BY BRIAN WILLIAMS
Kurdish combatants, who’ve been leading the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq, continue to deal blows to the reactionary group as they fight alongside an unlikely assemblage of forces and simultaneously advance their fight for a homeland. Meanwhile, ruling-class support for stepped-up U.S. military intervention is growing.
A more than two-month siege by Islamic State forces of the town of Amirli, about 100 miles from Baghdad, was beaten back Aug. 31 with a combined assault led by Kurdish Peshmerga forces that included Iranian-backed Shiite militias, Iraqi army troops and U.S. airstrikes. Some 17,000 mostly Shiite Turkmen were holed up in the town.
Kurdish forces also advanced into Diyala province, retaking three villages from Islamic State forces in the Jalawla area Aug. 25, blocking a strategic path towards Baghdad, reported the Lebanon Daily Star.
In an Aug. 26 statement, Defense Secretary Charles Hagel said that seven countries had pledged weapons and ammunition to Kurdish fighters — Albania, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, France, Italy and Britain. German government officials announced Aug. 31 plans to provide the Peshmerga with thousands of machine guns and hand grenades, as well as hundreds of anti-tank missiles. The White House has “decided to take an international coalition approach,” reports The Hill website, hoping to bolster Iraq’s Shiite-dominated central government in Baghdad and mitigate the Kurds’ growing strength.
While Washington bombs Islamic State targets, Shiite militias aligned with Tehran are fighting them on the ground. While they have common immediate goals in Iraq, government officials insist they’re not working together. “We are working with the Iraqi government and with the Kurdish Peshmerga in Iraq. That’s it,” an unnamed administration spokesperson told the New York Times.
Since Aug. 8 the Pentagon has conducted more than 120 airstrikes against Islamic State forces, most near the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq.
The U.S. government is considering whether to deploy additional special forces to identify Islamic State targets and call in airstrikes. At least 40 such special operations “advisers” are currently operating out of the Kurdish city of Erbil, according to the London Guardian. Also under discussion is obtaining congressional authorization for unlimited use of force against Islamic State forces in both Iraq and Syria, an unnamed administration official told the Washington Post.
Defeating the Islamic State “will have to be addressed on both sides of what is essentially at this point a nonexistent [Syria-Iraq] border,” said Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at an Aug. 21 news conference.
According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, the proportion of people in the U.S. who think the government is doing too little in “helping solve world problems” increased from 17 percent in November 2013 to 31 percent today. The shift in public opinion reflects rising ruling class opposition to the White House’s reluctance to undertake greater intervention against Islamic State forces. Obama has been sharply criticized by a range of politicians and big-business media for telling an Aug. 28 press conference, “We don’t have a strategy yet.”
The Islamic State has grown rapidly, attracting recruits from all over the world with its quick victories. Estimates vary that it has from 10,000 to as many as 17,000 fighters, including thousands of Iraqi Sunnis, some former members of Sadaam Hussein’s Baathist Party, driven by resentment over sectarian rule by the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad.
At the same time, the Islamic State has stretched far. And its brutal, archaic brand of Sharia law — with public beheadings, amputations and lashings — can garner fear, but not a solid base of support among the population.
As the states of Iraq and Syria — cobbled together by imperialist victors of World War I — disintegrate, an increasing number of U.S. ruling-class spokespeople have been calling for a strategy that recognizes and responds to the changing reality.
“We are long past the point of debating ‘one Iraq’ versus ‘three Iraqs,’” wrote John Bolton, Washington’s ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, in the Aug. 25 National Review, “because fierce animosities have already split Iraq de facto into Kurdistan and the predominantly Arab remainder. The only outstanding issue is whether the Arab lands will themselves break into two, one largely Sunni, the other largely Shiite.”
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