Archive for the ‘Iraq’ Category


Barack Obama on April 7th 2009 greets American troops in Iraq at the end of his overseas trip.

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Black Sheep Turks

The Black Sheep Turks, also known as the Kara Koyunlu or Qara Qoyunlu, are Turkmens who live in a region centred on Tabriz, living in both Iran and Turkey. They speak the same language as the people in Turkmenistan on the other side of the Caspian sea.

Most are Sunni Muslims. They write their language in Roman letters.

They are cousins of the Ottoman Turks, the Turks in Turkey, but their language is different. This makes them stick out. In 1958 Turkey passed laws to stamp out their language, to make them forget about being Turkmens. But the Black Sheep Turks have not forgotten. They still remain.

The Black Sheep Turks once had their own country, back in the 1400s. They ruled Tabriz and Mosul and, for a time, even Baghdad (from 1409 to 1469). They supported the arts. Tabriz in those days was famous for its miniature painting.

They had two great rulers:

  • Kara Yusuf, who ruled from 1390 to 1400 and from 1403 to 1420.
  • Jahan Shah, son of Kara Yusuf, who ruled from 1438 to 1455.

Kara Yusuf won their freedom when he took over Tabriz in 1390 and made it their capital.

The year 1400 brought Tamerlane, who set out from Samarkand to take over the world. He crushed the Black Sheep Turks along with everyone else. Kara Yusuf went to Egypt to ask for help, but was thrown in prison instead. Tamerlane ruled the land. It was all over, it seemed. But then on his way to China in 1405 Tamerlane died suddenly and his empire, built on terror and destruction, quickly fell apart.

One of Tamerlane’s sons, Shah Rokh, got Persia and helped Jahan Shah to overthrow his brother and become the ruler of the Black Sheep Turks in 1438.

After Shah Rokh’s death in 1447 Jahan Shah extended his rule east into Persia. His armies got as far as Herat, Shah Rokh’s capital in what is now western Afghanistan. Jahan Shah also overthrew his brother Esfahan in Baghdad and took over what is now southern Iraq and Kuwait.

The Black Sheep Turks were now at the height of their power, but Jahan Shah was hated. His own sons rose up against him. So did the Shiite Arabs south of Baghdad, led by a holy man who said the Mahdi was coming to rule the world and bring peace. In time they would take Basra and Najaf, cities south of Baghdad.

But neither his sons nor the Shiites did him in: it was his own pride. He overreached himself.

In 1467 Jahan Shah marched west on Diyar Bakr, the capital of the White Sheep Turks. His army was defeated and he was killed. Over the next two years the White Sheep Turks took over the lands of the Black Sheep Turks, dividing them with the Persians.

The Black Sheep Turks have been ruled by foreigners ever since.

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Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein (1937-2006) ruled Iraq from 1968 to 2003 as a banana republic. His rule was long but cruel, a Stalin on the Tigris. Over a half million Iraqis died violently, mostly in senseless wars. He was power-mad and could trust no one. His decision making consequently suffered and so he found himself fighting not one but two hopeless wars against America.

In the 1970s he spent Iraq’s new-found oil wealth to build up Iraq. He gave Iraq good roads, clean water and cheap power. In the 1980s he fought Iran in what was then the largest land war in history. With a million men dead after eight years the war ended in a draw.

In 1990 he conquered Kuwait. In 1991 the Americans pushed him out. They easily overthrew his army but then found he was building an atom bomb and had made much more progress than anyone knew.

Saddam agreed to abandon his attempts to build the bomb or anything else as deadly. But he would never come clean: The United Nations would send its men to make sure he was not building the bomb, but he would never allow them the freedom they needed to make certain of it.

But then came 9/11 in 2001 where nearly 3000 Americans were killed in the middle of their largest city. Saddam had nothing to do with it – it was Osama bin Laden – but America no longer felt safe and ran out of patience with him. Either he gave the United Nations the freedom it needed or America would send in its army to disarm him by force. They gave him a deadline of March 2003.

Perhaps Saddam thought nothing would happen. France and Russia had a lot of money in Iraq and he could count on them to stop the United Nations from taking any forceful action. And indeed they did prevent America from using the United Nations to justify an attack. But America did not let that stop it: when the deadline passed it attacked all the same.

The Americans overthrew Saddam in a matter of weeks but then, to their shock, they found that Saddam had nothing even close to an atom bomb!

Throughout the 1990s all that Saddam was hiding was that he had nothing to hide! To maintain this fiction he went so far as to forgo all the money Iraq could have made by selling oil. He let the roads and power stations he built in the 1970s fall apart in the 1990s.

Later in 2003 America found Saddam hiding at in a hole. In 2006 he was tried for his crimes and hung. He saw himself as a martyr for his country.

To his credit Saddam kept Iraq at peace – unlike the Americans. But he ruled by fear and violence, freely killing Kurds, Shiites and his political enemies as needed to maintain his power.

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