AS with Afghanistan, I seem to have had a long and disastrous love affair with Iraq. I say this only because it has largely been born out of the most difficult times the country has faced over the past few decades.

Watching the current crisis unfolding in the country, I can’t help feeling that Iraq now sits on the edge of the abyss, as spiralling popular unrest shows no signs of abating and displays the potential for once again tipping the country into civil war.

Only yesterday the Iraq authorities ominously announced they had set up “crisis cells” that would be jointly led by military leaders and civilian governors in Iraq’s provinces in order to stem the unrest gripping parts of the country.

Not that the outside world has been paying much attention to this deepening crisis. Doesn’t it speak volumes about prevailing global attitudes that when such carnage occurs in Hong Kong or Barcelona there is deafening uproar but when it happens in Baghdad or Beirut there is hardly a peep?

READ MORE: Protester killed in third day of demonstrations in Iraqi capital

Only yesterday US President Donald Trump was rushing to sign the Human Rights and Democracy Act into law which mandates an annual review, to check if Hong Kong has enough autonomy to justify special status with the US.

I don’t know about you, but by my reading any such move by Trump invariably has little to do with human rights and more to do with what’s in it for me.

Trump, after all, is not known for his altruism, especially when it comes to “foreigners”. He is a profit man not a people person, so the motive has to be something else, like putting pressure on Beijing over the trade war currently playing out between China and the US.

Likewise, when it comes to the Middle East, Iraq included, the only time Trump displays any real interest is when it comes to oil. His turn-around decision to leave some US troops in north-eastern Syria – after abandoning the Kurds – is one glaring example, as is the recent build-up of US troops in Saudi Arabia, after the drone strikes that temporarily halted oil production at the Abqaiq and Khura facilities.

Just as with Trump’s “concern” over Hong Kong, so it sometimes is with Barcelona. Here in Scotland, there has been vociferous support for Catalan separatists and concern expressed over a heavy-handed crackdown by the Spanish police. But I see scant evidence of the same Scottish solidarity expressing support for those Iraqis on the streets calling for a nationalist government not beholden to another power – in this case, Iran.

Let me be clear in what I’m saying here. Not for a moment am I suggesting that those taking to the streets of Barcelona or Hong Kong are politically wrong or undeserving of our support, but it’s worth asking why we seem so willing to offer it up in these instances but are seemingly reluctant when it comes to Iraq or Lebanon.

Is it a case perhaps that our willingness to support a people’s struggle for greater democracy, autonomy or independence is simply predicated on what’s in it for us? That certainly has never been my own understanding of what international solidarity means, not least in the case of Iraq, where the country’s recent turmoil and instability can in great part be traced back to the catastrophic American and British military involvement there in 2003.

The National:

Some reading this may well recall how, in the run-up to that war in Iraq, the then US Secretary of State Colin Powell famously told President George W Bush: “If you break it you own it.”

Today Iraq is still broken and what we are witnessing on the streets of Baghdad, Najaf, Nasiriya and elsewhere is a people realising they can only rely on themselves to put things right.

For a long time now perceptions have existed in Iraq and elsewhere in the region that the US is walking away from the Middle East. Other than pillaging its oil, keeping Islamist-inspired terrorism at bay or selling it arms, the US and allies like Britain have never been genuinely committed to supporting any growing desire for democracy in the region. Why else would Trump effectively trample all over the fledgeling social experiment in constructing democracy in the self-governing Kurdish region of Rojava?

Though flawed and often fraught the Kurdish experiment is, it was a positive start and rarely has the region witnessed such a genuine and deeply ambitious attempt at democracy.

Given this, the US has allowed other players, especially in Iraq, to act in response to the perception that Washington is walking away from the region.

Some of those responding are good, like those mainly young Iraqi democracy activists taking the slogan “We want a homeland” on to the streets.

OTHERS like the Islamic State (IS) group, which is doing its damndest to regroup in the country, are bad. Likewise the same can be said of Iran, which has exploited Shiite communities in Iraq and Lebanon for its own end and which has now become the focus of young Iraqis’ ire on the streets along with the corrupt Iraqi officials that have done Tehran’s bidding.

A little less than two years ago in Baghdad, just after the “liberation” of Iraq’s second-largest city Mosul from IS rule, I met and interviewed Lise Grande, who was then deputy special representative of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

No nonsense and straight-talking, much of what Grande told me that day was off the record, but her overarching theme was the need to make sure complacency doesn’t set in when it comes to the threat

IS still pose and the need to tackle corruption and improve the lives of ordinary Iraqis. How right she was.

After years of conflict, the horrors of IS and the increasing omnipresence of Tehran’s influence over their lives consolidating a political nepotism, young Iraqis have taken to the streets to say enough is enough.

The terrible tragedy now is that in insisting things must improve they are facing another round of bloodshed in order to make that happen.

At the very least we should not turn our back on Iraq at this moment. The struggle of people there seeking greater democratic freedoms and change for the better is as valid as it is anywhere else in the world.