Iraq: Tolerance for Intolerance


August 2, 2023: Recent Moslem violence in Europe and Iraq was caused by Moslem anger at protests in Sweden against Moslem violence and intolerance that included burning copies of the Koran. To Moslems, intolerance of other religions is part of their religious traditions. The word “Islam” literally means submitting. Moslems are not only obliged to live their lives according to rules laid out in the Koran, but try and convince or force non-believers to become Moslems. Religious intolerance justifies all manner of violence. Islam, alone among the major world religions, has scripture (the Koran) that provides plenty of encouragement to kill non-Moslems, or Moslems that try to convert to another religion or engage in heretical behavior. For over a thousand years this has caused periodic outbreaks of Islamic terrorism by fanatical “defenders of Islam”. Until the late 20th century and global mass media became common in Moslem countries, most of the world could ignore these local outbreaks of religious terror. The victims of Islamic terrorism are still more than 90 percent Moslems but what was formerly “local news” is now shared internationally. Because of the global media the world can share an ancient problem formerly found only in Moslem majority areas.

The Swedish government did not authorize the burning of the Iraqi flag and Koran pages but was responsible for the large number of Moslems coming to Sweden. Over the last few decades Sweden has welcomed several hundred thousand Moslem refugees. This caused problems because most of the Moslem refugees were unwilling to adapt to Swedish society. This is common with Moslem refugees, even when they are allowed into Moslem majority countries. For that reason, most Moslem majority countries do not accept Moslem refugees. Sweden overlooked this problem as more Moslem refugees were allowed in, until they were about eight percent of the population and a growing source of crime and criminal violence. European nations were slow to realize that Islam is an aggressive religion that non-Moslems are expected to join or at least show deference to. The Swedish government initially ignored this but the growing number of Swedes who were victims of Moslem criminals were more outspoken and some took action against Moslem migrants and Moslem migration in general. Part of this was because Moslem migrants were responsible for the sharp increase in criminal activity, particularly rape and murders. Islamic scripture depicts anyone who is not Moslem as a potential convert or enemy. Few Swedes convert to Islam but a growing number are the victims of crimes by Moslem migrants who refuse to assimilate and feel it is their duty to attack the non-Moslem Swedes. This has been a common pattern throughout Europe and all non-Moslem nations that accept Moslem refugees. Moslems who were born and raised in Western nations are more likely to assimilate and live peacefully. European countries that accepted too many Moslem refugees at once now understand why that is unwise.

Moslem nations tend to be very hostile towards accepting Moslem refugees from this religious violence, but Western nations are more welcoming until they find out why Moslem refugees are unwelcome in other Moslem nations, rarely absorbed and often treated with hostility and demands that they return to their homeland as soon as possible. While many Moslems consider violence in defense of Islam a religious obligation, non-Moslem countries consider such violence a criminal act and are increasingly punishing local Moslems who practice their religion with public violence. A growing number of European nations are sending violent Moslem migrants back to their homelands. Western nations have found that prosecuting and jailing violent Moslems does little good because the violence continues inside prisons. All this is limiting the number of foreign countries where Iraqi refuges can find asylum. Remaining in Iraq continues to be dangerous because of religious and ethnic conflicts. The religious violence is between various Moslem sects. There are dozens of these sects and even major sects like Sunni and Shia are divided internally by many more sects. The sects will often fight each other over which one is practicing “true Islam.”

Iranians are largely members of the Shia branch of Islam. Only about ten percent of Moslems are Shia. Iranians are also ethnically different then their many Arab neighbors. The Iranians, or Persians, are Indo-Europeans who migrated from Central Asia to the Persian Gulf area thousands of years ago and have been dominating or fighting the indigenous Semites (mainly Arabs) ever since. Being Shia gives the Iranians one more reason to fight their Arab neighbors.

An example of this is the efforts by Iran to gain control of Iraq, which has a large Shia Arab minority. Iran is losing influence inside Iraq. This is mainly because Iran is ruled by a Shia religious dictatorship that condones aggressive interference in neighboring countries. Iraq has long been the main recipient of this meddling. Iran seeks more economic and political influence in Iraq. This is made easier by Iraq’s internal problems caused or made worse by rampant corruption. Historically, what is now known as Iraq was seen as the most corrupt region in the Middle East, if not the world.

