When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Iraq

Iraq, A "Holy Alliance" To Defeat The Jihadists

The ISIS assault in Iraq is spectacular proof that the U.S. has failed in the Middle East. It's time for a return to power politics and a bloc of former enemies to take on the extremists.

Bush, Maliki, Obama, Rouhani ... All eyes on Iraq.
Bush, Maliki, Obama, Rouhani ... All eyes on Iraq.
Dominique Moïsi

PARIS — Who lost Iraq? There are only three possible answers to that question: George W. Bush, Nouri al-Maliki, Barack Obama. The former American president sinned with pride, the Iraqi Prime Minister with sectarianism and the current U.S. president with indecision.

Democracy in Baghdad will bring peace that stretches to Jerusalem — so predicted the “Democracy Bolsheviks” who had a decisive influence on the choices of the Bush administration. The war in Iraq is the direct product of the wishful thinking that mistook the 2003 Middle East for 1944 Europe.

The fall of Mosul last week, which happened with virtually no resistance, is the most spectacular proof of the patent failure of the Bush administration's ideological approach of the Middle East. The toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime did not result in the victory of democracy, but in the implosion of a country, and the challenging of the longstanding borders of an entire region.

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) jihadists have deliberately erased the — largely artificial — borders set by the 1916 Sykes–Picot Agreement, which separated Syria from Iraq to form a sort of “Sunnistan.” They now control an area that goes from the Syrian city of Aleppo to northern Iraq’s Mosul. A refuge for terrorists has been formed in the heart of the Middle East, while the U.S. is about to withdraw from Afghanistan, as it already has from Iraq.

Are the reasons to intervene today not more real than those from yesterday? The jihadists are a reality, unlike the weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein was supposed to have. It is not about protecting a people from its dictator anymore, but an entire region from the destabilizing control of a radical ideology. But yesterday’s failures weigh heavily on today’s decisions.

After winning the war, George W. Bush’s America was only bound to lose the peace. Overly ambitious goals, a poorly thought military strategy, allocated means that were too limited: One could be tempted to say that the U.S. and, behind it, its allies with Tony Blair’s Britain at the forefront, "had it all wrong."

By sending home all the civilian and military Sunni executives of Saddam Hussein’s regime, Washington doomed itself to unavoidable failure. It is interesting to note that Maliki’s regime merely followed the American model, when it too excluded all Sunnis from running the country.

The U.S. did not manage to rebuild a credible army despite the amount of money wasted on it. It was a disastrous choice for the U.S. military to count on essentially quantitative, rather than qualitative, standards to rebuild the Iraqi army. The American soldiers were too few to compensate for the inexperience and the unwillingness of the Iraqi soldiers.

First things first

The corruption of the regime started with the corruption of the security services. The army was not the expression of the nation; it did not feel responsible for the security of a country and its inhabitants. Before anything else, it intended to protect its own interests. Hence its rapid collapse against an enemy far smaller in number but infinitely more motivated.

From the failed state that Iraq has become in the hands of a sectarian, corrupt and ineffective leadership — and with a sort of ripple effect — we are witnessing a shifting of alliances that, in reality, aims to fill in the void left by the U.S. By alternating, in such a short period of time, between excessive historical will under Bush and Obama's overly cautious resignation in the face of a rapid disintergration on the ground, the U.S. has left the region without any basic semblance of order or guarantees for the future.

By overthrowing Saddam Hussein in Iraq yesterday, the U.S. had provided an easy victory to its Shia rivals behind Iran, thus weakening its traditional allies, the Sunni Gulf monarchies. Since then, the U.S. has first abandoned Hosni Mubarak’s regime in Egypt, and after hesitating on Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, backed Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s rise to power.

In the same way, the U.S. seems to be giving in to Israel pursuing its settlements in the West Bank and a de facto acceptance that any kind of peace process in the region is destined to die.

Finally and most importantly, the U.S. has decisively brought its credibility into question by resigning to allow Bashar al-Assad’s regime to stay in place in Syria, even though it used chemical weapons, in large quantities, against its people.

But nature loathes emptiness, and people are scared of wrecked situations. The victory of the jihadists in Iraq was too fast and too complete not to trigger chain reactions. Can the collapse of Mosul lead to the acceleration of an already ongoing rapprochement between Tehran and Washington? Against the threat of Sunni fundamentalism, can Iran and Saudi Arabia rediscover common interests despite “existential” differences?

One thing is sure: In the space of a few months, from the Middle East to Ukraine and the East China Sea, the priorities of the world have shifted. It is no longer about improving global governance, but about confronting the outbursts of religious or nationalist ideologies — and ultimately, the return of power politics. To face the Islamist radicals threatening Baghdad, a “Holy Alliance” of the least radical, most moderate, forces needs to be established. And it must start with the use of U.S. air strikes against the jihadists.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Society

Whispers In The Abbey: How Long Can King Charles III Hold On To The Crown?

It's passed down by bloodline, and Charles has publicly vowed to a life of service. But is a rather un-beloved old white man with a complicated past the right royal for this moment? Even if a monarchy is undemocratic by design, popular opinion matters today more than ever. Just look at the Spanish monarchy.

King Charles III during the ceremonial procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall on Sept. 14

Sophia Constantino

-Analysis-

Grappling with the loss of its Queen, Britain is simultaneously embarking on a rapid process of transition — and that begins with a face and few key words. Postage stamps, speeches, national anthems: all of it will change visage and verbiage from Queen to King, Her Majesty to His Majesty, as Elizabeth’s son Charles III takes power.

But these differences are just scratching the surface of potentially far deeper changes afoot, and a looming sense of trepidation only being whispered about, as the nation joins together to try to assure a smooth transition of royal power.

Yet there are questions that will only grow louder: Will the aging son pale in comparison to his mother’s lifelong standard? How far has society evolved since Elizabeth took the crown in 1952? Will Charles' past as prince come back to haunt him?

Put a tad more bluntly: How long will his reign last?

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
Writing contest - My pandemic story
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