Iraq’s Greatest Calamity

GICJ update on the situation in Iraq

Since June 2014, the world has suddenly redirected its attention towards Iraq due to its deteriorating situation that doesn’t threaten the existence of the state of Iraq as known from the dawn of history but also as a threat to the whole region. This attention varied from warnings and condemnations. On June 25, 2014, for the first time since the US-invasion in 2003, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement delivered by the Deputy High Commissioner, Flavia Pansieri, proposing to the Council to convene a Special Session to address the humanitarian law and the human rights law violations in Iraq.  In condemning the human rights violations in Iraq, she held: “Violations of international human rights law continue to occur in complete impunity, including unlawful killing, gender-based violence, attacks on civilians and attacks on protected buildings such as medical units.”

This attention ignited abruptly after the sudden rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) along with the shockingly powerful takeovers of cities such Mosul, Tikrit, Tal Afar and Baiji.

Figure 1: US Air Strikes Against ISIS Artillery, Aug 8, 2014 in Iraq

Accordingly the United States of America initiated another sort of military intervention by conducting airstrikes against targets that they claimed to belong to (ISIS), while other European states are granting humanitarian aid to besieged Iraqis and promised to provide weapons to the beshmarga Kurdish forces.

But, would these calls and interventions be considered as the proper solution for the Iraqi dilemma or would it lead to more complications and further worsen the deteriorating situation?

The Situation

The recent unrest in Iraq has finally blown-open the catastrophic aftermath of the greatest strategic fiasco in the history of the 21st century. This disaster, heightened by the ensuing vague premises to justify the previous war and occupation (see Tony Blaire’s recent statement: “We didn’t cause Iraq crisis”) is not only a grave disservice to the fundamental principles of international law but also to the conscience of all humanity.

What remains astonishing, however, is that nothing has been mentioned so far in relation to the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003; nor have the failures of Iraq’s successive governments been brought to the fore. These elements, all of which somehow seem to have been selectively ignored by many, are important causal factors that collectively underpin Iraq’s current crisis.

Such selective reporting, whether intentional or unintentional, has unfortunately undermined the real and long-term issues plaguing Iraq. The attempt today to make it look as if the onslaught of militant fighters on Baghdad, and the sectarian wars being waged amongst Iraqis, must be decried and halted as they are not, and should not, be the main crises that the international community needs to lay focus on.

The primary issue in Iraq remains with establishing and installing a sustainable form of governance; one that is capable of being independent, democratic and fair to all Iraqis. To discover a leader, or group of leaders, who are competent enough to handle Iraq’s current crisis, and who are capable of rebuilding a strong and united nation subsequent to its previous war and devastation; remains a far-fetched ideal that is extremely difficult to achieve. This issue, much of which that the invaders, occupiers and the rest of us in the international community have completely ignored prior to our anxious rush into war in 2003, has dismantled any real potential of realising sustainable regional stability.

What we are witnessing today through the introduction of such leadership legacies, made worse through such erratic and unpredictable foreign impositions, are the uprisings and upheavals of a disgruntled civilian population.

Our organisation has asserted for a long time that the outgoing Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, the undisputed chosen kingpin handpicked by the invaders and occupiers, has failed on almost all accounts in bringing democracy to Iraq. Nouri Al-Maliki, as widely reported, is well-known for having adopted the rhetoric and methods introduced by the invading powers that are extremely dangerous, divisive and disastrous.

His pursuit of a merciless “iron fist” policy along sectarian lines has caused mass campaigns of arbitrary arrests to become the rule rather than the exception; whereas executions rates rose to record heights and an increasing number of political opponents found themselves faced with dubious charges of terrorism. These issues, along with the already devastated state of Iraq, added greatly to the staggering casualties and destruction following the illegal invasion and occupation since 2003.

It was only very recently that international demands were made calling for Al-Maliki’s resignation and the need for a “unity” government, which he was rejecting until the white house abandoned him and welcomed the appointment of Mr. AL-Abadi as the new prime minister.

The Obama administration and several Members of Parliament in the United Kingdom have now turned to blame the very “puppet” they have chosen during the occupation; with several experts claiming that the UK-US governments are doing so in attempting to absolve their “burden” and “responsibilities” by emphasising on the failures of the Iraqi government instead of the war and occupation.

Due to this alarming situation, the High Commissioner has, in this regard, urged Iraq’s political leaders to urgently seek a sustainable resolution to the crisis, including the promotion of an inclusive government of national reconciliation that provides equal treatment and representation for all communities.

