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Saturday, September 20, 2014

The aims behind the U.S.'s new war in the Middle East—part 2

Continued from Part 1…..

The second component of their strategy is to bolster the peshmerga of the Kurdish Regional Government, which abandoned the Yazidis, Turkomans and Assyrians to the IS and instead concentrated on grabbing oil-rich Kirkuk from the central government. But even protecting the Kurds is not a U.S. war aim. For the most part the U.S. and its allies are not giving them heavy weaponry, which would displease Turkey, and they could end up as cannon fodder in the bigger game in Iraq and the region. Protection of religious and ethnic minorities has long been an utterly false pretext for colonial and neocolonial intervention.

Obama's "partner" in Baghdad, the third component, is Haider al Abadi, the new U.S.-installed Prime Minister who replaced the old U.S.-installed (and then discarded) PM Nouri al-Maliki. Abadi declared that his armed forces will no longer carry out "indiscriminate shelling" as they have been doing in Falluja, where Baghdad's massacres are said to have driven many inhabitants to embrace the IS. This seems to be an admission of what has been happening so far. But even after this, the main Falluja hospital has been rocketed again, with more civilian causalities.

Abadi, like Maliki, is a product of the Shia fundamentalist (and historically pro-Iran) Dawa party, and Shia militias are his only reliable troops. Obama has begun sending 12-man teams of U.S soldiers to lead the Iraqi army (even the New York Times calls them "advisers" in quote marks, suggestive of American "advisers"' in Vietnam).

The U.S. turned a blind eye to the ethnic cleansing that drove many Sunnis out of Baghdad when the city was under its occupation, and the looming offensive will likely see more ethnic cleansing on a bigger scale, as has already been the case over the past weeks. This, too, flows from the U.S.'s real war aims, which do not include saving anyone's lives.

Fourthly and most importantly, if the U.S. is to attack the IS in Syria, it must have "partners on the front lines" there, an "anvil" against which the hammer of American-led air strikes can maul IS forces. Without this, some military experts say, Obama's proposals would be tactics in search of a strategy. That role is to be played by a future armed force comprised of soldiers provided by the Syrian "opposition". But the truth is that now this opposition is almost entirely Islamist itself, differing from the IS and each other above all by their backing from Turkey or Saudi Arabia or Qatar, etc., and increasingly relying on the same kind of religious sectarian policies and terror tactics (including cutting off heads) as the IS.

One thing seems sure: the clash between the U.S. and the IS is a vortex that will pull the broader Middle East into a merciless, complex and prolonged series of conflicts. Millions of people are likely to suffer even more horrendously at the hands of reactionary forces, each pursuing their own interests by force of arms. The situation will almost certainly not come down to two neatly defined sides but rather be marked by contradictory and shifting alignments of mutual mortal enemies. As all the region's contradictions become greatly accentuated, it is likely that the clash between the Western powers and Islamism will become an even more important factor.

While the IS has created big problems for the dominant powers and may deal real blows to the U.S., the religious sectarianism necessarily entrained by the goal of a belief-based state is creating a vicious spiral of divisions and mutual slaughter among the masses of people whose interests lie in getting united against the imperialists and their global system. We've seen this in Iraq, where Sunni-Shia religious sectarianism sabotaged the struggle against the occupation and remains a factor that the U.S. is counting on to keep Iraq and Syria under its boot, with or without occupation.

There is no point in trying to figure out which is worse, the U.S. and its partners and clients representing the unacceptable old order on one side or the Islamists seeking an unacceptable new order on the other. The situation is terrible and will never change as long as people feel compelled to choose between one or the other. 

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