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Iraqi blogger Raed Jarrar and retired military colonel Andrew Bacevich discuss the ongoing crisis in Iraq, Saudi Arabia’s role, and the possibility of U.S. military action

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ANTON WORONCZUK, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Anton Woronczuk in Baltimore.

President Obama announced on Monday that the U.S. is sending 275 troops to Iraq in order to secure its embassy in Baghdad. This decision comes as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, is continuing its military offensive towards Baghdad after what looks like a string of victories against Iraqi security forces, who are currently fighting ISIS in Baqubah, a city located just 40 miles north of Baghdad.

Now joining us to discuss the situation in Iraq are our two guests.

Andrew Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. He is a retired colonel and Vietnam War veteran, and the author of many books, including American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy.

Also joining us is Raed Jarrar. He’s an Arab-American blogger and political analyst based in Washington, D.C. He was born in Baghdad and immigrated to the U.S. after the 2003 invasion.

Thank you both for joining us.


WORONCZUK: So, Raed, let’s start with you. There’s been some reportings that Shia militias have killed dozens of Sunni prisoners in Baghdad in what the Associated Press is calling “reprisal killings”. Do you think that we’re going to see a civil war on the scale of what happened in 2006 and 2007?

RAED JARRAR, IRAQI-AMERICAN BLOGGER AND POLITICAL ANALYST: This might be even worse than the civil war that happened earlier, because the sectarian divisions have been even–gotten worse and better identified than those years. The last three days witnessed three different reports about executions of prisoners. There was one Tal Afar for 70 prisoners, with some images coming out of the city. Another one just east of Baghdad in [inaud.] and this is the third one. And there are mass executions and extrajudicial killings all over around, from all parties participating in this conflict. So, unfortunately, it seems that it might be even more violent than the one that happened earlier, 2007 and 2008.

WORONCZUK: And do you think there’s any prospects for a peaceful defusion of that political sectarianism right now?

JARRAR: I don’t see any easy solution so far. The Iraqi government refuses to recognize that the six or seven provinces that are rebelling now, that there is a real reason for this rebellion, that, you know, actors in these different provinces include some extremists like the ISIS, but it also includes other indigenous tribal and political groups. So we’re not even at the stage where the Iraqi government is willing to recognize a partner on the other side, but, rather, they’re calling anyone who is there a participating with this armed uprising, or even criticizing the government, they’re, you know, labeling them this one vast label of their being members of the ISIS. So it doesn’t seem like there are any prospects for dialog. It seems that the next few days and weeks we’ll witness even more violence.

WORONCZUK: And, Andrew, what’s your assessment of the military actions that are being considered by the Obama administration right now, such as targeted airstrikes? Do you think that they could play a role in quelling the violence?

BACEVICH: Well, I’d be very surprised. I mean, I cannot imagine how the use of air power could eliminate the root causes of the dispute. We could tilt things in favor of the Iraqi government, but probably not in ways that would have a decisive effect. The utility of air power in a conflict of this kind is, I think, likely to be quite limited.

WORONCZUK: And, Raed, let me read a statement that the Iraqi government had issued about Saudi Arabia and what’s going on in Iraq right now. They said,

“We hold them responsible for supporting these groups financially and morally, and for the outcome of that–which includes crimes that may qualify as genocide: the spilling of Iraqi blood, the destruction of Iraqi state institutions and historic and religious sites”.

Do you think that Saudi Arabia has played a role in instigating the violence there? Or is this more or less the central government attempting to push aside or deflect any criticism that they might be responsible for alienating the Sunnis?

JARRAR: Both. I think Saudi Arabia and all of Iraq’s neighbors have been interfering in the country. And the Iraqi government doesn’t really have that much of a moral authority to criticize neighboring countries interfering in Iraq, because they very much welcome the Iranian intervention in Iraq. The last few days witnessed a couple of reports that Iran has already sent a couple of thousand members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Actually, the first images of the first Revolutionary Guard to be killed in Iraq were circulating on Iranian social media a couple of days ago. So Saudi Arabia is interfering, and Turkey’s interfering, and other other Gulf countries are interfering, and Iran is interfering.

But definitely there is a real problem inside the country. People inside Iraq have legitimate grievances. Whether they were Sunnis or Shiites or Kurds or other minorities, they do have legitimate grievances against the government. And many of them are ready to collaborate with armed groups to get rid of what they had seen or they started to see as unbearable life under the central government’s rule.

So there are both sides, I would say. There are problems within the central government’s strategies and policies and major mistakes that they have committed, and there are interventions from regional and international forces.

WORONCZUK: And, Andrew, let me get your response to something that former U.S. deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz said on CNN. He said, quote, “I think we could have kept a substantial, not a huge, American presence, not a combat presence, but the kind of support that would have kept Maliki better under control, that would have given the Iraqi army better ability to function.” What’s your response?

BACEVICH: Well, he’s deluded. It baffles me that he even is invited to go on television to pontificate about these matters, because he was certainly one of the architects of the catastrophe that in many respects gave rise to the problem that we’re discussing today.

Now, embedded in his delusion is this notion that U.S. military presence, just the physical presence of American soldiers in the Islamic world, somehow contributes to stability and can have a positive effect. And there’s simply very little evidence to support that notion. A matter of fact, there’s plenty of evidence to support the notion that the U.S. military presence in the Islamic world contributes to instability and encourages greater anti-Americanism. So this is somebody who is utterly detached from reality and, quite frankly, ought simply not to be listened to it all.

WORONCZUK: Okay. Andrew Bacevich and Raed Jarrar, thank you both for joining us.

JARRAR: Thank you.

BACEVICH: Thank you.

WORONCZUK: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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Andrew Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. He is a retired colonel and Vietnam War veteran and the author of many books including American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of US Diplomacy (2002), The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War (2005), The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (2008), and most recently, Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country.

Raed Jarrar is an Arab-American architect, blogger, and political advocate based in Washington, DC. After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Jarrar led the first door-to-door civilian casualties survey in the country. He then he founded an organization that completed hundreds of community-based reconstruction projects. After moving to the United States in 2005, Jarrar dedicated himself to ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq. He organized dozens of high-level meetings between Iraqi officials and their international counterparts. In addition to helping organize Congressional hearings with Iraqi members of parliament, Jarrar himself appeared before Congress in hearings and briefings. His frequent trips to Iraq, his strong relationships with Iraqi leaders, and deep knowledge of Iraqi political and economic developments have made him a sought after analyst who frequently appears on English and Arabic media outlets.