Why the US Carries a Part of the Blame for the Creation of ISIS

The people in the US are expected to have a very short memory. We are not supposed to remember that the US and their Western allies have started the Iraq War, which destabilized the country and created the conditions favorable to ISIS. Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, but at least there was a little bit of political stability under his regime. When the US imposed their vision of democracy on the Iraqis, the majority Shia faction took control over the government, allowed the Kurds to occupy their own territory in the north, and left the Sunnis with nothing. So they began sympathizing with ISIS.

We are not supposed to remember that it was only after Western weapons made their way to the Syrian opposition since 2011 to get rid of Iran-friendly Assad that ISIS was able to take control over substantial portions of the country. The West thought that it would be enough to supply the rebels in order to topple Assad. But four years into the conflict, Assad still holds onto power, even though the terrritories and the manpower support he gets is much smaller than it was at the beginning of the conflict. In the mean time, the rebel weapons fell into the hands of those Islamist extremists, who are making headlines by beheading, kidnapping, looting, occupying and conquering.

The US now triumphantly gets up and says that they have to continue to supply their allies, Kurdistan and the Iraqi government, because we can not allow these Islamist terrorists from taking over Iraq and Syria. But the problem is that the Iraqi government is so corrupt that supplying them with financial aid and weapons will only make the situation worse, because the ISIS fighters use the weaponry that they have stolen from the demoralized and weak troops of the Iraqi army to then use these weapons against them. I doubt that the Saudis will want to crush ISIS, because they have their hands full in crushing the Houthi insurgency in Yemen, resulting in countless of innocent lives lost. The most reliable fighters are the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, who have stood their ground in Kobani in northern Syria, but they scarcely have sufficient manpower and equipment to defeat the 20,000 or so ISIS fighters.

There is absolutely no doubt that ISIS is a major destabilizing factor in the Middle East region, but it is certainly not true that they are the root cause of the regional turmoil but only the symptom. Confused US policy in the region has significantly contributed to the rise of ISIS. The US has no consistent policy of enemies. First, Saddam is our friend. Then he is our enemy. First, Assad is our enemy, so we have to supply the rebels with weapons. Then the rebels turn into our enemies and we have to defeat them.

Ironically, at this point, it does not even matter whether the US wants to prosecute another war or not. There is no easy way out. President Obama had celebrated his move to withdraw US troops from Iraq and put an end to a shameful chapter in US history. But by withdrawing the simmering ethnic rivalries and political tensions could explode, because the Iraqi central government does not effectively share powers with minority groups and can not provide for internal security. Now Obama has committed to send in more military advisers and more US air support for the Iraqi fighters, but the advance of the Iraqi army is fledgling, while ISIS continues to capture more cities. If Obama decided to withdraw air support, which is a position that I would advocate, then the region can still destabilize further, because the Iraqi central government is too weak by itself to hold up against ISIS pressure.

In Syria, US strategists are facing a dilemma: they hate Assad and want to get rid of him, but they fear what will happen after he is gone. The hope that at some point a moderate Islamist or secular US ally will take the reigns of power, like in Egypt, is very much unlikely. The Libyan chaos scenario sounds much more realistic as I see it. ISIS dominates a large part of the country, and the US will want to do everything to thwart their victory, though a full-scale military engagement is denied by the Obama administration, who does not want to continue a full combat quagmire of the previous administration.

The victors in this protracted conflict can never be the civilian population in any of these Middle Eastern countries involved, because they always have to pay the high price of the cost of war, the countless civilian and military casualties and the devastation of the physical infrastructure. The victors can only be the military-industrial complex, which will receive contracts and revenue streams from both sides of the conflict. The victors will also be the new rulers in Iraq and Syria, whoever they may be. ISIS? A new dictator? By having an enemy in front of them, the leaders can always push for ritual solidarity and complete loyalty of their followers regardless of the outcome. What can an authoritarian leader, whether he is religious or secular, demand more than the complete obedience of his followers?

It is so obvious that the Middle East conflict will have to continue until foreign powers cease their support for oppressive regimes; those oppressive regimes relent in their oppression of the population; uncorrupt authorities are intent to provide security and social services to the impoverished public; real economic and educational opportunities are created for the millions of young people, who desire to earn a good living in peace rather than go to the Jihad. Sounds too idealistic? Any good solution has to begin with good ideas.

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