According to international surveys of corruption, Iraq is not the most corrupt country in the world. For the last 30 years Transparency International has monitored corruption worldwide and reported their findings annually. The corruption is measured on a 1 (most corrupt) to 100 (not corrupt) scale. The nations with the worst score are currently Syria (score of 14), South Sudan (12) and Somalia (12). The least corrupt nations are currently Denmark and New Zealand, each with a score of 88. Iraq does better than you would expect with a corruption score of 23 in 2022, up from 21 in 2020, 20 in 2019, 17 in 2017-18 and 16 in 2013.

Iraq’s reduction in corruption played a part in convincing a growing number of formerly pro-Iran Iraqis to change their minds about backing Iran. The current Iranian government has been an economic, diplomatic and military disaster for everyone in the area, not just Iranians. Few Iraqis want to emulate Iran and this now includes Iraqi members of pro-Iran militias. Initially Iran encouraged and maintained pro-Iran attitudes in Iraq by supplying Iraqi militiamen with weapons and regular cash payments. Growing economic problems inside Iran has reduced the money available to pay the Iraqi militiamen enough to keep them loyal to Iran. The longer the Iraqi militiamen went unpaid, the less willing they were to serve Iranian interests. Iraqis were also put off by the brutality Iran used to suppress the “hijab protests'' that began nearly a year ago and only began to diminish earlier this year because so many women were simply not wearing hijabs and there were too many of them for the Iranian government to arrest or otherwise punish. The Iranian government has not given up on enforcing the use of hijabs and is seeking ways to force women to comply.

Most Iranians are angry about continued economic problems and increased economic sanctions imposed on Iran because of its support for Russia in the Ukraine War and continued heavy spending to support Iranian sponsored violence in Syria and Iraq. Most of the Iranian troublemaking is in Syria. The situation in Iraq is more difficult for Iran because the obvious targets are the American troops still in Iraq and foreigners in general. Iraqis appreciate the American presence because it is mainly about going after Islamic terrorists and Iran-sponsored violence. Another important difference is that Iraq is undergoing reconstruction. There are no economic sanctions on Iraq and the increasing oil revenue is being spent on projects inside the country. This provides jobs and other benefits for Iraqis. Iranian-sponsored violence disrupts this oil-fueled economic growth and that interference is not appreciated.

In Baghdad, Iranian influence was often provided by pro-Iran armed militias that were on the Iraqi government payroll. This happened because a post-2014 deal put all PMF (Popular Mobilization Force) militias on the army payroll. Iran had played a major role in creating the PMF and organizing the first militias using armed Iraqis already loyal to Iran. The PMF was crucial in 2014 in defeating the ISIL invasion from Syria. ISIL occupied a third of Iraq and was closing in on Baghdad when the PMF militias stopped them and played a role in driving ISIL out of Iraq by 2016. As a reward for their service the PMFs were regularly paid by the government. This was done by putting the PMF brigades on the army payroll and technically under the control of senior army commanders. That was fine in theory but did not work in practice. The PMF units took the payroll cash but refused to obey army commands or requests. Each year the PMF units demanded more money from the government. This cash came out of the army budget. In 2023 the PMF wanted nearly $3 billion. The PMF claims that this is what it requires to support about 200,000 PMF members and that number increases each year. The PMF leadership additionally contends that many of its members will resort to violence if not paid.

The PMF is composed of many groups with different and/or conflicting motives. Some are even patriotic and lots more are pro-Iranian. Many PMF members on the payroll are corruption scams (“ghost soldiers”). This is when large numbers of paid soldiers are claimed but do not exist and whoever controls the payroll and other expenses for these non-existent troops just steals the money. It is suspected that some of the ghost soldier cash going to the PMF is being diverted to Iran. The pro-Iran PMF have also engaged in criminal activity, like kidnapping Iraqis or foreigners and demanding ransom.

