Félix Arteaga, security and defence researcher at the Royal Elcano Institute.
Julio García. Madrid
The risk that some radical Islamists who left Spain and became jihadists in Iraq could return and put into practice their activities was one of the issues touched upon during the debate on the crisis that Iraq is experiencing, held, yesterday, by researchers from the Royal Elcano Institute, in Madrid.
The advance of insurgent movements in the Sunni area of Iraq against Nuri Al-Maliki’s Baghdad Government was analysed by experts in the debate. They lamented the lack of the UN and the international community’s involvement in influencing that country and, also, the Middle East, in resolving the permanent instability in which they live there.
During the debate, celebrated at the Círculo de Bellas Artes, Madrid, the security and defence researcher for the Royal Elcano Institute, Félix Arteaga, stated that hundreds of jihadists resident in Spain, Europe and North Africa are joining the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in confronting Maliki for different reasons, among them, his sectarianism after the US troops left in 2011.
Arteaga explained that this collective are the so called “transnational jihadists” who arrive in Iraq, independently of their motivation being Islamic or not, to fight alongside the insurgency. “They are not many, but they are generations of combatants” he affirmed.
The researcher alerted to the risk that should these people return to their home territories, they could put into practice the terrorist tactics they have been taught or the insurgency they are being socialised into”, an insurgency, he adds, that has the objective of the creation in that area of the Middle East of an emirate or caliphate with extreme Islamic principles, with political and economic control.
For his part, the researcher for the Mediterranean and the Arab World at the Royal Elcano Institute, Haizam Amirah Fernández, denounced the passivity of the international community when faced with an Iraq that was not normalizing after the US troops’ withdrawal in 2011 and that has led to the creation of these insurgent groups that are attacking Al-Maliki.
A possible US military intervention is considered a big risk for the area
Amirah Fernández considered that it would be a “big risk that the US be seen in Iraq and in the rest of the region, as a country that supports a supposed Shia-Persian invasion into Iraqi territory, that attacks or a visible campaign take place against that mix of groups which have advanced on that part of Iraq”.
He concluded that the entirety of the Middle East is facing a great battle which goes unnoticed, a battle to build a diverse society that respects pluralism within political, institutional and constitutional orders. Until now, he lamented, what is being trialled is not to integrate diversity, but to identify the group and the sectarian ethnic purity, and the big question is whether some day it will be possible to advance in the opposite direction.
For his part, the director of the Energy Programme at the Elcano Royal Institute, Gonzalo Escribano, affirmed that Spain has reduced import of Iraq oil by 60%, from 7% of total imports to the 3% it stands at currently. Even so, Spain is still the EU country that imports most oil from Iraq.
Escribano added that this reduction, alongside possible disturbances in Nigeria, the embargo on Iran, the problems with Libya and the flare-up of the Iraq conflict, will place Spain in a “very complicated [logistical] situation”, while, at the same time, he lamented that EU remains “absent” from this question.