for all concerned.

So we had the issue of „good vs. bad” in the case of Saddam Hussein: After his removal it was meant to be easy to build democracy. Another simplification was in 2009, when the number of causalities decreased in Iraq, which for many simply mean that the country was stabilized. Moreover President Barack Obama, who wanted to withdraw troops from Iraq, was also convinced (or pretended so)  that Iraq was stable. And now we try once again to simplify the problems of Iraq in the case of Islamic State (IS, called also ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh). The way it operates, the way it makes people think is at last a clear picture: bad people against good people.

Many people say that IS is so radical and brutal, that it exceeds everything in the human history and that is the enemy of all people in the so- called civilized world. There are voices from the nations of the West, the Middle East and others to join their efforts to defeat this nightmare. For many people, it’s clear, that defeating IS will bring stability to Iraq again. Unfortunately this easy and straight picture is based on an incorrect assessment, because the situation in the region, and especially in Iraq, is not simple at all. Such simplification was the cause of many mistakes and misjudgements in that region, and following such a line will cause future problems for not only the Iraqis , but also for the region and the West. The so- called Islamic State is not the most brutal organization in history, nor in the recent times, not in the region and not even in violent and brutal in Iraq itself.

The invasion of the Coalition Forces (CF) in Iraq of 2003 changed the balance of power in the region radically. The programme for the rebuilding of Iraq seems to have been haphazard and poorly thought-through. The original plan of the Iraq rebuilding seemed to be reasonable: The Director of the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, Jay Gardner, knew very well the situation in Iraq and realized the necessity of the difficult but fundamentally important status quo between the Sunni, Shia and the special role of the Kurds.

But the replacement of Gardner by the pair of governors – Paul Bremer and Alamay Khalilzad, could not have been a worse solution. The first of them was meant to be in charge of US and CF and the second was to lead the rebuilding of the Iraq and establish new authorities with the necessary balance of power. Unfortunately those well prepared, discussed and widely consulted plans were drastically changed. First (and it seems, it was Bremer’s initiative) Khalilzad was removed from his position before he even showed up in Iraq.

Then Bremer, after only a few consultations, and despite much criticism, decided to change the plan for Iraq completely. In just a few months, a man who had completely no experience in Iraq and seemed to be unaware of the pre-war plan for Iraq, made a chain of decisions which produced a completely new situation in that country. Bremer decided that keeping the balance between the groups inside Iraq after the war made no sense.

First of all, he dissolved the Iraqi army. The composition of Saddam Hussein’s army was based on Sunnis holding the key positions but many Shia served in the army as well. Bremer switched it into Shia who were made the key personnel and he expected that Sunnis would fill the lower ranks. He wanted to reconstitute the Iraqi army with new recruits. So one of the first decisions was the banning of soldiers who were not in the barracks or in the battlefield from serving in the Iraqi Army. The same decision applied for the Police and Secret Service. In fact, at this moment it meant the disbanding of the Iraqi Armed Forces.

He ignored the fact, that US Phyops, just before the invasion dropped tons of leaflets with warning directed to the Iraqi soldiers, that they have to stay in their homes in order to be brought back to the army after the war. The dissolution of the Iraqi Army, according to CPA Order number 2, made 385,000 armed, trained and quite well paid people unemployed. It meant those middle-class people couldn’t feed their families. Moreover, 285,000 policemen and 50,000 of Hussein’s Republican Guard were also dissolved, making the number of unemployed as high as 720,000 people who used to constitute the entire security system.

Together, along with an ill-conceived “De-Baathifaction” policy, To create a new security system, at least few months was needed. In this period the Coalition Forces were responsible for keeping the law and order in the whole country. Another CPA order (released a little-bit earlier), dissolved also all civilian authorities of all main branches. Along with mashing of all Saddam’s system remnants, Paul Bremer removed all professional and experienced personnel of country infrastructure. Three highest layers of administration, responsible for every sphere of public life, from electricity or transportation, up to hospitals management were removed. In this case another 100,000 of people became unemployed. The chaos in the country was imminent.

Three years later, a new political cabinet composed of Iraqis was established. Together with the parliamentary elections which took place half year earlier, it was a plan for the democratizing of Iraq. In the parliament, as well as in the government, all main religious and cultural groups were included: sunnis, shia, Kurds. It was meant to be a national unity government, headed by PM Nouri Al-Maliki. Maliki was shia, but he convinced US authorities that he would include all the important parties of Iraq . Unfortunately, in fact he did everything he could to bring the Shia to absolute power in Iraq, totally marginalizing all other groups.

Even Iranians from Teheran University, asked by author of this text admitted that Maliki was not a good leader for building the national unity authorities (the author asked Dr Mohammada Hassan Khani, from Islamic Azad University in Teheran, during a conference at Łódź University, 7th of November 2014). At the same time, from the Iraqi prisons were released people who were supposed to be charged for political reasons. The problem was that most of the documents were destroyed during the military operation or burned by the security forces just before coalition forces entrance into the Baghdad in 2003.

The new authorities didn’t always try enough to research the background of the candidates for the key positions in the country. Because of that, such people like Khalil Jalil Hanza, were put into positions of power (governor of the Al-Qadisiyah province). This man was travelling often to Iran for instructions and he led anti-Sunni politics. He was also fighting other Shia groups. All of that was very well known to Coalition Forces intelligence but they usually couldn’t do anything about it without complete control of the border.

Under such conditions, the transfer of money for projects aimed in the rebuilding of Iraqi infrastructure, in fact ended up in hands of governor. He used it to enforce his position in fighting against other “war-lords” or increased his private fortune. When Coalition Force commanders decided to bypass the Divaniyah governor and to transfer the money for the heads of the main families, Hanza accused Polish or Bulgarian officers of direct support for terrorism. I experienced that myself, during one of the meetings with him in Camp Delta, south of Diwaniyah, when he accused Bulgarian Brigade Deputy Commander for support of terrorism. During the negotiations I was responsible for interpreting into polish language, and in some point he directed his accusation against me too, blaming me for lying and cheating in the translations.

