Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Memories of Communist China in 1979: Verne Strickland




Memories of Communist China in 1979

Verne Strickland, traveler

February 17, 2015




China. 1979. I walked across the Beijing airport’s dusty tarmac in the Autumn dusk, my heart pounding with excitement.
It had taken me two years to get here. Not because I had taken the trip on foot, but because the Chinese Communist government did not trust me – because I was a foreigner, because I was an American, because I was a Western journalist, and possibly because of my close ties to U.S Senator Jesse Helms.
 The implacable conservative from North Carolina was hated with a vengeance by communists everywhere, and equally by U.S. liberals, who called him “Senator No” for his refusal to go along with every piece of legislation they held dear. Their fury and frustration were palpable
Jesse Helms’ influence was considerable. With Republicans in the majority in Washington, Helms had ascended to the post of Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and later to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (his main goal all along.)
In earlier years, I had been hired by Helms to ghost write some of his conservative editorials aired as “Viewpoint”on WRAL-TV in Raleigh, and to report agricultural news, a post which at the time dealt largely with North Carolina’s tobacco-rich heritage.
There were delays, excuses, rebuffs, letters of inquiry, mostly through the Chinese consulate in Canada. The U.S. at the time had no diplomatic relations with the Peoples Republic of China. This made it tougher, but heightened the appeal and challenge for me, a North Carolina television journalist.
If agriculture seems a tame beat, it wasn’t in my case. I was able to satiate my yearning for travel, visiting over 30 countries during my fifteen-year tenure at the Raleigh station. But, for me, the plum was always China. Mysterious, forbidding, elusive China.
I sought help wherever it was available, creating friendships with many old China hands who were quick to encourage me. One was Herbert Hitch, now deceased, who as a U.S. Navy second lieutenant, became one of America’s key links to the Communist forces, befriending Mao Tse Tung along the way.
Hitch, also a U.S. intelligence agent, was entrusted by Mao to deliver a letter to the U.S. Joint Chiefs in Washington, asking for American support to defeat both the Japanese and Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist armies.
When the Joint Chiefs refused to help Mao, the gritty old warrior determined to never seek U.S. cooperation again, and China skidded inexorably into Communist hands.
Introduced to Hitch in Charlotte, I told him about my plan – perhaps better described as a slim hope – suggesting that he try to return to China, and meet again with his old pal Mao, who was still alive at the time.
“If you can get in, I want you to take me along,” I pleaded. “If you can see Mao, I will be on hand to report the story. It will be a great coup for you as well as for me.”
Hitch had contacts. Good ones. He went to Juanita Kreps, former Duke University vice president who was then U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Kreps agreed to intercede with the PRC bigwigs in Herbert’s behalf.
He also took his case to Mrs. Seymour Topping, wife of the managing editor of The New York Times, who had her own circle of friends within the Communist hierarchy. She knew Hitch and was impressed with his idea. Things were looking promising.
But finally, the Chinese dashed Herbert Hitch’s hopes, as well as mine.
“They won’t let me in,” he said, “presumably because I was in foreign intelligence. They still see me as an American agent.”
What a story that would have been. I hated to see the opportunity slip by.
The months dragged on. A friend with the U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service tipped me off that the PRC rarely allowed entrance by individuals, but were more receptive to “educational” groups with the right agenda.
I saw an opening. North Carolina had been a leading exporter of U.S flue-cured tobacco to China, but the trade had dropped precipitously in the wake of the Communist takeover and a growing distrust of America.
I started anew, appointing a tobacco trade “committee” from among my farm and university friends, and pitching this possibility to the PRC through their consulate in Canada. Things warmed up, then stalled again.
Finally, I was on a plane with Gov. Jim Hunt and a North Carolina export group in Europe. Seated alone with the Governor for a few minutes away from the rest of the group, I unveiled my hopes and as well as my frustration.
“I don’t have the clout to bring this off on my own,” I said. “Will you pick up the initiative, contact the Chinese as Governor of the leading U.S. tobacco-producing state, and ask to bring my group with you? If you can get the invitation, I’d like you take over as head of the mission, and we all get in.”
A politician with a keen eye for publicity and promotion, Hunt took the lure. He would be the first North Carolina governor in history to visit China, with the prospect of reopening what once was a lucrative tobacco export business.
Within a couple of months, we were on our way. Our group spent three weeks in China, entering at Beijing, then heading south to Shanghai, a city which displayed striking Western influences from its days as a haven for British and American businessmen.
Shanghai had become gray and drab under the austere influence of the Chinese Communist Party, but it still had the feel of a thoroughbred straining against the reins to break into a run.
The morning that we were scheduled to leave Shanghai to head into the interior, I was awakened by the sound of music blaring from loudspeakers across the city. I pushed open the old leaded window to listen more closely.
Below me, on the roof of every building in sight, hundreds of people moved through the slow, graceful choreography of a Tai Chi workout. It was thrilling to see.
But my greatest surprise came as I recognized the strains of “On Top of Old Smoky” rolling across this Chinese city on the other side of the world. The tune is a traditional folk song about life and love in the North Carolina mountains. I chuckled aloud, realizing that the music director surely had no idea of the capitalist origins of his selection.
In Beijing and Shanghai, our white faces at times seemed to shock people on the street. They were curious, but never hostile. Communist fervor rarely infects the dominated masses.
We rode a steam train deep into the Eastern provinces to visit China’s tobacco production and manufacturing centers. There the U.S. tobacco mission made the trade contacts it had sought.
But for me, perhaps the most memorable and touching moment came in the port city of Quingdao, whose bay opened onto the Yellow Sea.
As I walked alone on the sand near our hotel, a young man approached. As we closed to within a few feet of one another, he stopped, and asked, “Are you English?”
“American,” I replied. He looked at me almost with relief. “One day I hope to go there,” he said.
He was an English teacher in the local schools. This accounted for the ease with which he spoke the language.
After we talked for a few moments, he asked if I had any U.S. newspapers or magazines that he could read. “Back in the hotel,” I answered.
He begged me to share some with him, as he never saw English news publications, and desperately wanted this chance to read them. I agreed to bring a magazine to him.
Then, speaking almost fearfully, he said he would hide by a small boathouse on the beach until I returned.
Furtively, I brought back a “Time” magazine I had purchased in Hong Kong. The young teacher was still there, almost beside himself with excitement as he flipped through the pages.
“America,” he said, smiling as tears welled in his eyes, “the land of the free.”
This moment was my China trip. I saw America then through different eyes. My country. Blessed by God. Taken for granted by many of us so fortunate to live there.
I prayed that my Chinese friend would someday realize his dream.

