ISIS threatens to drown Iraq in a sectarian bloodbath, warns Sami Ramadani, an anti-war activist and opponent of Saddam’s regime.
There is an essential distinction between successive Iraqi regimes’ violent, discriminatory, sectarian or chauvinist policies on the one hand – and the tolerant attitude and peaceful intentions of the vast majority of the Iraqi people from whichever community. These regimes, particularly Saddam’s Ba’athist dictatorship, were run by brutal cliques, reliant on small social strata. To conflate the regimes’ policies with the inclinations and desires of the vast majority of the people is wrong and a falsification of history. The brutal US-led occupation utilised the legacy of those policies and set in motion the destruction of Iraq’s cohesive social fabric.
We should support secular-democratic efforts to rebuild a measure of peaceful co-existence between the sects, religions, ethnicities and nationalities of Iraq and the Middle East. Keeping quiet about ISIS throatcutters and their assorted allies, just because we oppose the Maliki regime’s policies, is a recipe for disaster.
Having pillaged large parts of Syria and terrorised its religious and ethnic minorities, as well as its women, they are now marching towards Baghdad, joined by Saddamist officers and Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi zealots. This will lead to a sectarian bloodbath. ISIS will not flinch from burning Baghdad’s remaining books and removing its girls from schools. They want to punish millions of “idolatrous” Shia and crucify its remaining “Nassara” Christians. They were funded, armed and trained by the US and its allies: Turkey and the amoral sheiks and princes of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Israel helped them by bombing raids on Syria and treating their wounded in Israeli hospitals before re-arming them to go back to Syria to escalate the carnage.
We need to face the fact that popular activity in west and north west Iraq, just like in Syria, has been effectively hijacked by sectarian and racist forces. I cannot possibly remain silent about movements, no matter how popular, that are led by racist, sectarian and nihilist forces. In Mosul, Tikrit and Fallujah, they have capitalised on popular demands and are now dominant:
- ISIS has its roots in the al-Qa’ida terrorist cells that mushroomed after the 2003 occupation. It is infamous for bombing popular markets and funeral processions in majority Shia areas. It has grown rapidly in east and north east Syria, particularly in areas adjoining Iraq. Much of their supplies and personnel came through Turkey. But they have recruited thousands in the past three years in both Iraq and Syria. In Iraq their initial crop of highly trained fighters from many countries, were joined by hundreds of former Saddam army officers, some led by the Ba’ath Party under the leadership of Izzet al-Douri, Saddam’s former deputy.
- The Ba’ath Party led by al-Douri, who is close to Saudi rulers, is active among hundreds of former and current army officers. Though they claim to lead the armed advance, it is clear from people in Mosul that ISIS is leading the military thrust.
- The Islamic Party (a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood) is not as strong as the Brotherhood in Egypt or Syria, but has been agitating for a federal Iraq (a version of the Joe Biden plan, now being realised on the ground). It is backing the military effort to topple Maliki. It worked with US-led occupation authorities and has been close to Qatar and Turkey.
- The Association of Muslim Scholars led by Harith al-Dhari took part in the resistance movements against the US-led forces. Its military wing was relatively strong in areas in Baghdad and towns to its north, but was emasculated by the US forces and al Qa’ida. However, it shifted policy following the departure of its leader from Iraq to Jordan. Its message became similar to that of the Ba’athists, blatantly racist against the Iranian people and Iraq’s Shia (by depicting Shia leaders as agents of Iran and suggesting that they are not Arab in origin).
There are also civil society organisations and progressives who support the people’s demands, but they have been marginalised, with the above organisations pulling the strings and encouraging militarisation.
The rapid fall of Mosul was mainly due to military commanders, some of whom were former Saddam officers, fleeing to Kurdistan without firing a bullet. Simultaneously with the fall of Mosul, the Kurdish forces took over Kirkuk and areas in Mosul and Diala provinces. There is a de facto ceasefire between their forces and ISIS and Ba’athist-led officers. It was shock news a few years ago when it transpired that the Ba’ath party leader visited Kurdistan and was rumoured to have met Barzani.
What Iraq needs, and sadly lacks today, is strong secular, democratic organisations that can unite the people to overthrow the occupationbuilt sectarian institutions, and rid Iraq of US intervention and that of all regional powers. This cannot be achieved by replacing Maliki’s corrupt regime with a regime led by the above organisations. Maliki is a passing phase, but, if the barbarians win, they will destroy what is left of Iraqi society, following its devastation by the US-led occupation.
It is for the Iraqi people to remove Maliki and not for the US and its proxies to impose a more pliant ruler. This is the devastation that evolved in Syria and we must not ignore its probable evolution in Iraq. For the winners will be the oil companies, arms manufacturers, and sectarian war lords plunging the entire Middle East into a bloodbath.