The intense fighting inside of what used to be Iraq is rapidly turning into a Sunni vs. Shiite civil war that could easily spread outside Iraq’s borders. As I opined might happen in a recent post, Iran, the Shiite powerhouse in the region, has sent its troops into Iraq to militarily bolster that portion of the Iraqi army that is loyal to Iraq’s Shiite central government leader, al-Maliki. The first link reports that Iran has already sent 2,000 of its soldiers into Iraq to bolster the Shiite forces fighting the rapid invasion of ISIL, the very radical Sunni Jihadi group that is seizing control of more of Syria and Iraq. It also reports that a Shiite Iranian commander is now in charge of the defense of Baghdad. The second link is supportive of the information in the first link.
It seems apparent that the rapid advance of ISIL (some news outlets, especially CNN, call ISIL by the name ISIS) was aided by a deep lack of enthusiasm within the Iraqi army to fight fellow Sunnis to prop up a Shiite government that they regard as corrupt and anti-Sunni. There are many reports of Iraqi soldiers abandoning their posts, uniforms and weapons, and some media reports indicate Sunni members of Saddam Hussein’s old military forces were joining the ISIL ranks, assisting their rapid advance.
When the ISIL Sunni Jihadis rapidly took over Mosul, it triggered a humanitarian crisis as upwards of 500,000 more moderate Sunnis and perhaps some Christians fled to the protection of the Kurdish region of what used to be Iraq (third link). The Kurds can hardly shelter so many people. The Kurdish Peshmerga, a highly-cohesive and well-armed military force, moved out of the Kurdish region and seized control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk to make sure it did not fall into ISIL hands. The fourth link has a good report on the seizure of Kirkuk by the Kurdish Peshmerga. You will note that photographs accompanying the text show Kurdish tanks being brought into the Kirkuk via tank transporters. This indicates the Kurds will be in no hurry to leave Kirkuk. I think it is evident they intend to stay. If I lived in Kirkuk, I would be delighted to have them stay. The Kurdish forces represent stability and the ability for people in Kirkuk to safely stay in their homes and city. The Kurds may have seized Kirkuk not only for strategic advantage but also to protect their own territory from being overwhelmed by refugees from Kirkuk if it had also fallen to ISIL Jihadis like other northern Iraqi cities.
The fifth link reports what happens when ISIL forces seize a city or region. They leave a trail of decapitated bodies, execution-style killings and chaos and destruction in their wake. I saw a BBC report on the American TV network, PBS, that mentioned they had videos of execution-style killings of people by the ISIL Jihadis, but they were too brutal to show on TV. The BBC video did show ISIL forces lining up Iraqis in civilian dress on the side of a road and forcing them to kneel just before their heads were blown off by ISIL gunfire. The BBC video stopped just before the heads were blown off. Those interested in seeing that video can likely find it on YouTube. I did see a text crawler on the bottom of a report on either the BBC or Al Jezeera America that indicated that there were 1000s of murdered and/or decapitated bodies along the roads where ISIL was advancing closer toward Baghdad. Conflicting media reports indicate ISIL is between 60 and 100 miles from Baghdad.
As an aside, I’d like to say that if you can watch the Al Jazeera America cable news network on your satellite or cable-news package, I strongly urge you to watch it. I have found its news coverage to be in-depth, balanced and factual in its presentation. Many westerners may think, based on its name, that it is a network of Islamic propagandists. That assumption could not be more wrong. The on-camera journalists are Americans and westerners and many of them have been hired from other American news media networks. I think it should have been named something like “International Network News” (INN), to better represent what it actually is. It is a valuable “go-to” news outlet.
The situation inside Iraq is very fluid and there are many conflicting reports about what is transpiring. One report has now indicated that Iranian Shiite military forces are now operating so deep inside Iraq that they have helped Shiite forces retake Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown from ISIL forces (sixth link). If so, it means that Iran has sent its military forces in considerable numbers deep inside Iraq and their presence could trigger a wider Sunni-Shiite war.
While Kurdistani forces have been active in the north, Turkey, a Sunni nation, has been strangely passive in these rapidly escalating events. Since approximately 80 Turkish citizens have been kidnapped by ISIL forces (including a top diplomat), Turkey has every reason to invade northern Iraq from the north to rescue its citizens and crush the ISIL military forces. Turkey has been handed a golden opportunity to expand its influence and territory in the region, but so far has not acted on that opportunity. If I had been Turkey’s prime Minister, I’d have invaded northern Iraq two days ago, sent commandos to rescue the Turkish citizens and given orders to my army commanders to wipe out ISIL. I’d also have worked out a side agreement with the Kurds to divide northern Iraq into an agreed-upon Turkish-dominated and a Kurdish-dominated region–which would cooperate in making money for the Kurds and Turks by shipping Kurdish oil via Turkish pipelines to European nations. It is worth noting that as long as the chaos inside Iraq stops or threatens the flow of Kurdish oil to Europe, the big winner is…Russia. Russia, Iran’s ally, would like to keep Europe as helplessly dependent on Russian energy supplies as much as possible so ISIL’s stopping the flow of Kurdish oil to Europe benefits Russia.
Yesterday, I watched a TV program where Fareed Zakarhia, a frequent on-camera analyst and spokesman for the current World Order, was commenting on the Iraqi crisis and, in my opinion, I have never seen him look more worried. I like listening to him, as he is intelligent and analytical. If he is worried, so are the rest of the world’s leaders.
Strangely quiet regarding the Sunni-Shiite war inside Iraq is Saudi Arabia. If Shiite Iran is militarily active already inside Iraq, the Saudis cannot stay out of Iraq for long without a major loss of face to their credibility. I suspect both Turkey and the Saudis are receiving heavy pressure from Obama and the USA to stay out of the situation. You may have seen media reports that the Shiite Iraqi central government, armed and trained by the USA, has been appealing to the USA for airstrikes vs. ISIL. If Obama actually does such a thing, he may make one of the biggest mistakes of his presidency. This action would make him an ally of Iran, which is already supporting the Shiite Iraqi central government with ground forces. If Obama becomes the ally of the Iranians and their puppet leader in Shiite Iraq, Obama will alienate the entire Sunni Moslem world. Then the obvious question will be apparent to all: Whose side is Obama really on? Pay no attention to his words. Just evaluate his actions.
Major changes are occurring in the Mideast right now. Borders are being redrawn, nations are disintegrating while new ones emerge along more-rational sectarian and tribal lines, alliances are being reformed, etc. These are vital developments for us to keep watching.