The conquest of Mosul by Sunni Islamist militants this week and the seizure of the Kirkuk oil hub by Kurdish forces show that Iraq is heading toward a breakup and that the borders of the Middle East country will sooner or later be redrawn. However, before such a breakup becomes reality, we may see the broader region dragged into the fighting.
The Jihadist freedom fighters, the tough heirs to al-Qaida who are of various nationalities and have numerous sources of funding, were denied success in Syria at the last minute, when the West stopped discreetly tolerating their actions.
Now, Jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) is threatening to establish a strong presence in Iraq, the country that fell into pieces following the invasion of American and British troops in 2003.
Let’s see: Then United States President George Bush, helped by British Prime Minister Tony Blair attacked Saddam Hussein, a former ally who was responsible for installing a militant secular system that was the Iraqi Ba’ath regime. However, before the dictator was executed, his country had already been wrecked, the state structure had fallen apart, and clashes between the different religious and ethnic groups had escalated.
By the time the US troops left the place, Iraq was a ghost country about to be colonized by the most radical factions of Islamic fundamentalism. And that’s what happened. The situation was a repeat of Afghanistan in the 1980s when the Russian troops left only to see the US-backed Taliban take over the country.
The territorial conquest by Jihadist militants in Iraq is a throwback to the Taliban regime but under more adverse circumstances and in a more volatile region: War-torn Syria, Shia Iran, cut-off Israel, neo-Ottoman Turkey – each of these countries has good reasons to worry.
Turkey is now calling for a NATO intervention but any military operation by the Western allies will most likely trigger a pan-Islamic backlash.
The ghost of Bin Laden must be smiling.