The Stab in the Back

by , June 24, 2004

The victors in the Iraq war are now moving rapidly to consolidate their gains, and carry out the second phase of their operation. No, I don’t mean the June 30 American handover of pseudo-"sovereignty" to a puppet regime, but the ongoing invasion of Kurdistan by Israeli operatives trying to spark a war of secession. Thanks – once again – to the indispensable Seymour Hersh, the truth about what is happening in Iraq – and why – is coming out, as the real victors help themselves to the spoils of war. While American troops are fighting and dying to maintain the independence and unity of the Iraqi state, the Israelis, operating behind our backs and in the shadows, are working to split the country up:

"In a series of interviews in Europe, the Middle East, and the United States, officials told me that by the end of last year Israel had concluded that the Bush Administration would not be able to bring stability or democracy to Iraq, and that Israel needed other options. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government decided, I was told, to minimize the damage that the war was causing to Israel’s strategic position by expanding its long-standing relationship with Iraq’s Kurds and establishing a significant presence on the ground in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. Several officials depicted Sharon’s decision, which involves a heavy financial commitment, as a potentially reckless move that could create even more chaos and violence as the insurgency in Iraq continues to grow."

Gee, I thought Israel had nothing to do with this war, and that anyone who said otherwise was merely spreading anti-Semitic canards. Why, in that case, does Israel need "other options," or, indeed, any options at all?

This war was always about enhancing Israel’s strategic position, and nothing else: not oil, not democracy, not WMD. The goal was to extend Israel’s sphere of influence, and that is precisely what is occurring. To the victor go the spoils, and Hersh’s revelations highlight the Israelis as the real winners of this war:

"Israeli intelligence and military operatives are now quietly at work in Kurdistan, providing training for Kurdish commando units and, most important in Israel’s view, running covert operations inside Kurdish areas of Iran and Syria. Israel feels particularly threatened by Iran, whose position in the region has been strengthened by the war. The Israeli operatives include members of the Mossad, Israel’s clandestine foreign-intelligence service, who work undercover in Kurdistan as businessmen and, in some cases, do not carry Israeli passports."

I love how the issue is framed in Hersh’s piece: the Israelis advised us to seal the Iraqi borders against Iranian infiltration, we are told, and warned that the violence was bound to increase. As if only they could have predicted the altogether predictable. What geniuses! A former top Administration official cites his Israeli counterparts as saying: "You’re not going to get it right in Iraq, and shouldn’t we be planning for the worst-case scenario and how to deal with it?"

In other words: if you’re not going to install Ahmed Chalabi and his gang – who promised to recognize Israel and even build an oil pipeline from Mosul to Haifa – and you won’t do to the Iraqis what we’re doing to the Palestinians, then we’ll just have to take matters into our own hands.

By arming Kurdish commando (i.e. terrorist) units, and launching provocative incursions, the long arm of Israel is reaching out to jab Syria and Iran – and stab the U.S. in the back. They did it, so we are supposed to understand, more in sorrow than in anger – after all, they warned us, didn’t they?

What chutzpah!

Desperate to maintain a semblance of stability amid increasing chaos, U.S. viceroy Paul Bremer is trying to maintain a delicate balancing act between the Shi’ite Muslim majority, which longs for an Iranian-style Islamic "republic," and the various non-Arab minority groups, notably the Kurds in the north, who demand autonomy, and, in some cases, independence. The Kurds managed to win concessions from Bremer and the interim government, but with the June 30 transfer looming, tried to get these incorporated in the UN resolution – and failed. In response, the two main Kurdish leaders sent an open letter to the Americans and their Iraqi clients, threatening to pull out of the deal entirely and unilaterally declare Kurdistan’s independence.

It is in this context that the Israelis initiated what they call "Plan B": sneaking into Kurdish territory, arming dissident Kurdish factions, and actively undermining the American strategy. Israeli support for the Kurds is nothing new: in alliance with the Shah of Iran, Tel Aviv sought to undermine Ba’athist rule in Iraq by financing and shipping arms to Kurdish rebels, abandoning them when it was no longer convenient. The rationale for starting up the old relationship again, as explained by a senior CIA official to Hersh, is as follows:

"’They think they have to be there.’ Asked whether the Israelis had sought approval from Washington, the official laughed and said, ‘Do you know anybody who can tell the Israelis what to do? They’re always going to do what is in their best interest.’"

Too bad we can’t say the same for the Americans. While U.S. soldiers are fighting and dying for the lost cause of Iraqi “democracy," the real beneficiaries of this war are doing their best to make sure that chaos reigns – and we’re caught in the crossfire. Violence is already on the uptick in northern Iraq, including reports of armed conflict between U.S soldiers and Kurdish peshmergas. Assassinations and sabotage are taking place almost daily – amid the continuing ethnic cleansing of Arabs and Turks from the area, carried out by Kurdish militants with American acquiescence. According to this Knight-Ridder report, Paul Harvey, Bremer’s man in Kirkuk, avers the anti-Arab pogrom is entirely justified because:

"They have every right to do so. It’s a frontier spirit here. This is their land and they’re rebuilding."