Closing note: 2/17/15

Larry Stogner, 40-year veteran television anchor for WTVD-TV in Durham, was also present on the mission, giving important coverage to the historic trade trip. He was always a close friend to Governor Hunt. In January 2014 Larry announced that he was stricken with ALS, a disease for which there is no cure. Larry is a beloved North Carolina news icon who has a wonderful family and many friends not only in the U.S. but in other countries as well. All wish him well.

Monday, January 26, 2015

'NO MORE COMMENTS ALLOWED' ON STORY ABOUT OBAMA INTEREST IN MOVE ASHEVILLE NC. WHAT'S TO HIDE, FBI?

Rumors Swirl Around an Obama Asheville Home Purchase

Verne Sez: Why does Obama want to move to NC? I know he loves Chicago and Hawaii, and grew up in Kenya. How would Pat McCrory handle this?And why are comments not allowed on this story? What's to hide, FBI?

Rumors have begun to surface that the Obama Family have purchased an Asheville home for use after the President’s second term ends. While the White House has not confirmed the news, it wouldn’t be a complete surprise to those people who have followed the President’s recent visits to Asheville.

Obama speaking during one of his Asheville visits.
Obama speaking during one of his Asheville visits.
When Obama visited Asheville in 2013, he hinted then that he and Michelle thought Asheville might be their next stop. As noted in Greybeard’s blog post about that visit, he was partial to the people and the food in the area. And that wasn’t his only trip to the NC mountains. In his 2011 campaign visit to Asheville, he spoke fondly of Asheville, as noted in another Greybeard blog. The most recent talk about the Obamas relocating to the area indicates a home already has been purchased, though again this hasn’t been confirmed. Another point of discussion is whether the home would be a permanent home or a getaway vacation home. While some pundits favor a larger city like Chicago or New York for their permanent home, others point out the peace and solitude the whole family would find in the area.
Regardless of whether it’s true, it’s great to see the fine words about Asheville. While it’s news that Obama might be becoming our neighbor, it isn’t news that the western NC mountains make a great retirement location. Greybeard Realty has known about the good value of an Asheville retirement for a long time. As to the veracity of the latest rumors, we will keep an ear to the news and keep you posted when it’s confirmed as true. And if you’ve been considering retiring up this way, it may be time to follow through. After all, chances are that an Asheville retirement has just received a Presidential endorsement.
- See more at: http://blog.greybeardrealty.com/2014/06/08/rumors-swirl-around-obama-asheville-home-purchase/#sthash.Lxtevp31.dpuf

