The Syro-Iraq war, as the firestorm should probably now be called, rages on, with the sword of Damocles hanging over us in Britain. Some 400 British Muslims are fighting with ISIS – only 150 fewer than the number of Muslims in the whole British Army – and we can be pretty sure of blowback when they return home. Afterwards I imagine we’ll have the politicians lecturing us about how this has nothing to do with Islam and then those bizarre ‘one London’ style posters will appear all over the capital; and 90 per cent of the media coverage will be on the danger of Islamophobia – cue footage of football hooligans waving flags.
I agree that this has nothing to do with religion in the sense that sectarian wars are not about theology so much as identity and tribe. The Sunnis are fighting for their tribe, the Shia for theirs, and the Kurds likewise. The only people who practise non-discriminatory altruism are the Christian, or ex-Christian, western powers, who make zero effort to help the Middle East’s Christians – who are therefore being driven to extinction. That’s why altruism always has to be discriminatory, for as it says in the Bible: If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?
As I argued in my little book on the subject, Britain and America have done nothing to help the region’s religious minorities, and indeed have worsened their plight. Britain’s betrayal of Christians in Iraq – whose grandfathers fought alongside us in two wars – is one of the most shameful episodes of our recent history, perhaps the greatest since the betrayal of Poland in 1944; the difference being that there was arguably nothing we could do to help Poland, while there’s quite a fair bit we (by which I mean Britain and the US) could do in Iraq. The Christian stronghold in that country is centred on the Nineveh Plains, just outside Mosul, where villagers are currently awaiting the arrival of the Sunni extremists – the same group, remember, who carried out the appalling October 31, 2010 Baghdad church massacre.
Not far away is the territory of the Kurds, our allies, who now look likely to achieve independence from Iraq, and with considerably more territory than they previously had. With the help of the Kurds we could protect Iraq’s minorities concentrated in that region, a region of breathtaking religious and cultural diversity – it’s just that no one in the American or British governments cares.
It seems probable that Iraq and Syria will break-up, as Daniel Hannan suggests; although in principle I agree with his argument, it seems unlikely that such change would not have huge ramifications elsewhere, perhaps triggering violence all the way from Lebanon to Pakistan. Small, homogenous, cohesive nation-states are the most effective means to deliver wealthy, peaceful and liberal societies, but the path is usually horrendous, as Europe’s history shows. For those groups without defensible territory to become a nation-state, there is no future. If we are to have any sort of Middle East policy, and I’m not sure we should, then surely it should be aimed at protecting the defenceless Christians, rather than taking sides between the awful Saudi regime and the even more ghastly Iranian one?