Opinion / OP Rana

Cauldron of war boiling over in Iraq

By Op Rana (China Daily) Updated: 2014-07-01 07:40

Cauldron of war boiling over in IraqThe irony is complete. The country that defied the United Nations to lead an invasion of Iraq, the country that is squarely to blame for the tragic mess that Iraq is in today, the country that is responsible for the deaths of at least half a million people and the displacement of many more in what was once one of the leading economies and most open societies in the Middle East, is now being implored by the Iraqi government to come to its aid against an extremist force that in more ways than one was born out its divisive policies.

The "war on terror" that former US president George W. Bush declared after the Sept 11, 2001, attacks on the United States ignited the tinder box that was the Middle East then. The region (along with Afghanistan) has been exploding since then, devouring its own people with regularity and at times inflicting "collateral damage" on some of the world powers that colluded to seize the country in their greedy quest for oil on the pretext that Saddam Hussein was commanding an arsenal of "weapons of mass destruction" so large that it could debilitate the entire world.

The destructive march of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (or the Levant) in Iraq, against which Iraq is seeking US help, should not come as a surprise to people familiar with the situations in Iraq since the US invasion and Syria after the breakout of the civil war more than three years ago. ISIS has taken advantage of the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and the disarray that the Iraqi security forces are in. The eight-year-old extremist organization is essentially Sunni and opposed to the Shiite governments in Iraq and Syria.

But interestingly, a Sunni-majority Syria ruled by a Shiite (Alawite) government and a Shiite-majority Iraq ruled by a Sunni minority both followed the principles of the Ba'athParty, which was formed on the motto of Arab "unity, liberty and socialism". Not surprisingly the two countries were examples of the most open and advanced societies in the Middle East. The problem was that both Iraq, despite Saddam's dalliance with the US during the Iran-Iraq war, and Syria viewed the West with suspicion.

This is where the economics of war came in. And when it comes to a war economy, can the US afford not to be involved? After all, seven of the top 10 arms-selling companies in the world are US. The largest of these, Lockheed Martin, sold arms worth $36 billion in 2012, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The SPIRI does acknowledge that the sale of arms in 2012 was the lowest since 1998, but it also says that the "business of war" remains good, with the 100 largest arms producers and military services contractors selling weapons worth $395 billion in 2012, the most recent year for which figures are available.

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