THE ENDOSCOPY CLINIC . . . I'VE HAD MY THROAT CANCER CHECK-UP -- NOW YOU GET YOURS.

THE ENDOSCOPY CLINIC  -- What goes on there can literally save you life!

BY VERNE STRICKLAND   1/26/2015


I went to the GI doctor this past week for an endoscopy. Stomach acid seemed  to searing my throat. It was time to get a bir worried again.


This kind of condition has  bedeviled me before. And I have felt it would be wise to get  checked out. I have also had three colonoscopies during the past ten years or so. Polyps showed up on the last one. They are like IED's in your gut, and must be excised because they can become cancerous.


Most of us have also had friends who opted to take a short cut, give the GI clinic a wide berth, and hoped for the best. Many of these paid  a big price because they feared the procedure, or didn't want to find bad news, or just didn't want to go to the trouble. I never figured that was the way to go.





During my fifteen or so years in  Wilmington, I have gone to Wilmington Gastroentrology for these procedures. I have a lot of confidence in them, and that confidence has been earned. Their clinic on Oleander Drive is spacious, modern, attractive, and features the absolute latest technology available for providing safe, efficient, procedures. The OR staff includes Board-Certified surgeon Dr. Steven D. Klein, several RNs and the anesthesiologist. There are a total of seven gastroenterologists on staff.


If it sounds like I'm making a promotional push, I am, in a sense, because I think this medical practice is exceptional. Any of you who have concerns about throat and stomach acid will want to get to know these professionals if in the Wilmington area.


THE POTENTIAL PROBLEM

What one wants to avoid at all costs is esophogeal cancer. Once it has become established, surgery may not be an option. Use of a stent can open up the esophagus, and dilation of the "swallowing tube" useful. Additionally, radiation and chemotherapy can be employed. But the metastasizing malignancy may prevent swallowing altogether, with the result that the patient eventually chokes to death.  prevents swallowing, and the patient eventually chokes to death.
Esophageal cancer occurs when cancer cells develop in the esophagus, a tube-like structure that runs from your throat to your stomach. Food goes from the mouth to the stomach through the esophagus. The cancer starts at the inner layer of the esophagus and can spread throughout the other layers of the esophagus and to other parts of the body (metastasis).
  1. The five-year survival rate of people with esophageal cancer is about 17%. However, survival rates depend on several factors, including the stage (or extent) of the cancer at the time of diagnosis. The five-yearsurvival rate of people with cancer located only in the esophagus is about 39%.
  2. As this graphic indicates, the State of North Carolina is one of the nation's hot spots for this very serious cancer.

  1. MAJOR RISK FACTORS
  2. It's thought that chronic irritation of your esophagus may contribute to the DNA changes that cause esophageal cancer. Factors that cause irritation in the cells of your esophagus and increase your risk of esophageal cancer include:
    • Drinking alcohol
    • Having bile reflux
    • Having difficulty swallowing because of an esophageal sphincter that won't relax (achalasia)
    • Drinking very hot liquids
    • Eating few fruits and vegetables
    • Having gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
    • Being obese
    • Having precancerous changes in the cells of the esophagus (Barrett's esophagus)
    • Undergoing radiation treatment to the chest or upper abdomen
    • Smoking

RUNNING THE GAUNTLET

I didn't hesitate when the Physician's Assistant to Dr. Klein told me that, after an evaluation of my case, it was decided that an endoscopy was needed to determine the risk I  was facing. For several nights in succession my throat and upper esophogeal tract seemed seared by stomach acid. It was very painful and very distressful. 


