The rise of sectarianism and the Islamic State is a direct result of the US’s divide and rule strategy–more intervention will only make the problem it created worse, writes Judith Orr
US fighter jets launched bombing raids in northern Iraq on Friday of last week. US president Barack Obama declared that the US had to intervene against the Sunni Islamist group the Islamic State.
The group, formerly known as Isis, has continued to gain ground in Iraq after its dramatic seizure of the city of Mosul in June.
Obama campaigned for the presidency as an opponent of the Iraq war. But like every Western warmonger before him Obama claims the intervention is driven by humanitarian motives.
“When we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye,” he said.
The Islamic State’s tactics are brutal and sectarian.
It has massacred prisoners, and sent thousands of refugees fleeing its advance. It has taken Iraq’s biggest Christian town Qaraqosh.
Tens of thousands of people from the Yazidi religious minority are reported to be trapped in hiding on Mount Sinjar.
But the threat of a massacre of religious minorities is not what is driving Western intervention.
Iraqi socialist Sami Ramadani told Socialist Worker, “The US and Western media are again shedding crocodile tears and using a humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq to realise imperialist objectives and pour petrol on the fire.”
It is the prospect of losing control of the swathes of Iraq and surrounding region that terrifies the Western powers.
The rise of the Islamic State is a product of the imperialist occupation of Iraq that followed the US-led invasion in 2003. The US sought to divide the opposition by playing different ethnic and religious groups off each other.
Bassem Chit, a socialist in Lebanon, told Socialist Worker, “The US bombing will do nothing but contribute in the further destabilisation of Iraq.
“It will create further grounds for the escalation and development of extremism. It will also enforce the sectarian policies of the Iraqi state, which is a major component of the problem.”
The current Shia-dominated Iraqi regime led by Nouri al-Maliki has consistently pursued a sectarian agenda. The US now wants to disown Maliki and install a new government it can work with under the guise of calling for unity.
The US has supported Iraqi president Fuad Masum in appointing a new prime minister from within the ruling coalition.
But as Socialist Worker went to press al-Maliki had deployed troops onto the streets of Baghdad in a desperate bid to hold onto power.
As Bassem points out, “It was the US-led war on Iraq in 2003 that was the main driver of the rise of sectarianism in the region in the first place. Doing it again will only galvanise the existing problem, not solve it.”
US power has been weakened
Western War hawks have claimed there would be no Iraq crisis if the US had not withdrawn from Iraq and intervened in Syria.
The US ruling class can’t accept that it is no longer unhindered in carving up the world. Its defeat in both Iraq and Afghanistan is now completely exposed.
US secretary of state John Kerry was forced to fly to Afghanistan to patch together a unity deal between two rival presidential candidates in a disputed election.
But the war is not yet over.
US Army general Harold Greene became the highest ranking soldier to be killed in action since the Vietnam war last week.
Possible US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has openly criticised incumbent Barack Obama for his supposed reluctance to impose US power. “One issue is that we don’t even tell our own story very well these days” she said.
David Cameron also faces pressure to join the bombing campaign from Tory MPs and future challenger London mayor Boris Johnson.
Former British army chief Lord Dannatt has even called for troops on the ground in Iraq.
This comes as a US report into torture and rendition, which threatens to also implicate the British state, is due to be published. Its publication has been delayed by attempts to redact some of its revelations.
The US has stepped up security at a number of its embassies in fear of a backlash when the report is finally made public.
It is set to be a timely reminder of the reality of Western military intervention.
Islamic State is no solution
US military intervention will only fuel the rise of the Islamic State. Islamist groups grew during the Syrian revolutions’s defeats. Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship happily used the Islamists who opposed the popular revolt to help crush the secular forces.
But the Islamic State spread to Iraq threatening Syria’s ally prime minister al-Maliki.
This forged new alliances among old enemies. Iran has sent drones to support the Iraqi government and the US is now doing the same alongside them.
This will allow the Islamic State to portray itself as anti-imperialist, distracting from its sectarian and reactionary politics. It attracts support from disenfranchised Sunnis, but its sectarianism cuts off possible struggles with Shias, Christians and Kurds also disillusioned with al-Maliki’s government.
It’s a product of the bloody legacy of Western imperialism in Iraq, not a solution to it.