Fights were evolving between all other breakdowns: Shia-Sunni, Shia-Kurds, and as most powerful, Shiites fought against other Shiite groups too. Shia Iraqis who lived in Iran and fought against Iraq in Iraq-Iran war (1980-1988), constituted the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq on exile. This body was created with use of the example of Iranian highest authority. The aim was to be prepared to rule the future Iraq. The moment for that came in 2003 just after invasion.

This council was a basis for the Badr organization. Badr squads supported Nouri Al-Maliki’s government of in 2006. They also formed the religious militia, which was accused by the Kurds and Sunnis of being persecution of all other groups in Iraq. On the Iraqi side, the group of Iranian Shiites had it’s base, under Saddam Hussain’s supervision. They were also refugees, and fought on the Iraqi side in the Iraq-Iran war (1980-88). Those people – Mujahedin Al-Khalq, living in Camp Asharaf in eastern Iraq, were especially hated by the Iranian authorities. After 2003 another strong group of Shia fought against other Shia groups. It was Sadri organization (commanded by Muqtada Al-Sadr) and it was very well known to polish troops because of the Karbala battle.

Kurds, who had homogeneous community in the northern and north-eastern Iraq, strived for autonomy. But at the same time, Kurds were divided into many political parties, sub-cultural groups and have also different political aims. Seeing the growing chaos and violence in the other parts of the country, they distanced themselves as much as they could from the central government. Kurdish actions aimed in the separation from the Iraq provoked Iraqi Shia authorities. Also Turkey did not perceived Kurdish actions as a positive step. Their situation changed only after the Islamic State came to life in Iraq, when many international actors supported Kurds openly. Kurdish struggle against so called Islamic State, brought them US diplomatic support and shortly military equipment assistance. US started bombardment of IS positions which was coordinated with Kurdish fighters. Kurdish state in Iraq and north-east Syria is now as strong as never before and it seems that it is permanent situation.

After withdrawing of the US troops from Iraq in 2011, Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and his Shia Militia, wanted to prevent Sunnis from creation another separate state. The aim was to keep the control of what left from the country, but also to keep total power of Shia over other groups. Shia militia was very brutal, made raids on the villages inhabited by Sunnis, killing or abducting the people.The Shia were now in all the positions of power and the Sunni found themselves deprived of any political representation in Baghdad, or banned from taking any key positions in the Iraqi army, police or any other key service. This marginalization ultimately led to disaster.

Situation in Syria and Libya
In 2011 in Syria, rebellion exploded; an effect of the Arab Spring , it was brutally pacified by the forces of Bashar Al-Assad . Such pacification was not unique in the region. On the same wave of the “Arab Spring”, people in Bahrain or Yemen were in a state of revolt and were killed in the same way as in Syria. Syria was – and still is – the ally of Iran, supporting both Hezbollah and Hamas, both of which are threatening Israel. The support of Hamas by Iran and Syria was (and still is) a cynical game, because Hamas is closely connected to the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology which is at another pole of the divisions in the Middle East.

The only reason for Iran’s support for Hamas is just having the basis and people who can help them to threaten Israel: Palestinians are the ultimate victims of those games which are played by the strongest in the region, which is another tragedy . All those circumstances drew the attention of the western world against Bashar Al-Assad; The West accused the president of Syria of being a cruel and brutal dictator and supported the rebellion. The FSA was prepared, trained and armed in southern Turkey or later in northern Syria by the French and US (inter alia) military advisers.

The problem, which at the very beginning was hushed up in the western media, was that in the ranks the rebel forces, more and more Al-Qaeda fighters were appearing. Those well prepared, experienced and armed people, of the same faith and most often aims, were warmly welcomed by the rebellion’s leaders. In June 10, 2013, Abdel Basset Al-Tawil, commander of the northern front of the FSA, admitted in an interview in Al-Jazeera that he cooperated with Al-Nusra and his aim is to build together with them a state based on Islamic rules (Syria: searching for the “lesser evil” in: https://mmilczanowski.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/syria-government-rebels-extremists/).

He mentioned that Sharia law is not a problem for them and that they agree with Al-Nusra in matters of ideology. If we add that support of the Sunni rebellion in Syria was also very much in the interest of the Gulf Countries (especially Qatar and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), itt shows why the FSA and Al-Nusra were so strong.

In the Spring of 2011, Muamar Qadafi in Libya was murdered after another rebellion – also caused by the Arab Spring, and evolving similarly as in Syria. The “rebellion” in was in fact the least typical of the any other “revolution” in the region. It was not the result of a mass movement as in Egypt or Tunesia, but rather clans – unhappy that their rival Qadafi ruling for so long. They persuaded French president Nicolas Sarkozy, with the large role of journalist Bernard-Henri Levy, that they had prepared a national unity government and that they would form a “model country” in post-Qadafi Libya (The shocking report of the circumstances of the revolt in Lybia, is well written by the Steven Erlanger: By His Own Reckoning, One Man Made Libya a French Cause, The New York Times, April 1, 2011). For France and for the new US President Barack Obama, it seemed to be a great opportunity to show a much better model of political transformation in the Middle East than the model George W. Bush presented.

They had the support of the Arab League, African Union, and most importantly – of the UN. For both countries, such a victory over a “bad dictator” seemed very beneficial in terms of their internal and international policy: Of course, oil was also important cause of action.

