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Mission Accomplished Redux: Theresa May’s Claim of ‘Victory Over ISIS’ Doesn’t Square with Reality

Patrick Henningsen
21st Century Wire

As the new year approaches, some will look back on 2017 as the year the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (ISIS) was finally defeated on the battlefield. Unfortunately, certain western political leaders have been quick to try and claim credit for a ‘win’ which is not really theirs. This recent attempt to put on airs by the British PM is certainly reminiscent of one of the most grievous political flops in living memory.

From an ‘optics’ perspective, nothing could be more regrettable than US President George W. Bush’s anti-climatic “Mission Accomplished” speech on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003. As it turns out, his celebration was about seven years premature. But the opportunity for grand-standing was there and it’s hard to find a politician today who wouldn’t balk at a chance for an iconic photo-op, especially in the run-up to an election year. Like so many stage-managed public relations stunts performed by Washington in those days, it must have seemed like a good idea at the time.

That didn’t stop British Prime Minister Theresa May from trying out her own rendition of the Bush classic.

Last week, May spoke to her troops at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, which was the staging ground for “Operation Shader” (the operational code name given to the UK contribution in the fight against ISIS), which is said to have successfully targeted ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The UK was one of 68 nations which formed the lofty “Global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” as part of the Combined Joint Task Force assembled in “Operation Inherent Resolve.”

Prime Minister May stated:

“Let’s be clear just what a difference that has made,” May said. “Just three years ago, Daesh [IS] declared a caliphate in Iraq and Syria, a safe haven in which to carry out the most barbaric acts and in which to plot murder on our streets at home.

“But today, thanks in very large part to your efforts, the so-called caliphate has been crushed and no longer holds significant territory in Iraq and Syria. You should be incredibly proud of that achievement.”

Not surprisingly, what May has conveniently left out of her grand geopolitical narrative was the UK’s essential role in the deception and illegal entry into the Iraq War which then enabled the US-led botched invasion of Iraq in 2003, which created the conditions for both al Qaeda and ISIS to fester and grow in the region. For most reasonably educated people, neoconservative revisionists excluded, this should be beyond debate by now, and it’s totally understandable why western politicians simply cannot bring themselves to dwell on such inconvenient truths. Just ask former Prime Minister Tony Blair who spends most of his time in hiding between his villas in Tirana and Marrakesh.

This leads us to another inconvenient truth: Iraq and Syria, not the US and UK, have stopped ISIS in its tracks.

For the most part, Iraq’s resounding victory over the foreign-backed ISIS menace has gone mostly unnoticed by western media, which is odd considering how much oxygen the US, UK and western corporate media giants gave ISIS during the last three and half years. The amount of free PR this terrorist group received was unprecedented. Western media outlets would routinely air press releases from ISIS’s alleged news agency, AMAQ, as if it was a legitimate news source. More often than not, by doing this, western media outlets were repeatedly and willingly spreading disinformation to their audiences. Hanging on their every word, it wasn’t long before CNN became the AMAQ’s number one global media megaphone.

So it’s a surprise then that the recent announcement on Iraqi national TV  two weeks ago by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi received almost no western media coverage. In his speech to the nation, PM al-Abadi stated:

“Honorable Iraqis, your land has been completely liberated… The liberation dream has become a reality. We achieved victory in difficult circumstances and with God’s help, the steadfastness of our people and the bravery of our heroic forces we prevailed.”

“The flag of Iraq is flying high today over all Iraqi territory and at the farthest point on the border,” he said.

After years of continuous around-the-clock fear-mongering by the likes of CNN and their fraternal media affiliates, you’d think that celebrations would have been in order after successive announcements made by both Iraq and Syria earlier this month.

Credit where credit’s due though, at the end of November, Theresa May made the effort to travel to Iraq and publicly congratulated PM Haider al-Abadi and the Iraqi Armed Forces for their hard-fought victory in liberating their country from ISIS, although she still had to issue the usual caveats at the end, warning that the terror group “is not yet defeated” (Yes Minister, and no one knows this more than the Iraqis do).

