The situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate by the day. ISIS-led Sunni rebels have taken several more towns in the Western region of the country including several border crossing along the Syrian and Jordanian borders. The militants are becoming increasingly brutal and reports of mass executions have begun to leak out. The crisis has now evolved into a full scale civil war between disaffected Sunnis led by the terror group ISIS and the Iraqi government. It’s become clear that nothing tried so far has come close to working and that something else must be done to stop this conflict from expanding. The question many are asking is “what should or can be done to stop this?”
The ideal solution to this problem would be for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down from his post and allow a new unity government to be formed, one that is more representative of the Iraqi population which includes Sunnis and Kurds. However, after Maliki’s rejection of the formation of a new unity government today that scenario seems incredibly unlikely. So what then becomes the best course of action? The answer is not likely to be popular here in the US. The only real solution left is US military intervention in Iraq to the tune of at least 50,000 troops. This best course of action involves the US re-invading Iraq, seizing control of the government and placing the country under a temporary military governorate. Most see the current situation to be a result of our flawed intervention of 2003 and that is partly true. But a second incursion into Iraq is the only way to right the wrongs of the last ten years and beyond. I know this does not seem like the best course of action but stay with me and I’ll explain why it is.
To understand what I’m about to lay out, a brief history lesson is required. The entire Middle East region, prior to World War I was under the control of the Ottoman Empire and had been for several hundred years. After WWI the Ottoman Empire was destroyed and its territories divvied up among the Allied Powers, most notably France and England. The area of modern Syria was placed under French rule, and the areas of modern Israel, Jordan and Iraq were placed under British rule by the League of Nations. The Brits and the French figured these areas would be easy to govern since the declining Ottoman Empire had very little influence in these regions prior to the war. What they didn’t count on was the numerous ethnic and religious sects inhabiting these regions and the equally numerous squabbles between them. Before long, the French and British were facing widespread rebellion throughout the entire Levant and Palestine regions. The French began breaking Syria into a series of states based on religious lines while the Brits began carving out the states of Jordan and Iraq and what would later become Israel. But that wasn’t enough to quell the uprisings and pushes for independent rule continued. By the end of WWII all of the territories previously held by the French and British had gained independence. The big problem here is that the borders for countries like Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Jordan were drawn without much regard to the various religious sects (Sunnis, Kurds, Druze, Alawites, etc…) living in those regions and these new boundaries often separated existing communities. This is, in large part, the cause of the unrest that has gripped the Middle East for nearly the last 100 years.
The real answer to this problem is that Syria and Iraq need to be broken up and redefined along ethnic/religious lines. The Central and Western part of Syria along the Mediterranean needs to be formed into its own state encompassing the Alawites, Christians and Druze who form the bulk of the population there. The Eastern part of Syria along with the Western Anbar region of Iraq needs to be formed into its own Sunni state. The Northern regions of Syria and Iraq along the Turkish and Iranian borders needs to be formed into a Kurdish state. And the Eastern and Southern regions of Iraq should be formed into a Shiite state or be allowed to join Iran. What the Western powers need to understand is that these people are not like Westerners, they can’t simply get along with each other. In these countries religion dominates all aspects of life from politics, to commerce, to every day social interaction. Much weight is placed on the differences between the various sects and the ethnic and religious gaps are simply too large for most Middle Eastern peoples to overcome. This is the only path that has any chance of ending nearly a century of deadly conflict in the Middle East.
So why does this course of actions require US military intervention? The short answer is that it won’t get done otherwise. Maliki has already stated his opposition to any government that includes Kurds and Sunnis which means he has no intention of willfully ceding territory to either group. As it happens the Kurds and Sunnis are now taking that territory by force. In Syria President Bashar al-Assad is now on the winning side of the three year civil war going on there. The rebels are still strong in Syria but in recent months Assad’s forces have been gaining ground and now have the upper hand. This means Assad is not likely to listen to any talk that involves breaking up his country. It also means this war is likely to drag on for several more years, which he seems to be OK with.
But why does the US have to get involved? Why can’t we just let them fight it out? Good questions. If we allow Maliki to remain in power and allow the Sunni rebels to continue their offensive there is a very real chance ISIS and the Sunnis will come away victorious. That would place a terrorist entity squarely in control of an entire country in possession of billions of dollars worth of military hardware supplied by the US government. That would be very, very bad for the entire Middle East region and beyond. On the flip side of that scenario we run the risk of allowing Iran to get involved in this conflict. They are extremely interested in ensuring Shiite control of Iraq and could possibly use their own military force to do this. Iran has a stated goal of establishing a Shiite pan-Arabic country in a sort of revival of the Persian Empire. If they are allowed to send troops into Iraq that could just be the beginning of a larger military offensive that could extend into Syria. This would very likely cause Israel to launch a preemptive attack on Iran and as I stated in a previous article that has the potential to kick start a third world war.
So the reason why US intervention becomes necessary is to ensure that we maintain positive control of the situation. There are simply too many undesirable possibilities associated with a policy of non-intervention. Allowing this problem to play out to an uncertain end is just too risky. The upshot here is that this would be a far more noble cause for invasion than we had in 2003 and so may garner much more international support. The possibility of all these disaffected peoples being allowed to form their own countries may make them much more cooperative as well. Even so this plan is not without considerable risk. Maliki and Assad are not likely to roll over and allow the US to break up their countries. And the idea of Sunnis and Kurds being allowed to form independent states is not likely to sit well with Tehran.
Is this a fool proof plan? Not at all, but it is a far better alternative than leaving it all to chance. At least this way we would be able to control the situation and that would go a long way toward achieving the desired outcome. I understand the ordinary American citizen is not likely to find this plan appealing; then again the ordinary American citizen isn’t well enough informed to understand what is truly at stake. Anyone with an understanding of Mid East history and current international affairs should see that this is the only real solution left.