Killing two birds with one stone

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The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is stepping up their efforts to not only destabilise Iraq and Syria but to also divide and conquer the two countries. 

When the black flags were raised on Tuesday over parts of Mosul by members of the ISIL, the world began to realise that the confrontation had been long in the making. Iraq had already been on a long journey of political turmoil covered up as a sectarian conflict meant to divide the country into tiny states similar to the case in Yemen.

However, besides Mosul’s symbolic importance as Iraq’s second-largest city and home of the country’s oil industry, the city has crucial strategic significance. It sits close to both Turkey and the largely autonomous Kurdish zone of northern Iraq, but most importantly it functions as Iraq’s most prominent doorway to Syria where the ISIL emerged as one of the main rebel forces fighting against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. Thus, the role played by the ISIL has a dual purpose. It is not solely concerned with dividing Iraq among sectarian lines but also destabilising neighbouring Syria; thus killing two birds with one stone.

Despite the fact that the situation in Anbar and Fallujah displayed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s inability to deter the presence of ISIL, the White House called on the Iraqi government to “step up to the plate” and do more to address the political concerns across the country. According to Washington, “ISIL continues to gain strength from the situation in Syria, from which it transfers recruits, sophisticated munitions, and resources to the fight in Iraq.” Surprisingly, the White House statement sounds like it is blaming Syria more than the ISIL or Maliki for the fall of Mosul without ever asking who had been planning, funding, and supplying weapons to the bad guys.

Maliki has practically put into action what the US had been trying to achieve… that is, dividing Iraq into individual states; one for the Shiites, the Kurdish, and the Sunnis, which the ISIL seems to be looking forward to rule. Though to be fair to the prime minister, Maliki had been asking the US for military supplies for almost a year now in order to stand up against ISIL but to no avail, at least until this week.

Yet, the fall of Iraq’s second-largest city to ISIL isn’t completely about Maliki’s need for weapons but about the politically deteriorating and undemocratic situation of a country where the US spent eight years, killed millions of Iraqis and spent $1.7 trillion. The group which Al-Qaeda disowned as too extreme has also been controlling much of the Anbar province, including portions of Ramadi and much of Fallujah, which lay due west of the capital.

The confrontation in Anbar was precipitated by the Iraqi prime minister’s decision on 30 December, 2013, to dismantle with force a protest camp that had existed in Ramadi for over a year.

The camp had been set up to challenge what many Sunnis see as their systematic marginalisation by Baghdad, and the repression of prominent Sunni politicians.

Thus, Iraq has been struggling with a surge in sectarian violence that killed almost 800 people, including 603 civilians, in May alone, according to the UN.

In the democratic system created by the US in Iraq, the fall of Anbar and Mosul to ISIL should have resulted in the ousting of Maliki from office and stripping his government of legitimacy as they clearly failed to maintain the country’s integrity. However, Al-Maliki is likely to remain in office after the 30 April elections left him with the largest share of votes, negotiating chiefly with other Shiite parties to form a new governing coalition.

To add more fuel to the already heated situation, American experts say that the so called ‘sectarian violence’ is also part of the broader malaise affecting all Iraqi provinces, including some of the major Shia ones because ‘the Prime Minister seeks to tighten his own political control and to impose a highly centralised system which most provinces are beginning to resent.’

The neo-conservative experts signaled that at least one-third of Iraqi provinces are seeking to transform themselves into regions enjoying the same degree of autonomy Kurdistan has already achieved. And here are the roots of division as stated by the experts …’each province is entitled to a share of the country’s total revenue based on the size of its population but much of the money is channeled through the ministries in Baghdad.’

As a result, at least six provincial councils, as these experts note, have sought at various times to initiate the process of transforming themselves into regions with the same autonomy as Kurdistan.

As clearly stated, the US will not only benefit from dismantling Iraq but also benefit from creating a Sunni entity at the doorway of the Shiite regime in Syria that has been supported by the Shiite Hizbullah and Iran.