U.S. war moves in response to the advance of reactionary Islamic State forces are not designed to aid the toiling majority who live there, contrary to Washington’s pretenses. Like all previous military actions in the region, Washington’s current campaign is designed to defend the economic and political interests of the U.S. rulers and the local oppressors beholden to them.
At the same time, working people the world over should back the oppressed Kurdish people’s fight to repel Islamic State forces and their struggle for a sovereign nation in Iraqi Kurdistan.
When the victorious powers of London and Paris carved up the Middle East following World War I, they denied the Kurds a homeland. Standing against their struggle today are the imperialist powers of America and Europe, as well as the Turkish, Arab and Persian rulers of the Middle East.
The Kurdish Peshmerga is the most formidable army engaged in battle against Islamic State forces, but lacks adequate weaponry.. The Kurdish fighters need to obtain weapons from wherever they can, including the paltry quantities Washington gives them.
Washington supported the Iraqi government of President Saddam Hussein and its bloody war against the Iranian Revolution in the 1980s. Then in 1991, when the Hussein regime’s actions ran into conflict with the U.S. rulers, Washington slaughtered more than 150,000 Iraqis. It claimed “victory” and the triumph of a “new world order.”
Today, however, we can see this was the beginning of a new world disorder, a disorder accelerated by the U.S. “war on terror” in Iraq that began in 2003.
Washington’s second Iraq war overthrew the Sunni-dominated Hussein dictatorship, but brought more death and dislocation. It also brought unintended consequences — both setbacks and openings for working people.
When Washington pulled out in 2011, it left behind a shaky, Shiite-dominated capitalist regime. This accelerated the disintegration of the imperialist order imposed a century earlier, including the nation-states of Iraq and Syria themselves.
While Shiite Arabs in Iraq were freed from the oppression of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Socialist Party, the Shiite-dominated government marginalized the Sunni Arabs, fueling a sectarian war. Iran’s influence in Baghdad and over sectarian Shiite militias grew. Reactionary al-Qaeda offshoots gained a growing foothold in the Sunni-Arab regions.
As these forces fought each other, the Kurds had space to advance in Iraq, as well as in Turkey. Mass protest movements erupted in the region, overthrowing tyrannies in Egypt and Tunisia.
In Syria, a popular uprising was brutally crushed by the Bashar al-Assad regime. The U.S. rulers feared the rebellion of the masses more than they opposed Assad, and the Barack Obama administration cut a deal with Moscow that strengthened Assad and let secular opposition forces bleed. The devastation and chaos provided fertile ground for Islamic State to grow and prepare its offensive.
Islamic State is not at heart a religious movement, despite its call for an Islamist Caliphate. It is a sectarian political movement whose goal is to take advantage of capitalist disorder to seize territory and economic control.
Islamic State’s brutality, oppression of women and contempt for human dignity close down political space for working people to organize and fight.
What is most important for working people is not who or what we are against; it’s what we’re for. In the fight against the Islamic State that means backing all efforts by the Kurdish fighters to defeat them and establish an independent nation in Iraqi Kurdistan. And supporting all struggles by workers and farmers, including against imperialist war.
Washington escalates war moves in Iraq, Syria
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