BY: İHSAN AKTAŞ*
At the outset of the United States’ occupation of Iraq, a significant wave of opposition against the Iraqi war emerged in the world public opinion, especially in the United Kingdom. As a result, a group of Turkish intellectuals, journalists and academics from diverse political and social backgrounds, who assembled under the initiative of “the Eastern Conference,” visited Syria, Iran, Armenia, Egypt and Lebanon for discussing the possible consequences of the Iraqi war with officials of those regions.
During their visit in Iran, an Iranian expert of foreign affairs and former consultant of the Iranian Foreign Minister for 10 years, described the Iraqi occupation as follows:
“We are grateful to the U.S. It is as if the U.S. worked for the benefit of Iran in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Afghanistan, the Taliban was posing a great threat to Iran by treating the Shiites as their enemies. Today, most of the state officials in the Afghan Government are composed of Shiite politicians and bureaucrats, who were once exiled to Iran. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein was Iran’s archenemy who waged a 10-year long war against Iran. Thanks to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, Saddam Hussein was eliminated. Thus, both Iraq and Afghanistan were automatically cleansed from Sunnis and pro-Sunni Governments without troubling themselves too much.”
By the end of the U.S. occupation, the Iraqi Government was overwhelmingly composed of Shiite politicians and technocrats. The total dissolution of the Iraqi bureaucracy and the Iraqi army of the Saddam Hussein period meant the emergence of a million unemployed people in Iraq. At the same time, the suicide attacks by al-Qaida targeting the Shiite population. Meanwhile Sunni population was being abused by the Shiite politicians in Iran and Iraq, were not prevented by the U.S. The Iraqi Government, under the leadership of Maliki, aimed not at consolidating stability in the country, but at expanding the social, political and cultural realm of influence of the Shiites. Both the U.S. and the Iraqi Government turned a deaf ear to those retaliatory-terrorist attacks targeting the Sunni population and the discriminatory policies of the Government against the Sunnis. All the while, Iran took gradual steps towards fragmented Iraq pulling them nearer to Iranian political influence.
In short, instead of aiming at consolidating stability in Iraq, both the U.S. and Iran, along with the Iraqi government, abused the on-going terror and instability to drastically change the demographic structure of the country to favor their own goals and aspirations.
The elimination of the Sunnis from the state structure constitutes a turning point for Iraq. The on-going instability in the Sunni regions and the gradual Shiite expansion in Iraq prepared the ground for the germination of terrorist organizations, including the Daish. Appearing as a relatively-insignificant terrorist organization at the outset, the Daish, almost overnight, became the leader of a third country between Syria and Iraq, but however significant a player, we will not concentrate on the Daish for the moment.
Today, almost all of the European countries and the U.S. have a military presence in Iraq. Under the veil of fighting against the Daish, Iran unleashed thousands of Shiite militia in Iraq. In fact, there seems to be no differentiation between the killings done by the Daish members and those of Iran’s Shiite militia in Iraq and Syria. Although the Daish shall certainly be destroyed sooner or later as a global terrorist organization, Iran’s Shiite militia will continue to exist in the near future. While the Daish seized Mosul in the blink of an eye, the powers in the Western coalition, Iraq and the Kurdish Administration of the Northern Iraq are preparing themselves to take Mosul from the Daish.
Turkey’s military existence in Iraq is meant to aid the people of Mosul in taking their city back from the Daish by cooperating with the Kurdish Administration of the Northern Iraq. In this respect, if the radical Shiite groups’ true aim is to massacre the Sunni population of Mosul, a full-fledged sectarian war would emerge in Iraq handing Iraq to Iran. The current Iraqi Government’s harsh protests against Turkey’s military existence in the northern territories expose their latent and vicious aspirations in the region. All these proceedings demonstrate that, although an anti-imperialist discourse continues to exist in Iran against the U.S., the U.S. and Iran share the same benefits for expanding the Shiite influence in the region.
*İHSAN AKTAŞ is a Turkish columnist. He writes for Daily Sabah.
(Published in Daily Sabah on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016)