This mistreatment of your esophagus does not go unnoticed by your body, which may react by turning normal cells into malignant ones. The discomfort is bad enough. What it signals over a period of time can be much worse. 



How do doctors perform an upper GI endoscopy?


A doctor performs an upper GI endoscopy in a hospital or an outpatient center. An intravenous (IV) needle will be placed in your arm to provide a sedative. Sedatives help you stay relaxed and comfortable during the procedure. In some cases, the procedure can be performed without sedation. You will be given a liquid anesthetic to gargle or spray anesthetic on the back of your throat. The anesthetic numbs your throat and calms the gag reflex. The health care staff will monitor your vital signsExternal NIH Link and keep you as comfortable as possible. 

You’ll be asked to lie on your side on an exam table. The doctor will carefully feed the endoscope down your esophagus and into your stomach and duodenum.A small camera mounted on the endoscope will send a video image to a monitor, allowing close examination of the lining of your upper GI tract. The endoscope pumps air into your stomach and duodenum, making them easier to see.
During the upper GI endoscopy, the doctor may
  • perform a biopsy of tissue in your upper GI tract. You won’t feel the biopsy.
  • stop any bleeding.
  • perform other specialized procedures, such as dilating strictures.
​​​The procedure most often takes between 15 and 30 minutes. The endoscope does not interfere with your breathing, and many people fall asleep during the procedure. 

I came out clean as a whistle. No problems of any consequence. I can thank God and my doctor for that.

But Durrene and I know that some of the patients who sat in the waiting room did not receive the same good news. They might have been advised of serious problems which would require radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery for stent implantation, for example, to save their lives!

The trick is to find and employ the services of a good gastroenterologist at a specialized medical center like Wilmington Gastroenterology. Timing is important. Cancer won't wait. It won't be ignored. I was lucky in that no serious problems were found. I was smart in that I moved without delay. 

Please do the same, and God bless you! 
Verne Strickland, Wilmington NC








MEGA VOTE -- How Congress Is Voting -- NORTH CAROLINA EDITION & SEVENTH DISTRICT: Senator Richard Burr, Senator Thom Tillis, Rep. David Rouzer

Verne Strickland USA DOT COM 1/26/2015. 
January 26, 2015
In this MegaVote for North Carolina's 7th Congressional District:

Recent Congressional Votes
  • Senate: Keystone XL Pipeline - Climate Change
  • Senate: Keystone XL Pipeline - Climate Change
  • Senate: Keystone XL Pipeline - Energy Efficiency Standards
  • House: Gas Pipeline Permit Deadlines – Passage
  • House: Federal Abortion Funding Ban – Passage
Upcoming Congressional Bills
  • Senate: Keystone XL Pipeline
  • House: Human Trafficking Prioritization Act
  • House: LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act


Recent Senate Votes
Keystone XL Pipeline - Climate Change - Vote Rejected (50-49, 1 Not Voting)

The Senate rejected a Schatz, D-Hawaii, amendment to a bill that would immediately allow TransCanada to construct, connect, operate and maintain the pipeline and cross-border facilities known as the Keystone XL pipeline. The amendment would express the sense of the Senate that climate change is real and that human activity significantly contributes to it. By unanimous consent, the Senate agreed to raise the majority requirement for adoption of the amendment to 60 votes.

Sen. Richard Burr voted NO
Sen. Thom Tillis voted NO


Keystone XL Pipeline - Climate Change - Vote Agreed to (56-42, 2 Not Voting)

The Senate agreed to table (kill) a Sanders, I-Vt., amendment to a bill that would immediately allow TransCanada to construct, connect, operate and maintain the pipeline and cross-border facilities known as the Keystone XL pipeline. The amendment would express the sense of the Senate that climate change is real and caused by human activities. It also would urge the U.S. to overhaul its energy system away from fossil fuels and towards sustainable energy.

Sen. Richard Burr voted YES
Sen. Thom Tillis voted YES


Keystone XL Pipeline - Energy Efficiency Standards - Vote Agreed to (94-5, 1 Not Voting)

The Senate adopted a Portman, R-Ohio, amendment to a bill that would immediately allow TransCanada to construct, connect, operate and maintain the pipeline and cross-border facilities known as the Keystone XL pipeline. The amendment would would direct the General Services Administration to establish best practices regarding energy-efficiency in commercial real estate buildings, including those that house federal agencies. It would require the GSA to incorporate energy-efficiency standards into its building leasing program for federal agencies.

