In an interview with Muslimpress.com, Paul Antonopoulos, a political commentator, speaks about the crisis in Iraq and Syria.
Here’s the full text of the interview:
MP: What role has Russia played in fighting ISIS in Syria? How important was the demining operation by Russian troops?
Paul Antonopoulos: The role Russia has played in Syria cannot be looked at just its operations against ISIS. Although the Russian role was pivotal in the liberation of Palmyra, its airstrikes have been imperative for the Syrian Army's advancements in Latakia and Aleppo against Al-Nusra and their jihadist allies and helping the army's position in Deir Ez-Zor against the ISIS imposed siege. The demining operation was important in that it allowed full access to all of Palmyra for the army to continue its operations in eastern Homs province. The demining process was swift, highly professional and impressive by the Russian forces.
MP: Despite truce, deadly air strikes are still carried out across Syria. What’s your take on this?
Paul Antonopoulos: The airstrikes have only been in response to terrorist forces breaking the ceasefire. It is in the government's interest for these ceasefires to hold so that the army can concentrate on its anti-ISIS operations as well as seeking a peaceful resolution to the war with groups that are also seeking to end the conflict. Unfortunately, the constant breach of the truce demonstrates that no groups are seeking to end the war peacefully.
MP: How did the liberation of Fallujah play out for the Iraqis? Do you consider it as a significant achievement?
Paul Antonopoulos: The liberation of Fallujah was significant in that it demonstrates the Iraqi forces aggressively countering ISIS terrorists. It leads the path to fully liberate Anbar province whilst slowly working towards the liberation of Mosul. It was a symbolic victory when one considers that Fallujah has been the center of jihadi activity since the removal of Saddam Hussein.
MP: ISIS has been using US vehicles and arms for a long time. How did these vehicles and arms get into the hands of the terrorists?
Paul Antonopoulos: Many of these vehicles and arms were captured by ISIS when the Iraqi Army did its mass withdrawal from Mosul leaving behind US supplied items. When knowing there have been many instances where the USA have supposedly accidentally dropped aid and supplies into ISIS held territory in Syria that were meant for other US supported groups. As well as this, one must question US NATO ally, Turkey, and its role in supplying ISIS with equipment.
MP: Once again Blair and Bush’s decision to attack Iraq in 2003 is being investigated. What’s your take on this? Do you blame them for what’s happening in Iraq?
Paul Antonopoulos: Blair and Bush are solely to blame for the destabilization of Iraq. Even with the removal of Saddam Hussein, the duo had not come up with a reasonable post-Ba'athist Iraq. Rather than integrating Ba'athist politicians and army commanders into the new Iraq, they were all cut, with no pension, but allowed to keep their weapons. With this concoction, it was only a matter of time before trouble would have erupted as we saw with the sectarian war in 2006-07 and with the rise of ISIS in Iraq in 2014.
Paul Antonopoulos is a political commentator and analyst for Al-Masdar News. He has an MA in International Relations, with a thesis on "Saudi-Iranian Geopolitical Rivalry in the Syrian War."