Saturday, 21 June 2014

What is the US going to do in Iraq?

The Logo of the Multi-National Force in Iraq (2003-2011) | IMAGE CREDIT: Public Domain
The Logo of the Multi-National Force in Iraq (2003-2011) | IMAGE CREDIT: Public Domain


Many people will say that it is inevitable that the US government will take some action in Iraq. The question now is: What kind of action?


President Obama has stuck to his original pronouncement (first articulated when the ISIS situation originally unfolded) when he said that US forces “will not be returning to combat in Iraq but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists”.


Instead of armed intervention, Obama with be sending 300 “military advisers”. (That is 200 more than Iran’s 100 military advisers who arrived in Baghdad a few days ago.) Those advisers will also be “going out into the field”.


U_S__Embassy_in_Baghdad,_Iraq
The beautiful US Embassy in Baghdad | PHOTO CREDIT: Wiki Commons


Although Obama has ruled out military action here and now, he hasn’t ruled it out altogether. The American President said that the US will carry out “targeted military action, if and when” such action is needed. Indeed the US has even said that ISIS may well come under American fire in south-eastern Syria (which borders north-western Iraq).


When Obama said that military action will occur “if and when” that may be deemed an odd thing to say because some people will argue that this “when” is now. Indeed future military action may well turn out to be largely superfluous or even counterproductive.


It’s also worth noting that Shia Iran has also asked for US air strikes against ISIS. That’s not surprising: Iran asked for US action against the Sunni Taliban in Afghanistan. It’s clear, then, that Iran is using the US for its own anti-Sunni ends and also to hasten its hegemony in in the Muslim world. (This is not, in itself, an argument against US military action.)


Despite calls for military action, Obama has also said that there is “no military solution” to the deep-seated problems of Iraq.


Having said that, there could indeed be a military solution to the singular problem of ISIS (if not to the numerous other problems of Iraq). Given the will, belief and manpower, the US air-force, and other forces, could wipe out ISIS overnight if the US accepted the notion of a complete war. But it doesn’t.


The other problem is just as the “progressive” Left blames the “capitalist US” for the current crisis (three or four years after pulling out), it will also criticise the US for doing something about that crisis.


So it’s not at all strange or uncharacteristic that the pious and sanctimonious anti-war brigade has nothing remotely constructive to offer other than – semi-ironically – providing an airlift of books by Al Gore, Karl Marx and Noam Chomsky and then dropping them on the population of Iraq. (No doubt some Leftists will hope that such an action will bring about an equally-violent workers’ revolution. Others may believe that it would help convert the Iraqis to Western progressivism.)


The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has also recognised the non-military problems of Iraq. He has called for a new “more inclusive” government.


Many commentators, not only Leftists, will be keen to point out to Kerry that the former US government was partly responsible for the sectarian nature of the Iraqi government.


For example, these points are worth considering in relation to the Shia-Sunni situation and the American intervention in 2003:


i) When the US first intervened in Iraq, it faced less resistance from the Sunni provinces it captured that it did from its Shia equivalents.
ii) The de-Ba’athification process effectively expunged all Sunni influence in Iraqi politics and even stretched to denying Sunnis an influence in the universities.
iii) By 2005, Shia dominated Iraq’s police force and Kurdish militias gained control of the Iraqi army.


Nonetheless, even as early as 2004, thousands of suspected Ba’athists were given their government jobs back and the US also released  hundreds of Sunni Prisoners. And in May 2005, preceding Kerry by nine years, Secretary of State Condolezza Rice had this to say about the sectarian divide (as replicated in government) in Iraq:
“If there is to be a united Iraq in the future, then Sunnis have to be included in the processes going forward.”
Despite that, in February the following year (2006), the Shia gained almost total control of Iraq.


Nouri_al-Maliki_with_Bush,_June_2006,_cropped
Nouri al-Maliki, the Shia Prime Minister of Iraq | PHOTO CREDIT: Wiki Commons


So it’s worth bearing in mind that those anti-Sunni policies go back ten years and that they began some time before Maliki became Prime Minister in 2006. However, eight years is still a long time to be Prime Minister considering the sectarian nature of Iraqi politics.


Having noted all that, the US, as well as the Shia, carried out such a thorough de-Ba’athification process simply to stop the old guard of Sunnis from reasserting itself; and thus in the process making the situation in Iraq as bad as it was precisely because of de-Ba’athification.


The point here is that ten years’ retrospect is a marvelous and convenient thing.


Added to all that it can also be said that having Iran’s Revolutionary Guards working alongside US troops (though perhaps not literally) is not going to help the sectarian situation in Iraq.

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