Subtext: ‘And don’t you Iraqis worry, because as your former colonial masters, we’ll be there with our laser-guided Pavement Bombs should those nasty jihadis rear their ugly heads again,’ right? Sadly, this War on Terror has become as predictable as the most trite Hollywood B movie script.

In what can only be viewed as token gesture, May went on to announce a £10 million “boost” to Iraq’s counter-terrorism operations. Compare this paltry sum to the hundreds of millions being pumped into illegal “civil society” pseudo NGOs set-up by the UK Foreign Office in al Nusra terrorist-held areas in Syria, through their controversial Conflict Stability and Security Fund (CSSF). If you want to know why some of these terrorists groups are able to hold territory and thrive for years on end, just follow the money.

Back to this ‘Mission Accomplished’ scene in Cyprus two weeks ago. May went on the address British troops and alluded to the UK’s continued role in training the Iraqi Armed Forces to defend against ISIS reprisals. She said:

“While we need to deal directly with the threat they still pose in the region, we also need to focus on training the Iraqi security forces to keep Daesh out.”

While we can give some points to May for acknowledging the seriousness of the situation, it has to be said that the ignorance displayed by the British Prime Minister here is nothing short of remarkable. For the Iraqis, after three and a half years of fighting ISIS on Iraqi soil, and probably losing as many or more men than the combined losses of both the US and UK military did in all of their wars and interventions since after Vietnam – it should go without saying that Iraq certainly knows and understands more about ISIS and how to fight terrorism than the US and UK can ever pretend to pontificate on (but that won’t ever stop them from pontificating).

For whatever reason, call it post-colonial exceptionalism, or just a chronic case Orientalism, no matter what the Iraqis (or the Syrians) do, there seems to be no end to the grandiose western-centric lectures and gripping polemics about the never-ending War on Terror. More than any single population, Iraqis have heard enough lectures from the bevy of self-serving political opportunists wanting to look strong and stable while posturing in front of a staged backdrop and over-priced military hardware. George W Bush should have killed that genre, if only.

IMAGE: President Bush flashes a thumbs-up after declaring the end of major combat in Iraq in 2003, and Theresa May declares ‘victory over ISIS’ in Dec 2017.

In the real world which exists outside of Washington and London’s groupthink bubbles, the two most important interventions in the Iraqi theatre in the battle against ISIS, or Daesh, were the immediate assistance by neighboring Iran, and even more crucial, the formation in June 2014 of the Shia-led, 120,000 person-strong People’s Mobilization Units (PMU), aka the Hash’d al-Shaabi – placed under the command of the Iraq Military. These two factors were decisive in turning the tide against ISIS and achieving eventual victory. To suggest that the UK, or even the US, played any significant role in winning any of the many hard-fought battles to retake and re-secure territory across their own country as the Iraqi Forces have – is practically delusional.

It should also be noted that the US government invoiced the government in Baghdad for all of its “anti-ISIS airstrikes.” That’s right: Uncle Sam charged Iraq for the privilege of flying its glorious birds in the epic Fight Against ISIS. Sort of takes the romance out of it for Washington, doesn’t it? Especially when you consider how the US has intentionally downplayed its role in covering-up its mass civilian casualties during those airstrikes after all its gallant show-boating over Mosul. Interesting transactional relationship there.

For May to ignore these and other known facts is hardly surprising considering the anti-Shia and anti-Iranian party line firmly held by the US (as an extension of Israeli-dictated foreign policy) and to a lesser degree by the UK, but more than this, implying that the UK played any significant role in the fight against ISIS could also be viewed as a desperate attempt to try and excavate some political capital for her imploding leadership bid at home.

