The rapid escalation of the Syrian war threatens to bring Iraqi civil war to the capital
After four-and-a-half years of war the US-led occupation of Iraq has failed – yet yet another reason why the American intervention in Iraq will never amount to much.
As the administration of George W Bush was cutting and pasting billions of dollars of hidden funds off the top of taxpayer dollars from the South Korean dictator, Lee Jae-sung, into weapons related to the invasion, the House Armed Services Committee was condemning it. The complaint came down to one thing: human lives were going to be killed in the process.
Current Secretary of Defense Gen. Chuck Hagel, having sworn allegiance to the Constitution back in 1999, may not have condoned the death of Kuwaitis (or the dogs) during the Gulf War, but he recognizes a moral problem here and is calling for a military occupation of the city of Mosul under control of the Iraqi government. The Iraqi government fears Iraqi Sunni Muslims will become alienated by the presence of US troops after it lost two of its top generals who were being chased by murderous minority groups in one week.
US policy in Iraq has followed two tracks. One is to arm “moderate” Sunni militants and foment civil war against ISIS, but since the White House knows the existence of one of the genocidal “Shia theocracies” was the trigger for the spread of ISIS it has maintained the threat of a multi-sectarian war is just. The second involves intensive training and overt military support for Iraqi and Kurdish armed forces and let’s not forget foreign policy in general under the Obama administration.
Of course these contradictory lines come together as so many of the blunders of the administration began when it set up an intelligence and special forces outfit called the Iraqi Special Operations Forces to support them. Within weeks these groups were systematically looting Iraqi cities and offering little resistance to the forces of ISIS. By mid-summer the number of US air strikes was double that of any period since the invasion of 2003.
The bombing continues on Friday, US Secretary of State John Kerry visiting Saudi Arabia to discuss how to bolster the new Iraq Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi. Back in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri declared that ISIS will make its “way” toward Baghdad and that the fight against the group will be “escalated.”
There are more than 300 special forces troops in Iraq and Iraq has started moving forward with its long-expected plan to reverse the Islamic State gains in Anbar province, the last sizable stretch of Sunni territory.
Meanwhile the number of Baghdad civilians killed, wounded, or fleeing their homes continues to mount. In addition to the 3,000 ISIS civilians killed last year, according to Amnesty International, in Iraq, thousands more civilians, in both Baghdad and the north of the country, have been killed or wounded over the last several months by airstrikes or shelling by Iraqi and Kurdish forces that were apparently launched without regard for civilian casualties.
There are valid political arguments to be made on why the US government should go to Iraq to rebuild the infrastructure and build up the police, air force, etc. I’ve made those arguments here and here, but we also need to take a step back from both the short- and long-term reality and see this as a potential idealistic nightmare in the making – or rather the realities of a very bad case of common sense.
In reality, the fall of Mosul will be a devastating blow to the Iraqi government, which is already in shambles. Baghdad is a hollowed out shell of the city it once was, with significant amounts of rubble and serious lack of electricity and basic services.
The loss of Mosul will be an enormous blow to the Iraqi military, which has suffered enormous losses over the last couple of months, due to an attempted attack by ISIS, but which is also struggling to restore some semblance of legitimacy in the face of the government’s outright corruption.
And many believe ISIS will see its gains in Mosul as a tremendous victory and will aim to continue expanding operations across the Sunni-dominated provinces. According to one estimate, as many as 90,000 new recruits will arrive in Iraq in the coming months. With reports of Sunni fighters defecting from the Iraqi government, the weak Iraqi army and the Sunni insurgents fighting for Mosul having embedded themselves with civilians, a new civil war will undoubtedly begin.
Instead of concentrating all its efforts on