The International Institute for Inter-Religious, Multiethnic and Middle East Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana has been regularly analyzing the events in Iraq and those connected to it, especially now with the ongoing Iraqi crisis. Here only the most interesting parts of a more extensive study are highlighted:
In the south of Iraq, specifically on the southern battleground on the line Basra-Nasiriya-Najaf, the Americans are experiencing unpredictable difficulties. The International Institute IFIMES is analyzing the causes for the current situation that can prolong the duration of the operations, even failure in this phase.
From September 7th till 22nd 2002 four retired Egyptian generals had on invitation of the Iraqi government visited Iraq in order to consult the Iraqi government on their defense plan before already then probable American attack on the country.
The generals have on the basis of geographic, armament and national presumptions that influenced the defense plans, reexamined the important points of the Iraqi strategy. The generals were convinced that the Iraqi Kurdistan has been in fact under the American control since 1991. The two important cities in the North with rich oil deposits are located too closely to the borderline with the Kurdish troops. Kirkuk is removed 30 km and Mosul 40 km from the administrative border with Kurdistan and they are therefore in military sense in fact lost. In this case the Iraqis would not have any great possibility to defend themselves against an attack from north and therefore the first defense lines of Baghdad had been set up next to Hamrin some 100 km from the capital, which simultaneously represent the Kurdish ethnical border.
The generals were drawing their conclusions from the fact that Turkey will immediately open its air space and allow unhindered arrival of the American troops to the North. But the Turks have not complied with the American demands and the northern front has for the first days of war remained actually inactivated.
In connection to the Iraqi south the generals advised Saddam Hussein to try and run in the south of the country a media campaign in his own favor, being aware of the fact, that the Americans have already in 1991 left the Shiite population in the South of the Country to the mercy of Saddam Hussein. The latter has with millions of dollars bought the loyalty of the Shiite tribes that at the moment show no support for the military action.
The Americans had to change their strategy in the last moment and the 4th division with its 30 ships of military equipment waiting for the Turkish consent in Mediterranean, had to be redirected towards the Suez Canal. Thus the division will be loosing, in best case, a week of combat activity: The Americans simultaneously had to relocate part of the marines and of the 101st air-born division to the North, so the plans had to be changed in the first days of the operation. With this they have quite weakened their capabilities in the southern part of the front next to Basra, which had a negative psychological influence on the units in this sector waiting for the simultaneous opening of the northern front.
Hereby the first reason for the (un)success of the American elite units of marines and of the 3rd and the 7th division at Um-Qasr, Basra, Nasiriya and Najaf is stated. The second reason for the mentioned unsuccesses can be probably found with the deadly silence of the Shiite population of the Southern Iraq, meaning 10 million people, on which the American planners seriously counted. The were counting on the Shiite uprising that would with the advance of the American troops become mortal enemies of Saddam Hussein’s regime. This would be similar to March 3rd 1991, when on the sign from American president George Bush Sen. they started a magnificent popular uprising that has afterwards spread to 14 Iraqi provinces (out of 18). The insurgents, lead by the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), remained in power for 17 days.
Perhaps the greatest American mistake after the victory in the Gulf War was that they succumbed to fear that a pro-Iranian Shiite government would be established in Baghdad, in other words: the conspiracy of the rulers of the Gulf (except the Kuwaiti sovereign). The Americans allowed Saddam Hussein to use helicopters and simultaneously without a UN Security Council resolution established a No Fly zone for the Iraqi planes above the 36th and under the 32nd parallel for the protection of Kurds and the Shiites. Following this, the world public was shocked and appalled at the brutal reprisal of the Republican guard against the Shiite south. It has been estimated that some 110.000 people were killed.
Through the 1990-ties the Shiite opposition has been very skeptical and even opposed to American involvement in the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Their view was that the regime should be brought down from within and not from outside. This opinion was changed only on December 9th 2002 on the Iraqi opposition conference in London, when the American plans for the future of Iraq were approved. The credit for this goes to the Kurdish leaders Barzani and Talabani and to the secret US pressures on the Iranian government, where the seat of SCIRI is located. Despite apparent cooperation they remained skeptical towards the American plans, as for instance, to install an American general as a military leader of the country after the fall of Saddam. The USA has in the meantime changed its position and has expressed readiness to transfer the power after the liberation to the Iraqis. The Americans have not conceded to the cooperation of SCIRI in the military operations to liberate Iraq.
The Shiite south is very interesting in its political opinions, the most interesting fact being that the first communist party in the Arab world at all was founded in the city of Nasiriya in Iraq in the year 1936. Its founder Fahd was a representative of poor and oppressed Shiites, who played no role in the state since the establishment of the Kingdom of Iraq in 1921 that was under control of the Sunnite Arabs.
After the revolution in 1958 and the establishment of the Iraqi republic, the president general Adbulkarim Kasim I was a pro-communist patriot from the Shiite south to which he returned the rights, they were entitled to under the constitution. The state coup of the Baas Party on February 8th 1963 and the murder of Kasim stopped this process until 1972 when the vice-president at that time, Saddam Hussein, nationalized the oil and the country had to face, due to the sanctions of the western oil corporations, a harsh crisis. Saddam Hussein founded the Popular Progressive Front with the Communist Party and even presented it with some ministerial portfolios. In the same year an agreement of friendship and cooperation was signed with the Soviet Union and thus Iraq fell into the Russian hands (where it has with slight cooling of the relationship remained up to this day).
Russia, which has excellent relations with Iran and has despite American opposition constructed a nuclear reactor in Bushehr and is planning to construct another six in the future, has an open door to influence the SCIRI and is probably already thinking of filling the void in the South of Iraq, especially now, when the Americans have found themselves in great crisis on this front.
Russia has immense interests in the south of the country, since Russian oil corporations (Lukoil, Transneft, etc.) have multi-billion contracts for the oil deposits at Basra. In addition, SCIRI is enjoying absolute support in the South of Iraq, and its military council - Failak Badr – The Badr Corpus, is controlling 10.000 fighters situated alongside the border with Iran that have since 1991 up to this day conducted a serious of guerilla actions.
The Russian vultures are with a support of the powerful oil lobby pressuring the president Putin to support the strategic interests of Russia in Iraq and to immediately realize several confidential plans of cooperation with the Badr Corpus. Therefore they propose immediate entry of these units into the Iraqi territory, to which Americans strongly oppose, since this would repeat the scenario from Kosovo, when the Russian units in SFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1999 entered the Prishtina airport before the arrival of the Americans.
Probably such a plan would be especially liked by Saddam Hussein in these critical moments, since he would choose the Russian units with Badr Corpus as a lesser evil that the present one. The Shiites would thus gain their autonomy, similar to the Kurdish one in the North. The difference would be in the fact that the guardians of this autonomy would be the Russians, as opposed to the Kurdish one, which is supported by the Americans.