The Western war against ISIS is not going well. The takeover of the Iraqi city of Ramadi was a humiliating defeat for the US-led coalition.
This could lead to problems for the Harper government, intent on projecting a tough international image. It will also erode support for the war in Canada, something the Conservatives were relying on in the lead up to the federal election this year. A defensive Canadian Defence Minster Jason Kenney spoke about the loss of Ramadi and the best he could come up with was, “We’re not losing.” He went on the repeat the same talking point that the West is curtailing ISIS expansion.
But the trends on the ground in Iraq and Syria don’t show that the US and Canada have degraded ISIS. In fact, the bombing campaigns are increasing support for the group. Many Sunnis in Iraq find themselves stuck between militias allied with an Iraqi government they don’t trust and has a terrible track record of abuses, and ISIS—which they may not support but may be forced to side with.
In Syria the players are different but the results are similar. Stuck between the Assad government and ISIS and its affiliates leaves no palatable options. It has become common for many in Iraq and Syria to describe their situation as between the hammer and the anvil. This is leading to increased support for ISIS—not a degrading of their position.
The loss of Ramadi also means the loss of huge amounts of US military equipment to ISIS. Already, they had gained possession of 2,300 humvees, 40 M1A1 battle tanks and tens of thousands of small arms. The US plans to send even more heavy and sophisticated weapons to Iraq which may fall into the hands of ISIS. Essentially, Western governments are continually—albeit sometimes indirectly—arming the same people that they are fighting.
And yet, US and Canadian politicians have the gall to blame the failures of their war exclusively on the Iraqis themselves. After more than a decade of war and the obliteration the country, the blame for the current situation sits squarely with the US and it’s coalition partners. This fact is no longer being concealed. US presidential nominees are working overtime to distance themselves from the war in Iraq, with even Jeb Bush saying that he would not have invaded in 2003.
That hasn’t stopped them from being disgustingly colonial in their descriptions of the war. Donald Rumsfeld recently stated that the real problem was that Iraqis were not ready for democracy and that the US should have realized that at the time.
There is a danger that the West will need to up the ante to preserve its interests in Iraq and Syria. The majority of NATO politicians are calling for more training for the Iraqi army as a means of stabilizing the situation. This isn’t going to work. The US spent a decade and more than $26 billion on training in Iraq already.
As that strategy falls apart there are few options remaining. One is to send in ground troops but there is little political appetite for that in many Western countries. The only solution for the besieged people of the area is for all foreign troops to be removed. The Conservative government in Canada has no interest in doing so. It will be up to us, therefore to remove the warmongers from Ottawa.