Friday, June 13, 2014

Iraq War III

Dang it!

With shattered Iraqi military units rallying as far away as Taji, a base on Baghdad's suburbs some 200 miles south of Mosul, the government's counteroffensive could be slow in coming. Baghdad's soldiers now have to fight their way through a belt of lost cities and districts between the capital and Mosul, creating plenty of potential distractions, which will drain strength away from the government riposte. Special forces and air units are reportedly rapidly becoming exhausted as they are shuffled from crisis to crisis. The only military force in Iraq that is not presently overcommitted is the peshmerga, the Kurdish fighters controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government, but relations between Baghdad and the Kurdish region are particularly strained.

Seeking the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad, the United States has been forced to walk a fine line with jihadist groups in Syria. ISIS was only confirmed as a U.S.-designated terrorist movement in February 2014. But while there may be a strategic use for hard-line Islamist militants in Syria, in Iraq the issue is simple: ISIS is winning the war and they must be stopped.

Washington must act if the United States wants to stop ISIS from becoming the only cohesive military and political force in Iraq's Sunni districts. On June 10, Osama al-Nujaifi, Iraq's parliamentary speaker and most senior Sunni politician, requested greater military support for Mosul under the auspices of the 2011 U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement, the treaty that governs relations between the two countries. Behind closed doors, multiple Iraqi government officials relayed to me, the Iraqi government has insistently requested U.S. air strikes on ISIS along the Syrian border and the outskirts of Iraqi cities, which are the launch pads for ISIS takeovers.

For the U.S. administration this has been seen as a step too far. Instead, the U.S. government has been engaged in internecine diplomacy -- using its good offices to prod Iraq's factions towards a national reconciliation effort that could give Sunni Arabs faith in a nonviolent resolution to their complaints of discrimination by the Shiite government. Reconciliation could also lay the groundwork for Sunni Arab cooperation in stabilizing Mosul and other lost areas, such as Fallujah. This is vital work -- but with ISIS forces capturing city after city, Washington has to do more (and quickly) to prevent the loss of government in Iraq. Intensified U.S. on-the-ground mentoring of Iraqi military headquarters and perhaps U.S. air strikes might also be needed to reverse the collapse of Iraq's military.

Pic - " And then there's Iranian Intervention!"


The Dude said...

Check out Leslie H. Gelb take on Iraq. I tend to agree with this sentiment. Neocons need to look at history and current realities and realize the military force is an extremely risky, generally ineffecitve option that produces situations we are unable to control. Moreoever, installing a Shia lead government ensures a protracted civil war, like Gelb argues. The security forces have no incentive to support an exclusionary, corrupt government and there is little U.S. military force can do to alter that calcuation. -