Who are the good guys in the Middle East, Prime Minister?



Before deciding on a military contribution to Iraq, our Prime Minister should explain who he would be supporting, or be allied with. Let’s look at who would be on his side.

The Iraqi army. Any training of this army by Kiwi soldiers will be a waste of time because it is not interested in fighting. Even though the Iraqi army had 30,000 soldiers in northern city of Mosul and greatly outnumbered the ISIS forces they turned tail and ran. This was because the Iraqi “army” is essentially a cash cow for its officers. As Patrick Cockburn explains, army commanders inflate the actual number of soldiers in their units and share out the extra salaries. The many army checkpoints are also great fundraisers.

The Shia militias.  These do fight, but they mimic ISIS with their torture and murder of civilians. ISIS kills innocent Shia and the Shia militias kill innocent Sunnis. The political influence of the Shia militias has grown with the recent appointment of Mohammed Ghabban as Interior Minister.  He is a leader of the notorious Badr militias.

Iran. Although President Obama keeps quiet about it, big Shia brother Iran has more influence on the Iraqi government than the US does. In addition, Iran runs and arms the Shia militias. So a New Zealand military contribution would be helping Iran at the same time as New Zealand has sanctions against that country. Strange.

The Iraqi Kurds. These do fight ISIS, not to help the Iraqi government but to pave the way for an independent Kurdish state. An independent Kurdistan may be a good idea, but I haven’t yet heard our Prime Minister supporting it.

The Turkish Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). We were cheering them on when they were the main armed force rescuing the Yazidis in Sinjar, northern Iraq when ISIS was murdering the Yazidis as heretics.  John Key forgot to tell you that the PKK has been designated a terrorist organization under our Terrorism Suppression Act. In reality the PKK is an armed insurgent group, rather than a terrorist group, but the Western powers (including New Zealand) call it terrorist to keep Turkey happy.

The Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).  New Zealanders have also been cheering the YPG units as they heroically defend the Syrian/Turkish border town of Kobani. The YPG is the Syrian subsidiary of the Turkish PKK, and as such any New Zealander sending it aid would be liable for a jail term under our Terrorism Suppression Act.  Again, rather strange.

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The Syrian government. The Assad regime is probably the main beneficiary of the US-led bombing of ISIS and the other extremist group, al-Nusra. It means Assad can concentrate his fire on what’s left of the Free Syrian Army.

Turkey.  President Erdogan is a vacillator. He seems more interested in attacking the Turkish and Syrian Kurds than in degrading ISIS.

Saudi Arabia.  A strange ally, given its penchant for public beheadings of the sort which set most New Zealanders against ISIS in the first place. Foreign Minister Murray McCully has refused to answer questions about Saudi state beheadings – which have recently included beheadings for apostasy (converting from Islam), adultery and “sorcery”.

America.  Not sure what its long-term strategy is, apart from dropping bombs on ISIS.

[You might also be interested in my opinion piece on why New Zealand shouldn’t help the US militarily in Iraq, published in the New Zealand Herald on 21 October 2014.]


  1. Hi,

    Shouldn’t we be on the side of the victims? Or would you rather we just walked away and left them to ISIS?

    Cheers, Greg.

    • No lets not walk away. We can provide support to the thousands who have fled IS and now are in refugee camps possibly for years.

    • we walked away from victims in Palestine, we walk away from ISIS victims in syria and still do, as the western coalition is only interested in fighting ISIS in Iraqi. We walked away from the Taliban in Afghanistan. Maybe the question is why should we start trying to help after so long ignoring them.

    • I would rather that we had an actual strategy and long-term plan.

      The current strat seems to be along the lines of spray and pray, with a side dose of “don’t give anyone weapons because it massively backfired the last time”.

  2. Thank you Keith for this informative blog. I sent the following questions to all mainstream Media and the Green Party Co-leaders. I still don’t have the answers.

    To assist the public unravel what is going on in the latest 9/11 inspired global
    ‘war-on-terror’, the mainstream media should ask the Prime Minister, senior politicians and various defence experts these questions:
    When was ISIS/ISIL first identified as a major fighting force?

    Who is supplying ISIS/ISIL with weapons, logistical and financial support?

    Where are the weapons and other military hardware used by ISIS/ISIL manufactured?

    Are ISIS/ISIL the ‘moderate’ rebels who were supported by the Western alliance in the campaign to overthrow the Assad government in Syria?

