By Taj Hashmi
July 08, 2014
Several reports indicate that thanks to rampant corruption, cronyism and the inefficiency of Maliki’s generals, Iraqi troops failed to resist the handful of ISIL fighters as they had no water and food to sustain them
It is good news that within three weeks of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL’s) takeover of Mosul, Tikrit and some other towns in northern Iraq, know-little analysts in the east and west have taken a break from their sensational speculations about the future of Iraq and the entire region in the near future. However, Fox News and the conservative print media in the US, along with Dick Cheney, John McCain and the like, are exceptions in this regard. While Neocons blame Obama for the crisis in Iraq, others point fingers at Prime Minister Maliki in this regard.
One retired US general told his interviewer on Fox last weekend that not only Iraq and the entire region but also the US were going to face ISIL-sponsored terrorist attacks “in months”. We also hear that Iraq is going to be fragmented into three entities — the Kurdish north, Sunni central and Shia south — and that, eventually, an ISIL-led caliphate will transcend the entire region from Turkey to Iraq, Egypt to Yemen and beyond.
We have, however, no reason to believe that Iraq is going to be divided into three independent entities. Although Iraqi Kurdistan will remain a totally autonomous sub-region and will possibly control oil-rich Kirkuk as well, an independent Kurdistan is not on the cards as Turkey is not going to accept such an entity to the detriment of its own stability. It does not want its Kurdish minority to live in an autonomous territory. The so-called caliphate will never emerge as a reality.
Iraq has possibly the most blood-soaked history in the world since 680 AD. The killing of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), by a rival claimant of the Caliphate at Karbala in Iraq signalled the beginning of the Shia-Sunni conflict. However, the present sectarian conflicts in Iraq and elsewhere are more geopolitical than religious in nature. Iraq went through brutal sectarian and tribal warfare, state and non-state sponsored terrorism and ethnic cleansing during the successive Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates (661to1258). In 1258, the Mongols destroyed Baghdad, killed tens of thousands of people and signalled the end of the Abbasid Caliphate.
Iraq suffered a lot under British occupation for decades following World War I. Iraq’s suffering did not end with the end of British rule. Tens of thousands of Iraqis were killed after the military takeovers between 1958 and the formal ascendancy of Saddam Hussein to power as a civilian autocrat in 1979. More than a million Iraqis have died since the US-led invasions of the country since 1991. More than 2,400 Iraqis have been killed this June alone. One can only assume the turmoil in Iraq is not going to be over any time soon.
The proponents of the doomsday scenario in Iraq may be divided into (at least) four schools. The first traces the present crisis in Iraq, Syria and adjoining states to the League of Nations’ Mandate, which legitimised the Anglo-French occupation and division of Greater Syria and Iraq after World War I. The second holds the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld triumvirate responsible for destabilising the entire region with its unjustified invasion of Iraq in 2003. The third solely blames Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for his divisive sectarian policy, said to have alienated and antagonised Iraqi Sunnis to such an extent that they sided with the ISIL rebels, which led to the humiliating defeat of Iraqi soldiers. Several reports indicate that thanks to rampant corruption, cronyism and the inefficiency of Maliki’s generals, Iraqi troops failed to resist the handful of ISIL fighters as they had no water and food to sustain them.
The hardcore Republicans, who represent the fourth group, squarely blame President Obama for the Syrian and Iraqi crises. They believe that by listening to Vladimir Putin, Obama abandoned the promised air attacks on Syria and also failed to arm the “secular and liberal” Free Syrian Army to topple the Assad regime. They believe that, had Assad been removed by force, there would not have been any militant Islamist upsurge in Syria and Iraq. They also blame Obama for his ‘hurried’ and complete withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Interestingly, they do not blame Nouri al-Maliki who did not want any US troops in Iraq beyond 2011.
There is yet another school of thought that attributes the crises in Syria and Iraq to Obama’s support for various al Qaeda and Islamist-sponsored ‘jihadist’ groups, including the Jabhat-al-Nusra, to topple the Assad regime. Some reports reveal direct US involvement in arming and training the ISIL. Hillary Clinton once publicly stated that the US “unfortunately” had been supporting the “wrong people” to overthrow Assad. What was laughable was the way the White House recently told Congress that the ISIL takeover of northern Iraq had caught it by surprise.
As Bush was responsible for the ongoing, post-invasion civil war in Iraq, so is Obama responsible for the messy situation in Syria, Iraq and the entire region. History has proved Bush wrong. Neither the emergence of “a free Iraq” has become a “watershed event in the global democratic revolution”, nor has Obama been proved right that the Saudi-sponsored insurgency in Syria would stabilise the entire region.
It is time that Obama admit ISIL fighters are his chickens, now roosting in Syria and Iraq. It seems, like Bush, he will also be remembered for his obtrusive foreign policy in the Muslim world. It is, however, altogether a different story if what Obama is doing to Syria, Iraq and Iran merely reflects the post-World War II US policy of making the Israeli, Saudi and its own military-industrial complex happy, albeit to the detriment of freedom and human rights everywhere.