Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 22 June 2016

Middle East: Isis under pressure on several fronts

US-backed Kurdish Peshmerga forces replace the Isis flag following territorial gains, photo Creative Commons

US-backed Kurdish Peshmerga forces replace the Isis flag following territorial gains, photo Creative Commons   (Click to enlarge)

Working classes will take to road of mass struggle again

Niall Mulholland, Committee for a Workers' International (CWI)

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) is under attack in and around the last big three cities it holds in Iraq and Syria - Fallujah, Mosul and Raqqa - and is also struggling to hold on to Sirte, its main base in Libya.

Fallujah is the scene of the most intense fighting, as the Iraqi army and Shia militias, backed up by US, Australian and British airstrikes, attempt to drive Isis out.

The Iraqi city has been under siege for a year by these forces. Since a new offensive began on 23 May, some 68,000 Sunni civilians fled, often into the hands of sectarian Shia forces carrying out reprisals.

Human Rights Watch said it received "credible allegations of summary executions, beatings of unarmed men, enforced disappearances".

The battle for Fallujah is a useful diversion for the Shia-dominated regime in Baghdad. The Green Zone - the seat of central government - was stormed twice by poor Shias in recent months, protesting against corruption and the failure to provide electricity and other essential services.

Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi's regime is also under pressure to prevent more bloody Isis suicide bomber attacks in poor Shia areas, which allegedly emanate from Fallujah.

It is two years since Isis hit world headlines by capturing Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, having already conquered Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad.

Fallujah has long been a focus of resistance to the Bagdad regime. In 2004, the city was stormed twice by US forces, killing thousands and reducing much of it to rubble.

The conditions for the stunning success of Isis in capturing the city in 2014 were a revolt of the city's Sunni population.

The deep hatred of the Shia-dominated Baghdad regime meant some Sunnis, who make up one fifth of Iraq's 33 million population, initially welcomed or tolerated Isis rule. They desperately hoped it could mean an end to Shia persecution and would bring a measure of 'stability' and 'law and order'.

Suicide bombers

Initially the use of indiscriminate atrocities by Isis terrified and demoralised the much greater forces of the Iraqi army, which often fled the battle field. But these terror tactics are no longer as effective.

As all the armies fighting Isis are now better trained to deal with attacks, Isis turns to slaughtering more innocent civilians.

Isis still displays the ability to reorganise and launch offensives but it's losing more fighters than previously.

The likely capture of Fallujah by Iraqi government forces will be the biggest defeat suffered by Isis, so far. However its self-styled 'caliphate' remains a large area and it faces divided enemy forces - a cockpit of rivalries.

The Turkish regime is involved in an incipient civil war with the Kurdish PKK militia, in the south of the country and refuses to close off Isis's access to the wider world.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) - led by the Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG), backed by US air strikes - recently launched an offensive against the town of Manbij, west of the Euphrates, close to the Turkish border, in an attempt to stop Isis moving weapons and fighters across the border. The ultimate aim is to dislodge Isis from Raqqa.

At the same time, from the southwest, the Iraqi army, with Russian airpower backing, is also advancing on the Islamic group's self-styled caliphate capital.

All of these military manoeuvres indicate the deep antagonisms between outside powers and their regional allies.

Just as important as territorial gains are for all those battling Isis - the Kurdish Peshmerga, YPG, Iraqi army, Shia militias and the US - is who will succeed in ruling in its place. The US is most concerned at any gains made by allies of Iran, its main opponent in the region.

Fallujah is regarded by all sides as a dress rehearsal for a potentially much greater battle to capture Mosul, Iraq's second city. US bombers and their allied Kurdish Peshmerga ground forces are conducting an anti-Isis offensive in the north of Iraq, in preparation for taking Iraq's second city.

Even if Isis is routed, it does not necessarily mean the end of the organisation. It appears to be retreating from Fallujah, which it cannot hold, to preserve its experienced fighters.

But Isis can evolve into another terror movement. Other Salafist groups, like Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian wing of al-Qa'ida, are growing in popularity among Sunni Arabs in Syria.

Such groups will find fertile conditions to grow among the Sunni Arabs, who view operations like the assault on Fallujah as ethnic cleansing that is intended to drive Sunnis from Iraq. According to a US diplomat, Sunnis exist in "islands of fear" in Iraq.

Isis terror rule

Yet Isis has proven to be no solution to the desperate situation facing Sunnis. Its medieval, obscurantist rule cannot answer even the most basic problems facing working class and poor Sunnis. And its barbaric treatment of minorities repulses all others.

Over 80,000 people have fled Sirte since Isis's takeover, where in February 2015 it beheaded 21 Christians.

Isis is now struggling to hold Sirte as militias aligned with the UN-backed 'unity government' advance from Misrata, in western Libya, and a different militia advances from the east.

But even if these forces drive Isis out of Sirte, many Libyans fear it will only mean a return to the country's previous hostilities. The 'parliament' in Tobruk refused to cooperate with the UN-backed government in Tripoli and militias could return to fighting one another for control of Libya's oil ports.

