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No silent nights in Iraq

The US-led coalition took on its ‘advisory’ role against the Islamic State (Isis) in July. As we enter December, the total number of airstrikes against militants has passed 1,000, with an estimated 2,000 militants killed and a tenth of that again in civilian losses. Yet despite the “heavy toll” that, according to US Secretary of State, John Kerry, the group has suffered, the war – in its current form – will still take years to resolve.
And now things are getting more awkward. In recent days, footage has emerged of Iranian F4 Phantom jets performing airstrikes of their own against Isis strongholds. Iran has been a keen supporter of Iraq’s Shia government, but the US categorically refuses to cooperate with Iran on any matters, let alone a military one; they have done ever since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. And questions continue to be raised against US policy in the area, as they seemingly have no problem in coordinating their efforts with those of Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad.
Indeed, the Syrian civil war is close to completion, with only a few isolated areas still in rebel hands. The government, it seems, has won, and now Al-Assad has seamlessly turned the war against his own rebels into the war against Isis, both to drive all opposition out of his territory, and to earn himself some brownie points with currently disillusioned Western governments. At the same time, the US has accused Turkey of directly aiding Isis by supplying them with arms and munitions, as well as allowing volunteers to cross their border to join the fight, allegations which Turkey strongly denies.
The situation in the Middle East has transcended a war against an apparently ‘illegal’ state, which controls an area with a population of some eight million. Instead, it has become a diplomatic minefield, with the US at the centre of attention. If the US continues to pursue a hypocritical and generally nonsensical policy in its dealings with Middle Eastern nations, it may well begin to find its credibility at the head of Nato damaged. If it can play its cards right, however, it can secure strong bonds in countries that it has done little but harm in the past two decades.
Isis, however, remains unperturbed. More videos of beheadings emerge. More and more recruits flock to join their ranks – although these numbers are dwindling with the futility of their cause becoming more and more apparent. Despite claims that key figures in the organisation have been killed, they do not seem to lose morale, and fighting is as fierce as ever. Unless the coalition takes the next step seriously and decides to deploy troops in an active role, the illegal Islamic nation will continue to exist for some time.
It raises the question, then, of what would happen if a full military mission did take place, with dozens of Nato nations deploying in force to the area. Would there be a series of pitched battles over key strongholds, whereupon the brave coalition overwhelm with their superior numbers and technology? Not likely. Instead, one would see a situation like we did in Afghanistan, where the enemy simply melted into the countryside and a period of guerrilla warfare ensued, which is still unresolved; the UK and US departure from Afghanistan was marked by the sounds of renewed fighting with the Taliban.
And what of Kurdistan? Another unofficial, unrecognised state, consisting of Kurds from Turkey, Syria and Iraq, locked in fierce combat with Islamic militants, suffering airstrikes. When this conflict is resolved, should their state be formally recognised and allowed to exist as a new nation in the Levant? Would that not raise the question, to Isis supporters, of “why them and not us”? Acts of barbarism are a convincing reason for some, but not every one of their supporters is a barbarian. If Iraq, Syria and Turkey decide to fight the Kurds afterwards as the Kurds lay claim to their territory, much like Isis does, would the US turn the coalition against
Kurdistan as well? Is support of dictators like Al-Assad and fighting against the principle of self-determination the only way to maintain an element of stability in the region?
We may not see a resolution to this conflict and answers to these questions for many years. As the people living under Isis enter their first Christmas, one has to hope that an end with as little bloodshed as possible can come sooner rather than later. It is difficult for us to imagine celebrating Christmas with a fear of an airstrike looming overhead – or indeed, being told we are not allowed to celebrate it at all.

09/12/2014

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oliverhughes Aspiring writer and accidental journalist Oliver is an English Literature student usually found making bitter remarks about society, people, and the world in general. Still adjusting to the dark media hub from his previous position atop a golden throne as president of the Creative Writing Society. Locally renowned as a music snob but still has no shame in singing ‘Call Me Maybe’ at the LCR.


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