Can ISIS redraw the map of the Middle East?

Friday 22/05/2015

When Islamic State (ISIS) militants stand in front of a camera and threaten the United States and Europe, the world should pay attention. These are not idle threats.
Granted, the danger does not come from the militiaman in the black suit and hood threatening the Western powers with his sabre; that is part of the public relations campaign in which ISIS invests heavily as it attracts more follow­ers. Indeed, ISIS is not about to off-load their Toyota pick-ups onto the shores of the Americas and drive into Camden, NJ, black flags fluttering in the wind, in the same manner they would when entering Iraqi or Syrian cities, for example.
The danger rather comes from the reality that we are at the thresh­old of major changes in the geopo­litical maps of the greater Middle East. As more than one speaker at a recent NATO security conference on the Greater Middle East and the Caucasus in Rome pointed out, the era of the Sykes-Picot Agreement — the World War I deal between Britain and France that resulted in many of the present Middle East borders — appears to be coming to an end.
Maps of the Middle East are about to be withdrawn. The new map will look very different and some countries may disappear altogether.
The catalyst for this change, of course, was the United States’ 2003 invasion of Iraq that now both US Democratic and Republican presi­dential hopefuls seem to agree was a mistake.
Americans are waking up to the fact that 4,491 Americans died in Iraq along with “countless Iraqis”.
Reflecting the mood of the na­tion, the candidates are stating publicly that the war in Iraq was a colossal blunder.
The “countless” Iraqis killed are in fact more than 200,000 according to the Britain-based non-govern­mental organisation Iraq Body Count. The United Nations put the number of civilians killed in Iraq in 2014 at 12,282. And the toll keeps on mounting in a country torn by Sunni-Shia sectarian strife.
The admission of error comes at a time when the barbaric troops of ISIS captured Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s largest province, despite US-led coalition air strikes.
Twelve years after the US inva­sion, Iraq is a broken country. Large swathes of its territory are outside state control. Large numbers of its population, Sunni and Shia, are traumatised, displaced and without income or sense of the future.
Democracy was supposed to flourish with the removal of dicta­tor Saddam Hussein along with the abolition of the Ba’ath Party. Instead, a sectarian state was estab­lished.
With the withdrawal of US forces, the Shia-dominated govern­ment in Baghdad became a tool of Iran. Humiliated and ostracised, jobless and without funds, many of Saddam’s men put themselves at the service of what became ISIS terrorists.
While admitting to the 2003 mistake will not alter history or change the fate befalling Ramadi, at this juncture one can hope for two things:
First, that the Iraqi people have enough patriotic resolve to prevent the fall of Baghdad, this time into the hands of ISIS’s bloodthirsty hordes.
And second, seeing that the West contributed to the great mess that Iraq finds itself in, it would only be just for those who contributed to this debacle to roll up their sleeves and jump in the fray to put an end to the madness.
The Western nations have a vested interest in getting the ISIS issue resolved before those gun­men staging the terror infomercials manage to convince some lunatic to blow some mall in the United States or Europe.