Iraqis should fend only for their country

The colonisers — all of them — will eventually leave as others before them have done. What will remain — as always — are Iraq and its true people.
Monday 25/02/2019
An Iraqi man waves the national flag in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square during a gathering celebrating the end of the three-year war against ISIS. (AFP)
Under one banner. An Iraqi man waves the national flag in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square during a gathering celebrating the end of the three-year war against ISIS. (AFP)

Since the early days of the Babylonian, Sumerian and Assyrian empires, through the era of the first Islamic caliphate and the Umayyad and Abbasid states and to the 2003 US-led Iranian occupation, the people who settled in Mesopotamia seldom saw periods of stability and friendship with their two great neighbours, Turkey and Iran, as relations between neighbours sharing many commonalities in outlook, character, culture and lately religion should. The periods of truce were rare and far between.

Although it should have been a source of fortune for the country, Iraq is unfortunately situated between two countries that very rarely maintained cordial relations. Instead of using Iraq as a neutral ground for dialogue, they made the country a transit point for cross-border aggression, invasion, occupation and settlement.

It was natural for the armies of this or that neighbour to grant themselves licence to Iraqi lands. At times it would be the armies of Persia invading them; at others, it was Ottoman forces.

During the invasion of 2003, Iran found its long-awaited opportunity to occupy Iraq under the veil of a marriage of convenience between American armies on one hand and, on the other, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Islamic Supreme Council, the Dawa Party and other Iraqi-Iranian militias.

The pretext was de-Ba’athification, uprooting the vestiges of the Saddam Hussein regime and protecting an American democratic pluralist system that safeguards the interests of the two allies from Ba’ath’s terrorism, dictatorship and dreams of returning to power.

This was the first militarily, geopolitically and economically idiotic deal struck by the Americans with mullahs experienced in the art of “taqiyya” — evasion — and hypocrisy.

Today, the mullahs are trying their hardest, with the consort of their Iraqi agents and through public threats from senior civilian and military leaders, to expel what remains of the US presence scattered here and there in Iraq. It is the height of hypocrisy that US troops happen to be the ones that the governments of Iraq and Iran had brought back to Iraq after they had departed when they needed them.

As for Turkey, which today is infringing on the Iraqi border, killing, occupying, capturing and assassinating without deterrence, it is no different from the Turkey of the olden days with its invasions and its occupation of Iraq for 385 years, from 1535 to 1920.

The horror of Turkish occupation is no less bitter than that of the Iranian occupation. Iraqis still talk about the racism of the Ottoman Empire, whose most important characteristics were genocides, a policy of Turkification and the forced conscription of hundreds of thousands of soldiers who died in its imperial wars, a practice known as “seferberlik.”

After this long preface, we introduce the fact that a third player has determinedly entered the bloody conflict between Iran and Turkey on the pilfered lands of Iraq.

Many Iraqis would think that this time, the Americans might have closely and diligently studied the past and learnt how to stand in the shoes of Great Britain, which occupied Iraq after World War I and protected it from Iran’s and Turkey’s claws, thus maintaining its stability, security and sovereignty until it left.

Two points must be emphasised. First, today’s United States is not the United States of yesteryear. It would not be entering Iraq as an occupying force as it did under George W. Bush and will not leave it empty-handed as it did under Barack Obama.

The disasters that the US Army suffered at the hands of the Iraqis, whether those who had resisted occupation out of patriotism or those foisted by Iran and Turkey into the conflict to prevent the United States from establishing a foothold and to clear the way for the two countries to infiltrate it, should have been enough of a wake-up call for the United States that it needs to fight Iraq and Turkey with means beyond armies, steel and fire.

The second point is, as it has become clear from the decisions of US President Donald Trump’s administration and its new alliances on display at the recent Warsaw meeting, America is moving forward with its policy regarding Iran — an economic, political and military strangulation policy aimed at bringing the Iranian regime to its knees without fighting.

In a number of ways, the Iranian leadership has been made to understand that, in the event of an armed attack on US forces in Iraq or in the Arabian Gulf, either directly by the Iranian Army and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or indirectly through their Iraqi militias, the American response would be sweeping and devastating attacks on Iranian military positions and centres, possibly inside Iran itself.

As for Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, the US strategy is going to be drowning the Ottoman sultanate in endless internal and external wars of attrition.

It bears mentioning that most Iraqis, those who do not shield themselves under the tent of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his heir Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, see no interest in supporting Iran nor in rescuing Turkey nor in aiding the United States in its eventual wars with Turkey and Iran.

Wisdom, acumen, sagacity and foresight all indicate that Mesopotamia should, as much as it can, stay away from this coming debacle and wait for the end of this long showdown.

Naive and ignorant will be those who will carry their weapons and fight not in defence of their people and homeland but in the defence of any of their three hangmen — the United States, Turkey and Iran. The colonisers — all of them — will eventually leave as others before them have done. What will remain — as always — are Iraq and its true people.

Ibrahim Zobeidi is an Iraqi writer and US publisher of The Arab Weekly.