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Iraq Crisis: Baghdad Prepares for the Worst as Islamist Militants Vow to Capture the City
Collapse of Shia-dominated regime could provoke Iranian intervention
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Iraq is breaking up. The Kurds have taken the northern oil city of Kirkuk that they have long claimed as their capital. Sunni fundamentalist fighters vow to capture Baghdad and the Shia holy cities further south.

Government rule over the Sunni Arab heartlands of north and central Iraq is evaporating as its 900,000-strong army disintegrates. Government aircraft have fired missiles at insurgent targets in Mosul, captured by Isis on Monday, but the Iraqi army has otherwise shown no sign of launching a counter-attack.

The nine-year Shia dominance over Iraq, established after the US, Britain and other allies overthrew Saddam Hussein, may be coming to an end. The Shia may continue to hold the capital and the Shia-majority provinces further south, but they will have great difficulty in re-establishing their authority over Sunni provinces from which their army has fled.

It is unlikely that the Kurds will give up Kirkuk. “The whole of Kirkuk has fallen into the hands of peshmerga [Kurdish soldiers],” said the peshmerga spokesman Jabbar Yawar. “No Iraqi army remains in Kirkuk.”

Foreign intervention is more likely to come from Iran than the US. The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran would act to combat “the violence and terrorism” of Isis”. Iran emerged as the most influential foreign power in Baghdad after 2003. As a fellow Shia-majority state, Iraq matters even more to Iran than Syria.

Iran will be deeply alarmed by the appearance of a fanatically Sunni proto-state hostile to all Shia in western Iraq and eastern Syria. Abu Mohamed al-Adnani, the Isis spokesman, said today that the Shia, 60 per cent of the Iraqi population, “are a disgraced people”, accusing them of being “polytheists”.

Iraq’s Shia may well conclude that their army has failed them and they must once again rely on militias like the Mehdi Army which was responsible for the slaughter of Sunni in 2005 and 2006. At that time, much of Baghdad was cleansed of Sunni. The loss of Baghdad has never been forgotten or forgiven by Sunni states such as Saudi Arabia, which has long hoped to reverse the Shia dominance in Iraq.

In Mosul, Isis has so far been careful not to alienate the local population which on the west bank of the Tigris River is Sunni. There are large Kurdish neighbourhoods in the east of the city. Refugees are finding it difficult to enter the Kurdistan Regional Government zone because of stringent checks and single men, suspected of being insurgents, are not allowed entry.


Inside Mosul people reached by The Independent say they are afraid. One woman described how a local petrol station was burnt down by looters though Isis tried to protect it. She said her younger brother had gone to repair it. She says that when her two brothers came back from doing the repair job, “I was horrified that they might have been photographed, their names known and they might be punished when the defeated forces come back.” A reason why many people are fleeing Mosul or are terrified by the prospect of a successful counter-attack by the government is that all the Sunni population is liable to be mistreated as Isis supporters, regardless of their sympathies.

Isis has tried to show that it can run Mosul and the electricity supply has improved to six hours a day since the Iraqi army left. The Isis spokesman Abu Mohamed al-Adnani has told victorious fighters “not to bother those who do not bother you”. But other proclamations announce the full application of Isis’s fundamentalist creed.

The Kurds are taking advantage of the disarray of the government in Baghdad to seize territories along the “trigger line”. This stretches from north-east of Baghdad to the Syrian frontier west of Mosul. The Iraqi Kurds have advanced further towards establishing an independent state, but it is unclear how far they will commit troops to rescue the Baghdad government.

Iranian intervention would probably come through massively strengthening Shia militias. But the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will find it very difficult to reverse the defeats of the last week.


(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Shias and Sunnis 
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  1. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Isn’t this just lovely!

    How many trillions of dollars did this cost US?

  2. What is lovely is seeing Muslims killing one another; the more the better.

  3. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    This gigantic catastrophe is the direct result of the rush to war policies of George Bush and Tony Blair of eleven years ago. President Obama won an election saying that theirs was a “strategic mistake”. He is apparently now going to repeat that “strategic mistake” himself. If he does so he is no better than the original sinners. They, and now apparently he, believed that you can bomb a country into right behaviour. This was comprehensively disproved by President Johnson and Robert McNamara forty years ago in Vietnam. The West has imposed the utter devastation, which it visited on S.E. Asia, now once again on the Middle East. I am afraid that the truth of the matter is that it had no good reason for doing it then, nor has it now.

  4. According to Nobel Prize laureate and former US government official Joseph Stiglitz, it cost three trillion – not counting the US invasion of Afghanistan or the US support for the Afghan resistance to the previous Soviet invasion.

    The first word to keep in mind here is “blowback:” a series of superpower (and lately just US) interventions in the Mideast and Southwest Asia designed to control the development of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq for superpower benefit and specifically to undermine politically active Islam and indeed any forces desiring real national independence. Blowback flowed from this interference and is now visibly doing exactly what has been predictable since the US walked away from a wrecked Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion and, more, after the US wrecked Iraq. The predictable is now occurring – the chain of violence caused by superpower interference is getting worse. The fires we lit are now burning by themselves.

    The second word to keep in mind is “humility,” for Washington must now bend its knee and politely ask Tehran for help. The Neo-Con invasion of Iraq left Iran in the catbird seat. No other state really is in position to make a fundamental contribution to Iraqi stability now that Salafi jihad (courtesy of Saudi Arabia) has exploded in earnest. Turkey might help, but what the US really needs now for its long-term national security is a practical working relationship with a stable, secure emerging Iranian regional power. The road to a solution in Iraq is not US airstrikes; that was the kind of thinking that created this mess. Rather, the road to a solution is figuring out how to persuade the Iranian regime to trust us enough to cooperate.

  5. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Congrats to all Iraq Sisters and Brothers for their bravery and taking back their land, soverignty and freedom from the Invaders and their european puppets
    May god bless you with everlasting peace and love.
    You will succeed in your endeavour, beat back the meat heads, spineless and baby killers who went there to steal your dignity.

    Long live FREEDOM!

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