For the moment, ignore that we went to war in Iraq in 2003 on the excuse that Saddam Hussein had WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) fully expecting that US troops would be greeted as liberators, to be showered with flowers and candy. For the moment, forget that the Iraq we had invaded almost disintegrated into a Sunni/Shi’ite civil war, with the northern Kurds standing on the sidelines, until the US military surge in 2007 temporarily shored up the situation on the ground, leaving all the old ethnic/religious tensions firmly in place. For the moment, pretend that neo-conservative predictions that the US/Iraq war would produce liberty and democracy not just in that country but throughout the region weren’t entirely idiotic.
Let’s consider just one set of factors of this fucked-up mess that the US left when America officially ended military operations in Iraq in 2011 and withdrew US troops.
When the US declared “mission accomplished” for a second time in 2011, the majority Shi’ite government held power in Baghdad with the minority Sunni population bridling under this arrangement, and the Kurds enjoying relative autonomy in the north. Enter ISIS, the radical Sunni movement for an Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. This al-Qaeda affiliate is more popular, more determined, more uncompromising and more violent than al-Qaeda itself, intent upon establishing a sharia-governed Islamic Caliphate from Lebanon through Iraq. Here are maps charting the activity of ISIS through 2014:
Let me restate matters. In 2011, when the US declared victory in Iraq, ceased military operations and withdrew its troops, the nation of Iraq was nominally a democracy under Shi’ite control and heavily influenced by Iran, with al-Qaeda decimated, on the run, and its leader Osama bin-Ladin dead. Now, in 2014, ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, is fully resurgent and militarily on the move while Iraq totters on the brink of complete collapse. Hell, the whole region remains profoundly unstable, teetering on the brink of total social chaos and bloody violence. Forget Left or Right. Anybody up for some serious war crimes trials?
Here’s the BBC’s ongoing coverage of the STRUGGLE FOR IRAQ.
[A WORD ON THE MAPS: Treat each series of multiple maps as a slide show, and try to build up a multi-layered, close to 3D image of the situation they separately are two-dimensionally attempting to portray. Merge the information the maps have in common, and accumulate the unique information each map provides.]