    According to what we know the US, UK, Israel, some EU countries, Turkey, and ISIS/ISIL wish to overthrow the Assad government. Does this mean that ISIS/ISIL are our allies?

    Are the US, UK and Saudi air strikes attacking ISIS/ISIL personnel or only the infrastructure ‘used’ by them? (Power stations, oil refineries, water supplies etc…)

    Why have the public not seen the actual beheadings of Western hostages by ISIS/ISIL?

    Why are ISIS/ISIL attacking fellow Muslims instead of their arch enemy Israel?

    What are the estimated numbers of troops in the ISIS/ISIL ‘army’?
    How many troops are there in the Iraqi army?

    Why is the Iraqi military incapable of halting ISIS/ISIL?

    How many New Zealanders are fighting with ISIS/ISIL?

    If there are any, will their passports be cancelled whilst overseas thus preventing their return to New Zealand?

    According to a NZ police document ISIS/ISIL is listed as a terrorist organisation

    Is it OK for New Zealand mercenaries to join in the fight against ISIS/ISIL?

    It is against the law to assist a terrorist organisation, so why is it necessary to ‘enhance’ our security and terrorist laws when the present laws seem perfectly adequate?

    Are these proposed ‘enhanced’ security, surveillance and terrorism law changes primarily designed to suppress honest whistleblowers and journalists from publishing the inconvenient truth?

  3. There is no threat according to some. They do not event accept that Aussie police have charged 2 men with plotting to kidnap and behead someone, and then drape the ISIS flag over the body before putting it on display. To ignore the threat is beyond stupidity.

    • Is that the same country that imprisons little kids on islands and leaves them in limbo for years? Among many other ‘crimes against humanity’.

      You must know there has always been a fringe of bandwaggoners, and mouth-frothers who’ll copy anything going the rounds. Just because.

      PS An increasing number of those who trek off to the wars find they’re not the Hard Men they thought they were. Cannon fodder, if they’re lucky, and dog tucker if they try to leave. It’s not all AK-47s and second-hand Humvees.

    • We get hyped up media reports from Australia, mainly from their privately owned and run media outlets. There were weeks ago massive police raids, with hundreds of police, and all they did was charge one person with I believe an arms related matter.

      Much of what was initially reported turned out to have been vastly exaggerated. While I agree there is reason for some concern and vigilance, I think we are having a crisis created by government propaganda and sensation news hunting media.

      Recently there was this video with some radical muslims, who appear to support ISIS encouraging kids to chant stuff, that gives concern. But was this perhaps not again presented a bit out of context?

      By the way the “ISIS flag” is not really “their” flag, it is one that has a religious meaning and some words by the prophet Muhammed written on it. The same flag has been and is being used by many groups, and not only “terrorists”, such as ISIS actually qualifies to be seen as, given the atrocities they have committed, and the war crimes they are responsible for.

      Remember also, once we had some New Zealanders fight overseas as mercenaries, same as Brits, Americans and so, for racist governments in Africa, who committed atrocities, or for corrupt governments in other African countries. I do not rule out they committed atrocities, but they were never stopped from going and do what they did, and they did not come back and committed murder and violence here.

      So why should we not at least de-emotionalise things, and take a more objective view, rather than have some media reports stir up anti Muslim sentiment, which is really the consequence of much of what goes on.

      By creating more resentment, suspicions and divisions, we may be creating the very dangers and threats that the government claims it wants to avoid and stop.

    • That’s the Aussie computer gaming guy who was arrested with a plastic sword. To think he could have smuggled it past a metal detector is what concerns me as a New Zealander.

  4. Who are the good guys in the Middle East? For that matter, who are the good guys in New Zealand? It’s always a question of perspective and even the quickest of analyses shows that these things are always shades of grey and have their own intricate contexts. US interests are based on the long term awkward situation which is that our oil is under their sand. Europe, with its porous borders and mass transiency, has the dilemma that it needs to avoid antagonising its Muslim citizenry while at the same time containing fanaticism.
    More distant nations struggle with the moral dilemma of whether or not and how to intervene in the fanatical and brutal expansionism of ISIS and cope with the growing tide of refugees.
    Arguably there aren’t any good guys and we end up having to choose amongst the lesser of evils. What is our objective? To ensure that US and wider interests in Gulf state resources, i.e. oil, are protected? To support self-determination, democracy and co-existence? To minimise the suffering of displaced and brutalised communities?
    The safest policy might be one which is fundamentally humanitarian but any intervention or participation at all is going to result in alienation and hostility – there can be no universal good guys and we are left with the quandary of doing nothing and allowing ISIS to continue its rampage and allow the conflict to burn itself out regardless of the humanitarian cost. The problem is we are dealing with humans, not with an entity that makes sense.

