For over three months, ever since it over-ran Mosul on June 11, the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and its atrocities have been making headlines. And for the past seven weeks US imperialism has been bombing ISIS forces from the air while the Kurdish peshmerga, Iraq’s Shia ‘army’ and the Iranian regime’s commandos fight it on the ground.

However, just as the 2003 American invasion led to the formation of ISIS out of al-Qaeda in Iraq, by absorbing the Sunni (and even Baathist) resistance to the occupation, tomorrow’s likely vote in Westminster in favour of bombing raids in Iraq will not only not destroy ISIS and other Sunni jihadi groups in the region but create more Sunni resentment and supply the likes of ISIS with even more recruits across the world. There will be new and perhaps even more brutal variants of ISIS.

A third imperialist war in Iraq (and Syria) will also strengthen Bashar al-Assad and Haider al-Abadi’s regimes and their benefactors in Tehran!

Preparing public opinion

At first there were the atrocities against Iraq’s Christian, Yazidi and Turkmen minorities. Then there was the fight-back against ISIS by the Kurdish peshmerga and American support for them – including arms supplies by the CIA. Following the replacement of Nouri al-Maliki with Haider al-Abadi, a figure acceptable both to the Americans and their new unofficial ally, the Iranian regime, the US also provided further help for Iraq’s ragtag ‘army’.

Yet, due to the pack of lies that the masses in America and Britain were told in the lead up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, an imperialist war that was supposed to make the world safe from terrorist attacks and weapons of mass destruction, public opinion has been against intervention in the Middle East ever since.

In August 2013 British imperialism’s parliament turned down Prime Minister David Cameron’s invitation to bomb Bashar al-Assad’s regime. With almost two-thirds of Americans against intervention to stop Syria’s civil war, President Barack Obama who had said that the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime was his “red line,” took up Russia’s disarmament plan and did not go to Congress for a vote on air strikes. (Obama was actually outmanoeuvred by President Vladimir Putin.)

Even after Mosul was captured by ISIS 54 per cent of Americans were still against air strikes. The beheading of US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff in late August and early September, and the propaganda value of such atrocities for imperialism’s militarist drive, have shifted public opinion so that now 53 per cent of American are in favour of air strikes! Public opinion in Britain has also changed since the beheading of aid worker David Haines and threats against Alan Henning, the aid convoy driver. In six weeks support for military action has gone from 37 (in early August) to 53 per cent now. ISIS has once again made imperialist intervention in the Middle East acceptable.

Another important factor that has restrained the imperialist powers’ military forces from becoming more involved – and more quickly – has been the economic and political constraints of the 2007-8 financial crash and ensuing economic crisis. Workers, and even many petty-bourgeois people, have had to endure many years of cuts in public spending (encompassing all sorts of essential services) and real wages, as the task of reducing the deficit and borrowing has become the central concern of all politicians, no matter which class they are supposed to represent!

The shifting sands in Syria

Thirteen months after Obama and Cameron had to eat their words about bombing the Assad regime they are effectively helping it to fight off the most serious internal military threat to its survival. The bombing of ISIS in Iraq by American and French imperialism, and now the US air strikes against ISIS and various other Sunni jihadi groups in Syria, are strengthening the minority Alawite regime.

The recent bilateral talks between US imperialism and the Iranian regime, and the meetings between Hassan Rohani and David Cameron and Francois Hollande, are part of the final moves in the rapprochement between these two reactionary camps as their interests in the region become almost fully compatible.

The workers and all exploited and oppressed masses in the region should see the new, and for now unofficial, co-operation between imperialism and Iran’s blood-soaked Shia fundamentalist bourgeois dictatorship, as a warning that their struggles will now be squeezed between the combined forces of hi-tech ‘democratic’ imperialism and reactionary regional powers like the Iranian regime.

The only force on the planet that can break this reactionary alliance is the independent mobilisation and organisation of the working class across the imposed and artificial borders of the Middle East. A workers’ front against war, poverty and all other consequences of the capitalist system, and for socialism as the only alternative social order for all of humanity, maybe just a slogan for a number of years to come. But it provides the only blueprint for building movements and organisations that can stop further decades of slaughter and escalating exploitation and lead to the overthrow of the capitalism itself.

Morad Shirin
25 September 2014