Imperialism, Iraq

Obama’s strategy up in the air

‘Barack the Bomber’

(New Democracy News)

On the 10th of September, US President Barack Obama declared war on Islamic State. The key points of the strategy he cooked up over a few days, having remarked earlier that he had no strategy, entail air strikes against IS positions in Iraq and building of an international coalition to “degrade and ultimately destroy” IS. Secretary Kerry has been scouting the Middle East to earn allies for this offensive. The visit has earned empty support complementing the hollow strategy of his President.

What has prompted Obama Admn. to embark on this course? He had famously remarked while backtracking on the decision to bomb Syria last year that he was not in the White House to unleash wars. Obama repeatedly announces that he would only take military action when threat to American security arises. Admittedly, there is no threat to American security from IS and this is vouchsafed by FBI, Department of Homeland Security and National Intelligence Alliance, a conglomerate of a myriad of intelligence agencies of USA. Obama in his address talked of threat to core interests and further amplified the same by talking of threat to US and its allies. It is clear from the address that the present US action is in defense of its allies.

The two components of this strategy correspond to two different set of goals complementing and supplementing each other. The target of the first is to aid the forces which are actually fighting against IS and the target of the second is to maintain its overstretched network, economic and military, among what are Sunni Arab Sheikhdoms. This virtual coalition is being forged by US to camouflage the real coalition that exists on the ground between different forces fighting against IS. Such forces are Iraq Shia Govt. based in Baghdad, Kurd forces based in Northern Kurdish areas, Shia militias supported by Iran and Assad Govt. of Syria which has of late started attacking IS positions in Syria and its Hezbollah allies from Lebanon. US air strikes like all air strikes can only help and aid the ground forces and the forces on the ground are those enumerated above. A word more about Kurd forces. An increasingly prominent role is being played by PKK which has already become a major force in Syrian areas through its organization, DYB, and also in Kurd areas of Iraq where Kurds are excited by the real opportunity to strive for their independence. PKK, designated as a terrorist organization by US and EU at the insistence of NATO member Turkey, is adding to the headache of the overstretched imperialist power which is neither willing nor able to come to terms with the collapse of unipolar world. US is aiding this coalition on the ground and there lies its problems. Victory of Shias would add to the problems from its Sunni Arab clients and strengthening of Kurdish independence would alienate Turkey, another key ally in the region.

And hence appropriate noises about extension of air strikes to Syria. US Admn. knows it well that without Syrian Govt.’s approval or US Security Council authorization they would be violating international law. But being seen in the company of Assad, ‘who had to go’, would further alienate its Middle East allies. Anyhow Obama’s declaration has any way articulated that the main danger in middle-east is ‘terrorism operating under Islamic label’ and not the ‘authoritarian regimes’ they sought to overthrow in the wake of and to subvert upsurge in the struggle of Arab people. Obama has also announced help to ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels. But even before this message could reach the people, the major Syrian rebel groups announced an agreement with Islamic State not to attack each other in Syria and focus against Assad regime thus knocking off one of the main points in the strategy cooked up by Obama. It is important to emphasize that Syria has been included for imperatives of the virtual coalition being forged by US Admn. and apparently not as a serious proposition of action. Syrian Govt. has announced its willingness to be on board but has termed air strikes without its approval as illegitimate. Assad Govt. would only seek to direct US strikes to its own advantage and support US air strikes only to that extent. Russia and Iran have also denounced Obama announcement of strikes within Syria. China has also dissented from this course.

Now if we take Obama’s virtual coalition, Turkey has openly dissented from it and refused to sign Jeddah declaration. It has many reasons. There are a number of Turks fighting under IS banner in Syria as Muslim Brotherhood fighters have a presence among these fighters. Turkey is also worried about strengthening of Kurdish independence forces, particularly PKK and sees IS as a counterweight to it. Involvement of MB is also an important factor. British Foreign Minister ruled out participation in air strikes in Syria in light of last year’s vote in UK House of Commons. French Govt. has also expressed inability for action in Syria and Germany has ruled out participation in any offensive action. Among Arab allies, no concrete measures have been agreed upon. Jordan is of the opinion that issues of Palestinians should be addressed while Egypt has demanded to extend this operation to North Africa. Saudi Arabia and UAE have announced participation in air strikes which any way will be made by Americans from their bases in the countries. Hence this coalition is a virtual coalition, up in the air, mainly to offset the public perception of American cooperation with the real coalition.