The of the Western decisions was the removal of the Qaddafi clan from power and another cauldron of chaos in the region. What could, and should have been foreseen, is that rival clans and extremists from the southwest – such as Al-Qaeda of the Maghreb – were most happy to remove the Libyan leader. For them, it was the dreamed-of situation to strengthen their position. Disaster in that country also caused more problems for Iraq, because huge arsenals of weapons were emptied very soon after regime collapse. Those arms were spread to all extremists in the region but a large part was transported through the Sahara Desert, underneath tunnels to Gaza and further to northern Syria. It was mean to supply Syrian rebels fighting Assad, but in fact, it fell into the hands of Al-Nusra.

This gave this Al-Qaeda branch another impulse to take the lead not only in the fight against Assad, but also for something much more. Finally, a large group of Al-Nusra members, some parts of the FSA and the most radical people coming there from all over the world ultimately formed the new group calling themselves Islamic State. The idea was to join all the territories in the north of Syria inhabited by the Sunni people, topple the Assad regime and create a nation- state throughout Syria and cross the border to connect with the Iraqi Sunnis, who were in a desperate position defending themselves against the Shia militia (which hasn’t changed, even in face of the IS threat : Iran’s Shiite Militias Are Running Amok in Iraq 21 February 2015, http://www.irannewsupdate.com/news/terrorism/1950-iran-s-shiite-militias-are-running-amok-in-iraq.html).

That IS growth and giving up the illusions of being “good rebels” fighting against Assad, caused the USA to commence air operations against Syria and stop supplying the FSA with arms. Abandoning the FSA made IS the only force in that area. When IS grew into real importance, their actions became much better prepared and they began a wave of of unprecedented brutality in order to threaten people in the region and to make it attractive to mercenaries or extremists who would like to join.

The US government seemed confused and sent ambivalent signals; sometimes cooperation with Iran or Assad against IS, sometimes urging for the removal of the Syrian regime. Unfortunately it wasn’t the effect of the flexibility of US actions, but rather a lack of the strategy. During the same time, France, so active in 2011 in toppling Qadafi and supporting o the FSA, under new president Francois Hollande stayed quiet and otherwise preoccupied.

Levy was giving interviews of how greatly democracy is burgeoning in Lybia (Mehdi Hasan interview: Meddling in other people’s business? Head to Head, Al-Jazeera, 08 Jun 2013 http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/headtohead/2013/06/2013661301564183.html) – in exactly the same way as a few years earlier, Thomas Friedman wrote in Newsweek that Iraq was becoming a model democracy (Thomas L. Friedman. 2005. “A Day to Remember.” New York Times. 154(53114): A27; Thomas L. Friedman. 2004. “Iraq, Ballots and Pistachios.” New York Times. 154(53061): 13). Propaganda is not so easy to spread in democracies. In both cases, the facts showed how cynical those most famous of journalists were.

IS in Iraq
The so-called Islamic State, using the chaos and very difficult position of the Iraqi Sunni, entered the Iraq. Many Iraqi Sunnis, having the choice of an unpredictable and totally hostile Shia militia or the brutal but at least Sunni Islamic State, chose the latter. According to Ahmed, with whom I’ve met in Turkey earlier this year, (Ahmed wanted to stay anonymous, which is understandable as he lives in Turkey with its complicated geopolitical situation between the Kurds and IS right now) after entering a village, IS kills all the soldiers and policemen and establishes establishes very hard conditions for living.

But the villagers know that they will survive. Moreover, if they do not serve in the military or police and simply obey the new rules, they will have some safety, food and water, the basic levels of Maslov’s Pyramid. For many of those people, it is deliverance after oppressive Shia oppressions; they also have now a chance for their own country. Even if it’s brutal right now, they have the hope that after the country entrenches oneself, it will become easier with the rules and conditions of living.

In the same time, US policy in the region, was so ambiguous that all sides accuse them of supporting of the others. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Sunnis from Iraq claimed that USA and EU supports Iranian authorities to get a nuclear deal. From the other side, Ayatollah’s regime, Bashar Al-Assad and many Egyptians accuse US of supporting IS and Al-Qaeda. They claim that wars and chaos in the region are useful for US leadership. Paradox of this situation is, that both sides are partially right.

Both Presidents of the USA of this period (2003-2013) improved the situation of Iran, causing it’s advantage over Iraq. George W. Bush, broke the balance of power between those countries. Barack Obama on his turn, striving for the nuclear deal with Iran, to prove his leadership and soft power abilities. By such actions President Obama allow Iran to spread it’s influences in the region and dominate the Iraq, support Shia in Yemen, Bahrain, enforce Syria regime. On the other hand, it can’t be denied, that US and France supplied FSA in Syria which helped a lot Al-Nusrah and IS. Even if it was not their intention, it does not take out the blame off them.

As a result, we have seen the development of the so- called Islamic Statewhich has strong social support and political justification, even if the West does not want to realize that. Of course, there is no justification for the terrorist methods used by IS. They are disgusting and are not a result of any religion, but rather a radical ideology, being the convergence of misinterpreted and cherry-picked fragments of the Qur’an and tendentious assorted Hadiths of dubious veracity, or sometimes simply propaganda slogans.

The IS concept is far closer to fascism, which is also called Islamism or Islamo-fascism; it is, in any event, a totalitarian ideology. The tragedy of the situation is that such a radical ideology is now considered deliverance from 12 years of humiliation, threats, persecution and chaos for the Sunnis of Iraq. Sunnis have been deprived of their country, pushed into the margins of social life, banned from any political life, and later , armed with weapons from Libya or using the funds of Al-Qaeda, Qatar, KSA and others. The rest was made by the extremists from Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra and IS.

Conclusions
In the present situation, there is no other way but to divide Iraq. The Kurds have defined borders and if nothing new happens, they will stay with it. And it is the most optimistic version of their policy. Many Kurds (especially those from abroad) claims that those small pieces of Kurdistan in northern Iraq and small scraps in Syria are far from enough: Their aim is to unite all Kurdish territories. And again, all those who support the Kurds fail to comprehend that it may well lead to another great war with Iran and Turkey or to continuous acts of terror in their territories.

