After withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, American power there was waning, and the advance of ISIS, or the Islamic State, became a tool for the US to restore its influence in Iraq, Middle East expert Zayd Alisa told RT.
RT: Right now London says it's helping Kurdish refugees. But how far do you think British involvement in Iraq could eventually go?
Zayd Alisa: I don’t think it could go a long way. I mean the British are basically helping out, they are contributing in the efforts made by the US, and so it is the US which is basically running the show. I do believe that the French and the British are only there to show their support and to show that they are involved and are taking part in Western efforts to help out with the refugees, while scrambling out of the areas that are threatened by the latest advances of the ISIS, which has moved north-west to aid the Kurdish regional areas instead of moving downwards after its advance towards Baghdad that have been held this way, and in some cases the tide has turned against it.
RT: The British government stood by the US in supporting anti-government forces in Syria in the last few years, and some of those forces have now spilled over the border into Iraq to fight for the Islamic State. How much of a duty do you think London has to stop the jihadists?
ZA: I think there is a huge body of public opinion that is vehemently opposed to it and fiercely against doing it. They wouldn’t, I mean particularly that Cameron is approaching election time, and we have seen this rejection by the British public in terms of getting involved in Syria. So I wouldn’t really believe that they are willing to take the chance of going that far. However, Americans have basically said that there will be no boots on the ground, and they have actually chosen at the beginning when the ISIS moved into Mosul, moved swiftly towards Baghdad they were very happy to sit on the fence and actually not intervene, and try to use the ISIS or the Islamic State advance as a tool or an instrument to gain more influence in Iraq or to restore and to regain the influence that was waning after their withdrawal from Iraq. It was Obama who actually tried to keep 5,000 or 10,000 forces and had a major change of heart before the withdrawal, and then was forced to do that because as he stated on June 18, when he laid out the new American strategy, saying that we will force out Maliki and he firmly blamed Maliki, saying he wouldn’t grant our forces immunity from prosecution and this is the major conditions, so we have to actually leave. This has been used as basically an instrument to regain and to restore American influence, and to have a major say, if not a final say, in the formation of the new Iraqi government, which should be formed in a way to make sure that this time round Americans will not lose their influence and will have a major say in its formation and to maintain and preserve this time their influence, and actually teaching any future prime minister a lesson that any attempt to stray away from the American influence, the prime minister will have his job on the line or will be replaced because the government that is supposed to be formed will be another weak government.
RT: Some US and European officials have said the jihadists pose a direct threat to Western countries. Do you agree?
ZA: That’s the intention. We have seen them even in the case of Kurdistan, where they actually have chosen to use their air force, no boots on the ground, but they have basically faced the ISIS advance. It has limited effect because ultimately I don’t believe that they want to stop them all together, they want to use the ISIS which are on their ground as a leverage to make sure that the government is formed according to their wishes and they will have total supervision over that government and this time round they are going to keep a tight leash on the government to make sure that the next prime minister will not ever dare to challenge them or defy them as Maliki has done. That’s the one thing.
And the other thing is they used ISIS to send a clear message to the Kurds that they should not go ahead with their independence. We have seen Barzani using the advance and the crumbling of the Iraqi Army and the threat towards Baghdad to indicate that all the disputed areas, including the oil-rich Kirkuk have gone back to the Kurdish region. That is the part and parcel of the Kurdistan and he is going to go for total independence, that would throw American policy, which is already in disarray in the region, into further disarray, and Americans wanted to stop him in his tracks and actually teach him a lesson that he is under the mercy of the American forces. The same message has been sent to Baghdad, that they cannot escape nor have their total independence from moving away from American sphere of influence. So the message is clear, and ISIS has been used as an instrument actually has been reinvigorated. We have seen it revitalized by Americans allowing the Saudis to arm, to train and to fund and provide logistical support to the extremist groups, mainly Al-Nusra Front, which is only part and parcel of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. That is the main factor for the resurgence of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, it was done while the Americans knew about it and they allowed Saudis to do that, to topple regime in Syria.
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