It needs no great analysis that US has spurred into action to stave off dangers to Saudi and other monarchies in the region which have been one of the main pillars besides Israel of US imperialist influence in the region. Obama has mentioned and Kerry has detailed the need to differentiate between Islam of IS and real Islam, moderate Islam and belligerent Islam, good Islam and bad Islam. Both have made this ideological offensive as part of their plan to “degrade and ultimately destroy IS”. But the real problem is that Saudi monarchy and Wahabi clergy, instrumental in maintaining its power, have been the main source of ideological and material help to Jihadist groups. Saudi ruling family has been afflicted with the problem of running with the hare and hunting with the hound, of close collaboration with western imperialist powers and preaching of pristine values not permitting the same, the cleavage extending right into Saudi ruling family. With the growth of IS, the danger of being seen as the apostate in their own country and with their own forces looms large. According to a poll, even after Saudi ruling family terming IS as anti-Islamic, 92% of Saudi citizens refused to treat IS as anti-Islamic. Ruling Saudi family and their American patrons have been finding other targets for their Jihadi zeal, now they fear its targeting the Saudi monarchy itself through implosion or explosion. They have long sought to dispatch them to other shores but chickens threaten to come home to roost.

Obama’s declaration of war has shown the utter shallowness of his avowed convictions against war through the escape channel of unnecessary and necessary wars. He has sought to shrug off the label of weak by launching into another middle-east aggression. Already over a thousand American troops are there in Iraq and another 475 are being sent, a much larger figure than what Kennedy sent to Vietnam which he had then termed as a mere police action. Obama’s announcement has endeared him to republican establishment and has drawn the ire of his traditional supporters including influential NYT. The mainstream US media has again unleashed a war campaign of distortions and misinformation to whip up frenzy for war in Middle-east. Obama has joined his predecessor George Bush in unleashing war in Middle-East but with a vital difference- 2014 is not 2003.

But with no foot on the ground, air strikes can only cement the hold of those on the ground, and there lies the grave danger. With US bombing to aid Iraqi Govt. and Arab monarchs joining the fight, IS will gain more and more adherents to its cause. It has already a vast land mass and over 20 million people living in areas under its control, is a disciplined and motivated armed force and has popular support of the people on whose behalf it is fighting. Strong presence of Bathist political and military leaders in IS has lent it a strong strategic vision and tactical finesse, mass popular support and vast network among the people and above all a well trained military force along with huge cache of arms from fleeing US trained forces. The trajectory of IS actions in Middle-East would determine whether they would play into imperialist hands by fighting against Kurds and Shias, thus losing their fighters and dissipating their energy and image or they would help reshape the Middle-east in a real sense by enabling Arab people to rid themselves of these decadent and autocratic monarchies who are accomplices of western imperialists in looting their resources and subverting their national aspirations. The course taken by IS would be of immense importance in determining whether a true change in the middle-east would come.

Developments in West Asia have largely abolished boundaries set by Sykes-Picot agreement. It is to be seen whether another anachronism of post first world war, Balfour Declaration, would also be challenged. The twin pillars of imperialist domination of the energy rich West Asia and larger Middle-East are facing serious challenge. Hamas, itself an offspring of MB, symbolizes unity of anti-imperialist forces in the Middle-East, of support from Shias and Sunnis alike. Islamic State drawing from Al Qaeda, MB and Bathists will play a major role in determining this outcome.

Barack Obama’s bombing campaign would draw cheers from pro-war, pro-military industrial complex forces and jeers from all those who are opposed to imperialist sponsored wars in different parts of the world. It has once again highlighted that developed bourgeois democracies have an efficacious vetting mechanism, weeding out all those who genuinely differ with their course, only encouraging pretenders and that too, to hoodwink the people.