June 16, 2014 Special Dispatch No. 5771

'Al-Hayat' Editor Ghassan Charbel: While The Rest Of The World Is Watching The World Cup, We Are Watching The Collapse Of Iraq

June 16, 2014
Iraq | Special Dispatch No. 5771

On June 13, 2014, Ghassan Charbel, the editor of the London-based daily Al-Hayat, published an article titled "As Iraq Crumbles," in which he claimed that, while the "normal" world is busy with the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the Arabs, in the "cursed part of the world," are watching the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) take over Iraq and destroy it. He states that the collapse of Iraq stems from many factors, both internal and external, including the ongoing war in Syria, and hints that Russia bears some of the blame due to its continued support of the Assad regime. He therefore rejects the statement of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who held the U.S. entirely responsible for the Iraqi crisis.

Quoting an unnamed Iraqi politician, Charbel argues that it is internal political change, rather than a dangerous external intervention, that will save Iraq from collapse.

The following are excerpts from the article:[1]

Ghassan Charbel

"It's as though we are in a cursed part of the world. The world's eyes are on Brazil, and three quarters of its people are busy with the World Cup. They are on a football vacation, buying jerseys and hanging flags on their balconies. They are glued to their TV screens and ask about Neymar the Brazilian, Lionel Messi the Argentinian, and Cristiano Ronaldo from Portugal. [Goal] nets quiver as goals are scored, and the images are broadcast across the globe. Commentators are busy analyzing free kicks and penalty kicks, and the worst thing that can happen is a yellow card turning into a red card [when a player is ejected from the game].

"[But] we are the people of the cursed part of the world. As the [rest] of the world watches Brazil, we continue sinking into the abyss, tracking the murderous intensions of ISIS and [its leader] Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the seeing the goal-net of [Iraqi Prime Minister] Nouri Al-Maliki quiver [as ISIS scores against him] and his team collapses. The world is busy with gentle wars that end with a trophy, and we follow our descent from one hell to another. Our maps crumble under the heel of our blind zealotry, and our media wallows in hatred and blood. [The world] is immersed in honoring the winners, while we are immersed in funerals and waves of refugees.

"Let us leave the World Cup to its people – to normal peoples living in normal countries. We have more pressing matters – a lethal match on Iraqi soil whose results will spread beyond its borders. What has happened in recent days is no simple matter. It is a complete collapse of Iraq's armed forces. I can go so far as to say a complete collapse of Iraq. Who can believe that ISIS has suddenly taken over a thousand guns, missiles, tools and massive amounts of ammo, and that the decision-maker in Mosul is a former officer in Saddam's army, [or] that the city's new master knows that there are 500 million dollars in its central bank branch? This is beyond imagination or belief.

"I phoned friends of mine in Iraq. For the first time I could sense how afraid they are for the capital, the remaining coexistence and Iraq's unity. When they described the developments, the expression 'total collapse' kept coming up. The words of a certain [Iraqi] politician gave me pause: Iraq will not be rescued from without, and American attacks on ISIS, if they occur, will not solve the problem. Iran [too] knows full well the dangers of direct military intervention by its forces, and so does Turkey. This politician said that time was fast running out, and that stopping the deterioration must first include Al-Maliki's resignation in order to enable a unity government that would ensure the defense of Baghdad and prevent a grand massacre in and around it. A government that would immediately start reorganizing its armed forces and would cooperate with forces in Kurdistan and residents of areas whose lives are threatened by ISIS and its allies...

"The politician stressed that delaying a response to [Iraq's] collapse would mean civil war and escalating conflict among various parts [of the population] over Iraq's territory and resources. This will necessarily be accompanied by massacre, expulsion, and the completion of [Iraq's] partition along sectarian lines...

"[Russian Foreign Minister] Sergey Lavrov has a right to mock the tragic results of the American invasion of Iraq. He didn't exaggerate when he said that 'Iraq's unity is threatened.' However, it is hard to say that only American policy has Iraqi blood on its hands. Iraqi blood is [also] on the hands of many others inside and outside Iraq. Lavrov is wrong to speak as though he is the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The delay in ending the Syria war is a main cause of Iraq's collapse. Who knows, tomorrow someone may mention that Lavrov's hands are not clean of the blood [spilled] in the region.

"The world is busy welcoming the World Cup, while we [Arabs] are busy bidding farewell to the Iraq we knew and once thought immune to collapse and partition..."


[1] Al-Hayat (London), June 13, 2014.

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