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​Iraq – a crisis for the Western elites? Or is it all going to plan?

Neil Clark is a journalist, writer and broadcaster. His award winning blog can be found at www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. Follow him on Twitter

Published time: August 13, 2014 10:29
Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town, walk towards the Syrian border, on the outskirts of Sinjar mountain, near the Syrian border town of Elierbeh of Al-Hasakah Governorate August 11, 2014 (Reuters / Rodi Said)

It has all turned out rather differently from how those very distinguished neocon “experts”’ told us it would, hasn’t it?

In the lead-up to the illegal invasion of Iraq in March 2003, we were assured “regime change” would lead to peace and stability and be good news for the whole region. The war on terror would be won, if only that great monster Saddam- with his world-threatening weapons of mass destruction- was removed from power. When asked by an interviewer: “If we go into Iraq and we take down Hussein?” the chairman of the Defense Policy Board Richard Perle replied: “Then I think it's over for the terrorists.”

“I have certainly made up my mind, as indeed any sensible person would, that the region in the world, most of all the people of Iraq, would be in a far better position without Saddam Hussein,” said Tony Blair.

Now eleven years on, the US is again intervening in Iraq, but this time to bomb radical Islamists who have taken control of much of the country. And incredibly, and rather obscenely, the neocon politicians, pundits and ‘experts’ who caused the mess in the first place are still lecturing us on what needs to be done.

It was not hard to predict that the violent toppling of Saddam would lead to chaos and that radical Islamists would step into the vacuum.

As I wrote in The Spectator in March 2002, “Like it or not the most likely alternative to the secular regimes of Assad in Syria and Saddam in Iraq would be militant Islamic ones.”

To make matters worse, having toppled Saddam, the invaders destroyed the state infrastructure, purged the civil service of up to 120,000 people and disbanded the Iraqi army. Their actions were a recipe for disaster. “After 2003, not only did the state’s ability to impose order on Iraq disintegrate, but the coherence and capacity of its civil institutions also fell away. The population was bereft of order of state-delivered services,” writes Toby Dodge in his 2012 book Iraq: From War to a New Authoritarianism.

The most charitable explanation is that the neocon strategy was misguided and that these great brains that planned the Iraq war and its aftermath were actually rather stupid. But there is a more sinister and much more plausible explanation. Namely that the West’s imperialist elite set out to deliberately destroy Iraq, and make sure that it would always be a failed state. Iraq is weak and divided precisely because it was meant to be weak and divided. And groups like ISIS/IS have thrived because of the deliberate destruction of a strong state structure.

This is the thesis put forward in the new book by Dan Glazebrook Divide and Ruin: The West‘s Imperial Strategy in an Age of Crisis.

Glazebrook argues that this new strategy of not just pursuing “regime change” but going out to destroy the countries too is a natural result of the US Empire’s declining economic influence. The US can no longer be sure that the new regime it installs in countries where it has toppled the old government, will do its bidding.

So the best strategy is to destroy the country to make sure that it will never again be a strong, independent actor. “It is only in this context that we can understand the apparently ludicrous policies pursued by the West across the Middle East: the promotion of vicious sectarianism, the banning of major political parties, barring officials from work and so on. They are designed to produce weak, divided ‘failed states’, unable to become powerful allies of China or anyone else. Thus the much-criticized failure to plan in Iraq was a plan in itself,” Glazebrook writes.

Under Saddam, Iraq was an independently-minded country which acted as a bulwark to US/Israeli hegemonic plans for the Middle East. So it had to be destroyed- not just “regime changed” but destroyed. That could be achieved by deliberately wrecking state institutions and infrastructure and making sure the Baath party, a non-sectarian organization which stressed Arab unity, was made illegal.

Libya, under Gaddafi, was an independently-minded country too which led to moves to strengthen African unity and oppose US hegemonic plans for Africa. So it too had to be destroyed and turned into a “failed state”.

Syria, under President Assad, also “stood in the way” on account of its alliance with Iran and Hezbollah. So it too was targeted for destruction. If Assad could be removed, all to the good, but even if he couldn’t then the country would be slowly bled to death through the backing, by the west and its regional allies, of violent “rebel” groups.

A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa June 29, 2014 (Reuters / Stringer)

The side effects

In working to destroy these independently-minded countries (which all incidentally operated socialistic economies, with large nationalized sectors and which stood outside of the IMF/World Bank/WTO global financial dictatorship), it mattered little to the West that the governments of Saddam, Gaddafi and Assad were bulwarks against radical Islamic groups, such as Al-Qaeda. And that fighting against these governments, the West would be giving a major boost to such extremist organizations. On the contrary, the Western elites saw that jihadists and radical Islamic terrorist groups could aid their cause by fighting against the secular, socialistic regimes that they had targeted for removal.

The use of radical Islamic groups to further the West’s imperialist agenda isn’t new. It was of course deployed in the 1980s in Afghanistan, when US funded, trained and supplied military equipment to the Mujahedeen. Afghanistan in the 1980s was, in the words of John Pilger, the award-winning investigative journalist, “where modern jihadism began”- but the American role in promoting it is now conveniently forgotten.

This policy did not end with the fall of the Soviet Union. It continued whenever it could serve western elite interests. The role of the Zionist lobby has to be mentioned as it has been very important in influencing Western strategy.

In 1996 an Israeli think-tank produced the document “A Clean Break: a New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” advising the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Its authors were pro-Israeli US neocons, described as ‘prominent opinion makers’.

