THE LEVANT – By Catherine Shakdam – Even though US President Barack Obama vowed earlier this June not to get sucked back into Iraq’s military void, it looks as if such presidential promises stand to be as ephemeral and inconsistent as America’s foreign policy in the Middle East.
While the US has justified its “return” as a tactical one, stressing that its task will be focused and limited to very specific targets, the presence on the ground of some 130 so-called military advisers could herald a much more pronounced return to Iraq, putting us right back in the pre-US military withdrawal situation.
This time around the Pentagon has sided with the Kurds against the Islamic State aka ISIL – Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – giving Peshmerga fighters some much needed air support; this time around, Washington’s help in Iraq has actually been welcomed by its people, regardless of what ulterior motives the US might have.
But America is not going in alone; Britain is following hot on its heels. While Kurdish forces in Iraq have managed to secure some key strategic advances against IS operatives near Mosul , backed by US airstrikes, Britain’s Defence Minister was quoted on Monday as telling air force personnel that the campaign against the insurgents would last “weeks and months” and was no longer simply a humanitarian affair.
Just as US President Obama promised that no boots will touch down on Iraqi ground, Britain PM James Cameron has been adamant British soldiers will not be deployed.
He noted, “I want to be absolutely clear to you and to families watching at home. Britain is not going to get involved in another war in Iraq. We are not going to be putting boots on the ground. We are not going to be sending in the British Army.”
But again, since ISIL has already proven to be a formidable foe, so formidable in fact that western powers have had to intervene military in order to halt its advances, military experts have already labelled both US President Obama and British PM Cameron’s vows of limited interventions as unfeasible and unrealistic.
But beyond the hypothetical return of American troops to Iraq, or even the unprecedented advances of Islamic radicals at the heart of Arabia, remains one question which has largely gone unaddressed – Why has the White House singled out the Kurds in its offer of military support?
Could it be that since the US proved unable to subdue Iraq’s unruly political and tribal factions it has chosen now to concentrate on controlling the few areas which geo-strategically matter most? After all, Kurdistan happens to be sitting on vast natural resources, right next door to Turkey and Iran, two countries Washington is keen on keeping a close eye on.
After all Kurdistan has already proven it can be a trusted and pliable partner to western interests in the region.
Rather than defend and protect Iraq from the threat of radicalism would it not be more accurate to look at the US’ move as a rebranding of its imperialistic ambitions?
A simple look at Iraq Kurdistan map tells a story which has nothing to do with Islamic radicalism and everything to do with geo-strategic positioning and access to oil.
Another interesting detail has been overlooked when considering America’s motives in this new Iraqi crisis –Iraq oil policy towards foreign investors.
Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has been following its own independent oil policy. Part of that has included attracting foreign companies to invest in the disputed territories that stretch across Ninewa, Salahaddin, Tamim, and Diyala provinces, the very areas IS has set its eye on.
This strategy was devised to derive Kurdistan’s aggressive territorial annexations.
Several companies entered into such deals, among which Exxon Mobile in 2011 – the US-based multinational oil and gas corporation – By inking deals there, the Kurds hope to create facts on the ground which would help support their claims to the land, and solidify their control over them. Since those areas have now fallen under IS control and stand to be freed by Kurdistan’s very own troops, one can easily see a situation where Kurdistan’s pull will extend to all formerly so-called disputed areas, all under the watchful eye and tactical backing of Washington.
But the link in between western intervention and western’s oil interests does not end with Washington, Britain has its name written all over that ticket. Let us not forget that on May 17, 2012, England’s Afren Oil announced that it found new oil deposits at the Ain Sifni field, part of which stretches into disputed areas of Ninewa.
US Chevron has also three production sharing contracts with the Kurdish government, covering a combined 444,000 acres, north of Irbil. Earlier this month, days before IS showed its ugly face in Erbil, Chevron published a statement in which it noted, “We are very encouraged with the initial results in the Kurdistan region of Iraq …Exploratory drilling and logging has indicated multiple pay zones in a large structure … the formations have demonstrated the ability to deliver high liquid flow rates.”
In short, financially Kurdistan is a gold mine no one will let go without a fight.
Once again it seems military resources have been set to serve and defend not the people or even principles such as liberty and democracy but rather economic and political interests.
Even though IS might well be the single most dangerous threat to global security, officials on Capitol Hill and Downing Street seem set on serving their corporate interests over that of their people … but that’s just a theory!