Category Archives: Juan Cole

Before the Deaths Reach 100

This is a follow-up post to “Before the Deaths,” on the unrest following the Iranian election.

One phrase you will be hearing more about is the cycle of mourning.

In this video, regime paramilitaries begin firing and break into a private dwelling:

On Twitter, Joseph Fouche, Galrahn, and Selil debate whether the unrest is War. Of course it is. War is the application of violence for political objectives. Specifically, this is a 4GW, or 4th Gradient War. Specifically, this is an early stage 4GW.

Obama’s actions in handling America’s reaction to the unrest are praised by Andrew Sullivan and Juan Cole, and with good reason. It is hard to imagine Bush being able to react so well.

Cole’s Oil Cartography

Bush Turns to Fear-Mongering: Creation of ‘Islamic’ Bogeyman,” by Juan Cole, Informed Comment, 6 September 2006,

The latest column by Juan Cole (a Professor at the University of Michigan) is his usual semi-factual self

Iran has not launched a war on a neighbor since the late 1700s.

True… ish. (Never mind that in the Tanker War, Kuwait required assistance of both the Soviet Union and the United States to protect her ships from Iranian aggression.

Another comment comparing the Syrian regime to California New-Agers must be read in context to be believed.

Next, Dr. Cole attacks the usual enemies — Christians and Texans

If you want to know what is really going on, it is a struggle for control of the Strategic Ellipse, which just happens demographically to be mostly Muslim. Bush has to demonize the Muslim world in order to justify his swooping down on the Strategic Ellipse. If demons occupy it, obviously they have to be cleared out in favor of Christian fundamentalists or at least Texas oilmen.

This paragraph leads to an interesting map where Cole defines a “strategic ellipse.” The map combines the best of Barnettian and Spykmanian geopolitics.

The Pentagon’s New Heartland?

Leaving aside Cole’s incoherent rant, what we are left with is the fact that much of the world’s oil and gas comes from countries we don’t much trust. Hopefully President Bush is serious about a geogreen gas tax.

Pro-American, Pro-Iranian Party Calls for Dismemberment of Iraq (Good)

A Mixed Story,” by Juan Cole, Informed Consent,, 30 January 2005 (from tdaxp).

Groceries and Election Results…,” by river, Baghdad Burning,, 18 February 2005 (from tdaxp).

A Defeat for the Iraqi Constitution Is a Victory for Iraq,” by NYkrinDC, New Yorker in DC, 16 October 2005,

Call for Shiite Autonomy as Iraqi Tribal Chiefs Meet,” by Karnal Taha, AFP, 26 August 2006, (from Democratic Underground).

SCIRI – the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq – is the largest political party in Mesopotamia. Like other large Iraqi parties, it has attempted a strategy of friendship with Iraq’s natural allies, Iran and the Untied States. This has earned SCIRI distrust from Baa’thi sympathizers

Then there’s Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). He got to be puppet president for the month of December and what was the first thing he did? He decided overburdened, indebted Iraq owed Iran 100 billion dollars.

and commentators who just hate Bush

I’m just appalled by the cheerleading tone of US news coverage of the so-called elections in Iraq on Sunday. I said on television last week that this event is a “political earthquake” and “a historical first step” for Iraq.It is an event of the utmost importance, for Iraq, the Middle East, and the world. All the boosterism has a kernel of truth to it, of course. Iraqis hadn’t been able to choose their leaders at all in recent decades, even by some strange process where they chose unknown leaders.

Yet in spite of hope that terrorist minorities would defeat the democratic process, SCIRI and its Shia-Kurdish partners (mainly Dawa, the Kurdish Democratic Party, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) established a Constitutional Democracy in Iraq.

Now the Shia want out

At the same time Saturday one of Iraq’s most influential politicians called for the vast and oil-rich Shiite region south of the capital to become a self-governing area stretching from the holy city of Najaf to the port of Basra.

Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), said a referendum should be called in the region to endorse a breakaway, an idea which is fiercely opposed by Sunni leaders.

The reason is obvious: the American military has been more interested in appeasing terrorists than supporting democracy. Instead of recognizing that our enemies come from a violent minority that has no interest in democracy, we subvert democracy. We should celebrate when the Kurdish North and Shia South liberate themselves from their former terrorist masters. We should embrace those who kill terrorists instead of attacking our natural allies.

Support the Iraqi struggle against terrorists. Support the dismemberment of Iraq.

Good News from Iraq

Iraq Violence May Provoke Shiite Backlash,” by Patrick Quinn, Associated Press, 7 January 2005,

Shiite Crowds Protest Bombings, US Support for Sunni Arabs; 11 GIs Killed,” by Juan Cole, Informed Comment, 7 January 2005,

I’ve celebrated Iranian cooperation with Basra and the strength of Kurdish separatism. Now, more good news from Iraq:

The rallies and threats by the Iraq’s largest Shiite religious party to react with force if the militant attacks continue have renewed fears that paramilitary militias – now thought to make up part of some elite police units- would take to the streets and carry out reprisals.

“We’re going to crush Saleh al-Mutlaq with our slippers,” they chanted, many armed with automatic weapons. “No, no to Zalmay. No, no to terrorism.” It is an insult in Arab culture to touch someone with shoes, which are considered unclean.

The demonstration was organized after Friday prayers by the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq – one of two religious parties that makes up the governing Alliance.

SCIRI and Badr Brigade Secretary-General Hadi al-Amiri have both blamed hardline Sunni groups of inciting the violence, and said the Defense and Interior ministries – both dominated by Shiites – were being restrained by the U.S-led coalition and had to be unleashed.

He told the pan-Arab Al-Arabyia television that the government told the U.S. “that they should not give any cover to terrorism.”

This is exactly what we need in Iraq. Iraq is an artificial country. We can spend blood and will trying to save this relic of British Colonialism, or we can focus on shrinking the gap and building connectivity.

The Kurds in the north make up about 20% of Iraq, and should be their own country. The Shia in the South make up about 60% of Iraq, and should be their own country. There is no reason why these two peoples, who both want connectivity, must be held back by the 15% of Iraqis who belong to a nation unready for the modern world.

If we can connect the 85% of Iraqis who want it by allowing them to defeat terrorist-infested Sunni Arab networks, we should do it.

The prize is bigger than just Iraq. Globalization spreads globalization: let the reverse domino theory work.

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari complained while on pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia about the poor quality of Saudi preparations for the event. Some 53 pilgrims died when their hostel collapsed. Tragedies during pilgrimage are so frequent that many observers believe the Saudis are neglecting their duties as hosts of the event.

The Saudi minister of the interior, Prince Naef, angrily rejected Jaafari’s criticism, saying that he was just posturing in hopes of salvaging his fading political career. (In fact, Jaafari has a real shot of being the prime minister of Iraq again). The Saudis also said they had be nice enough to let the Iraqi delegation come in numbers greater than their allotted quota, implying that Jaafari was being ungracious.

Tension between the Shiite-dominated government of Iraq and the Wahhabi state in Saudi Arabia have been high since September, when a major Saudi prince castigated the United States for spreading Iranian influence in the region by installing Iraqi Shiites in power.

One of the great pay-offs of the Iraq War is permanently weakening Saudi power. The American liberation of Iraq freed Iraq, letting her join Iran as a sister Shia republic on the Persian Gulf. East Arabia, currently occupied by the Saudi Tyranny, is the third

Besides being Shia, East Arabia holds most of the the Saud family’s oil. Saudi Arabia applauds terrorism, Saudi TV is as antisemitic as Hugo Chavez, and the Saudis run pro-terrorist camps for children. Helping the Shia in Iraq finally free themselves from the nuisance of Sunni terrorism would allow them to spread their connectivity to their imprisoned brothers in the Saudi south.

