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UPDATED: August 19, 2014 NO. 34 AUGUST 21, 2014
The Unopposed Intervention
The U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq will not end the ongoing turmoil
By Yu Lintao

Shen Dingli, Associate Dean of the Institute of International Studies with Fudan University in Shanghai, claimed that the Iraq war launched by the former Bush administration is the root of the current chaos and the subsequent hotbed of extremism.

Observers claimed that one of Obama's primary aims in intervening with the current Iraq crisis is to remedy his image of being a weak leader in world affairs.

Shen said that as Obama moved away from interventionism in global hotspot issues after taking office in 2008 in favor of pursuing a domestic agenda, he drew criticism from political opponents and the media for perceived weakness. Even some on the left of the political spectrum in the United States have accused the president of having weakened the superpower's global leadership.

Ruan Zongze, Vice President of the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), said Obama is facing increased domestic pressure as his approval rating continues to slip. "If he does not take actions now, Obama will probably achieve little in the last two years of his presidency," Ruan said.

Tian echoed Ruan's view, noting that as the U.S. mid-term election draws near, Obama hopes to appear tough through interventions in order to win more support for the Democrats.

Limited impact

Though the belated U.S. intervention is welcomed by most parties, it is not expected to effectively change the overall situation in Iraq. Meanwhile, the struggle for power between domestic factions will add further woes to the country's deep dilemma.

"The current U.S. intervention is far from enough. Without a ground offensive, it is not easy to deal a heavy blow to ISIS, let alone to recover lost territory," said Tian. Airstrikes without a ground contingent would not be decisive—such air power would have to be accompanied by ground forces ready to stand and fight.

"In addition, Washington has no intention to wipe out ISIS. What the White House wants is to force the ISIS militants to turn their guns to Syria and Iran," Tian added.

Four days after Washington ordered the airstrikes, a Pentagon official said during a briefing that the United States had no plans to expand the air campaign and admitted "strikes are unlikely to affect ISIS's overall capabilities or its operations in other areas of Iraq and Syria."

Iraqi media also questioned the purpose and effectiveness of the U.S. airstrikes. An editorial from the Iraqi official newspaper Al Sabaah said the United States has a hidden agenda behind the overdue intervention—namely, the United States had helped ISIS grow strong and was now attempting to prove itself as a savior of Iraq in order to win the support of the Iraqi people.

Observers claimed that the ISIS offensive and Iraqi political infighting might further split the country and no amount of U.S. intervention can easily solve the issue.

Ruan of the CIIS said Iraq is already in the process of being divided. Airstrikes or other forms of pressure may temporarily suppress the momentum of extremists, but preserving Iraq as a united country still requires negotiation and compromise of all parties.

China, which firmly adheres to non-interventionism, for the first time did not voice opposition to the U.S. airstrike.

When recently responding to Obama's announcement of airstrikes against extremists in Iraq, the spokesperson's office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry remarked that China takes an open attitude toward any action that ensures security and stability in Iraq on the precondition of respect for the country's sovereignty. It supports efforts made by Iraq in safeguarding sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, as well as combating terrorism.

In fact, China has been playing a constructive role in the Iraq issue. Before the Iraq war, China unequivocally objected to the unilateral move against Iraq taken by the United States, which left behind enormous problems. During the rebuilding process, China has provided large amounts of humanitarian aid; it also helped reestablish an integrated manufacturing system and product chain of the Iraqi oil industry to promote its economic recovery. In addition, China also made significant contributions to Iraq's infrastructure construction—thanks in part to the help of Chinese enterprises, for example, Iraq now possesses communication services covering the whole country.

Email us at: yulintao@bjreview.com

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