A proto-Caliphate?

By Zhao Jinglun
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, June 24, 2014
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 [By Zhai Haijun/China.org.cn]

 [By Zhai Haijun/China.org.cn]

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, also known as ISIL) captured Qa'im in western Iraq along the main highway leading into Syria. It also captured Tall Afar a few days ago and several other border towns, thereby effectively erasing the border between Iraq and Syria. That cuts the land bridge to Lebanon, which makes Iranian shipments of rockets and other arms to Hizbullah difficult, thus indirectly weakening Bashar al-Assad and benefiting Israel.

A proto-Caliphate now exists, stretching from the outskirts of Baghdad all the way to Aleppo in Syria. ISIS enforces strict Sharia law in its occupied territory, so I am calling it Caliphate even though they call themselves the State of Islam.

It is notable that ISIS has attracted extremists from all over the world, with 2,000 fighters holding foreign passports, including Britons, Americans and Australians, who can enter those countries without visas -- a potential danger of terror attacks.

Does that mean the partition of Iraq into three mini-states: Sunni's Islamic State? ISIS now holds nearly all of Ninevah and Anbar Provinces; a large part of Salahuddin Province north of Baghdad; it also holds part of Diyala Province stretching from Baghdad to the Iranian border. That is to say ISIS, together with Sunni tribal allies, now controls most of the Sunni Arab region in Iraq.

The Shiite dominated Iraq government still holds most of Samarra Province just north of Baghdad and is trying to retake Tikrit to the north. It still has a foothold in Ramadi in Anbar, and of course, most of southern Iraq, including Basra.

The Kurds have occupied Kirkuk and holds the most stable northeast of Iraq, officially known as the Kurdistan Regional Government led by PM Barzani.

Partitioning seems to be the conventional wisdom. But voices calling for an inclusive national unity government are becoming louder. There is a near consensus in Washington that the sectarian Maliki should step down. Even Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the spiritual leader of the Shiites, is calling for a national unity government and broadly hinted that Maliki should go.

So Maliki is under heavy pressure. But is an inclusive national unity government possible? And who is to succeed Maliki?

Some analysts believe that conflicts in Iraq are more political than religious. The Sunni tribes/groups supporting ISIS may not mean mass conversion to religious extremism. Rather, it is driven by a common hatred of the Shiite sectarian government. Polls show both Shiites and Sunnis prefer politicians who are committed to the national interests over politicians who have strong religious convictions by a factor of four to one.

But if Maliki is forced out, who would replace him?

Certainly not Ahmed Chalabi, "the thief of Baghdad" (he was sentenced in absentia by a Jordanian court to 22 years of hard labor for bank fraud), the founder of the Iraqi National Congress, a CIA funded exile group, who provided false information about Saddam Hussein developing WMDs, a pretext for Bush and Cheney to invade Iraq (so he called himself "hero in error"). And he was found out to be spying for Iran. Yet the U.S. Ambassador in Iraq Robert Beecroft and the State Department's top official in Iraq, Brett McGurk, met with Chalabi as a potential candidate to replace Maliki!

Also mentioned as a candidate is Ayad Allawi, another CIA asset, appointed interim prime minister in 2004 by the U.S. occupation authority, the "Governing Council." He is considered "a moderate Shiite" with a secular view. His government wrote a regulation that empowers the executive to declare martial law, impose curfews and detain suspects. Before leaving office, he personally executed six suspected insurgents.

Both are U.S. minions.

The road to peace and unity in Iraq will be long and arduous.

The author is a columnist with China.org.cn. For more information please visit: http://www.china.org.cn/opinion/zhaojinglun.htm

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.

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