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The ISIS crisis

Although the Kurdish Peshmerga has recently broken the ISIS siege of Mount Sinjar in Northern Iraq, the Islamic State continues to make major advances across Anbar Province, posing a direct threat to Baghdad itself. Military experts admit that US airstrikes alone will not lead to the defeat of the Islamic State. They are designed to bolster the fight on the ground by the Iraqi military, which is in a state of virtual collapse. Riven with dishonesty and fraud, the Iraqi army mirrors the chaotic and rampant corruption of the Iraqi government in post-Saddam Iraq. These circumstances have provided the perfect conditions for the brutal Shiite militias to thrive and take control of the battlefield from the Iraqi military. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of these militias. They are trained, financed and often led by the terrorist Iranian Quds Force. They are Iranian proxies. So the US air strikes are aiding and abetting Iran in achieving its ultimate objective, which is total control of Iraq.

{mosads}The current war raging across Iraq was as avoidable as it was predictable. Nouri al-Maliki’s second term as Prime Minister, insisted upon by Iran and supported by the US, was a tragedy for the Iraqi people, for the region and for the world. As a puppet of the Iranian mullahs, he encouraged the Iranian-led Shiite militias and used them to enforce his merciless “iron fist” sectarian policy of indiscriminate bombing, shelling, arbitrary arrests, torture and mass execution of innocent Sunni civilians. Maliki utilised the claim of fighting a war against terror to secure his grip on power and the West fell for it, even although his war on terror was, in fact, a war against his predominantly Sunni political opponents.

The sudden emergence of the Islamic State (ISIS) became a convenient focal point enabling Maliki to accelerate his sectarian campaign against his political foes. Indeed the reason ISIS made such rapid and spectacular gains across large areas of Iraq was because they faced little or no resistance from the Sunni tribes, who often preferred the Islamic State to the brutal Iranian-led militias that had been terrorizing them for years.

The world now looks to the new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to take control and restore order inside Iraq. He must begin by rounding up the savage militias associated with the Iranian regime such as the Badr, Asaib and Kataib terrorists, as well as other criminal gangs that have played a significant role in Maliki’s rule and instigated the sectarian war in Iraq. He must purge the army of Iranian mercenaries and all those that Maliki recruited under his sectarian policy, restoring patriotic officers and turning it into a professional and national army. Only such an army, supported by the Sunni tribes and the ordinary Iraqi people will be able to confront extremist groups like the Islamic State.

Decisive action by Prime Minister al-Abadi against Iranian interference in Iraq couldn’t come at a better time. The plummeting oil price has caused a massive problem for the Iranian mullahs. Their future budget was predicated on oil prices rising from $112 to $130 a barrel. Today it has fallen to below $60 and experts predict it will fall to $45. This, combined with Western sanctions is catastrophic for Tehran who currently fund not only the Shiite militias in neighbouring Iraq, but Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, Bashir al-Assad in Syria and the Shiite Houthi militia who seized Sanaa, the Yemeni capital in September; they also continue to finance the hugely expensive and clandestine programme of uranium enrichment, the construction of nuclear weapons and the purchase of sophisticated delivery systems.

The so-called ‘moderate’ President Rouhani, who has presided over the execution of an unprecedented 1200 people since he took office only 17 months ago, has found himself in an impossible trap. He was elected on a pledge to improve the economy and to improve living conditions for ordinary Iranians. But the hardliners in Tehran live off the back of the billions poured into the IRGC. Despite the collapsing oil price, Rouhani last week announced a 50% increase in the IRGC budget, taking their total annual spend to over $6 billion, which is more than half of Iran’s total defence budget which was itself increased by 33% last week.

Iran simply cannot afford this. The 74 million Iranians are facing economic meltdown. The people are fed up. They don’t want to be international pariahs. They don’t want to witness people hanging from cranes in their city squares. They have protested against the current state-sanctioned spate of acid attacks on women for so-called ‘mal-veiling’. There is a seething undercurrent of protest in the air. Bread prices rose by 30% last week and the likelihood of another popular uprising is looming. But this time the West must support the Iranian people and not stand back and watch while they are shot down in the street like dogs. We must help them to overthrow the tyrannical mullahs and restore freedom, peace and democracy to Iran and not stand idly by on the sidelines while the brave student protest-leaders are rounded up, arrested, tortured and executed. The removal of the fascist mullahs and the restoration of freedom and democracy and a tolerant vision of Islam would transform the Middle East and hasten the end of ISIS, Bashir al-Assad, Hezbollah, Hamas and other murderous and medieval ideologies. For once the US should get it right. Forming any kind of alliance with the Iranians in the war on terror is a deadly mistake. Eject the Iranians from Iraq and evict the mullahs from Tehran. Support the Iranian people instead of their oppressors.

Struan Stevenson was a Conservative Member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014, representing Scotland. He was President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014. He is currently President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).


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