The escalating sectarian civil war in Iraq is dangerously poised. Apart from consequences for Iraq — a possible soft partitioning — there will be repercussions for other countries in the region and elsewhere. This constitutes a threat to international peace and security.
Decades ago, Western cartographers created an artificial country as part of a “division of spoils’. The exploding sectarian faultlines in Iraq are umbilically linked to the crisis in Syria, in which over 1,30,000 people have been killed since 2011. The genesis of these developments can also be traced to the policy-induced crisis in Libya, which resulted in UN Security Council Resolution 1973 and Nato military action.
The unbridled enthusiasm for the Arab Spring in the West blinded governments to the dangers of arming militias against established, even if tyrannical, regimes. The expectation that the Arab Spring would unfold on the lines of a Western liberal democratic template was mistaken, and acknowledged as such before long. A lesson learnt over decades — that there are no good or bad militants — was forgotten.
Colonel Gaddafi, much despised for good reason, proved an easy first rallying point. The desire of the United States, the United Kingdom and France to see him gone was understandable. Even the Chinese and the Russians did not feel strongly enough to cast a negative vote in the UN Security Council in March 2011. The Russian permanent representative, Vitaly Churkin, said Russia abstained because of its principled stand against the use of military force. The passion of interventionists prevailed. The new members, all aspiring for permanent status, Brazil, India and Germany, did not have the political clout to alter the outcome. They tried to negotiate a “balanced” resolution providing for a ceasefire and the possibility of mediation by the African Union. But the ink was barely dry when the P3 chose to invoke “all means necessary”, a euphemism for military action. Nato action followed instantly. The other provisions of the resolution were completely ignored.
Mainstream thinking in the West has a propensity to rationalise policy-induced mistakes made by governments. Evidence in the public domain, documented by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, shows that rebels were being armed by countries in the region acting on their own and as proxies. The arming of militias is invariably accompanied by unintended consequences. Some turn rogue.
Worse still, others turn on their creators. The attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi in September 2012 is a case in point.
Advocates of the use of force and the right of intervention will find it difficult to argue that military action in Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011 produced the desired outcomes. Regime change results in destabilisation, which is even more difficult to handle.
Syria continues to present an even more complex problem. Bashar al-Assad held power with the support of a 12 per cent Alawite Shia minority aided by another 6 per cent, or so, of other minority communities. He succeeded in building a compact that enabled him to preside over a more than 75 per continued…