The current round of anti-Isis military advances is yet another bloody carnage resulting from the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Faced with general opposition in Iraq, the US occupiers whipped up sectarian differences in order to 'divide and rule' and later adopted a policy of fanning and supporting armed sectarian opposition to the dictator Assad in Syria.

Similarly, the Nato powers decisively aided the armed overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi's regime in Libya, to further the interests of western imperialism, throwing the country into bloody chaos.

One source of the growth of Isis that the West will not train its guns on is the reactionary Gulf States and other Sunni Islam regimes that help fund and nurture jihadist movements. As the veteran Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn recently noted: "The US and EU states have not wanted to acknowledge the link between the terrorism and their strategic Sunni allies such as Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchies, Turkey and Pakistan".

On the basis of capitalism and the rule of reactionary elites and sectarian forces, more conflicts and humanitarian disasters are assured in the Middle East. Only the working and poor people of the region, allied to workers everywhere, can find a way out.

The potential for this was clearly seen during the 'Arab Spring', when dictators were overthrown by mass movements of workers and the poor in Tunisia and Egypt.

But these movements, emerging from decades of dictatorships, lacked a pro-working class leadership that could successfully mobilise the masses in a struggle against local tyrants and the capitalist system. Counter-revolution, with the support of the western powers, was able to gain the upper hand.

Yet the working classes of the region, through these bitterest experiences, will take to the road of mass struggle once more, in opposition to dictators and all sectarian forces.

An independent, united working class movement is needed to organise self-defence of all communities and minorities and to offer a socialist programme to overthrow rotten regimes, expel imperialism, and for the democratic socialist reorganisation of society.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


In The Socialist 22 June 2016:

EU referendum

After the EU referendum...get the Tories out!

Left alternative needed to counter austerity, racism and the far right

Merseyside TUSC rally: Standing up for the working class

Stoke TUSC: Exposing the EU Employers' Union

Socialist Party news and analysis

BHS pensions insult

148,000 households faced risk of eviction

Pensions 20x smaller for younger workers

Climate chaos

Brazil budget

Them & Us

LGBT liberation

Solidarity to end LGBT-phobia

LGBT liberation and socialism

Socialist Party workplace news

BFAWU conference 2016: "A council of war"

Reinstate sacked Samworth Brothers union activist

National Museum Wales strikers ballot on offer

Solid strike against "Britain's worst train company"

Unison local government conference 2016

Refugee solidarity

Convoy to Calais: Outrageous blocking of aid for refugees

International socialist news and analysis

Middle East: Isis under pressure on several fronts

CWI news in brief

Socialist Party comments and reviews

Stay Voiceless: Manics' punk spirit is alive and well

The Socialist inbox

Socialist Party campaigns

Parents in Leeds discuss attacks on education

Pathetic fascist 'demonstration' outnumbered in Bristol

Private company running primary care centre goes bust


Home   |   The Socialist 22 June 2016   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:


triangleSyria: Assad regime consolidates power after brutal counterrevolution

triangleIraq - a brutal legacy of imperialist intervention

triangleTrump gives green light to Turkey to attack Kurds

triangleSyria: No ceasefire for 'hell on earth' eastern Goutha

triangleOpinion: British imperialism can take no credit in fight against Isis

Middle East:

triangleEgypt: Support for al-Sisi dwindles as his regime increases repression

triangleBirmingham SE Socialist Party: Middle East mass protests - a socialist way forward

triangleEast London Socialist Party: Starmer wins Labour leadership - do we need a new political party for the working class?

triangleYemen's desperate civil war fuelled by imperialism and regional powers


triangleTV: Once Upon a Time in Iraq

triangleSuleimani's assassination - Middle East thrown into turmoil


triangleNHS: Underfunded, understaffed, underpaid

triangleCripTales: A painful reflection of a system that pits us against each other


triangleLibya: Civil war and chaos follow interventions by world and regional powers


triangleReading workers' movement responds to knife attack


triangleThe Socialist inbox


triangleTrotsky's ideas live on in the CWI


triangleRevolutionary mood in Lebanon following horrific explosion





After the polarised elections - what way forward?



US presidential election 2020



Chile: A defeat for the right!



Poland: Mass protests against abortion ban



Nigeria protests shake regime



Bolivia elections: Crushing defeat for the right as MAS secures landslide victory



"We need a leadership that comes from the movement"



US presidential election



Greek workers and socialists celebrate convictions of Golden Dawn fascists



Nigeria: Mass protests force government to disband killer cop unit



'Frozen conflict' reignites in Nagorno-Karabakh enclave



Germany: "Heroes" strike to demand a pay rise



Trump's failure over western US wildfires



US: Police escape justice over Breonna Taylor killing


South Africa

South Africa: Working class unity to stop violence against women

triangleMore International articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: [email protected]

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041



Alphabetical listing

December 2020

November 2020

October 2020

September 2020

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020