Day by day, the escalating Iraqi crisis replicates an element from the ongoing Syrian war, making the possibility of a new large-scale suffering in the region just a matter of days.
Despite the numerous crowds taking over city after city in Iraq, projecting their irreversible goal to be the eradication of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-led government, the international community’s only stake in this massive scene is so far the “miniature” Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Inasmuch as the Syrian crisis has been reduced to the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front and the al-Qaeda-inspired ISIS, i.e. terrorism, there is in the international community’s rhetoric on Iraq now too much talk about ISIS with no mentioning whatsoever of the other elements in the escalating crisis there that is prophesying a prolonged civil war.
The large-scale suffering of the Syrian people and the massive destruction to their country is not that big of a concern to the international community compared with its alarm towards the rising radicalism there. The world’s style of action on Syria has been already determined how ISIS will be dealt with.
Too late for Syria
The world’s handling of the Iraqi crisis is so far still lacking the realization that Syria has turned into, and Iraq is turning into, a terrorism-fertile territory all due to the international community’s inaction on the two crisis-hit countries. As it is too late for Syria now, there needs to be an understanding of the real situation in Iraq before it is also too late there.
Syria has been left to all possibilities with the international community’s inaction. Radical groups have entered the scene, fighting first alongside the Free Syrian Army (FSA) on the basis of the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” and then against themselves. This chaotic scene has helped in considerably tarnishing the FSA’s image which has ended up being misconceived as a radical entity. Like the FSA, the Arab Sunnis of Iraq are now put as the embodiment of ISIS. No second thought is given to such a misconception.
No one wants to admit that it was the heavily armed Arab Sunnis of Anbar and not Maliki’s army who once fought ISIS in Anbar and Ramadi in western Iraq just a few months ago when they decided to put on hold their peaceful uprising against the marginalization policies of Iran-backed government of Baghdad. It was neither Maliki’s militia nor the U.S. army that weakened the military operations of al-Qaeda in Iraq, but the Arab Sunni Awakening Council of Anbar (the Sahawat) in 2007. All is purposely forgotten now.
ISIS is not the Red Army
However, this is not meant in any way to underestimate the threat posed by ISIS but to put incidents on the right course and to pinpoint the unfairness of describing what is witnessed in Iraq now and before then in Syria only within the context of terrorism and radicalism. ISIS is no doubt an extremist, violent and religiously intolerant militia but is not, militarily speaking, the Red Army. “A well-equipped platoon of an organized army could easily defeat ISIS”, I was told by a retired general, who added, “Notice, ISIS and such groups are only active in chaotic states like Syria, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, where there is actually no state.”
In Iraq and Syria, the situation is clearly the following: a public uprising against totalitarian ruleRaed Omari
It is unquestionable that both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Maliki have used ISIS and al-Nusra as a “scarecrow”, in part to sound appealing to the West, knowing its sensitivity towards al-Qaeda, and to distract the world’s attention from the real situation in their countries. In Iraq and Syria, the situation is clearly the following: a public uprising against totalitarian rule.
Assad’s departure at the beginning of the crisis could have averted Syria’s hostile fate, Maliki’s resignation and the formation of a national salvation government could help immensely alleviate the tension in Iraq now.
The Iraqi Arab Sunnis have passed a point of no return. Facts on the ground in Iraq reveal day by day that ISIS is a marginal issue, constituting just a small part but not the whole scene there. The heavily armed Iraqis marching in massive numbers from the northern, western and central provinces of Iraq seem to be determined on bringing the downfall of Maliki’s government in Baghdad. In doing so, they see it their right to build alliances with the Arab Sunni countries of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and UAE and later maybe with Egypt the same way Maliki is allied with Shiite Iran.
Although such a projection of incidents might be a recipe for a prolonged Sunni-Shiite civil war, this is the real situation in Iraq now. The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will be faced with such a reality during his upcoming tour to the region. The future scenarios in Iraq will be no doubt determined according to the plan the U.S. puts forward to deal with the crisis-hit country. The Americans would have much say over the course of actions in Iraq, be it to end a civil war, prolong unrest or promote peace.
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2