Kevin: Give us your assessment of what's currently happening with ISIS. Is the Western media's portrayal of events accurate?
Suha: First of all, I completely agree that the conventional explanations offered by the media do not make sense. I find it impossible to believe that ISIS is what the media claims it to be. How could this group achieve such astonishing results after fighting inconclusive battles for the past several years. Look, in the Arab world we love to talk about conspiracy theories – if only because our culture is rife with them.
Anyone can dream up these theories, and they are not helpful. So I won't speculate as to who is pulling the levers to enable these events to happen. But I am absolutely convinced that the only way that ISIS could have overcome its adversary so completely is for someone with influence over the Iraqi Army – and likely over the Maliki government – to decree that this offensive must be allowed to happen.
However, I am confident on one thing: speculation of another "Sunni uprising" or of sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia is simply untrue.This is not a home-grown insurgency; many, if not most, of these fighters are not from Iraq. Most of the bombings and attacks in Iraq – particularly in Baghdad – are not targeted, but seek to maximize collateral damage. For example, look at the recent car bombing in the affluent Karada Market in Baghdad. Both Sunni and Shia visit this area. Or look at the recent ISIS capture of Mosul, which has a majority Sunni population. If the Sunnis in Mosul welcomed ISIS – as the media has led us to believe – then why is the city's indigenous population now homeless? Over 500,000 people – most of whom are Sunnis – fled the city in recent days. Iraqis are not viewing this conflict from a sectarian perspective – only the Western media is promoting this narrative. They do not understand the intricacies of the Iraqi culture, and my experience has been that, in our country, the media often creates more problems than it solves.
Kevin: That last statement is not unique to Iraq! Let's talk about the Kurds in northern Iraq. Last week the peshmerga (Kurdish armed forces) took control of the holy city of Kirkuk, long seen as the rightful capital of Kurdistan. Some say this is a critical step in their road to creating an independent state. Do you agree?
Suha: Here is another point that the media does not grasp. Since Saddam’s fall the Kurds have created a semi-autonomous state in Northern Iraq. There is much rhetoric about "independence", but this is simply a ploy by the [Kurdish president Masoud] Barzani government to maximize Kurdish influence and power with the central government of Iraq.
To put it bluntly, from an economic perspective the Kurds have not previously wanted independence. They are currently allocated 17% of the national budget. Remember that Iraq is one of the richest countries in the Middle East, with daily crude oil output of 3.5 million barrels per day (bpd). The vast majority of that output originates in the super-giant fields of southern Iraq; the Kurdish regions only produce around 120,000 bpd. Political intrigue aside, the powers that be in Kurdistan have done the math and known that they are better off if they tie their fortunes to the central government. However, last week’s seizure of Kirkuk might change this dynamic very quickly.
Here is the full article from Zero Hedge.
Having read the article and interview, which I commend to you, my inclination is to believe that Suha Najjar knows what she is talking about.
If so, the conflict in Iraq could be less serious than previously feared. However, that view depends on whether or not the Maliki government can be replaced. That is not easy because after eight years of rule, he was ‘re-elected’ recently, albeit under dubious circumstances, to another four-year term.
In this messy situation, Maliki is seen as Iran’s candidate. It is also highly likely that the Saudi’s have funded ISIS. If Suha Najjar’s comments about Iraqis being tolerant of other religious views is correct, and she should know, a more representative government in Baghdad would go a long way towards solving the country’s problems. Not least, as Iraq is a wealthy nation in terms of oil resources.Back to top