Cross-posted at Asia Times
In an eerie echo of Dick Cheney's army's footprints reverberating in the sands of Anbar province, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and their coalition of the willing (jihadis, Islamists, Ba'athists and tribal sheikhs) now pose as the "liberators" of Iraqi Sunnis from the clutches of an "evil" Shi'ite majority government in Baghdad.
In addition, ISIS also controls the PR wars. Here, a jihadi details how any sort of possible Washington "kinetic" involvement will be interpreted as an unholy alliance between the Empire and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki against the underdogs.
From a Sunni perspective, it's down with Iraq's Counter-terrorism law; down with de-Ba'athification (with the ascent of neo-Ba'athist Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia -- JRTN, led by former Saddam honcho Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri); down with the Interior Ministry in Baghdad going after Sunni politicians; down with protests being crushed.
At the same time, it's the return of the US-sponsored Sahwa (Sons of Iraq) -- who fiercely fought al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2007, the mother of ISIS -- and the return of assorted Shi'ite militias (Muqtada al-Sadr not only repelled the new wave of US "military advisers" -- that's how it started in Vietnam -- but also warned that his own badass Men in Black will "shake the ground" fighting ISIS.) The mid-2000s are the new normal; it's gonna be militia hell all over again.
Mesopotamia, we got a problem. Neo-Ba'athists want nothing but a secular Iraq run by Sunnis, Saddam-style (rather former neocon darling Ahmad Chalabi.) ISIS wants a Caliphate extending all across the Levant under Sharia law. Something's got to give.
What will give will be the Iraqi nation itself -- the balkanized, protracted (intended) consequence of the 2003 invasion and occupation, finally transmogrified into Jihad Central.
It's payback time
The Obama administration's "strategy" (remember "Don't Do Stupid sh*t," the Ukraine strategy?) is to impose regime change on al-Maliki; after all, he had the bad taste of refusing to let US troops keep occupying Iraq past the 2012 deadline, and on top of it his government is close to Tehran.
Thus the answer to the now legendary question of how the US intel satellite maze failed to capture that long column of ISIS Men in Black in their gleaming white Toyota Land Cruisers crossing the Syrian-Iraq desert wasteland. Call it the Mother of All Intel Failures (remember Saddam's talk of Mother of All Battles?)
Here we have trademark Empire of Chaos "revenge" against Baghdad, Tehran and -- why not -- Moscow (after all Russian president Vladimir Putin offered full support to al-Maliki to fight the jihadis.) Iraq duly merges with Ukraine. And as for payback redux, it's -- almost -- all spelled out here.
As for the Beltway-peddled myth -- once again -- of "good terrorists" and "bad terrorists," this week Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria pledged its allegiance to ISIS. This means that ISIS now virtually controls both sides of the border, at Albu Kamal in Syria and Al-Qaim in Iraq. As a bonus, ISIS and allied Sunni tribal sheikhs also surrounded the US-controlled Camp Anaconda in Iraq and are ready for a long-term mortar game. Will Beltway "analysts" ever learn?
That little fiction known as Jordan -- run by King Playstation, aka Abdullah -- will be ripe for the taking as soon as hardcore Salafis from Zarqa (Zarqawi's hometown) totally align with ISIS. Add that piece of real estate to the embryo Levantine Caliphate and we'll be talking major business -- oil refineries possibly included.
"Don't Do Stupid sh*t," applied to Syria and Iraq, means that the Obama administration has gone (almost) no holds barred in its "Assad must go" policy, by the way a Ba'ath government; what's implied is that Washington is an ally of ISIS in Syria, while a (determined?) foe of ISIS in Iraq. Assad's "sin" is that he's an ally of both Tehran (like al-Maliki) and, most of all (from an American perspective), Hezbollah. And now comes the Obama administration's latest "Stupid sh*t" -- in the form of weaponizing "appropriately vetted" rebels in Syria.
Lording over this suspension of disbelief scenario, the whole Beltway, White House included, sells the illusion it is thoughtfully deliberating whether the real dangerous Men in Black here are in fact from ISIS -- and what to do about them.
As some sort of Washington-Tehran cooperation against ISIS becomes self-evident, that poses a major problem for the perennial Bomb Iran crowd in the Beltway, as well as for hardliners in Tehran; after all ISIS has erected a massive geostrategic barrier between Iran and Syria, threatening Tehran's connection with Hezbollah.
Likudniks will go no holds barred to prevent any cooperation. But that will be a detail anyway. Baghdad may get all the help it needs from Iranian special forces and militias such as Muqtada's. ISIS does not have the manpower or the expertise to lay siege to Baghdad; people in Sadr City alone would rip them to shreds. Not to mention attack Najaf and Karbala, the Shi'ite holy cities, which are already protected by heavily armed popular brigades.