Weekly Letter to President Obama
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INAUGURATION,   January 20, 2009

Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape

To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.

The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.

Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.

--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
---  Native American proverb
June 20, 2014

Mr. President:  This week ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria -- also called ISIL)
fighters have made further gains including the strategic northern city of Tal Afar
situated on the road serving as their supply corridor from Syria.  Just north of
Baghdad, Iraq's largest oil refinery at Baiji has been under attack with conflicting
reports on the situation.

Those who can afford it are already leaving and the airport road in Baghdad is
reportedly the busiest.  Nouri al-Maliki's government is in a panic desperately seeking
help from the U.S. and Iran.  Strange bedfellows but such are the unexpected
consequences of the Iraq intervention.

This oblique alignment of interests is a direct result of the U.S. attacking secular
regimes, its natural allies, when the alternative was coalescing around religious
fundamentalist extremism

In this strange conundrum, ISIS is supported by Saudi Arabia and Gulf interests
supplying equipment and volunteer fighters, some quite possibly trained by the CIA in
Jordan.  Such are the vagaries of war.  The leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi also
known as Abu Dua, has emerged overnight as the most powerful fundamentalist
leader in the region.

He was born in Samarra and his real name is Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Bakri al-Samarrai.  
He attended the Islamic University of Baghdad majoring in Islamic Studies, its poetry
and history.  He became head of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) after its leadership was killed
by the U.S., proving once again that killing militant leaders can lead to unexpected,
sometimes worse consequences; for under such lethal pressure, only the smartest
survive.  He started operations in Syria when the civil war offered new opportunities,
creating the Jabhat al-Nusra front, an al-Qaeda affiliate.

Although now separate from al-Nusra, ISIS still controls parts of north-eastern Syria,
and has moved southeast into Iraq coming very close to knocking on the gates of
Baghdad.  Thus our attempt to oust Assad through proxies of our proxies, Saudi
Arabia and the Gulf, allowed fundamentalists to receive massive aid in funds and

Eyewitness accounts from Mosul describe the sudden appearance of bearded men
patrolling their neighborhoods, speaking a classical Arabic clearly different from the
local dialect.   However, according to the Governor of the city who escaped to Erbil,
there are other Sunni groups also involved.

After the massive demonstrations in Mosul (from December 2012 to April 2013)
against the marginalization of Sunnis and their leaders and the government response,
prominent protesters unsure of their safety sought refuge in Erbil.  Mosul, they claim,
was a joint operation which, in addition to ISIS, included Ansar al-Sunna another
Islamist group but also JRTN the Army of Men of the Naqshbande Order, a group
allegedly led by Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, a Vice-President and a top military commander
in the Saddam Hussein government.

Thus the real reason the defending Shiite government forces slipped away without a
fight was their lack of support from the local population.  It answers the question as to
how a city of two million could fall in a matter of hours.

The Maliki government in Baghdad has become sectarian instead of conciliatory.  And
while neither Iran nor the U.S. would like to see a protracted civil war in Iraq, it makes
little sense to get involved in a sectarian conflict.

Meanwhile, many who left Mosul out of fear, are now returning.  Government forces
have fled, the situation is much calmer, and road blocks are being removed as the
city returns to some semblance of normality.

And Iraq appears headed towards partition into Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite areas.  An
organic separation involving also parts of Syria (and perhaps others) is underway as
the Sykes-Picot Agreement foisted on the Arabs, when the British reneged on their
promises to them, is cast into the dustbin of history.