In the case of Iraq, even more imminent is the struggle between Shia and Sunnis. Any peaceful process of deciding where the line of division between Sunni North and Shia South could run is very difficult to imagine. Such a division without international arbitrage (which again is very difficult to imagine) means yet another war or series of wars.

One of refugees from Iraq Ahmed from Iraq, with whoom I have duscussed inTurkey, said that even the south from Al-Hillah the territories fully belong to Sunni. On the other hand, the Shia will never let go from the line of north of Baghdad. It meand that discrepancy between the two is a belt of the most higly- developed and historical part of Iraq some 100 km wide: Between them is the ancient Babylon and many sacred places of both religious groups, which will serve as a cause for fresh wars for many years to come. Any attempt at international involvement – especially from the West – will be received as the a Sykes-Picot agreement, which even in the West, is now seen as the root of all of the troubles. The war between Shia and Sunni will be a casus belli for Turkey to intervene to protect the Sunni people and to limit the Kurds powers.

We always have to find some (even most academic) solution for the situation; in 2003 there were many possibilities on the table. from 2003 to 2008, the situation got much worse but still there were some possibilities of building a National Unity Government. Even in 2011, there were still some chances for a lesser evil which could stabilize the rest of the country south from Kurdistan. After that moment, when IS became the only alternative for the Sunni, the situation became even much more difficult. In summer of 2014, President Obama admitted that he has no strategy for IS.

It means that the US administration is not able to start any coordinated and well prepared actions in case of IS seizing the area: All this happened despite the numerous think-tanks, advisers with the best knowledge and representation of all the Iraqi groups who could be summoned in Washington DC to find best solution. One thing is perfectly sure and the US administration should face it; there is no universal solution (like democracy in 2003, withdrawal and hope that it will be better in 2011, or bombing IS in 2014 and 2015).

It is impossible to point out any single approach or action, and even a complex strategy is very difficult to succeed in Iraq. But even in such conditions, a comprehensive strategy is needed for Iraq very soon: A strategy which is not concentrated just on US interests or interests of the actors in the region, but on a quick cease fire and establishing a peace process with a two (Kurdistan – Iraq) or three (Kurdistan – Sunni part – Shia part) state solution.

Such a solution would have to be worked out by talks which need to be led by the US and include Turkey, Iran, the Gulf States and Israel. But it has to be concentrated on Iraqis and their situation not on carving-up the oil-pie. I know how controversial it is for many to place these actors in these hypothetical talks, but a proxy war leads to a situation where without the withdrawal of outside actors funds or forces, improvement is impossible.

As an answer to the question in the title, IS is the result of the Iraqi drama and dealing with just the results is pointless. The cause of the grim drama playing out day after day is a proxy war in Iraq where Iran, with use of its deadly militias, fights the Sunni and their deadly proxies, IS or Al-Qaeda. Both sides use extreme methods and the Iraqis are the just a tools and victims in these political wars for influence, oil, money and power. Only way of stabilizing the situation with respecting the rights of the each group inside Iraq is the real power in Iraqi government which is eager to build consensus or division of Iraq into three parts.

 

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Middle East relations in 2003 and 2016

The relationships in the Middle East presented in these two illustrations do not include all the actors in international relations but only those who have the greatest importance to the ongoing conflict there. The first picture shows the situation at the start of the invasion of Coalition Forces against Iraq in 2003. Iraq did not have any strong allies then, but also the vast majority of the countries in the region – despite pressure from the United States, did not support this intervention. Blue lines indicate cooperation or strategic alliances, these cannot therefore be equated with support for US policy in the region, especially due to the war in Iraq. Also Turkish politics are essentially important there and these have dramatically changed. In 2003, on the one hand, it was called the policy of “zero conflict with neighbours” and on the other, the conflict with the Kurdish minority could be described ‘managed’ – both points changed afterwards.  Another critical difference is the lack of direct interaction of Russia in 2003. The USA therefore had a very comfortable situation in which they were able to use any variant of the operation against the Taliban and Saddam Hussein.

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In 2016 relationships  are much more hidden in  the official fight against ISIS by Turkey, Russia and Saudi Arabia. In fact, all three countries use the existence of this organization for the achievement of their own goals. A very large impact on the complication and deterioration of the geopolitical situation is the emergence of Russia with its characteristic style of diplomacy and warfare. Russia is using Assad’s plight  to try to strengthen its influence in the region, and for this purpose, it is also looking for an alliance with the Syrian Kurds. Such an alliance would be extremely dangerous due to the likely actions of the Kremlin pushing the Kurds to a confrontation with Turkey, in which Russia will perform as a defender of the Kurds. Russia, playing its games with Kurdish hands could gain politically but that would cause dramatic problems for the Kurds themselves as a result of such involvement. Unfortunately, the dramatic change of Ankara’s policy against the Kurds, resulted from the internal political issues of Turkey itself, but effected both  the AKP, Erdogan and Kurds also. As both sides are still allies of the West, it is therefore the West’s obligation to force them to the negotiations (Kurds and Turkey).

On the other hand, another very negative signal for the West is the obvious cooperation of a large part of the FSA (Free Syrian Army) with Al-Nusra which is a faction of Al-Qaeda, supported by Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and which in turn cooperates with ISIS.

In both cases, the main axis of conflict is the relationship Iran – Saudi Arabia. Their rivalry for dominance in the region, fueling radicalism on the one hand and  shiites and sunnis on the other. Both groups are used by politicians for constant wars with each other from Yemen, to Iraq. Badly carried out intervention in Iraq, but also support of a coup in Libya and the destabilization of Syria have caused a series of open conflicts and increased tension in many relationships in the region. It is also essential to understand that the political plans of the Kurds living in four countries – Iraq: KRG (Kurdish Regional Government), YPG Syria, Turkey, the PKK and the Kurds in Iran are not the same. The strongest political representation and quasi-statehood are those of the Iraqi Kurds. However, in all parts of Kurdistan these organizations are not the only representatives of the Kurds, they also do not have a common political line.

