16 October 2014

Will we have to bomb the Shias now?

We are all familiar with the depravity of the Islamic State. Tragically, some of their foes are also descending into the moral depths. According to a report by Amnesty International, Shia militias, often armed and supported by the Iraqi government, "have been abducting and killing Sunni civilian men in Baghdad and around the country." Their complicity with government forces ranges "from tacit consent to coordinated, or even joint, operations."

Although the abductions and killings are often retaliation for Islamic State atrocities against Shias, they frequently have a more mercenary purpose. After abducting a young man, the militias extort his family. Many families report paying hefty ransoms "only to discover that their loved one had been killed." Even the retaliatory attacks often sweep up Sunnis not connected to the Islamic State but who simply happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

One story illustrates the hopeless situation of many Iraqis. A man whose family fled the Islamic State and are afraid to return frequently visits Fallujah to check on his house and property. "Only I can go, he says, "because I am old. My sons cannot go. It would be too dangerous for them. They could be killed by Shia militias on the road between Baghdad and Fallujah, as they treat anyone going to or coming from Fallujah as a terrorist and often kill people on that road. And the IS gangs in Fallujah would consider my sons as government collaborators because they left Fallujah and are living in Baghdad."

The Shia militias are formidable, the largest containing tens of thousands of fighters, their power growing as the Iraqi army collapsed. They can operate like regular armed forces but with impunity.

According to Amnesty, "The existence of these sectarian, unregulated and unaccountable militias is both a cause and a result of the country’s growing insecurity and instability. They preclude any possibility of establishing effective and accountable security and armed forces able and willing to protect all sectors of the population." Amnesty insists that the Iraqi government must get them under control, but one wonders if that is any longer possible.

Iraq is in a state of collapse. Shias, Sunnis, Kurds and the Islamic State are now involved in a godawful civil war over the spoils. The American coalition's notion that it can do any good here may be nothing more than hubris run wild, turning a Middle Eastern war into an international one with no possible idea of where it will all end. And that prompts the question, Where does our participation end, and what can we possibly hope to achieve out of this mess?


  1. At some point we're going to wake up and realize we've been dragged into a never-ending, constantly-renewing, Sunni proxy war against the Shia Muslim world.

    Former MI6 chief, Sir Richard Dearlove, has related a conversation he had with Saudi security czar, prince Bandar-bin-Sultan (aka "Bandar Bush") who openly admitted the Sunni powers were out to crush the Shia for once and for all.

    The monstrous brutality of ISIS and their religious zealotry is not all that different from what prevails in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis also routinely behead people for apostasy. They also believe in a fundamentalist form of Sunni Islam.

    It's no coincidence the 9/11 terrorists were mainly Saudi or that al Qaeda is the Sunni home team. As for ISIS, why won't our leaders mention the worst-kept secret ever: who raised, trained, armed and funded this organization?

    The better question, though, is why the sheikhs and princes of Saudia Arabia and the Gulf States just keep launching these Frankenstein's monsters again and again.

    Israel acquired nuclear weapons on finding itself hopelessly outnumbered in a very hostile, violent neighbourhood. Iran today finds itself in much the same position.

    This is like Groundhog Day. No matter how hard we try to get out, we keep getting dragged back in. We spend year after year fighting inconclusive battles without actually going to war. We can't go to war because our ultimate enemy is also our supposed ally.

  2. Bill: To me, this is a no brainer.

    If Dear Leader had any brains, and is even half an Economist, he would be declaring war on Saudi Arabia, not I.S.I.S. I know, he is only from U. Calgary Econs. but there are worse Econs. depts. around, you might be surprised. :)

    It is, after all, Saudi Arabia that is threatening the oily wealth of Alberta by petulantly refusing to cut back on its production of the oily stuff despite the current plummeting oil price.

    Saudi Arabia's refusal to cut production would potentially squeeze the higher price producers, which clearly includes Dear Leader's cherished oilsands.

    Besides, the Saudis behead people too, thus it would not be too difficult to persuade Dear Leader's base that the Saudis are just as barbaric as those other guys.

    I am thinking that Dear Leader would have no problems convincing his base that it would be very noble, and in fact, most patriotic, to attack the Saudis now that we have all our economic eggs in the oilsands basket.

    As for the rest of us who are not convinced, who cares, as we do not vote for Dear Leader anyway, so no loss there, right?