FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Iraq: What to Do Now?

by

Is it “you reap what you sow”? The US electorate that voted for George W. Bush should ask itself the question.

The growing strength of ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra represents a grave threat to the future of the Middle East and the US has no one to blame but itself.

ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham), it is being said, could eventually reconfigure the Middle East if it is able to seize significant chunks of Iraq and Syria, the Arab world’s two strategic centrepieces, spanning the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf.

ISIS has begun setting up a proto-state in parts of Syria and Iraq, with its own courts, police and public services. According to the well-informed Middle East watcher, Robin Wright, “ISIS has become the most aggressive and ambitious extremist movement in the world. It is also the most deadly and the most accomplished, dwarfing its parent, al-Qaeda, in influence and impact”.

US policymakers understand from painful experience that military aid will not simply pressure Iraq’s Shia prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, with his autocratic sectarianism, to make serious concessions to Iraqi Sunnis, and thus help dry up the waters in which ISIS swims.

But what else can President Barack Obama do?

Red meat Congressional Republicans, who conveniently forget that before President George W. Bush launched his war there was no Al-Qaeda in Iraq, believe the US should do some bombing of the fast moving columns of ISIS troops.

But that won’t stop them. They’ll move forward under cover of darkness as the Vietcong used to do. Moreover, they have lots of back-up troops ready to take the place of the fallen.

Bombing the towns they have already taken? That will just hurt civilians and push the Sunni population of Iraq into the arms of ISIS (where they are are already heading).

“Boots on the ground”? Not even the Republicans want to see the US involved in that way.

Republicans and some Democrats gripe about Obama pulling all US troops out of Iraq in 2009 and making it clear that now that’s done and the troops in Afghanistan are coming home that the US won’t get drawn into conflicts abroad unless they directly threaten the homeland.

But it is simply wild talk to say, as those on the right do, that if ISIS succeeds in Iraq and Syria it will create an Islamist caliphate in the heart of the Middle East.

al-Maliki may be on the defensive but in Baghdad and his Shia-populated backyard (60% of Iraq’s population) he will remain strong even if he loses the Sunnis and Kurds. (Ideally, the Sunnis and Kurds, who are also Sunnis, could live as one federal state, sharing the Kurds’ plentiful oil revenues. A brotherly arm from the Kurds would help dilute ISIS influence.)

In Syria it is already pretty clear that Assad is invincible. Dictator he may be. War criminal he surely is. But he is regaining territory and as long as Russia continues to supply him with heavy weapons his government will not be deposed.

The civil war could drag on but as long as the various guerrilla groups remain divided – and many of them detest the Islamists as much as Assad does – they will never be potent enough to advance on Damascus.

The best policy for Obama would be to be nice to Shia Iran and encourage it in its diplomacy with Saudi Arabia- its foreign minister has just accepted an invitation to visit Riyadh.

The Saudis have to be persuaded by the US and Iran to stop helping the Islamic extremists. (After all this would not be the first time that Saudi Arabia will have allowed its reflex support of Islamist movements to be sublimated. It spurned the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, although its theology pointed it towards camaraderie with Saudi Arabia, because it had the capacity to disturb the politics of the Saudi kingdom.)

As for the threat of ISIS to the US and Europe: Sure there is one, not least because Western citizens of Middle Eastern and Pakistani origin are receiving training. But it must be kept in proportion. Western police have an increasingly good record of picking them up once they return home.

The advance of ISIS into the heart of Iraq hopefully might bring some of the regional powers to their senses, forcing them into a replica of the Peace of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Year War in Europe, coming together to work on de-escalating the conflict instead of pushing to win it.

US military involvement would be counterproductive.

Diplomacy and deal making are the tools available to Obama.

Jonathan Power is a columnist and associate at the Transnational Foundation for Peace & Future Research in Lund Sweden.

© Jonathan Power 2014

 

More articles by:
July 26, 2016
Andrew Levine
Pillory Hillary Now
Kshama Sawant
A Call to Action: Walk Out from the Democratic National Convention!
Russell Mokhiber
The Rabble Rise Together Against Bernie, Barney, Elizabeth and Hillary
Jeffrey St. Clair
Don’t Cry For Me, DNC: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Angie Beeman
Why Doesn’t Middle America Trust Hillary? She Thinks She’s Better Than Us and We Know It
Paul Street
An Update on the Hate…
Fran Shor
Beyond Trump vs Clinton
Ellen Brown
Japan’s “Helicopter Money” Play: Road to Hyperinflation or Cure for Debt Deflation?
Richard W. Behan
The Banana Republic of America: Democracy Be Damned
Binoy Kampmark
Undermining Bernie Sanders: the DNC Campaign, WikiLeaks and Russia
Arun Gupta
Trickledown Revenge: the Racial Politics of Donald Trump
Sen. Bernard Sanders
What This Election is About: Speech to DNC Convention
David Swanson
DNC Now Less Popular Than Atheism
Linn Washington Jr.
‘Clintonville’ Reflects True Horror of Poverty in US
Deepak Tripathi
Britain in the Doldrums After the Brexit Vote
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Threats: Arbitrary Lines on Political Maps
Robert J. Gould
Proactive Philanthropy: Don’t Wait, Reach Out!
Victor Grossman
Horror and Sorrow in Germany
Nyla Ali Khan
Regionalism, Ethnicity, and Trifurcation: All in the Name of National Integration
Andrew Feinberg
The Good TPP
400 US Academics
Letter to US Government Officials Concerning Recent Events in Turkey
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
Robert Fisk
The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk
Lee Hall
Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of Collective Punishment: Russia, Doping and WADA
Nozomi Hayase
Cryptography as Democratic Weapon Against Demagoguery
Cesar Chelala
The Real Donald Trump
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Propaganda Machinery and State Surveillance of Muslim Children
Denis Conroy
Australia: Election Time Blues for Clones
Marjorie Cohn
Killing With Robots Increases Militarization of Police
David Swanson
RNC War Party, DNC War Makers
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail