It looks like we are approaching the helicopter-on-the-roof phase in Iraq, as Americans are being evacuated as the rebel army moves closer and closer to Baghdad. (To add insult to injury, the rebels are apparently making use of American equipment that was left behind.)
But the situation there is not just about us. The rebel organization is called ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. They are Sunni Muslims, which was Saddam Hussein’s denomination, seeking to overthrow the Shi’ite Muslims, who make up 60% of the population and who assumed power in the American-imposed democracy. The Sunnis are also opposed to Iran and to the Shi’ite dictatorship in Syria. Iran might actually support the existing government, as ISIS–which includes Syrian rebels ostensibly supported by the United States–seeks to create a pan-Sunni state in the region. Both factions have their jihadist terrorists and consider the USA their enemy, but they also hate each other. So this is not only a war against the West, but also an intr-Islamic religious war.
Iraq is breaking up. The Kurds have taken the northern oil city of Kirkuk that they have long claimed as their capital. Sunni fundamentalist fighters vow to capture Baghdad and the Shia holy cities further south.
Government rule over the Sunni Arab heartlands of north and central Iraq is evaporating as its 900,000-strong army disintegrates. Government aircraft have fired missiles at insurgent targets in Mosul, captured by Isis on Monday, but the Iraqi army has otherwise shown no sign of launching a counter-attack.
The nine-year Shia dominance over Iraq, established after the US, Britain and other allies overthrew Saddam Hussein, may be coming to an end. The Shia may continue to hold the capital and the Shia-majority provinces further south, but they will have great difficulty in re-establishing their authority over Sunni provinces from which their army has fled. . . .
Iran will be deeply alarmed by the appearance of a fanatically Sunni proto-state hostile to all Shia in western Iraq and eastern Syria. Abu Mohamed al-Adnani, the Isis spokesman, said today that the Shia, 60 per cent of the Iraqi population, “are a disgraced people”, accusing them of being “polytheists”.