Sabah Salih’s “Reflections on Kurdistan, Iraq, and ISIS” appears in Telos 171 (Summer 2015). Read the full version online at the Telos Online website, or purchase a print copy of the issue in our store.
The recent dramatic rise of Kurdistan as a major power player in the Middle East could not have happened without America’s 2003 regime change in Iraq. The change also resulted in a dramatic rise in the standard of living and in the way people live their lives and think about themselves and their world. Contrary to the common view in the West, the intervention did not break up a unified Iraq; it rather sped up the unraveling of colonialism’s post–World War I handiwork, which stupidly imposed the tyranny of a minority on the majority. Saddam Hussein laid the groundwork for ISIS’s emergence with his creation of Saddam’s Fidayeen paramilitary force following the first Gulf War. Following that war, Saddam reinvented himself as a staunch Sunni Arab Islamist. As many non-Islamist Muslims readily agree, Islamic doctrines are key to both Fidayeen’s and ISIS’s thinking and practices. The Communists and Islamists continue to reap huge benefits from the intervention even as anti-Americanism continues to occupy center stage in their political platforms. The current intellectual climate in the West, with its misguided emphasis on race, gender, and class as the foundation of thinking, has also helped protect Islamism from critical scrutiny.