Shia Militias that attack terrorist-supporting Sunnis should be welcomed. They are part of a well-built Military-Industrial-SysAdminComplex just as much as firms like Blackwater, or the US Army for that matter. The Shia should rise up, free themselves from terror, and build their future. We shouldn’t stop them,

The Killing Baath

Juan Cole ‘counts’ civilian casualties in Iraq,” by Tigerhawk, Tigerhawk, 25 October 2005, (from Larwyn).

After quoting Juan Cole quoting alternet:

Iraq Body Count, Reuters says, estimates that 38 Iraqis die in violence every day. Over thirty-five years, that would amount to nearly 500,000 dead. In fact, it is estimated that the Baath party killed 300,000 Iraqis, so the current rate seems to be greater than the Baath rate. (The number of civilians killed by the Baath is probably in fact exaggerated. Only a few thousand bodies have been recovered from mass graves so far.)

… Tigerhawk attacks Cole for switching numbers from people the Baath killed (pre-War) to people killed generally:

So why does Cole insist that the Ba’athists aren’t responsible for the current casualties when he quite plainly does not think that foreign fighters are the main culprits, and why does Reuters mislead its readers about the proportion of the casualties inflicted by Americans? Surely the casual observer — somebody who missed out on a first rate education at a top university, for example — would say that the people who detonate car bombs in markets or suicide belts on buses are themselves responsible for the murders they commit. Heck, such a dimwit might even think that the ununiformed insurgent is responsible for the deaths of the human shields that he uses to hide from the counterinsurgency. And if our casual observer is a real meathead, he would assume that if insurgents blow up systems for pumping water, they are the ones responsible for the dehydration and disease that follows.

Tigerhawk is correct. Dr. Cole switches criteria from people the Baath killed to people who died by violence, so that is someone was killed by the Baath in 2002 he blames the Baath, but if someone was killed by the Baath in 2004 he blames the free Iraqi government.

Barnett v. Cole on Iranian Involvement in Anti-Iraqi Terrorism

Al-Zawahiri, Bush and Aljazeera,” by Juan Cole, Informed Comment, 5 August 2005,

Tehran has the veto over peace in Iraq …,” by Thomas Barnet, Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog, 6 August 2005,

Dr. Thomas Barnett seems to accept claims that Iran is supporting anti-Shia terrorists in Iraq…

I said in the Feb issue of Esquire, I say it again:

Some Bombs Used in Iraq Are Made in Iran, U.S. Says


Published: August 6, 2005

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 – Many of the new, more sophisticated roadside bombs used to attack American and government forces in Iraq have been designed in Iran and shipped in from there, United States military and intelligence officials said Friday, raising the prospect of increased foreign help for Iraqi insurgents.

American commanders say the deadlier bombs could become more common as insurgent bomb makers learn the techniques to make the weapons themselves in Iraq.

But just as troubling is that the spread of the new weapons seems to suggest a new and unusual area of cooperation between Iranian Shiites and Iraqi Sunnis to drive American forces out – a possibility that the commanders said they could make little sense of given the increasing violence between the sects in Iraq …

You can say this is not good. I say it’s as good as we choose to make it.

… while Dr. Juan Cole is skeptical

Do you notice how Hizbullah (Hezbollah), which is Shiite, is in southern Lebanon, way over in the west of the map, on the Mediterranean? Do you notice how northeastern Iran (also Shiite) is way over to the east of the map, near the Caspian sea? Do you notice how there isn’t any way to get from Lebanon to Iran except through Syria and then Turkey? Do you notice how there isn’t any way to get from Lebanon to Iraq except via Syria or Syria-and-Jordan? (You could fly, but if the Lebanese government is permitting air transport of 500 pound bombs out of Beirut, we have other problems than just some Iraqi arms smuggling).

