Leading article

The new Iraq war

Obama – and Cameron – might like to back away from the War on Terror, but the other side didn't get the memo

14 June 2014

8:00 AM

14 June 2014

8:00 AM

Seven weeks ago, Barack Obama proclaimed that ‘it’s time to turn the page on more than a decade of war’. The people of Iraq do not have this option. They’ve seen, in Basra, Iran-backed militias take on and defeat the British military. They’ve seen highly effective jihadis, disowned by al-Qa’eda for their brutality, take control of a major city, Fallujah, just 40 miles from Baghdad. This week they have seen their second city, Mosul, fall to that same band of psychopaths. If Syria is anything to go by, religious cleansing, beheadings and even crucifixions will soon begin.

A new Iraq war is now underway. On one side is Nouri al-Maliki, Prime Minister of Iraq, on the other an al-Qa’eda offshoot called the ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIS) which aims to create an Islamic emirate in the Iraq-Syria border. It is proving remarkably successful, having already created a de facto state — now with two cities, and a substantial amount of land. This whole area, controlled by ISIS, has become a safe haven for jihadis being driven out of Pakistan by drone strikes. Terror has found a new home.

We hear little about this in Britain because it is not a problem anyone is inclined to solve. Privately, the Foreign Office is operating on the assumption that ISIS will keep the land it now holds, for the next few years at least. In Washington, officials are saying that the fall of Mosul is not regarded as a serious turning-point. There is no appetite to become embroiled in another war, or even to give the Iraqi army the air support it would need to retake Mosul. The unofficial policy is to let ISIS create its new country, and keep talking as if Iraq is on a bumpy road to democracy.


The fall of Mosul is a catastrophe but it speaks volumes about the direction of the region. Borders are falling apart as groups like ISIS render the differences between countries unimportant. Just as the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan was irrelevant for the militants, so the border between Iraq and Syria has become irrelevant now. It is impossible to talk about one country without discussing the other.

Barack Obama used to boast that al-Qa’eda was on the run — its leadership decapitated and hounded out of the West. Much of this was true. But it now emerges that America and Britain have been chasing shadows: as soon as they outmanoeuvre one enemy, another emerges,. ISIS represents not a manifestation, but the very embodiment of the terror America and her allies are meant to have been at war with since 9/11.

If the Iraqi army fails to dislodge ISIS from Mosul, then we will know what to expect next. When the black flag is hoisted above public buildings — as was being done by Wednesday morning — a reign of terror begins. The city’s remaining Christians, who centre around its Catholic Chaldean cathedral, will be rounded up. A few months ago, in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, Christians were asked to ‘register’ with the ISIS under an ancient law called the dhimmi contract. It meant that Christians either had to pay a tax, and agree to be treated as third-class citizens, or ‘face the sword’. This explains why Mosul’s Christians are this week fleeing for their lives towards the Kurdish border.

Even there they may not be safe for long. The Kurdish areas in the north are now looking vulnerable to ISIS, Erbil in particular (only an hour or so from Mosul). It will be particularly sad if Erbil falls because it has been a haven of peacefulness pretty much since 2003. The Kurdish experiment in the north was a great economic, investment and security success, but the Kurds who managed to survive Saddam now find a mutant strain of al-Qa’eda on their borders, and lack the military firepower to repel the invader.

During the Afghanistan war, Tony Blair said that intervention in Helmand would stop us having to fight jihadis on the streets in Britain. That was far-fetched. But the consequences of ISIS will be wide-reaching. We know that some 450 young British Muslims have gone to fight with the jihadis in Syria, many have come back — and a worryingly high number can no longer be tracked by the security services. Police believe they are already seeing examples of terrorist attacks being plotted by young veterans of this Syrian jihad.

The West does have options. The Iraqi army needs air cover to retake Mosul; the Kurds can also do with our help. But as we have learned over the last 15 years, it is dangerous to think that there is such a thing as an in-and-out military operation: if we intervene, we ought to be prepared for longer entanglement. David Cameron may well feel that he does not have the resources to respond to the rise of ISIS. But this is not a problem we will have the luxury of watching from afar.

