Transcript Slide 1

The Anfal Campaigns and the Geopolitics in the Middle East

Dr. Osman Ahmed

The strategic environment in the 1980s

• The super-powers 1.

Ascent of the US influence in the Arab-Israeli conflict after the Camp David peace agreement • 2.

Weakening of Soviet influence Regional powers 1. Iran in revolution: an unpredictable player 2. Saddam in Iraq “responsible” regional player.

• 3. Saudis and Gulf monarchies uneasy about Islamic revolution contagion Non-state actors 1.


The PLO in retreat in Lebanon The Kurdish movement in Iraq struggling after the Algiers agreement between Iraq and Iran (1975) 2

The Iran-Iraq conflict, the war and the Kurdish issue

Saddam’s plan against Islamic Revolution: 1. The 517 sq. km zone in the strategic Shat al Arab that has been ceded to the Shah (Algiers 1975) 2. Regional hegemony as the “Shield of the Arabs” against Iranian Islamist expansion.

3. A unique opportunity to “resolve” once and for all the so-called Kurdish “problem”.


The Iran-Iraq War 1980-88 4

The Anfal Campaigns (1987-1988)

• Eight Campaigns: an ethnic cleansing targeting the rural areas • Thorough strategic plan of the Iraqi regime under Ali Hasan al-Mejid ( Saddam’s cousin) with main aims: 1. Counter-insurgency against mainly PUK resistance which were in alliance with Iran 2. Driving wedge in Kurdish population by creating jahsh paramilitaries 3. Ethnic cleansing of the rural prohibited areas through mass killings by gassing and death squads 4. Forced arabisation through massive deportation, relocation and exile of the Kurdish population.


The ‘Killing Areas”


The role of major powers

• • • The USA No intervention despite information about use of chemical weapons Saddam’s Iraq was the lesser evil in the face of the Iranian threat to Gulf security and the flow of oil.

The status quo of the Middle East nation-states and frontiers was sacrosanct • • The USSR Iraqi Kurds, unlike other national liberation movements, were never able to count on consistent Soviet support.

Close military alliance between Baath and the Soviets • Iran Abandonment of the Kurds after the 1998. Breach of the agreement with PUK of no unilateral deal with Saddam 7

Results of Anfal campaigns

1. 100,00 to 200,00 lives according to various estaimates 2. 4049 villages were levelled (destroyed, burned, demolished or “purified” according to Iraqi docs) 3. 1,5 million Kurds forcibly resettled. Wide arabization of the areas 4. Peshmergas no longer a security threat.

5. Halabja: a tragic exemption to the rural targeting of the campaigns. At the beginning of the campaigns (March 16, 1988) 8

Some comparisons

1. Ethnic cleansing in relative obscurity and

compliance more difficult, in a uni-multipolar system with powerful non-state actors.

2. International community’s threats more

convincing after the post 1990s interventions, in the Middle East, despite their neo-colonialist motives and their catastrophic results in state building.

3. The region’s state-system not sacrosanct, after the US occupation of Iraq and the recent Arab uprisings. 9