While the government of President Heydar al-Abadi in Iraq is making an effort to win over Sunni and maintain the unity of the rest of Iraq (apart from the de facto already independent Iraqi Kurdistan), many Shiite militia under the control of Iran continue to conduct violent actions directed against the Sunnis. This situation is the main reason for Sunnis supporting ISIS, as previously the same was with Al-Qaeda. The same problem was one of the main reasons for which the previous Prime Minister of Iraq – Nouri al-Maliki was forced to leave the office.

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The Tragedy of MH-17

Simple and undeniable facts of the Ukrainian crisis are that Russia, using military from the Crimea, pressured the people there and organized a so-called referendum (in fact annexing the peninsula), then, almost openly supporting the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The culminating point of this conflict was the shooting down of the Malaysian commercial airliner, Boeing 777 flight no MH17 with 298 people on the board (cited as such by the head of the polish National Security Bureau gen. Stanisław Koziej: https://twitter.com/SKoziej/status/491179285005090816, http://www.polskieradio.pl/7/129/Artykul/1182487,Koziej-zestrzelenie-samolotu-bylo-kulminacja-kryzysu-na-wschodzie-Ukrainy).

This article is an attempt to present and analyse information from different sources to establish the premises to direct the blame for the tragedy to the guilty parties. Another aim is to present the reasons for actions of people who committed this terrible massacre in the Donetsk province in Eastern Ukraine. But I have no doubt it will not convince any of Putin’s “true believers”. Every point can be dismissed by saying: all information from the west is a manipulation of the CIA or other “secret forces”. I am well aware that mine is just one of many voices in this discussion, but it may be helpful to those who want to get to the truth.

Speaking of the credibility of the global flow of information, we need appropriate measure. In the next text, which I will prepare, I will discuss propaganda, access to information and the level of democratization – considered as the plurality of opinions, helping the decision making process in the Western and in Russia. All this should be taken into consideration when we try to analyse the information coming from different directions as we search for the truth.

  1. The evidence of perpetration

First the Russian versions, which focus on three variants:

a. President Putin officially claim that Ukrainian authorities are responsible, because if they had not proceed with the war in eastern Ukraine, there would have been no tragedy of the civilian plane (http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/jul/18/ukraine-malaysia-airlines-mh17-vladimir-putin-video).

     In other words he said that Ukraine should let go of one third of its territory to Igor Girkin and Alexaner Boroday, who officially admitted their aim to transfer those territories to Grand Russia. Concurrently, any movement of the Ukrainian military forces in the direction of Crimea, provokes a reaction from the Kremlin and statements that it will defend its integrity! Even for pro-Russian observers such a philosophy has to seam inappropriate.

b. There are suggestions on the website “Russian Today” and other Russian media, that MH17 could have been shot down by the Ukrainian military jet SU-25 (Ukrainian Su-25 fighter detected in close approach to MH17 before crash – Moscow, Russia Today, July 21, 2014, http://rt.com/news/174412-malaysia-plane-russia-ukraine/). A film has been presented by a Russian officer which purportedly shows a Ukrainian military jet following a civilian plane. Of course such “evidence” like that from other sides of the conflict, could easily be fabricated. But what is really important, is the problem that this scenario presents could be easily checked by European or US intelligence. Maybe that is why president Putin did not mention this version at all. It was released just to create informational confusion, a routine propaganda action. Even if western intelligence kept such information a secret from the public, their governments would still consider Ukrainian authorities as being culpable.

c. The last option raised by Russian media states that there was a flight of the Russian president on the same day and route, and even “the contours of the aircrafts are similar, linear dimensions are also very similar, as for the colouring, at a a quite remote distance they are almost identical” (Reports that Putin flew similar route as MH17, presidential airport says ‘hasn’t overflown Ukraine for long time’ July 17, 2014, http://rt.com/news/173672-malaysia-plane-crash-putin). 33In fact if we compare those planes, they are not as similar as Russia Today claims. Even ground forces in areas of operation are trained to recognize plane types and nation of origin. I am sure that pilots are trained much better and such a “mistake” is not possible. This version seems the most peculiar and looks like pure propaganda with no sense to it at all. In fact, the Russian president did not mention this version either, so even for him this option is not worth using, but makes for very useful information noise. This “gossip” was spread for two groups of receivers: “Putin’s believers” who search through the media to validate that their idol has done everything right. Second are those who are undecided, and are thus pushed into even greater confusion and creates a basis for doubt. The last argument should also be considered the most persuasive. What if the Ukrainians really shot down the Russian president? In such a situation a much more radical man would come to power. For Ukraine it would be end of their short independence and could even cause a humanitarian disaster.

President Putin tried to simplify his claim and said that “Obviously, the state over whose territory it happened bears responsibility for this terrible tragedy,” (Reports that Putin flew similar route as MH17, presidential airport says ‘hasn’t overflown Ukraine for long time’ http://rt.com/news/173672-malaysia-plane-crash-putin). No matter how absurd it might seem, the President of Russia uses this argument officially and often so it merits some consideration. Of course he could say otherwise, that the state which controls the territory over which it happened, bears the responsibility… He could, it looks just like a game of words, but in this version it would direct accusations towards Russia. In fact this second phrase would be much more honest and reasonable. If he would be serious in this question we could ask him the same about the terrorist attack in Dubrovca in 2002. Didn’t Russia own and control the territory of the Moscow Theatre? And yet the tragedy happened. Chechen citizens were blamed and nobody in Russia had any doubts, they bear all responsibility, even if Russian special units made dramatic errors during this anti-terrorism operation. Also 9/11 is another example of huge tragedy happening over territory owned and controlled by the state which can’t do anything about it. Christo Grozev presented in his blog, how the Kremlin’s propaganda works: http://cgrozev.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/the-pot-smoking-gun/, and I also will develop this subject as I mentioned, in my next text.

