Thursday, September 3, 2015


A little late, but here's my article, which appeared in the Bakersfield Californian earlier this week. I've added the pictures.


What are the primary factors behind the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria?
While many like to believe ISIS is a product of President Obama pulling our troops out of Iraq many more forget it was President Bush who signed the Status of Forces Agreement mandating we leave Iraq at end of 2011.
We also know ISIS was initially made up of post-Saddam al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) forces who teamed up with former Baathist soldiers once loyal to Saddam Hussein. While the AQI forces filled a political vacuum after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Baathist soldiers joined the cause in part because they were unemployed after being removed from their positions by America's caliphate in Iraq, Paul Bremer. The Islamic State of Iraq was proclaimed in 2006.

Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made things worse by doing nothing when Shia-led police and soldiers committed atrocities against Sunnis in Iraq. This helped the Sunni-led ISIS recruit new fighters.
Even though AQI and Baathist military men had similar interests — political power — their ideological and strategic differences resulted in their split. AQI disavowed the Baathist-led ISIS in 2014 because ISIS became, of all things, too brutal.
But these "roots of ISIS" explanations miss the larger issue. We have ISIS because we invaded Iraq and removed Saddam Hussein; the one person who helped keep a lid on religious extremism in the region.

That we conveniently forget this history is part of an evolving political psychosis in the U.S. that started when we bought into the lie that Saddam Hussein was involved with 9/11. This psychosis deepened when we confused Saddam's “nuclear capabilities” with al Qaeda’s intentions.
Willfully ignoring these developments blinds us as we struggle to determine our next move in the Middle East. Specifically, as Congress debates President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran we’re hearing the same drums of war that we heard in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq. And like a blind man in a room full of deaf people, many in Congress want to trash the Iran deal and march towards the beat, as if more posturing and war will bring stability to the Middle East.
Developing events in the region tell us this mindset is shortsighted and foolish.
With ISIS creeping closer to the Iranian border, Iran’s currently developing closer ties with Iraq to defeat ISIS.

With Shias dominant in both Iran and Iraq reports tell us that the Iranians are running the show in the fight against ISIS in Iraq. This means the U.S. and Iran are tacitly cooperating in Iraq.
Then we have this nugget. Newly declassified documents reveal we inadvertently supported the rise of ISIS as we tried to overthrow Syrian president Bashar Assad.
This happened when we armed and trained "vetted" groups fighting Syrian strongman Assad. Incredibly, the CIA airlifted arms to "Syrian rebels" to help the cause in spite of a CIA report - requested by President Obama - revealing it "rarely works" when we covertly arm and train rebel groups (funding the mujaheddin against the Soviets worked, but their transformation into al Qaeda negates this “success”).
The point is short sighted policies and foreign policy bluster helped create the disaster in the Middle East we see today. Throw in the fact that our intelligence agencies blew it on 9/11 because of petty turf disputes and bureaucratic practices that border on incompetence, and it’s easy to see how mindless intervention helped create ISIS.
For those wondering how we could get it so wrong in the region remember one thing: We’ve had plenty of practice.
If the CIA had not overthrown the democratically elected and secularist Iranian government in 1953 - led by Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddegh - the Shah of Iran would not have come to power. The Shah ran such a corrupt and brutal regime he was overthrown by the radicalized Mullahs, which facilitated the hostage crisis in 1979.

When the Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in Iran his politics scared the U.S. and regimes throughout the Middle East. No one wanted radical Islamists on their doorsteps.
Our policy response was to arm and support the one guy in the region we could effectively use against the Iranians, Saddam Hussein.
Donald Rumsfeld greets Saddam Hussein
So, by all means, let's trash the Iranian nuclear deal and support Iraq as they fight ISIS ... or ISIS elements against Assad ... or Iran as they support Iraq ... or whoever will help us fight the bad guy of the day.
What could possibly go wrong?
Mark A. Martinez, Ph.D., is professor and chair of political science at California State University Bakersfield.

- Mark 

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