Children stand next to a burnt vehicle in the northern Iraq city of Mosul. Reuters Children stand next to a burnt vehicle in the northern Iraq city of Mosul. Reuters

The development of a conflict which already involves Iran and Saudi Arabia, could foreshadow a full scale middle eastern war, with incalculable consequences for Israel and the Palestinians

More than a decade after the most contested military intervention of modern times, the fall of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, to Islamic fundamentalists ISIS, underlines the disastrous consequences of the Bush-Blair war in Iraq.

As Iraq disintegrates, Barack Obama’s statement that he doesn’t rule out anything in dealing with the crisis, shows how little he recognises US and western responsibility for the chaos now spreading across the region.

It beggars belief that there are still voices calling for bombing or more intervention to deal with “a terrorist threat”. Wasn’t this one of the reasons we were given in 2003 to justify the war on Iraq? Was it ever more obvious that the “war on terror” has done nothing but increase exponentially the amount of terrorism in the world?

The Bush-Blair war on Iraq is the root cause of the instability and disintegration we are now witnessing. The “shock and awe” devastation of the country was followed by years of destructive occupation, and the continuing wilful refusal of its main architects to adopt any other course of action. This was despite vast international opposition to the war and mass resistance to the occupation by Iraqis themselves.

The invasion and occupation destroyed the Iraqi state totally — something not even done to Nazi Germany or Mussolini’s Italy at the end of the second world war.

Despite pronouncements of bringing democracy, the US and its allies were responsible for the barbarous treatment of the people who resisted. Far from winning hearts and minds, the bombing of Fallujah and the atrocities in Abu Ghraib led millions of Iraqis to oppose bitterly the occupation.

Up to one million died as a result of the war and occupation. Four million were driven from their homes as refugees. Add to this the hostility Iraqis suffered from the occupying forces, the neo liberal privatisations, the collapse of even basic services, like access to clean water and a functioning sewage system, and it is not hard to see the roots of the many grievances destabilising the country.

One response from the occupiers was the deliberate fostering of sectarian tensions in order to divide and rule the population. And we see today the effects of that policy.

In case anyone thinks post intervention societies are flourishing elsewhere, consider that this week also saw the Taliban launch a major attack on Pakistan’s main airport, Libya continue to descend into effective partition and civil war, and a candidate for the presidential election in Afghanistan narrowly escaping a bomb attack that killed many of his bodyguards.

What is happening in Iraq and Syria is likely to redraw the boundaries created by the European imperial powers nearly 100 years ago. Then, as the old Turkish Ottoman Empire collapsed at the end of the first world war, Britain and France — with the collusion of Russia — carved up the region under the secret Sykes-Picot agreement.

In Syria, the past three years of civil war and intervention by outside powers have made the Sykes-Picot borders porous, particularly between Syria and Iraq, but also in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and even Turkey.

ISIS has been in control of the west of Iraq for some months and now controls much of the north. A sign of further disintegration of the country is the Kurds takeover of Kirkuk, the capital city in the oil rich Kurdish area in northern Iraq.

There is already a huge refugee crisis as people flee the war torn areas, with an estimated half a million fleeing Mosul, which Save the Children called the largest and swiftest mass movements of people in the world in recent memory.

The Iraqi state, headed by Prime Minister Maliki, is visibly disintegrating, with the army and police abandoning towns without fighting, and the parliament unable even to achieve a quorum to call a state of emergency.

War on sectarian lines across the country is now likely, and the development of a conflict which already involves Iran and Saudi Arabia, could foreshadow a full scale middle eastern war, with incalculable consequences for Israel and the Palestinians.

Two points need to be reiterated time and again, although you will search in vain for them in most of the mainstream media.

The first is that those of us who marched against the war in 2002 and 2003 were absolutely right when we predicted that the invasion would make the situation worse for the Iraqi people, and for the wider middle east.

Secondly, no one can say we don’t know where western intervention ends up. But, despite all the catastrophic consequences so clearly visible in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and beyond, we still hear calls from the likes of Michael Gove and John McCain, for western intervention in Syria and Ukraine.

Eleven years on, western leaders should hang their heads in shame at what they have created. And surely now, Tony Blair must lose his job as envoy for peace in the Middle East.

But whatever happens, as Owen Jones writes, this calamity must never be allowed to happen again.

From Stop the War Coalition

Lindsey German

As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.

Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.

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