You might not be aware, but Mousal, Iraq’s second largest city, fell to rebels yesterday. I work at the Iraqi embassy, something felt off, a colleague spent the day glued to the computer and everyone seemed on edge. Even the weather was stormy and tumultuous. It didn’t feature heavily on the news: it was the fourth piece down on the Guardian under the information that Theresa May wasn’t a bloke (shocking) and Le Monde and The Times weren’t featuring it much either, Facebook was quiet, Twitter too – but for me, and those with a finger on the hot-blooded Middle Eastern pulse – this is terrifying news.
The country has been increasingly unstable due to a plethora of reason, not least due to the turmoil in Syria. The Iraqi elections took place at the end of April, a government still hasn’t been announced, but Nouri Al-Maliki, the President who seems to be losing control of the dire situation, has urged the Parliament to declare a state of emergency in the country as 15,000 Mosul residents have fled – mostly further north to Arbil in the autonomous Kurdistan. Violence has spread like wildfire and hundreds of prisoners have been released as prisons were set alight and the army abandoned their posts. Indeed such is the havoc that people are leaving on foot or driving away in abandoned police vans with those who tried to fight lay dead on the streets.
ISIS is the force behind this derailment. ISIS – a phonetically chilling acronym for the ‘Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’ is an Al-Quaeda offshoot radical enough to have Al-Quaeda itself seeking distance. Their flags are black, their power is brutal and their members are full of the vitality that only comes with a disillusioned youth. And they have just looted $429 million from Mosul’s Central bank, making ISIS the world’s richest terror force. The coup seems to have taken all of four days – ‘breath-taking in its speed’ as the International New York Times reported. The region around Mosel is equally turbulent, as is Anbar province and, honestly, so is the rest of the Middle East – the cradle of civilisation, where Eden was supposed to be, where the first banking system was started, and the zero was created.
As yet, the US has informed us that it’s ‘deeply concerned’ about the situation which is ‘extremely serious’ promising to provide ‘appropriate assistance’ and Hillary Clinton, in a cheap attempt at humility to gain ground for the 2016 presidency, apologising for her vote on Iraq in 2002. I don’t care much what any of these words means, because on the ground the suicide bombings which claim about 1,000 lives per month and the cities, towns and villages that are falling are proof that it takes more than analysts and sorry politicians to undo an occupation and invasion.
Apart from despair, I’m also hugely frustrated, what do these terri rist cells want? What’s their end game apart from destroying the lives of war-torn people? They told civilians that they had no intention of attacking the city’s residents though that did little to stem the exodus. They tirade about the West’s involvement in the Middle East, well now the US and the UK have pulled out of Iraq and the country stands a chance at rebuilding and yet they’re destroying it from the inside out, proving to the meddling West that we can’t do it ourselves; that without American guns, Iraqi civilisation will not be stablised, never mind restored. In 2006-7 when the country was, for all intents and purposes, plunged into civil war, the terror reached boiling point. Corpses of neighbours were left in the middle of the street for three-days under a sniper’s aim. Anyone who approached to retrieve the body (both for dignity and burial – Muslims should be buried no more than 24 hours after death) would be shot instantly and the brutal game would recommence. It happened to our neighbours – a whole family went that way. In 2006, children were dropping out of school preferring life to literacy and in 2006 hostages were taken from their homes for ransom.
I remember this period as if it was yesterday; it was a fear so potent you could smell it. This is what real terrorism is, Muslims and Arabs in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and their diasporas etc. are the main victims in this warped extremist agenda. It our young men who die pointlessly, our grandfathers who can’t get medical care, our mothers who die in road-side bombs. It’s high time the world started realising that neither New York, London nor Mumbai are the greatest targets, it’s the homes of poor Muslim people who, in the case of Iraq, have endured over 35 years of almost perpetual war. The fall of oil-rich Mosul is not merely another example of a seemingly unending war, it is a monumental coup that signifies that ordinary people are still targeted and traumatised and that the war, fourteen years after Bush’s bloody invasion, is as on-going as ever.
I’m deliberately not mentioning the Sunni-Shiite aspect that newspapers are so keen to explicate, because to me that element, though relevant in the demographics, is almost neither here nor there. Syria’s porous border has demonstrated that no conflict, regardless of its nature, exists in a vacuum and the butterfly that gets shot in Syria can cause an earthquake in Iraq. There are a million factors at work here, all wound together in a mess of bloody and dirty threads, none of them leading anywhere apart from the unravelling of a country and region the richness of which stems as far back as civilisation itself. I’m writing this to make you aware that’s not over, do not think that because the US have sent their troops back to be greeted by yappy dogs (see YouTube videos) and the UK have managed to divert attention away from the Iraq inquiry that the Iraqi chapter in the ‘War on Terror’ is over. Iraq, and today Mosul, is still dealing with the repercussions of the mess that occurred in 2003 and the instability in the region as a whole. ISIS are now moving down to Baghdad. Pay attention to this day, a new chapter has begun.
Originally posted on Infita7 here. June 11th 2014