Will we have a Gulf War III?

Last Updated: Fri, Jun 27, 2014 14:10 hrs

A lot of people looking at the ISIS terror problem in Iraq must be thinking it's an internal matter caused by local issues and groups. But it is part of a long tale of Iraqi instability that has been caused by non-stop foreign interference over many decades.

When Colonialism ended in the world many countries became independent. Some subsequently shed major foreign military interference from their lands (like India), but others like Iraq were not so lucky.

Iraq got Independence from Britain in 1932 but before going, they installed the Hashemite dynasty as foreign powers find it easy to deal with kings and dictators especially when it comes to such a precious issue such as oil.



However when the monarchy was overthrown in a coup in 1941, the British got jittery and invaded Iraq and re-installed the monarchy. When the monarchy was ousted again in 1958 by General Abd al-Karim Qasim, the foreign powers again got jittery, but this time it was America which was the superpower.

The CIA did its best to oust Qasim and there is also a famous story of them trying to do away with him using a poisoned handkerchief. When Saddam Hussein subsequently came to power, the US shared a love-hate relation with both Iraq and its enemy Iran.

In the 1970s, the US shared a great relationship with Iranian leader Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the CIA instigated the Kurdish rebellion that led to a civil war in Iraq. Then the tables turned and after the Iranian Revolution of 1979 that saw the coming of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who was totally against the Americans.


Now the Americans were veered away from Iran and towards Iraq. When the Iran-Iraq war broke out, the US decided to throw their weight behind Iraq (except for the brief Iran-Contra affair when arms were diverted to Iran).

Saddam became more and more emboldened and the US totally turned a blind eye against his cruelty and misdeeds as dictator of Iraq. It all came to a head when Saddam invaded Iraq and that led to the Gulf War of 1991.

It was a brutal war and Iraq saw the death of tens of thousands of soldiers while US casualties were in the minimum. The Americans had lost the taste for an all-out war after the disaster of Vietnam War that ended in the 1970s.

But now the Americans were back in business. However just like the British should have ended their interference in Iraq in 1932, the Americans should have done so in 1991. But that was not to be.

The US invaded Iraq again in 2003 and while they gave a host of reasons for their actions, in the end it seemed like no reason at all. And this one was more devastating for the US. While Gulf War I lasted 6 months, Gulf War II lasted a whopping 8 years.

While Gulf War I saw less than 500 US soldiers being killed in action, Gulf War II saw a whopping 4000 casualties. But it was more devastating for Iraq. Not only did 35,000 Iraqis lay down their lives, but it left behind a weakened Iraqi government.

It is this vacuum that the ISIS has been successful in filling. Make no mistake about it. The rise of ISIS has a lot to do with the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

As of now, the US has said that it is not interfering in Iraq affairs. Thousands of troops are not headed for Iraq and there are no signs that they will be. But that is today.

Things change very fast in West Asia. What if ISIS captures Baghdad and takes over most of the country? What if the Sunni militant group challenges Shia Iran? What if ISIS decides to take off from where Al-Qaeda left and starts terrorizing the world?

Will we then have a Gulf War III? If all the above really does happen, then won't the US be justified in invading Iraq again and won't it have the support of most of the world? People will support their war against ISIS the way they supported the war against Al-Qaeda.

But why did Britain invade Iraq in 1941 after it had given it Independence in 1932?

Why did the US invade Iraq in 2003 when it had totally solved the Kuwait problem in 1991?

Iraq has been caught in one real vicious cycle of foreign interference with no end in sight.

Now if there is no foreign interference, then the ISIS will may see an unfettered rise.

But if we have Gulf War III, then it will lead to its own set of problems for Iraq in the years to come.

For the common Iraqi, it's Catch-22.

Image: Iraqi Shiite men parade their weapons in the shrine city of Karbala, in central Iraq, on June 25, 2014 after they volunteered to protect the Shiite holy sites in central and south Iraq in case of an attack by Sunni militants led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Iraq's top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said that Sunni jihadists who have overrun swathes of territory must be expelled from the country before it is too late. (AFP)

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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here.