July 22, 2015 | Quote

D.C.’s New Push: Use Saddam’s Men to Fight Obama’s ISIS War

The magnificent Chartwell House, a 10,000-square foot mansion surrounded by lush, manicured grounds about 18 miles from central London, might seem an odd place to start a war. But that’s where Mudhar Shawkat, a wealthy Iraqi businessman who has a long history with U.S. intelligence, is making his stand against the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

Shawkat, a Sunni who made his money in the telecom business and running a private security firm called Babylon Eagles, says he’s fielding an autonomous, Sunni army to go toe-to-toe with ISIS and liberate the huge swaths of Iraq that the militants have conquered. And his men are ready to fight without the help of the central government in Baghdad, he says.

Shawkat gave his London address on disclosure forms filed with the U.S. Senate last week, when he hired a band of Washington, DC, lobbyists to help him open a second front in his campaign. The firm is run by former Idaho senator Steve Symms and two ex-senior congressional aides. Their mission: To arrange meetings for Shawkat with U.S. lawmakers and power brokers who might bless his grand vision and help it gain support in Washington.

“Give me a chance to have a Sunni fight against ISIS,” Shawkat told The Daily Beast in an interview, as he was shuttling between Lebanon and Erbil, in the Kurdish-controlled northern portion of Iraq. Shawkat insists that because ISIS itself is composed of Sunnis, only warriors from its own sect are prepared to slay it. That, and there’s no way in hell he wants Iranian-backed Shiite militias to do the job. That would only give Tehran more sway over the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad.

In the days when the U.S. forces were fighting and dying in Iraq against ISIS predecessor, U.S. officials may have been more willing to roll the dice on some of these freelance leaders.


“There are lots of tribal leaders and municipal leaders who have clout. And in the Bush era they all would have been taken rather seriously,” Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism analyst with the Treasury Department and now the vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told The Daily Beast.

“Right now, my sense is that they are being viewed by the Obama White House as people who could drag America back into conflict or waste more of our treasure on a hopeless cause,” he said. “I’m sympathetic to them. But I think they need to somehow organize internally better before approaching this Congress and this White House.”


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