U.S. warplanes have started bombing communities in Syria and Iraq, targeting the group called ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. In the last year, ISIS has rapidly extended its control into areas of both Iraq and Syria, which produce large amounts of oil, threatening the profits of big Western Oil companies. This is the real reason behind the mobilization of U.S. and NATO military forces, not the lives of Iraqi or Syrian civilians. And this is why the U.S. Congress was so quick to produce 28 billion dollars for this new war in the Middle East.
The origins of ISIS stems from the last invasion and occupation of Iraq, which began in 2003. The U.S. strategy in Iraq has always been one of divide and control. In Iraq the U.S. government played Kurdish, Sunni, and Shi’a populations off one another, arming each in turn. In 2004 the U.S. gave control of the Iraqi government to political parties with a base of support in the Shi’a Muslim community, the majority of the Iraqi population. Once in power, this government gave major concessions to western Oil Companies while it began to systematically oppress the Sunni minority. By 2005, this policy resulted in a sectarian civil war, raging ever since. And throughout this civil war the U.S. has continued to arm and fund all sides as it tries to maintain a regime that would carry out its interests in the region.
But in 2011, it seemed that some people in the Middle East were going to overcome these divisions. The Arab Spring swept the Middle East, toppling dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and touching off a revolution in Syria against the extremely repressive military government of Bashar Al-Assad. But the U.S. and its ally Saudi Arabia moved quickly to reestablish control. In Syria this meant sending money and weapons, reinforcing the most reactionary forces. ISIS was born from a fusion of these groups along with Sunni groups in Iraq. Now ISIS has rallied many of the oppressed Sunni minority in Iraq, and seized the north of that country.
Like Frankenstein, the monster created by arming and funding Sunni tribes and small rebel groupings is out of control, and its creators – the U.S. and Saudi Arabia – are trying to hunt it down and limit its influence. So far the airstrikes have killed hundreds of civilians, and have failed to slow the advance of ISIS forces. Given the limited effect of airstrikes, government officials are beginning to talk about deploying U.S. troops to train and lead ground forces against ISIS. Sending U.S. ground forces back to Iraq and into Syria will be disastrous to the majority of the people living there.
Previous U.S. military interventions in the Middle East have not made anyone safer or better off. In fact, today Iraq is devastated. These invasions have instead destroyed countless lives, devastated whole cities and communities, deprived people of decent housing, water, health care, and electricity. Five million Iraqis fled the war and U.S. occupation. Today there are nine million Syrians who have become refugees – about half the population. The past wars have increased the influence of religious leaders who want to impose religious control over the lives of the people. Women have lost what little rights they had achieved in earlier times. Another military intervention led by the U.S. will only make things worse for the people of the region. This war is once again about the control and domination of the U.S. over the resources of the Middle East – not the lives of the people living in the region.