ALTHOUGH the Kurdish Peshmerga has recently broken the IS siege of Mount Sinjar in Northern Iraq, the Islamic State continues to make major advances across Anbar Province, posing a direct threat to Baghdad itself. Military experts admit that US airstrikes alone will not defeat IS.
They are designed to bolster the fight on the ground by the Iraqi military, which is in a state of virtual collapse. Riven with dishonesty and fraud, the Iraqi army mirrors the rampant corruption of the Iraqi government in post-Saddam Iraq.
These circumstances have provided the perfect conditions for the brutal Shiite militias to thrive and take control of the battlefield. There are 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 air strikes are aiding and abetting Iran in achieving its ultimate objective, which is total control of Iraq.
The current war raging across Iraq was as avoidable as it was predictable. Nouri al-Maliki’s second term as prime minister was a tragedy for the Iraqi people, for the region and for the world. As a puppet of the Iranian mullahs, he encouraged the Iranian-led Shiite militias and used them to enforce his merciless “iron fist” sectarian policy of indiscriminate bombing, shelling, arbitrary arrests, torture and mass execution of innocent Sunni civilians. Maliki utilised the claim of fighting a war against terror to secure his grip on power and the West fell for it.
The sudden emergence of IS became a convenient focal point enabling Maliki to accelerate his sectarian campaign against his political foes. Indeed, the reason IS made such spectacular gains across large areas of Iraq was because they faced little or no resistance from the Sunni tribes, who often preferred IS to the brutal Iranian-led militias that had been terrorising them for years.
The world now looks to the new Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, to restore order inside Iraq. He must begin by rounding up the savage militias associated with the Iranian regime, such as the Badr, Asaib and Kataib terrorists. 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 Sunni tribes and the ordinary Iraqi people will be able to confront extremist groups like IS.
Decisive action by al-Abadi against Iranian interference in Iraq couldn’t come at a better time. The plummeting oil price has caused a massive problem for the Iranian mullahs.
The so-called moderate president Rouhani, who has presided over the execution of around 1,200 people since he took office only 17 months ago, has found himself in an impossible trap. He was elected on a pledge to improve the economy and to improve living conditions for ordinary Iranians.
But the hardliners in Tehran live off the back of the billions poured into the Revolutionary Guard Corps. Despite the collapsing oil price, Rouhani last week announced a 50 per cent increase in its budget, taking the total annual spend to more than £4 billion, which is more than half of Iran’s total defence budget.
Iran simply cannot afford this. The 74 million Iranians are facing economic meltdown. The people are fed up, they don’t want to be international pariahs. They don’t want to witness people hanging from cranes in their city squares. The likelihood of another popular uprising is looming. But this time the West must support the Iranian people. We must help them to overthrow the tyrannical mullahs and restore freedom, peace and democracy to Iran.
The removal of the fascist mullahs would transform the Middle East and hasten the end of IS, Bashir al-Assad, Hezbollah, Hamas and other murderous and medieval ideologies. For once the US should get it right. Forming any kind of alliance with the Iranians is a deadly mistake. Eject the Iranians from Iraq and evict the mullahs from Tehran. Support the Iranian people instead of their oppressors. «
• Struan Stevenson was a Conservative MEP 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