Do you notice how there are 250,000 tons of missing munitions in Iraq, such that it is not necessary for the Baath military intelligence to import very many from elsewhere?

Do you notice how the US military has not captured any Lebanese Hizbullah in the company of Sunni guerrillas in Iraq? Do you notice how only the Baathist ex-Minister of the Interior, Falah al-Naqib, an appointee of CIA asset Iyad Allawi, ever alleged that he had captured Lebanese Hizbullah in Iraq? (Do you notice how Allawi’s Minister of Defense, Baathist Hazem Shaalan, charged that Iran was Iraq’s number one enemy when he was briefly in power last year?)

Do you notice how there are two, count them, two, Iraqi organizations called “Hezbollah” (which just means “party of God”) and how Americans frequently are confused and think these are the Lebanese party, which they are not?

Do you notice how the US military has not captured any Iranians in the Sunni Arab provinces of Anbar, Salahuddin, etc.? (Occasionally Iranian pilgrims have been captured in Shiite areas, where they threw in with Shiite militants.)

Do you notice how the US military has captured lots of Sunni Saudis, Jordanians, Egyptians, Sudanese, etc.?

Do you notice how the Sunni guerrillas talk nasty about the Shiites and blow them up and slit their throats? Do you notice how some people are depending on you not to know that radical Shiites and extremist Sunnis don’t like each other?

Apparently, so is the Iraqi Government

Iraq’s Prime Minister, Iran’s President

Iraq’s defence minister, on a landmark visit to Iran, called Thursday for reconciliation between the two neighbours and former arch-foes and pledged not to allow Iraqi soil to be used for attacks against the Islamic republic.

“We have come here to turn a painful page and to open another,” Saadun al-Dulaimi said at a press conference with Iranian counterpart Ali Shamkhani.

I have come to Iran to ask forgiveness for what Saddam Hussein has done,” he said, referring to Saddam’s attack on Iran in 1980 that sparked a bitter eight-year war and led to hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Dulaimi pledged that the two sides would begin military and anti-terrorist cooperation, but nevertheless asserted it was too soon for US and other foriegn troops to pull out of his country.

Iran is concerned about the US military presence on its borders and has repeatedly called for their withdrawal, but Dulaimi asserted that “given the present situation, if foreign forces leave Iraq there will be nothing but chaos and more trouble.”

“Iraq will not be a source of insecurity and instability for any of its neighbors. Nobody can use its soil to attack Iraq’s neighbors,” Dulaimi insisted, in response to Iranian concerns over a possible American attack.

Tensions between Iran and the US are high over Washington’s claims the clerical regime here is seeking to arm itself with nuclear weapons. Tehran has also been accused of backing Iraqi insurgents and Palestinian militants.

Shamkhani announced the formation of joint committees for military cooperation, the fight against terrorism, clearing minefields and investigating the missing soldiers from the 1980-1988 between Iran and Saddam’s Iraq.

The military committee is aimed at “equipping the Iraqi army … to create an independent and self-sufficient Iraqi army”, he said.

Delusional Iraqi Arab Sunnis (Slouching Toward Lakotization)

5 Marines Killed, 4 Wounded, 21 Bodies Found, Sunnis Reject offer on Constitutional Committee ,” by Juan Cole, Informed Comment, 11 June 2005,

Juan Cole makes a startling comment in response to Sunni Arab demands that they (who boycotted) should get more seats at the Constitutional Convention than the Kurds (who participated in the election):

The Sunni Arabs want 25 additional seats, more than the 15 that the Kurds have. In part this demand reflects their unrealistic estimation of the size of their ethnic group. They often assert that Iraq has a Sunni Arab majority.

This may be one reason for the Sunni Arab boycott in election. If Sunni Arabs believe that they are an electoral majority, having a “Sunni Arab” list come in third would be evidence of massive fraud. So the Sunni Arabs could not have accepted the outcome of a free-and-fair election. Therefore, their leadership made them boycott, to prevent them from either perceiving a failed election or realizing the truth (and so isolating the Sunni Arab masses from the Sunni Arab leadership).

