Three weeks ago I wrote about the disastrous decision-making in the Bush administration which led to the invasion of Iraq, the removal of its functioning government, and the failed occupation of the country.
The subsequent decision to leave the country to its own devices has only exacerbated the problem. Having broken the country’s government – really, the only thing which held its society together – and failed to replace it with functional institutions before they left, the Americans have created a nightmare for the people who live there.
From The Independent:
Omar is one of a tidal wave of Iraqis trying to get out of Iraq as the war continues and insecurity grows worse by the day. Kidnapping is rife in Baghdad, with victims ranging from three-year-old children to the deputy Minister of Justice.
Eighteen Turkish construction workers were abducted by a Shia militia and moved to Basra without the government being able to do anything about it. In addition there are daily bombings by Isis which a multitude of government checkpoints fail to stop.
Focus in Europe has been on refugees from the war in Syria, but a mood of desperation and despair is also sweeping through Iraq. Over the last eighteen months the surge in fighting has raised the number of people displaced from their homes to over three million or 10 per cent of the population according to the International Organisation for Migration. Even in the Kurdish north, where security is much better, one can see young men on the streets with heavy rucksacks as they start the long trek towards Europe.
The five or six million Sunni Arabs in Iraq are particularly vulnerable because they are suspected by the Kurds and Shia of secretly sympathising with Isis. Many stories may be apocryphal, but Kurds and Shia claim that wherever Isis advanced, it is aided by “sleeper cells” in Sunni districts.
If the Shia or Kurds recapture an area, the Sunni are given short shrift and, since Isis captured Mosul in June 2014, one million Sunni have fled to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) zone from Anbar province and the provinces around Baghdad. Isis’ capture of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, on 17 May this year, saw another 180,000 Sunni take to the roads in search of safety.
As in Syria, millions of people in Iraq are despairing of ever living a normal life with a job. The mass exodus from the country is gathering pace. “There are eighteen or nineteen planes a day leaving Iraq filled with people with one way tickets,” lamented a former senior official in Baghdad, who did not want his name published.
A foreign diplomat in KRG, who also wishes to remain anonymous, says that “there are 700 or 800 young men leaving from the two airports here every day, most of whom want to go to Europe. Some of them even have a job and a salary, but see no future here”. He added that, because there is more sympathy in the EU for Syrian refugees than those from Iraq, Iraqi refugees often throw away their passport and claim to be from Syria.
I asked Salim al-Jabouri, the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, who recently visited London and is the most important non-Jihadi Sunni leader in Iraq, about the fate of his community. He said that Sunni demands for fair treatment and power sharing needed to be satisfied, but he did not sound confident that this would happen soon.
In his own province of Diyala, he said that kidnappings and killings of Sunni were increasing. I asked him what advice he would give to a Sunni like my former driver Omar, a man who fears for his life, is without any prospects inside Iraq, and who wants to flee the country. Mr Jabouri said that it was “difficult for me to say, but we must create an environment in which Omar could live in Iraq”. Omar and millions like him cannot wait that long.
A horrendous crime. For which I partly blame that old rascal, moral hazard, which is always in the room when mischief is afoot.
Earlier today, in my readings, I came across this outstanding insight from Ilana Mercer, criticising the blinkered thinking of the neoconservatives who have brought such appalling devastation to the people of the Middle East:
The base [of the Republican Party], I hope, will realize that neoconservatives are still in the business of creating their own parallel reality and forcing ordinary Americans, Europeans and Middle-Easterners to inhabit the ruins.
Even now, they haven’t learnt their lessons. Which is terrifying in its implications.