Now, the most important and at the same time most obvious premise pointing at the pro-Russian separatists as the perpetrators of this tragedy:

  1. Area of the plane crush is in full control of pro-Russian separatists.

All this happened on the territory fully controlled by pro-Russian separatists. Even after the plane crash, they said that Kiev’s envoys are not allowed near the crash site because it lies deep in their area of operations. Meaning there are too many secrets, logistic lines or preparation areas to allow the enemy to enter. So the territory lies far behind the fighting line. There are no reports that the Ukrainians have any anti-craft equipment capable of this act in the vicinity. The Ukrainian PM stated that their forces didn’t even use such equipment because pro-Russian separatists did not have aircraft. From another angle, there are many indications that pro-Russian separatists could get the BUK-1M missile system from Russia and could have used it. There are pictures from the Donetsk area, transport routes and US intelligence information. But most important is that just week before the MH17 tragedy, Russians encroached 3km deep into Ukrainian territory. There are no other reasons for such action other than the transfer of people and equipment into a combat zone. In fact in this area pro-Russian separatists shoot down many ukrainian planes untril now and not russian or pro-Russian plane was shoot down by the Ukrainian army (https://twitter.com/dpjankowski/status/492557547023654912/photo/1) BtXqedWIYAAV9tR.jpg large

  1. Pro-Russian separatists self confession.

There are plenty of recordings of the pro-Russian separatists admitting they committed this attack (just one example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mid_kTCWLzI&app=desktop). Those recordings could be manipulated as Russians claim. But the first recording, linked to above, was released just hours if not minutes after tragedy. Even if it was manipulated, it couldn’t have been done professionally in such a short period. There are number of methods and tests to use to verify those recordings. There are other recordings as well and the voices there seams to be the same. Cristo Grozev was even able to connect with one of those from the tapes and he also confirmed the voice is the same, even if this man denied everything. And the last, but most important. Just after the plane was shot down, pro-Russian separatists sent a message about shooting down a Ukrainian military plane. On that day they did not have any other such “achievements”. Shortly after, the message was deleted (All those deleted ifnormation are gathered in this blog: http://ukraineatwar.blogspot.nl/2014/07/russia-shoots-down-malaysian-mh17.html). We all know that our “Big Brother” – NSA records every message and every phone call we make. It was confirmed by many people that the communication went out into the world, confirming the shoot down of a Ukrainian military plane, which proves they made a “mistake” and shot down a civilian plane thinking it was Ukrainian. By the way, if it was Ukrainian, with the same number of people on-board, the reaction in the west would not be nearly the same as it is now.

  1. If BUK was used, then Russia is responsible in the first place?

From the beginning there were speculations that the BUK-1M missile system could have been used by the pro-Russian separatists in the shoot down. At the beginning Russians spread the three versions of events as described in the first part of my article. But all investigations were presenting more and more evidence that it happened with the use of BUK (“Military analysts said the size, spread, shape and number of shrapnel impacts visible all point to a missile system like the SA-11 Buk as previously suspected” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2702002/US-Russia-created-conditions-shoot-down.html#ixzz38Wnmfm1Y). Now the black boxes from the plane are pointing to a shoot down by artillery. Because of that, new information appeared in the Russian and pro-Russian media. It said the Ukrainians could use their BUK even from an enormous distance.

Why are there contradicting US intelligence reports regarding Russia’s role? In one information they say: “U.S. intelligence officials today said Russia did bear ‘responsibility’ for the downing of Flight 17 but they offered no evidence that Vladimir Putin was directly involved.” (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2702002/US-Russia-created-conditions-shoot-down.html#ixzz38WoLNt3O) In another we read: Unnamed US officials are telling Associated Press that their intelligence suggests Malaysia plane shot down by anti-Kiev militia, no link to Russia found” (http://rt.com/usa/174796-intelligence-malaysia-plane-mh17-us/). There are two reasons for the contradictions. One is connected with information chaos created by Russia and another with the track two diplomacy of the US and EU. The first statement was official, spread by the British Daily Mail. It suggest that Russians “loaned” the BUK to the pro-Russians separatists and that is why they bear responsibility. But Russians couldn’t know against whom those rockets would be used. They are out of the control of the Kremlin thus Putin cannot bear any responsibility. But Russians are still responsible for supporting those pro-Russian “fighters”. The second message is slightly different. There are no links to Russia at all. So no equipment could be “loaned” and certainly no launching from Russian territory, although the Russian border was much closer to the shooting point than any Ukrainian BUK at that time. Both versions lay responsibility on pro-Russian separatists. And let’s look who in fact spread this second piece of information. Russian propaganda TV and some “Unnamed US officials”. Well… not really convincing. In both cases, they say that president Putin cannot be responsible. Of course, everyone who follows the Ukrainian conflict could be angry, because if Putin supports pro-Russian “rebels” he obviously bears responsibility for their actions. It is true and hard to discuss. But there have to be diplomatic solutions to this difficult and bloody situation. There have to be solutions that prevent the full scale Russian invasion of Ukrainian territory, which would be a disaster for Ukrainians in the first place, then for the region and in the end for Russia itself. That is why president Putin has to be absolved of the heaviest accusations. He has a way out of this with the full, popular support of his own people and those from abroad, “Putin’s believers”. At the same time western media and even politicians leave no space for speculation and openly say that president Putin is responsible for all that happens in the Ukraine. So despite the truth, track two diplomacy is used to show president Putin the way out of this situation. The message is clear: “Cut all connections to the “rebels”, blame them for everything and then we will go back to much better economic relations. You will have Your World Cup in 2018, F1 track in Sochi and so on.” It has to be very attractive for president Putin, but it is not for Girkin, Boroday and others who have staked everything on this conflict. If they lose, they would have to build their reputation from the beginning. All of their “achievements” in Moldova, Chechnya or the Balkans would be forgotten because they failed in Ukraine – the most important aim of their imperial plans. Influencers in Moscow like Malofeev do everything to stop Putin from caving in. They have great impact on the Russian president and a big influence on the Russian economy and Armed Forces. In most pessimistic scenario, they can create a short-term economic crisis (which in fact is imminent considering the war, Crimean annexation and the costs of realizing imperial plans), spread information about the failure in Ukraine and even claim that the President betrayed Great Russia (which in fact they do on Twitter) and ultimately cause Putin to lose his position.