Of course, this would imply that the latest Sunni Arab gestures are just feints, and that a lakota option might be the only answer to the insurgency…

One last point from Dr. Cole:

In fact, Shiites probably form 62 percent and Kurds may be 18 percent. Given that Christians, Turkmen and some other small minorities make up 5 percent, Sunni Arabs could be as little as 15 percent of the population.

Which means that an ethnic chart of Iraq looks like:


For the sake of the 85% of Iraqis who are not Sunni Arab, how long do we let the daily murders go on? How long do we jeopardize the future of that 85% in an attempt to appease the fifteen-percenter rejectionists? We have lakotaed the Lakotas. We can lakota the Sunnis.

4GW As Practiced By Newsweek (Spinning of Bogus Story as 4GPS1 Attack)

4GPS1 v 4GPS2 (Netroots Think 4GPS1 Is More Important),” by Dan, tdaxp, 10 May 2005,

4GW As Practiced By Newsweek,” by Thomas Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog, 16 May 2005,

TPMB uses Newsweek’s bogus story on desecration of the Koran at Gitmo to segue into a criticism of 4th Generation War.

We are told by Fourth Generation Warfare adherents that what is real and what is perceived are two different things, with the latter almost always trumping the former’s impact on the 4GW battlefield. Much as with cyberwar, however, 4GW’s theory of conflict often seems overwhelmed by the sheer mass of stuff that goes on accidentally in the global environment, such as the recent journalistic snafu by Newsweek.

Point being: as globalization grows and complexity takes root over more and more of the planet, the ability of any 4GW-waging warrior to have his attacks rise above the level of “white noise” in the system gets harder and harder.

That’s like saying “Assassination is not a concern of Iraq, because of all the regular murders.”

For example: imagine if a leading cleric in Iraq was accidentally killed in a shout-out between thugs. Not news. But if influential American started saying that he was killed by anti-Iraqis, and that Americans failed to protect him, it becomes news. It becomes power.

The same thing is happening here. Popular academics like Juan Cole say that the “apology” was actually a confirmation.

Cole, the insurgents, and the other 4th Generation Strugglers against a free Iraq are using agitation-propaganda to build their network. As I previously described the 1st Stage of 4th Generation Politics

This first stage of a 4GP net, characterized by a weak 4GP movement and a strong enemy. 4GPS1 attacks are known as “node takedown,” “the politics of personal destruction,” “agitation-propaganda,” or just “horror stories.” These are high-profile symbolic attacks designed to recruit followers through “militancy.”

Just as Fourth Generation Warfare is more than “servicing targets,” Fourth Generation Politics is more than the stories politicians use — it is the spin of those stories. To rephrase Barnett’s paragraph:

We are told by Fourth Generation Warfare adherents that what is real and what is perceived are two different things, with the latter almost always trumping the former’s impact on the 4GW battlefield. To wit, 4GW practitioners manipulate the sheer mass of stuff that goes on accidentally in the global environment, such as the recent journalistic snafu by Newsweek.

Now that’s a spin I can live with.

Should We Lakota or Embrace the Iraqi Sunni Arabs?

The Mystery of the Insurgency, by James Bennet, New York Times, 15 May 2005,

Over 30 Bodies Found,” by Juan Cole, Informed Comment, 16 May 2005,

Rice, in Baghdad, Urges Sunni Role in Constitution,” by Richard Oppel Jr, New York Times, 16 May 2005,

A provocative article in the New York Times makes us wonder: are the Sunni anti-Iraqis losers?

Counter-insurgency experts are baffled, wondering if the world is seeing the birth of a new kind of insurgency; if, as in China in the 1930’s or Vietnam in the 1940’s, it is taking insurgents a few years to organize themselves; or if, as some suspect, there is a simpler explanation.

