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Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Déjà vu in Iraq and the changing map of the Middle East.

Britain to send Tornado jets to Iraq as Cameron considers arming Kurdish fighters

RAF aircrew
RAF Hercules delivering aid in northern Iraq

Thousand are still trapped on the mountain

There is a growing sense of déjà vu about the latest crisis in Iraq. The plight of those Yazidi civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar, certainly demands that the world take some humanitarian actions to supply food, water and shelter until such times as the remaining people there can be evacuated. The advances made by ISIL forces over the last few weeks have been truly remarkable and the allegations of atrocities carried out by the advancing army are clearly provoking demands for some form of military reaction from western governments. Without wishing to dismiss such reports out of hand however, we should bear in mind that allegations of atrocities have been around for as long as man has waged war. The German invasion of Belgium in 1914 produced very lurid stories concerning Nuns, babies and old people and again with similar stories in 1940. Military actions in Latvia, Viet Nam, Kenya, Malaya, Biafra and a thousand other conflicts, have generated many myths and stories which have later proved to be somewhat exaggerated. Of course at this time in history, it is not difficult for governments to generate “atrocity” propaganda, particularly when the perceived "enemy" is Muslim, as people in the west are already conditioned to believe (well almost), that anything Muslim is automatically a threat to our very existence and must defeated, preferably in a far away country rather than on the streets or in the fields of the United Kingdom. It is as if there is some form of agenda in the west seeking to create a revival of passions which will lead to a 21st century Crusade to "Free the Holy lands" from Islamic domination. The fact that the "Holy lands" are oil rich, is hardly acknowledged.
The point is that until very recently, “the west”, predominately in the form of the United States but aided and abetted by the United Kingdom and most of the EU, was actually arming, financing and training any forces in the Syrian civil war which were opposed to Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian government. The forces that now comprise ISIL, are a composite of a number of groups in Syria which have combined, as the so called Free Syrian Army fragmented into numerous splinter groups, all with different agenda's and ideals. (It is indeed fortunate, that those voices who combined to keep us out of the Syrian civil war were heeded.) The fact that all these FSA groups had western weapons and training, has been made infinitely more complicated and probably more dangerous because they are now equipped with weapons and technology captured from the Iraqi army, as the American equipped and trained force, installed after the overthrow of Saddam Husein, disintegrated and dispersed into the countryside. We are now even proposing to arm and supply the Kurds in Northern Iraq, who seem to have been the only military force opposing ISIL.This itself is a concept which was until now completely out of the question, as the Kurds have always been considered as a threat to Nouri al-Maliki and his Shia dominated government in Baghdad. How things quickly change in this complex world of Middle Eastern politics now that al-Maliki has fallen from favour and even his American sponsors areleading the clamour for him to resign and go.
We have now gone almost full circle in the pantomime of our involvement in Iraq. Two full scale invasions of the wretched country, one certainly illegal and one with very dubious provenance, have resulted in thousands of dead, a corrupt and splintered government and a Prime Minister (actually installed by the Americans and legitimised by an “election”) who will not resign and has deployed tanks and armour around his offices to retain his position. All the while, ISIL forces in the North and East of Iraq, continue to advance, capturing more and more territory and numerous towns and villages.
The headlines of today's papers are almost as one in reporting and even advocating involvement in air strikes on ISIL forces. We have been here before and the “mission creep” will, unless we are very careful, see a return to a massive involvement of western military forces in Iraq to attempt to repel a perceived invader. The irony of this whole tragedy is remarkable. The western powers are seeking to resist the inevitability of new borders and groupings in the area. I have raised the question before. Has anyone ever wondered why there are so many straight line borders in the Middle East? It was inevitable that those “countries”, artificially created after the First World war and given imposed governments friendly to the west, but not necessarily friendly to their own peoples, would sooner or later implode either by revolution or by invasion from outside forces. It is similar to pushing water uphill for “the west” to try to retain some semblance of status quo by military force, when all the evidence of history, the situation on the ground and the aspirations of the people are pointing in the opposite direction.

The Ghosts of Colonial Powers - What we want is not a united Arabia but a weak and disunited Arabia, split into little principalities …incapable of coordinated action against us.

In a few years from now, the map of the Middle east will be very different from what is essentially the Sykes Picot Agreement Map of 1916 with a few straight lines drawn in the sand around 1920 now. 

Iraq and it fate is the first of many changes to come.