Obama’s Last Big Military Gamble

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Struan Stevenson President, European Iraqi Freedom Association
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Barack Obama has faced an onslaught of criticism about his reluctance to get involved in the bloody civil war in Syria. Critics claim his reticence has enabled Bashar al-Assad to butcher men, women and children at will in cities like Aleppo, without fear of retribution, in a conflict that has raged for more than 6 years.

American foot-dragging in Syria has also given the green light to Vladimir Putin and to the theocratic Iranian regime to increase their support for Assad and to expand their influence in the Middle East. Obama’s only focus in the zone has been the fight against Daesh (ISIS) and in Syria this has manifested itself indirectly in America backing the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), arch-enemies of the USA’s main regional ally and NATO stalwart – Turkey.

Determined to confound his critics and score a major foreign-policy victory before he demits office in November, Obama has now turned his full attention to the defeat of Daesh in Mosul in Nineveh Province, Northern Iraq. Mosul is Iraq’s second largest city and home to over two and a half million Sunni Arabs. Daesh has been embedded there since 2014 and U.S. coalition and Iraqi airstrikes have already begun around the city in preparation for its recapture. The defeat of Daesh in Mosul, the most emblematic of their ISIS strongholds in their two-year-old ‘caliphate,’ will be a blow to the jihadists who have lost around half of their Iraqi territories in recent months, including Salahaddin, Ramadi, Fallujah and most of al-Anbar Province. They have also faced relentless recent setbacks in Syria and Libya.

Ironically, it was President Obama’s misguided support for Iraq’s former corrupt and sectarian Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that prepared the ground for Daesh in Iraq. Nouri al-Maliki was shoehorned into power as Iraq’s puppet Prime Minister at the insistence of the Iranian regime and with the outright support of the Americans. His venal corruption and genocidal policy of aggression against Iraq’s Sunni population catapulted the country into civil war and opened the door for the invasion of Daesh and their subsequent seizure of vast tracts of Iraqi territory. Maliki is still a manipulative force in Iraqi political circles using the gigantic wealth he accumulated during eight years in office to finance his own private army and continually to undermine his successor Haider al-Abadi.

The increasing military setbacks suffered by Daesh have encouraged them to return to their al-Qaeda roots by mounting a series of devastating suicide bomb attacks on Shi’ite neighbourhoods in Baghdad and other major cities. The horrific bombing in early July in the Karrada suburb of Baghdad that killed at least 300 people was the worst carnage of its kind since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Some senior Iraqis claim that the explosives-filled truck used in the attack came from Diyala, an Iraqi province controlled by Iran and its ruthless Shi’ia militias. Iran’s fingerprints on this kind of atrocity should come as no surprise. The fascist mullah-regime has exploited the war against Daesh to expand its influence and hegemony in the country. There are now more than 63 private Shi’ia militias operating in Iraq, the majority of which are financed and led by the Iranian terrorist Qods Force, whose senior commander General Qasem Soleimani is on the EU and US terror blacklists. The Karrada massacre of innocent Shi’ia civilians has provided Tehran with the perfect excuse to redouble their pitiless genocidal campaign of ethnic cleansing against Iraq’s Sunni population.

Horrific sectarian atrocities were committed during the ‘liberation’ of Ramadi and Fallujah. The Iranian-led Shi’ia militias systematically arrested Sunni men and women fleeing from the besieged cities as the battles raged. Many were subsequently tortured and executed. Despite mounting evidence of such atrocities, John Kerry has praised the Iranian role in Iraq, acknowledging them as a key ally in the fight against Daesh. The besieged Sunni population in Mosul now watch nervously as the Shi’ia militias begin to encircle their city, fearful that they will face the same fate as their murdered Sunni brothers and sisters in Salahuddin , Ramadi and Fallujah, unwittingly aided and abetted by the Americans.

It has been a delay of two years of using and arming the Sunni tribes and youths in those regions. Abadi’s government and the Americans should immediately get on with this. The city of Mosul has to be liberated by this people, otherwise Iran will establish itself much more than before and we will not be able to defeat Daesh in the long term.

President Obama’s desperate search for a significant foreign-policy victory before he leaves the White House may prove to be a costly military gamble, but the price will be paid by innocent Sunni men, women and children who face imminent death and destruction in Mosul. The real victors will be the mullahs in Tehran who will forever thank America for helping them to ethnically cleanse Iraq of its Sunni population and to enable their theocratic Iranian regime to extend its evil influence exponentially across the Middle East.

Struan Stevenson was a Member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014). He was President of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-2014) and Chair of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup from 2005-2014. He is now President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).