The Hill, By Struan Stevenson - The civilised world has united in its condemnation of the barbaric beheadings of innocent Western aid workers and Egyptian Coptic Christians and the horrifying burning to death of the brave Jordanian pilot by the so-called Islamic State. Their rapid expansion from Syria across vast tracts of Iraq and their subsequent murderous campaign against Christians, Yazidis and anyone who did not fit with their perverted vision of Islam, has shocked the world. Demands for revenge against the perpetrators of such incomprehensible acts of inhumanity have been universal.
But it has been admitted that U.S. and allied airstrikes against ISIS cannot and will not lead to the defeat of the Islamic State. They are designed to bolster the fight on the ground by the Iraqi military, the Peshmerga and more ominously, the Shiia militias. The Peshmerga, as a Kurdish military force is contained in Northern Iraq. They are being armed and supplied by the West and are fighting courageously to reclaim territory lost to ISIS. The Iraqi army, on the other hand, is in a state of virtual collapse. Riven with dishonesty and fraud, it mirrors the chaotic and rampant corruption of the Iraqi government in post-Saddam Iraq.
These circumstances have provided the perfect conditions for the Shiia militias to thrive. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of these militias. They are trained, financed and often led by the terrorist Iranian Quds Force. They are Iranian proxies. So the US and allied air strikes are actually aiding and abetting Iran in achieving its ultimate objective, which is total control of Iraq. Iran is now well on the way to extending its hegemony across the entire region; huge posters of Iranian generals, who are leading the fight against ISIS, now adorn the streets of Baghdad.
The West must wake up to the fact that any cooperation and alliance with Iran to fight ISIS is extremely dangerous and will turn this war into a sectarian war between the Shiites and Sunnis. To overcome the Islamic state, it needs a cultural and religious alternative that can defy the violent, fanatic and extremist view of Islam, be it of the Sunni type like ISIS or of the Shiia type like the Iranian regime and its affiliated groups.
The world now looks to the new Iraqi Prime Minister Dr. Haider al-Abadi to take control and restore order inside Iraq. He must begin by rounding up the savage Shiia militias associated with the Iranian regime such as the Badr, Asaib and Kataib terrorists, as well as other criminal gangs that have played a significant role in former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s rule and instigated the sectarian war in Iraq. He must purge the army of Iranian mercenaries and all those that Maliki recruited under his sectarian policy, restoring patriotic officers and turning it into a professional and national army. Only such an army, supported by the tribes and the people will be able to confront extremist and terrorist groups like the Islamic State.
The new prime minister should also disclose to the Iraqi people the names of those who carried out the executions, massacres, bombardment and rocket attacks against innocent people and those responsible for poverty and state corruption; all should be held accountable in the courts. He must re-establish the independence of the Judiciary, dismissing those who have turned Iraq’s justice system into a political tool wielded by Maliki.
So far we have seen little to encourage us that al-Abadi will take the rapid steps necessary towards implementing these measures. He’s been in office for 6 months, but still the Sunnis are not really sharing power in any meaningful way. Sure there are Sunni politicians in his cabinet, but they are largely the same ones who served under Maliki and they are still in the same, powerless positions. He must re-integrate those prominent Sunnis who fought against Maliki, like the former Vice President Dr Tariq al-Hashemi. He must release the thousands of Sunni political prisoners. He must openly condemn the excesses of the Shiia militias and evict them from Iraq. He now has in his hands the historic role of saving Iraq or presiding over its total disintegration.
It is also imperative for Obama to change his policy in Iraq. As tens of thousands of Shiia militia fighters under the command of the Iranian terrorist Quds Force General Qassem Suleimani, prepare to recapture the city of Tikrit from ISIS, the Americans are set to launch airstrikes against key ISIS command centres. They have effectively become Iran’s allies in the war against the Islamic State. This is a very dangerous and misguided strategy, which even if successful, will simply enable the Iranian regime and its brutal militias to replace ISIS, effectively taking over Iraq in the process.
ISIS will not be defeated unless the Iraqi people rise up in unison to confront them and the Iraqi people will never unite unless the Iranian militias are first driven from their territory. This must be the focus of US policy.
Stevenson was a Conservative Euro MP representing Scotland from 1999 to 2014. He was president of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014 and is currently president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).
Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/234746-us-must-change-policy-in-war-against-isis