ISIS militia sweeps forward in Iraq

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

IRAQI government forces are reeling under a wave of attacks from the ISIS militia, the sectarian Sunni Muslim movement formerly known as Al Qaeda in Iraq, which has seized control of Mosul, and a number of other key cities including Fallujah and Saddam Hussein’s home town of Tikrit.

In a spectacular blow to Iraq’s Shia-led government last week, ISIS-led terrorists seized Mosul, its surrounding region of Nineveh and areas of Kirkuk and Salaheddin province. The assault saw gunmen waving black banners raid banks and government buildings and seize military vehicles as thousands of loyalist troops and civilians fled from Iraq’s second-largest city. ISIS fighters overran the Turkish consulate and arrested the head of the diplomatic mission along with 24 staff members while others summarily shot loyalist troops who had been captured or who had unwisely surrendered to their enemies in the hope of mercy.

The ISIS fanatics, believed to be supported by the underground Baathist resistance and Sunni tribal leaders frozen out of government by the equally sectarian Shia Muslim government of Nouri al Maliki, now control a territory that stretches from parts of western Syria to Fallujah in western Iraq and the northern city of Mosul. Their advance has caused a humanitarian catastrophe, displacing some 500,000 people in Mosul alone.

ISIS fighters are now believed to be only 35 miles from the capital, Baghdad, which is being reinforced by streams of Shia Muslim volunteers following a call to arms by their Iraqi spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Meanwhile the Iraqi Kurdish militias have moved beyond the border of their autonomous zone to seize control of the northern oil city of Kirkuk that they have long coveted.

The Maliki government has made urgent appeals to its former masters in Washington and its current mentors in the Islamic Republic of Iran, amid reports of crack Iranian Revolutionary Guards taking up defensive positions around Baghdad, and that Iranian and American officials are secretly discussing plans to provide US air-cover for a Maliki regime offensive to drive out the fanatics.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria/Levant, (ISIS) that is sometimes called ISIL in the West, is a front led by Sunni religious bigots whose followers took up arms against the American occupation and later went to Syria to join the Muslim Brotherhood in their bid to to bring down the Assad government.

The Syrian Arab Army’s recent victories have driven them out of most of their bases and their retreating forces have beefed up their numbers in Iraq. This has enabled them to take the lead in Iraq’s sectarian conflict, which has been inflamed by the corrupt and equally sectarian Shia Maliki regime which has alienated most of the broader Sunni community.

But they’ve clearly been the green light to go on the rampage by someone and that is almost certainly the king of Saudi Arabia. The House of Saud worked to bring down Saddam Hussein when Iraq was no longer of any further use to them and poured money into the Syrian rebels coffers to stoke the sectarian conflict that the Saudis hoped would warring sectarian statelets, the original American plan for Iraq after Saddam, than see it fall completely into the hands of their arch-enemy, Iran.

Maliki was a willing tool who worked with the puppet US interim “government” set up by the American occupation authorities and he became prime minister in 2006 under the sectarian constitution that US imperialism imposed on the country.

But when the Americans decided to cut their losses and pull their troops out Maliki had to find another mentor, and that was naturally Iran, which sees itself as the protector of all Shias wherever they live.

The Saudis, who fear the growth of Iranian power in the Persian Gulf or amongst the oppressed Shia community in their kingdom and the other Arab Gulf states, are equally concerned about the growing rapprochement between Iran and the US over the nuclear issue, which could lead to imperialist acceptance of Iran’s claim to be the major power in the region. The Maliki government has openly accused Saudi Arabia of supporting ISIS and providing them with financial support — allegations the Saudis deny.