While the “Islamic State” is without doubt a terroristic organisation and a threat to innocent people, the huge effort to target it rather than the other oppressive regimes in the region indicates that another agenda is being pursued.
I spent my childhood in Iraqi Kurdistan during the time spanning the Iraq-Iran war, the Kurdish conflicts with the Iraqi government, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and subsequent 1991 war against Iraq. I left the region in 1993. The portrayal of these events in the Western media differs markedly from how they are experienced by the people of the region.
It is difficult for Westerners, whose only exposure to information about the Middle East is through their own media, to have a clear understanding of what is transpiring in that region.
There are currently two main powers in the Middle East, followed by other regional and local powers. These two main powers are currently leading a relentless military campaign against the so-called "Islamic State" in Iraq and Syria.
The first power is the United States of America and its allies, including Australia. Iran is the second one (ie, the Shiite Islamist regime) and it too has proxies (such as the Iraqi and Syrian regimes and Hezbollah). This latter power is supported by Russia and China, and some actors in the region, such as the Iraqi regime, are supported by both the United States and Russia simultaneously.
Contrast this with the Kurdish situation in this equation. The forces of the "Peshmarga", which constitute an important force in the campaigns to destroy the Islamic State, are united in this cause, but their leaders split into the two camps outlined above.
The Peshmargas of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), led by Massoud Barzani, find themselves in the Western camp, aligned with the United States and Europe.
Those Peshmargas belonging to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), led by former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, have such close relations with Iran that they almost constitute a branch of the Qods Force, Iran’s special forces division responsible for foreign operations.
The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which controls the Kurdish areas in Syria, is also supported by Iran and the Syrian regime, especially after the rise to power of Alawites such as Basse Furat within the organization.
The Iranian bloc is motivated by sectarianism, its primary concern being to disperse and control any potential rivals that develop in the Sunni world. The Western bloc on the other hand is motivated by deep economic and geopolitical interests in the region.
Historically, Sunni Muslim powers posed the biggest obstacle to Western encroachment in the region, from the era of the Crusades to the later period of Western colonialism.
Shiite powers on the other hand remained primarily concerned with defeating Sunnis, and they historically allied with foreign powers when it gave them the upper hand over their traditional enemies.
The interests of the Western and Shiite worlds aligned at decisive points in history when they faced a common enemy in the form of a rising Sunni power.
The Sunni world of today is fragmented and weak and suffers from external invasions. The Arab Spring awakened a political consciousness in the region and invigorated, at least for a period, the spirit of past grandeur and achievements.
The failure of these revolutions to truly transform existing power relations led to a return to the status quo of weakness and dispersion.
In the Sunni world, power is held by local rival ruling families and their corteges. The regimes differ but they all have two elements in common. First, they are not democratic but rather dictatorial and use terrorism against their own citizens.
Despite the enormous wealth of natural resources beneath the surfaces of these countries, the people suffer from poverty, underdevelopment and injustice.
Most of the proceeds from the exploitation of these resources go to foreign owned multinational corporations or flow out of the countries in the form of loan repayments to Western banks.
What remains largely fills the coffers of the ruling elite.
Second, these regimes rely for their very survival on the United States and other Western powers to protect them from internal and external threats.
The regimes that govern the Sunni world have two main enemies. The Sunni Islamists, who also despise Shiites and the Western world, are enemy number one.
The second enemy is the Iranian regime, which has expansionist ambitions.
At the moment, Iran controls the governments of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and recently brought Yemen into its sphere of influence.
In addition, Iran has many agents and arms cells in other countries such as Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco and more.
This geo-political equation serves the interests of the Western powers. A powerful Iran poses a direct threat to the separated and vulnerable Sunni regimes which in turn come to depend more and more on the West for protection.
These Sunni Arab regimes accumulate weapons from the West to equip their armies which serve not the citizens, but the interests of the ruling families.
These states cannot afford to wage regional wars without support from the Western powers, as is happening against the Islamic State today. Arming to fight both Iran and the Sunni Jihadists drains the economies of the Sunni Arab states and pushes them further into debt.
The largest beneficiary of this situation is the West.
The regional powers that fight the Islamic state are not the forces of democracy. On the contrary they have a history of using terrorism. The Alawite Syrian regime (backed by Iran, Iraq, Hezbollah, and some Kurdish parties) has murdered more than a quarter of a million of its own citizens since 2011, mostly Sunni Muslims who constitute the majority in Syria.
The Shiite regime in Iraq is a sectarian one under the influence of the “Wilayat Al- Faqih” doctrine which governs Iran.
There is a large body of evidence of undemocratic practices and human rights abuses by this regime in Iraq.
The Kurdish parties imitate the practices of the Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian regimes thought they appear to be the most democratic and liberal of the major political entities in the Middle East.
The Western powers are aware of the non-democratic nature of these regimes and their use of violence against innocent people, yet they align with these regimes to fight against the Islamic State on the pretext that it practices terrorism and poses a threat to innocent people.
This multinational military campaign, which is the heaviest since 2003 and more violent than the one which toppled the Libyan regime in 2011, is not motivated by the desire to protect democracy or human rights.
Rather its goals are:
1. First, to strike the heart of Sunni Jihadist power and paralyze it before it is able to consolidate control over the oil-rich countries in the region. If the burgeoning Islamic State is able to merge with other regional Sunni Jihadist groups and evolve into an internationally recognized state it could be in a position to court alliances with Russia and China. This would upset the geopolitical balance of power to the detriment of the West in a region crucial for world energy supplies.
2. Second, it is in the interests of the West to inflame conflict in the region to fuel demand for the weapons it supplies to its allies.
3. Third, the West needs to eliminate any pan-Islamic political projects in the embryonic stage lest they expand to such an extent that they are capable of re-unifying the Sunni world. Such a unified state Sunni state would pose a serious threat to Western power as it did in centuries past.
4. Fourth, the West must protect the ruling elites of its allied regimes in the Middle East from any challengers to preserve the mutually beneficial relationship with them.
5. Finally, the internationalist aspect of the Islamic State is a magnet for Jihadists from around the world and presents an opportunity for the Western powers to eliminate them in one place rather than have to pursue them sporadically across the globe.
The pretext for the 2003 invasion of Iraq was sometimes finding weapons of mass destruction and, at other times, the duty to create democracy.
In the end, though, both rationales proved baseless.
The United Nations found no weapons of mass destruction, and Iraq has seen no genuine democracy, only violent turmoil and suffering.
Today, large scale war again engulfs Syria and Iraq, with both sides as brutal as each other. This war threatens to destroy what remnants are left of Iraq after the earlier conflict, and yet foreign armies march in again to the drumbeat of a mass media which promises objectives of democracy, freedom, and human rights.
These lofty ideals ring hollow for the Iraqi people to whom they seem forever out of reach.
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