Speaker Demystifies Wars in Iraq and Syria

Raed Jarrar of AFSCSpeaker Demystifies Wars in Iraq and Syria

President Obama’s resolve to combat ISIS through increased troop presence and airstrikes represents the latest justification for extending the nation’s decades-long war in Iraq, said Raed Jarrar during a talk at HMM on Nov. 13.

Jarrar, the American Friends Service Committee’s policy impact coordinator at the Office of Public Policy and Advocacy in Washington, offered an appraisal of the U.S. government’s shifting rationale for war at a discussion sponsored by the Peace and Social Concerns Committee.

In the 1990s, Jarrar said, the rationale was to protect Iraq’s neighbors and then it became to protect Kurds from Arabs, then to protect Shiites from Sunnis, and later to spread democracy.

“Now the latest reason to justify the exact same policy of dropping bombs and arming proxy groups is a uniquely evil group called ISIS,” Jarrar said, adding that while ISIS is indeed evil, its methods resemble those of groups backed by the U.S. government.

U.S.-supported groups, from the Iraqi central government’s armed forces to government-backed Shiite and Kurdish militias, are committing war crimes, Jarrar said.

“They’re killing civilians on purpose, and this has been documented by Human Rights Watch,” Jarrar said. “Shiite militias have also tortured and raped and performed beheadings. These are our allies. These are the good partners we’re giving money and weapons to.”

Similar dynamics are playing out in Syria, Jarrar added, explaining that U.S. bombing brokered a unity between ISIS and groups that had until recently fiercely opposed it.

While existing law prohibits U.S. funding of groups that violate human rights, Jarrar noted that the Obama administration is seeking exemptions to keep support flowing to Iraqi and Kurdish forces, regardless of their human rights records.

U.S. policies and intervention have spawned sectarian hostilities that previously did not exist in Iraq, said Jarrar, an Iraqi native and architect – raised by a Sunni father and a Shiite mother – who immigrated to the U.S. in 2005.

The destruction of the nation’s central government that resulted from the U.S. invasion in 2003 sparked sectarianism as well as the rise of ISIS and Al Quaida, Jarrar said.

“The former Iraqi government was a dictatorship, but it was secular,” Jarrar said. “It was religion blind. They hated all religions equally and oppressed all equally.”

While it’s illogical to think that additional bombing will stabilize Iraq, U.S. policy remains driven by a commitment to military spending, which Jarrar called “this war hungry machine.”

Jarrar noted that the 2013 political battles that led to sequestration began after Obama sought to cut military spending.

With caps on military spending likely to end during the 2016 presidential race, Jarrar said, the first and most important thing the U.S. could do to improve the situation in Iraq and Syria is to simply end the bombing.

~ Submitted by Sarah Greenblatt

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