Ian Black, The Guardian’s middle east editor, on U.S. and Iranian aims in Iraq.

The article was written in the wake of recent reports that the Iranian Air Force have been carrying air strikes against ISIS in Diyala province, Iraq.

This is a state of affairs that might, in other circumstances, be causing howls of outrage among the professional punditocracy, of which Black is a part.

‘What about Iraqi sovereignty? What about potential civilian casualties? What about international law? And what could possibly justify such brutal aggression?’, would be the thrust of it.

But the U.S. is also bombing ISIS in Iraq, and said punditocracy are by and large supporting them in doing so. The transparent double standard of cheering on one state as they bomb ISIS, while deriding another, would surely be too audacious for even them.

Black’s commentary, however, demonstrates how it’s still possible to frame such reports in a way that suggests not all bombing of ISIS is in fact equal.

He tells the reader, for example, that the U.S.’s aim in Iraq is:

‘in principle at least . . . to see an inclusive democracy take root’.

He then writes, by contrast, that Iran’s aim is:

‘ . . . protecting Iraq’s Shia majority and religious shrines while bolstering its position vis-a-vis the nervous Saudis and the other western-backed Sunni monarchies of the Gulf’.

In a similar vein, Black concludes his article by quoting Toby Dodge, an academic from the London School of Economics, who says that Iranian policy in Iraq is to:

‘sectarianise the conflict and back Shia chauvinism’.

And that this is:

‘ . . . the exact opposite of the outcome the Americans want – citizenship and equality for all before the Iraqi state’.


So then, the U.S. simply want to promote an ‘inclusive democracy’ and ‘citizenship and equality for all’ in Iraq – presumably out of the goodness of their hearts.

While Iran is instead looking to defend and promote its own narrow sectarian and strategic interests, is causing no end of worry to those poor, ‘nervous’ Saudis and the other Gulf autocracies (or ‘monarchies’, as Black puts it), and no good can surely come of it.

That the U.S. themselves have long promoted sectarian tyranny in the middle-east, and continue to promote tyranny in general to this day, is beyond any reasonable dispute. That they do this in large part because they consider middle eastern oil ‘a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history’ – that is, far too important an asset to be trusted to the masses of people who just happen to live on top of it – is again fairly well established.

But that history and context is completely ignored by Black, and the reader is clearly supposed to come away from this article in no doubt as to just who it is that’s causing mischief in Iraq, and just who it is that’s trying to help.

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