Looks like the cradle of civilization is becoming even less civilized -- or more uncivilized -- this week, as the world lurches ever close to the Armageddon.
Walt refers to the looming disaster in Iraq, and suggests you have a look at the map of the "cradle" in "The Coffin of Civilization", posted here back in September of 2012. See the part of the "Fertile Crescent" labelled "Assyria"? That's modern-day Syria. "Akkad" roughly corresponds to Iraq. Here's a modern map, showing today's porous borders. Consult your programme while Walt explains who's killing whom.
The yellow stain of violent Islamic extremism starts in north-eastern Syria where jihadist rebels are fighting the forces of "Basher" Assad's government, then spreads east into northern Iraq, where the majority Kurds -- also Muslims -- have been agitating for ages to establish an independent state. In fact they already have a government of sorts in the three Iraqi states shown in olive grey.
The insurgents coming in from Syria represent a new "organization", even worse than al-Qaeda, which they call "the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant". The abbreviation would seem to be "ISIL", but they have taken to using "ISIS", maybe because... well, who knows... Islam is not the monolithic religion many westerners think it is. Muslims like fighting with each other even better than waging war on infidels. [Maybe it's because we infidels are better fighters? Ed.] The ISIS jihadists are Sunni Muslims, and regard the Shia Muslims (the majority in Iraq) as, errr, also infidels.
The Kurds, as you can imagine, are encouraging the Sunni thugs to make their whey [Geddit? Kurds and whey? Ed.] quickly south to Tikrit and Baghdad, where the Shites [Ed., please check spelling] are, and leave "Kurdistan" to the Kurds. As of today, ISIS are in control of Mosul and Tikrit and are moving closer to Baghdad. Iraqi government troops are stripping off their uniforms and laying down their arms as fast as Egyptians fleeing from advancing Israelis.
Cue the inevitable "Something must be done!" from Western leaders, the Disunited Nations, etc etc. But what?! How about sending US troops in to restore order. Considering what a great job the American-led "coalition" did last time, maybe not! Even President Hussein Obama has learned (Walt thinks) that going in is one thing, getting out quite another. Won't be doing that again!
But cheer up. Iran is ready to step into the breach! President Hassan Rouhani has denied reports that three units of Iran's crack Presidential Guards have already been sent to Baghdad to bolster Iraqi government forces' defences. But, he said, Iran stands ready to intervene if things get worse. And they are sending a dozen tanks fitted with special transmissions -- four speeds in reverse and one forward... in case the Sunnis attack from the rear.
Iran has close ties with the Shia-dominated Iraqi leadership which came to power after the Americans toppled of President Saddam Hussein, whose power base was the country's Sunni minority. That little exercise cost over $1,000,000,000,000 -- that's a trillion -- and over 4000 American lives. But it was worth it, right? Errr, maybe not.
Note from Ed.: I'm reminded of the old Iraqi lovesong: I Want a Gal Just Like the Old Bag Dad Had.