All those circumstances led to tragedy for the passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight no. MH17 and has now caused many complications in the area of operation of the pro-Russian separatists. This tragedy is another example of the innocent civilians losing lives in the conflicts caused by the imperial ambitions of the people who have powerful capabilities at their disposal. In fact, Russians fighting in Ukraine makes this conflict another proxy war – which is more brutal, because it consists of mercenaries and people from another countries who don’t care about the people in the territory where they are fighting. Igor Girkin (Strelkov) or Alexander Boroday are no different than the leaders of ISIS in Iraq or Boko Haram in Nigeria. They any and all methods to achieve their aims, they pursue an extremist ideology and they do not have any humanitarian inclinations whatsoever. In their minds a political victory achieved through military or rather terrorist methods is the absolute, top priority. They even could believe they are helping other people, because sometimes “it has to be hard before it gets better in the future”. But such an idea is not appropriate in all circumstances

      What makes them different from the most radical terrorist groups in the Middle East or Africa, is that they operate in the middle of Europe – which despite western views is in Ukraine. They have strong sponsors. Political sponsors are located in the Kremlin, but financial support comes from people like billionaire Constantine Malofeev. Such influential and rich sources of support make those pro-Russian separatists very powerful. They refuse to listen to orders from the Kremlin, but have their own ideologists like Alexander Barkashov, whose ideals fit much better with the aim of a “Great Russia” than Putin’s complicated policy. A great advantage of the pro-Russian separatists is the situation in Russia. Close connection or even unification of Russian politics and organized crime in that country, makes the state highly unpredictable. If western analysts base their assessments on relatively healthy state organisms of western countries, they will have great difficulty in analysing Russian behaviour and predicting their next moves.  We hear, that the Dutch Prime Minister was deeply shocked by the pro-Russian separatists behaviour in front of the MH-17 wreckage and the dead bodies lying all around. Well… Ukrainian, Polish or Lithuanian analysts and politicians were not shocked by this. In this part of Europe, people know much more about those fighting the Ukrainian Armed Forces, about the situation in the Russia and the geopolitical conditions that this situation creates. The Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs and Prime Minister and the organizations such as the National Security Bureau with its director, General Stanisław Koziej, warned western politicians, journalists and societies of the importance and danger of the situation in Ukraine and Russia role in it.

Operating in the centre of Europe also has disadvantages. Europe is filled with high- level intelligence technology, the European Union cooperates in strategic alliance with the USA which creates great capability for diplomatic and intelligence actions. Despite the leaks about wire-tapping of European leaders by the USA, western intelligence has the greatest access to the global flow of information. Russia is also deeply involved in cooperation with the European Union, which makes warlike politics much more complicated.

The geopolitical situation in the twenty-first century is proof that every international relations actor of enormous power will act in their self-interest, become arrogant and ultimately aggressive. Today Russia resembles the USA from 2002 and 2003. The beginning of the war in Iraq was not a mistake. There were false reports presented in the UN Security Council, bunch of false media information. Although there was also large critic in the West. France and Germany did not surrender to the US pressure. Even in US there were medias which informed about anti-war opinions. So Russia is same arrogant, and starts to be aggressive but uses much more total propaganda than it is possible in the West. USA regards Iraq as their largest mistake. They also see many others mistakes they did and many others do not see. But Russia starting aggression against Ukraine is wrong in the same way and in Russia there is no real debate. There is no TV channel like “Democracy Now” in Russia or senators like Ron Paul on the Kremlin (or were excluded from Duma). Only West can force Russia to understand that they are not over any international relations and international Law. If US economy started to shrink because of the wars in the Middle East, what caused less international actions by the USA in the second decade of the XXI c., than poor and retarded Russian economy does not allow them to play that game also (This is stated by Zbigniew Brzezinski often: http://t.co/MZRSbMqTw3).

(I would like to thank to Nick Siekierski for correcting this text)

Islamic State: war of ideology – not of religion

Islamic State operates in typical fashion, quite obvious to most analysts, but they are not always properly perceived by the West. Lack of appropriate conclusions is caused by the political game which in many aspects uses ISIS or Salafism but also right-wing radicals for the short range electoral competitions. Unfortunately western democracy’s parties are all about the winning elections and they would do everything to get or to stay in power. I call that decadence of the western style democracies. That allow all kinds of extremism to promote themselves if only they are numbered enough to get some advantage to the political parties. Salafists in Belgium, UK, France or Germany are the example of that mechanism but as the opposition grows right-wing extremist organizations and support for them.

From the another perspective, the purpose of the terrorist attacks of ISIS, is not just sowing chaos or promote some – a radical version of Islam, but it has a precise and clearly defined strategic objective. It is to build political autonomy for ideological conflict with any other political center. The best opponent are the right-wing extremists radicalized in the same level as they. Attacks in Europe are addressed not just against Christianity or secularism, but against the Western democracies. Attacks in Sinai are not meant to fight local, “not enough believers” Sunnis, but political power which prevent extremists from growing. Even if that prevention in Egypt is often with use of brutal methods, we need to understand the alternative. Exactly the same problem aroused in Syria in 2011 after the first spontaneous social revolts. There also extremists took the charge of the revolution  very soon and transformed it into the struggle for power where alternative seams to be worse than the ruthless dictator. The terrorist attacks of IS in Baghdad is not directed just against Shiites, but against the political establishment in Tehran and their political emanation in Baghdad. Striking a society intensifies military operations or reprisals against Sunni (Iraq and Syria), and those with no other choice (sometimes seduced by radical ideology – but not religion) replenish the ranks of ISIS.

