Iraq crisis and regional implications

Iraq_GunsIraq has been in a state of crisis for over a decade now. To specify an exact date in its recent history as the commencement of its crises is indeed hard. But what has been happening in Iraq in the last few weeks is particularly horrifying. They seem worse than the Taliban, the Al-Qaeda, the Boko Haram and the Al-Shabab, all put together. This outfit, the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams — the Arabic word for the Levant) has already established a ‘Caliphate of Islam’ under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a state that is more primitive and savage than the one established by the one-eyed Mullah Omar in Afghanistan. If the ‘Caliphate of Islam’ is to be established by killing Muslims other than Sunnis, then the region is in for a genocide, the kind of which has not been seen ever before.

What is inexplicable, particularly for a lay reader of the western media, is the question about how do certain extremist groups in the Islamic world get so much funding and arms as to become a danger to established States, particularly those states that do not have Sunni leadership. The answer is obvious, but the western media is loath to admit it. They dare not mention the Gulf monarchies, especially those that have been in the forefront of the war against the Alawite rulers of Syria, and now the Shia rulers in Iraq. The ‘Economist’ which looked into the question of ISIS’s many parents found Turkey to be one of them, but does not mention the many private individuals and charities in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait that have propped up the ISIS (a fact that has been obliquely referred to by the New York Times). It is a moot point whether the so-called private citizens in these kingdoms, who get to know what’s happening within and outside the country only from the State controlled media or the State- subservient Mullahs have so much surplus cash as to fund and arm mercenary forces to take on neighbouring States.

Let us get some facts straight. One, there is no escaping the reality that the two U.S. wars against Iraq have contributed substantially to the present crisis. The first was about saving Kuwait from Saddam Hussain’s invasion and the second was to liberate Iraqis from Saddam Hussain. Now Washington wishes to save one group of Iraqis from the others. But the problem is who is to be defended against whom, particularly when the US has no clear enemy in sight. Second, America’s War on Terror has clearly sputtered. After more than 13 years, America is still waging the war and the enemy has neither been defeated nor destroyed, despite the killing of Osama bin Laden. More offshoots of Al-Qaeda have sprung up in the Middle East and Western Africa and have endangered states that were not only ungoverned and failing but also those that were stable and effectively governed.

Now, who does America protect against whom, in Iraq? If it strikes at the ISIS, it would be seen siding with the ‘discredited’ Shia regime of Nouri al-Maliki, an ally of Iran and a supporter of Syrian President Assad. Certainly not the best of credentials for the US and its allies — the Gulf monarchies and Israel. Can America be on the same side as Iran, Syria and now Russia – all of who are coming to rescue the beleaguered President al-Maliki? Facing this enviable situation, President Obama has very cautiously has sent 300 (plus another 200) military advisors, who have been called by some ‘barefoot’ advisors due to his refusal to ‘put boots on the ground’.

America, now it appears, will not be able stop the march of soldiers of the ‘Caliphate of Islam’, however, brutal and savage they may be. That task is falling on Iran, Syria and the Kurdish Government in Erbil. That means, saving Baghdad from the ISIS is effectively left to Iran. Whether it will do so with its quasi-military force – the Al-Quds Force with support from the Hezbollah and Muqtada al-Sadr or will it send its regular troops remains to be seen. Now if they prevail over the ISIS, the Gulf monarchies are bound to cry foul. It is truly a Hobson’s choice for the US. Despite its overwhelming military, air and naval presence in the region, America stands wringing its hands as terrorists who are decidedly hostile to it take control of resource-rich territories and empower themselves.

There are attempts in sections of the Western media to sanitise the negative role of the ISIS. It is being reported that they are actually the fighters of the ‘Revolutionary Tribes Council’ and that they are indeed working under the command of the former Vice President Tarek al-Hashmei, who had earlier fled to Kurdistan. This is disingenuous. The people of Iraq, even the Sunnis, have no love lost for the mercenary jihadists of the ISIS, just as the Sunnis of Syria had no sympathy for the Jubhatul-Nusra that was parachuted from the outside.

Much is also being made of the so-called differences between the ISIS and the Al-Qaeda and the Jubhatul-Nusra etc., but this kind of analysis ignores the fact that all of them have common parentage and same goals — of killing non-Sunnis first, and then bleeding America.

Whatever may follow, the old colonial borders drawn in the Middle East appear headed for a major overhaul and the fresh re-drawing of the map will set-out tremors far beyond the region. The Gulf monarchies are now caught in an awful bind and America appears neither willing nor capable of protecting them from the ensuing implosion.

(The views expressed in this column are solely those of the author).
– Courtesy: ORF

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