Olivier Guitta

Saving Iran… again

Is this really what the West intended?

Floral tributes surround the base of the Eccles Cross for murdered british aid worker Alan Henning in Eccles in Greater Manchester, north-west England, on October 5, 2014 (AFP Photo/Oli Scarff)

The British Parliament voted overwhelmingly on 26 September in favor of military intervention in Iraq to support its allies against the Islamic State (ISIS). While this vote can be lauded, one can only wish that the tally had been the same in August 2013 when it came to intervention in Syria. That disgraceful no-vote, after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad killed more than 1,400 of his citizens in a sarin chemical attack in Ghouta, has already had very bloody consequences.


If one considers the arguments for intervention in Iraq and Syria, Syria was the much easier case to make: a three-year war with 200,000 people killed, millions of displaced, close to 20 chemical attacks registered, an anti-Western dictator crossing US President Obama’s “red line,” and Al-Qaeda affiliates (Jabhat al-Nusrah and the group that would become ISIS) growing stronger. Simply for humanitarian reasons, to uphold international law on chemical weapons, to keep Western credibility alive, and finally for national security reasons, the military intervention should have taken place.


We were very close: the French had their fighter jets on the tarmac, ready to take off to strike at Assad before they were recalled. By not getting involved in the proxy war being waged in Syria between Sunnis and Shiites, the West left the field wide open to its enemies to win and hurt it in the medium to long run. And as I repeatedly pointed out last year, the Ghouta attack, with pictures of children dying, was going to be used by Al-Qaeda as a tool to radicalize thousands of Western Sunni Muslims that would travel to fight in Syria and return again as well-trained potential attackers of the countries from whence they had come. Indeed, the number of Western Muslims departing to Syria skyrocketed after August 2013, when the narrative emerged that the West would do nothing to save Sunnis.


One should remember that ISIS differs from Al-Qaeda in the sense that it is a local movement that is very focused on grabbing territory in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, and whose main enemy was, until very recently, the Shiites and Iran, not the West. The West’s military intervention in Iraq has and will have very meaningful unintended consequences. The first one is that ISIS will now throw everything it has into fighting off the West, as sadly proven by the beheadings of the four US and British nationals held hostage in Syria who were killed after the first US airstrikes.


In a recently-released audiotape, ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani called for murdering Western nationals. In the short term, this puts the West much more at risk of terrorist attacks by ISIS supporters than prior to the intervention in Iraq. Evidence of this is that within less than 12 hours of Adnani’s call, the newly-formed ISIS affiliate, Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria, kidnapped a French tourist in Kabylia and beheaded him 24 hours after having demanded that France stop its airstrikes in Iraq. This was a very significant development because it was the first time outside of Iraq/Syria that ISIS killed a foreign hostage. It also clearly shows that ISIS is moving towards becoming a global movement like Al-Qaeda, and now that ISIS and Al-Qaeda have a common enemy, there might be a new cooperation in the offing between the two organizations.


Also, one has to understand that even though the initial reason for the US airstrikes was to save the Yazidis, the ongoing strikes are now viewed by many as only serving Shiites. For some Sunnis – extremist or not – there is a sense of injustice that when it came to saving Sunnis in Syria, nobody came, but when it was for the Shiites, the West intervened. This is a very strong sentiment that has many convinced that the West has lost its neutrality and chosen the Shiite/Iran camp over the Sunnis in the centuries-long conflict between the two sects. The recent photo-ops at the UN between Western leaders, including Prime Minister Cameron and President Hollande, with Iran’s President Rouhani have only added fuel to the fire.


Iran will have the last laugh. For the third time in the past 13 years, the West has unintentionally come to save Tehran – first against the Taliban in 2001, then against Saddam Hussein in 2003 and now against ISIS.


Is that really what the West intended?


Olivier Guitta is a security and geopolitical risk consultant to corporations and governments. He tweets @OlivierGuitta

In a recently-released audiotape, ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani called for murdering Western nationals. (AFP Photo/Oli Scarff)

The number of Western Muslims departing to Syria skyrocketed after August 2013, when the narrative emerged that the West would do nothing to save Sunnis."

  • Vlad Tepes

    Actually, this is helping the West as the programs of Zionists are fully implemented. The killing of Arabs and Muslims is something Zionists rather enjoy, and the enemies that are Assad and Hezbollah are being put to the brink. Zionists get their destruction and carnage. Obama gets his Muslim caliphate. Putin gets Ukraine while everyone else is busy with ME. Who even talks about the Malaysia Airlines plane getting shot down anymore? BTW, a now writer finally admits that the militants want Lebanon, and it's not just Hezbollah propaganda anymore.

    October 11, 2014

  • BrianS

    I agree with the points about Syria - and there is certainly a sectarian backdrop to the Iraq situation: but the final paras are a strange perspective. In what sense was Iraq threatened by the Taliban? The US supported Iraq AGAINST Iran in the Iran-Iraq war, and the evidence of that conflict is that the two sides were fairly evenly matched (hence it high death toll) - and Iraq's military capacity was seriously degraded by 2003, so I don't see any "saving" going on. Nor does Iran need saving from ISIS (although its geopolitical ambitions may). To invoke the "the centuries-long conflict between the two sects" is just orientalist stereotyping..

    October 8, 2014

  • Karole du Pont

    The Isis is fighting Kurdish Sunnis in their own Kurdish region, so why should interventions in Iraq be viewed as a case of preference strictly for Shiites? Funny, Saddam was very proud to be from the same region as the great Saladin Ayoubi but the Kurds were gazed still and now if Isis would covet sources of income from Kurdish regions, the Kurds must bow when they wanted autonomy.

    October 7, 2014