ISIS, Iraq and Syria: Peering into the faultlines

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Sam Charles Hamad has written a detailed response on the IS Network site to Andy Cunningham’s article earlier this month on ISIS, Iraq and imperialism. Sam stresses the role played by Iraq’s outgoing prime minister Nouri al-Maliki in carving out Iraq’s Sunnis from the government, alienating the former Sahwat militias and thereby creating conditions for the rise of ISIS (or Daesh, as he calls them, using their derogatory Arab initials):

The only plausible but hardly foolproof solution to combating Daesh is the Sunni solution, which will include the new Iraqi government making the concessions to Sunnis that they should have made back when the [Iraqi Spring] protests first began, such as integrating Sunni forces into the security apparatuses and prohibiting Shia militias from operating in Sunni areas… This isn’t some abstract idea and nor is it wishful thinking, it’s actually what has been proposed by several non-takfiri Sunni tribal forces…

The main danger is that imperialism once again comes swooping in under the guise of combating Daesh, but merely serves, as occurred in the earlier part of the Iraqi civil war, as a bulwark for the kind of sectarianism that is perpetuating the circumstances that has allowed Daesh to gain a foothold among Sunnis… It’ll seem like yet another assault on the Sunni minority, this time with direct international participation.

Sam highlights the role of Iran in fomenting this sectarian situation and cautions against narratives that paint Iran as a resistance force and Saudi Arabia as the root of all the region’s woes:

The Iranian proxy forces that were involved in the Iraqi civil war, namely Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and the Badr Organisation, fought on the same side as the Iraqi government and US occupation forces. It was anti-Iranian and anti-US Shia militias, such as Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, which offered the main resistance to the US occupation from the Shia side.

The myth of Iranian resistance, contrasted with the ultra-reactionary nefarious machinations of the hated Saudi Arabia, is something that many on the left need to overcome. Iran is not “influential” in Iraq due to its perceived “resistance” to US occupation or any other occupation, but rather because it is a powerful regional actor that acts amorally and brutally in the pursuance and maintenance of its own interests.

Finally on the question of Syria, Sam argues that genuine revolutionary forces continue to fight both ISIS and Assad’s regime – and deserve our continued support, despite the precarity of their situation:

Daesh still remains numerically smaller than its adversaries in the Free Syrian Army brigades and the Islamic Front, not to mention Jabhat al-Nusra. The problem is primarily a material one, not an ideological one. Assad’s propaganda about the Syrian revolution being primarily about takfirism is no more plausible now than it was three years ago. The only real difference is that the moderate rebels are now stretched between two different forms of fascism: that of the Baathist regime and its allies and that of Daesh. The Syrian rebels simply do not have the resources to fight a war on two fronts…

The logic of Daesh is provided most forcefully by the continued sectarian slaughter being carried out by the Assad regime and its allies, while the logic of the Assad regime, with its appropriation of the “war on terror”, is provided most forcefully by Daesh. There is a third alternative, but it is delicate and precious… The people of Syria and their revolution against Baathist tyranny and now also the theocratic tyranny of Daesh are still alive. This is the force that demands our unconditional support and solidarity, however much it’s worth, now more than ever.

► Read Sam’s full response to Andy here.

► Read Andy’s original “New faultlines” article here.

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