The document called for the removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and for action to ‘roll back’ Syria. Fast forward six years. “With several of the "Clean Break" paper's authors now holding key positions in Washington, the plan for Israel to "transcend" its foes by reshaping the Middle East looks a good deal more achievable today than it did in 1996. Americans may even be persuaded to give up their lives to achieve it,”wrote Brian Whittaker in the Guardian in September 2002 as pro-Israel lobby made the case for war with Iraq on a daily basis.

It is indisputable that Israel-first politicians, pundits and journalists were at the forefront of the campaigns for military “intervention” not just against Iraq, but Syria and Libya too, and also were the ones pushing most relentlessly for the imposition of draconian sanctions on Iran, on account of an unproven nuclear weapons program.

Turning Iraq, Syria and Iran into weak and divided “failed states” would be wonderful news for Israel. Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, championed the Palestinian cause.

In 2003, the BBC reported how Saddam had paid out thousands of dollars to the families of Palestinian fighters killed by Israel.

“If you take out Saddam, Saddam's regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region,” Benjamin Netanyahu told Congress in September 2002. Syria, of course is targeted by the pro-Israel lobby for its alliance with Iran and Hezbollah, while Iran has long been perceived as Public Enemy number one in Tel Aviv.

The hypocrisy of these “Israel-firsters” has been off the scale, the very same people who warn us about the “threat” of Islamic extremism at home and who play the Islamophobic card at every opportunity were the same people who were working round the clock for “regime change” against Middle Eastern governments which were opposed to those religious extremists.

Indeed, if there is any group of people within the Western elites most to blame for rise of groups like ISIS/IS its hardline Zionists. Israel’s enemies in the region simply have to become the US and Britain’s enemies too, even if targeting these “enemy” countries gives a major boost to radical Islamic terror groups. Protecting Israel has to come before everything else. Even before countering Al-Qaeda and its affiliates.

In 2006 Syrian security forces foiled an attack by an Al-Qaeda affiliate on the US Embassy in Damascus

‘Syrian officials came to the aid of the Americans. The US is grateful for the assistance the Syrians provided in going after the attackers’ said White House press secretary Tony Snow- but the gratitude didn‘t last too long. A few years later, the US- under strong pressure from the pro-Israel lobby, was working for the violent overthrow of the government in Damascus. But if fighting Al-Qaeda (and other radical groups like ISIS) was the priority, then the US would be working with Syria not against it- as I argued in an article in 2008.

Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, re-enter Iraq from Syria at the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in Fishkhabour, Dohuk province, August 10, 2014 (Reuters / Ari Jalal)

Little too late

The fact is that ISIS/IS would not be in the strong position it is today, if the US hadn’t decided to topple Assad. WikiLeaks has revealed that in 2010 the Syrian government offered to partner the US to fight groups like ISIS.

Instead of course, the US chose to fight, through terrorist proxies, the Syrian government.

ISIS/IS have been the major beneficiaries of such a policy. As Richard Becker, of the Answer Coalition recently told RT:

“It was the intervention of the United States in Iraq and the US and its partners in Syria, which laid the groundwork for the ISIS organization to develop. In 2010-2011, remember they said they carried out six actions in the whole year. They (ISIS) were practically defunct until the United States and its allies supported the armed opposition inside Syria and gave an opportunity to this organization to develop and come back into Iraq.”

Now of course, the permanent war lobby express their concern for Christians and Yazidis being massacre or threatened with massacre by jihadists in Iraq, but there was little, if any concern from the same people as Christians and other religious and ethnic groups were slaughtered by ‘rebels’ in Syria, with arms supplied by the west and its regional partners.

Anyone who spoke out about the killings of Christians in Syria risked being labeled an ‘Assad apologist’ by establishment gatekeepers, whilst a despicable smear campaign was waged against a 61-year-old Syrian-based peace campaigner and nun, Mother Agnes-Mariam, who had been invited to speak at a Stop the War meeting in Britain.

Neither was there too much humanitarian concern over the massacring of black Africans by western-backed anti-Gaddafi “rebels” in Libya. “Racist pogroms were characteristic of the Libyan rebellion from its very inception, when 50 sub-Saharan immigrants were burnt alive in Al-Bayda on the second day of the insurgency,” writes Dan Glazebrook.

But now all of a sudden, it is deemed acceptable by elite gatekeepers, to highlight the massacre of Christians and ethnic religious minorities in Iraq.

If the West is genuinely concerned about countering ISIS/IS then there clearly needs to be a radical change in Middle Eastern policy. For a start we need a “clean break” with the Zionist lobby which has pushed for the violent removal of secular governments in the region, a policy which has caused so much bloodshed and chaos and greatly strengthened the hand of radical Islamic extremists. If the aim is to weaken such radical groups, then that means working with countries like Syria and Iran and not against them regardless of the opinions of Benjamin Netanyahu.

It means encouraging strong states in the region, and secular governments that bring all their people together and which do not follow divisive sectarian policies which exclude large sections of the community. The best bulwark against ISIS/IS is strong states, not weak ones.

Yet there’s little sign of any changes occurring to Western foreign policy and perhaps we would be very naïve to think there would be. British Prime Minister David Cameron and his fellow hawks were prepared to take Britain into a war with Syria last summer, but Cameron does rule out British military intervention against ISIS/IS in Iraq. If the US is really so concerned about ISIS/IS why did they wait until now to take action, and not act earlier in the summer, when it was clear that ISIS/IS was making huge advances? Neocon pundits meanwhile tell us on no account should an anti-ISIS/IS front with Iran and Syria be formed-that really would have Tel Aviv fuming.

The conclusion has to be that while the US wants to check the ISIS/IS advance and protect US personnel (and oil fields) in Iraq, it doesn’t want to destroy it. Radical extremists who behead their enemies and persecute religious and ethnic minorities are far, far, too useful to be destroyed as who knows when the Empire will need them next?

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