Instead of saying, ‘What’s the logic here, we don’t see it,’ you could speculate, there is no logic here,” said Anthony James Joes, a professor of political science at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and the author of several books on the history of guerrilla warfare. The attacks now look like “wanton violence,” he continued. “And there’s a name for these guys: Losers.”

While John Robb sees global guerillaism, Juan Cole has a more conventional explanation

But USA Today quotes Iraqi army Brig. Hussein Muhsen al-Fariji giving a different explanation, focusing on the Sunni nationalist guerrillas: “The criminals want to spread panic among the people and give the impression that the new government must be changed.” (That is, the guerrillas are ex-Baathists aiming ultimately to make a coup, and they are destabilizing the country because they think the public will be so hungry for law and order that they will accept the coup when it eventually comes.)

If this is true, then it is very understandible. In PISRR theory, the Ba’athis would be

  • Pentrating the Iraqi government with agents, from secretaries to even political appointees,
  • Isolating the government from the people, and people from each other through killings and terrorism
  • Subverting the political process by using government agents to help the government, and now
  • Reorienting Iraqi policy by convincing the government the problem is too few Sunnis, which will become
  • Reharmonization after a Sunni Coup uses strong methods and restores peace

If this is true, then Rice’s advice is exactly wrong

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flew to Iraq on Sunday to urge its new Shiite-dominated government to greatly increase the involvement of Sunni Arabs in writing the Iraqi constitution, amid growing administration alarm that a chance to draw the Sunni minority into Iraq’s new democracy is slipping away.

On a trip that underscored Washington’s urgency, Ms. Rice carried a clear message: Shiite political leaders should respond rapidly and effectively to any sign that wavering elements of the Sunni Arab insurgency might be ready to turn to peace.

… and the Lakota Treatment would be exactly right.

Juan Cole’s Unique 4GWS1/4GWS3 Synthesis

50 Dead, 90 Wounded in Iraq Bombings on Wednesday Morning: Qaim Campaign Continues,” by Juan Cole, Informed Comment, 11 May 2005,

The anti-Iraqis near the Syrian border are standing and fighting. While this is probably a mistake, the insurgents are not acting irrationally. American forces have traditionally avoided that desert area, so the anti-Iraqis may calculate that relatively little bloodshed will push us back out. Likewise, the anti-Iraqis have a history of attacking fortified targets, so maybe they are being worn down and need a deci…

That’s too sane and boring. Here’s Juan Cole’s whacky theory:

The US commanders expressed their happiness that the guerrillas at Ubaydi are standing and fighting, on the grounds that if they do that, they will be finished faster. I wouldn’t be so happy if I were them. The jihadis are making themselves martyrs in order to give other young men a reason to fight. It is a recruitment drive.

Yes. Guerrillas fighting a conventional battle for recruitment. Using 4GWS3 tactics (conventional warfare) for 4GWS1goals (recruitment). It makes so much sense. That’s why Mao and the Viet Cong fought so many conventional battles…

Wait, that’s insane.

At least Cole keeps it up:

Since guerrillas have managed to kill about 14 US troops in recent days, moreover, it is a way of signalling that the US is not 10 feet tall, but is rather vulnerable. If the US has this much trouble with about 2500 foreign fighters in Iraq (and over 20,000 Iraqi ones), imagine the problems if the jihadi recruitment drive succeeds, and the foreign contingent doubles or triples.

No, spectacular small-group hit-and-run 4GWS1 attacks are a way of showing that the Iraqi government is vulnerable. That’s why there are so many car bombs, assassinations, and kidnappings. Tight small-group lightning attacks are how 4th Generation Warriors show that the enemy can bleed while building up their own nets. It’s what Fourth Generation insurgents do best.

But conventional battles are what any organized army does best. Conventional battles are the last stage of fourth generation war, not the first. Conventional battles are fought for land, not recruitment.