Terrorist group invades Iraq, American bombs hit the ground

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Two Syrian boys who fled with their families from the violence in their village, look on as one holds a gun toy at a displaced camp, in the Syrian village of Atmeh, near the Turkish border with Syria, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012.(AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)

Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Kafi

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The United States declared war on a terrorist group that rules more than half of Syria and Iraq on Sept. 18 2014. However, in order to understand this current crisis centered in Iraq, one must first look at previous American invasions of Iraq and their impact on the society, economy and infrastructure of the Middle Eastern country.
Nearly a quarter century before, on Aug. 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein, a dictator in Iraq for many decades, invaded Kuwait, a country on the Persian Gulf directly south of Iraq. Immediately, the United Nations and the United States passed economic sanctions on Iraq, preventing any food or money from entering the country for over a decade.
Before these sanctions were lifted in 2003, half a million children and half a million adults starved to death because of the lack of food and water.
After the sanctions were removed, the United States, along with many European nations, invaded Iraq in an effort to topple Hussein. Within a few months, he was removed from power, imprisoned and hanged.
However, after his disposal and many years of war, Iraq remained in utter ruin. The complete destruction of Iraq re-opened a dark chapter in its history, a chapter that has taken the lives of more than 100,000 men, women and children.
“I wish more people knew what America did in Iraq and how they left,” senior Muhammad Karim, a refugee from Iraq who has lived in America for five years, said. “The American military left while the Iraqi people were still getting hurt, getting bombed, getting killed.”
Sectarian violence which had not been seen for decades before Hussein’s dismissal in 2003 returned to the country that was once the most powerful nation in the Middle East.
“The roots of the crisis in Iraq today do not go back to the American invasion [in 2003],” Dr. Marvin Rogers, retired political science professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia and a specialist on third world societies and politics said. “They go back to Mesopotamia, and they go back 7,000 years. You have a multiethnic population which does not share anything except a commitment to doing and controlling what is best for their group without caring too much about anything else.”
Iraq contains three major different ethnic groups; the Shia, who compromise 60-65 percent of the total population, the Sunni, with 15-20 percent of the population, and the Kurds, who are approximately 17 percent of the total population, according to a recent UN report.
The Sunni and Shia are “two major branches of Islam and the basic fundamental difference was a disagreement on who should have been the fourth successor to Muhammad around 700 A.D.,” Dr. Rogers said. The majority of the Muslim population in Iraq is Shia, which is similar to the population ratios in Iran and Bahrain.
“The Kurds are Sunni, but their language is separate from Arabic and they are not limited to Iraq,” Dr. Rogers said. “There are Kurds in Turkey, Syria and Iran.”
Kurdistan, a province in northeastern Iraq, is home to more than four million Kurds. There are even more Kurds in Iran and Turkey, in addition to the Kurdish population in Iraq.
“The Kurds are like the Jews prior to Israel,” Dr. Rogers said. “They are a group of people with a shared sense of identity, but the only difference is that the Kurds do not have a piece of land that is theirs.”
Although Kurds are classified as one of the largest ethnic groups without a place to call home, Kurdistan serves as a makeshift country for them. In Iraq, Kurdistan has its own military and government, along with a lot of oil under the soil.
“The Iranians and the Turks are very unhappy with the notion that Kurdistan in northern Iraq could establish complete autonomy,” Dr. Rogers said. “If that happens, then the Kurdish minority in their countries would want to establish complete autonomy as well.”
Many weeks ago, a group called ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, saw an opportunity to invade northern Iraq and claim land from the corrupt and divided government of the country. With just a few thousand troops, they managed to kick the Iraqi government’s entire army from Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq.
“The Iraqi army fled when a small group ,[ISIS], approached them, and they left their weapons, given by the United States,” Dr. Rogers said. “These rebels have tanks now, and their area expands from Syria through to Iraq.”

Two Syrian boys who fled with their families from the violence in their village, look on as one holds a gun toy at a displaced camp, in the Syrian village of Atmeh, near the Turkish border with Syria, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012.(AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)
Two Syrian boys who fled with their families from the violence in their village, look on as one holds a gun toy at a displaced camp, in the Syrian village of Atmeh, near the Turkish border with Syria, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012.(AP Photo used with permission/ Khalil Hamra)

Though the Iraqi military was equipped with American weapons, tanks, aircrafts and missiles, they left all their weaponry in Mosul, thus allowing ISIS to take the incredibly powerful and technologically advanced military arms for themselves to use against the Iraqi government in the south.
“ISIS is a break off from Al-Qaeda with an egotistical, self-centered leader who has been extraordinarily successful,” Dr. Rogers said. “ISIS has amazed the world by the sheer competence by their military and their use of the media.”
Under Saddam Hussein’s rule, from the late ‘70s to the early 21st century, the dominant group in Iraq were the Sunnis. However, when the new government was put in place, the entire political atmosphere changed.
“The dominant ethnic group which had been suppressed for decades by the Sunni began to completely run the show [after the American invasion],” Dr. Rogers said. “Power, job and opportunities were all given to the people who were denied them under Saddam Hussein.”
“The educated population of Iraq have the feeling that there is no future for them because there is one group of people who control everything, from position in power to influence to money, and the government is absolutely and utterly corrupt,” Dr. Rogers said. “They are stealing the money and the opportunities. People can tolerate money corruption, but they cannot tolerate the fact that they have no future.”
The idea of a nation-state was developed in Europe, where, according to Dr. Rogers, it worked. Each different nation-state was united by a relatively common language, like French in France, English in England, and Spanish in Spain, and each had a similar culture and heritage. However, when the European imperialists split up Africa and the Middle East into multiethnic nation-states, they did not take any of these factors into consideration.
“After World War I, all of the boundaries of the Middle East were drawn by the British and the French and they reflect the aspirations of their imperialist governments,” Dr. Rogers said. “The boundaries of Iraq were established by outsiders for the benefit of the British and the French. They brought together three major and many minor religious and ethnic groups and placed them in one area which they called Iraq.”
If Iraq had been divided in a similar way to Europe, it would look much different than it does today. The Kurds speak Kurdish, and their heritage is much different than the Sunnis in the west and the Shia in the south. Many of the Shia speak either Arabic, Farsi or both, and almost all Sunnis speak only Arabic. The Shia and the Sunni, although both are branches of the same religion, share little in common and have proved unable to coexist.
ISIS currently controls most of the north of Iraq. After they released a video of an ISIS insurgent beheading James Foley, an American journalist who disappeared in Syria a few years ago, President Obama decided to begin bombing the group.
“From the perspective of northern Iraq, it is a good war because America is trying to get ISIS out,” Karim said. “But from America[’s perspective], it is bad because they are spending so much money.”
According to current Pentagon estimates, America has already spent over half a billion dollars in just bombing the area under ISIS control. A few weeks ago, Obama announced that he would send 350 special forces to Northern Iraq to combat the impending threat to the Iraqi government, America’s ally since 2006.
Karim, along with Dr. Rogers, hope that this new operation will not result in another Iraq war similar to the Iraq war that lasted from 2003 to 2011. Unless America believes ISIS is a big enough threat for a full fledged war, there would be no reason for one. However, comments from Obama and congress so far have hinted at that possibility.
By Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Kafi