It’s an impossible goal: peace in Iraq.
And until the United States and Europe finally understand that reality, they will continue to spill the lives of their soldiers and military advisers trying to achieve that unattainable objective.
So far, every Western intervention in Iraq has been an unmitigated fiasco, and there is no reason to believe that further military or political intrusion will produce a different result.
Torn by ethnic and sectarian fissures that date back long before it was created as a post-World War I construct arbitrarily fashioned out of three pre-existing Ottoman provinces by a League of Nations mandate, Iraq was destined to be a failed state from its very conception.
In fact, before 1921, when the British imposed Hashemite King Faisal I (imported from nearby Syria) as its figurehead potentate for the territory, no one had even conceived Iraq as a nation state.
When London — fed up with the warring tribes in the region and overwhelmed by the high costs of trying to maintain peace among the sparring indigenous factions — finally decided to grant conditional independence to the kingdom in 1932, it was a maneuver by Britain to keep its strategic military bases without having to finance its puppet’s profligate extravagances.
The people of Iraq are, in fact, three people: a Shi’ite population in the south, a Kurdish population in the north, and an indulged Sunni minority (less than 20 percent of the country’s total population) in the central region that brought to power the likes of the Ba’athist Party and Saddam Hussein.
None of these three populations can stomach the other two, which means that they have always been at war with one another.
And because there has never been an organic homogeneity to Iraq’s population, there has never been a sense of national identity or an ethnic cohesion.
Consequently, in order to maintain power and try to unite an un-unifiable state, Iraq’s leaders have consistently and unrepentantly resorted to repression, brutality and heavy-handed tactics.
Moreover, geographically, Iraq represents the sectarian dividing line between the Sunnis and Shi’ites, a deep-rooted religious schism that dates back to the year 632 and which is at the crux of the eternal militarized tug-of-war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which makes it a magnet for violent splinter groups.
Since the second U.S troop pullout three years ago, Iraq has become a virtual black-hole power vacuum that has sucked in both homegrown and imported sectarian groups fighting to control the country’s vast oil reserves.
According to Britain’s recently released Report of the Iraq Inquiry (also known as the Chilcot Report), at least 150,000 Iraqis have been killed since the withdrawal, and an estimated three million people have been displaced from their homes.
The security situation in Iraq today is worse than under Saddam Hussein, and the nation’s economy is on the verge of bankruptcy.
Corruption, graft and financial malfeasance in Iraq are endemic and rampant.
The global civil watchdog, Transparency International, has ranked Iraq the sixth-most corrupt country on Earth, right behind North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan and South Sudan.
As for democracy, it is an alien concept in Iraq, because it is geometrically opposed to the central values of the fundamental Islamic religious practices that permeate virtual every aspect of life in the country.
Trying to impose democracy in Iraq from outside is futile. It simply will not work.
And trying to create a foreign-brokered power-sharing plan between the different sectarian groups is equally unviable because the entrenched hatred these ethnic groups have for one another runs too deep to make any cooperation or mutual trust possible.
Today, Iraq is a breeding and training ground for jihadist extremists, including the Islamic State (I.S.).
Shi’ites militias dole out their own brand of sharia justice with a tacit blessing from a sympathetic government in Baghdad, while Saddam’s former Sunni henchmen are conducting their own military campaign to retake power by cozying up to I.S.
In short, foreign military intervention and homegrown terrorism have turned an already-unstable and corrupt political expanse into a wasteland of misery and bloodshed.
Trying to put out the fiery maelstrom of Iraq’s explosive political landscape with further foreign military mediation will only spark more violence and suffering that could possibly engulf the entire Middle East.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at [email protected]