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September 27, 2014
ISIS Crisis: Self-Made And Lacking Coherent Response
By Arshad M Khan
Source: Eurasia Review
“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat” — Sun Tzu
The shiny new American M16s and camouflage uniforms of some groups of ISIS
fighters might give a clue to the question no one in our compliant mainstream media is
asking. How did ISIS become well-armed, well-funded and well-trained? Now this
tragedy (farce) is being played out in an equally ill-conceived response.
Not only does the Obama administration ignore Sun Tzu’s age old warning, it also
wants war on the cheap, providing air support while locals do the fighting, hoping also
that it weakens possible adversaries. It wants war without significant troop involvement
(and casualties), at least until it leaves office and hands the problem over to its
successor. A look at the disastrous policy making in the area covering not just this
administration but several others is in order.
Three decades ago, this country was aiding Saddam Hussein in Iraq’s war against the
then new fundamentalist regime of the Ayatollahs in Shia Iran. At the time, Iraq’s
government was secular with a Christian prime minister. US help blunted a final
Iranian offensive resulting in a stalemate. After the end of that war, and lacking clear
signals from the US, the uncontrollable Saddam was off his leash.
The US failure to clarify its position led to his Kuwait adventure, and subsequently to
the first US-Iraq war. Saddam’s defeat, however, was followed not by Saddam’s
removal but by more suffering for the Iraqi people through economic sanctions. One
result was the death of a half-million children for lack of medicines and other
It did not stop there. In the wake of 9/11 came Bush II’s mega-dollar war based on
false claims. Iraq was occupied, and the fateful and disastrous decisions (de-Ba’
athification, the disbandment of the old Iraqi army and political sectarianism) to follow
led to what has become essentially a Shiite regime in Baghdad and a Shiite army
That some Sunni force would emerge was inevitable; that it came from Syrian rebels
assisted indirectly by the US is not only tragic and ironic but also the result of a
continuing deeply flawed policy targeting secular regimes. We are now back in Iraq
fighting fundamentalist Sunni forces in the form of ISIS the so-called Islamic State.
US policy in Iraq has been a succession of failures: first the failure to impress on
Saddam the unacceptability of a Kuwait invasion; then, after the first war became
inevitable, the failure to remove Saddam and continue a secular regime under
another leader; and the appalling failure after the second war to maintain a secular
regime (like the Ba’ath Party which kept fundamentalists in check). The first would
have prevented two expensive wars; the last the necessity for the present one. The
lessons have still not been learned for the US continues its effort to oust a secular
government in Syria.
The latest Iraq intervention, namely, the plan to fight ISIS, is irrealizable both
operationally and strategically. On an operational level, it relies on arming and
training the moderate almost non-existent Syrian rebels of the Free Syrian Army. One
need only consider the time, training and money spent training the Iraqi army and its
abysmal performance against ISIS to assess the chances of success. Moreover, the
Free Syrian Army smashed repeatedly by ISIS signed a non-aggression pact, and, so
far, have declined to join Obama’s effort.
Strategically the situation is almost farcical: Fighting ISIS in Iraq, the US is placed on
the same side as Iran and its Shia sphere of influence, i.e. the Iraqi Shia-dominated
government in Baghdad, the Hezbollah and Bashar al-Assad. In Syria, from where ISIS
originates and is the strongest rebel group fighting the Assad regime, the US is on the
opposite side, i.e. against the Assad regime and its supporters (who happen to be the
same Iran, Hezbollah, and the Shia government in Baghdad).
Thus the policy upends itself with the invisible wall of the Syria-Iraq border. About the
only consistency for the Democrats recalls the so-called invisible wall, between
commercial and investment banking, for which the Democrats traded the real wall of
Glass-Steagall. The financial disaster was not long in coming.
There are over a billion Sunnis to about a 100 million Shia in the Muslim world who,
until recent fundamentalism took hold, lived fairly peaceably together, or in their own
countries — principally Iran for the Shia, and the rest of the Muslim world for Sunnis.
In a recent Vice Media documentary, many in the Sunni population under ISIS control
in Iraq actually favored ISIS rule over what they characterized as Baghdad’s Shiite
Army. It is not unlikely then that US actions will anger the Sunnis in Iraq and
elsewhere. Concurrently, arming Syrian rebels against the Shia-backed Assad
regime, will inflame the Shia. Piling on sectarian hatred raises the danger level for the
US in an already steaming Muslim world that blames it for Israel’s recent pointless
Gaza invasion killing over 2000 — pointless because Israel in the end was forced to
accede to Hamas’ demands for easing some of the border controls imprisoning
Gazans — and even more for the lack of sympathy for the victims, two-thirds civilian
and mostly children, women and old men.
Meanwhile, the Iraq-Syria two-step is being lauded by the same Washington pundits
who brought us the multi-trillion dollar wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, their civilian
misery, and their Islamic fundamentalist consequences, as well as the chaos in Libya
and its aftermath … a fundamentalist resurgence in Central and West Africa.