It has been admitted that US airstrikes against ISIS cannot and will not lead to the defeat of the Islamic State. They are designed to bolster the fight on the ground by the Iraqi military, which is in a state of virtual collapse. Riven with dishonesty and fraud, the Iraqi army mirrors the chaotic and rampant corruption of the Iraqi government in post-Saddam Iraq. These circumstances have provided the perfect conditions for the brutal Shiite militias to thrive and take control of the battlefield from the Iraqi military. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of these militias. They are trained, financed and often led by the terrorist Iranian Quds Force. They are Iranian proxies. So the US air strikes are aiding and abetting Iran in achieving its ultimate objective, which is total control of Iraq.

The current war raging across Iraq was as avoidable as it was predictable. When I was elected President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq five years ago, I warned that Nouri al-Maliki’s second term as Prime Minister, insisted upon by Iran and supported by the US, was a tragedy for the Iraqi people, for the region and for the world. As a puppet of the Iranian mullahs, he encouraged the Iranian-led Shiite militias and used them to enforce his merciless "iron fist" sectarian policy of indiscriminate bombing, shelling, arbitrary arrests, torture and mass execution of innocent Sunni civilians. Maliki utilised the claim of fighting a war against terror to secure his grip on power and the West fell for it, even although his war on terror was, in fact, a war against his predominantly Sunni political opponents. 

The sudden emergence of  the Islamic State (ISIS) became a convenient focal point enabling Maliki to accelerate his sectarian campaign against his political foes. Indeed the reason ISIS made such rapid and spectacular gains across large areas of Iraq was because they faced little or no resistance from the Sunni tribes, who often preferred the Islamic State to the brutal Iranian-led militias that had been terrorizing them for years.

When Maliki came to power, step by step his government distanced itself from Washington and got closer to Tehran. A clear indication of this was Maliki’s approach towards the main Iranian Opposition, members of the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran. 3500 PMOI members had lived in Iraq for almost 25 years. They had built a small, modern city called ‘Ashraf’ out of the desert in Diyala Province. But from the first day after the fall of Saddam, Tehran had conspired to massacre their arch foe and to annihilate Ashraf and in Nouri al-Maliki they found a willing tool. As the U.S. withdrew from Iraq, it handed over the protection of Ashraf to Maliki’s government, having first signed an agreement with each and every individual resident of Ashraf, guaranteeing their safety and security in return for the surrender of their weapons. This amounted to signing the death warrant for these defenceless residents. The predictable outcome materialised in the form of six brutal massacres during the years 2009 to 2013. 

The world now looks to Haider al-Abadi to take control and restore order inside Iraq. He must begin by rounding up the savage militias associated with the Iranian regime such as the Badr, Asaib and Kataib terrorists, as well as other criminal gangs that have played a significant role in Maliki’s rule and instigated the sectarian war in Iraq. He must purge the army of Iranian mercenaries and all those that Maliki recruited under his sectarian policy, restoring patriotic officers and turning it into a professional and national army. Only such an army, supported by the tribes and the people will be able to confront extremist and terrorist groups like the Islamic State.

 But let us look at the situation in Iran. The plummeting oil price has caused a massive problem for the mullahs. Their future budget was predicated on oil prices rising from $112 to $130 a barrel. Today it has fallen to $60 and experts predict it will fall to $45. This, combined with Western sanctions is catastrophic for Tehran who currently fund not only the Shiia militias in neighbouring Iraq, but Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, Bashir al-Assad in Syria and the Shiite Houthi militia who seized Sanaa, the Yemeni capital in September; they also have to finance the hugely expensive programme of uranium enrichment, the construction of nuclear weapons and the purchase of sophisticated delivery systems. 

The so-called ‘moderate’ President Rouhani, who has presided over the execution of an unprecedented 1200 people since he took office only 17 months ago, has found himself in an impossible trap. He was elected on a pledge to improve the economy and to improve living conditions for ordinary Iranians. But the hardliners in Tehran live off the back of the billions poured into the IRGC. Despite the collapsing oil price, Rouhani last week announced a 50% increase in the IRGC budget, taking their total annual spend to over €5 billion, which is more than half of Iran’s total defence budget which was itself increased by 33% last week. 

Iran simply cannot afford this. The 74 million Iranians are facing economic meltdown. The people are fed up. They don’t want to be international pariahs. They don’t want to witness people hanging from cranes in their city squares. They don’t want acid thrown in the faces of women for so-called ‘mal-veiling’. There is a seething undercurrent of protest in the air. Bread prices rose by 30% last week and the likelihood of another popular uprising is looming. But this time the West must support the Iranian people and not stand back and watch while they are shot down in the street like dogs. We must help them to overthrow the tyrannical mullahs and restore freedom, peace and democracy to Iran and not stand idly by on the sidelines while the brave student protest-leaders are rounded up, arrested, tortured and executed.

The removal of the fascist mullahs and the restoration of freedom and democracy and a tolerant vision of Islam under the guidance of the NCRI and their inspired leader Mrs Maryam Rajavi, would make the Middle East and the world a safer place.

Note: STRUAN STEVENSON was an MEP from 1999 to 2014. He was President of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014. He is currently President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).