Sen. Richard Burr voted YES
Sen. Thom Tillis voted YES


Recent House Votes
Gas Pipeline Permit Deadlines – Passage - Vote Passed (253-169, 11 Not Voting)

The House passed a bill that would require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve or deny a natural gas pipeline project within one year after receiving a completed application. Federal agencies responsible for issuing permits would have to issue a ruling within 90 days of when FERC issues its final environmental statement for the project.

Rep. David Rouzer voted YES


Federal Abortion Funding Ban – Passage - Vote Passed (242-179, 12 Not Voting)

The House passed a bill that would permanently prohibit the use of federal funds, facilities or staff to provide abortion coverage and services, except in cases of rape or incest and for saving the life of the woman. It also would prohibit individuals and small business from receiving federal subsidies and small businesses from receiving federal subsidies and tax credits under the 2010 health care overhaul to purchase plans that cover abortions.

Rep. David Rouzer voted YES


Upcoming Votes
Keystone XL Pipeline - S1

The Senate will consider a bill that would immediately allow TransCanada to construct, connect, operate and maintain the pipeline and cross-border facilities known as the Keystone XL pipeline.


Human Trafficking Prioritization Act - HR514

The House will consider a bill to prioritize the fight against human trafficking within the Department of State according to congressional intent in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 without increasing the size of the Federal Government.


LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act - HR351

The House will consider a bill to provide for expedited approval of exportation of natural gas.


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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Coming to a college near you Angela Davis -- 1960s communist charged with murder and kidnapping, sprung by hoodwinked jury. To speak at UNC Dubyah. But why? Why her? Damn, people!




via Verne Strickland usa dot com






By Julian March StarNewsOnline. 1/13/2015



An activist who rose to national prominence in the late 1960s is slated to speak in Wilmington as part of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration
The speaker is Angela Davis, who works to combat all forms of oppression as a teacher and activist, according to her biography at the University of California Santa Cruz, where she is a professor amerita. 
The free event is slated for Tuesday, Jan. 20, at Kenan Auditorium at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
All tickets are already taken, said Todd McFadden, a UNCW instructor and director of the Upperman African American Cultural Center.
In 1969, Davis was fired from the University of California, Los Angeles, after she acknowledged being a member of the Communist Party, states an article in the New York Times. In 1970 she was connected with a notorious crime in California in which armed convicts escaped from a courtroom with hostages. Several people were killed in the escape, including a judge. The guns used in the incident were registered to Davis, who was later charged with murder, kidnapping and criminal conspiracy, according to the Times. A jury found Davis not guilty in 1972.
McFadden said the controversy associated with Davis' name has faded since then. "Martin Luther King was controversial in his day but obviously is a much more accepted figure," he said. "Things like that change."
Davis has lectured in all 50 states and is the author of nine books, so it is said.
It is also alleged that she is especially concerned with the general tendency to devote more resources and attention to the prison system than to educational institutions.
"Having helped to popularize the notion the notion of a 'prison institutional complex,' she now urges her audiences to think seriously about the future possibility of a world without prisons and to help forge a 21st century abolitionist movement." 
For more information about the talk, call the Kenan Auditorium box office at 910-962-3500.

Verne Strickland's Grading Comments

The event is free -- way over-priced
Davis was fired from University of California 
An admitted member of Communist Party
May have beat her rap -- but still a shady chick
Helped armed convicts escape from courtroom
The gentlemen were charged with murder, kidnapping and stuff
Several innocent people, including a judge, were killed
Guns used in the crime were registered to Davis
She was charged with murder, kidnapping, conspiracy
A confused jury found Davis not guilty 
UNCW's McFadden says controversy "has faded since then"
(I, for one, don't think that's true or relevant)

Davis wants people to "think seriously" about a future without prison -- a 21st century abolitionist movement. How crazy is that?

She should have been put in the slammer decades ago, and should still be there. One reason she's not is the sanitized and glamorized aura that has surrounded her Hollywood crime novel plot life and general notoriety. Communist? Helped spring armed convicts? Resulting charges of murder and kidnapping, conspiracy? Yikes. 

