Shock & Awe: The butterfly effect: In March 2003, a US led coalition invaded Iraq with the aim of forcibly removing Saddam Hussein from power. A quick victory ensued but while the campaign had been carefully planned, the aftermath had not. What followed was a series of blunders and ill-thought decisions that led to a chain of events that will ensure the Middle-East and North Africa will be unstable for generations to come.
Following their victory, the Americans dissolved/disbanded the Baath party and the Iraqi army and police forces, thus leaving thousands of trained Sunnis jobless and bitter. At the same time, this created a power vacuum at both national and regional levels. Not recognising the legitimacy of the new Shia government, some of those Sunnis organised a resistance movement. First targeting the coalition armies, then, the newly formed Iraqi armed forces. In 2004, several insurgency groups pledged allegiance to Al-Quaeda. By 2005, the idea of an Islamic Caliphate emerged amongst leading insurgency groups. By 2006, the insurgency turned into a full-on sectarian war between Shias and Sunnis. Militias and tribes on both sides of the battle lines fighting each other. The toll on civilian population became horrific pretty quickly.
In 2010, it had become clear that a number of former Iraqi officers that served under Saddam Hussein and were subsequently imprisoned by the Americans before being released had joined the insurgency. The insurgency had become known as ISI or Islamic State in Iraq. Those officers would become instrumental in ISI/ISIS future military victories.
In 2011, the “Arab Spring” arrived in Syria. the protests and unrest quickly turned nasty. Taking advantage of the situation and the resulting power vacuum, ISI sent troops and advisors across the border. Those created Al-Nusra in Syria. In 2013, Part of Al-Nusra and ISI merged, creating an Islamic Caliphate across part of Syria and Iraq: ISIS.
Thanks to a savvy blend of marketing and social media use, glorifying war and death, promising rewards in this life and the other in the name of a hard core brand of Sunni Islam, ISIS quickly became a magnet for young disaffected Muslims the world over. While between 25,000 and 45,000 young lost souls in search of identity travelled from Europe, North Africa, the Caucasus and Asia to join ISIS in Syria and Iraq to fight its war, some lone wolves in Europe, Russia and America turned to terrorism to fulfil the organisation’s terror goals.
Since then, most global and regional powers have been involved in both Syria and Iraq, some supporting one side, some supporting the other side, some playing a more shady game. Each of those powers arming, training and advising their own loyal militias on the ground, all gunning for their very own interests. ISIS has exported itself to Afghanistan and Northern Africa. Syria and Iraq will take generations to recover and heal if at all, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt are under direct threat, Iran and Israel are on the defensive.
Shock & Awe… What was supposed to be a quick operation limited in time, to remove a dictator from power snowballed into an out of control global nightmare, the consequences are grave and the future uncertain.