Thursday, October 02, 2014


"The US-led missile and air strikes that started on early Tuesday on jihadi targets in Syria have spread the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as Isis, across the battlefield these extremists have created from Iraq to the Mediterranean. This is now a regional war, with many moving parts that will be difficult to synchronise into a winning strategy. Isis may overreach and self-destruct but the damage already done in terms of dismembered states and their disaffected peoples will be hard to repair.... The starting point looks superficially promising. Every country around Syria and Iraq feels threatened by Isis. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies, as well as Jordan, have come in behind the US and its western partners, providing Sunni Arab legitimacy to the war. Iran, which has built a Shia axis from Tehran to Baghdad, and Damascus to Beirut, is fighting on the same side, although marching to its own drum. Yet the hard facts on the ground still look intractable. The Sunni majority in Syria, their 2011 rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad’s minority despotism pulverised as the west looked on, feels betrayed. The Sunni minority in Iraq, toppled from power with Saddam Hussein by the 2003 invasion and then marginalised by US and Iran-backed Shia Islamist governments in Baghdad, feel dispossessed.
David Gardner, "Global Insight: US needs precision politics if bombs are to defeat Isis". The Financial Times. 23 September 2014, in
"The Fertile Crescent has always been a land of rival communities and compact minorities. Arab nationalism, the creed of Iraq ruler's escaped from all that ambiguity into an unyielding doctrine of Arabism. The radicalism of that history wrecked the Arab world and gave the politics of the Fertile Crescent as particularly rancid and violent temper. Saddam did not descend from the sky; he emerged out of the world's sins of omissions and commissions. The murderous zeal with which he went about subduing the Kurds and the Shi'a was a reflection of the deep atavism of Arab life....The deference to the wider Arab phobias about the Shi'a or the Kurds coming into new power in Iraq should be cast aside. A liberal power cannot shore up ethnic imperium of minority groups. The rule of a Sunni minority, now well below 20 percent of Iraq's population, cannot be made an American goal. The Arabs around Iraq are not owed that kind of indulgence. It is with these sorts of phobias and biases that the Arab world must break. A culture that looks squarely at its own troubles should think aloud about the rage that is summoned on behalf of the Palestinians while the pain of the Kurds, or the Berbers in North Africa, or the Christians in the southern Sudan is passed over in silence".
Fouad Ajami, "Iraq and the Arabs Future". Foreign Affairs. (January / February 2003), pp. 14 & 16.
The supposition underlying David Gardner's analysis and others like them, is that the mis-rule of the Shiite government of ex-Premier Maliki and the Assad regime in Syria over the past few years had resulted in a sort of post hoc, ergo propter hoc, the murderous insanity of the ISIS grouping. And like most post hoc arguments it is completely ahistorical and indeed illogical. As can be seen from Fouad Ajami's essay, the fundamental fact of Iraqi history since 1920 is that a small (twenty percent or less) segment of he population was empowered by first the British and then by themselves to rule over their Shi'a and Kurdish compatriots. Au fond, much of the insane rage of ISIS originates in the fact that the Sunni refuse to acknowledge that they are no longer by right the rulers of Iraq. In the case of Syria, while much of the Sunni militancy, qua militancy is due to the harshness of the Assad regime's repression of its opponents in the Syria civil war, a soupcon is also due to the frustrated rage that the Sunni historical inferiors: Alawite, Kurds, and Shi'a are in power and they are not. Given the distorted understanding of many of the Sunni in the region (such as the idea that the Sunni are a majority of the population of Iraq, et cetera), it is fruitless to expect (pace David Gardner) that endeavoring to appease the Sunni will bear any positive fruit politically speaking. Much less helping to defeat and destroy ISIS.


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