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  • Graeme S

    I am currently in Basra …………. there is a terrible sense of trepidation amongst my Iraqi colleagues. The Iraqi army is just melting away, who the hell is going to stop these savages

    • BoiledCabbage

      What will stop them? Weapons will – but only those wielded by soldiers not afraid of Lawfare, ‘proportional’ response, and other ridiculous dogma which has allowed the jihadist problem to metasize. Fortunately, between Iran and the Peshmerga there should be an appetite for the total extinction of ISIS, because in Washington and London there is merely a shrug.

      • Terry Field

        So you support the destruction of the Sunni???

    • Cyril Sneer

      Your some distance away from the trouble, deep in Shia territory – you should be safe. Nevertheless stay safe.

      • Graeme S

        thanks … distance is no guarantee of safety of the fact all of Iraq,s cities are full of sleepers just waiting to kick off the slaughter is not that reassuring

        • hacimo

          Just be glad you are of the male gender. Less demand for males among the ISIS crew, if you catch my meaning.

      • Terry Field

        I would not bet on that

    • Terry Field

      Savages?
      I thought they were Sunnis?
      Is that wrong?????

    • hacimo

      You must stop them, you gutless Coward. Strap on your battle gear and Forward!!.

      Helpful hint when confronting enemy: Those guys with the suicide vests are only bluffing.

  • BoiledCabbage

    Maybe our “Foreign Secretary’ – with Brad and Angelina in tow of course – should go over to Mosul and see just what ‘Conflict Rape’ looks like for real? He could also really get a sense of the beheading process ISIS are so fond of, up close and in real time……..

  • Damaris Tighe

    Call me old-fashioned, but why do we have to let British jihadis back in? Because they are British citizens? My guess is that human rights lawyers would never allow it. But it raises the question, just what can we do to protect ourselves? Governments seem incapable of growing a pair. I suspect if they knew for sure that the lives of their own families depended on it, they’d find a way.

    • hacimo

      Sadly you will get no action until the streets of Britain are become “rivers of blood”. It has been predicted long ago. Folks need to learn the hard way. The overloards in whitehall had a cunning thought “Lets grab a few million Pathan’s out of the hindu Kush and plunk them in the oh-so-english midlands”. What could go wrong with this program? Brilliant.

  • Terry Field

    If the west destroys 1100 years of a settled relationship between Sunni and Shia by the application of ‘democracy’ in iraq, then it can hardly be surprised that the Sunni will not tolerate this and work aggressively to correct the situation in their favour.
    As for the Yanks, the following seems to be appropriate:
    Veni
    Vedi
    I cockeditupi

  • pp22pp

    Another multiethnic mess – Kurds versus Shia versus Sunni. Leave them to sort it out among themselves. Every time we have tried to sort out the mess, we have only made it worse.
    The very same people who helped mess up Iraq (Bliar), also did heir very best to reproduce the same situation here.
    We need to start a process of easing out our non-indigenous minorities. Israel and Malaysia have such policies in place. In particular, we need to encourage our Islamic minority to leave by putting in place pro-Indigenous legislation and financial rewards for those Muslims who choose to leave.
    When ISIS set up their new state, we can send them Tony Blair to be tried under Islamic Law. He shouldn’t mind. His lot allowed sharia courts in London.

    • hacimo

      bad as the english and the welsh. Constant sturm-und-drang.

  • pp22pp

    Another multiethnic mess – Kurds versus Shia versus Sunni. Leave them to sort it out among themselves. Every time we have tried to sort out the mess, we have only made it worse.
    The very same people who helped mess up Iraq (Bliar), also did heir very best to reproduce the same situation here.
    We need to start a process of easing out our non-indigenous minorities. Israel and Malaysia have such policies in place. In particular, we need to encourage our Islamic minority to leave by putting in place pro-Indigenous legislation and financial rewards for those Muslims who choose to leave.
    When ISIS set up their new state, we can send them Tony Blair to be tried under Islamic Law. He shouldn’t mind. His lot allowed sharia courts in London.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Sometimes it really is quite difficult to put ones finger on precisely what has been achieved in Iraq, Afghanistan …

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Sometimes it really is quite difficult to put ones finger on precisely what has been achieved in Iraq, Afghanistan …

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Another fine mess you`ve got us into George, Tony.

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