But now that the Kurds are once again complaining that they’ve been "betrayed," U.S. forces are under siege – but from whom? Gee, I dunno: perhaps the same terrorists who killed a prominent Turkmen politician and evicted 100,000 Iraqi Arabs from their land. Or maybe it was the same guys who did this. It’s that Kurdish "frontier spirit."

The target of a recent car bomb attack in the mostly Arab city of Mosul in northern Iraq, Mayor Salem al-Hadj Isa, escaped unharmed, but 10 people were killed and over 100 wounded. The same day, a car bomb shook the northern Iraqi city of Baqouba, near the former Iraqi air force base of al-Faris, now occupied by U.S. troops, killing at least four Iraqis and one U.S. soldier, with 16 Iraqis and 10 Americans wounded.

Empowered by the influx of Israeli assistance, training, and arms, growing anti-American sentiment among radical Kurdish nationalists could lead to open warfare, directed not only at their ethnic rivals but also at U.S. troops, the ultimate guarantors of the post-June 30 order.

Habitually blaming all violence in Iraq on the influx of "foreign fighters," Bush administration spokesmen may be telling us more than they mean to say. In the days before Saddam’s capture, and for months afterward, all violence directed at coalition military assets was identified as the work of Ba’athist "remnants." These days, however, the culprits are increasingly described as these mysterious "foreign fighters," generally taken to be Al Qaeda and its Islamist allies. But now there’s a new "foreign" factor at work – the Israelis.

If you look at a map of what the pershmerga claim as "Kurdistan," a huge swath of territory that snakes through every country in the northern core of the Middle East, it clearly resembles a very long fuse – just waiting to be lit. Now that our friends, the Israelis, have struck a match, it’s only a matter of time before we witness the resulting explosion.

The Israeli justification for embarking on this dangerous course, as reported by Hersh, is that their "strategic position" is being undermined by U.S. bungling of the occupation, and if that doesn’t expose them as the ultimate ingrates of all time then nothing will. We were dragged into this occupation, after all, by Israel’s amen corner in Washington, as General Anthony Zinni, the former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East put it:

"’Certainly those in your ranks that foisted this strategy on us that is flawed. Certainly they ought to be gone and replaced.’

"Zinni is talking about a group of policymakers within the administration known as ‘the neo-conservatives’ who saw the invasion of Iraq as a way to stabilize American interests in the region and strengthen the position of Israel. …Zinni believes they are political ideologues who have hijacked American policy in Iraq.

"’I think it’s the worst kept secret in Washington. That everybody – everybody I talk to in Washington has known and fully knows what their agenda was and what they were trying to do.’"

Intelligence expert James Bamford also knows what the neocons were trying to do, and offers further evidence of an Israeli connection to the phony "intelligence" that lied us into war. The "blueprint for war," he writes, had been drawn up long ago by pro-Israeli hawks in the highest foreign policy councils of the U.S. government: all they required was a "pretext for war," hence the title of Bamford’s bestselling new book. Working through the Office of Special Plans, a Pentagon unit set up by Pentagon policy secretary Douglas Feith, the War Party in this country "forged close ties to a parallel, ad hoc intelligence unit within Ariel Sharon’s office in Israel," that "was designed to go around the country’s own intelligence organization, Mossad."

Having manipulated the hapless Americans into an unwinnable war, are the Israelis now amping up the violence by organizing such terroristic groups as the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), in spite of their own role in turning the group’s leader over to the Turks? The PKK has recently declared an end to their "unilateral ceasefire," a course previously urged on them by the captive Abdullah Ocalan. That this occurred just as news of Israel’s infiltration and "support" to the Kurds began to leak out, is, of course, pure coincidence.

This latest development underscores the upside-down "logic" of our Iraqi adventure, which seems to be taking place in some sort of Bizarro World alternate universe, where everything is turned into its opposite. The war in Iraq, as Professor Paul W. Schroeder pointed out in a footnote (not online) to a piece in The American Conservative,

"Would represent something to my knowledge unique in history. It is common for great powers to try to fight wars by proxy, getting smaller powers to fight for their interests. This would be the first instance I know where a great power (in fact, a superpower) would do the fighting as the proxy of a small client state.”

As Israeli agents flood Kurdistan with arms and ill intent, Professor Schroeder’s thesis acquires another surprising element: it would be the first instance that I know of where a superpower, after fighting a proxy war on behalf of a pipsqueak client, is kicked directly in the teeth by its ingrate of an "ally."

Read more by Justin Raimondo