• [English/국제주의] Iraq and the New Caliphate of the Islamic State (ISIS)
  • 조회 수: 6464, 2014-08-11 20:15:02(2014-08-11)
  • Iraq and the New Caliphate of the Islamic State (ISIS)

    As if the war-torn Middle East has not had enough, another front, has opened up in Iraq.

    The self-proclaimed caliph, Abu Bakr Ibrahim al Baghdadi, a long-time jihadist and unchallenged head of ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has gained new positions in northern Iraq after his troops captured Mosul. After Zumar, he took the town of Sinjar and the oil fields of Ain ​​Zalah and Batma, near the border with Syria, where ISIS already controlled the eastern part of the country. This advance, with its easy conquests, has inspired “the Black Caliph” to proclaim the establishment of an Islamic state (IS). It is a “holy” territory ruled by sharia law, politically “autonomous” and extremely aggressive towards the neighbouring Shi’ite regimes. Such has been the ease of these territorial conquests given the military force used that it has surprised not only the government of Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Shi’ite Prime Minister, but also that of the Kurdish north of the country and, before that the Syrian President al-Assad.

    Al Baghdadi, of course, has not fallen from the sky like some meteor obliterating everyone and everything. His arrival on the tragic Middle Eastern stage is also the result of a series of imperialist tensions and frictions which, for years now, have been upsetting the political and economic arrangements throughout the region. ISIS was born in Fallujah in Iraq in 2003, just after the Allied entry into Baghdad and the fall of Saddam Hussein. It brought together the anger of at first hundreds, then later thousands, of desperate people, and channelled it into the usual nationalist – religious mechanism. It transformed a band of militants into an efficient army that expanded in northern Iraq, eastern Syria with organisational offshoots in Lebanon and Jordan. All achieved through considerable military and financial support.

    It is true that, as many observers have pointed out, this army of Islamist fanatics has found strength and cash in raids on villages and in cities it has conquered. The most obvious example is that, after the conquest of Mosul, “the Black Caliph” gave the order to clean out the central bank of the city and all its branches within 50 kilometres. Is it true that the movement draws oil from northern Syria and markets it via truck to Turkey, but the bulk of its funding comes from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. It is an income stream that is not easy to quantify, but certainly enough to keep an army, to make it efficient and capable of becoming a dangerous loose cannon throughout the Middle East area. The reason for such magnanimity on the part of Saudi Arabia and Co. towards al Baghdadi is the attempt, especially by the regime in Riyadh, to fight Assad's Syria, to weaken Iraq's al-Maliki, both to get rid of hostile opponents, and to extend its supremacy in the area. The aim is to control, through future friendly governments, the oil flows from the Middle East to the Mediterranean that go in an easterly direction. A direction in which Iran, the number one enemy of Riyadh, its religious opponent and oil rival par excellence, operates. The intention of the Saudis, is to fly the religious banner of Sunnism, against the Shi’ite “heretics”, Iraqis, Iranians, or Alawites like Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This is nothing but an ideological tool with which to fight their own imperialist battle for oil, and financial and political supremacy throughout the area, from the Mediterranean to the Caspian Sea, through the Kurdish areas of Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

    Like other jihadist formations, the ISIS is not just a tool in the hands of the Wahabbi Saudi monarchy. Its destabilising action responds to the imperialist logic of Riyadh against Tehran and Damascus, and its military and political power will remain as long as it is functional to that logic. This though does not rule out that the possibility, that if ISIS were to escape this framework and begin to act on its own, as appears to have happened lately, the imperialist balance of power in the region could take new directions.

    For Iran's President Rohani’s “new course” is the same, but in the opposite direction. Tehran brandishes the banner of Shi’ism exactly like the Saudis do with Sunnism, both conscious that, at this stage, the religious trap, with its devastating corollary of militant fundamentalism, is functional to their imperialist interests. And it does not skimp on aid, funding and political backing to the military creatures which it conjures up from nothing or which grow beneath Iran’s protective cloak. As in previous decades, Saudi Arabia has encouraged the emergence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, al Qaeda, and more recently ISIS in Iraq and Syria, so the regimes that have alternated in power in Iran have supported organisations such as the Hezbollah in Lebanon, and other Shi’ite religious formations as well as HAMAS in Gaza. Its objectives are: 1) bring Iran out of the isolation that it plunged into after Khomeini’s revolution; 2) establish a set of economic, trade and political relations with ‘similar’ countries; 3) put itself forward as a competitor with Saudi Arabia in terms of oil exports; 4) encourage the emergence of politically subordinate regimes in their own image and likeness; 5) defend even with force countries like Iraq and Syria, currently the subject of ISIS, therefore Riyadh’s military attention.

    Without neglecting the fact that inside and on the edge of this tangled skein, those who pull the strings are, inevitably, the same great imperialist power that for decades have transformed these lands and their inhabitants into theatres of tragedy in order to favour their essential economic and strategic interests.

    The United States is on the side of Saudi Arabia, its Gulf allies and its military creatures. The USA, after ISIS conquered Mosul, and gained control of a major dam on the River Tigris near the same city, have seen fit to intervene militarily with a couple of bombings against al Baghdadi military positions using F18 fighter-bombers. The official excuse was to provide humanitarian support to refugees, especially Christians[1], to help with the dropping of food and water. All this is very useful for Obama’s image with the American public at a time when he is low in the polls and lacks consensual support. In reality the USA is supporting the Kurdish Peshmerga against the ISIS army, which is threatening the city of Erbil and the oil of Iraqi Kurdistan, the preserve of a couple of American oil companies. In addition there is also the fact that ISIS is getting out of control of its handlers in Ryadh, much as the Taliban in Afghanistan did with its American puppeteers. This is no small complicating factor in the imperialist scenario we previously sketched out.

    Russia and China are on the side of Iran and its allied fighters in the various hotspots in the Middle East with the same energy objective but oriented towards the east. In the midst of this is the capitalist barbarism of proxy wars, civil wars, the "revolutions" of a religious nature, the secular "restorations" or vice versa.

    We must not forget that above all, behind these “games” in the region, behind the usual banners of opposing religious fundamentalisms or so-called secular liberties, are those who serve as cannon fodder for this or that bourgeois oil interest, for this or that imperialist interest. It is always the working class, the dispossessed who, without a revolutionary political guide, inevitably end up falling into the same old tragic trap set by the interests of our class enemy.

    [1] Though the desperate plight of the Yasiris trapped on Mount Sinjar has now become the main focus of world media attention.

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