Thank you, George W. Bush, for finally getting some momentum behind the civil war which many predicted would be the result of imported and so-called democracy, which could only result in a largely Shia-led government. John McCain – who I have often thought would have made a more competent president than Obama – recently blamed the current president’s policy, or lack of one, towards Iraq for the present state of things there. The al-Quaeda offshoot, I.S.I.S., has gathered much support from Iraqi Sunnis, who may not, in any way, be real fellow-travellers, but most certainly share some of the same goals, especially hatred of the Shia. While Obama contemplates an air strike – his only uncomplicated option – Republicans are moaning that this would be too little too late, as if any among them saw the ISIS surge coming. Yet I have reasons to believe that U.S. boots are still on the ground in Iraq, secreted away on two desert bases that have been off-limits to mortals since Saddam’s time. Do you seriously think American oil interests would be left under the protection of Iraqis? Should the richest fields, in the predominantly-Shiite south-east, come under threat, I imagine we shall see a good deal more than air strikes defending them. They are already defended by private U.S. security firms, like the infamous Halliburton, but such forces will require serious back-up if, or when, the well-funded, and evidently well-trained, ISIS troops move in. It would thus appear that Obama’s ‘legacy’ will be to leave the nightmare we call ‘the Middle East’ in even worse shape than it was when he inherited it. Oddly, there has been little mention of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard regiments, presumably because no one in Washington can play their calibre of chess, nor wishes to admit that their assistance, dubious as it doubtless is, could serve a short-term benefit. But, until the government of Nuri al-Maliki can bring itself to outline a coherent strategy to defeat ISIS, the situation’s reality will remain as annoyingly vague as it has been for over a week now. In Baghdad, most Sunnis now openly lament the passing of Saddam’s era, when life was nasty, brutish, and often very short, but when there was also security – a lot of it, which made everyday existence safe and viable, particularly for the now-displaced Sunni, who are currently going door to door killing Shia unable to recite the appropriate Sunni Muslim prayers. ISIS will say that this is sheer retaliation for Shiite murders of the Sunni, which have indeed been regular enough over the past several years, justified by the Saddam Sunni regime’s frequent butchering of Shia rebels, or suspected rebels, or people someone’s cousin believed might be rebels. So far, Kurdistan’s highly-effective Peshmerga militia have refrained from coming to Baghdad’s aid, content with fighting for their own territories and oil refineries; but, then, they have no good memories of Saddam to inspire them, after the late dictator’s poison gas attacks upon their villages (although it was originally, way back when, that Winston Churchill first authorised dropping toxic gas bombs on the Kurds, whom he referred to as ‘savages’). The only solution to yet another insolvable problem in West Asia is the familiar two-state one, which, in this case, will not work because all the richest oil fields are in the Shia south, and autonomous Kurdistan, leaving the central Sunni ‘state’, with little more in the way of export-potential than dates and sand. Revenue-sharing between Shia and Sunni is utopian pie-in-the-sky. Any U.S. ‘intervention’ would need to be permanent and distinctly neo-colonial, which is not going to wash with most American tax-payers, no matter how much it would delight the oil companies. Such an invasion would also have to face a guerrilla-style warfare that could effortlessly become another disaster like Vietnam (or the many other little wars America has consistently lost over the past fifty years). What to do, the Chiefs of Staff must be thinking. And what are the Iranians doing? Do we let them do it? Or do we not appear to be fighting as allies with them by deploying air attacks alone? One thinks of the satirical website which, upon Obama’s election, printed the headline, Black Man Gets Nation’s Worst Job. I certainly would not want it right now. What would John McCain do, besides criticize? That is what I’d be interested in hearing.

Advertisements