This comes shortly after the most recent statement delivered by UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon, where he asserted that the Iraqi government must reform its sectarian policies to be "more inclusive". The Iraqi government must, according to him, have only “one state; whether it is Sunni, Shiite or Kurds, they should be able to harmoniously live together." These statements must and should be welcomed by the international community, yet they must also be coupled with ultimate reluctance to further arm Nouri Al-Maliki with more military weapons.

These statements must and should be welcomed by the international community, yet they must also be coupled with ultimate reluctance to further arm Nouri Al-Maliki with more military weapons or to support his brutal sectarian policies.

The Unrest in Iraq

For a long time, the international community has remained silent towards human rights violations in Iraq, as no forms of protest were made despite there being some of the most extreme and blatant violations of such laws. When the American occupiers dismantled the Iraqi judiciary system and military forces in 2003, the entire country fell into a disastrous societal vacuum that enabled the chaotic, anarchical situation we are witnessing today. Not an ounce of protests were made against these gross and outlandish violations, including the indiscriminate bombings, shelling and killings of innocent civilians; all of which that have resulted in about two million deaths ever since the invasion and occupation happened.

This landscape, particularly during the years of American occupation, paved an environment that is ripe for extreme forms of human rights violations to be committed with impunity; an unfortunate legacy that remains with Iraq’s successive “democratic” governments.

The world has also turned a blind eye towards the plight of the Iraqi people when they begun to exercise their legitimate right as stipulated under the UN Charter in resisting the invasion and foreign occupation of their homeland.

Subsequent to this, the desperate calls of millions of Iraqi people who took their protests to the streets from the beginning of 2011 onwards and throughout 2013, as they demanded to end the sectarian policies of the Al-Maliki government were also ignored. Just as the American occupiers utilised the “sectarian divide” to break-up the resistance during the occupation, successive governments have prolonged that legacy to keep the country divided in their plight to retain power. Today the sectarian crisis has reached a stage where no single, standalone government can resolve on its own; it requires the assistance, aid and help from hundreds of experts from around the world and the moral support of the international community to help rebuild Iraq.

Figure 2: Civilians caught in the battle of "Fallujah"

ISIS & Terrorism

The sudden amnesia that has gripped the international community undoubtedly makes ISIS an easy target to be classified as the “real problem”. The particulars permeating through discourses today mostly revolve around Mosul, Tikrit, Sammara, the oil refinery in Baiji and the need to contain these developments to ensure regional stability.

Coining the idea of further military intervention to contain these developments, rather unfortunately, remains ongoing in US Congress and Westminster. The danger of approaching such lengths, as we have ourselves conceited in 2003 through our disdainful exaggeration of the need to remove Saddam Hussein for harbouring Al-Qaeda terrorists and weapons of mass destruction (all which found to be non-existent), must be treaded with caution. Just as history has proven that Iraq barely posed a legitimate threat to both USA and UK under Saddam Hussein, today the same arguments are resurfacing with the need to contain ISIS.

But even more predictable this time around would the legitimacy behind the veil of “terrorism” that the former PM Nouri Al-Maliki used to cry against. As we have documented before, the former Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and his predecessors have been utilizing the derogations of “national security” and “war against terror” to secure their autocratic position of power; similar to the Americans when they argued that the shelling of Fallujah was a war against Al-Qaeda extremists (and not the strong national resistance coming from that region).

Much of his “wars on terror” were, in fact, wars against his political oppositions. ISIS nevertheless became the focal point for former PM Al-Maliki to highlight and accentuate to make it possible for him to target his political foes under the guise of “terrorism”.

During the recent uprisings, the international media have reported that ISIS’s threatening advance has caused Iraq’s US-trained military personnel to flee, within a few hours, leaving behind their uniforms, weapons and equipment for which Iraqis and Americans paid billions of dollars for.

Nevertheless, information we have gathered from several sources have reported to us that the situation is not exactly what the mainstream media has portrayed them to be. According to many Iraqis, ISIS is an extremist group that forms a small part of the larger “tribal” resistance that was revolting against the Al-Maliki regime. This corroborates the reasons why the alleged “takeovers” were so extraordinary and astounding to everyone leading to several analysts even claiming that the feat was impossible; particularly given that ISIS is a newly formed and largely unknown organisation.

None, however, can deny that ISIS has been extremely successful with their media campaign and strategy, leading to a surge of their popularity in recent months whereas other moderate, non-sectarian groups remain out of the limelight.

On the other hand, Iraqis have also reported to us that many refugees have decided to return to their homes after hearing how calm life is, particularly as working professionals and employers have returned to their jobs. It was shocking that many such professionals, along with the help of several “tribal” groups, have carried out in days what the Maliki government and the occupiers before it did not manage to do in 10 years; which includes repairing electrical facilities, providing clean water supply and conducting necessary cleaning and maintenance of the city.  Another point underscored by the people of the city, contrary to what is common to hear, is that there is calm within these cities and that there are barely any targeted assaults due to one’s ethnic and religious affiliations – contrary to how it has been portrayed by international news sources.

But several sources, including Al-Jazeera, have attempted to explain further and cover the plight of various other resistances. One that remains widely unknown to the international community, is actually formed through the General Military Council of Iraqi Revolutionaries; a coalition of former Iraqi soldiers who seek to restore a united, stable and nonsectarian Iraqi government.

Mosul and Tal Afar, for example, are largely in coordinated control of the General Military Council of Iraqi Revolutionaries; not ISIS. Their aim, according to them, is to liberate these cities from Maliki’s brutal, sectarian rule. It is deducible that only a strong, coordinated military organization — not 1,000 or even several thousand undisciplined extremists—could have taken over a city the size of Mosul (1.4 million) and continue to make incredible advances.

In an interview with General Mizher Al-Qaissi of the General Military Council of Iraqi Revolutionaries on Al-Jazeera, on 22 June 2014, he held:

"Today, the Tribal Revolutionaries have lit a flame for a Revolution that will never be put out; this Revolution began since our people asked for legitimate rights and they asked for them through their constitutional sit-ins, but they were met with fire and brimstone.  Guns were our last resort to impose our will.  But with God’s kindness and with the kindness of our incubator which area is growing larger day by day we have been able to control Mosul, Sallahudeen, Falluja, Garma, Beiji and most of the northern area and now we are close to Baghdad’s parameters.

So, now, this is the situation in the field – the Revolutionaries control these areas. Today, should we walk around in Mosul and were we to contact any of Mosul’s inhabitants, you would see genuine joy and great happiness that Muslawi inhabitants are feeling and living after the removal of this injustice from their lives.”

Figure 3: Iraqis marching and protesting against the Maliki regime

When asked about their choice of strategic and controlled “armed” plots, he responded:

"The person who started it was Maliki – Maliki forced us to behave in this manner. For when [army] divisions are sent to our areas, and checkpoints and inspection points are set-up in our areas, the intention is to degrade and subjugate people. [T]his is what we will not accept, and this is what we mentioned in our first statements when we stated and defined the enemy as whoever hurts the Iraqi people and insults their dignity as well as attacks them and their possessions.

Typically, armed conflicts and the philosophy of armed conflicts are mostly concluded by political solutions. It is not possible for revolutionary movements to continue militarily without political solutions, and arms will be put down once their aim is realized. We wanted to realize this aim with the least possible losses but we were forced to bear arms. We are not alone and I emphasize this now – we are not on our own – there is a nation behind us that authorized us to bear arms.  When we came, we came as leading officers from the former Iraqi Army leading revolutionaries from the tribes and from our people, and when these revolutionaries ask us to lay down our arms and when we are close to their aims we will respond to their request.

[W]e have repeatedly emphasized we are not warmongers; we do not wish to shed blood but on the contrary any blood that is shed on Iraq’s soil, no matter what part it emanates from, is blood that is too dear to us.

When asked about their links to ISIS, General Al-Qaissi asserted they differed greatly from their approach, and are only collaborating to remove Al-Maliki’s disastrous sectarian government for good. He held that when true “democracy” takes shape in Iraq, ISIS would be rejected by Iraqis themselves and naturally wither away into oblivion. In his final message to the world, he pleaded:

[W]e ask that they look at the legitimacy of our demands with humanity. Maliki has killed us, violated our sanctities, arrested the women, and commits every atrocity, exposed our areas to annihilation, committed massacres, and we have no one but God – we raise our palms to the sky because we have no champion, we have spoken loudly and asked for help but no one answered us, and we appreciate this, because we do not want to burden them with more than their powers.

We want a new Iraq, whose people enjoy its wealth; a democratic Iraq with its people enjoying democracy; governed by a government they choose that governs them with justice and with its people coexisting with love for each other maintaining Iraq’s unity.

We do not accept the fracturing of Iraq – we do not accept Iraq being fractured socially neither do we accept Iraq being fractured geographically.

