New war on Iraq no humanitarian mission

The US has stepped up its bombing in Iraq after President Obama announced plans to “degrade and destroy” the jihadist group the Islamic State (IS).

Abbott is joining the rush to war by sending 600 Australian troops, combat aircraft and military equipment to the United Arab Emirates to assist the US. But increased Western intervention will only make the situation in Iraq worse.

The US began air-strikes against IS in August, justifying their actions as necessary to prevent genocide against Iraq’s Yazidis and protect Kurdish territory.

But the US’s main concern is that IS is a threat to its own influence in Iraq and potentially to other Western-backed states. Obama’s expanded operation may also extend into bombing targeting the group inside Syria.

The bombing campaign, backed-up by local forces on the ground, may be able to contain ISIS to Iraq’s North West. But the US’s options are limited given Obama’s commitment that the US will not be sending ground troops.

The US has been desperately trying to broker the formation of a functioning “unity” government in Iraq. The previous government of Nouri al-Maliki pursued a Shiite sectarian agenda, discriminating against Sunnis. In 2013 it brutally crushed protests in Sunni majority areas like Mosul using US supplied weapons.

Although Obama has claimed that Iraq now has “an inclusive government” the new prime minister comes from the same party as ousted PM al-Maliki, who remains in the government as one of three Vice-Presidents.

Indiscriminate bombing of Sunni areas by a Shiite dominated government will only reinforce sectarian divisions. Already there are reports of atrocities like an air-strike that hit a school in Tikrit killing 31 civilians including 24 children.

If the military offensive serves to prop up a sectarian government with a reputation for corruption and violence against the country’s Sunni minority it will solve nothing.

The knowledge that such a government waits on the other side of IS lines will be the greatest asset IS have in terms of entrenching their rule in Mosul and other areas of Northern Iraq.

Western hypocrisy

The dramatic territorial gains and brutality of IS have grabbed headlines across the world since it seized control of Mosul and declared a Caliphate, joining sections of Iraq and Syria, in June. IS’s brutality and intolerance are beyond question.

But the hysterical rhetoric from Obama and Abbott labelling them “pure evil” is simply hypocrisy designed to justify war.

Much has been made of IS’s beheading of Western journalists. Yet there is nothing like the same language used to condemn the imprisonment and killing of journalists who cover anti-government demonstrations in Egypt, a US ally.

There has also been complete silence about a surge of beheadings in Saudi Arabia, with at least 45 people executed this year, at least eight of them beheaded. Instead on a visit in March Obama announced that “Saudi Arabia is a close partner of the United States”.

When it comes to killing civilians Western leaders have remained silent about the 1500 civilians killed in Gaza by Israel’s latest attack, as well as the horrifying figure of over one million killed as a result of the US occupation of Iraq after 2003.

But it is no accident that political leaders and the media have simply condemned IS as a purely immoral force of “evil”.

Such moral condemnation helps obscure the fact that it was the 2003 Iraq war that paved the way for its growth in the first place.

The sectarian fault-lines that fuelled the rise of IS were engineered by the US to manage their occupation of Iraq. Faced with the prospect of a joint Sunni-Shiite rebellion against the occupation in 2003, the US encouraged sectarian divisions in order to divide and rule.

By 2006 a sectarian bloodbath had engulfed the country. At its height 3000 people were found dead in the streets every month.

The US armed and collaborated with Shiite death squads that terrorised thousands, and Sunni fundamentalist groups like Al Qaeda in Iraq (the precursor to IS) carried out their own sectarian reprisals against Shiite civilians.

All this exposes that the latest Western war in the Middle East is not a battle of “good against evil”. Western plundering, murder and meddling created the mess in Iraq and more of the same will only pour more fuel on the fire.

By Adam Adelpour and James Supple


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  1. I’ve posted here in the hope that I’d be able to see other comments to this brilliant article. It must surely have generated at least an endorsement.
    It has always concerned me that the various players inside Iraq were not able to see through the obvious American machinations but so relentlessly murdered rather than embraced one another.
    Apart from your recognition of the brutality and intolerance of IS I think you might propose a socialist position in regard to it. They do seem to profess an approach that looks somewhat similar to the National Socialists. I guess though that we should never lose sight of their main virtue…that they emerge as the major global opponent of America and the West. Its not really important what they propose as an alternative.
    The precursors of the Taliban in Afghanistan were supported by the International Socialists in their fight against Soviet imperialism and its puppets, if I recall correctly. Do we have a similar moment with the Islamic State? After all, say with their treatment of half their populations(women), can we really say that the West has much to offer as an alternative to the Caliphate?
    I suppose the global struggle for women’s ’emancipation’ has to go to the back-burner eh?
    Please someone write something about this.

    • Hi Steve,

      In Afghanistan in the 1980s it was a straight-forward question that the guerilla fighters were opposing an imperialist invasion, and in that sense we sided with them against Russia. However that never meant an endorsement of the politics of the various groups fighting the Russian invasion. The Taliban didn’t actually emerge until later, in the 1990s.

      The Islamic State is quite different. It began as Al Qaeda in Iraq under the US occupation, but it showed just as much concern with killing Sunni opponents and Shiites, who it judged apostates, as it did with fighting the US. It was not clearly a part of a national resistance movement, but was fiercely opposed by many of the Sunni resistance groups fighting the occupiers because of its vicious sectarian politics.

      After it was defeated and pushed out of Iraq as a result of the Sunni awakening movement under the occupation, it moved to Syria. Initially it was funded here by individuals from within Sunni Arab states like Saudi Arabia, and began to operate as a proxy force for these sub-imperialist powers. It is now trying to carve out its own territory from parts of Iraq and Syria.

      The fact that the US and Western powers are now bombing it will mean the Islamic State will present itself as anti-imperialist, and probably rally new support on that basis. But it is far from a force that mainly opposes Western imperialism: it has put just as much energy into killing Shiites, Kurds, Christians and other ethnic minorities. We oppose Western intervention in Iraq because that can’t be the solution to Iraq’s problems, but I don’t think you can say Islamic State is particularly leading a struggle against imperialism.


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