The barbaric jihadist terrorists of Daesh (ISIS) will finally be driven out of Fallujah centre this week, although it still occupies at least half of the city. Daesh has held Fallujah, 40 miles from Baghdad, for more than two years, consolidating its position and surrounding the ancient Iraqi city with minefields and IEDs. But after four weeks of vicious fighting, Shi’ia militias and units of the Iraqi army, aided by US coalition airstrikes, are trying to clear out the rest of the city but are facing fierce resistance from Daesh.
The Shi’ia militias fighting Daesh are financed and led by the terrorist Iranian Qods Force, whose senior commander General Qasem Soleimani is on the EU and US terror blacklists. Soleimani directed the attack on Fallujah. There has been widespread destruction, with most buildings in the city damaged or destroyed. Thousands of civilians have been killed and injured and men and boys from this predominantly Sunni enclave are being ruthlessly detained and tortured by the brutal Shi’ia militias, who claim they are trying to identify Daesh militants fleeing the crumbling metropolis. The whole operation, directed by Tehran, has been used ruthlessly to ethnically cleanse Fallujah of Sunnis.
Once they have achieved their sectarian objectives in Fallujah, the Iranian-led militias will turn their attention to Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city with a population of more than two million Sunnis, where Daesh has been embedded since 2014. US coalition and Iraqi airstrikes have already begun around Mosul and it is certain that Daesh will be driven from their final enclave in Iraq within months. The defeat of Daesh in Mosul, the most emblematic of their strongholds in their two-year-old ‘caliphate’, will be a blow to the jihadists who have also faced relentless recent setbacks in Syria and Libya.
Maybe it is still a little premature to predict the outcome of the battle to recapture Fallujah, but there can be no doubt that Daesh has suffered serious setbacks and is facing ultimate defeat. Nevertheless the war against the jihadists could continue for some time to come, partly because the breeding ground for the creation and growth of Daesh still exists in Iraq. The widespread purge of Sunnis from the political scene and their brutal repression, not least by the sixty pro-Iranian Shi’ia militias that currently operate in Iraq, means that many Sunnis fear the sectarian militias more than they fear Daesh. Indeed the eventual collapse of Daesh in Iraq will not herald a new dawn of peace and safety for the beleaguered Iraqi people. Such is the corrupt and decrepit state of Iraq’s crumbling political system that any vacuum created by the removal of Daesh may be quickly filled by new and menacing threats to security.
The invasion of Iraq and its consequences will be pored over in great detail by the long anticipated Chilcot Report to be published on 6th July. Chilcot will certainly lay the blame for the illegal invasion firmly on the shoulders of George W. Bush and Tony Blair, but the West’s mishandling of the aftermath of the invasion and the occupation of Iraq paints an equally sorry picture. From the moment in May 2003 when the US administration appointed Paul Bremer, a man with zero Middle East experience, as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Baghdad, disaster was unavoidable. Bremer made some dreadful decisions that have had repercussions to this day. Firstly he dissolved Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party and banned all members of the party above a certain rank from holding any position in Iraq’s public services. Secondly, he dissolved the Iraqi armed forces, sending over 300,000 heavily armed and well trained young men home without pay and at the same time ending the salary and pensions of thousands of military officers.
The insurgency that followed was as calamitous as it was inevitable. As quickly as the Americans and British had won the war they contrived to lose the peace. The West’s cack-handed attempts at imposing democracy on occupied Iraq were equally catastrophic. Embarrassed by the failure to find any weapons of mass destruction, the US and UK now decided to make the imposition of democracy the key focus and justification for their invasion. But infighting quickly began between returning exiles and those who had weathered the Saddam regime. When partial sovereignty was finally handed over to the Iraqis in June 2004 with the formation of a caretaker government, followed by the election of a transitional government in May 2005, the shambolic attempts at Iraqi democracy rapidly began to unravel. The elected Council of Representatives was supposed to be the repository of power, but in fact it became a toothless talking shop. The appointed government ministers, who systematically raided the public coffers to enrich themselves and finance huge private militias that they used to intimidate and coerce political rivals, seized real power in Iraq.
Nouri al-Maliki soon emerged as the Godfather of this gangster class of politicians, shoehorned into power as Iraq’s puppet Prime Minister at the insistence of the Iranian regime and meekly buttressed by the Americans. His venal corruption and genocidal policy of aggression against Iraq’s Sunni population catapulted the country into civil war and opened the door for the invasion of Daesh and their subsequent seizure of vast tracts of Iraqi territory. Maliki is still a manipulative force in Iraqi political circles using the vast wealth he accumulated during eight years in office to finance his own private army and continually to undermine his successor Haider al-Abadi. Such is the frustration and contempt of the Iraqi people with their political leaders that there have been massive demonstrations and even assaults on Baghdad’s Green Zone and Party headquarters and offices, forcing al-Abadi to replace many ministers with supposedly non-corrupt technocrats.
Political instability in Iraq has been exploited by Daesh, who have returned to their al-Qaeda roots by mounting a series of devastating suicide bomb attacks on Shi’ite neighbourhoods in Baghdad and other major cities, exacerbating sectarian tensions and adding to the horrendous casualty list of 175,000 deaths over the 13 years since the US and British invasion of Iraq. As al-Abadi struggles to reconcile Iraq’s Shi’ia and Sunni population, the autonomous Kurdish region in Northern Iraq will hold a referendum on independence in November this year. A breakaway Kurdish State may mark the beginning of the fragmentation of Iraq and the emergence of Iran as the ultimate victor. Iranian support for the bloody regime of Bashar al-Assad has prolonged the civil war in Syria. Their support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine and the Houthi rebels in Yemen, has caused untold suffering and death. But their blatant meddling in Iraq and their clear backing for the genocide of the Iraqi Sunni population has driven the country to the brink of disintegration. The only possible solution is for Haider al-Abadi to implement real reforms, which must include the expulsion of Iran and its agents from Iraq and the disarming of the Shi’ia militias. He must re-integrate the Sunnis and other minorities into Iraqi society, completely reform the heavily politicised judiciary and stamp out corruption. Time may be running out for Daesh and its dreams of a caliphate, but time is also running out for Iraq.