Islamic State would not have enjoyed the success it did if Saddam Hussein had remained in power, John Nixon, the former CIA agent who grilled him, claims. Nixon says the West should deal with leaders it “abhors” to have a stable Middle East.
No flourishing ISIS under Hussein
“It is improbable that a group like ISIS would have been able to enjoy the kind of success under his repressive regime that they have had under the Shia-led Baghdad government,” Nixon wrote.
According to the ex-agent, Saddam was well aware of the potential risks posed by the flourishing jihadist movements and was keen to suppress any such attempts. “Saddam felt that Islamist extremist groups in Iraq posed the biggest threat to his rule and his security apparatus worked assiduously to root out such threats.”
A recently published Chilcot report, conducted by British MPs on the country’s involvement in the 2003 Iraq war, backs Nixon’s assumption on IS.
The documents show that by 2006 – three years into the occupation – UK intelligence chiefs were increasingly concerned about the rise of Sunni jihadist resistance. Those radicals and parts of the disbanded Iraqi military later joined radical jihadist groups, including ISIS, the report said.
West may deal with leaders ‘we abhor’ to have peace in Middle East
Yet in light of internal chaos and violence between the Shiite and Sunni Muslims which erupted following the 2003 US-led invasion, one may consider Hussein not the worst option, according to Nixon.
Nixon says he was also warned by the late leader that American attempts to stabilize the country were doomed to fail. “You are going to fail in Iraq because you do not know the language, the history, and you do not understand the Arab mind,” the ex-CIA agent quoted Hussein as telling him.
Despite the Iraqi army and militia backed by Washington now achieving some success in destroying Islamic State, “we [the US] are still far from achieving this goal," Nixon said.
According to Nixon, incoming US President Donald Trump will now have a chance to “play a very large role” in creating a new order in the Middle East. “This will require making tough decisions and, ultimately, recognizing that we may have to deal with people and leaders that we abhor if we want to help bring stability back to the region and limit the scope of terrorism’s reach.”
Following his election, Trump warned against pursuing regime change in Syria and said the US should focus on tackling the threat of Islamic State.
“My attitude was you’re fighting Syria, Syria is fighting ISIS, and you have to get rid of ISIS,” Trump said. He added that while Washington is backing rebels against President Assad, it has “no idea who these people are.”