Mixed loyalties are not the only problem with Iran inside Iraq. Shepherds and sheep along the Iranian border continue to be killed or injured when they encounter a landmine. These mines were planted over the decades in an effort to keep Iranian troops out of Iraq. Up north the Kurds have identified over 3,000 minefields on the Iran border and marked them as well as distributing maps showing the location of the minefields. Not all the minefields have been identified and shepherds are warned to be careful using some areas for the animals to graze. It’s usually a grazing sheep that sets off a mine and causes the rest of the sheep and the shepherd to flee and report the incident. An earlier UN effort to count the number of landmines and other unexploded munitions still present in Iraq concluded that there are apparently 50 million of these items, most of them unexploded or unfired munitions as well as bombs and explosive traps created and left behind more recently by ISIL in northern and western Iraq. Efforts to remove these items only are not sufficient to clear the dangerous items any time soon. Only 30,000 to 40,000 are removed each year. A large number of these explosive items are found along the Iranian border where the 1980s war was fought.

July 29, 2023: In the west (Anbar province) repair crews, escorted by soldiers, reached the site of downed electricity transmission lines and began repairs. The area is where several ISIL groups operate and ISIL is suspected of using explosives to bring down the lines the day before. This made the power situation worse because an accidental fire in a power substation in the south (Basra) limited electrical power going to southern and central Iraq. Iraq is in the midst of a heatwave that has meant temperatures as high as 47 degrees Celsius (116 degrees Fahrenheit). Today is the Shia Holy Day of Ashura. Iraq had difficulty supplying electricity because of a shortage of power stations and power lines. This has caused violent anti-government demonstrations in Basra. Basra residents blame government corruption for the power shortages and lack of repairs on regional infrastructure.

July 28, 2023: In the north (Sinjar) the MIT (National Intelligence Organization) identified, located and killed Mesut Celal Osman, a senior PKK (Turkish Kurd separatist) official.

Elsewhere in the north a Turkish UAV fired two missiles at a vehicle carrying PKK members, killing four men. A similar attack across the border in Syria also killed four Kurdish separatists.

July 26, 2023: Efforts to stabilize the value of the Iraqi dinar have been unsuccessful. Currently it costs about 1.500 dinars to buy a dollar. Since late 2022 the dinar has been losing value against the dollar because of public panic over corrupt government officials illegally providing Iran and other sanctioned nations dollars. From 2010 to late 2022 the exchange rate for the Iraqi currency (dinar) has hovered around 1,200 dinars to buy one dollar. Then an American effort to halt the illegal moving of dollars to Iran and Syria increased that by more than 20 percent. With dollars more expensive in dinars, imported goods in Iraq become more expensive. The government blamed the Americans but the root cause was corruption in the Iraqi banking system. Many government officials profit from this, but blaming Westerners for mistakes by local officials is a long-standing custom. The new currency curbs leave Iran with fewer dollars and less capability to interfere in Iraqi affairs. After a few months of this, the Iraqi government apologized to the United States and cooperated in shutting down the illegal dollar transfers. The joint announcement by Iraqi and American treasury officials was enough to stabilize the dinar versus dollar situation.

July 21, 2023: Senior Shia Islamic cleric Moqtada Sadr urged his followers to demonstrate at the Swedish embassy in Baghdad to protest the burning of an Iraqi flag and pages of the Koran in Sweden, where the Swedish government allowed a Swedish group to demonstrate in front of the Iraqi embassy.

July 18, 2023: In the north (Kirkuk province) Iraqi counter-terrorism forces located and called in an airstrike on an ISIL safehouse, killing five Islamic terrorists. Another two were arrested elsewhere in the province. This ISIL group was responsible for several attacks in the area and tips from civilians or captured ISIL members allowed the group members to be found and killed or captured.

July 9, 2023: In the north (Kurdistan province) two Turkish soldiers were killed by PKK gunmen the Turks were searching for. Turkey has been carrying out military operations in this area for years. The Iraqi and Kurdish governments refuse to send troops to eliminate the PKK presence. In addition to sending in troops, Turkey regularly uses F-16s, armed helicopters and artillery to attack PKK bases in northern Iraq.




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