‘Any US move in Iraq will be wrong’
RT:Militants from ISIS are closing in on Baghdad. How bad is this and what position will US continue to pursue?
Eric Margolis: As the old expression goes, “Damned if you do, and damned if you don't”. The US is in a very difficult position. This is a nightmare that has come back to haunt it. Practically any movement it makes, it will be wrong, in a sense that it angers somebody. And US has more interests in the Sunni world than it does in the Shia world. Behind the scenes, the Saudis, the major Sunni power are very unhappy with the thought of US intervention.
RT:Washington is sending a small contingent of troops to Iraq. How far will America go to deal with sectarian tensions there?
EM: I believe there are as many as 5000 US troops already in Iraq. Many of them are not in uniform, they are not called troops, they are called contractors, technical assistance. They are manning two airforce bases that the US still controls inside Iraq, or they are clustered inside the green zone, the huge fort of an embassy in Baghdad. So there are troops there.
Air strikes discussed may not be enough to stop ISIL group, and also we have to add the old Baath party of Saddam Hussein has risen up against the Shia dominated government. And if the air strikes do work, they would be a very blunt instrument because it is hard to know who to attack. The US may be forced to send more ground troops in.
RT:How do you think other nations in the region feel about the recent developments?
EM: The Gulf States are very worried about Iran and they are being pushed by Saudi Arabia to oppose the US intervention on behalf of the Shia side. But on the other hand, they are also caught on a difficult side because they are worried about the Islamists and Arab nationalists who are fighting in Syria and who have risen under the banner of ISIL in Iraq. So whatever happens, they are not going to be happy.
RT:The UK says it will re-open its embassy in Tehran and Washington admitted it could use some help from Iran too. Why is Tehran key here?
EM: It will bring more US air power, drones, advisers, probably money, possibly covert forces from other areas. The US has got to do something to save Maliki, who is its creation. And of course with the Iran, they apparently both agreed that they got to do something to prop up the Maliki regime. It is very ironic, because not just only a few weeks ago, congressmen were saying, “we will never talk to Iran. Iran is a terrorist nation. We must never do that.” And now all of the sudden they have to go and try to embrace this so-called terrorist nation, because they are more scared of ISIL than they are of Iran this week.
RT:Were you surprised that the Iraqi army and its government were completely impotent against the militants and let vast areas be captured?
EM: It started by the efforts of Western powers to overthrow the Syrian government as a way of punishing Iran. They have been funding all these extremist groups, hardline groups in Syria. It has been a terrible mistake, a major blow-back.
Ironically president Assad in Syria is a natural Western ally and these angry jihadists in Syria and now in Iraq are not friends of the West. Everyone is really confused.
Everyone is a terrorist in this region and it’s is difficult to pick out which terrorist to work with.
RT:Can the US lose its Middle East allies?
EM: I don't think the US can lose them, but I think it is a very narrow path to walk, especially from complaints coming from Qatar, and I have been writing for Qatari newspapers, the complaints are that the US is entering the war on behalf of the Shiites who are seen as the enemies by the majority, not all of them, but the majority. And there is great unhappiness consternation across the Arab world for this to happen.
The Israelis on the side are also trying to figure out who to support here. Because they are no friends of the jihadists, but they are also not friends with the Iranians either. This is a big mess, and we can thank the original 2003 invasion of Iraq for it.