Armed clashes in the northern and central Iraq are getting more intense after the successful attack of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant on June 10 that resulted in the occupation of the northern Nineveh province and its administrative center – the city of Mosul (the second largest urban area in Iraq with total population of over one million people). More than five hundred thousand inhabitants of Mosul fled the city to seek refuge in the Kurdistan region, building tent camps around the city of Erbil and other settlements. This might be the first indication of the upcoming humanitarian catastrophe. In addition, radical Islamists now have a chance to infiltratrate those camps in order to destabilize the situation in the Kurdish Autonomous Region.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant armed groups on June 11 were moving rapidly south in Baghdad’s direction. They’ve managed to capture the town of Baiji, that is known for its massive refinery capacities, while the chances of Tikrit and Kirkuk to repel the attackers are looking rather slim. The latest reports show that militants were seen some 200 kilometers from the Iraqi capital.
Peshmerga (armed Kurdish militants) out of fear that the Islamists would capture the country’s largest oil field – Kirkuk, which has been the subject of constant disputes between Kurds and Arabs, launched an assault against the Islamist troops.
If Islamists attacks continue, soon they would be able to reach the areas that had been revolting against the Iraqi government for the last seven months — the huge province of Anbar in western Iraq. This area is controlled by a Sunni coalition, that includes Sunni authorities, members of Al-Qaeda and the extremists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, secular Baathists along with the former officers of Saddam’s army and police. Then all the Sunni provinces of the Iraq will be out control of the Shiite government in Baghdad, headed by the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The latter has recently failed in forming a coalition government after the parliamentary elections of April 30. Under these conditions, there’s a grave risk that Baghdad would actually fall into the hands of the terrorists. After all, Nouri al-Maliki has little control over the capital itself, that is shaken daily by dozens of terrorist attacks. And his latest speech that he gave in parliament on June 11, that was designed to intimidate the Islamists, didn’t make any impression on them either.
The analysts look really puzzled, they fail to understand how could the Sunni radicals have possibly captured almost half of Iraq that quickly, while being almost unopposed by government troops To make matters worse, three army brigades stationed in Ninewa just threw down their weapons and fled, opening the road to Baghdad for the the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant troops. Due to this fact militants have managed to seize weapons caches and armored vehicles.
This is the direct result of the politics carried out by the Iraqi Prime Minister who does not want to share power with anybody, even with the moderate Sunni opposition. The patience of the Sunni population has run dry therefore they did not resist the Islamic extremists. It’s also clear that the US instructors that had been left behind in Iraq to train the new Iraqi army, didn’t achieve any success in their endeavour, unlike the Soviet military advisers which transformed the Saddam’s armed forces into one of the most powerful armies in the Arab world. The freshly trained troops in Baghdad are not even able to cope with terrorists and pro-Saddam resistance fighters, who have no access to tanks, aircraft or heavy artillery. Now the United States if they want to regain control over Iraq and save the Nouri al-Maliki regime have a single option — direct military intervention. Otherwise, there the whole region would be put in danger, especially the Gulf states.
Washington has clearly brought it upon itself, it deliberately incinerated the Arab spring movements, when in reality it was wave of Islamist revolutions. The American masterminds are responsible for Libya, Egypt and Yemen, and don’t forget about Syria. But it all started with the US occupation of Iraq in 2003, that was designed to overthrow a legitimate government under the pretext of combating WMD.
So there’s little surprise that today the information about the upcoming Washington urgent transfer of its troops from Afghanistan and Kuwait to help the crumbling regime of Nouri al-Maliki has become public. Iraqi Prime Minister has already pleaded Washington for military assistance. Otherwise two or three days from now there will be no force able of suppressing the Sunni rebellion. And this could mean only one thing – the disintegration of the country into three parts: Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish. Still the White House authorities should remember that the the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has been extensively used by Qatar and Saudi Arabia to fight the Syrian regime. Those two states cannon afford the formation of a Shiite arc comprising Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon under the control of Hezbollah. Otherwise the collapse of Saudi Arabia would be inevitable.
In general, the ambitious political games of Washington has put the Middle East on the brink of disaster.
And it is not clear whether the US will be able sustain the second invasion of Iraq? After all, while Washington is drown in a political war against Russia in Ukraine and is making attempts to military blackmail Russia through the exercises of US Special Forces and NATO forces in Russia’s neighboring Baltic States and Poland, along with the maneuvers of US Navy ships in the Black and Baltic Seas.
Washington will have to choose – either to continue the confrontation with Moscow in Ukraine, or try to keep the richest oil and gas region under control, since the West won’t last for long without the hydrocarbons supplies.
Hopefully, this time the US will make an accurate assessment of the situation, especially in the face of the growing military might of China in the Asia-Pacific and East Asia. So in this case the political conflict the US has started with Russia over Ukraine played into the hands of those who genuinely hate the policy of the US hegemony and its “democratization”. But fairytales are hard to believe, on the other hand, it’s easier to believe in American adventurism.
Suppose that at least the EU and its most influential members – Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the UK – will understand that following in the footsteps of Washington’s policy is a risk, when you have everything to lose and nothing to gain. They would have to think carefully about what is more important – to support the weak and hardly legitimate government in Kiev or try to retain control over the energy-rich Middle East? The answer would seem to be clear. But would the European leaders be able to see it?
In the meantime, the creation of a radical Islamic Sunni state in the heart of the Middle East region is looming on the horizon, which may be formed of a number of Sunni provinces of yet-to-be former Iraq, that would be joined by eastern Sunni provinces of Syria around the city of Rakka that is currently under the control of the same Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Al-Qaeda.
Viktor Titov, PhD in History, a political observer on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook.