The Iraq Trap

Four years after the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, and due to the Islamic State’s victories, President Obama feels obligated to reinforce the 3,100 American military advisors already in Iraq with another 450 soldiers, which highlights the disaster that is the stabilization of this country.

The American strategy, mainly developed in the ‘90s by Paul Wolfowitz, the ultra-conservative ex-advisor to George W. Bush, is based on the sectarianism of Iraq as an antidote to secular, authoritarian and potentially anti-imperialist nationalism. This vision produces a Western conception of Arabian geopolitics, according to which the installation of democracy in these countries happens through the necessary fragmentation of the state, allowing the multiple ethnicities and faiths to act and present themselves as the armor of the state.

The Iraqi tragedy provoked by the Anglo-American invasion in 2003, as well as the human rights disaster in Syria, shows the perversion of this strategy. Here, cultural ignorance of the Arab-Islamic world reaches its peak; since the Gulf War in 1991 it has plunged the Near East into indescribable chaos, giving it over to its cultural demons and ending any form of modern rationale from the state. Of course this situation benefits U.S. allies in the region — Saudi Arabia, the oil monarchies, Israel — but with the rise of the Islamic State group, it has become extremely dangerous for everyone again because, unlike al-Qaida, the Islamic State group wants to become a legitimate nation through edict of the caliphate. In short, the result of the sectarianism policy of division amongst religious denominations is a massive failure.

In Iraq, the Shiite majority has established a corrupt, militarily ineffective, potentially totalitarian power sustained by two allies — the U.S. and Iran — who despise each other and have radically diverging short term goals: The U.S. wants stability among tribes, while Iran desires the strengthening of the Iraqi Shiites against the Sunnis in general and against the Islamic State group specifically.

However, the Iraqi leadership is and will be incapable of confronting any threat. American reintervention in the area will have to increase since the Islamic State group resulted from a double breakdown: that of the destroyed Iraqi state, and of the Sunni community that has never been homogenous, in contrast to the Iraqi Shiites. That is exactly why Saddam Hussein had established a dictatorship that was [fundamentally] against all [sects] yet [his power] was supported by segments within each of those; a complicated situation that the Western-American system could not comprehend that today has blown up in its face.

In reality, there won’t be a democratic solution in Iraq, nor in Syria, nor in Libya. These countries — admittedly against our democratic vision — cannot at the moment live in Western democracies. The failure of the Arab Spring (except in very fragile Tunisia) more than shows this. The only solution is the reconstruction of forces capable of restoring authority on a secular, national basis.

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