She was a Bonnie and Clyde type figure with no Clyde. So it is thought that she will have something relevant to say to UNCW students and other lovers of gore and sensational crimes? What's wrong with this picture?



Monday, January 12, 2015

White House: 'It's fair to say' we were wrong on Paris unity rally. (Damn sure is!)

via Verne Strickland USA DOT COM 1/12/15


White House: 'It's fair to say' we were wrong on Paris unity rally


Getty Images
The White House erred in not sending a higher profile representative to this weekend's solidarity march in France following a terrorist attack on a satirical newspaper, press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday.
 
"It's fair to say we should have sent someone with a higher profile to be there," Earnest told reporters at the White House.
 
"Had the circumstances been a little bit different, I think the president himself would have liked to be there," Earnest added.

 The White House said planning for the march had begun only 36 hours before the event, and that the security required for the president to visit would have been "onerous and significant."
 
Still, Earnest said, there should be no doubt that the administration and the American people stood in solidarity with France, nor that the United States was "committed to a strong relationship. The United States is with France and committed to the same kind of values they are."
 
The White House would not discuss whether it considered sending the president at any point.
 
Earnest said he did not know why Attorney General Eric Holder, who was in Paris earlier Sunday for a series of high-level counterterrorism meetings, was unable to stay to attend the march. He also said he did not know what the president, who remained at the White House throughout the day, did with his time.
 
The administration has come under fire from media commentators and Republican lawmakers for not sending a top administration officials to join the march, in which more than 40 heads of state participated.
 
"Especially at a time of such great pain, people will take cues from something like that," said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in an interview with CBS News.
 
"You recall what it felt like after 9/11 to have all these nations around the world rally to our side and take up our cause after we suffered so greatly," Rubio said. "The French are going through a similar trauma."
 
Earnest, asked if that criticism was fair, said that it was "certainly a free country and people have the opportunity to subject their elected officials to criticism and make it clear when they disagree with an action… taken by the administration."
 
Earlier Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry said he planned to visit France later in this week.
 
"I don't think the people of France have any doubt about America's understanding of what happened, about our personal sense of loss, and our deep commitment to the people of France in this moment of trial," Kerry said.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

What Comes After the Islamic State Is Defeated?

REPORT

What Comes After the Islamic State Is Defeated?