We want Iraq to return to being one body and to live together lovingly – that Basra’s son is employed in Mosul and Mosul’s son works in Thee Qarr, and that this dark period ends that was brought in by the “occupation”. This requires all efforts to be united and that all the Iraqi people rebel for the sake of change in order to arrive at, and enjoy real “democracy”, and not sectarian democracy that these rulers came with.

The War and Occupation

When discussing about Iraq’s crisis today, we should begin by acknowledging that the invasion, war and occupation were the greatest travesties of our time. Regardless of whatever “intellectually dishonest” arguments utilised to justify them – the result remains that not only was the war illegal, Iraq is in no better position today than it was before the invasion. In fact, the sectarian conflict we are witnessing is peaking; pending a worsening irreconcilable conflict with no viable solution in sight.

For one, the harsh humanitarian conditions prompted by the war and occupation are precisely the instigating factor that laid the firm pavement towards breeding disgruntled civilians who, after a prolonged psychological build-up, grew willingly capable of forming “rogue associations”. Blaire seems to have forgotten that Iraq was once an imploding developing State ahead of many Arab States before the 1990s, with improving medical facilities, maturing educational institutions, stable food supplies, improving sanitary conditions and booming economic growth (unemployment was at an all-time low right before the sanctions).

The sanctions regime, coupled with the war and occupation, is precisely the ripening enhancement that prompted the easily fuelled, sectarian crisis we are witnessing today; particularly given the chaotic and anarchical circumstance that Iraqi civilians have been acculturated to across the years. The amount of attention given to ISIS is perplexing given that they only shot to fame in June 2014! In this regard, it is unfortunate that the international media has selectively omitted the brutal and violent crackdowns against innocent protesters demonstrating against Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki.

Figure 4: Photo captures the daily plight and struggle of Iraqi civilians

The international community needs to be more enlightened about the unnecessary and unjustified collateral devastation inflicted upon the Iraqi people, and recently on the cities of Al-Anbar; such as Ramadi, Fallujah and Garma, as well as other cities such as al-Hawija, Tikrit and Mosul; mostly cities housing political oppositions to Maliki’s autocratic regime. The immediate military assistance and supplies that was given to the former Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, in his vague justification of fighting “terrorism”, is a misstatement and a lie that the international community has been accepting for too long.

ISIS, in this regard, is merely a tiny fragment of a burgeoning disgruntled Iraqi population that is now growing in strength, frustration and size – our fear is that the worst is yet to come.  

The international community needs to be more enlightened about the unnecessary and unjustified collateral devastation inflicted upon the Iraqi people since 1990. The attacks on cities of al-Anbar such as Ramadi, Fallujah and  Garma; as well as other cities such as al-Hawija which were mostly cities housing political oppositions to Maliki’s autocratic regime. The immediate military assistance and supplies given to the fromer Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, in his vague justification of fighting “terrorism”, is a misstatement and a lie that the international community has been accepting for too long. Maliki was not fighting terrorim; he was fighting all of his “political opponents” (some of whom have turned to violent measures given that peaceful demonstrations are only responded with brutality).

ISIS, in this regard, is merely a tiny fragment of a burgeoning disgruntled Iraqi population that is now growing in strength, frustration and size – our fear is that the worst is yet to come.

The Future of Iraq’s Democracy

When it comes to instituting “democracy”, our plea to the international community as advanced by constructivists and empiricists: no society can skip the transitional phases of appreciating the fundamental values of rights, dignity and democracy unless society itself have appreciated, from within, the philosophical underpinnings behind these concepts.

Before the war, Iraq was one of the richest and most developed Arab countries, with several academics having highlighted that the country had even begun to transition into a phase of appreciating the fundamental values of democracy as their economy accelerated. The drafting of a new constitution, for example, were on the cards as Saddam contemplated on liberating several democratic elements in society such as the freedom of press and freedom of speech.

Such intricate, normative transformation requires a society to have achieved a stage of internal civic development, where citizens themselves have obtained the rational capacity of appreciating such normative values. It is therefore a gravely miscalculated error to assume that a “foreign invasion”, coupled with such appalling arrogance that claims to know “better” about how to resolve Middle Eastern affairs, could have helped Iraq achieve an externally imposed, fully-fledged democracy.

This explains why the results during the past 11 years were catastrophic. The “imposed” democracy brought to the Iraqi people resulted in nothing more than mass human rights violations, entrenched corruption, and the total collapse of basic services, facilities and amenities. The Iraqi people are not free, and democracy is almost nonexistent. It is extremely unfortunate, that we have chosen to experiment with our vague political interests on Iraq, only to have sent an entire civilisation back to an age where the honourable remain persecuted whereas villains roam powerful and free.

