When a bunch of impatient folks engage in mindless violence, it is terrorism. But when a sizeable population rises against occupation, injustice, insecurity, inequity and oppression, then it is a sociopolitical problem and not merely a security issue
The US has been a great friend of all Muslims – Sunnis and Shias. It was heavily arming and funding Saddam Hussein (a ruthless Sunni “Muslim leader”) when Saddam was gassing Iranian civilians and his own Iraqi Shias at the peak of Iran-Iraq war. And now Uncle Sam has been backing Nuri Al Maliki (another blood-thirsty “Muslim leader” who happens to be a Shia) when he is busy doing a “reverse-Saddam” to Iraqi Sunnis.
Before Nuri Al Maliki assumed Iraqi leadership, Uncle Sam did a lot of great things in Iraq. Beginning from 2003, over 300,000 American/Western troops completely ravaged a Muslim country that has been a cradle of Islamic civilization for many centuries. In order “to introduce democracy” to the Muslim world, Iraqi hospitals, schools, universities, power plants, dams, industrial complexes, bridges and airports were all razed to the ground.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were slaughtered, maimed and imprisoned. Many millions were forced into exile. Sufferings were unimaginable on both sides of the sectarian divide – Shias and Sunnis. Images of Abu Ghraib atrocities and Fallujah bombings are permanently etched in the collective memory of Muslims – Sunnis and Shias.
As Sunnis were dethroned from power, the resistance against US occupation was understandably led by Sunnis. For this reason, Sunni heartlands remained in the line of US fire from the beginning of the Iraq war. Fallujah, the capital of Anbar province was carpet bombed by US forces in 2004.
According to the British daily Independent of 24 July 2010, “US forces later admitted that they had employed white phosphorus” to break the bone of Sunni resistance. The newspaper also confirmed “dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukemia in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombarded by US Marines in 2004, exceed those reported by survivors of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945”. A decade later, mothers of Fallujah are still giving birth to deformed babies.
The Sunnis paid back in kind, to the extent they could. Over 4,500 US troops lost their lives and tens of thousands were eternally crippled (both physically and mentally) by the resistance forces. Tens of thousands of Iraqi collaborators (both Sunnis and Shias) also perished during the Sunni backlash against the occupation forces.
The US could not sustain Sunni insurgents’ onslaught and decided to cut-and-run. On 17th December 2011, when the last contingent of 500 US troops rolled out of Iraq into neighboring Kuwait marking the end of 9 years of a bloody war, the defeat and humiliation was written all over the faces of those US servicemen.
To avoid the media glare, the final departure was timed in the dead of the night. Victorious armies never leave the defeated country in the middle of the night, quietly. Losers do. In the face of unprecedented humiliation, it is completely understandable that US/NATO wanted to avenge their defeat at the hands of Sunnis in Iraq. So their best bet was to trigger a large scale Shia-Sunni conflict.
Between December 2011 and June 2014, a lot of things have happened in the Sunni-Shia world, including the “Arab Spring”. From Libya to Syria and Yemen, almost half a dozen Muslims countries are on varying degrees of fire.
In Sunni-majority but Shia-ruled Syria, US government set certain “redlines” which were repeatedly breached by Bashar Al Assad. Beyond verbal rhetoric, the US never dared to physically challenge the Syrian regime. But in 2014, when Sunni resistance forces are running over cities after cities in Iraq, alarm bells ringing in the Western capitals in general and White House in particular.
From supporting Al Maliki in Iraq to ignoring Al Assad in Syria, despite his crossing the US-set “red lines”, American sympathies and tacit support for these regimes have been more than evident.
However even a remote threat (not imminent because the Sunni rebels are lightly armed compared to Iraqi government’s air force and heavy artillery capabilities), to Nuri Al Maliki has brought 300 special operations US forces and advisers back to Baghdad. The objective of these forces is made clear by the US president as reported in the Guardian of 20 June 2014 ‘a contingent of up to 300 “military advisers” will be sent to help Iraq’s beleaguered army repel the advance of Sunni insurgents’.
There is consensus among saner minds across the world to go after terrorists – whether they are individuals, groups or governments! When a bunch of impatient folks engage in mindless violence, it may rightly be branded terrorism. But when a sizeable population rises against occupation, injustice, insecurity, inequity and oppression then it is a sociopolitical problem and not merely a security issue. Hence it should be addressed accordingly.
The case of Iraq is a great lesson for us where the mightiest firepower in military history, backed by over 300,000 Western troops, failed to tame immature and resource-less local resistance for nine long years. Now that the resistance has matured and gathered adequate resources and local support base, will 300 US special advisers be able to achieve what 300,000 permanently stationed troops for nine long years could not?! We will need to wait for the next few months, if not years, to get a clear answer.
Ideally, there should not have been any more foreign intervention – no matter how “light” it appears. And both Sunnis and Shias should have realized the futility of trying to annihilate each other. Our belief in getting 100% justice on the Day of Judgment is the core of Islamic faith. In line with this, it would be better for both to leave the matter of sectarian differences for the Day of Judgment — when the Lord of Shias and Sunnis will judge (not the US) who among them is on the right path. But contrary to Islamic faith, we seem to have turned ourselves into Judges. And the consequences are right in front of our eyes!