'US needs to change tactics in Iraq'
"The United States has to change its tactics, as do other Western nations, in militarily supporting the Maliki government and deepening the war situation as opposed to trying to move all parties towards a process of national reconciliation," said Puryear, of the ANSWER Coalition.
On Tuesday, Sunni extremists formerly allied with Al-Qaeda captured Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, leading to mass evacuations of residents. The offensive caught Iraq security services off-guard, as militants reportedly freed thousands of prisoners in the city.
The latest bloodshed in divided Iraq, as Islamist militants seek to gain further footholds in mostly Sunni areas of the Shiite-led nation, can be traced back to the United States' invasion and occupation, Puryear said.
"What we're seeing now are the fruits of that process, which have polarized the country and really fragmented to a large degree," said Puryear. "Now we see these tensions escalating to one of their highest levels."
RT: What does this latest incident say about the overall situation in Iraq?
Eugene Puryear: I think it shows that the situation is extremely unstable. And for those of us involved in the anti-war movement, we were saying from day one the US invasion was going to significantly destabilize the country. That's exactly what we've seen. There was an invasion and occupation that was followed by a political set-up that was extremely exclusionary of a wide range of Iraqi peoples.
What we're seeing now are the fruits of that process, which have polarized the country and really fragmented to a large degree. Now we see these tensions escalating to one of their highest levels.
RT:Do you think Iraq will be able to get a grip on its security anytime soon? What is needed?
EP: I think it's very difficult. Certainly what would have to happen is that the central government would have to take a much more inclusive attitude. But at this point, I think the only way is a process of national reconciliation of Iraqis, who, over this long period since 2003, have been divided in so many different ways.
How exactly that takes place must be left up to them, but what the United States has done – for example by providing things like Hellfire missiles and other security assistance to "more aggressively prosecute the war on terrorism," which is how [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki is selling his moves – is only exacerbating the situation and only inflaming the war-like tension.
At the very least, the United States has to change its tactics, as do other Western nations, in militarily supporting the Maliki government and deepening the war situation as opposed to trying to move all parties towards a process of national reconciliation.
RT:You spoke of sectarian divisions. Is this purely sectarian violence taking place, or is this also a political challenge?
EP: I don't think it's purely sectarian. I think there's a political element. People on all sides of this debate have, at different times, tried to reach out across the ethnic and sectarian divides to find allies. It's never really worked, and I think what we see is people reverting to long-term, or at least occupation-age, alliances among their "own people," you could say, which are more solid and often backed by much more history of cooperation and solidarity amongst different factions.
There is a sectarian element, but if we look at the history of modern Iraq, it's mostly secular. It's mostly people collaborating, whether they are Christians, Sunni, Shiite, sometimes Kurds, we have seen people collaborating across all of these lines in what could be termed the recent past. So I think it's not purely sectarian. Even to the degree that it is, I don't view it as a permanent issue. But from the point of view of the political power brokers at the top of each sect, the easiest way I think for them to maneuver and gain power is for them to push a relatively sectarian posture as they attempt to strengthen their own forces at the base.