Nevertheless, our hope remains as we have discussed with various NGOs, human rights activists, politicians, diplomats and many others within Iraqi society, we strongly believe that the Iraqi people are capable of rebuilding their “own” democratic system, provided that we help them establish a peaceful and stable environment to move forward from.

The Role of the International Community

The international community needs to stand with the Iraqi people – we must abandon political sides or vague political interests; our interests should be to protect the lives and dignity of millions of innocent Iraqis who want no further part in this. The international community must also accept that we have wronged Iraqis in failing to prevent this humanitarian crisis – we owe them our compassion, sympathy and support to resolve this undeserving catastrophe.

We also have to accept that Iraqis will never feel at peace until the world’s greatest war criminals face their trials - as it is a betrayal of the international community to enable, rather exclusively, the disproportionate violations of fundamental provisions within the UN Charter and other international instruments to go unpunished. To abandon Iraq at the hands of our failures and to leave them to rebuild themselves from scratch is a grave disservice to the fundamental principles that we so arduously stand for.

ISIS may be the trigger that encouraged the world to suddenly refocus on Iraq. We nevertheless encourage the international community not to ignore the preceding circumstances that led to the build-up of this crisis. It is important that we understand these issues deeply and profoundly before we attempt to resolve them ourselves.

Figure 5: The United Nations Human Rights Council

Today, our immediate focus should be on preventing the escalation of the humanitarian crisis. Iraqis were demanding a no-fly-zone above all the cities that were subjected to the brutal daily bombardments by former PM Maliki air forces.

The international community must also strongly condemn the direct interference by Iran in Iraq. GICJ received confirmation of the participation of Iranian jet fighters in attacking several cities in Iraq in the first week of July 2014. There are credible information pertaining to the intervention of Iranian ground forces such as Al-Quds Brigade that are currently fighting in Iraq on the false pretext of protecting the Holy Shrines. Such foreign military intervention, as we have argued, will further increase the already catastrophic humanitarian situation in the attacked cities. It is seen also as supporting the sectarian military campaign of al-Maliki against a specific component of the Iraqi society.

Ultimately, enabling or waging further military intervention will greatly endanger the peace, security and stability of the entire Middle Eastern region, and we therefore encourage political leaders to refrain from engaging further with such allies in the fear of inciting hatred or animosity that may lay ground to breeding more terrorists and unwanted enemies.

We also urge the international community to respect and adhere to the United Nations’ Security Councils Resolutions that calls us to preserve the unity and regional integrity of Iraq, and that we should not encourage any kind of division in the country because it will inevitably lead to an endless bloodshed with the state and region.

If we stand firm with the principles of international solidarity and mutual responsibility, then Iraq should be on our priority of countries that requires our immediate assistance. Military deployment and the trade of weapons have to end immediately, foreign intervention needs to be halted, and Iraq now needs a new and inclusive, democratic leaders to reform their country.

As our organisation has repeatedly called for the immediate appointment of a Special Rapporteur for Iraq to the United Nations, we hope that the current crisis may spark an urgent need for this appointment.

Participation of GICJ at Human Rights Council Sessions

Human Rights Council - 35th regular session (6 June - 24 June 2017)

Human Rights Council - 34th regular session (27 February - 24 March 2017)

Human Rights Council - 33rd regular session (10 September - 30 September 2016)

Human Rights Council - 32nd regular session (13 June - 1 and 8 July 2016)

Human Rights Council - 31st regular session (29 February - 24 March 2016)

Human Rights Council - 30th regular session (14 September - 2 October 2015)

Human Rights Council - 29th regular session (15 June - 3 July 2015)

Human Rights Council - 22nd special session on the human rights situation in Iraq in light of abuses committed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and associated groups - 1 September 2014:

Human Rights Council - 21st special session on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem - 23 July 2014:

Human Rights Council - 26th regular session (10 - 27 June 2014):

Human Rights Council - 25th regular session (3 - 28 March 2014):

Human Rights Council - 24th regular session (9 - 27 September 2013):

Human Rights Council - 23rd regular session (27 May - 14 June 2013):

Human Rights Council - 22nd regular session (25 February - 22 March 2013):

Human Rights Council - 21st regular session (10 - 28 September, 5 November 2012):

Human Rights Council - 19th regular session (27 February - 23 March 2012):

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