    • Correct me if I am wrong, but didnt intervention sort out the IRA many years ago, (I am not saying all intervention must be by force) but to do nothing is not right

      • No- Intervention created the Provisional IRA. And their violence brought them to the table to broker the Good Friday Agreement for shared governance of the part of Ulster known as Northern Ireland.

        And in the words of Gerry Adams MP-(Sinn Fein)-

        ‘ They haven’t gone away, you know’.

  5. The YPG is the Syrian subsidiary of the Turkish PKK, and as such any New Zealander sending it aid would be liable for a jail term under our Terrorism Suppression Act.

    So we could, like, jail our entire government?

  6. America. Not sure what its long-term strategy is, apart from dropping bombs on ISIS.

    Oh, their long term goal is to keep their empire intact by bombing anyone who shows the least bit of resistance to their rule.

  7. “Assad regime is probably the main beneficiary of the US-led bombing of ISIS and the other extremist group, al-Nusra. It means Assad can concentrate his fire on what’s left of the Free Syrian Army”

    The SFA are alNosra/AlQaeda/ISIL . ‘Moderates’ were reported irrelevant over a year and a half ago.

    The Syrian ARMY has been fighting these mercenary jihadist SFA for over two years. They quote 250,000 mercenaries bought in by US deep state in this covert resource war. With Turkey. Saudi. Israel. France. UK. up to their necks in the blood of Syria. The Syrian ARMY has held its line against the total aggression of a western allied covert army. Including the Ghouta false flag gas attack last August reportedly orchestrated by France and Turkey. I don’t for a moment imagine the US led ISIL bombing is going to advantage ASSAD one jot. That is NOT its intention. It is seriously argued that ISIL are a western construct using disaffected Islamic youth in classic operation GLADIO style to do exactly what is intended of them. Ethnically cleanse the crescent as per PNAC intentions… and that ASSAD, then IRAN are the intended targets of NATO/ R2P coalition actions.

  8. So we let ISIS kill and keep killing because no one can guarantee a perfect end result.
    Rwanda all over again.
    It’s not in our back yard so lets ignore it.
    And suggesting all we do is “provide support to those who have fled” is grotesque for those children being slaughtered.
    Perhaps Mr Locke will suggest we use homepathy.

  9. Another question might be “where have all the good guys in the Middle East gone?”.

    Imagine, if you will, a Middle East in which a white woman could roam at will, often-times alone and become the confidant and advisor to Arab chieftains and leaders.
    Those simple souls who swallow the line that Islam, is inherently violent and misogynistic should give a little thought to Gertrude Bell.

    Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell, CBE (14 July 1868 – 12 July 1926) was an English writer, traveller, political officer, administrator, archaeologist and spy who explored, mapped, and became highly influential to British imperial policy-making due to her skill and contacts, built up through extensive travels in Greater Syria, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, and Arabia. Along with T. E. Lawrence, Bell helped establish the Hashemite dynasties in what is today Jordan as well as in Iraq.

    She played a major role in establishing and helping administer the modern state of Iraq, utilising her unique perspective from her travels and relations with tribal leaders throughout the Middle East. During her lifetime she was highly esteemed and trusted by British officials and given an immense amount of power for a woman at the time. She has been described as “one of the few representatives of His Majesty’s Government remembered by the Arabs with anything resembling affection”.


    They should then ask themselves what happened to create the current mess and whether more violence will fix it.

    A major new film, Queen of the Desert, chronicling the life of Gertrude Bell, played by Nicole Kidman, is due to be released in 2015.

  10. Thanks to Keith for presenting the situation as it is, and the facts there are. We will probably never have our hopeless MSM report on these matters in detail, and in an objective, informative way.

    I see a lot of events reported on at present, remembering the origin of the ANZAC alliance, remembering the beginning of WW1, remembering the fallen in past wars and so forth. We get only reports about the evil acts committed by ISIS and their supporters, but we get almost NO information on other groups and governments, committing atrocities in the Middle East.

