On May 1st 2003, 4,093 days ago, G. W. Bush declared Mission Accomplished in Iraq. The War would go on for at least another 8 years, and that just covers the period of American involvement. It is entirely possible that the fighting could continue for decades to come.
The devil’s rejects
The ISIS group, who have taken over large chucks of Iraq, have been showing their devotion to Islam by going around the region they control and blowing up mosques and holy sites! Now what would have happened had the US soldiers even accidently shelled a Mosque?
The reality is that ISIS are about as committed to Islam as Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist church (which is probably unfair to the Westboro Baptists as I don’t believe they’ve ever actually blown up a mosque or anything like that!). They are in reality little more than a rabble of thugs from around the world, using a twisted interpretation of Islam to justify rape, looting and murder. In many respects they arent that dissimilar to various groups of brigands and raiders who looted caravans in this region many centuries ago.
On the plus side, ISIS are now being pushed back. Unfortunately it appears to be Shia and Kurdish militia who are doing most of the fighting and not the Iraqi army (who the US trained and equipped at great expense). This is worrying, as the fear is that Shia militia might start taking reprisals on Sunnis for the atrocities committed by ISIS, including scenes eerily similar to those in Eastern Europe under the nazis. In short Iraq, like Syria could be a case of another re-run of the Yugoslav civil war.
Rise of Kurdistan?
Theres also questions as to what the Kurds will do. Will they hand back territory theyve captured to the rest of Iraq? or absorb it into Kurdistan? Theres also the possibility of them declaring independence. The Kurds, at 38 million people, are one of the worlds largest ethnic groups who lack a country of their own, so such a desire for a homeland is not really surprising. However, only a fraction of the Kurdish population live in Iraq (about 25%) and only some of those live within Kurdish held areas in Iraq. Large populations of Kurds live in neighbouring countries of Syria, Iran and most notably Turkey.
Thus if Kurdistan becomes a sovereign nation, the desire to unite these lands together will probably become irresistible. But this will almost certainly provoke conflict between Kurdistan and its new neighbours. Note that in the past both Syria and Turkey made separate threats to invade Iraq if the Kurds declared independence. So some form of conflict, either an outright war or a series of insurgencies, seems very probable if Kurdistan goes independent. It is no exaggeration to say that this conflict could go onto till we are ten thousand days past mission accomplished.
Then theres the question as to what happens to whatever is left of Iraq. The chances of Sunni and Shia parts of Iraq splitting into two rump states is fairly likely. The possibility of war and insurgency between the two are a risk. And its equally a risk that the Shia rump state will fall under the influence of Iran (or possibly even be absorbed by Iran) with a similar risk as regards the Sunni region and whoever ends up in charge of Syria (and thanks to ISIS that will probably be the Assad regime).
And with all the oil in Iraq the cash to keep any wars going indefinitely is all too readily available.
While it is all too easy to pin much of the blame for the situation in Iraq on the Americans, in particular the Bush administration and their ally Tony Blair. But there is another player in this mess, and many other Al-Qaeda affiliate operations Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi regime both officially and unofficially supports groups such as ISIS as part of the chess game they are playing against other Arab states, as revealed in the wikileak cables. The cables also revealed that some of the strongest lobbying for bombing of Iranian nuclear facilities came not from Israel but the Saudis.
Islamic extremist groups also serve as a lightning rod for many angry young wahhabists within Saudi Arabia. During the Iraqi insurgency, Saudis rated highly as those responsible for suicide bombings. And of course, lest we forget, 19 of those hijackers on 9/11 were also Saudis.
But equally one has to worry that what goes around comes around. Sooner or later Saudi Arabias meddling in the affairs of other Arab states will come back to haunt them. Possibly in the form of their own Islamist uprising as a result of events in Iraq spilling over into the kingdom along with returning Islamist fighters.
All in all, the situation in Iraq is yet another reason for the world to break its addiction to oil. Even when you factor in recent advances in unconventional oil and gas (e.g. Tar sands and shale oil) at least 50% or more of proven reserves still lies under the Middle East. So long as the world is committed to oil as its primary energy source, these sorts of battles will continue.