Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only shake you down once a year, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep the site afloat, and our growing audience, well over TWO million unique viewers a month, eats up a lot of bandwidth — and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support.
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:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]