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Comments & corrections

Jun 19, 2014

Can ISIS take over the Middle East?

Crikey readers talk the crisis in the Middle East, its players, and its possible goals.


The Middle East mess

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “Rundle: the deadly cast of characters in Iraq’s lethal ISIS game” (Tuesday). The usual torrent of letters critical of the US and proposing inaction in Iraq seem to have their blinkers on regarding Islamic extremist activity. The naysayers comfortable in their cynicism seem to not be able to connect their in-effect support for the likes of Saddam Hussein and even these Islamists. The late Christopher Hitchens suggested the Left be more self-critical of the outcome of their positions, and it still applies today.

The problem is not just in Iraq — the scale of Islamist outrages in the last four years has spanned (in a short and incomplete summation) Algeria, Mali, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, India, Pakistan, Syria, Nigeria, and they cannot be blamed on the US. Take the blinkers off and think a lot more, rather than just falling back onto old cynicism.

Jack Davies writes: Though I hold Guy Rundle’s journalism in the highest regard, I have a few reservations about his 17 June article on Iraq’s “deadly cast”. I have followed the Iraqi developments closely, and nothing I have read suggests that ISIL plans to, or would be remotely capable of, marching on the Kurdish Autonomous Zone. I think, on a general level, Rundle overestimates ISIL’s capacity, despite its stunning successes.

Secondly, while the PKK might be summoned to rally against any ISIL invasion, it would be the well-trained, fearsome Peshmerga forces that would be defending the Kurdish region. They are the defence of the region, and many think they are the strongest force in Iraq. Therefore, issues of the PKKs communist ideology, to my mind, are barely relevant in this conflict. Not to mention the general softening of PKK ideology in recent years, to the point of a lasting (so far) unilateral ceasefire and withdrawal from Turkish territory.

Thirdly, Rundle does not mention the fact that Ankara is among the most important clients of of the Kurdistan Regional Government, and has significant energy interests in its survival. And the KRG will depend on Turkey buying its oil for income in the likely even that its 17% of Baghdad’s budget not be fully allocated to the region. It is impossible for me to imagine ISIL taking Erbil without somehow combating the might of the Turkish military, among the strongest in the region.

I appreciate that Rundle is not trying to synthesise every in and out of this conflict, but I think he has homed in on some sideways issues, and missed some very important points.

Lastly, Rundle is absolutely correct about Abbott screwing up Australia.

Ian Mannix writes: Far be it for me to give credit where it might not be due, but I cant help but wonder if the Middle East plunging into despair was top of the agenda of Osama Bin Laden, way back at 9/11,  and perhaps the disintegration of the power structures are therefore more to his influence than the historical relationships between ethnic and religious groups?

By antagonising the US into war first on the Taliban and then on Saddam Hussein, he effectively wrecked a couple of powerful dictatorships, and destabilised Pakistan, creating the conditions for extremists to believe they had a chance of taking power. If it is true that present circumstances are more due to him than history, then it’s reasonable to ask who would do the most to reverse the Bin Laden legacy? The answer: Iran. Perhaps it’s time the coalition of the willing started listening to the analysts who’ve been saying that,  since, well, 9/11. But of course if the answer is Iran, it’s not a good question.


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