What can the West do about the Middle East?

In the past weeks, the attention of the world has been firmly placed onto the undoubtedly concerning developments within Iraq, as ISIS continue their march towards Baghdad. The reality is that the underlying issue lies far deeper than Iraq, as the original Islamic State of Iraq began taking on fighters from Syria, who were fighting against the Assad regime.

It is at this point that the issue begins to concern the West. It seems that just yesterday, the US, British and French governments were each discussing arming the rebel groups in their fights against the murderous regime of President Assad. Fast-forward, and some of those same rebel groups now march across Northern Iraq, murdering Iraqi soldiers and causing fear across the country.

But where does this leave the West, and in particular, the United States? The foreign policy of the Obama administration has come under much scrutiny and perhaps this is down to its stark contrast to that of the Bush administration. On the other hand, perhaps the intense scrutiny is down to a restlessness within Republican ranks at the President’s continued reluctance to face up-to the threats that ISIS pose to the United States and her Allies. I would see myself as a critic of the Obama administration’s foreign policies, for two main reasons. Firstly, President Obama has not been consistent in his pledges regarding Syria and also other Arab Spring countries such as in Libya. We all remember the hideously thought through ‘red-line’ speech, in which the President claimed that use of chemical weapons within Syria by the Assad regime on the people of Syria would represent a serious change of tact by the United States, likely hinting towards direct intervention of some description. However, President Obama made this speech on September the 4th, 2013. It can be said that the President’s efforts to gain British support for such an endeavor fell short prior to this speech when Parliament rejected the use of military strikes against the Assad regime in August of 2013. Therefore, such a statement by the President is clearly intended to be suggestive towards independent action by the United States. Once again, fast-forward to 2014, and no such action has been taken, and the war in Syria continues.

It is in this that the United States finds its main issue. Indecision and dithering on behalf of the West has resulted in the Russians annexing Crimea, and it is these two words that will seemingly define the Obama administration in terms of foreign policy. Inaction in Syria left a huge power vacuum, and the violent extremists that seek to wreck havoc in Iraq seized their opportunity. The West seemingly now views Syria as an issue far too complex to warrant intervention, and so the fighting has spilled over into Iraq.

So, how can the West protect and promote the democratic interests of a people? The answer is unequivocal in nature. It must throw all support behind the democratically elected government of Iraq, whilst demanding sectarian unification against ISIS. History clearly tells us that direct, military intervention simply doesn’t work, most potently in problems as deep rooted as we see in the Middle East. War in Iraq may have resulted in the execution of Saddam Hussein, but eleven years on and it is still in the news, with severe threats to its democratic process. The reality is that inconsistent foreign policy has undermined Western diplomatic efforts across the region and also amongst the electorate within the countries themselves. The appetite for military involvement overseas has plummeted amongst the electorate since the invasion of Iraq, because quite simply, there has been an air of hypocrisy overshadowing Western diplomatic efforts in recent years. Why is intervention correct to overthrow one murderous tyrant but not another?

Only a fool would try and predict what might happen over the course of the next few month in Iraq and the Middle East, but regardless, the West must stand for freedom and democracy. It must become consistent in its exploits, it must protect those that need protecting, and last but not least, it must think very carefully about its next move in the Middle East, because one wrong move could spell disaster for the most unstable region in world politics.