Imbroglio in Middle East and Pakistan
22 September, 2014
By Asif Haroon Raja
The already disturbed security situation in the Middle East took a new turn in the wake of emergence of Islamic State of Iraq & Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS) from nowhere. In a short period it has emerged as the most powerful group in the world in terms of military strength and financial resources. After capturing several parts of Syrian territory in northern Aleppo Province in 2013, the ISIS then entered Iraq and seized Fallujah in January 2014. After consolidating gains in Fallujah, the ISIS led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi advanced forward like a tornado in first week of June 2014 and conquered several provinces in the northern and western Iraq including second largest city of Mosul and largest oil refinery within days. It is now knocking at the gates of Baghdad. Baghdadi declared himself as the Caliph on June 29 and renamed ISIS as Islamic State (IS), which includes one-quarter of captured territories of Syria and 40% of Iraqi territory with Mosul as its capital.
Submerged in its own problems, the US could do nothing to help the unpopular regime of former PM Nuri al-Maliki. The US military is over committed holding military bases all over the globe. 55000 troops are pinned down in Afghanistan struggling to move out safely. Ongoing crisis in southeastern Ukraine has posed a big challenge to the US and NATO. INA which the US had trained and equipped from 2003 to 2011 is unable to confront the IS. Although the US would have preferred Iran dealing with the IS threat, but the US and Israel view Iran aligned with Iraqi Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army Shias as a bigger threat than Sunni radicals in Iraq.
Vexed about the security of Shia holy places in Najaf and Karbala which Baghdadi has vowed to dynamite, Iran has decided to supplement the strength of Iraqi Shia militias. Turkey and Saudi Arabia are also worried about IS and are contemplating how to deal with the threat. However, Turkey is reluctant because of the Turkish Kurds factor, while Saudis are in two minds because of the Sunni factor. Egyptian military government's hands are full because of its confrontation with Muslim Brotherhood. Hezbollah fighters already engaged in Lebanon and Syria are now confronting IS in Syria and Iraq.
Hawkish lobbies in USA voiced their concern as to why Washington remained hesitant to send weaponry including drones, and didn't use airpower against IS to prevent it from capturing large swathes of Iraqi territory? They inquire as to why Obama was unwilling to use force in Iraq when he felt no compunction in using excessive force in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and Somalia and even authorized drones against American nationals? After the IS fighters killed Christians and Yazidis in Sinjar and beheaded two US journalists and one British, the US jets and drones started striking IS selectively. 160 strikes have so far been launched in Iraq. Airstrikes are aimed at preventing fall of oil-rich Kirkuk and Arbil, capital of Kurdish region which houses US Consulate.
Reeling under home pressure, Obama has now sought cooperation from ten Arab countries to deal with the IS threat. The US and NATO would however restrict their support to air strikes only. The US want to strike the IS in Syria as well but is indecisive whether the IS or Assad regime is a bigger threat. Coming days will indicate how far the US will go to eliminate IS threat whose linkages have been found in Pakistan as well.
Many analysts in the US and western counties are selling the idea that IS or ISIS is CIA creation and is US backed to break up the Iran-Iraq-Syria-Hezbollah alliance. They say that ISIS aided/guided by USA and funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar mounted direct pressure on Baghdad to force former PM Maliki to quit. Baghdadi is dubbed as US agent trained in Tel Aviv. They say that the Muslims are being conned by a sophisticated scheme drawn up by Zionists to fragment Middle East and pave the way for establishment of 'Greater Israel'. It has also come to light that most of the leading leaders of IS including Baghdadi are the products of CIA run Bucca camp in Baghdad from 2003 to 2009. At that time the Iraqi Sunnis were trained and brainwashed to fight al-Qaeda. The IS fighters before entering Syria in 2013 received training in camps established by CIA in Jordon in 2012.
While the Muslim world is a house divided, the overall situation in the Middle East is getting grimmer with every passing day, which suits the conspirators. The impotence and state of helplessness of the Arab League, OIC and Muslim world can be gauged from its deafening silence over the genocide of Gazans at the hands of Israeli beasts.
Tunnel-vision and luxury loving Arab leaders refuse to admit the existence of Indo-US-UK-Israeli nexus busy weaving a web of intrigues and bent upon further dividing and weakening the Muslim countries and then ruling the resource-rich Middle East like a colony. They consider them to be their friends and well-wishers and are complacent that their turn will not come. Hezbollah, Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood, Syria and Iran challenging Israel are seen by them as foes.
The IS comprising about 31500 fighters is now projected as the biggest threat to the whole world. Intriguingly, neither any militant group operating in Middle East is poised against Israel or its western backers, nor any Arab country funding dozens of groups to fight Shiasm/terrorism diverted any group to come to the rescue of people of Gaza when they were being mercilessly slaughtered. Muslim world has sunk to its lowest levels.
Shifting the gaze from Middle East towards Pakistan, one finds the same nexus feverishly working upon an agenda since 2002 to disable its nuclear program and then fragment it. Its repeated assaults and conspiracies have been successfully warded off by the armed forces. The political storm built by PTI and PAT aimed at bringing down the elected government may be part of the foreign agenda since timings of long march raise many questions. Operation Zarb-e-Azb has reached a critical stage in its momentous battle in North Waziristan to control menace of terrorism. One million IDPs rendered homeless need full attention. Millions of people in Punjab are suffering on account of heavy floods and Indian water terrorism. Western border and Line of Control in Kashmir are turbulent. Under the circumstances, sit-ins in the Capital is incongruous.
Azadi and Inqilab marches were launched on 14 August on which the whole nation was celebrating Independence Day. The marchers went ahead despite the government showing reasonably good results within its 14 months rule. Mega projects have been launched and foreign investment has begun to pour in. All economic indicators have started moving from negative to positive. Concerted efforts are underway to tackle energy crisis. Security situation in Balochistan and in Karachi has improved; TTP and its affiliates are on the run; drone attacks have ceased.
Ignoring these positives, impatient Imran and Tahirul Qadri (TuQ) are bent upon impeding the progress and creating chaos and instability merely to grab power at whatever cost. Imran Khan unwisely ganged up with discarded politicians and non-political/controversial TuQ and also entertained false assumptions. Devoid of constitutional, legal and moral cover, and direly lacking political support, Imran egged on by few thousand sitters still want the elected government backed by 11 political parties to pack up and hand over the crown to him. He is constantly upping the ante through provocations despite government's extraordinary restraint and its eagerness to provide him a face-saving exit.
In the mindless cross fire, despite the fact that Army remained apolitical, attempts were made by vested groups to tarnish the image of Army. It was suggested that the Army was backing the sitters. Slanderous stories kept circulating till the issuance of DG ISPR's unambiguous statement on September 12th that the Army is not the 'scriptwriter' as alleged; it is not backing anti-government protests and is not linked to any political activity and it would support the democratic process. He rejected the claim by story tellers that five Corps Commanders due to retire in October were in favor of military intervention. Demonstrative lust for power of politicians under the unconvincing pretext of rigging in May 2013 elections has put to rest the impression that the Army generals are power hungry and didn't allow democracy to grow.
The government should draw lessons from the ongoing imbroglio and become more responsive to the needs of the people. It should be accountable to them for its acts of commission and omission. It should strive to improve the quality of life of the have-nots through good governance, and inculcate sense of patriotism and ownership in them.
The writer is retired Brig/defence analyst/columnist/historian/war veteran, author of five books, Director Measac Research Centre. firstname.lastname@example.org