What Comes After the Islamic State Is Defeated?
When American troops were about to invade Iraq in 2003 to dislodge Saddam Hussein from power, then-Maj. Gen. David Petraeus told a reporter: “Tell me how this ends.” Eleven years and hundreds of billions of dollars later, thousands of U.S. troops are once again in Iraq fighting a different foe. But the same question still resonates.
President Barack Obama’s withdrawal of American forces in 2011 after failing to win a security agreement with Iraq has already been undone by Obama ordering as many as 3,100 troops to help train the Iraqi military to take on the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. But even if U.S. and Iraqi forces defeat the militant group, preventing a disintegration of Iraq along sectarian and religious lines may require a long-term presence of U.S. forces, former American officials and defense analysts say.
“You cannot get the goal you want of a stable Iraq and a permanently defeated” Islamic State, “or a son of ISIS,” without a long-term American presence, said James Jeffrey, who served as U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2010 to 2012. “Even if they’re promised the moon, only if we have a presence will the Kurds and Sunnis buy into a Baghdad that’s dominated by the Shiites and indirectly by Iran.”
Jeffrey said that moves to establish a peacekeeping or monitoring force should be led by the U.N. but backed by U.S. military power. That means a modest American force should plan on remaining in Iraq and eventually in Syria once the Islamic State is defeated, he said.
More than 2,000 American troops are helping retrain the Iraqi military to fight back against the Islamic State on the ground, even as U.S. drones and jet fighters have carried out hundreds of airstrikes, yielding some earlysuccesses by halting the militant group’s advances.
A major ground offensive against the militant group won’t be launched for several months. But experts say that in order to avoid a repeat of the American withdrawal in 2011, which allowed Iran to become a dominant power, thus marginalizing Sunnis and leading to the birth of the Islamic State, it’s time to plan for what comes after the militant group is defeated or sufficiently contained. One option gaining currency is an international force that can keep the region’s Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites at peace and prevent the breakup of Iraq along ethnic and religious lines.
For starters, Obama may have to allow American troops a deeper role in fighting the Islamic State along with Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Sunni tribes, as well as giving both those groups “some guarantee that we’d be there for the long term,” said Jeffrey, now a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Even if the Kurds and Sunni tribes fully commit to taking on the Islamic State, once the fight against the militants is over, “the Kurds and Sunnis will be open to the same temptation as before: Kurds would want to go independent and the Sunnis may make common cause with the next jihadi group,” Jeffrey said.
The United States has 2,140 troops in Iraq out of the 3,100 that Obama has authorized, according to Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. The remainder of the troops will head to Iraq in the coming weeks.
About 800 of the troops are there to protect the American Embassy in Baghdad and other U.S. personnel, while the rest are training Iraqi military forces, Warren said. A group of 320 Marines are at al-Asad air base in Iraq’s Anbar province — a stronghold of the Islamic State — and are drawing almost daily fire from the militant group, Warren told reporters Jan. 5.
Many of the Sunni tribes the United States is trying to woo now to take on the Islamic State were once critical to the so-called Anbar Awakening that helped the United States defeat al Qaeda in Iraq back in 2006. The tribes later turned on the government of Iraq’s then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — a Shiite — who refused to pay the fighters or fold them into the standing Iraqi military after the violence subsided, setting the stage for the emergence of the Islamic State.
While Iraq’s current prime minister, Haider al-Abadi — a Shiite with close ties to Iran — has, unlike his predecessor Maliki, publicly committed to running an inclusive government, in private meetings with officials he has voiced skepticism about trusting Sunni tribal leaders, according to U.S. and European officials.
Even if the militant group were defeated or just degraded, the impact of such an outcome will be limited “unless the U.S. can also work with the key factions in Iraq, and its allies, to create a stable structure for cooperation between Shiite Arab, Sunni Arab, and Kurds,” Anthony Cordesman, a national security scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in an email. “It is far from clear that this is possible.”
But such political accommodation between the different groups is essential to prevent the “next millennial Islamist movement from gaining a new foothold,” Jeffrey wrote in an article published in late December on the Washington Institute’s website.
Although Iraq has allowed some autonomy to Kurds in the north, letting the country’s Sunnis enjoy similar freedoms in the Sunni Arab areas of the country “will require internal cultural change, international guarantees, and an outside monitoring force,” Jeffrey wrote.
U.S. military and State Department officials said there are currently no discussions about such a peacekeeping or monitoring force.
The Obama administration has said that as many as 60 countries are involved in the coalition against the Islamic State, including several Arab nations, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait.
Although Arab countries in the coalition see the predominantly Sunni Islamic State as a threat to their own well-being, they also “still deeply distrust the Shiite-dominated Iraqi Central Government and this tends to push it into the hands of Iran,” the Shiite power in the region, Cordesman said.
A U.N.-backed international peacekeeping force has precedent.
The international body has led such an effort in the past, with the U.N. Mission in Kosovo in 1999. The U.N. Security Council in June 1999 authorized NATO to station 50,000 troops after the end of the war to stop Serbian human rights violations and clashes between the Kosovo Liberation Army and Yugoslav forces. About 4,500 NATO troops from 30 countries currently remain in Kosovo to keep the peace.
Unlike in the Balkans in the late 1990s, the long-term presence of American troops in Iraq may produce its own backlash, said Nicholas Heras, a researcher at the Center for a New American Security.
A U.S. role “in such a peacekeeping force would likely be highly controversial, considering the baggage that the U.S. has in the Middle East region and the anger in the region toward the U.S. occupation of Iraq from the last decade,” Heras said.
Such a stabilizing force may make more sense in Syria, serving “as a guarantor of security in a post-Assad transitional period,” he said, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. There, a multinational force could oversee the “disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of militias, and prevent the return of ISIS in eastern and northern Syria, once ISIS is removed from those areas of the country,” he said.
But the Obama administration’s policy toward Syria remains so incoherent that moderate rebel forces have been weakened and extremist ones have gained the upper hand. No credible peacekeeping force is likely to control the conflicting pressures, and there’s “no clear way that anyone can as yet predict whether, much less how, these various conflicts will end,” Cordesman said.
MOHAMMED SAWAF/AFP