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Why Obama is bombing the Caliph

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia.

Published time: August 12, 2014 10:37
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement on the situation in Iraq from his vacation home at Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts August 11, 2014. (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

This is the way the multi-trillion dollar Global War on Terror (GWOT) ends: not with a bang, but with a bigger bang.

The GWOT, since its conceptualization 13 years ago, in the aftermath of 9/11, is the gift that keeps on giving. And no gift is bigger than a Transformer Al-Qaeda on steroids – bigger, brasher, and wealthier than anything Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri had ever dreamt of; the IS (Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS) of Caliph Ibrahim, former Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

US President Barack Obama, before deploying his golf holidays in Martha’s Vineyard, casually dropped that bombing the Caliph’s goons in Iraq will take months. One may interpret it as another layer of the Obama administration’s self-avowed “Don't Do Stupid Stuff” foreign policy doctrine, not so subtly mocked by prospective presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Shock and Awe in 2003 destroyed the whole of Baghdad’s infrastructure in only a few hours.

Obama also confirmed the US was showering Iraq again with humanitarian bombing “to protect American interests” (first and foremost) and, as an afterthought, “human rights in Iraq.”

One could not possibly expect Obama to declare the US would now bomb “our” allies the House of Saud, who have supported/financed/weaponized IS, in Syria and Iraq. The same erstwhile ISIS that thoroughly enjoyed the marvels of US military training in a secret base in Jordan.

Obama also could not possibly explain why the US always supported ISIS in Syria and now decides to bomb them in Iraq. Oh, the perils of ‘Don’t Do Stupid Stuff’.

So a quick translation applies.

 Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters look on as smoke billows from the town Makhmur, about 280 kilometres (175 miles) north of the capital Baghdad, during clashes with Islamic State (IS) militants on August 9, 2014. (AFP Photo / Safin Hamed)

Obama’s bombing of the Caliph’s goons has absolutely nothing to do with US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power’s much beloved R2P (‘responsibility to protect’) doctrine – as in the responsibility to protect up to 150,000 Yazidis, not to mention Kurds and remaining Christians, from a ‘potential’ genocide carried out by the Caliph’s goons.

The whole fighter jets + drones bombing exercise, lasting ‘months’, has to do with the Benghazi syndrome.

The Caliph’s goons were dead set on conquering Irbil - the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is led by the wily Massoud Barzani – a long-time US client/vassal.

The US maintains a consulate in Irbil. Crammed with CIA types. Or, as the New York Times so lovingly puts it, “thousands of Americans.”

Enter Benghazi. This is an electoral year. Obama is absolutely terrified of another Benghazi – which Republicans have been trying non-stop to blame on his administration’s incompetence. The last thing Obama needs is the Caliph’s goons killing ‘diplomats’ in Erbil.

That would certainly raise a tsunami of questions all over again about the shady CIA weapon-smuggling racket – as in arming Syrian ‘rebels’ with weapons from Libya - at the time Benghazi took place. As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, of course, also knew about it all. But then, and especially now, no one should know that the CIA was weaponizing the bulk of the future Caliph’s forces.

Regime change or bust

Obama said this humanitarian bombing adventure could last “months,” but in fact it could last only days.

The price is cheap: regime change. As in former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki blocked from having a third term.

That explains why all hell broke loose in Baghdad, as Iraqi parliamentarians clearly saw which way the wind is blowing. Haider al-Abadi was chosen by new President Fuad Masoum, a Kurd, as the new prime minister – hours after Maliki positioned Special Forces in strategic sites in and around the Green Zone and may (or may not) have tried to stage a coup. Maliki maintains that Masoum violated the Iraqi constitution by not selecting him to form a new cabinet; after all, his State of Law bloc got the most votes in last April’s parliamentary elections.

Smoke rises during clashes between Kurdish "peshmerga" troops and militants of the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), on the outskirts of Sinjar, west of Mosul, (Reuters / Stringer)

Obama, predictably, was delighted. But whatever happens next, Maliki won’t go down quietly – to say the least. Even as the predominant narrative among Sunnis, a substantial number of Kurds and even some Shiite political blocs is that Maliki antagonized Sunnis all-out; and that’s what drove them to support the Caliph en masse (although now many are having second thoughts.)

As for the KRG and Barzani, in the Obama administration scheme of things, what matters is that they should not declare independence. As long as Barzani promises to Obama that Kurdistan stays inside Iraq, the KRG will get more bombs and drones and the ‘humanitarian’ operation will speed up. US Special Forces are already deployed all over the huge area where the Caliphate borders the KRG, in so-called desert forward operating positions. And the US for all practical purposes is now the Iraqi Air Force against the Caliph.

Watch ‘the Hillarator’

This Obama administration warped R2P – protection for Americans first, refugees second – will accomplish nothing for a key reason; no bombing – ‘humanitarian’ or otherwise - exterminates a political/religious movement, even one as demented as IS. The Caliphate prospers, somewhat, and expands, because unlike that pathetic Free Syrian Army (FSA) it’s winning territory, desert and urban, in both Syria and Iraq; an area bigger than Great Britain already, holding at least 6 million people.

As for the much-peddled Washington myth of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ jihadists, the Caliphate also exploded it. Virtually every jihadi Washington - and Riyadh – weaponized and trained in Jordan and in the Turkey-Syria border is now among the Caliph’s goons, wallowing in cash raised from oil smuggling, hardcore blackmail and ‘donations’, and weaponized to their teeth after looting four Iraqi divisions and a Syrian brigade.

As for the GWOT gift, it will keep on giving in a bigger and bigger bang because of the dream narrative now displayed for every aspiring multinational jihadi; we are now defending our Caliphate from the mighty Crusader Air Force, no less.

The US lost the war in Iraq, miserably, only nine days after the fall of Baghdad, in April 2003. No ‘humanitarian’ bombing will turn it into a victory. And no ‘humanitarian’ bombing will finish the Caliphate off.

As for prospective presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, she’s taking no prisoners. She insists the US should have bombed Syria in the first place; then there would be no Caliphate. But now she worries the Caliph will attack Europe and even the US (“I’m thinking a lot about containment, deterrence and defeat”).

Predictably positioning herself, Clinton could not but totally dismiss Obama’s foreign policy doctrine, a.k.a. ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’: “‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.” So the world will have to wait until 2017, when she’s finally able to implement her own doctrine/organizing principle: “We came, we saw, he died.”

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.