With current events in Iraq quickly escalating out of control, Deakin expert, Dr Benjamin Isakahn, holds little hope for Iraq’s immediate or medium-term future.
“No matter what happens, in the immediate short-term we will see a blood bath,” said Dr Isakhan, who is an ARC DECRA fellow at the Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation.
“Iraq is at a critical juncture in its life, and we could very well see its complete disintegration,” he added.
Dr Isakhan was one of four Deakin experts who recently spoke at a public forum hosted by the Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation, to discuss the future of ISIS in Iraq and its implications for the region.
He explained that the current crisis is fundamentally the result of conflict between three different groups who are all taking advantage of the instability to attempt to seize control. These groups are the Kurds, who dominate the North East, the Shia Arabs, who dominate the South, and the Sunni Arabs, who are taking control of the centre and west of Iraq.
“These factions were held under control after the founding of Iraq in 1921, but they have re-emerged since the war began in 2003,” said Dr Isakhan.
“Iraq has very quickly gone from being very troubled, but more or less a collective nation state, to the situation where three separate entities are battling for control. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) is taking control of massive parts of Sunni territory, such as Mosul, the kurds have seized Kirkuk, and, now, a senior Shia cleric is telling his people to rise up against ISIS in the north.
“The images we are seeing of massive buses and trucks taking busloads of Shia to the north means Iraq is in for a long and protracted fight.”
In terms of international intervention, Dr Isakhan added that involvement from Australia, the UK and the US would be “very difficult”.
“President Obama was elected on the promise that the US would get out of Iraq. To go back would be political suicide,” he said.
“However, Australia, the US and UK have a moral obligation because the current situation is a direct product of our intervention. We have to stand up and say we’re to blame.”
“It is a very difficult situation, made worse by the fact that it would be impossible to help Iraq without trying to fix what’s happening in Syria.”
Four experts from Deakin’s Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation spoke at the roundtable: Professor Shahram Akbarzadeh, ARC Future Fellow; Dr James Barry, Associate Research Fellow; Dr Benjamin Isakhan, ARC DECRA Fellow; and Dr David Tittensor, Research Fellow.