Magazine article The Spectator

Leading Article: The New Iraq War

Magazine article The Spectator

Leading Article: The New Iraq War

Article excerpt

Seven weeks ago, Barack Obama proclaimed that 'it's time to turn the page on more than a decade of war'. The people of Iraq do not have this option. They've seen, in Basra, Iran-backed militias take on and defeat the British military. They've seen highly effective jihadis, disowned by al-Qa'eda for their brutality, take control of a major city, Fallujah, just 40 miles from Baghdad. This week they have seen their second city, Mosul, fall to that same band of psychopaths. If Syria is anything to go by, religious cleansing, beheadings and even crucifixions will soon begin.

A new Iraq war is now underway. On one side is Nouri al-Maliki, Prime Minister of Iraq, on the other an al-Qa'eda offshoot called the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' (ISIS) which aims to create an Islamic emirate in the Iraq-Syria border. It is proving remarkably successful, having already created a de facto state -- now with two cities, and a substantial amount of land. This whole area, controlled by ISIS, has become a safe haven for jihadis being driven out of Pakistan by drone strikes. Terror has found a new home.

We hear little about this in Britain because it is not a problem anyone is inclined to solve. Privately, the Foreign Office is operating on the assumption that ISIS will keep the land it now holds, for the next few years at least. In Washington, officials are saying that the fall of Mosul is not regarded as a serious turning-point. There is no appetite to become embroiled in another war, or even to give the Iraqi army the air support it would need to retake Mosul. The unofficial policy is to let ISIS create its new country, and keep talking as if Iraq is on a bumpy road to democracy.

The fall of Mosul is a catastrophe but it speaks volumes about the direction of the region. Borders are falling apart as groups like ISIS render the differences between countries unimportant. Just as the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan was irrelevant for the militants, so the border between Iraq and Syria has become irrelevant now. It is impossible to talk about one country without discussing the other.

Barack Obama used to boast that al-Qa'eda was on the run -- its leadership decapitated and hounded out of the West. Much of this was true. But it now emerges that America and Britain have been chasing shadows: as soon as they outmanoeuvre one enemy, another emerges,. …

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