G ParthasarathyJan 29 2015
Its legacy: Terrorism across Europe and violence across the Islamic world
The US-led military intervention in Afghanistan in 2001 received widespread international support because it was clearly established that the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington DC were planned and executed by Al Qaida, based in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. The same cannot, however, be said of American military intervention in Iraq. Proclaiming that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein regime possessed “Weapons of Mass Destruction” (WMDs), the US and its allies mounted a land, air and sea invasion of Iraq on March 1, 2003. Not surprisingly, it was soon found that Iraq indeed did not possess a single WMD. With Iraq’s army disintegrating, the country was soon taken over by the US. On May 1, 2003, President Bush landed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, aboard an aircraft carrying the banner “Mission Accomplished”. Matters did not end there. By the time the US withdrew from Iraq, 4,491 American soldiers and an estimated 1,50,000 Iraqis were killed. The aftershocks of this invasion are still being felt across the Islamic world and in Europe.
With a majority Shia-dominated government taking over in Baghdad following decades of the minority Sunni domination, old sectarian scores were sought to be settled. A bloody sectarian civil war was accompanied by the emergence of Sunni fighters led by Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, a veteran of the CIA-sponsored Afghan jihad, to challenge Baghdad's Shia-dominated regime. Matters worsened when a US-led alliance, backed by Sunni-dominated countries led by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, sought to violently overthrow the minority Shia dominated regime of Bashr Al Assad, in neighbouring Syria. Zarqawi’s followers and successors in Iraq joined this jihad against the Assad regime. Not surprisingly, Assad receives support from an alliance of Shia states and entities, including Iran, Iraq and the Hezbollah in Lebanon, with Russia providing the military muscle.