Beyond that, Britain’s insistence to be involved in the bomb-dropping party has always been motivated by the need to showcase its lucrative bomb-making industry for the international arms market, as evidenced by David Cameron’s relentless drive to twice get a Commons mandate for a military intervention in Syria – even though Britain had nothing much to offer next to US and Coalition forces. In spite of all that, there’s also the fact that the UK was already pumping billions in taxpayer funds into Syria for regime change operations, working like busy bees to try and create shadow government entities in Syria through a chain of bogus UK-funded ‘civil society’ constructs like the White Helmets and the Free Syrian Police, both deployed exclusively in terrorist-held areas of Syria, like East Aleppo and the new de facto ‘Islamic State’ in the Idlib province in northern Syria currently occupied by the remaining US Coalition-backed al Qaeda affiliated terrorist brigades, or what the US and UK still erroneously refer to as “the opposition.”

In the same vein, western politicians will always omit the primary sponsors of ISIS fanatic mercenary brigades. The corrupt Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, admittedly Washington and London’s “best friend” and ally in the region, along with supporting elements located in GCC partners UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait – have been a driving force behind the proliferation of extremist brigades terrorizing the region from Syria to Iraq, and to Yemen, and also in the international recruitment drive of extremist fighters through a network of Gulf satellite TV channels and radical Wahhabi preachers placed in Gulf-funded mosques worldwide. Because Saudi Arabia is the US and UK’s best weapons customer, you will never hear any meaningful protests from either Washington or London about the Kingdom’s sordid role in spreading sectarian hate and their toxic takfiri ideology, much less the illegal undeclared war of aggression (with the military assistance of the US and UK) against their neighbor Yemen which began in March 2015.

SEE ALSO: YEMEN: Ten Myths about Saudi War of Aggression Debunked

Let us also not forget that ISIS weapons and supplies have also been provided by the US and NATO member states, as well as Israeli arms and other Israeli military equipment making its way into terrorist hands. ISIS can also credit their extended presence in Syria and Iraq to NATO member Turkey thanks to a network of protected rat-lines and staging areas over the Syrian border in Turkish territory, and the facilitation of ISIS black market oil sales partly by the Kurdish Regional government and British-owned oil firms. It shouldn’t take a genius then to see exactly how ISIS was able to hold out that long.

The US and UK will of course continue with their diplomatic charade, but it won’t bring them any closer to relevancy in the region. As a result of the ISIS crisis and subsequent victories by Iraq and Syria, and the complete failure of a seven year-long US-UK-Turkey-Saudi-Qatari-Israeli-Jordanian led proxy war in Syria – US hegemony and influence is now waning in the Middle East. One simple reason for this is that the US can no longer dictate facts on the ground and create the narratives they’ve been used to creating for the last 30 years. Despite all of the hollow proclamations by Trump, May and Macron, real stakeholders in the Middle East know full well that the real war against ISIS was fought on ground, and not from a situation room in Cyprus, or from an air-conditioned US CENTCOM multimedia suite in Doha, and the real victors in this war are the Iraqi Forces and the Hashd al-Shaabi, and the Syrian Arab Army, with Hezbollah defense forces, the Iranian Quds Forces, and the Russian air force and Russian military police in Syria. What these victors have lost collectively in terms of men while fighting both ISIS and al Nusra and Co. on the ground – should never go unmentioned, and yet for the West it always does. For US and UK politicians not to acknowledge those tens of thousands of martyrs in the fight against ISIS – is something so far beyond the pale and demonstrates an almost obscene level of ignorance by myopic and self-centered political elites in the west. If the West had any true statesmen left, they would see this and acknowledge it, and then real diplomacy could begin in earnest, and who knows, maybe some real progress.

This Christmas and New Years season, let’s not forget who we should be thanking for pushing ISIS to the wall.

Likewise, let us also never forget who put ISIS there in the first place.

***
The following news report was aired on Iraq Insider TV, featuring and extended interview at the end with 21WIRE’s Patrick Henningsen, including clips from Patrick and 21WIRE associate editor Vanessa Beeley on location in Iraq:

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Patrick Henningsen is an American-born writer and global affairs analyst and co-founder and executive editor of 21st Century Wire.  He is also host of the SUNDAY WIRE weekly radio show broadcast globally over the Alternate Current Radio Network (ACR).

READ MORE IRAQ NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Iraq Files

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