The information policy of ISIS uses the official religious content, for obvious reasons. It is easy to convince people, who are subjected to brutal oppression in Iraq, and Syria, but also Egypt and Libya, and their propaganda work on that in Europe as well, that God commands them to take revenge on the oppressors. To hide this radical ideology under the “guise” of religion, it allows you to acquire people outside the circle of Sunni Islam and even those who adopt Islam, just to get there and join the brutal fight. These in turn are the most valuable, because they become promoters of the ideology. If this come from cultures other than Arabic, they are of special propaganda value for ISIS, easier affecting the society from which they come.

The person who read not only the Holy Koran, but a number of books suggested by an imam or other person prepared by the ideologists of extremist organizations, begins to perceive the world in completely different way. Such individual perceives other people from its environment as the unconscious (and therefore in their opinion blind for “the real truth”), which in itself causes a sense of uniqueness. This uniqueness encountering opposition family, school, often intelligence services to monitor the transfer of information on the web, quickly generates a sense of injustice and utter alienation. They search for salvation in finding other like-minded in the West or even join militants in the Middle East. Of course, these mechanisms are well known in psychology and are not associated only activity the Islamic State, but it is this organization which can use them perfectly.

Radicalization of such units can be observed by the their rejection of contact with representatives of the all other way of thinking, not just democracy or Christianity and not even just the shia but also other sunnis who are not thinking exactly the same as them. This ideology which one can call a manipulated Islam is preached by Salafists. It becomes a threat, because leaves no room for compromise, like that on which is built the whole European order or West.

Controversial Dutch Politician Geert Wilders Arrives In The UKSo in the Salafis ideology there is no room for tolerance, they can only look forward to the moment in which they will dominate the rest – “the others”. That is why President El-Sisi in Egypt restricts the rights of Salafists. Limiting their rights is a necessity, because in the opinion of the members of this group their right is to dominate the whole of society and impose on them a way of life consistent with their own ideology. The rights of both parties are so completely contradictory. Let me add that both parties in common sense represent sunni Islam. And fact that Salafists do not integrate, or even refuse to cooperate with other groups, assuming the divisions and conflict, to dominate all, in my opinion, makes them more a sect with use of radical ideology, than a religious group or faction. Of course, as in any case, so in that case the generalizations are unfair, but I will come back to that later.

So in some way those who argue that Islam can not be combined with democracy are right – but only in part, because it concerns the ideology of Salafists. Salafists themselves willing to agree with the fact that Islam does not fit for democracy and desire that all Muslims have to follow them. After all, their ideology has just proclaimed that only they are the true Muslims! So if all Muslims would have been the Salafists, then you would have to agree that Islam can not be integrated or even can’ cooperate with any other social groups. The far right (and after every terrorist attacks grow stronger) go on this issue succor salafits and ISIS proclaiming that Islam can not integrate into democracy … so you need radical solutions. As you can see radicalism is very similar to each other regardless of the views and it leads to war which can be nothing but destruction of all our (European) world.

People radicalized in Europe or in US can not officially admit they support ISIS without consequences from the state. Such persons can therefore proclaim their allegiance to the Salafists and properly promote almost all ISIS doctrines without mentioning their name. Certainly not all Salafists are terrorists just as not every sect is dangerous for their surrounding, but this ideology is only one step for ISIS. This is evidenced by direct intelligence reports speak of direct cooperation of Salafi organizations in Europe with ISIS (Short path to jihad. Salafists in Germany recruit new fighters). The fact that Pierre Vogel, the most famous Salafit in Germany, officially does not support ISIS can be attributed to a conflict of interest with the ISIS or ordinary lie allowing him continue its operation without conflict with the law.

However, if the Salafists are to be seen as a sect of extreme ideology, there is a huge number of Muslims outside their ranks, with can live in democracy or under secular rule  saving the confidence in the model of multicultural societies.

It should be emphasized that every movement, every ideology and religion are composed of people having their doubts, thoughts etc. Even if so Salafists are perceived as an monolith, because of the threat caused by their ideology, we need to be aware of the inevitability of the multiplicity of their strands. So let’s always talk, negotiate and convince, because not everyone Salafit will be just as involved in the ideology dictated by propagandists.

Undoubtedly, even if ISIS will disappear as a state in northern Iraq and Syria, the Salafi radicalism will remain in the form of sects within Islamic societies, as in every other culture and religion are radical sects based on manipulated fundamentalism. Any such sect proclaims its uniqueness and monopoly on the “only truth faith”. If, however, the society will be able to live without wars, ethnic cleansing and brutal oppression then without any interventions they will be able to limit the impact of radical sects – especially those who use terrorism.

Government Set To Ban Islamist Group That Planned Wootton Bassett MarchThis is the essence of the social psychology and ideas like “Lucifer Effect” vs “Heroic Imagination Project” (HIP) of prof. Zimbardo. Social impact can create Lucifer Effect – creating ISIS hiding under cover of Salafism or Neo-nazists hiding under cover of nationalism (not confuse it with patriotism please). But the same social impact can also build civilized, cooperative and open to others but still safe societies, which HIP as mechanism is an example. If we will not recognize soon enough, basing on all human science and experience what path leads to peace and security and what is the straight way to divisions and negative conflicts tearing apart our societies, then radicals will win which would strengthen their  conviction that God has sent them to impose a world order – their order. In this (worst scenario) case the God could be easily replaced by the Lucifer and nobody will see the difference. 

"Best Leaders create victorious strategies and victorious strategies need the best leaders"