    Indeed, Saudi Arabia is never really criticised, not in the media, and not by our government, not even by many within Labour, for the brutal way they apply their laws, for the human rights breaches that occur there, and that is, because it is a buyer of certain exported products that we send there.

    I cannot see an easy solution to the war in Syria and Iraq, and for attacks also in other countries in that region, by ISIS and like minded groups. As New Zealand is such a ridiculously insignificant military force, any assistance will be only symbolic, and will not make any substantial difference to what other western countries may be putting in there.

    John Key has already made a decision, as I guess, and he is simply drip feeding us for his speech on Wednesday, which will commit New Zealand to some SAS and other involvement.

    All we may get is a special debate in Parliament, apart from that, the government has the vote and will anyway fast track matters.

    If only more people out there would know more about what really goes on, they may raise their voices. But I hear and see damned little of this, same as re other important matters.

  11. Thanks Keith this is a really helpful piece for people like me who don’t know who all the factions are. We should only be sending humanitarian aid. As someone says int e comments all the ra ra ra about WWI and the sacrifice men made whilst all of this is going on. We love all this patriotic stuff where we can strut our stuff and impress younger generations. Most of those men when on a boys own adventure, most of them wouldn’t have had a clue why they were ordered to go to Europe to fight.

    Your piece Keith, should of course be in the mainstream media and Key and his cohorts should be held down to answer the various questions posed here, but then that doesn’t appear to be the job of the msm these days.

  12. >> Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t intervention sort out the IRA many years ago…<<

    No. Quite the opposite. The British Army intervened in Northern Ireland in 1969 when the police had lost control over Civil Rights demonstrations. Four months later Provisional IRA was formed. Violence escalated. In January 1972 the interventionist British Army shot dead 14 unarmed marchers taking part in a Civil Rights demonstration (Bloody Sunday). It was the end of the Civil Rights campaign, finally shot off the streets. Those who had taken part in marches now poured into the IRA and began the long war against the British Army which ended with a ceasefire almost three decades after intervention.

  13. I’m skeptical there’s is much understanding of what’s going on in the middle east, the Arab spring show’s a lot of evidence of american involvement like the alliance of youth movement, Jullian Asange’s latest article about meeting with the ceo of google, where the media was getting its reports from on syria ngo’s and syrian reporters in the uk and Neoconcervistism. The NSA spies on American congress who works for who? Conspiracy theorist http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlFhBrMaMsc

  14. Why is there such an explosion of violence across the Middle East? Here’s an alternative view…

    Why such an epic explosion of violence? It feels strange to ask these questions of Dr Bouthaina Shaaban, one of President Bashar al-Assad’s close advisers and former translator to his father, Hafez…….
    ….”Now all Arab armies are targeted – and the purpose is to change the nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Arab-Israeli conflict is the crux of all that is going on in the Middle East. I am not saying these tactics will work. I am saying ‘they’ are targeting the Arab armies. The Egyptian army is very strong. It is a logical army that is defending its country. And then it received this huge attack in Sinai. It’s my opinion that the target is to eliminate the threat that Arab armies represent for the liberation of Gaza and the West Bank and Golan and to make Israel’s occupation easier and less costly. This is a major dimension of the cause of the ‘Arab Spring’. In fact I call it an ‘Israeli Spring’.”


    Click the link and learn.

  15. Not a single one of the points raised actually address why we shouldn’t help try and fight ISIS. It’s a not very sophisticated and rather juvenile argument that is akin to seeing well they are bad as well, so lets just turn a blind eye and let them all kill each other.

    Worked great in Rwanda and Serbia.

    • My blog didn’t deal with everything. At the end of it I put a link to my companion piece, an oped in the 13 October NZ Herald, which explained that Western intervention can make matters worse, and that there are better ways for New Zealand to make a contribution.

  16. If ISIS really is a uber Muslim group why the fuck aren’t they attacking Israel ? Think about that for a while …who has been killing Palestinians for over 60 years ? who has been taking more and more land from the besieged Palestinians for over 60 years ? who on a regular basis attacks Lebanon ? who attacks Syria and claims it’s to destroy nuclear facilities ? who attacked Iraq and claimed it was to destroy nuclear facilities ?

    who the fuck would you be attacking if you were the boss of ISIS ?

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