Iraq in the Crucible

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Events in Iraq are moving swiftly. What does the current blowup mean and how should it be interpreted? And why now? Offhand, my guess is that the Sunni jihadists ran into a stone wall in Syria, thanks to the Syrian army of Bashar Al-Assad, and so decided for tactical reasons (and in consultation with their backers) to hit Iraq instead, a softer target. Of course, Sunni fanatics have been active in Iraq all along, employing unbridled terrorism against the regime and against their fellow Muslims, the Shiites, who were empowered by the 2003 US invasion and occupation. The Pandora’s Box has been opened. 

It may be impossible to catalog the number of truck, car and suicide bombings in Iraq over the past few years. The efflorescence of bombs and mayhem has been startling over the last several months. Team Obama voiced scant concern publicly. (Too busy demonizing Iran and Russia.) Iraq--the beneficiary of  Bush's "Operation Iraqi Freedom"--appeared to be imploding. Now, almost out of the blue, comes something comparable to an invasion by an al-Qaeda offshoot called ISIL, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or alternatively ISIS, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The regular Iraq army, police and civil administration north and west of Baghdad have apparently melted away or been routed. 

This is the coup-de-grâce for Iraq as a nation-state as envisioned by the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916. It looks like the de facto breakup of Iraq into its constituent parts, to wit, Kurdistan in the North, the Sunni heartland in central Iraq, and the Shiites in the South. But how can this arrangement be formalized of the world’s stage and be recognized diplomatically? Hard to imagine. What will happen in Baghdad? The Kurds don't care about Baghdad; they already have their own quasi-state, with near-total independence. The Kurds have unofficially seceded. But for the Sunni and Shia, Baghdad could degenerate further into a battleground of terror and internecine religious warfare. 

Please note that there was no al-Qaeda, no terrorism, and no terrorists inside Iraq prior to "Operation Iraqi Freedom". The secular dictatorship of Saddam Hussein prevented that. He presided over a strong, independent, oil-rich Iraq with a well-educated population regarded as the most advanced in the Middle East outside Iran. I strongly suspect that this state of affairs was an anathema to certain elements in the neighborhood. 

The present chaos is what was desired in its place. This bloody outcome was planned. It was accomplished, first, by installing and relentlessly maintaining a murderous, all-encompassing economic embargo on Iraq beginning in 1991 and then, second, by the 2003 US invasion and occupation afterward. What we are witnessing today in Iraq is the result of a proactive, interventionist US foreign policy kicked off by Iraq's attempted annexation of Kuwait in 1990. Cui bono? Certainly not Iraqis, or the Syrians or the American people.

--Copyright 2014 Patrick Foy--