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From The Socialist newspaper, 15 October 2014

Obama's strategy to beat IS lies in tatters

Tony Saunois, Committee for a Workers' International

Obama and his western allies such as Cameron argue that a policy of air strikes alone could defeat the advances made by 'Islamic state' (IS) forces in Iraq and Syria. Now with the possible defeat of Kurdish forces fighting IS for control of the city of Kobane, this policy lies in tatters.

IS forces have advanced in the city and could be on the verge of another victory. Amidst reports of horrific scenes of brutal slaughter in the city by the crazed forces of reactionary IS, US air strikes on IS forces failed to halt their advance. Those trapped in Kobane are waging a courageous fight to defeat IS or face certain slaughter.

Obama and Cameron's air strikes policy is also at risk in Iraq with major IS gains in the western province of Anbar (nearly 25% of Iraq). All Anbar's major towns except Haditha and one military base have fallen to IS.

Again the Iraqi army offered little effective resistance. In yet another humanitarian catastrophe, an estimated 750,000 people have already fled Anbar province - up to 180,000 fleeing as IS forces overran the military base near Hit.

Rapid advances

IS may now launch a further offensive to try to take the Sunni western part of Baghdad. Anbar province was the centre of the 2003 Sunni uprising against the US occupation.

A crucial element in the IS victories lies in the amount of heavy weaponry and arms they captured from disintegrating Iraqi armed forces. The rapid advances they made over vast areas of Iraq and Syria also show that the IS uprising has become a generalised Sunni uprising.

The brutal response of Shia militias near Baghdad, which have not distinguished between IS fighters and ordinary Sunni people, have driven the Sunni population under the IS umbrella as there is no other force to defend them. Shia militias in Baghdad speak openly of driving the Sunnis out from mixed areas of the city. IS has been able to gain support because of the oppression of the Sunni population under the western installed government of Maliki in Iraq following the US-led occupation.

Turkish regime

The Turkish regime of Erdogan consciously held back from intervening against IS forces advancing on Kobane. They fear the consequences that a Kurdish victory would have on the 15 million Kurdish population inside Turkey.

Most fighting in Kobane is led by the PYD - the Syrian branch of the Kurdish PKK in Turkey. The Erdogan regime would be more comfortable with an IS victory over the PYD rather than vice-versa as indicated by the agreement reached for the release of Turkish hostages held by IS. Now Turkish warplanes have cynically bombed PKK bases in Turkish Hakkari province near the Iraqi border.

There can be no trust in any of the regional leaders or western imperialism to resolve this crisis in the interests of all the region's peoples. Western imperialist intervention is only worsening the catastrophe.

The origins of the current slaughter can largely be found in the legacy of western imperialist interventions into the entire region.

No trust can be placed in the Sunni or Shia elite and rulers of the region's countries which aim to use the conflict to gain for themselves. Turkey is looking to strengthen its expansion into Syria and seeking to establish a new mini form of the Ottoman empire.

Obama speaks of assembling a coalition of such Sunni powers as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE to oppose IS. However, while these countries' ruling dynasties may not fully support IS's actions, sections of them have been backing IS and all have their own regional interests and their own agendas.

Defeating IS is not their main priority. They can use the fact that IS in the short term can cause more problems for the Shia regimes in order to bolster their own interests.

United movement

To combat the horrors of IS and other reactionary sectarian forces in the region, a united movement of Sunni and Shia masses together with the Kurdish, Turkish and all other peoples must be built. To combat the reactionary threat of an IS slaughter in Kobane, such democratic committees need building to form mass militias.

In Turkey, committees of Turkish and Kurdish workers need to be formed and come together in a united way. There must be a struggle to lift Turkey's arms embargo to allow for the arming of such militias. The way forward is to build non-sectarian committees of the Arab Sunni and Shia masses together with the Kurdish people in Iraq in opposition to sectarian forces on both sides.

Such committees could form the basis of a government of workers, peasants and all those exploited by capitalism and imperialism that would guarantee the democratic, national and ethnic rights of all peoples of the entire area based on a democratic socialist federation of states.

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In The Socialist 15 October 2014:


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