Newsletter: Vol. 14, Iss. 2
October 2015

America Paved the Way for ISIS
Professor Noam Chomsky

An interesting interview with Graham Fuller appeared a couple of days ago. Fuller is a former CIA officer, one of the leading intelligence and mainstream analysts of the Middle East. The title of the interview is The United States Created ISIS. This is a source at the heart of the US establishment. Fuller hastens to point out that he doesn’t mean the US decided to put ISIS into existence and then funded it. His point is that the US created the background out of which ISIS grew and developed. In 2003, the US and Britain invaded Iraq. Just this afternoon the British parliament granted the government the authority to bomb Iraq again. The invasion was devastating to Iraq. Iraq had already been virtually destroyed, first of all by the decade-long war with Iran in which Iraq was backed by the US, and then the decade of sanctions. The sanctions were described as “genocidal” by the respected international diplomats who administered them and both resigned in protest for that reason. They devastated the civilian society, they strengthened the dictator, compelled the population to rely on him for survival. That’s probably the reason he wasn’t overthrown. Finally, the U.S. decided to attack Iraq in 2003. The attack is compared by many Iraqis to the Mongol invasion of a thousand years earlier. Very destructive. Hundreds of thousands of people killed, millions of refugees, millions of other displaced persons, destruction of the archeological richness and wealth of the country back to Sumeria.

One of the effects of the invasion was immediately to institute sectarian divisions. Within a couple of years, there was a major, brutal sectarian conflict incited by the invasion. If you take a map of Baghdad in 2002, it’s a mixed city: Sunni and Shi’a are living in the same neighborhoods, they’re intermarried. In fact, sometimes they didn’t even know who was Sunni and who was Shi’a. It’s like knowing whether your friends are in one Protestant group or another Protestant group. There were differences but it was not hostile. In fact, for a couple of years both sides were saying: there will never be Sunni-Shi’a conflicts. We’re too intermingled in the nature of our lives. By 2006 there was a raging war. That conflict spread to the whole region. By now, the whole region is being torn apart by Sunni-Shi’a conflicts.

The natural dynamics of a conflict like that is that the most extreme elements begin to take over. Their roots are in the major US ally, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has been the major US ally in the region as long as the US has been seriously involved there, in fact, since the foundation of the Saudi state. Saudi Arabia is a kind of a family dictatorship. The reason is it has a huge amount oil.

Britain, before the US, had typically preferred radical Islamism to secular nationalism. When the US took over, it essentially took the same stand. Radical Islam is centered in Saudi Arabia, which is the most extremist, radical Islamic state in the world. By comparison, it makes Iran look like a tolerant, modern country. It’s not only directed by an extremist version of Islam, the Wahhabi Salafi version, but it’s also a missionary state. So it uses its huge oil resources to promulgate these doctrines throughout the region. It establishes schools, mosques, clerics from Pakistan to North Africa.

An extremist version of Saudi extremism is the doctrine that was picked up by ISIS. So it grew ideologically out of the most extremist form of Islam—the Saudi version. Saudi Arabia not only provides the ideological core that led to the ISIS radical extremism, but it also funds them. Not the Saudi government, but wealthy Saudis, wealthy Kuwaitis, and others provide the funding and the ideological support for these jihadi groups that are springing up. This attack on the region by the US and Britain is the source, where this thing originates.

You can be pretty confident that as conflicts develop, they will become more extremist. The most brutal, harshest groups will take over. That’s what happens when violence becomes the means of interaction. It’s almost automatic. It’s true in neighborhoods. It’s true in international affairs. If they manage to destroy ISIS, they will have something more extreme on their hands.

return to previous page