ISIS using sectarianism as 'weapon of mass destabilization' in Iraq and beyond

Catherine Shakdam
Catherine Shakdam is a political analyst, writer and commentator for the Middle East with a special focus on radical movements and Yemen. A regular pundit on RT and other networks her work has appeared in major publications: MintPress, the Foreign Policy Journal, Mehr News and many others.Director of Programs at the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, Catherine is also the co-founder of Veritas Consulting. She is the author of Arabia’s Rising - Under The Banner Of The First Imam
A youth leads a herd of sheep past the site of a suicide bomb attack in a southeastern suburb of Baghdad, Iraq April 30, 2016. © Wissm al-Okili
In the aftermath of a car bomb on Saturday that hit Baghdad, political analyst Catherine Shakdam said leaders lack the political will to address the chaos in the region. Something is stopping the politicians from acting, she added.

A car bomb hit the Iraqi capital, killing at least 21 people and wounding 42 others, according to local police and hospital officials.

RT: What are those who are behind this attack trying to achieve by targeting civilians? 

Catherine Shakdam: I think it is sectarianism. I think that the aim here is to create tension within the Iraqi religious communities. And this comes just as officials have desperately tried to unite people and to really give a sense of strong national identity where Iraqi see themselves first as Iraqi and religion doesn’t become a hindrance to unity. And I think that ISIS militants are now trying to destroy this unity because it is actually becoming really effective in reuniting and healing Iraq. And I think that is what they are trying to do; they are trying to revert to fear and terror to wield sectarianism and to try to use it as a new kind of asymmetrical weapon of mass destabilization. That is the reality.

RT: Over a thousand civilians have now suffered violent deaths since the beginning of the year alone. What can be done to stop these horrific numbers continuing?

CS: I think it is two-fold. I think first of all you have to fight sectarianism and fight the ideology behind terror because it is a policy and narrative of division and hatred towards the other whoever is different. That is the first thing. And the second thing is to attack the funding and the training and try to identify those powers hiding in the dark funding and enabling those militants. We have to remember that these people did not spring up from thin air. They were trained; they were engineered into these deadly weapons, and someone has to be held accountable. The problem that we have is that there is no political will behind this. We keep talking about fighting sectarianism, radicalism but nothing is really being done constructively on the ground by addressing the real issues which is foreign policy for one and certain friendships the western countries continue to hold. We need to look at this issue of radicalism very squarely in the face and ask ourselves the question: Do we have the political will to address it. Because I am afraid that so far we don’t, we keep kind of skipping and hopping around the issue, tiptoeing, not really knowing what to do… and something is stopping politicians.

RT: US Vice President Joe Biden paid a surprise visit to Iraq recently, apparently to encourage the country's national unity and pledge support in its fight against ISIS. How crucial is US assistance to Iraq recovery? Why so little improvement so far?

CS: I am afraid that they are not doing a great deal when it comes to recovery. They might say that they want to but on the ground there is a dichotomy between what they say and what they do. First of all, the US invaded Iraq and left it in a bit of a pickle where reconstruction wasn’t necessarily the goal. What they wanted is essentially to syphon some natural resources and make sure that whatever security companies were there were profiting. There is a whole industry around war, peace doesn’t make money. Capitalists are not very interested in having peace because peace means stability for Iraqis and a great deal of money for the Iraqis and not so much for the Americans. That’s the first thing; there is a problem there. And then politically I think that the US has an interest in fostering chaos because then it justifies its presence, and justifies why they have so many bases in Iraq and why they are intervening in Syria, for example, and trying to get a foothold in the Middle East altogether. There is a problem here again.

Jamal Wakim, professor of international relations at Lebanese university told RT: “I believe that the Americans are worried about the decline of their influence in Iraq and they want to keep the country under control under the pretext of fighting terrorism, especially at a time when had seen a transitory period in the United States, the preparation for elections… and a new administration."

We are looking at what politicians are saying, but we are not kind of translating what those actions they are implementing on the ground. There is a huge difference. And we need to learn to judge by what it is they do not what they say. They might want to say whatever they want, that they want world peace, but we know very well that is not what they are working towards. What they are working towards is a form of secularization of the Middle East through military intervention under the cover of fighting terrorism. We have known this for over a decade now, but no one really had the courage to really address it except for Russia and Iran, who really spoke out against it. I think that people are still under the illusion that the chaos in the Middle East is a Middle Eastern issue. It is not a Middle Eastern issue. It is an engineered issue which was brought upon by Western powers.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.