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Millennium Post

New Middle East, all tiered conflict

The siege of northern Iraq by the Sunni terror group the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/al-Sham (ISIS) could be termed, in all probability, the Third Gulf War, but what it hides under its obviously gory and militant exterior is the seamy underlayer of workers’ lives thrown asunder. Low-wage, thoroughly underpaid workers from the third world, chiefly India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, oil the wheels of machines that run the spanking new Middle East, as well as help rebuild war-torn countries like Iraq, Libya, Syria among others. Construction workers, domestic helps, nurses, chauffeurs and every other lowly paid person employed in the Gulf is probably from the Indian subcontinent, who send back home a huge amount of money in remittances. Apart from the dependence on oil, Iraq’s significance for India goes a long way back, and not just during the 24-year-rule of Saddam Hussein. Now that cities are being felled in a row by the ISIS juggernaut, the crisis has spiraled out from within the confines of the Gulf region and has begun impacting the global ecopolitical map. The oil shock notwithstanding, what is of paramount importance is the safety and security of Indians stranded, or abducted, in the strife-stricken Iraq, which in itself has become, after Afghanistan, yet another graveyard of foreign policy.

     With news of ISIS extremists kidnapping 40 Indian construction workers, mostly from Punjab, in Mosul and hundreds of nurses trapped in Tikrit and other besieged cities, India is at last waking up to the enormity of the crisis. Oil refineries are being captured with arms that were once supplied by the CIA to stockpile ammunition for and unite the anti-Saddam sectarian forces. Now a decade later, Iraq has disintegrated into a sectarian war zone, even though the logic behind US-led NATO invasion of the country to prevent precisely this. Isn’t it ironic that Sunni insurgents, long held in check by the minority regime under Hussein in Iraq, and under Bashar al-Assad in Syria, have come together to wreak havoc in not just a country, but in fact look to expand their base in the entire region? ISIS extremists, an offshoot of al-Qaeda, now bankrolled by Saudi Wahabi fundamentalists, seek to conquer not just Iraq, but in fcat, want to establish a caliphate in the greater Middle East, comprising Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt and Syria – all the countries employing thousands of South Asians doing the menial jobs and keeping the economies either from completely collapsing, or booming. Every war hides its underbelly, but the vicious cycle that is the Gulf War, undoubtedly the US’s longest-running franchise, has more underbellies and decrepit intestines that it can keep a lid on.           
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